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How to Eat When You Don’t Feel Like Cooking. (A guest essay from Lily Calfee)

Hi there captivating blog readers! I am delighted to introduce you to Lily Calfee. She’s a creative health and business coach based in Boulder, CO.  I thoroughly enjoyed the piece she put together for us today and I hope you do too. Check out her blog here if you want to hear more from her. Which I’m pretty sure you do. Also, give her some comment love because she deserves it! 


Women often ask me, “What should I eat when I don’t feel like cooking?” That, my friend, is a tricky question. I can tell you how to prepare food ahead, to set yourself up with easy, healthy foods to eat when you’re in a pinch. However, the real question is: Why don’t you feel like cooking?

While you take some time to consider that question, I’ll tell you about how to eat when you don’t feel like cooking. The best (and really the only) way I know how to do this is to prepare ahead, and make sure my fridge is always stocked with real food.

Start by making a Good Food List. What gives you more energy, keeps you going longer, and makes you feel like a total queen (or king)? What whole foods make you feel really good? Whole foods are foods that look very similar to how they were when they were alive. Whole foods are vegetables, meats, eggs, nuts, whole grains, and fruit. My Good Food List looks like this:

  • Veggies: avocados, carrots, celery, zucchini, broccoli, kale, winter squash, sweet potatoes
  • Herbs: basil, cilantro, garlic, ginger
  • Fruits: pears, apples, oranges, peaches, figs, raisins
  • Meats: poultry, fish, red meat
  • Nuts: cashews, almonds, and nut butters
  • Seeds: sesame, sunflower, or pumpkin seeds
  • Cooking liquids: coconut oil, olive oil, coconut milk

These are the foods that make me feel awesome, and support my body in staying healthy and energetic. Keep in mind that I’m allergic to all kinds of things, so my list is pretty limited. Your list might include rice, quinoa, yogurt, butter, or beans.

When I go to the grocery store, I look for which of these foods are on sale. In the summer, I go to the farmers market and buy what’s in season. I never buy peaches in February, because they just don’t taste as good as peaches in the summertime. Additionally, shopping raw ingredients that are in season is usually less expensive than buying a cart full of processed meals.

So the first step in easy, healthy eating is knowing what you love to eat and what makes you feel really good—then getting those foods in your house. When you’re feeling hungry but uninspired, it’s important to have easy access to snacks like carrot sticks or half an avocado, instead of processed chips or pretzels. Snacking on unprocessed, energy-dense foods gives your body the nutrients it wants and needs to feel amazing.

The second step of easy, healthy eating is to be prepared. Preparation can be as extravagant as committing to weekly grocery shopping and cooking dates with yourself, or as simple as buying all your favorite salad toppings. Do what is easily integrated into your life; do what is sustainable. Don’t commit to cooking three full meals every Sunday afternoon if that just seems like too much. Here’s what my weekly prep looks like:

  1. I look over my calendar for the week to get an idea of how much food I’ll need. I make a note of what days I will need a super fast lunch or dinner. When will I have time to cook a real meal? When will I most likely end up eating out?
  2. Keeping my Good Food List in mind, I sketch out some ideas for different meals. If I need three breakfasts at home, I’ll write down “smoothie, breakfast sausage and greens, eggs,” brainstorming some options for a filling meal. These are not extravagant recipes or elaborate meal plans. I’m just sketching what makes me feel good, and when I will need to have food to eat (so that I don’t fall back on eating out).
  3. Using this sketch, I make a grocery list. My list usually looks like this:
    1. Whatever green vegetables are on sale/in season
    2. ½ pound of breakfast sausage and ½ pound some other inexpensive cut of meat
    3. A couple of sweet potatoes, winter squash, or potatoes
    4. Broth, coconut oil, lemon juice, ginger, cilantro… whatever I need to spice it up.
    5. Treats like dried figs or mango, some dark chocolate or kombucha.
  4. Time to prepare some food! (Sometimes I do a big shopping trip and then cook. Other weeks I’ll eat something simple after I shop, and plan to cook the next night. It can be good to take a little rest day.) I chop up all the things I’ll want on top of salads for the week and store them in a Tupperware. I also usually make a huge batch of soup using my Soup Strategy 101. I store half of it in the fridge in a big mason jar, and freeze the other half in single-serve portions. This way, my freezer is stocked with a bunch of different options. Gone are the days of eating the same leftovers for four days straight!
  5. When I’m done, my fridge has some food that will take me two minutes to warm up, some food that will take ten minutes to put together, and some raw ingredients that will take half an hour or so to prepare. My freezer has a few servings of each of the stews that I have made in the past month.  

Almost no one has time to cook three meals from scratch every day, so set yourself up for success by preparing.You might still accidently skip breakfast and eat a muffin because you’re starving at work, but that’s okay. We’re all learning and doing our best.

Let’s go back to the original question: why do you “not feel like” cooking? Maybe you are exhausted at the end of your day, and can’t imagine standing up long enough to cook dinner. Maybe the idea of cooking is boring to you, and you’d rather do more interesting things…  like cruise Instagram on the couch. Maybe food is a sore subject, and just the thought of cooking showers you with anxiety, shame, and confusion.

If you’re willing to explore this question, pull out your journal. Riff about cooking for yourself,  and what you may be resistant to. What’s scary/boring/silly about cooking for yourself? What stories do you tell yourself about cooking?

On the flip side, how could you value your energy and body (the vehicle of your soul) by truly nourishing yourself? What would your work/relationship/peace of mind be like if you ate in a way that fed your whole self?

When you’re ready to embark on this exploration, ask yourself, “How can I really nourish myself?” When you find your answers, set yourself up to do just that.

If you’re scared, bored, or resistant to this whole thing, shoot me an email. I’d love to know where you’re at.

M o r e   i n f o