No time to cook?

Welcome Antoinette. Why don’t people cook? a glance at the TV schedule ( Iron Chef, Chopped,Top Chef, etc.) suggests they’re too busy watching other people cook

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I tend to agree with you, when I’m home I’m the cook. I generally put together a meal within 30-60 mins from start(prep) to table. It’s not that difficult.

Well… A glance at any serious food board’s lamentation of the disaster that is now food network and the cooking channel would suggest that only people who probably wouldn’t cool anyway are watching those shows. And far too many of them for those channels to show programming that anyone serious about cooking would watch. Apologies to whomever asked me to retire this next phrase but … just sayin’.

(NOT as a reply just to Midlife – I hit reply at the bottom of the column, and that’s just where it ended up, and I don’t see how to change the position without deleting and starting over)

I totally get why some people don’t have time to cook – those who don’t work a typical 40-hour week…mutiple jobs…single parents (and those acting as such due to work schedules)…caregivers…students…add to that fatigue, stress, and all too often, a lack of someone who has actually taught them to cook, and it doesn’t surprise me at all that there are people who don’t cook.

Even as much as I cook (5+ nights a week most weeks) there are nights (sometimes several nights – there’ve been whole weeks when cooking just didn’t work!!) when it simply doesn’t happen, for a long list of reasons.

I know it’s hard for us (by definition) to wrap our heads around, but there are people out there for whom food is simply fuel by which to keep on living.

I can’t look down my nose at anyone for not cooking when they’re just trying to keep life working…perhaps we should consider helping those folks – recipes, suggestions, etc, so that they feed their bodies well.


I am a bit surprised by how condescending people on this thread are towards people who at least “feel” that they don’t have time to cook. There are so many reasons that people can’t get a meal on the table every, single night. Let us start with time. There is so much more to cooking than preparing the meal. In order to cook a dinner every night, the ingredients need to be in the house which means someone has to get to a grocery store and purchase the ingredients, and they need to complement each other. After cooking a meal, someone then needs to wash and clean all the dishes, pots, pans, wipe down all the surfaces. If a meal takes an hour to prepare, add at least double that to calculate the real amounts of time. There are so many possible obstacles to having this kind of time.

I have been working with some new mothers to help them navigate their desire to eat home-made and healthy meals at home with the realities of motherhood. To start with, these Moms have it relatively easy. They don’t have kids in different sports programs, with practices and games at 2 different times across town from each other. They have partners who are willing to help with the grocery shopping and child caring . They live in towns with plenty of supermarket options, and they all have access to a car. Even these lucky people are flat out exhausted. Baby wakes them every two hours every single day, 24/7. They are sleep deprived. The realities of being totally and completely responsible for another human is dawning on them in waves.

A little understanding and kindness would be a wonderful thing. Do you know a family that is overwhelmed? Bring them a side dish to throw in the oven, with the easy-to-follow recipe taped to the side. If this side dish can be morphed into a second dish for the next night, tape clear instructions for that to the dish as well. If you can afford it, have the main course ready to prepare, with some instructions. Offer to hang with their kids, teaching the kids how to make fruit popsicles or melon balls and give the parents a break. Encourage the parents to buy a rotisserie chicken to serve with a fresh salad. Stop shaming them so that they sink farther into their own self-doubts.


Lack of time is an excuse for anything. The fact is, we all simply craft our own priorities. It’s better to just own the truth. If soccer practice or Facebook is more important to someone than cooking a meal, they should just admit it. There’s no shame in being honest, but we must also accept the consequences of our choices

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Sure do…mine! lol

We all have our comfort levels with food prep.

My Issue is that I get cranky if I don’t get to prepare a meal every day. I have withdrawl symptoms

I use to have the same reaction to not drinking vodka.

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Single parenting,.multiple jobs and responsibilities, and kids in organized sports are more than lame excuses.

@smtucker you win the thread.

The village isn’t helping when they’re standing around clucking their disapproval.


