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What the F Do People Actually Eat for Dinner?
09.08.17
Photo by CSA Images via iStock.

In the micro-economy of my quotidian life, little confounds me more than what to have for dinner. Breakfast feels manageable: I have 20 minutes and three circulating options (toast with peanut butter, toast with eggs or, as of recently, a banana smoothie). Lunch feels either boring or expensive, but always quick: leftovers in the work fridge or Sweetgreen down the street. Dinner, with its open timetable (whenever you want between work and bed), its bevy of choices (literally anything) and approaches to get there (graze, microwave, cook, order in, go out), leaves me consistently frozen.

What the hell do people eat for dinner? If you recall my confessions of a snacker or the serving-size recommendations I routinely disregard, you’ll know I’m an untrustworthy agent of my own diet. If I work late (short on time), am on a budget (short on money), and want to eat healthy but am short on energy, what the hell should I eat? It’s a silly question I’d rather not ask for personal brand reasons, but my kitchen and digestive system and general sense of wellbeing would rather I do.

To start, I asked around the office for ideas: What the F did they eat for dinner?

Patty

“A poached egg on greens and then a variety of stuff mixed in depending on what I have on hand (different nuts, dried fruit, meat, cheese, etc). Usually preceded or followed by tortilla chips and salsa, which keep me humble.”

Leandra

“Sushi.”

Matt

“In terms of my typical dinners, mine fall into one of three categories: restaurant meals as a vehicle to socialization; a sampler platter of my favs from my corner deli; or a smattering of snacks/leftovers/couch crumbs I can scrounge up in my apartment.”

Abie

“Salad with a piece of fish.”

Kate

“A frequent and favorite dinner: soft-boiled egg, short grain brown rice, crunchy sprouts, shaved brussel sprout salad with walnuts, steamed broccoli, a few pieces of sweet potato, sliced avocado, sprouted almonds, sauerkraut, radish slices, a handful of sugar snap peas, gomasio, a couple olives and an umeboshi plum at the end. I usually prepare it all at the beginning of the week so it’s easy to assemble. I feel weird/exposed.”

Nikki

“Some sort of bean/lentil rice veggie burger, sautéed kale and garlic and vegan kimchi in a gluten free wrap with sweet potatoes.”

Amelia

“Weekday dinners suck. I usually have 1) a sad salad, 2) a blah protein with vegetables from Seamless, 3) a work-related drink-plus-weird-shared-snacks that don’t really fill me up or 4) sushi. My most substantial meal is lunch. I actually eat a lot of tacos and ‘breakfast for dinners,’ too. On the weekends: Pad Thai, cheeseburgers. Not together. French fries and oysters. Those ones go together. I am so hungry right now.”

Ashley

“Grilled cheese.”

Harling

“Sometimes I like to have a ‘snack dinner’ which is comprised of the following snacks: vegetable course (roasted broccoli and baby carrots with a huge glob of hummus for dipping), protein course (probs some chicken apple sausage from Trader Joe’s), carbohydrate course (Organic Himalayan Pink Salt Popcorn from Buddha Bowl), dairy course (a greek yogurt topped with Dang coconut chips) and dessert course (one Hershey’s Kiss). Other times I like to have a regular dinner, which I order on Seamless from either Taboonette (the warm kale salad is sooooo good) or Spring Street Natural (I love the stir-fried vegetables with farro).”

Emily

“Seamless or my boyfriend cooks. (I don’t cook.)”

Their answers fell into a binary of either making me feel understood (snack dinner) or making me feeling inadequate (Kate’s entire answer). I must admit I feel less sure than I did before, which is why I need you to tell me what the hell you eat for dinner, plus the general thinking behind it, if you’re feeling generous, because I feel lost and I’m convinced the only answer is MORE COWBELL (DATA). Please?

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  • emily moran

    Grain bowls are the best, rice/farro/lentils/quinoa + any veggies you have sautéed in garlic + fried egg. We also doctor easy things like adding veggies+egg and some fish oil/hoisin to ramen. Once a month or so we also have a “smorgasbord night” where we polish off any odds and ends that need to go. Also also, blue apron is the shit y’all.

  • Abby

    I think my answer is because I’m currently unemployed (when I was working I was always too exhausted to cook after work), also because I don’t live in New York City, but I actually LOVE cooking lately and rarely go out, and was surprised by the lack of cooking in the MR team’s answers! I generally only buy a few ingredients at the store (whatever vegetable I’m feeling, always mushrooms, always beans – I’m vegan so this helps narrow things down a bit too) and use them in various rice/vegetable/protein or pasta/vegetable/protein dishes. For example, on Tuesday night I made burrito bowls with spicy tempeh, beans, and brown rice, then the next night I had whole wheat spaghetti with broccolini, mushrooms, and lots of garlic. My leftovers usually last me at least another day or two because I make too much and my boyfriend makes his own things. If I’m feeling lazy I’ll get Chipotle or something from the hot bar at Whole Foods. Or just eat more pasta.

  • theysayshycity

    Quinoa + herbed chickpeas (thank God for Bon Appetit) + sauteed/roasted whatever was green/good/cheap at the grocery store + feta (Parmesan if I’m feeling particularly wealthy) + little bit of olive oil with red pepper; hummus, toasted pepitas or poached egg optional. If I’m feeling indulgent, I’ll swap out the quinoa and put the entire thing on toast. I prep everything at the beginning of the week, it is stupid easy.

    If pan (re)heating everything is too much of a pain, banana and peanut butter toast. Cinnamon if I remember (I almost never remember).

  • María

    In Europe we just cook our dinner. I don’t understand the big deal about cooking that I perceive in American media. You do groceries and then at home you cut your veggies, put them in the pan with a bit of olive oil, cook some rice/pasta/quinoa/whatever, and nice spices. And then you eat them.

    • American here; I cook like this 6-7 nights a week and its nbd.

      • María

        I don’t mean that American people don’t cook, I mean that in media it is portrayed like buying non-fancy ingredients like potatoes, spinach, carrots and rice and then cooking them at home is something difficult to achieve or something super special and I don’t know why (I’ve never been there but I often find people kind of bragging about never using their kitchens or being completely
        unable to cook in articles, social media and interviews and I don’t really understand why is that supposed to be cool).

        • Lol, I gotcha 🙂 I think its because this what its like in fashion/beauty circles where they maybe work odd hours in big cities. Most people definitely just cook regular everyday things just like this here in the US. Our media is just weird at portraying it! You’ve either gotta be Betty-Homemaker 1950’s style 3 course dinners or Carrie Bradshaw storing sweaters in your oven.

          • I think Carrie Bradshaw just didn’t eat. She bought Vouge instead of dinner, remember? It “fed her more”….. *eye roll*

      • Engels_Beard

        My husband cooks, but this. Adults eat food for dinner: Pasta. Homemade meatballs. Porkchops. Steak. Zucchini fritters. Stir-fried tempeh and veg. A hundred different soups, stews, and chili. I don’t really understand the question. Also I didn’t realize I was supposed to live on greens, poached eggs, and quinoa.

    • I’m from the US and I too am somewhat perplexed by this weird meal attitude.

      I shop, I cook, I eat. I cook a different thing every night. Am I bragging? I can’t even tell….

      • Hayley

        Same here. We maybe go out for sushi once every other week, but that’s it. Otherwise, we cook and prep everything ourselves.

      • María

        As I answered to another person here, I don’t mean that American people don’t cook, it’s just this portrayal in media of cooking: it seems like for many people not to use the kitchen and order food or eat outside everyday is something that make you charming, quirky or cool. And I don’t get it. But once again I have this perception by reading articles and social media!

        • I get it! No hard feelings/offense taken, if that was worrying you.

          I may be reaching here, but I think the “I never cook” thing can be a part of the “cool girl” archetype – just like “whatever, I don’t care, I just grab whatever burgers and fries I can reach and it’s FINE because I’M SO CHILL” which of course, isn’t really how any person can survive, but is how a lot of people portray themselves on social media, etc.

          I think this ties into what your earlier point because the “cool girl” seems like a primarily American construct, too. IMO.

          • María

            LOL, it’s the first time I comment in MR and I just don’t want to be a jerk with what it seems a very nice community! 🙂

          • Danielle Cardona Graff

            I agree, I think it’s part of the “cool girl” construct.

          • Cristina

            I love this article and these comments. I love learning about social hierarchy of food (I’ve recently been reading some cool articles on the classism of “clean eating”.) I’m from a lower middle class Midwest home and still live in the Midwest. Our houses come with kitchens (as I understand a lot of apartments in NYC may not even have a stove!) and we cook. Like, actual food. I’m about to go meet friends for a chicken biscuit at brunch, not poached eggs over greens cause like, why the eff would you pay for that?! Lol!!
            I think you are so spot on with this cool girl mystique. Ashley from MR is obviously my new bff cause I can eat grilled cheese all day!

        • Jessica Amento

          I don’t cook but not at all because I feel like a cool girl, more a combination of how daunting it is/no one ever taught me/intimidation/and laziness. Albeit, feeling very inspired with ideas reading these comments.

          • Thamsa

            Not sure where you are located, but maybe you could consider taking cooking classes? Or cooking with friends who might be able to show you tips? I love cooking with others and have learned so much over the years. It can be so much fun 🙂

          • Rachael Kowald

            it’s all about trial and error! buy a few bits, chuck them in a pan and add some herbs or spices.

        • Thamsa

          You’re not the only one who gets this perception.but then again, I grew up and was taught to cook by my father at a very young age. I am always surprised at adult who don’t cook, especially if they’ve gotten to a certain age and never even learned. It seems to be made out to be this really challenging task, but can be made so simple ( and cheap)

      • eizhowa

        Well I don’t personally like food so I find making dinner is very tough. I could eat the same thing for weeks because food is food. On my best days, I will cook a massiive vegetable stew and feeeze 10 portions that I live off and on my worst I will eat a pound of fries with salt on them…

        Edit: A lot of NY apartments barely have a kitchen so that might be a factor for the people at Manrepeller.

        • TherapyCranes

          You…don’t like food?

          • eizhowa

            I have eaten food roughly 3 times a day for 25 years. It is getting kind of dull 😉 If there was an option to take a pill for each meal, I would probably use it quite a lot.

          • Kelly

            Someone I know has the same feelings as you, so he now basically lives off protein/meal replacement shakes. He seems to be doing alright, but I’m not a doctor.

        • Nicole

          I also don’t like food. Having an eating disorder kind of re-wired my brain and I don’t really get any pleasure from eating. I wish I could have smoothies for every meal and never be hungry :/

        • Daria

          Soylent.

        • Lil

          Kind of similar feelings towards food. Few foods wow me. Even high end, fine dining. I guess I’m just a super picky eater because other than a few dishes and fries, everything else tastes like “nothing” to me. I mean I’ll really eat annything if I’m hungry or to be polite. But most foods just taste whatever to me, neither good or bad.

        • Amanda Faerber

          I totally understand this. Sometimes it’s freeing to think about what your body needs versus what you want.

