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What’s for dinner?

an empty cutting board with a fork and knife

After months of living in a pandemic, does the thought of finding an answer to this ordinary question evoke feelings of panic, stress, or dread? If you answered with an emphatic “yes”, you’re not alone!

While we know there are many positive, lifelong health and social benefits associated with family meals, most families have found themselves eating at home together much more often this year than in pre-pandemic times, and the continuous effort required to plan, prepare and clean up meals can be exhausting. In a survey of over 2,000 Americans conducted earlier this year, 55% said that cooking at home has made them feel fatigued. Of those surveyed, the average respondent was cooking nine meals a week and had cooked the same meal 28 times since the start of the pandemic. Even those who reportedly enjoy cooking wish they could make a healthy meal more quickly!

If you can relate, here are a few ideas for overcoming cooking fatigue:

  • Solicit help. Delegate age-appropriate food preparation and clean-up tasks to other members of the household whenever possible.
  • Use convenience foods such as frozen vegetables and canned beans to cut preparation and clean-up time.
  • Ask friends and family members to share their favorite easy recipes. You could coordinate a holiday recipe exchange or start an email chain for recipe sharing.
  • Try something new and exciting! Take a trip around the world by trying various recipes from different countries, work your way through a new cookbook, or take the opportunity to get comfortable with a new appliance – something like an air fryer or an electric pressure cooker.
  • Build a collection of easy recipes that can be assembled from ingredients you might already have on hand. Food Hero and Celebrate Your Plate are my favorite websites for finding easy, budget-friendly recipes that feature fruits and vegetables. Many of the recipes on these sites are kid-friendly, too.

Do you have additional tips for overcoming cooking fatigue? If so, please comment below with your ideas!

Written by: Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Franklin County

Reviewed by: Margaret Jenkins, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Clermont County

Sources:

Family Meals Movement. Why Family Meals Matter? https://www.fmi.org/family-meals-movement/meals-matter

Sadlier, A. (2020). Americans experiencing cooking fatigue while stuck at home during the pandemic. SWNS Digital. https://www.swnsdigital.com/2020/08/many-americans-are-experiencing-cooking-fatigue-while-stuck-at-home-during-the-pandemic/

Schuster, E. (2020). Cooking Fatigue: How to Overcome It & Resources. Society of Nutrition Education and Behavior. https://www.sneb.org/blog/2020/12/02/general/cooking-fatigue-how-to-overcome-it-resources/

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