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Don’t Burnout on Cooking

By Patrice Powers-Barker, OSU Extension, Lucas County

The Truth Contributor


While there are many positive benefits associated with eating family meals at home including better nutrition, quality time together and less money spent on food compared to eating out, the pandemic made major changes on food preparation and mealtime habits in the United State in 2020.  Most households have eaten many more meals at home compared to recent years. The pandemic has limited many outside opportunities at mealtime and,  “What’s for dinner?” might seem like the never answered question.


Can you relate to any of these situations? A survey regarding meals during COVID-19 found:

·         40 percent of consumers say planning different meals every day is among their biggest food challenges

·         55 percent of Americans surveyed said that cooking at home has made them feel fatigued

·         69 percent wish they could make a healthy dinner more quickly


Respondents ranked the following tasks as the most fatiguing parts of serving a meal: (1) prep work, (2) clean up, (3) planning meals for the week, (4) cooking and (5) collecting ingredients. Here are some tips to make those steps easier.


Planning meals. Keep a list of easy to make meals for times when cooking fatigue sets in. While each household has different favorites, some examples are breakfast for dinner, soup and sandwiches, and grain bowls (make your favorite grain like rice or quinoa, add cooked meat, vegetables and a sauce). If there are others in your house, ask them to come up with different meal ideas. Ask family and friends outside of your household for ideas about their favorite meals and recipes.


Collecting ingredients.  When choosing family favorites or looking for new recipes, look for ones that have six ingredients or less. Keep a grocery list of commonly used items to make sure they are in stock in your pantry.


Prep work. To pull together recipes quickly, use convenience items such as frozen or canned vegetables. If you need to chop part of an onion for a recipe, just chop the entire onion and freeze the extra for the next time they are needed. When you are making a more complicated recipe, double it and freeze half to enjoy again at another time.


Cooking. Use your kitchen appliances to make cooking easier.  For example, in the survey about mealtime preparation during the pandemic, many people are using slow cookers and half of them use pressure cookers. Make a meal with pre-packaged favorites. Start with something simple like macaroni and cheese and add vegetables and cooked meat.


Clean up. Fill the sink with hot soapy water to easily wash some of the dishes as the meal is being prepared. After the meal, have everyone help with the clean-up. Even little ones can help by collecting the used napkins or dirty silverware.


Quick Fixes To benefit from meals at home, every dish does not have to be made from scratch every day. Use short cuts such as those listed above and add a side of frozen vegetables or canned fruit. Support the locally owned restaurant with a take out order.


People-centered. As food is obviously the theme of a meal, the people in the household are just as important. Limit distractions such as TV and other technology. Take steps to make mealtime pleasant and not a challenge. Don’t use mealtime to bring up problems. Try to keep it upbeat and stress free. Some days that is easier said then done, but it is a good goal.


Gratitude-centered. Expressing gratitude is one technique to work through challenging times. This could be as simple as, “I’m thankful for the food on my plate”. This looks different for everyone. Some households may choose to pray or give a blessing at the beginning of the meal. Others may choose to just name one thing they are thankful for that day.


In addition to cooking fatigue, there are other reasons some may be feeling low or fatigued during this time of year.  Not only has the pandemic been a challenge, but Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), is also a concern as a type of depression related to seasonal changes. SAD is most often associated with late fall and wintertime. Sometimes referred to as the “winter blues”, if you suffer from SAD, please talk with your doctor about the best steps to keep your mood and motivation steady.


If you are interested in learning more about Beating the Winter Blues, the Ohio State University Extension will be offer a four-part, free webinar series in January 2021 on Fridays from 11:00 – 11:30am. Topics will include beating the winter blues by unplugging, exercising and using humor. The webinar series is free but you must register at www.go.osu.edu/beatingthewinterblues


Information from Live Healthy Live Well OSUE blog, University of Arkansas, Kansas State and Retail Wire.




Copyright © 2021 by [The Sojourner's Truth]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 01/06/21 09:49:35 -0500.

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