      • Kamolika

        I honestly think a lot of this just has to do with city-living. I get off work around 5, which is earlier than most of my friends and it takes me about 45-50 minutes on public transportation to get home, and then I might get waylaid a bit by popping into a store or the library or some random errand so by the time I actually get home, finding time to cook anything at all is kind of exhausting. Plus, I’m one of the few people I know who own a car. If I had to lug back all my groceries (which I still do because taking out the car is such a hassle), that adds in even more time.

    • Jeanie

      I’m in the US, and I find cooking solves so many problems. Cheaper and healthier. If you learn how to cook enough, it’s also tastier.

      • This is SO TRUE. I find I’m pickier about eating out because half the stuff I’d order at restaurants I can make taste better in my own kitchen.

        • Adrianna

          omg me too. it’s frustrating to order a healthy meal and know that I could roast/cook those vegetables better

          • Jeanie

            Yes, roast veggies are ridiculously expensive in restaurants. I think maybe it’s because it takes more time to cook so it’s more work for restaurants to time it for service?

        • Jeanie

          Yass! And I believe that yours is tastier too.

          • Jade-Yue-Ryu

            I will vouch that homemade Pad Thai and Thom Kha Gai are both yummier than your usual (note: I know a couple of exemptions to this) restaurant variety. Also I can sub out the soy stuff for my aunt, who loves asian cuisine but is sadly allergic to it.

        • Danielle Cardona Graff

          I TOTALLY agree! Same here!

      • If I didn’t cook, I would definitely be way more unhealthy. Take out food tastes delicious because it’s full of fat and sugar. Which is too bad because I LOVE me some pad see ew. Sparingly.

        • Jeanie

          Haha, same. I couldn’t resist and got some pad see ew just recently!

      • It’s so true – and it actually saves a lot of time too. I don’t have to figure out where to go or what to order every single day. I spend a few minutes every week figuring out what I’m going to cook, make my list, go to the store and then I’m set. And I actually know what’s in my food, so I have a better idea as to what I’m eating, which makes it easy to maintain my weight.

        xoKaelen
        Darling Marcelle

    • Adrianna

      I was just going to bring this up! I never understood the fuss, and why so many American adults don’t know how to prepare meals. It’s a basic life skill! Is it my Polish immigrant background?

      Cooking with my American boyfriend was maddening when we started dating. He truly didn’t seem to believe that I’ve been feeding myself by preparing meals on the stove since I was 11 years old. Once we diced more vegetables than we needed for that particular meal, and he stood frozen in complete horror and anxiety about what he was going to do with the extra produce.

      • My parents never really taught me to cook, but being a broke scholarship student in college, I learned pretty fast how to make food. And then I got better at it with practice. Nowadays though, it seems like a point of pride for a lot of people -“I don’t cook” is the new “I never sleep” or “I’m so busy.”

        xoKaelen
        Darling Marcelle

        • Adrianna

          Yeah, I agree. Your comment reminded me how I didn’t sign up for my college meal plan and subsequently had to cook all my meals with very limited funds. I gained a lot of weight in college because the cheapest food (pasta, rice) is not the healthiest. I have since discovered that cabbage, carrots, and even frozen Whole Foods kale are cheaper than that $2 box of pasta.

    • I have noticed this about my European friends!

    • YNMD

      Working in fashion in NYC is the part of this that’s throwing people for a loop.

      These women are young and working in an industry that…. well lets say it doesn’t necessarily promote healthy eating habits.

      As someone with a history of calorie restriction, I find that what seems to happen is after a day of consuming 500 kcal or less, you are exhausted and starving by the end of the day, which leaves you either contemplating eating floorboards or just going to bed, because the mental energy of finding something healthy, tasty, and calorie free is more than your headache ravaged body can bear.

      (Granted this may be an unfair assumption, but I find it telling that zero young ladies answered “a protein and 2 sides, maybe a pastry for dessert”)

      • Adrianna

        I think you have a point that these people work in fashion.

        I grew up in an immigrant/blue collar home, but I attended to a fancy college and now work with people who also attended fancy colleges. These are smart, successful women with great problem solving skills. But none of them know how to chop a vegetable and prepare a simple meal for themselves. Cooking is a novel, social activity done with friends and wine.

        I’ve wondered if it was a deliberate choice by their parents. My female peers were raised to be successful in their educations and careers, not to stay home and cook for their husbands. I also learned how to cook out of necessity – my mom worked long hours, and I was hungry.

        • Lil

          Could be. I grew up in a lower class family, but my parents also wanted me to be a careerwoman rather than a wife so they never stressed to me that I should learn how to cook. Not that being a wife is terrible, my parents just wanted financial security for me (albeit what their idea of financial security was)

          • Adrianna

            We had mixed messages in our household. My mother always emphasized that we are to go to college and forge our own future. I think my older sister deliberately avoided learning how to cook because my father had very sexist ideas about what daughters and women should do

        • Crystal

          Same, my need to cook definitely arose from necessity. Breakfast, packing my lunch for school, and often making my dinner fell on me because my mom was a working single parent. And yet all of my educated, professionally successful coworkers act like I perform a magic trick by bringing lunch that I cooked to work every day (the truth is, I am really just way too much of a cheapskate to buy a $15 salad I can make on my own in 10 minutes. I would much rather spend all of my money on clothes and Pilates and spin classes and facials).

          These days I don’t get to cook elaborate things because I work a lot (14-16 hour days are unfortunately very normal and I rarely eat dinner before 9pm) but I can almost always throw together meals that fall into 1 of 3 general categories:

          Roasted vegetables and chickpeas with spices, usually with a quick sauce to go on top (romesco, nondairy yogurt-based raita, lemon caper aioli, etc.);

          Curry/soup/stew (if I really have my shit together, I can put it in a crock pot the night before);

          or

          A quick veggie sautee with beans or tofu.

          Available veggies in my refrigerator dictate whatever the flavor profile is, which is in turn determined by a weekly CSA delivery (that I almost always forget to customize). It’s probably helpful that I’m vegan because my dishes are always vegetable-led and that makes prep easier (probably?), but I do make sure to have a protein component (usually beans or chickpeas, but sometimes a giant scoop of hummus, or a veggie sausage or whatever).

          My husband, on the other hand, subsists on takeout a lot of the time, and it drives me crazy. Then again, he doesn’t love Pilates/clothes/facials/SoulCycle so I guess it makes more sense for him to try every pho/taco/kebab establishment in an 8 mile radius of our apartment.

          • Adrianna

            I mentioned in a different comment that I skipped my college dining hall meal plan after I figured out how much money it was per meal. (About $12 in 2007.) That means I truly had to prepare all of my meals after I moved out at 18.

            On top of that, I didn’t have a lot of time, and I rented a room from someone who didn’t tolerate any sort of temporary mess. I learned how to cook a meal and clean up after myself really quickly.

          • Thamsa

            This is great.even though you can get so busy,you still manage to fit in some good meal prep! This is so important

      • fortinbras

        I think you mean 500 cal! 500 kcal is an enormous amount of food.

        • YNMD

          Nope! kcal is the medical term for the layperson “calorie” – sorry for the confusion!

      • JennyWren

        I have to say, this did resolve in large part for me the mystery of how fashion folks stay so thin. So many salads! Must be expensive too with all the ordering out. I would almost certainly end up eating the same way if I were constantly busy and lived in a city like NY, but Lord I’d be broke if I tried to eat like that where I live!

        • Adrianna

          This is how I felt when I learned that fit guys and sports bros actually eat a lot of salad. I was always under the [jealous] impression that most men can just eat whatever they want. There’s just as many men as there are women eating out of tupperware filled with green leaves and vegetables in our company kitchen

      • Giulia

        Nailed it.

    • Jac

      I think it definitely is more of a habit among my friends who live in NY or lived in NY in th formative college/early 20s years (and to some extent friends in LA at the same time, where having a kitchen in the type of apartments early 20something live in is a luxury rather than a thing every apartment has). NYC grocery stores are typically far away, have terrible produce, and are super overpriced. Trader Joes is maybe the only exception, but there aren’t that many and they get INSANELY crowded (I used to go to one where you literally got in line as soon as you got there, because it snaked through every single aisle and you just picked up what you wanted as you got closer to the register). people also often have a lot of roommates and a small (and old, and usually kinda grimy) kitchen, making stocking up much harder.

      at the same time, there are every sort of restaurant imaginable within walking distance of your job AND your apartment, not to mention the temptations of seamless delivery, offering food faster than you could make it and more tasty than you have the skills for, and it becomes a habit that’s increasingly hard to break. even being aware that eating out all the time is not the most healthy or cost effective, but with all the barriers to cooking Snack Dinner becomes incredibly common

    • I think it is just part of the food culture in the US. Americans tend to have lunch al desko and work later than Europeans so food becomes more of a chore when you come home so late from the office. Food, and an appreciate for it, is just more engrained in European culture than in North America.

      • KellyMarie_Calamari

        al desko = gold

        • wish I could take credit for the term but I saw it on Bon Appetit’s Instagram 🙂

      • kellymcd

        This is 100% my problem. By the time I’ve managed to make it home between 730-8PM at night, the idea of trudging to the store, firing up the oven and making a meal is overwhelming to me. I love to cook, don’t get me wrong and I really take my time making great, full fledged meals on the weekends (last night was homemade pizza!!). I’ve just found it to become more and more difficult as my hours at work become more demanding. I’m trying to become better about planning ahead but I HATE wasting food. So, the concept of making a big grocery store trip early in the week, only to have half the produce go off before I can eat it is really upsetting to me.

        Instead, I’ve started focusing on buying really quick cooking proteins for a couple nights at a time (fish, eggs, beans). If it takes more than 20 mins to get dinner together, I’m over it

        • Arianna Aguilar

          this, i am really surprised that more people aren’t saying this in the comments because i find that is most people’s issue. especially since people in the US have commutes and have to drive everywhere, and if you want to be a bit healthy people go to the gym after work which makes for even less time to cook. and then -if you are too poor for a dishwasher like most of us- you have dishes to take care of which leaves you 0 time to actually rest. even having a partner who works from home and does most of the cooking and a lot of the groceries, we still end up wasting so much food. europeans have the luxury of walking to the grocery store as they need it instead of having to do all the groceries way ahead of time due to time restrictions

          • Arianna Aguilar

            i forgot to explain further: another reason we waste a lot of food/it goes bad is that the portions sold at the store are too large, so if you are just one or two people it ends up going bad if you don’t use it all. in europe people have tiny fridges and smaller families so the stores aren’t catering to giant families with giant fridges

    • Hazel

      Americans don’t take as many breaks in the work day, and the atmosphere tends to be more intense. I think this makes people too wiped to want to put energy into cooking. I’ve worked as a full time physics researchers in both continents. I tend to cook basically every meal, but that’s because I find it easier than going out and waiting for a meal that I might not even particularly want to eat. We also live with our families less, move out earlier, so there’s less focus on meals as family or just a general gathering time.

    • Toronto CS

      Reply to Maria, my understanding is that people in Europe work shorter hours, which makes a huge difference. When I was first working I used to cook on Monday and Tuesday night, but then I was too exhausted the rest of the week. It’s the same with European women managing working motherhood. I was reading about a Swedish working mom and really admiring her, and then I read she had six weeks vacation a year!!! So did her husband. Hours worked and time to recharge make a huge difference in what’s possible in terms of living the kind of picture life you might have in your head. When you’re working sixty to eighty hours a week with one week vacation a year, as I was at 23, a lot of things fall by the wayside and are less ideal than you might like.

