A couple of months ago, during a coaching conversation I asked my client what she would like to focus on during the session, and she said: “I think I am suffering from cooking fatigue, is that a thing?”
Her comment took me back to the days when I would cringe when my kids asked: “What's for dinner, Mom?” It was a question that could take me from being totally fine to all stressed out in an instant. Can you relate?
Maybe it looks a little bit different in your life, but I have heard the scenario multiple times from clients: You are finishing up your day at work, you are planning your trip home, and you begin to think about what you are going to have for dinner. Maybe you are just cooking for yourself, maybe you have to cook for an entire family -- regardless, cooking can feel incredibly overwhelming and you begin to feel anxious and stressed.
But why? There are many reasons why this happens. It can include things like limited choices in your pantry (why did we skip our weekly shopping trip?), a special diet, picky eaters, food allergies, or even just drawing a blank when it comes to what to make. If nothing sounds good, it's very hard to come up with meal ideas. If you have struggled with cooking fatigue, you're likely nodding your head in agreement. When we relegate the thought of dinner merely to the quick drive home, we don't allow ourselves much time to come up with a creative and delicious—not to mention, healthy—meal.
Dinner is a daily need that unfortunately isn't going anywhere, so we cannot avoid mastering this task in our lives.
So, I told my client that if she experienced “cooking fatigue” it needed to be addressed whether it was considered a “thing” or not, and we went to work.
Here is how we approached it and what I felt worked best from my experience:
While it may seem to take up precious time, making a plan will not only save you time during the week but also decrease your stress. I find that a plan for the week will keep the entire family on track and it will save you money at the grocery store because you know exactly what you will be buying.
Pick a day of the week to look at your week ahead. I suggest Wednesday or Thursday, that way you have plenty of time to get your groceries in before the new week starts. In the beginning, block out an hour and treat it like a doctor’s appointment. You can’t cancel or you need to rebook. Sit down with your calendar and your family’s calendar for the coming week and ask yourself: How do your evenings look? When do you have time to actually cook a meal? On which days will you need to prep your meals or even get take out?
Involve your family:
I used to send a text message in my family group chat and ask everyone to come up with a meal they would like in the next week or two. This way you already have a couple nights covered and you won’t get “push back” because you are serving meals that the family asked for. They might not come up with the healthiest of all meals, but it’s a start.
Create your own recipe collection:
If you have to start from scratch I suggest that you put the meals your family came up with on a piece of paper or open a new note on your phone or a document on your laptop. Then look for three to five more recipes and just like that you have a collection you can go back to. Then each week you add one to three more recipes and before you know it, you will be sitting down with your calendar and a substantial recipe collection to choose from.
Take a break:
Sometimes it’s ok to take a cooking break and give yourself some grace to rest for a bit before you dive back in. Grab a few ready-made mix and match items to create interesting salads in a snap, or even head to your nearest grocery store, like Trader Joe's or Whole Foods, and buy some of their store-brand prepared or frozen dishes. Taking a break doesn't mean dinner has to come through the drive-through window.
I hope that my suggestions will help you to create a more fulfilling mealtime experience and decrease stress that stems from not knowing what to cook. My client was able to quickly implement these strategies, and she now has a great selection of recipes, and her family knows exactly what the plan is for the week because it’s posted in her kitchen.
If you are ready to lower your stress, improve your diet and your life, then working with a health coach might be the perfect solution for you. During a strategy session we will discuss your goals and come up with a plan that is tailored specifically for you. If you are ready to take action and create the life you love, click here now to schedule your free call.