Anything that requires our daily attention can get a little mundane over time.
And, ohhhh, does cooking fall into that category.
I think we’re all facing burnout in many areas of our life. But sometimes cooking moves up in positioning and becomes the number one thing we dread.
I remember that feeling very distinctly years ago as I threw another chicken breast in a pan, dumped a box of noodles into a pot, and set the table for one more average meal. I also had the issue of having to create something separate for my vegetarian daughter – usually a “plant-based chicken” I’d found in my local market. (When I honored her decision to be vegetarian at the tender age of three, it became an even bigger chore creating dinner each night. It usually ended with me making my standard chicken breast, vegetarian chicken, boxed noodles dinner.)
Burnout is defined as: a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive or prolonged stress.
And stress can come from many different sources. It comes from overwhelm, or trying to meet constant demands.
Does that describe your cooking patterns in any way? It did for me.
I hit a wall back then. But it’s not the only time.
I think we can all be burnout out by cooking throughout our lives.
Maybe a change in your family dynamics.
Or a change in your work patterns.
I know seasons play a big role in burnout.
And changing diets is an instant trigger.
You’ve decided to move to plant-based, and you’ve tried a few recipes in the kitchen. (It doesn’t take long for you to fall out of love with those recipes, and wonder if you should give up once and for all.)
I’ve even faced burnout “just because.” Hello, pandemic. I think it’s done it to us in numerous ways.
The key to falling in love with your cooking patterns once again is to have a plan in place. Luckily, I have a few tips for you to help you make your plant-based plans a reality once again.
Step away from normal routines and feed yourself in other ways
Every. Day. It’s. The. Same. Thing.
Of course, it’s going to get monotonous occasionally. What matters then is your approach.
When I feel that coming on, I break away from my normal patterns.
You’ll usually find me going for a walk after work, and stopping off at the local Whole Foods a couple blocks from my house. I pick up any missing ingredients I need to start cooking as soon as I return home.
It’s the way I relax after my busy days. And usually, it works for me.
Until it doesn’t.
That’s when I look for alternatives. Yes, I do head out to restaurants on occasion. And times like this give me a reason to try a new plant-based restaurant. I take note of any recommendations from friends or newsletters, so I’ll have new places to try.
I also look for ways to simplify. I look for starters at the grocery store. I’ll find meals in the frozen section.
Do I pay attention to ingredients? You bet. I’m not willing to compromise on quality. But everyone needs a break now and then. Take it whenever you need it.
Change your grocery store routine
I remember coming home after our recent month-long trip to Mexico. As I spoke about our trip, I continually told people how much I’d fallen in love with the grocery store in San Miguel.
Because it was gorgeous!
We walked in and fell in love. We spent over an hour browsing the aisles the first time, and we walked out without spending a dime. (Can’t say that held true the second time. Or the third. Or the fourth …)
You don’t have to go to Mexico to fall in love with cooking again. You can find inspiration right in your hometown.
A number of years ago, we became a little obsessed with Asian cooking. So I looked up a local Asian grocery store, and off we headed one weekend. OMG! That place is spectacular. An entire aisle devoted to noodles!
We raced home with bags of food and got busy creating our next meal.
Need inspiration? Find a new location to buy your food.
Shop local … and give yourself permission to buy something new each time
I LOVE farmer’s markets. It’s an important part of my weekly shopping.
Farmer’s markets allow you to get close and personal with the food choices you’re making.
I think we’ve lost that in the pandemic. People now grab their phones, place an order, and have everything delivered without a second thought.
But food is sensual. It’s meant to be touched, smelled, and chosen with care.
I challenge you to find a farmer’s market and buy a few things you’ll enjoy cooking with this week. Create a shopping list so you’ll use what you buy. Then give yourself permission to buy something extra.
This is where you can have fun!
I’m flower-crazy – I’ve loved the peony bouquets this year. But there are so many things to choose from.
I’ve purchased scrumptious olive bread loaves from a man who is baking in his retirement.
I’ve selected a cantaloupe plant from a local nursery that brings unusual plants back into people’s gardens. (I can’t wait to see how this does this year.)
There’s ceramic cookware made by hand. And local placemats designed with gorgeous floral fabrics.
Make a plan to buy something new … you’ll know when you see it.
Make shopping an event
How do you shop? Is it a chore? You do it when you’re tired and hungry after a busy day? Or do you calendar and make it a pleasurable moment of the day?
Changing up how you approach shopping can change everything.
I always shop with my husband. We use it as a chance to talk about our days. We’ve planned entire meals just by perusing the aisles of the store.
Yes, I’ll still run up for an ingredient I’ve forgotten. But for my big shopping days, it’s a time I look forward to. Give it a try. You may find it works for you too.
Buy yourself a new cookbook
You are following my ongoing series called The Cookbook Club, aren’t you? I select one cookbook a month to devote my cooking to for the month.
It gives me something new to look forward to each month. And I mix it up to ensure I’m experimenting with entirely new foods.
Bring fun back into the kitchen
I remember having fun in the kitchen as a child. It didn’t matter if I got flour all over the floor, or my “famous” brownies were a little rough around the edges.
I baked because I love to bake.
Then I’d stack them all up on a pretty plate, and put them on the table for dessert.
What brings you joy in the kitchen? What foods can you share with your family? How can you present it in a new and exciting way?
A new tea shop and bakery opened up near me this month. I made a date with my daughter to go in and explore. And it was Gorgeous!
They had a few baked goods that looked scrumptious. (And were delish!) We each selected a tea, and sat by a window in the back.
Then something magical happened! The owner headed out onto the patio, scissors in hand. She chopped a few ingredients – flowers, mint, basil – and added them to each of our pots. Voila! Incredible tea. And an even more incredible experience!
That’s what I try to create every time I enter my kitchen. Cooking isn’t a chore when you look at it through Gorgeous eyes!
Create a realistic cooking system
You’re busy. You have a lot on your plate each day. Cooking may be the last thing on your mind as you tick the boxes on your checklist.
But when you make food a top priority – GOOD food that’s GOOD for you – you start looking at what you consume in a different way. And you find a way to make cooking a priority in your day.
But that doesn’t take away from the fact that you’re busy. So you get to decide how to prioritize it.
Me? I’ve placed a whiteboard calendar on my fridge so we select a week’s worth of menus in advance.
I can use that to shop for the ingredients on the weekend … hello, farmer’s market. I can meal prep to save time wherever I can.
There isn’t a secret way to make this process easier. It all depends on what’s right for you.
Once you eat GOOD food and start to feel better, you’ll LOVE your kitchen even more.
When our birthdays roll around, we’ve always allowed the birthday person to select their favorite restaurant to visit that night. For years now, our selections no longer include going out – we enjoy meals from our kitchen instead!
It’s all in perspective.
If you’re burned out by cooking, I suggest maybe it’s not the act of cooking, and is more about what you’re cooking. Put the JOY back into your food.
Here’s to good health, and even better Wellth!