    • Cristina

      It’s definitely regional and related to social class, in my opinion. Here in the Midwest, we cook dinner! But we alsoooo don’t have the all night take out options, food delivery service and all these trendy high end restaurants!

    • Sis

      YES! Coming from Italy this was the biggest cultural shock for me the first time I’ve been in the US, the families I lived with or babysit for NEVER cooked and they seemed so surprised when i start doing it for them…just very simple basic stuff like pasta with basil and tomato sauce or a rice salad but it was so different from their usual fast food/ready to eat/microwawed/take away eaten on their feet/bed/carpet/couch/car…whenever but the table! I felt sorry for the kids (not that much younger than me), spending some quality time together around the table at least once a day eating something warm and handmaded is a staple for us.

    • Lil

      I think a lot of young people don’t cook in large American cities, like LA or NY, because 10+ hour shifts are the new normal and yet we still don’t have our own private kitchens.

      So coming home to stand over a hot stove with a poker face still on (leftover from work) in case a roommate
      -or three- walks in, just seems more draining than forking over the $6 for a Trader Joe’s salad and baguette.

      • sal

        YES TO THIS.

      • kellymcd

        If I could ban my roommates from the kitchen while I cook, I would cook every night. One of my roommates doesn’t understand the concept of “personal space” and “I’ve been working all day, look at me and I’ll kill you”, so I’d rather avoid the kitchen all together

    • Ma

      Everyone has to chill, as someone currently based in Europe and doing the 60h+ weeks thing (yes, we have those here too, at some point in some careers anyway), I’m no strange to having little time and energy to actually do the cooking in the end of the day. However, what Maria means (or at least what I think she means) is that in Europe cooking is nbd. When people say they don’t cook, it sounds as weird as hearing someone doesn’t shower or exercises at all, regardless of time constraints. No one is necessarily passing judgment, it just strikes as really odd the whole attitude re cooking. Now not enjoying cooking/not having a kitchen/not cooking well is something far more relatable haha! I think in the US cooking is perceived as something over the top, which is not necessarily the case if you don’t want it to be.

    • Giulia

      I’m an Italian transplant and I cook dinner for me and my boyfriend every single night. I can’t imagine not having a plan for dinner, it makes me sad/anxious. Italians love food (maybe a bit too much) but I think this is the healthiest relationship to have with it. Cooking and eating meals with other people has been scientifically proven to be better for you than eating snacks alone in front of the TV. Just pickup a cookbook, go to your local market, dive in and see how inspired you are !

    • Haley Nahman

      Most nights I’m not home from work until 9 or later, which may be why I don’t often have the time or energy to cook. But I love this attitude. UGH @ AMERICA

  • Abby

    Last night we had meatloaf (I made two and froze one), mashed potatoes, and corn. Tonight I’m making a lasagna completely from scratch, noodles included (made the sauce last night to save time).

    This weekend we’ll probably go out Saturday so no cooking that night and Sunday I’ll do a big grocery shop and look up new recipes, so who knows what we’ll have then. My husband is a real “meat and potatoes” kind of guy and a bit of a picky eater, so dinner is usually a little less healthy than I would like but I make up for it with very nutritious and virtuous breakfast and lunch choices.

  • Mary

    I mean, it changes a lot, but my dinners (meals in general) revolve around 4 parts:

    the base or “cushion” as I think of it in my head, which is usually rice, noodles (pasta, soba, rice noodles), potatoes, etc. If I’m making tacos it’s the shell or a sandwich it’s the bread. Something sort of base and bland- my body has a hard time digesting lots of raw vegetables so I find some sort of carb/grain helps me!

    the vegetables: sometimes I purposely buy specific things but it’s often just what I have around, steamed spinach, carmelized onions and mushrooms, roast broccoli, peppers, bok choy, etc.

    the protein: sometimes I forgo this for more dense vegetables/base, like sweet potato or quinoa which will fill me up more on its own. If I don’t, usually tofu, vegan chicken, falafel balls, chick peas, cheese, nuts, whatever.

    the sauce: this is whatever makes the meal fun. Salsa or teriyaki sauce to cook the veggies in, salad dressing, spicy peanut sauce, pasta sauce, etc.

    I mean this literally describes just like, most of meals but I find it a helpful way to think about my food. My bottom line though is dinner should just be hot, salty, spicy and a little bit sweet.

  • Lauren

    Broccoli seasoned with ginger, garlic, and oregano sauteed in ghee, with scrambled eggs and avocado….with paprika. I black out every evening while I make this because I’m so hungry and make it so fast.

  • CeeEm

    I make pasta with jar sauce more often than I care to admit.

  • Samantha Serbus

    I’m a big fan of cooking on the weekends and then munching on the leftovers during the week. For example, this past weekend (Friday night) I made a big bowl of this chickpea, black bean, cucumber salad thing. I also made a homemade tzatziki sauce and bought some pita bread. I thought this would lend itself to working as a nice weekday work lunch, but I put a lot of garlic in it and it left me being a literal “people-repeller” – so now it’s a home snack. Then (Saturday morn) I made a pot of tomato soup which just kinda simmered all day, and then later that eve I made a pot of pasta w/ pea, zucchini & mushrooms w/ lots of butter, cream and parmesan. All this has well sustained two people throughout the week with NO weeknight cooking required. If I get sick of leftovers, I’m always a big fan of a good ol’ avocado and toast. Toast is the best.

  • Caitie

    veggie burger + salad greens + wrap

  • Haley Fox

    Usually my dinner is either pasta with some veggies and a sauce or rice and veggies with some sauce. Can be super simple or I can make it more complicated. I also usually add beans or tofu so it’s filling and covers more nutritional points. Or sometimes I make french fries.

  • Hilary

    This article couldn’t have come at a better (worse?) time because I’ve been pretty terrible about dinners lately. Eating out too much, and being painfully lazy when I’m actually cooking. I don’t know what it is about the past few weeks, ’cause I usually love cooking and trying new recipes. Lately I’ve just been making some kind of bland pasta and sauce + fried egg or a vegetable. Kate’s dinner is what I now aspire to – I love meals like that with so many special components and not too much of anything to get sick of. Being a meal-prepper in general is my goal.

  • Jocelyn Smith

    I feel the same way about dinner! I always try and ask my coworkers their dinner plans because I am so curious what other people eat, but it always comes off as invasive and weird to ask ahah

  • mariahg

    They key to being able to cook your dinner on weeknights is to prep during the weekend. Pick two or three dishes that you like/ know how to cook (do NOT pick something you know is out of your skill level, save that for a weekend) and make sure to buy all of the grocery items you’ll need. Then, do as much prep as you can: chop up veggies you need for a dish and put them in a ziploc bag together, go ahead and make all of your marinades for chicken, fish, etc., cook up a big batch of pasta or rice. That way, all of your mise-en-place is ready to go when you get home and it won’t take as long for you to cook dinner.

  • Racquel Cable

    On Sundays I make a list of every post work thing I’m doing that week. I often try to have someone over for dinner once a week to encourage me to eat in/ to practice cooking meals I’m proud of.

    From there, for nights when I know I’ll have time to cook I pick a recipe from one of my cookbooks, Minimalist Baker, Cookie and Kate, or Bon Appetit, trying to find meals with different flavor profiles, but also using some of the same ingredients so I don’t waste anything. I usually like to choose a skillet meal (think curry, breakfast hash, etc.), a meal with a rice base, a meal with a pasta base, a fun meal (think veggie burger, pizza, etc.), and a 100% plant based meal.

    Armed with my recipes, I make a grocery list and grab everything I need, save for things that are best bought day of that I can grab on my way home from the office. During the week, my dinner meals usually provide leftovers for lunch the next day, or, if I know I have a busy night coming up, dinner the next day.

    To help make sure that I’ll hold out for my home cooked meal, I usually eat a snack an hour before I leave the office, that way I’m not totally starved by the time I get off the train at home.

    Good luck!

  • Kristi Ellis

    Roasted vegetables (my fav combo is asparagus, broccoli, sweet potato, and jalapeño) with a grain (usually couscous or brown rice. Never quinoa because tbh it’s gross and leaves my stomach writhing in pain for hours after consumption). I’ve lovingly named this dinner “Mash” because it’s just a bunch of ish thrown together.

  • Jesse

    I might have imagined this but in Gwyneth Paltrow’s recent-ish cookbook, she mentions feeling lazy and having a dinner of pasta with butter and cheese. This precedes a chapter dedicated to easy to prepare meals. I haven’t made any of them. I mostly make pasta with butter and cheese.

    • kellymcd

      If its good enough for Gwyneth, its good enough for me

  • Shevaun

    Some sort of lazy stirfry is usually my go-to. Broccoli, red pepper, bean sprouts, mushrooms and onion over a bed of rice is good (add leftover protein if you got it). A lazier version is scrambled eggs, frozen peas and corn, and mushrooms on top of rice. Fast and easy and filling for week nights.

    Vegetarian Chili is also a staple. Buy yourself a damn crock pot and make Chili on the weekends. Then you have it for a few days and can freeze what you don’t want.

    We eat the Chili over (you guessed it) a bed of damn rice. Because rice is perfect and bread is the devil.

  • Grace

    I find that having a formula for the week and getting groceries on the weekends helps tremendously. Protein, veggie, grain, done. Even easier if I make a bunch of chicken or hard boiled eggs Sunday night. Then I just have to make cous cous or rice and saute a veggie. Either that or I’ll have scrambled eggs and toast if I didn’t have that for breakfast because I love eggs.

  • cuffers27

    This is a fun article/comments section (who doesn’t love discussing food?). My go-tos are frittata with tons of veggies in, roasted veg with homemade pesto and some kind of fish/meat or a defrosted portion of ragu/curry/pulled meat if I have time to do batch cooking on the weekend.

    • nell

      Frittata is so great and versatile, and such a good way to get your veggies! I love to make a big one at the beginning of the week and pack it for lunches.

  • I actually really like making dinner! I think it’s because I feel good using my hands/not looking at a screen for at least a little. And I really like cooking for/with other people. So there’s a relief factor there.

    I’ve got a few standard, straightforward weeknight recipes, but they’re all basically “grain/carb + veggies + sauce/toppings.” And they’re all things I can eat for lunch the next day or two.

    Favorite ones:
    -soba noodles + lots of crunchy veggies (cabbage, cucumber, carrot, bell pepper) + peanut sauce (sort of like this? http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/peanut-sauce, but with lots of liberties taken)

    -this one-pot farro thing from smitten kitchen (https://smittenkitchen.com/2013/07/one-pan-farro-with-tomatoes/): fool-proof and like risotto without the fuss

    -quinoa with roasted veggies (sweet potato, broccoli, red onion, whatever) with a tahini-miso sauce (basically a riff on this: https://smittenkitchen.com/2013/10/miso-sweet-potato-and-broccoli-bowl/)

    -braised chickpeas (https://food52.com/recipes/64161-joy-the-baker-s-olive-oil-braised-chickpeas-more-or-less) with a little green salad and lots of toast/flat bread. also lots of za’atar.

