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Mommy Hates Cooking | 11 Tricks to Make Healthy Meals With Less Time and Effort

Mommy Hates Cooking

I used to love cooking. I really did. In my mid-20s, I would spend hours (literal hours) making meals from scratch for my boyfriend. I would make my own sauces, seasonings, and dressings. And serve a meal with less than three sides? Never! Imagine my boyfriend’s (now husband’s) surprise and delight when we became parents and I realized that…well…mommy hates cooking!

Now don’t get me wrong. If I had a week off from mom-ing, I might get back on the old horse. A quiet house and completely open schedule can be straight up inspirational! But by the end of a long day of attending story times and play dates, navigating toddler emotions, and constantly cleaning up from the aftermath of the tornado that I birthed, spending an hour or more in the kitchen sounds like torture.

After floundering for a few years, I finally landed on a solution. It’s one that I affectionately call the “mommy hates cooking, but would like to feed her family relatively decent things” approach. This approach uses fresh ingredients when it counts, but pairs them with convenience foods, to keep most dinner prep at 20 minutes or less. Let’s take a look!

Food Solutions When Mommy Hates Cooking

  1. Focus on healthy convenience foods. Just because I’m trying to keep it simple doesn’t mean that our dinners consist primarily of chicken nuggets and fries. I like to peruse the freezer section for foods that have healthy, whole food ingredients…that can be thrown straight into my microwave. This includes steamable bags of frozen vegetables, seasoned veggies in sauce, cheddar and bacon mashed cauliflower, and cauliflower tots and rice. Venture into the rice and beans aisle of your grocery store (It exists here in San Antonio!), and you can find microwavable rice and rice mixes. And Campbell’s premade oven sauces? Dump them on chicken and veggies and your family won’t know or care that it’s not homemade. Because it’s delicious.
  1. Opt for prepped foods when affordable. I’m fully aware I’m paying more for diced onions, riced cauliflower, spiralized zucchini, and that diced garlic that comes in a glass jar. But the sad truth is, if a recipe requires that I dice an onion, my chances of actually making it go down. I often even buy those $4-5 appetizer trays of cut and washed veggies for a healthy, convenient snack option to offer my toddler. Some grocery stores (like H-E-B) even offer fresh premade sides, like spinach and mozzarella-stuffed mushrooms, for relatively cheap. You just pull off the plastic wrap, pop the tray in the oven, and throw away the mess when you’re done.
  1. Consider foods that don’t dirty a dish. Anything that comes in a microwavable bag, or a tray that can be placed directly into the oven? You’ve got yourself a winner! Most of the foods mentioned above count! Because do you know what’s worse than cooking? Cleaning up afterwards. I like to minimize my efforts as much as possible, both before and after dinnertime.

Meal Solutions When Mommy Hates Cooking

  1. Focus on making one (mostly) fresh dish, and pair it with easy peasy sides. This will make your family feel like they’re enjoying a delicious home cooked meal, instead of like they’re eating out of a bunch of freezer bags. This means I might bake some salmon (Oooh, fancy!), but pair it with bags of steamable rice and veggies. Or maybe I’ll bake some fresh chicken (precut into tenders, let’s not get too crazy), and pair it with some surprisingly tasty microwavable zucchini lentil pasta with cheese sauce, and a steamable bag of broccoli. Mix them all together and your house is pretty much an Olive Garden.
  1. Look for recipes that mostly require dumping things together. For example, I love this Slow-Cooker Salsa Chicken recipe. It says to mix the ingredients up. But I just dump them all into the slow cooker, turn it on, and move on with my life. Even I can take five minutes to dump a few ingredients into a slow cooker.
  1. Use recipes with minimal prep work. For example, everything in this Spaghetti Casserole recipe (besides the ground beef) comes from a bag, can, or jar. That means no washing or dicing vegetables or fresh herbs, or trying to coordinate your menu through the week with how quickly your ingredients are going bad.
  1. The fewer ingredients, the better. I’ve made entire meals from scratch, and made those same meals with way fewer ingredients. And you know what?I can’t tell the difference. And neither can my family. So why collect 20 ingredients to make a mouthwatering pot of chili when you can make equally mouthwatering chili here with 5 ingredients?

Equipment Solutions When Mommy Hates Cooking

  1. Air fryers. Shh, don’t tell my husband, but his idea of buying an air fryer was pretty darn smart. I figured it would be another kitchen gadget we didn’t use (I’m looking at you, waffle maker!), but this one offers several perks. It cooks foods much faster than the oven, doesn’t heat up your kitchen or take 20 minutes (or any minutes) to preheat, and our air fryer can be thrown directly into the dishwasher. I can’t speak for other air fryers, but ours is pretty darn convenient.
  1. Manual or programmable crockpots. I know, I know, instant pots are all the rage now, but don’t overlook the beauty of the crockpot! It might take a little longer than an instant pot, but how homey does your house smell when you’ve had something called To Die For Crock Pot Roast (which only has four ingredients, by the way!) cooking for the last eight hours?! It smells like heaven, and it requires almost zero effort to make it smell that way.
  1. Microwaves. Not a cool, trending piece of equipment, but a handy one! You can steam veggies and rice, and cook countless other sides in your microwave, usually in the same bag they came in. You might actually be shocked to learn how many flavorful main courses, sides, and desserts you can make with just your microwave.
  1. Instant pots. They offer all of the benefits of a crockpot, in less time, along with steam, sauté, and rice options. To be honest, I haven’t purchased an instant pot. This mommy hates cooking, which means that I also hate having to learn a brand new piece of equipment and research recipes for it. But instant pots currently have an insane following of raving fans, and are worth checking out.

Wrap It Up

You (yes, you!) can cook healthy, balanced, and even delicious meals for yourself and your family, even if you hate cooking. Consider simplifying the food you purchase and the meals that you make. And don’t be afraid to use equipment that speeds everything up or combines multiple steps.

You don’t have to be a master chef, mama. You just have to work smarter, not harder. You’ve got this!

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