Why You Don’t Feel Like Cooking Tonight, and How to Fix It

updated May 4, 2022
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Cooking tonight? Please. (Image credit: Adrienne Breaux)

So, you don’t feel like cooking tonight. Been there, done that! There isn’t a cook alive who hasn’t at one point walked into his or her kitchen and thought, “Nope. Uh-uh. Not happening.” Cooking funks come with the territory, and when you hit one, it’s tempting to just switch off the kitchen light and call your local Thai place.

But wait! Having gone through those cooking-blah bouts many times ourselves, we know the common causes. We also know the cures. Here’s how you can pull yourself out of that rut tonight.

4 Reasons You Don’t Feel Like Cooking Tonight (and What to Do About It)

1. You don’t know what to cook.

You have a shelf full of cookbooks and hundreds of pinned recipes, but nothing jumps out at you. In fact, the sheer variety of what you could make stresses you out a little. Too many options! Not enough decision-making skills! The clock is ticking, and you’re getting hungrier (maybe even hangrier) by the minute.

But there is a simple — frankly, unexciting — yet effective rule for this conundrum: When you don’t know what to cook, cook what you know.

Every cook probably has three to five go-to recipes they can make almost on autopilot. (If you don’t, this list is a good place to start.) These are the recipes that take very little time, energy, and brain space to make. They might not even be recipes, per se — think scrambled eggs on toast, a quick bowl of pasta, a piece of grilled chicken and a lightly dressed salad. (For me, it’s tacos. I make these quick tortillas, then fill them with whatever motley assortment of toppings I can cull from the fridge and pantry.)

This standby meal list — whatever form it takes for you personally — will save you when you’re in a cooking slump. It might not be the most exciting solution, but it will feed you and help fight the urge to call it a night and call in delivery.

Favorite Weeknight Dinner Ideas

Our “Better Next Time” Tip

Plan your meals ahead of time so you don’t have to think about what to cook in the moment. Work with a dinner template. Master the one-bowl meal.

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(Image credit: Flickr/ Creative Commons )

2. You don’t want to go to the grocery store at this hour.

If the thought of going to the grocery store at 6 p.m. makes you break out in a cold sweat, then don’t sweat it! Skip the store altogether and let your freezer and pantry feed you. This is why you went to the trouble of stocking your pantry and freezer in the first place — it’s for nights like this when you just can’t deal with the people and the noise and the long lines, and you need to be able to put together a meal with something you already have at home.

How to Cook from Your Pantry Tonight

How to Cook from Your Freezer Tonight

Our “Better Next Time” Tip

Take a few hours one Saturday to cook a few freezer meals or frozen dinner kits so all you have to do is thaw and eat.

Too tired to cook. Via Roger & Chris’ 160-Year-Old Victorian (Image credit: Chris Stout-Hazard )

3. You’re too tired to spend time cooking.

You just had the longest day ever, and you definitely don’t have the energy to spend an hour prepping ingredients and standing over the stove. So forget the ambitious, multi-step, multi-pot recipe you had planned, and swap it for something easy, quick, and possibly even hands-off.

Meals You Can Make in 30 Minutes or Less

Hands-Off Sheet-Pan Suppers

When You Want Breakfast and Lunch … for Dinner

Our “Better Next Time” Tip

Prep as many of these essential

building blocks

for weeknight meals as you can ahead of time. Also, if you are up for tackling that bigger recipe you’d initially planned on cooking, take note of these 10 tips to help you cook faster.

4. The kitchen is messy.

I hate to break it to you, but there’s really no way around this one. Unless you’re willing to cook in a messy kitchen and risk turning mean, you’re going to have to clean the kitchen before you start cooking. Our recommendation is to have a quick snack, pour yourself something to drink, put on a podcast, and get it over with. Then follow up with a quick, easy meal (see #3).

Quick Kitchen Cleaning Tutorials

Our “Better Next Time” Tip

We know, we know — we’re like a broken record with our clean-as-you-go advice — but seriously, clean as you go and your life will be so much easier! Here’s how. If that’s still not your jam, just clean the kitchen before you go to bed. Problem solved!

How do you deal with weeknight cooking funks? Any tried-and-true tips that help you get in the kitchen when all you want to do is get on the couch?