This week I had the extreme pleasure of chatting with some clients about their meals and how we could improve them for better health and weight loss. The recurring theme, it’s too hard to cook for just me, for 1 (or 2).
This really got me thinking…when do we decide that cooking is too much work? When is it not work? Is this a belief that happens when we have kids? Do people who don’t have kids think this way too? What about kids (the adult kind with homes of their own) And why do people eat? What makes eating/cooking enjoyable? Does it have to be enjoyable?
So first I called my own 23 year olds asking 1) if they cook? 2) where do they eat? and then called a few friends with kids in similar situations. Yes they can and do cook, often because it’s cheaper than going out for all their meals. They are split on whether they use real dishes or paper as well as if they eat at the table or in front of the tv.
Next, my single, never had kids people.
“Cooking is a chore.
“You have to stop what you are doing to get that done.
“sometimes I just don’t feel like it.”
They too cooked regularly, often sitting on the couch to eat but with real dishes.
People with kids generally eat at home, plan their meals and sit as a family when the kids are small. Only as their teenagers schedules start filling up do they start hitting the drive thru’s regularly.
Bringing me to empty nesters, widowers and divorced people. Empty nesters seem to have a 2 step reset once the kids leave, first eating out regularly only to discover rapidly expanding middles sending them back to the kitchen. A wrestle for who gets to/has to cook and clean up and then settling into either the couch or at the table (again, a series, first at the couch and then often coming back to the table to have conversations).
Widowers struggle again with being single and how to even scale a recipe to serve only one. A couple of the more inventive solutions I heard, “planned-overs” the art of cooking with the intention to have food for another meal (seems like this is “different” than leftovers. And secondly, a group of 4 seniors got together to do a food swap, each cooking a meal for 4 on Sundays and then doing a swap with each other. They get to cook for 4, share the meal with someone and have 4 different meals for the week. (except for that one week where all 4 made chili, the report is it is going really well.) But generally, I see widowers really find little joy in cooking anymore.
Divorced people often are struggling with their new identities as well. Maybe they were never the cook in the family so they are learning a new skill too. Maybe they just don’t like to cook. Maybe it’s the sharing and social aspect of it. Maybe it’s suddenly only cooking for 1. But the most disheartening comment was that “it just wasn’t worth it.”
What wasn’t worth it? The time to cook, the food itself…them.
Wait. What? You thought your child was worth the time. Your spouse was worth the time. I’ll bet both children and spouses thought you were worth the time. And Your mom might even argue you are still someone’s child. You are worth more than a bowl of cereal for breakfast. You are worth a home cooked meal. You deserve to enjoy what goes into your body. And YOU ARE WORTH IT!
So how do we make this reverse life transition back to the kitchen. At it’s most basic food is just fuel and you need to get in what will support your life…lifting heavy tomorrow best get in some veggies and protein. Big presentation tomorrow, protein and veggies, skip the brain fog inducing sugar. Just pool lounging tomorrow, bowl of cereal might be ok.
When I was single and cooking for myself this was probably the best description…Food is fuel and I just cooked veggies and protein. I knew grains and dairy were not my friends so I didn’t bother having them in the house, because to be honest I am a sugar and bread addict, and not in the house was actually best. I ate at the table, didn’t own a tv. Food provided energy to lift, run, look fab in my size 6.
As my hubby and I transitioned into empty nesters who would cook wasn’t a discussion, Ken was afraid I’d only make veggies…so he cooks and gives me a time to start veggies if I am going to make them. We eat at the table, tv off and no phones. We use the china, I have talked about this before, but why have beautiful dishes that only get used once a year?!
Also, he asks what I will need for lunch the next day…our general solution is to cook one serving extra so I have lunch for the next day (he just hits up the drive thru, his choice). And there are days that I need a little more so a couple times a month I make and freeze meatballs, meatloaf, rice/quinoa, soup, roasted veggies etc so I have a quick grab and go healthy option that my body deserves. Another thought I had as a client and I discussed this…turn the grill on once a week and grill up 5 different pieces of meat (a steak a chicken breast, a pork chop, a burger, a salmon fillet) and freeze for the week.
Breakfast in my house is too dang early on work days to do anymore than a quickie and I like protein shakes but I have seen others make and love muffin omelets…again, quick and healthy.
What habits or rituals can you, as a cook for only 1 or 2 , incorporate into your week or month to make meals on the fly worthy of you? What other ways can help you bring joy back to cooking or eating?
Shoot me a message. Let’s share some ideas here!!!