    -breakfast tacos with scrambled eggs, quick gooey black beans (these, but cooked waaay down: http://orangette.net/2015/03/the-bean-doctor/), whatever fresh or pickled appropriate veggies I have (zucchini, red onion, tomato, whatever), and lotsa cholula

    I could talk about this for ages, honestly.

    • nell

      We have a similar weeknight dinner formula! I love making a giant soba noodle salad with lots of veggies and having leftovers for lunches and that Smitten Kitchen farro dish is one of my absolute faves.

    • Christine Corbin

      Oooh, seconding that braised chickpea recipe. Those are SO GOOD. We fold them into tacos or eat them tossed with rice or quinoa.

    • Hannah Laub

      THE TAHINI MISO FROM SMITTEN KITCHEN

      In my office we call it “crack sauce.”

    • Danielle Cardona Graff

      I’m soooooooooo with you on this! I love to cook, and i find it extremely theraputic and meditative.

    • Hannah Betts

      THANK YOU.

    • ellen

      yess smitten kitchen is bomb- anyone needing dinner or any food inspiration should check her out!
      (haley i’m lookin at u o.0 )

      • Haley Nahman

        I love smitten kitchen and use it all the time! My main problem is getting home around 9pm and not having time to cook

    • CM

      Thank you! Can you go on more please? You just gave me dinner ideas for the week… 🙂

  • Lil

    I’m terrible because I eat out a lot for lunch so I eat my lunch leftovers for dinner most days of the work week…

    When I do cook, I’ll usually have a chicken breast or fish fillet with a large plateful of vegetables and hummus.

  • Husband and I make a menu every week before food shopping and then buy what we need for the week. Then we avoid the “what do you want for dinner” conversation and we always know who’s going to cook what. Sometimes we rearrange what we eat by night because of our schedule though.
    We cook:
    fritattas with chunks of bread or potato baked in
    steamed or sauteed veggies and beans over pasta/rice
    whole roasted chickens that make an excellent week of dinners (chicken salad, sammies, etc)
    channa masala
    various soups based on seasonal produce
    I could keep going…

  • I clicked on this article thinking it was going to be something else, but I guess it really is that complicated for some?

    Last night I made a bacon turkey burger casserole that will last a few days.

    Crockpot roasts and chili are both great for this season and last multiple days.

    I’m also a fan of “bowls” with sauteed veggies, meats, nuts, seeds, avo, and whatever sauces sound good at the moment (currently loving Chipotle Tabasco).

    Quiches are fun and easy too, and you can use so many different ingredients for them. They also last multiple days.

    Veggie/burger patties are super quick and easy. Add some sauce/seasonings/dressing, throw them on top of rice or a bed of greens and call it a day.

    Pizza is always a win. Surprisingly easy to make at home, too.

    If you’re willing to buy a deep fryer, there are even more options. Albeit, this will also be an untrustworthy agent of your diet.

  • My boyfriend and I have recently realized that we don’t know how to cook like our parents–a main dish and sides. For us–and judging by the comments, a lot of other people, too–everything is piled in one bowl. Like a quinoa bowl with sweet potatoes/broccoli/chickpeas/hot sauce; rice bowl with tofu/cabbage/herbs/carrots; pasta with pesto, asparagus, and a poached egg on top. We make pizzas all the time, too, with fresh mozz, basil, cherry tomatoes, arugula.

    http://www.greensnchocolate.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Quinoa-Power-Bowls-3.jpg
    http://www.theironyou.com/2015/02/quinoa-kale-pesto-bowls-with-poached-egg.html?m=1
    http://www.marthastewart.com/344873/linguine-with-asparagus-and-egg?czone=food/vegetarian-cnt/vegetarian-favorite-recipes&center=852566&gallery=275563&slide=344955
    http://eat-spin-run-repeat.com/2016/08/17/thai-peanut-tofu-buddha-bowl/

    • JennyWren

      My husband and I were just saying the same thing last weekend! We had done mashed potatoes, peas and pan-fried salmon with garlic and herb sauce for a “treat” and were saying we don’t usually eat like that because we want to generate leftovers for the week. You do get more meals for your buck with casseroles and bowls and curries and such.

    • laraerae

      Yassss bowls are my favorite!

  • tmm16

    Either something v simple, like spaghetti, grilled cheese, or a frozen dinner from Trader Joe’s, or I order Chinese food or sushi from Grubhub. Yep, my diet is great. I also eat more at lunch then dinner.

  • Cassidie

    I love the cookbook cooking for two by americas test kitchen. The only way I make a good dinner is if I plan. So I think the first step would to set a time each week where you plan. I still end up eating microwave food, but I go by the rule of 80/20. If I’m doing a good job 80% of the time then the other times will not be so overwhelming. I have also found the veggies and grains I like most and always have them for quick dinner. Also, beans and rice are good. This is also a constant battle for me.

  • I married a midwestern guy, and he’s still all about that “meat and potatoes” life. Usually, it’s some kind of meat (chicken/steak/pork), some kind of starch (potato/rice/pasta), and a vegetable (which can really be anything). It’s boring, but it’s easy for me to do in half an hour, and I get few complaints.

    I also work from home, which means cooking falls on me, like, 99% of the time. If it were really up to me, I’d eat a lot more salads, rice burrito bowls, and cereal. I miss cereal dinners from my single girl days!

    I’m starting to break him, though. It turns out if I cook vegan food just for myself, and tell him he can’t have it, he wants it more. Sucker. 😉

  • Jeanie

    One of the easiest dinner for me is a Thai noodle soup. You just throw various pasted and sauces into boxed broth, then add some fish and shrimp after it’s boiling. Pour over vermicelli noodles and wait 3 min. In the winter I eat a lot of roasted veggies often with some chicken or fish. I change it up a lot though. I learned how to cook through Plated boxes so it’s not so daunting to me. I also know some Chinese home style recipes, which have very few ingredients that are easy and cheap. Like stir fried eggs and tomato for example. We meal prep so we don’t cook every night. My husband made tacos this week.

  • Claude

    I think/hope, for the sake of myself and the other dinner-scavengers/ takeout-eaters, there is a self-selection bias in this comments section

    • Haley Nahman

      lol

  • Hil

    Get a pressure cooker!!!!! Put some rice or quinoa in there with whatever veggies and water/broth and then it’ll all be ready in a few minutes. Then mix in something with more flavor like pesto or salsa or soy sauce and maybe some precooked meat (prob store bought) and done.

    • Kristin

      I am so afraid of a pressure cooker. Not like afraid the food will be bad, afraid of blowing up my house or something

      • fortinbras

        You’ll be fine I swear! I’ve been using the one at my house to cook rice since I was 10 and I never once blew up anything. The only bad thing that happened in 10 years was burning the bottom cause I forgot to put water in.

  • Katie Lucchesi

    My husband and I probably eat dinner “out” 2 or 3 times a week, in which we usually look for protein/vegetables in basically any form or incarnation, frequently Indian and spicy. When I cook, it’s at least 50% of the time Costco rotisserie chicken over lacinato kale with salsa dressing because it’s cheap, delicious, fills us up, and we don’t get tired of it. Frequently we make spaghetti squash with spicy sausage and whatever marinara we have. We looooove that. The rest of the time it’s a mixed bag, which we have been peppering in with meal boxes like green chef (paleo meal boxes are life)

  • Audrey Abrams

    I’ve become a huge fan of doing a Sunday afternoon meal prep. I’ll cook up a large amount of some grain (farro, quinoa, brown rice, millet) as well as roasting a ton of veggies and then during the week will concoct bowls by adding some kind of a protein- soft boiled eggs, broiled salmon, tofu/tempeh…. so basically I eat like Kate does??? While I love cooking, I really can’t fathom coming home each afternoon and cooking an entirely new meal from scratch each night… that’s what my husband and I do together on Friday/Saturday/Sunday.

    • Julie

      i do sunday meal prep for my lunches and snacks for the week, but i haven’t started doing it for dinner too. i kind of like winging it for dinner with whatever i happen to have in the fridge/pantry.

    • nell

      Yup, it’s impossible to overstate how much better my work week goes when I have a few hours to devote to meal prep on the weekend. I always fall down on this in the summer (when I tend to be home much less on weekends) and I’m so happy when this time of year rolls around and I can get back into a healthy groove.

  • RaquelT18

    Vegetables that are pretending to be spaghetti is my specialty

  • I feel gross for stuffing my face with Jamaican delicacies almost every damn night! these list sound so respectable.

  • AnnieH

    On a regular day I make some kind of bean/pulse-based sauce to match with whichever carb catches my eye. I usually make enough for 2/3 days so that I only have to full-scale cook twice a week, and then I’ll mess the leftovers around on the other days. Or I make warm potato salad – new potatoes, veg, protein (often halloumi or smoked mackerel) tossed around in a pan to dress it, topped with seeds.
    If I am feeling extra lazy/have been at work late, I am a big fan of either some kind of omelette/fancy scrambled eggs (depending on how successful my omelette-ing is), or I cheat-bake a sweet potato and top it with cheese and leftovers.
    Pretty much all my meals come with broccoli and peas on the side because I can throw them in a pan with whatever else/while something cooks.

  • I think I have been (eaten like) all of these people depending on the day and/or season of my life.

  • Ma

    Ever since I was a teenager I’ve actually enjoyed cooking/preparing/planning my dinners. Back then it was usually fish + veggies/risotto or fritattas. I kind of plan what I feel like eating over the next few days, and do groceries based on that. For a while I’d go to the supermarket and decided there and then, but I found I ended up buying too much, and things would go out of date, so I started planning and that has been working out. I go grocery shopping 1-2x a week, usually around Tuesday and then once in the weekend, but it varies. When I’m not sure of what to eat, I buy spinach, zucchini, tomatoes and cheese – there are a lot of options of what to do with those. I always keep a box of dry pasta and a bottle of tomato sauce at home, just in case. Both me and my husband cook, sometimes we do it together and other times one of us will do it whilst the other works/studies/chills. As for what we actually eat, it varies along the year, but some things come to mind:
    – Zucchini “lasagna”(with zucchini instead of lasagna sheets)
    – Moroccan chickpeas
    – Yakisoba: we buy the bags of noodles and veggies on the supermarket and add yakisoba sauce, usually lasts for 2 dinners + 1 lunch
    – Baked sweet potato with cottage cheese (and spices)
    – Assortment of one pot pastas: for the summer I like mozzarella, tomatoes and basil, for winter, zucchini, spinach, mushroom and double cream
    – Assortment of curries: I really like chickpea + cauliflower
    – Assortment of soups: my favourite is Thai, with carrots, squash, coconut milk and chilli
    – Assortment of salads: I’ve been liking red rice + beetroot chutney (fry grazed beetroot with spices) + spinach + feta. I also like basic Moroccan couscous salad
    – Bag of grains/veggies from the supermarket + boiled egg
    – Bowl of avo, tomatoes, egg(s) and cottage cheese with lemon and spices
    – Bread + cheese + wine: every time we have people over/feel fancy

    We actually only cook 2-3 a week, as we don’t mind making larger batches and having the leftovers the following night. When we are not cooking, we go for take away or supermarket salad/sushi.

