Tips and shortcuts to help you eat well when you don’t feel like cooking after work
Cooking can be difficult. Especially when you are coming out of two years of intermittent lockdowns and still living through one of the most serious health crises of our time. Maybe that’s why a tweet I randomly tossed out into the universe about not being able to summon the energy to cook after a physical commute to the office struck a chord with people. I received many tips and tricks, many other expressions from people going through the same struggle.
People cooking after a day at the office and I’m not talking about a day from your home office, but a day of commuting from your physical office – how do you do it. Share your secrets!!! I did it occasionally before pando but I’m just unable to do it now
— Sonia Nair (@son_nair)
June 7, 2022
Anecdotal evidence isn’t the only thing pointing to our collective inability to cook right now. A March 2021 UberEATS report found Australians were spending 210% more on food delivery than before the pandemic, even as on-site dining returned.
This is at odds with the significant change in the way people were eating during the lockdown. Research has shown that as people spend more time at home and less time doing all the things that a normal life entails – socializing, exercising, commuting to the office, activities recreational – their food consumption became more sustainable and healthier. They ate more fruits and vegetables, bought local, reduced their household food waste, improved their cooking skills, and used online delivery not for ready meals, but for groceries.
This phenomenon has certainly manifested itself in my own life. With a sudden burst of time, I devised meal plans I never would have followed in the past, repurposed leftover ingredients into improvised meals, and elevated the chore of weekly grocery shopping into a worthwhile opportunity. to dress up.
The freezer is your best friend when you’re just too tired to even fry an egg.
So how do you start eating again in a sustainable and fulfilling way? According to Sisi Jia, a registered dietitian at the University of Sydney’s School of Health Sciences, the odds are stacked against us.
“The cost of living is rising. Healthy foods like fresh vegetables are unaffordable. The burden of preparing and cooking meals deters people from satisfying food.
“Depending on where you go, takeout prices can be cheaper than fresh produce. In this food environment, it’s easier to access unhealthy food than healthier food.”
Jia’s colleague, Dr Stephanie Partridge, principal investigator and registered dietitian, says people’s inability to cook is a reflection of a “strange and new work environment”.
“During lockdowns we were working longer hours and it hasn’t gone down. It’s okay to be exhausted – an inability to cook is a reflection of other parts of our lives. Ask yourself: can I reduce work now that I go to the office and leave a little earlier to have more day for me?
Store spinach in the freezer for waiting meals like this Spinach Walnut Pesto Pasta (recipe here). Photo: William Meppem
Tips and tricks to cook more
As evidenced by the replies to my tweet, the freezer is your best friend when you’re just too tired to even fry an egg. Bulk cooking meals that freeze well — lasagna, pasta sauces, soups and stews — is a common tactic. The slow cooker has been presented more than once as a life-saving device, especially in winter.
Meal kit delivery services – like Marley Spoon, HelloFresh and Dinnerly – are a great option for people who don’t have the ability or time to prepare meals, saving the time spent on meal planning and grocery shopping .
Partridge, who has studied meal kit delivery services, evaluates the nutritional properties and convenience of these meal kits.
“We’ve found them to be pretty good with veggies, carbs, and protein per serving.” These are generally healthy meals. These services are not for everyone, however, as they are expensive per service. It’s often cheaper to buy these ingredients yourself and prepare them yourself, but saving time is something you need to weigh for your household.”
Jia uses the weekend to plan her meals and cook in bulk.
“One Sunday afternoon, I will make a cook healthy pasta with lots of veggies that will reheat well throughout the week. Another idea I have is a Chinese dough – it’s a bit complicated so I make it on a Sunday, but it keeps for a long time. Sometimes I also use the weekend to make a soup, I keep it in the fridge, and on weeknights I add noodles and vegetables,” says Jia.
As for weeknights, Jia recommends marinated meats the day before going to work and sauté them with seasonal vegetables and potatoes when you get home from work. This tip can be extended to pre-preparing any meal the night before, from soups and pastas to risottos and fried rice. Partridge swears by One-pot and one-pot meals.
Stir-fries, like Adam Liaw’s chicken and broccoli hokkien noodles (recipe here), can be brought together in a flash. Photo: William Meppem
Many people swear by a few reliable recipes that they can cook on autopilot in a heartbeat.
And keep it simple – store-bought pasta, sautéedeggs on toast with sides, frozen fries and veggies with sausage or chicken tenderloins, and building your own burrito or poke bowls are some of the common foods people eat.
Enjoy pre-cut vegetables or bags of mixed greens.
And feeding takes a village when times get tough – cook meals for neighbors, family and friends when you can, and reciprocate when you can’t.
With the rising cost of living straining household budgets, Jia and Partridge recommend bulk up meals with frozen and canned vegetables – which have the same nutritional properties as fresh vegetables – and canned legumes. Jia regularly adds frozen spinach with pasta sauces, while Partridge often throws canned chickpeas into his one-pot meals.
When we come home from a hard day’s work and it takes longer to order takeout than to cook, Jia says it’s important to remember how rewarding cooking a meal yourself can be. .
“One of the obstacles is thinking or feeling that cooking is tiring or not worth it. But cooking can be enjoyable and shouldn’t be seen as a chore, but as a fulfilling or productive activity. Cooking is essential to our health.”
Jia recommends a good old-fashioned bragging on Instagram to show off the fruits of your labor.
But implementing lasting habits takes time, and Partridge’s kind reminder to not blame ourselves is important.
“Being nourished and having food to consume is the most important thing. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Try to do half a week to start, work on keeping this habit and build it slowly. Savor the taste of.”