Conquering Cooking BURNOUT – Strategies for Keeping Motivated in the Kitchen

It happens to me a few times a year. I’ll find myself groaning at the thought of the 30-minute process that awaits me when I get home from work – one that starts with chopping vegetables and ends with a meal that’s eaten in less than half the time it took to prepare. A meal I’ve made so many times I could probably make it blindfolded. Cooking is one of my favorite things to do, but I’m not immune to getting stuck in a rut in the kitchen. When the motivation or desire to cook wanes, it’s very easy to fall into the habit of ordering take out or relying on snacks to serve as dinner, in place of a balanced meal. Whether you’re feeling uninspired, pressed for time, or just plain burned out from cooking, here are some strategies for keeping you going in the kitchen:

Switch up your source of inspiration

If boredom is the problem, it’s time to get some new dishes on the menu. Peruse a new cookbook or website, or experiment with cooking a different type of cuisine than you’re used to. Use restaurants that you love as inspiration – maybe try to replicate a delicious entrée you had recently. I’ve found that if I’m really excited about eating a particular dish, the entire process – from the shopping to the prep to the actual cooking – is a lot more enjoyable. Plan on making an exciting new dish at least once per week.

Make cooking a group activity

Cooking doesn’t always have to be a solo job – it can be a great bonding activity. Schedule a night in the kitchen with your partner and/or children. Invite a friend to catch up while cheffing it up at home instead of meeting at a restaurant. Personally, I love cooking at home with friends – not only does it extend the time we get to spend together, but it turns what otherwise would be a chore into a fun event.

Utilize the batch-cook method

As a registered dietitian nutritionist, I’ve learned from many clients that time is probably their biggest barrier when it comes to cooking. But there are several ways to optimize your time so that you’re not spending hours in the kitchen each week. One of these strategies is batch-cooking, which entails preparing a large amount of an ingredient to be used in various ways over an extended period. You could, for example, batch-cook quinoa to be eaten throughout the week in a salad, as a side with fish, or even as a hot, hearty breakfast. Batch-cooking can be done easily with proteins and vegetables as well. If you designate a particular day of the week to batch-cook for a couple of hours, you free up the rest of the week and you’ve stocked yourself with nutritious, home-cooked meals.

Go back to the basics

Sometimes you might only have the energy or desire to make a sandwich for dinner – and that’s okay! It’s important to remember that a meal doesn’t have to be fancy or time-consuming to be balanced and nourishing. At the very least, prioritize having protein and fiber in this basic meal. Examples? A veggie omelet, a cooked-from-frozen turkey burger on a whole wheat bun, canned tuna with a pre-made salad kit, or, yes, even a peanut butter sandwich.

As we’re now into the coldest months of the year, it’s good to have a plan for when motivation to keep up with healthy habits starts to slip. But if all else fails, remember that a few takeout orders are not going to make or break your health. What’s important is how seamlessly you can get back into the routine.

About Jean Hanks (11 Articles)
Jean Hanks, MS, RDN, CDN earned her BA in sociology with a minor in dance from Tulane University in New Orleans, before completing her Masters in Nutrition at Hunter College in NYC. Jean started her career as a clinical dietitian and is skilled at providing Medical Nutrition Therapy for individuals with various nutrition-related health conditions. She has also worked for the NYC Department of Health, where she provided culinary demos at farmers’ markets throughout the city. She is currently the lead dietitian at Well by Messer, where she provides nutrition counseling to busy New Yorkers. You can contact Jean through her website,