    Hope this helps, and good luck Haley!

    • Julia

      Everything about your cooking style is my dream life! I’m halfway to everything you said. But I am commenting to ask a v important question – how do you make zucchini lasagna without the zucchini getting everything all wet and soggy?? Did you use a recipe as inspiration or create it on your own?

      • Ma

        Hiya! We used to do it with aubergine, I think it’s one of my husband’s family receipes bc when we moved in together he already knew how to do it haha, but then I found out I’m actually allergic to aubergine and we substituted it for the zucchinis. So, I’ve never noticed it getting soggy, but now that you mention it I think the trick is the order of the layers: we do zucchini (sliced with one of these http://www.ikea.com/gb/en/products/cookware/kitchen-utensils/ikea-365-värdefull-peeler-black-art-00152159/), then spinach, then tomato sauce, then cheese and repeat, so the sauce never actually touches the zucchini and that might prevent it from getting soggy. We also don’t let it cook for very long, so as soon as the cheese on top starts gratin we take it out of the oven (and eat haha!) Sometimes we add a layer of mushrooms on top of the tomato sauce, for novelty you know? Goes really well! Ah, and when we remember/have time we add chopped onions to the tomato sauce, but I should tell you that it doesn’t get very well cooked, so if you’re not into raw onions I wouldn’t recommend it. Hope this helps!

        • Julia

          Wow thank you for such a thorough answer!! This sounds absolutely delicious – I can’t wait to try it!

      • Engels_Beard

        I always cook what I put in lasagna in advance. Zucchini, spinach or mushrooms always get browned before I layer them in. It gives them that nice flavor and reduces the amount of water they produce.

  • Rosie

    It really depends on how much food preparation energy I have at the end of the day – more so than time available. With the most energy, I make either a vegetable curry / soup / vegetarian pasta dish from scratch, with a garden salad from scratch too. With the least energy, I make fried eggs on toast, or even less, bread and hummus and some tomatoes on a plate (it only takes 30 seconds to make! Wonderful)
    Assess energy level when hungry and act accordingly.

  • Keegan

    At the beginning of the year, I bought a few cookbooks because my boyfriend and I were tired of constantly eating rice and pasta dishes that come from a box. Neither of us were particularly skilled in the kitchen when it came to cooking, so we made a goal to prepare at least one “real” meal a week together as a way to learn. Our current go-to is garlic chicken made in the frying pan and it’s nice because it works with a variety of sides. We tend to pair it with mashed potatoes and gravy, or penne pasta with alfredo sauce. Other recipes we’ve learned how to make that we really like are lemon cream pasta with asparagus, and white chicken chili. My boyfriend found the chili recipe online at Better Homes & Gardens or someplace like that, and it is SO GOOD.

    Also, we can never go wrong with tacos in a bag. I grew up near Minneapolis and am now living in Seattle, and the amount of people here who have not heard of tacos in a bag astounds me. It might just be a super Midwestern thing? But god, it’s so easy and so satisfying and our roommates get super excited whenever that’s on the dinner menu.

    We still enjoy ordering pizza and various forms of takeout, and yeah, we still make meals that come from a box and can be made in 15 minutes or less. But we’re so much more comfortable now when it comes to cooking and trying new recipes and I’M JUST REALLY PROUD OF US. We’re both 25 and learning how to properly cook seemed like such an important thing for us to do.

    • Christine Corbin

      Cookbooks are the best! It’s so nice to have a physical book to look through for inspiration.

    • Kelly

      What the hell are ‘tacos in a bag’?

      • gracesface

        I think she means frito pie? But maybe not.

      • laraerae

        HAHA! You make traditional Midwest taco fillings (ground beef, shredded lettuce, cheese, sour cream, raw onions, tomatoes, etc.) and then you pile them into a personal serving size bag of chips (extra points for Doritos nacho cheese). Also known as walking tacos.

  • Kate’s dinner sounds AMAZING. I tend to batch cook slightly more ambitious foods for lunch (it was greek turkey burgers with a cucumber/pepper/tomato relish this week), but for dinner I tend to come up short since my after work plans are pretty erratic and I don’t like when food goes to waste. I just did the Whole30 and I’ve rediscovered my love for hot dogs. Hear me out! I’ve been having two hot dogs, and I slice them down the middle and fill them with a pickle spear, onion, tomato, and mustard, like a modified/bunless Chicago style dog. It makes me feel less sad about eating bunless hot dogs for dinner.

    • Hannah Laub

      If you are a hot dog fan, I highly recommend sauteeing some sauerkraut with white onion until its a bit browned and throwing that on top. It is heaven.

  • Julie

    Blue Apron that my bf pays for three nights a week ( i could do without it tbh but at least we don’t have to plan anything for those nights) and the rest of the work week i usually make some sort of egg, veggie, sweet potato concoction. we might go out one night, but that is actually pretty rare.

  • Court E. Thompson

    Either grazing (cottage cheese, chips and salsa [read: jar of salsa], yogurt, popcorn – sometimes all in the same night) or the bf and I order in. Though sometimes I don’t get home til 10:30, drink a cup a ginger tea, and just wait for breakfast.

    Also, this is a huge pet peeve of mine, and Harling, you’re too good for me to let you do it anymore.
    “Comprises” = “Is composed of”. “Comprised of” /= “Composed of”

  • Hannah Laub

    I just got way to excited to comment on this. Usually, I plan out my meals for the week during a very boring, useless Monday meeting. I write out what I’m going to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and what I need to buy from the store. Sounds like a lot of planning but only takes 30 mins (aka, the length of the meeting).

    I love cooking, but I only make dinners that are a) easy b) fairly quick c) make a minimum of two servings so I can eat leftovers for lunch. If a meal doesn’t create leftovers, I deem it worthless. Dinner usually consists of something like a simple chili w/ kale salad, roasted veggies w/ lentils and grains, pasta in a myriad of iterations, a big salad with roasted chicken (from the store), a big veggie soup,simple teriyaki salmon w/ brocolli and rice, etc etc. All easy, healthy, quick, and made in bulk.

    BUT my new dinner hack for when I am exhausted, lazy, and low on funds (read: always) is a grilled cheese. I use this whole grain hi-protein bread from TJ’s that has 5 grams of protein per slice, two slices of cheese (about 14 grams of protein), and then cook it in a non-stick pan so I don’t have to add oil or butter. Then I cut up a bunch of fruit and veg to eat with it. Reminds me of what my Dad made me when I was sick and has whole grains, veg and fruits, 24 grams of protein, and is about 500 cals. Also, costs about $2 a serving.

    • laraerae

      Yesss to the grilled cheese. Or quesadillas. You can also add veggies TO them – love tomatoes and raw onions in grilled cheese, or cabbage and beans in quesadillas. YUMMM CHEESE.

  • Diana McNeill

    I’m not unable to cook. I just don’t enjoy it at all. Like, I seriously derive no pleasure from the experience.

    • JennyWren

      I feel the same way about cleaning. I know it has to be done and I love the result, but if I could afford to throw money at the problem and make it go away, I totally would.

  • Christine Corbin

    I also work in fashion in NYC, and I’ll agree with the below comments about how unhealthy the eating culture can be. I’m one of the only people who actually cooks/brings food for lunch that I cooked to my office. That being said, there are SO many benefits to cooking for yourself! I feel noticeably lighter, energetic, and more focused when I’ve eaten food I’ve cooked versus heavy, overly salty takeout. I also know that I save huge amounts of money by eating this way, and if I’m going to spend money on food, I’d rather spend it at a nice restaurant over the weekend.

    I would suggest easing into some basic meal planning if you want to cook more–just choose, like, three recipes at the beginning of the week, buy the ingredients for them over the weekend, and make one recipe every other night. You still get four nights off from cooking, and if you choose recipes that make leftovers, you’re now set for a few lunches too. After a few weeks of that it’ll probably become habit and you’ll probably have stumbled upon some meal ideas that you really enjoy, and you may even want to cook more often. It really doesn’t have to be difficult or overwhelming, it’s just sort of a matter of starting.

  • nell

    I love to cook and making dinner is key relaxation time for me. But I only “cook cook” maybe three times a week — i.e. making a big soup, some sort of grain/roasted veggies/protein dish, a roasted chicken or a piece of fish with some sides, etc. The rest of the week we either go out or I make really fast stuff like quesadillas with refried beans and cheese (I use fat free refried beans and whole wheat tortillas and tell myself these are not totally unhealthy) or pasta. I usually keep one of those giant boxes of spinach or baby kale in the fridge so I can quickly make a side of greens to go alongside.

    Other quick things I like to make are BLTs with sweet potato fries (from the freezer section, whole dinner is ready in ~20 minutes) or a big veggie stir fry with some Trader Joe’s frozen potstickers on the side. When I’m cooking just for myself I like to make a huge bowl of sauteed kale or chard with lots of garlic, parmesan, chili flakes and toasted panko and top it with a couple of poached eggs. Perfect dinner.

    I have slowly reduced the amount of takeout we order by cooking more of these kinda boring but pretty healthy meals… as I’ve gotten older I really feel like the salt and sugar in takeout just takes more of a toll on my system. Still end up ordering Indian or pizza occasionally but proud to have gotten it down to a couple times a month!

  • K

    My fiance and I have a couple of different recipes on rotation – roasted veggies (sweet potato, capsicum, onion, pumpkin, carrots, seasoned with garlic ginger, cayenne, s&p) + quinoa or greens, ‘burrito bowls’ (black beans, corn, grilled capsicum and onion, cilantro, avocado, tapatio and veganaise), lettuce wrapped burgers w/ bacon and avocado, brussel sprouts sautéed in avo oil & lemon & vegan butter with baked chicken from WF (i buy one once a week and make several lunches and dinners with it), sometimes i’ll just do a sweet potato on top of greens with pumpkin seeds and some quinoa. once a week i go grocery shopping for our all of our staples and then do little quick trips for any odds and ends i forgot to grab. cooking in our house is fun because my man loves to cook, so i basically chop and prepare everything and he actually handles it on the stove or grill. i love our teamwork, and i adore the quiet nights we have together where we have a drink together while cooking and listening to music. soooo soothing. 🙂

  • In college I created a massive GoogleDoc of recipes that I ended up sharing with tons of friends. Last year, I spent a good day moving all the links to Evernote. I tag every recipe with their standout ingredients and now I can search my database by ingredient and easily meal plan for the week with recipes that share ingredients.. I highly recommend this method! Even though it takes some time putting together, it is now so simple to meal plan.

    • Bo

      this is Nobel-prize worthy ingenuity. 10 points.

    • laraerae

      Um hi, can you invite me to this. Hahaha I’ve been talking about doing this but SO MUCH WORK.

  • Charlsey

    Either leftovers from whatever we ordered for lunch at work or something from Postmates. I truly hate cooking. Everything i make is so…disappointing? Like why did I pay money for all these ingredients when I could pay money for something I actually want to eat.

  • I think a lot of it is about confidence/practice – if you feel like you know what you’re doing, cooking dinner from scratch after work can be therapeutic rather than stressful. And it’s always easier than you think!

