I Am So Tired Of Cooking & Dishes, So Here Are Some Zero-Effort Meals
I have cooked so many days in a row for my family. So many days. I'm honestly losing steam, and I'm so tired of cooking. I'm tired of the dishes, I'm tired of the snack requests, I'm tired of having to feed my children at regular intervals. I'm tired.
I know that this is totally a "first world" problem. My MawMaw cooked every single meal her family ate for over 40 years, and it is in no small part thanks to her that I even know how to cook. And I humbly admit, I am no MawMaw. I live in Brooklyn, and we would get delivery or takeout, or eat at an actual restaurant for at least three meals each week. And five days out of the week, my children ate lunch at school, and my husband ate lunch at work, leaving me alone to eat my Goldfish crackers and hummus without anyone complaining about it. It was glorious. But now? Everything's gone upside down. And I'm just over it.
But I've found some shortcuts, and luckily most of these meals that I'm suggesting are pure comfort. Sure, I've added veggies or fruit to most of them, but seriously, now is not the time to fret about your children's picky eating habits. They have enough stress in their lives, so why not make kid-friendly, easy dishes that everyone loves? Registered dietitian Evelyn Tribole told The New York Times that right now everyone needs comfort food, and if there was ever a time to indulge, a global pandemic is it. Sure, you might go all out and make a huge Sunday roast supper once a week and that will make wonderful food memories, but during the slog of daily life? Give yourself a break.
(You're also welcome to hide in the laundry room eating Goldfish and hummus with a White Claw smoothie and a mindless novel. I highly recommend it.)
1. We'll Call It 3-Step Ramen
Ramen noodles, seasoning package, frozen mixed veggies, and frozen shrimp. That's it. Cook the ramen, add in the shrimp (frozen pre-cooked) and veggies until they're cooked.
Feel free to add sesame seeds or scallions or cilantro just to make it fancy. Either way, it's done in under 10 minutes. Your kids don't like shrimp? Don't add it. You could add day-old rotisserie chicken, or chopped peanuts, or a fried egg, or nothing at all. You survived on less in your early '20s. They'll be fine.
Pair it with a vodka soda.
2. Pasta Primavera — Kinda
All you need is the buttered seasoned frozen veggies from the bowels of your freezer and add it to cooked pasta. (Or rice. Again, not judging your life.) Do you need a protein? Might I suggest frozen turkey meatballs that can be cooked in the toaster oven or air fryer? Be fancy and get one of those buttered salmon portions from Target's freezer if you must. Add parmesan straight from the green can.
Pair it with white wine straight from the fridge.
3. Toasted Cheese
Yes, I said "toasted cheese" not "grilled cheese." That's because you take a slice of frozen Texas Toast garlic bread, top it with mozzarella cheese, and then top that with another slice of Texas Toast. Place them on a cookie sheet, put another cookie sheet on top, weighted with something on top like a pot full of beans or cast iron skillet, and cook it until it smells toasty. Dip it in jarred marinara or canned tomato soup, and you're good. Bonus points if you use shredded mozzarella because you don't feel like slicing the cheese.
Pair it with cucumber water.
4. Fancy Frozen Pot Pie
Frozen pot pie is a delicious thing. So are salad kits. When combined, you have an almost balanced meal. Marie Callender is my personal favorite, but by all means, choose your favorite.
Pair it with lemonade.
5. Sloppy Joes
Let me introduce you to a favorite of mine from the 1990s — Manwich. It takes almost no time, and I'm not going to lie, it's so freaking good. I am actually adding it to my Instacart order right now, because I want some.
Pair it with Root Beer to totally bring it back to the '90s.
Spaghetti and meat sauce from a jar. That's it. That's the recipe. If they don't like it, they can figure out their own food.
If you want to top it with chicken nuggets and mozzarella cheese, you have the laziest chicken parm ever. And, honestly it sounds pretty good.
Pair it with that chianti you forgot you had in the garage.
7. Mac & Cheese With The Squeezy Cheese
Many macaroni and cheese makers offer a version where you don't even have to make the cheese sauce. Add a bag of trusty baby carrots, and look at you, you're a chef.
Pair it with a raspberry White Claw.
Be it frozen or Dominoes, it's less than no effort. Side dishes are optional. Feeling fancy? Serve it with a Caesar salad kit.
Pair it with an American beer.
9. Dumpling Soup
A box of stock, frozen dumplings or gyoza, and frozen veggies. Heat the stock, add in the dumplings and veg, and you're good.
Pair it with green tea.
You can make these in the oven the same way you make the toasted cheese. Only this time you use salsa instead of marinara. I know, I'm a genius.
Pair it with a Tecate with a salted rim.
May I introduce you to Stouffer's lasagna? It's delicious. Now, it takes an hour in the oven, but you aren't cooking it. Feel free to add garlic bread.
Pair it with boxed wine served in a juice glass.
12. Ham & Cheese Roll Ups
Use a big, round tortilla, mustard, cheese, and ham. Roll it up and slice. Add some chips and grapes, and call it good.
Pair it with an ice cold diet soda.
13. Breakfast For Dinner
Frozen waffles with peanut butter, fruit, and maybe scrambled eggs if you're feeling up to it. But really, all you need is the waffles and fruit. Everything else is optional.
Pair it with a mimosa, obviously.
14. Tots & Nugs
Buy some veggie tots, tater tots, and chicken nuggets, and cook them all together on a cookie sheet. I guarantee your kids will love it. Just add ketchup.
You don't even need to take any off their plate because you'll have made enough for yourself. Win.
Pair it with a really pricey IPA. For irony.
15. A Classic For A Reason
Rice A Roni, fish sticks, and frozen corn. It sounds like it shouldn't work, but trust me, it does. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised just how well it does.
Pair it with whatever gets you through.