    I used to be the fussiest eater, so making my own meals allowed me to custom-make everything exactly how I wanted. In college (in the UK anyway) most of us cooked all our meals and rarely ate out, so it’s just become a habit for my early 20s.

    Now I really enjoy browsing recipes (NYT Cooking website and Nigella’s page are favourites) at the beginning of the week, compiling a grocery list and then trying out different things over the week. I like to change it up regularly so rarely make leftovers – if anything I really look forward to those 30minutes or so of chopping/stirring/tasting along the way, so purposefully make 1-portion meals.

    Current dishes on rotation : marinaded & grilled protein on herbed salad, iterations of tabbouleh and rice pilafs, various pasta dishes with homemade sauce, asian-inspired noodle/soup/curry dishes.
    It helps that I moved somewhere that has a far more limited Seamless selection…

  • Kaia

    TIP: Once you have staple recipes (mine are below), you know what ingredients you can constantly have stocked in your fridge to throw something together. Our grocery list always has salsa, greek yogurt, eggs, some form of veggies + fruit & a few proteins (ground beef & chicken, usually), as well as deli meats + bread.

    Breakfast for dinner & tacos are my two go to’s when it comes to solo dinner…scramble some eggs, add some toast, maybe make pancakes? OR take whatever leftover protein you have, add some cheese & salsa into a tortilla…voila! Dinner!
    We also try to make 2-3 “actual dinners” during the week, to have leftovers for lunches, and nights where one or the other isn’t home, or easy lunches on the weekends. This can be anything from a gnocchi “stirfry” with zucchini, summer squash, peppers & onions, maybe some andouille sausage, or an actual stirfry, chicken parm, a big pot of chili or tomato soup.
    My fave recipe places are Iowa Girl Eats and Pinch of Yum. Real meals, simple to make & usually not too complicated.

  • Scrambled eggs with a handful of spinach and chopped up deli turkey meat mixed in is my go to. Oh and if I’m feeling feisty I chop up some string cheese and throw that in there too.

  • shelley

    if I am being lazy I will make one of these options: smoothie, eggs over some quick rice with some spinach (cooks in about 3ish min), or a cheese platter of sorts – just whatever fruit/cheese/nuts/whatever is on hand. but when we are trying to cook more at home and save some money I will do 3/4 dinners that week. the trick is to figure out general themes you enjoy and kind of stick to those and vary them. we like taco nights (you can switch between steak/fish/shrimp/chicken/classic 90s ground beef tacos), pasta nights (again switch it up what kind of sauce/protein/veggies), stir fry nights, I just keep it vague then at the grocery store I see what looks good and decide which type of taco night it is, which type of pasta, which type of stir fry, etc.

  • starryhye

    I’m all about “snack dinner” but I have these 2 tiny humans that demand food regularly sooo. Seriously though, I love to cook and eat. It’s all very fun for me, for whatever weird reason. I get loads of ideas and recipes off Pinterest. Nothing too fancy or complicated, but things I know my family will like and actually eat. The hardest part about dinner, for me, is remembering the prep. Taking meat out of the freezer or double checking the recipe to make sure I have all ingredients on hand. We have our go-to recipes; homemade pizza, turkey burgers, pasta, grilled chicken, etc and all are way easier than you think and definitely cheaper than getting take out!

  • Marta Millere

    Some people really need to calm down here, Haley has got a fucking point.
    I am European, live in Europe, actually Italy where fresh produce is a always available but I *really* don’t care for cooking, it just feels like a waste of time. I don’t cook; I put things together – be it pasta or an interesting salad. I grew up with a single mom who did the same and a grandma who was brilliant at it but hated every minute of it (b/c of obligation). All of this has led to my strange relationship with food: sometimes food is a way to experience a new country and new emotions, sometimes I don’t care about what I put in my mouth, sometimes I care too much (mom and aunt are both nutritionists/mindful eating specialists). When I do cook for someone, I expect a fucking standing ovation – very bizarre, I’m not proud of this.

  • Danielle Cardona Graff

    I love to cook! Granted, I invest a bit more time and energy into it because I genuinely enjoy it, but, being an NYC girl constantly on the move, I do often cook with leftovers in mind. Something super easy and healthy is roasted veggies, and whole grain or black bean pasta. Salads are also super easy, but the trick for making dinner out of a salad is to get creative with the greens and veggies and make sure to add some protein.

  • Eliza

    My ultimate lazy-but-healthy dinner: Trader Joe’s frozen stir-fry or Asian vegetables + jasmine rice + an egg cooked to your heart’s content. Bonus lazy points if you buy the tj’s frozen jasmine rice to throw in the microwave while the rest is cooking. You get your veg, protein, and something that feels like dinner in under ten minutes.

  • Erica

    This is such a relevant read for me. I am constantly paralyzed with choices and am always asking someone else what I should eat and it’s take out 99% of the time. I literally just started eating vegan to force myself to eat a damn vegetable and cook a meal – eating vegan out isn’t nearly as fun/easy as just eating out, so grocery shopping is actually more enjoyable now. Once I get the hang of the whole shop, chop and cook process (still how??) I’ll slowly go back

    needless to say when I do eat it out is is very much not vegan.

  • Bethany Cord

    My husband and i are recently married/moved in together so we are still trying to figure out a good routine. We are trying to meal plan for dinners as much as possible. This looks like a lot of veggie tacos/nachos/burritos. We also have one frozen pizza night to make things easy. throw in a zoodle and red sauce pasta night- and on a good week some kind of curry dish(which you can actually get pretty lazy with with the Trader Joe’s ready made sauces). We do both enjoy cooking so that helps. Also the Minimalist Baker is the source for all of my inspiration in the cooking world.

  • mademoisielle

    Personally it always baffles me when people say “I don’t cook” – I’m like, but what do you eat?? and also, how do you afford it? (especially people my age and on similar salaries) I try to cook at home as much as possible, my go-to option is a type of curry with veg (and maybe some tofu or other meat replacement) or pasta with different types of sauces (usually tomato with any kind of veg + olives + capers thrown in) but I also often make things like vegetable stew with really nice bread, bean burgers with sweet potato fries, stir fry, tortilla wraps (filled with beans, tomato salsa, avocado, peppers, cheese). I love cooking but I also don’t want to spend my entire evening doing it so prefer quick but healthy meals for midweek, and a bit more fancy meals during the weekend.

    agree with the comments below re not being able/not wanting to cook as seen as ‘cool’ especially in the fashion world – the SATC scene in which Carrie’s Russian boyfriend comes over and she’s like “I only use my kitchen for storage” comes to mind haha! interesting to read this comment section for sure 🙂

  • Sarah Naima

    I have literally not once commented on one of your usually sublime articles. But good God: Pasta!!! Apparently your entire office is missing out on the loveliest invention before monocore (thanks so much Harling!). Now I am stuck wondering what all of your creative little minds would put together if you had the common carbohydrate-plus-a-glas-of-wine/juice-rush flooding through your systems to top of your general brilliance!

  • Alice Tye

    Best go to is roasted veg (whatever we have in the fridge – normally sweet potatoes, broccoli, aubergine or carrots) with hummus or steamed fish or chickpeas with something green like arugula or spinach! Quick & easy & cheap!

  • RiannaSpanner

    My husband or I cooks, taking it in turn, every night pretty much without fail. Vegetable dishes like a ratatouille, sweet potato wedges, grilled fish/rice, salads with some sort of protein or grain. I agree with the poster below – in Europe (I’m in the U.K.) you just cook!

  • lovekatiedid

    Before I was married I was definitely a ‘snacker’ for dinner eating whatever nibbles I could find in the fridge. I would literally eat everything there was in my house before going to the store again which made for some inventive meals. I realize this was because A) most times I was too exhausted after work to actually cook or B) too poor to afford to eat what I actually wanted. I also ate A LOT of Kraft Mac ‘n Cheese (which I don’t recommend unless you want really high cholesterol, although it’s still a fave comfort food). Once I started living with a guy, my attitude toward dinner completely changed. Not because I somehow all of a sudden wanted nice dinners, but because, for the most part, dudes want actual food. It’s like they need a green, grain and protein with every meal(!). So, now my husband and I plan our dinners for the week on Sundays, do grocery shopping together, and actually cook. I have to admit it’s nice, but I definitely paid the price at first gaining the ‘coupled’ 15 lbs.

  • If I lived in New York on a busy schedule I probably would struggle to cook as well… I don’t know how people get by; lines around the block at rush hour at Trader Joe’s; groceries are expensive! The olives in a martini and late-night pizza would probably make up my evening meals…

  • gracesface

    Home Run Frozen Pizza. Best frozen pizza money can buy.

  • Julia

    My easy dinner is some sort of bird protein (grilled chicken or fried eggs), sweet potato, and broccoli or Brussels sprouts. Or I’ll make a more complex meal and eat it for 4 days straight. I feel I have to go grocery shopping with the idea of the meal in my mind so I buy the right things but i cook for just myself so I have to make leftovers or else it feels like a waste of time and food.

    • Bo

      “Bird protein” is a phrase I’ve never heard before but now desperately want on a T-shirt

  • Audrey

    I used to eat some combination of kale/eggs/carb thing almost every night (rationale: health and iron/protein/appease brain) before moving in with my partner. Since then I’ve realised that I’m still happy to eat that way, but apparently this is prone to making other people lose their shit.

    The most helpful thing for me to remember has been to: a) stock my pantry, both with things I b) need AND c) actually like. If my place is never absolutely devoid of food, I don’t experience the same existential despair of being unable to feed myself and function as an adult (even though this may be the fact). I don’t /like/ stock cubes or frozen spinach straight, but they are super useful. And I think lemon juice or harissa or Italian pickled eggplant is great with nearly everything as opposed to, say, dried herbs—sort of like when I realised most listicles of wardrobe staples are a lie.

    I am, however, still a serial outfit repeater. Baby steps.

  • Jamie

    As a college student living in my own apartment I have a 85% love/15% ugh relationship with cooking dinner. While it still sometimes takes me 20 minutes of sitting on my couch willing myself to cook before I keel over of hanger, I’ve got it down to a couple super easy recipes/tips (#lifehacks) that usually leave leftovers.

    -Every week or two I buy a sweet potato and cut it up into fry-shapes, toss ’em into a freezer bag and freeze. Then when I go to cook them, I pull out a handful, toss them with olive oil and spices (salt/pepper, garlic, chili powder or flakes) and maybe even a sprinkle of parmesan.

    -I keep a bag of arugula in my fridge to throw together a quick side salad/protein base. Just rinse a handful of it and toss with olive oil, vinegar, cranberries and parmesan.

    -Always have quinoa around! Just boil with equal parts water then let it simmer til the water’s soaked up.

    One meal I rely on: salmon filet brushed with bottle teriyaki sauce, sweet potato fries side salad. Throw salmon and SP on same pan, roast at 350 degrees for 25 minutes and done. Protein, carb, veggies, boom. Prep work is all of 6 minutes.

    Another with a little more prep work but a lot of leftovers: cut up a cauliflower into little bite size pieces and mix with a can of chickpeas on a roasting pan. Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic and chili powder. Roast 25 mins at 350. Eat with quinoa, and if you’re feeling extra DIY-Sweetgreen, mixed with arugula too. Always enough for lunch tomorrow.

    It’s really about finding simple combinations with little prepwork that you really like! Kinda like that article about a capsule wardrobe. Except in your kitchenette.

    • Bo

      I’ve never even THOUGHT of pre-freezing my homemade fries, you’re a wizard

  • Bo

    full on admiration for Kate’s dinner essay. I’ve never gotten on board with a snacky dinner, so my favourite dinners to make always land on the square-meal side of the fence:

    – stuffed zucchinis or sweet potatoes
    – beetroot pasta with goat’s curd stirred through as a sauce, served with roasted tomatoes/mushrooms and some wilted rocket
    – Red thai chicken/pork neck curry from scratch (I am v. v. serious about red thai curry and did a $150 course at cooking school to master it, no regrets) – I usually make a huge amount of the paste at once, then freeze it in portions for later use
    – shakshuka (Baked eggs in a spicy tomato sauce)
    – pea soup with mint pesto
    – crispy skin salmon with soba noodles & plum sauce
    – spicy green papaya salad
    – soft-boiled eggs on toast with an unmentionable amount of sea salt

    Footnote: I actually adore cooking – I always watched my mum in the kitchen and started cooking tea for the family when I was like 14 because I wanted to give it a go, and I have a sizeable kitchen to do it in (second footnote: I do not live in NYC) so I know my cooking is not 100% relatable to many people. Nonetheless I only cook dishes if they’re a) accessible – I despise buying expensive ingredients that can only be used for one recipe and spend the rest of the time fucking up your pantry/fridge space) and b) practical, which means anything that takes more than 3 pots/bowls/plates to make gives me the sensation of shouldering a pointless eternal burden like Sisyphus and I lose my appetite at the prospect of cleaning all that up at the end of the meal.
    If you don’t like cooking or don’t feel confident doing it but want to try to do it more, keep it simple. Don’t embark on cooking some elaborate bullshit because some its apparently some new lifestyle or everyone else does it and it’s so ahmazing. Cooking should be enjoyable, or at least relatively painless, and if you find you’re exerting huge amounts of effort or stress for something that isn’t fabulous-tasting at the end, pack it in and find something you prefer. Nutritionally, financially and environmentally speaking, cooking at home wins for me every time. Then again if I lived in the city with a million options for dinner at my fingertips I’d probably let the stove gather some dust most nights of the week!

  • Teri Giese

    Am old school semi retired homemaker.LOL!Which I added the lol,because on a Target run and convo with a twenty something;(I am 56,but 20 something mentality,and I am small and I was looking at bikinis…)The young lady asked me what I did for a living.Said homemaker.She didn’t know what that was!!😂Where was I?Oh!?Dinner.So,still have a 19 ,almost 20 year old daughter at home.Ready to graduate cosmetology school.I ALWAYS scratch cook and bake.Cook,every other day,main entrees;pastas,soup,Mexican,etc.In between I make pullapart breads,sliders,homemade subs,salads.Depends on the season,of course.When I was a working mom I relied on my crockpot/slowcooker a LOT.Still love the damn thing so much,I have 3!Go on Pinterest!I alone,have a gazillion recipes that are easy and tasty.Make ahead and freeze small meals.Keep tortillas and flatbread around.Keep it simple,just need to learn about spices and herbs.If you like to cook.😁Eat out?Rarely,like to know what is in my food.I use good ingredients and lots of love!💗

  • Hannah Cole

    Goop’s working girls detox has been such a saviour — whenever the imagination is gone or the fridge mostly bare I head for the quinoa fried ‘rice’. It’s so easy and contains all my staples, plus, can feel 100% good about it afterwards because Gwyneth tells me I can 👌🏽

  • Katja N

    In Germany, it is very common to eat a “Butterbrot” for dinner, a one-sided sandwich, with butter and cheese or sausage on top. As I am a vegetarian, I only eat bread with butter and a handful of tomatoes on the side. It’s quite inexpensive and tasty, fills you up but doesn’t make you feel stuffed and is quick to prepare!

  • kforkarli

    Dinner is easiest I think – so many options. I hate eating breakfast before I get to work (usually by 7:15am) so normally eat a piece of peanut butter toast at my desk. Lunch is leftovers and one of the new Chobani Flips (I’m a sucker for new food). My best dinners this week = chicken tenderloins in an ugly but yummy satay with pre-cut asian sald and roast potato and prawn tacos. Yummo!

  • Hannah Betts

    Really enjoyed this, as everyone clearly did. I’ve recently realised that – at 46, after a lifetime of happy cooking – I’ve forgotten how to. Three years of familial illness and death finished the impulse off. I lost my appetite for anything other than comfort food, and the energy for anything other than vague evening grazing. The fridge is full of vegetables and protein, but I let them fester. Re-embracing cooking would be a way of re-embracing life. (Plus it is entirely possible to get fat on cashew nuts.)

  • amelie

    A while ago, I’d gotten into a kind of routine with my (ex)boyfriend where I/we would eat the same meals every week. Monday: pasta pesto, tuesday: mexican, thursday: sweet potatoes with salad, friday: some asian meal, etc – not necessarily the healthiest options. I don’t think I’ve made any of those recipes again since we broke up. I really love cooking and sharing nice food, so I kind of miss cooking for someone, but I’m a lot more experimental when I’m alone which is nice. I now eat a lot healthier too, quite often vegetarian, and I order in way less because it makes me feel so lazy. Still follow the pattern of Italian – Mexican – Dutch/Generic – Asian though. 😀

  • Andrea Raymer

    Almost every day I go to the brazilian buffet on my corner and get steak and broccoli. The guy at the carving station knows exactly how i like my steak now, but he doesnt know that i understand him when he speaks tot the other customers in portuguese and now ive been going there for too long to tell him.

    if I just went to the gym and i dont have the energy to walk the extra half block to the brazilian restaurant i usually just eat beef jerkey and a sweet potato with pesto.

  • Ellen

    Can i just recommend THE best food insta? @olivehummer . The pics are beautiful, the captions are funny and the dishes are so so easy. But like the kind of easy that somehow looks fancy?? also i have the biggest crush on the author so that’s always nice.

  • I am definitely more of a grazer than a full meal multiple times a day kinda girl..Not that most people have FULL meals throughout the day…I definitely need to eat something before 10 am..and I can easily graze on snacks such as nuts, an apple, banana, a bagel, etc..well until 1 pm or so. Dinner tends to be the star of the day..where a meal will usually be cooked. Sometimes this doesn’t happen though, as I work various shifts and won’t be home until 11 pm some nights. On those days, I try my best to save some leftover dinner to pack as a lunch, and then once again, graze and snack between the hours of 4-9pm

  • Catherine Strong

    My roommate and I make what we call “ratchet dinner” and put cheese and hot sauce all over tons of fossilized frozen veggies (sometimes with pasta/farro/rice) that we collect at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.

  • Riley W

    I’ve gotten really into “egg roll in a bowl”, which is basically just cole slaw mix (cabbage and carrots), a pound of ground meat of your choice, and a soy sauce/sesame seed/ginger/garlic sauce. It’s easy. It’s low-cal. It’s cheap. I make a big pot and eat it for dinner and take it for lunch.

    I’m also a fan of marsala sauce and chick peas, which I will occasional make a big pot of as well.

  • Engels_Beard

    So, I’m lucky I married a man who likes to cook but growing up poor means know how to do useful things to pasta, stir-fry, and eggs. A little garlic, ginger, and cheese go a long way to making edible food fast (obviously, not all together).

  • eganmay

    eggs and kielbasa for breakfast and dinner. i’m a simple gal.

  • i love a plate of quinoa or chickpeas with sauteed veggies and some meat. But tonight i went to the grocery store drunk and hungry so I’m currently eating a rotisserie chicken out of a bag with my hands…

  • Jessica Amento

    PRAISE YOU for this story. Desperately sympathize and feeling very inspired to get out of my pasta rut.

  • Nate

    We usually just have some bread with cheese, avocado, egg, vegetables, salmon etc. (after a hot meal for lunch on weekdays) which is very easy and not expensive at all :)!

  • Lauren Ashby

    From the very limited sample I have, this type of eating does seem like an NYC thing. But then in London, it’s not so different – almost no one I know does a weekly shop and plan any meals, and I’m usually seen as anomaly when I say that I do a weekly shop with my partner and then cook together most nights. But the time pressures of life do mean that we’ve downgraded from massively over ambitious ottolenghi recipes (the time we discovered that a potato curry we had planned required 3 hours cooking was a valuable lesson) to ‘roast some vegetables and eat with tahini/hummus/yoghurt/sriracha’ as a daily standard…in desperate need of new inspiration. But I will say that fresh herbs can make this kind of thing seem delicious and not totally routine.

    • You are right. A big spice rack and maybe some choice as to the fat (olive oil, butter, ghee), art of cooking (roast, boil, fry…), different protein and carb sources and possibly additional raw veggies and condiments is all one needs for countless combinations. We don’t plan our weekly purchases into any detail but rather just improvise on the spot.

  • I’m on a kick of roasting veggies and adding them to rice or pasta with a made-up sauce right now, and probably like every other week I make a pizza.

    The things I cook vary wildly because I buy groceries based on what I’m running out of in the fridge and will structure most of my meals based on that thing, whether its like a lot of produce or a condiment… which turns into an endless cycle of buying more food. But basically, it minimizes food waste so I’m down with it.

    Also this summer I’ve been going picnicking a lot and my favourite snacky-dinner to bring is seedy crispbread with chicken or crab salad, carrots, snap peas, and hummus.

    ALSO, one of my favourite things to do is cook a regular-sized dinner with short grain rice and then turn the leftovers into onigiri or onigirazu, which can go in the fridge for lunch for the rest of the week.

  • dinoceros

    I alternate between cooking and not cooking much. Just for clarification, when people say they “don’t cook,” it doesn’t necessarily mean they eat at restaurants or get takeout for every meal. I think a lot of people are humble enough to not claim to cook when they do something like throw together a salad or put peanut butter on toast or dump sauce on pasta. So they may put together food for themselves to eat at home, but they aren’t going to say they cook every day because they may be imagining something that involves a recipe or more ingredients or the oven.

  • Bernadette Aylward

    I really like cooking but struggle with making the right amount for just one (used to cooking for at least 2, sometimes as many as 6). I am also in school right now and arrive home around 4 many days just SO hungry that I eat my real (on a plate, sitting at a table) dinner at 5, and some snacks later.

    • Emily

      agree! cooking for 1 is a nightmare!

  • Carrieanne Luicadi

    I order all of my food on a Sunday night, so meals vary from homemade curry to pie to kofte and pitta. I literally order what i might fancy throughout the week and cook every day. Take outs and restaurants are things i save for special occasions. However i do have a 5 year old, so i think this encourages me to cook every day at least twice so i know shes eating healthily. I do also live in a very rural part of the UK, so take out choices are PANTS.

  • Marie-Loup

    I’m french and from a family that always cooks, so my hate for cooking dinner doesn’t come from my education but the main reasons dinner is an issue for me are :
    not enough energy, no one to cook for, groceries (worst activity ever), tiny kitchen, washing dishes… These are enough reasons for me to eat chinese take away every night and thus hating myself. So, I feel you team MR…

  • Anna Pepperspray

    Haha, I was confused when reading the article: what exactly is the problem? Haley, do you have a kitchen? Or is not having a kitchen in NYC only a predjudice? I can only agree with a lot of people here: I always cook and all you need is the following
    – pasta, rice, potatoes, couscous…
    – vegetables (chopped), onions, garlic
    – sauce: tomato sauce, creme fraice + lemon, coconut milk + curry powder
    – herbs/feta cheese/parmigiano
    – DONE. Takes 20 minutes.
    – Another 5 minute option: tomatoes/peppers, chickpeas, feta cheese/mozarella, olive oil, lemon/balsamico vinegar

    I don’t need a lot of constants in my life but cooking is one. I am also not the most experimental when it comes to cooking as I need it to be tasty and reliable basically. And to be honest: delete that meditation app from
    your phones and start chopping these veggies. I sometimes only cook because there is hardly anything more relaxing. If you double the portions, you can easily bring all of the above mentioned to work the next day, btw.

  • Emily

    most of the commenters on here are obviously much better adjusted adults than me, because I TOTALLY FEEL YOU HALEY

    dinner is a chore, and what do i even cook?? i go to the supermarket and literally have no idea where to start… i cant believe how easy it is for some people, reading this comments, legit. am i a terrible adult?? i thought i was doing alright!

    i agree with the article 100%, for the following reasons.
    1) when i finish my demanding job i DO NOT HAVE THE ENERGY to cook anything else
    2) what do i even cook??
    3) i’m crap at cooking
    4) everytime i buy food i end up not eating it and wasting it *shame i know*
    5) i cant be bothered if i’m totally honest

    BUT

    the main reason is that, same as you, i have no idea what to cook!

    reading the comments below, bloody hell, people have got it together a lot more than i have!!!

  • Miss Antropa

    I throw into boiling water some rice, lentils, slided onions + other vegetables (zucchini, carrots, butternut squash…). Cook for 10 mins. Add 2 tsp olive oil and salt. Voila.

    • CM

      kitchari!

  • Emmie

    ~* BREAKFAST FOR DINNER *~

  • Bella Zaydenberg

    I think the “I don’t cook” thing in NY comes from either working too late and subsequently being too lazy to cook when you get home OR the library of food options literally RIGHT OUTSIDE YOUR DOOR. As a New Yorker that only cooks on “special occasions” (ie: when I have like 3 days to live on the $20 in my bank account and my Metrocard ran out) it’s way too easy to just stop by Sweetgreen on the way home from work or just devour the myriad snacks that accumulate in my kitchen. Also most NY kitchens are tiny and not equipped for really immersive meals! Lots of people have to make do with mini fridges and hot plates instead of stoves 🙂

  • Katy

    I think the best formula for dinner is protein + starch + vegetable. It’s easy to meal prep at the beginning of the week because I’ll cook a lot of pasta or rice or potatoes and then prep my vegetables (usually lettuce or broccoli) and then a protein. It makes it easier to pick three simple things and not overthink it too much.

  • lillian c.

    beans, rice. repeat

  • Lindsey

    I really like cooking, so you may not like my answer, but I cook something new 3-4 times a week (including week nights). But also apparently I have little to no social life during the week? so that makes it possible. HOWEVER, even if you don’t like to cook, you could easily just set aside a couple hours on a Sunday and make a big pot of grains, like farro or quinoa, roast a bunch of veggies (sweet potatoes, broccoli, brussels sprouts), and make a big batch of a dressing you like (or buy one) and then you can have grain bowls all week. I really like putting brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, edamame, shredded carrots, shredded kale/sauteed spinach, and some crunchy sunflower seeds with brown rice. I have this recipe for an orange-miso-tahini dressing that is my absolute favorite and goes with everything. I know it maybe sounds like a lot, but it keeps well and you can just mix and match throughout the week. Eggs go great on it too! Idk, is that too much for someone who doesn’t like to cook?

  • Jen Stroh

    The comments on this article are so interesting. For me, weekly grocery shopping and regularly cooking at home helps me feel grounded and in control of my routine, finances, and health. I obviously also love going to restaurants, but too much of that (like when on vacation) tends to make me feel like I’m not eating healthy (can’t resist fries) and stressed about money. I rarely get fancy with my cooking, but it helps my mental health to know that, at the very least, I managed to prepare and consume a halfway nutritious meal.

  • Ecem

    Nothing stresses me out more than cooking. I don’t have the patience/skill for it. If it takes me longer than 15 minutes to prep/cook I’ll leave it. I usually shop for groceries on Sunday. My staples include Greek yogurt, salmon, brown rice, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, avocados, English muffins, feta cheese and almond milk all of which can be consumed alone or combined sans fancy recipe. if there is no yogurt in the fridge i get anxious. my boyfriend likes to cook and often he will prepare a huge batch of something vegetarian which drives me nuts because it means we will usually eat that for 3 nights in a row. I like routine. if for whatever reason i dont eat breakfast on a monday then i know the rest of the week will consist of shitty takeaway for breakfast / lunch because I CAN’T ADULT.

  • Kattigans

    This is not to sound like a snob but knowing how to cook is one of the best things you can do for yourself. There’s plenty of reasons I believe this but I think my #1 is that you realize how over priced simple food can be like eggs on toast or avocado toast for that matter when you can just make it at home and probably, once you gain skills, make it taste even better than a meh restaurant can. Also cooking can help unleash the creative juices *pun intended*. I love spending a night cooking a smattering of randomness up for myself. It then let’s me appreciate those times when I don’t feel like cooking and feel less guilty eating out

  • Zoë

    When I lived alone, I would barely eat a meal. Most of the time I ate chips for dinner because I didn’t see the point in putting in effort for a meal just for me. Also grocery shopping for 1 is hard! Shit goes bad!

    It wasn’t until I moved in wth my SO that I cooked dinner every night.

    A) buying groceries is so much easier when you’re feeding 3 people (he eats twice as much as me) because you know it will likely not go bad before you can eat it all. If you’re solo, it can be tricky!!!

    B) We usually cook up a big amount of meat (ground turkey, chicken breast, etc) and roast veggies, then use it all in different ways throughout the week. Throw it in a tortilla and you’ve got a taco. Cook up some pasta and throw some sauce in and you’ve got a pasta dish. Throw it on top of greens and you’ve got a hearty salad. It can get slightly monotonous through the week, eating the same thing in different formats. But I try to mix it up by switching up the sauce/dressing!

  • Rachael Kowald

    Cooking dinner isn’t that hard or as big of a deal as you’re making it out to be.
    Got a free afternoon? Take yourself down to the shops, buy a few things and spend the afternoon bulk cooking and freeze portions for the days you are time poor.
    This will save a shit load of money as you will have food to eat and wont need to order in.

  • Cristina

    This ‘dinner dilemma’ is soooo me! I always have this feeling of ‘I’m sure I’m trying to be healthy but this dinner is not healthy at all’. So, as much as I try, at the end I take a normal or small piece of bread (normally wheat bread) with a bit of olive oil, tomatoe, oregano, a little piece of cheese… and yogurt for dessert!

  • Shannon

    It’s amazing to me how many people Blue Apron and similar meal delivery things have gotten people to cook, even though their recipes usually takes me 2x as long to make (than if I just buy ingredients and cook for myself), costs at least twice as much, and quite honestly (following a recipe to a T) drives me NUTS. But if you don’t follow exactly, you end up with a weird small bag of slivered almonds for the rest of eternity. I just can’t do it.

    But then on the flip side, it’s getting people to cook for themselves and feel more comfortable in the kitchen. I just feel like it shouldn’t be and probably won’t be the future of weekday dinner in America, but rather a gateway into the very thing that we all seem so afraid to do, which is buck up and get into the kitchen.

  • Amanda Faerber

    When I think about dinner, I reflect on what I had for lunch and try to eat something I did not eat earlier – so if I had rice for lunch, I try to avoid carbs for dinner, etc. Balance is the name of the game. Agree with others that prep makes cooking and avoiding going out a lot easier … though there are some nights when you just need tacos, pizza or BBQ.

  • Lauren Taylor

    Go-to dinner: Cook frozen/fresh veggies (any combination of carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts, sweet potato, etc.) on the stovetop, add S&P, slather it with hummus, top it with a fried egg and sriracha. OH and I also started buying spicy, crunchy chickpeas that I also add and they are a game changer.

  • Sarah

    I eat probably more pasta than I should.. But its cheap and easy. Confetti mac (mac n cheese with peas carrots and ham), chicketti (spaghetti with chicken), and homemade pad Thai are some favorites at my house. Carb heaven <3

  • elpug

    A series of snacks. Starting with a protein-y one then working my way to sweets.

  • John James

    I can relate. I grew up in a small farm town in the middle of nowhere. My father always grew and kept a large garden. We always had fresh food through the summer and fall. November on through march we ate what we had bottled and canned from the summer. My father would hunt every year so we always kept a freezer full of venison and sometimes beef from a neighbor who kept cattle. Everything changed whe I moved out on my own to the city. I had no idea how to shop for groceries or prepare them. Still have a hard time preparing food at home and not just getting fast food for dinner.

  • Lucy

    I love this article! I have been having a similar problem where I can’t figure out what to make for dinner, but I do enjoy cooking. One thing that helped me was to look at the frozen meals at the grocery store for inspiration. It is definitely even more fulfilling to make the meals myself than to just by the already made food.

  • Arielle

    definitely snack dinner; an apple, half a pbnj, salsa/chips with black beans, or soup (but must eat entire can).

    alternatively i make a 1 pan veggie stir fry type dish that I think will last me the whole week (meal prep!?) but it inevitably leaves me grossed out after day 2 and then i guiltily eat the rest so as not to waste.

  • Emily M

    Ugh. I hate even answering this question because my dinners are so basic. But maybe I’m hoping someone will be able to chime in and reassure me that they are as basic as I am??? So here I am. I pretty much pick one protein, 1-2 vegetables and a couple of sweet potatoes up at the grocery store once a week. Then I cook them all at the same time, in the same way, spiced pretty much the same way. My meal prep is both amazing in its efficiency and low cost and horrible in its banality. Then I eat a serving, every night, for the next 4 days. As in, the same baked chicken (salmon if I splurge), roasted veggie (zucchini or brussel sprouts or broccoli or asparagus), and roasted sweet potato wedges, all in avocado oil, s&p and maybe some other random seasoning I throw on. Good the first night, but by night 5 I want to eat literally anything else.
    Again, not sure why I feel the need to contribute this sad answer other than the fact that I might find some comrades in boring basic meal prepped meals!

  • AshleybecauseIwasborninthe80s

    Avocado > Trader Joe’s jarred bruschetta > drizzle olive oil > fresh basil if I’ve got it > pepper

  • Catalina

    Snack dinners FTW! Hummus + whatever I think is appropriate to accompany said hummus (I’m not listing the weird shit I accompany hummus via the comments section). Tortilla chips & salsa. Also, anything that can just be whipped up, put in a foiled bowl and in the oven for ~30 min. Also, buying things at Trader Joe’s as sides is super helpful if you’re a lazy ass cook like myself.