When one of our daughters had her first baby (we live 200 miles away) I asked what could I cook and freeze for her. Her answer was Hazan’s Bolognese sauce! Boil some pasta, throw together a salad and dinner is done. And you can tell from her request that she loves to cook…but not then. Your reply is perfect.

Also who gets off judging others on what they don’t have time to do? We’re retired and there are simply days when I’m just not going to cook dinner. Period. And I don’t have to make an excuse. And I have a partner who ‘gets it.’ And if he didn’t ‘get it,’ we’d have a little chat :wink:

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I didn’t say “lame”. They’re simply excuses which implies that whoever is offering them is acquiesceing to the notion that they’re in the wrong and need to apologize. That’s on them. Perhaps they’re really acknowledging that they have more time then they admit or that they’re not good at using it wisely

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“Is there any practice less selfish, any labor less alienating, any time less wasted than preparing something delicious and nourishing for the people you love?”
Michael Pollan

My sympathy goes out to those whose schedule is so time constrained that they cannot find the time to cook. I’m not looking to shame anyone, but obesity and diabetes have increased dramatically as Americans have allowed corporate chains and processed convenience food producers to provide their meals. Sure, we all rely on convenience from time to time, but the value of home cooking is not to underestimated.

Not having time to cook may mean I have things I’d rather do. And those can be loving things. All manner of arts and crafts. Extra help with homework. As mentioned above, driving to and from extracurricular activities. And it doesn’t mean that they’re serving fast food every night. You can eat nutritiously and not cook. We HERE don’t want to do that but it’s done regularly I’ve no doubt. A stroll down the aisles of a well stocked grocery can put all kinds of great food on the table. Yeah, you’ll pay more but it can still be done.

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There are plenty of people who truly don’t have time to cook for valid reasons (as others have mentioned - multiple jobs, etc.). I don’t get too judgmental about those who claim it’s time, whether legit or not. I do get confused though by those who claim they don’t know how to cook. What stops one from learning or attempting to learn…?

I have a coworker who doesn’t cook, and neither does her husband, and they are raising a child. So they eat out 7 days a week, every meal. They’re not independently wealthy with a personal chef, nor are they working crazy hours, and as far as I know, they don’t rely on family members to cook or bring food for them. I don’t understand how there hasn’t been one thought that maybe just learning to make one or two things might be worthwhile?

Now THAT is interesting. I’d love to read more about this.

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A I live a busy life- I work a full time management job that is streeful, I have weeks where I am on call for work after hours, I have a two year old son and often my husband is gone for work before I wake up and gets home after I do.

My son hasn’t hit the after school activity stage yet.

However, I try my best at cooking everyday. I do it for a couple reasons- it helps me unwind and I enjoy it and it is a lot better for my family than eating out,

My week night meals may not be mind blowing but they’re balanced and well prepared.

I try to treat eating out as a treat/special occasion thing.

I also get sick of eating in restaurants when on vacation and haven’t got other options.

Hmm…my coworker is awfully nice, but she’s so different from me in fundamental ways (she’s passive, I’m assertive; she’s high-strung, I roll with the punches…) that I can only deal with her for short doses at a time. This would be a looong dissection of her and digression from the topic!

The best I can tell is that she’s decided she can’t cook. She’s not the type to want to get out of her comfort zone, and she doesn’t learn new things easily at work. Being a foodie, I asked her after she started if she likes to cook and try different foods - and naturally, no and no, and she said outright that neither her nor her husband cooks, even for their daughter. I hear the calls to her husband a few times a week with the “what do you want to pick up for dinner tonight?”. MyJudgy McJudgerson side would add that, having met her sweet daughter, she needs a home-cooked meal.

That boggles my mind. If they go out for every meal I’m going to assume it’s to less expensive places that are likely to use a lot of Sysco-type products. That can’t be healthy for anyone 7 days a week…but to foist it on a child? Awful.

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I hate to say it, but sometimes, I really don’t have time to cook. For example – Mondays. Mondays I work until 5:30, pick up my kids from my parent’s house, and get home by 6:15 or so. My daughter has dance class at 7pm, and I have a fitness dance class at 8pm so we have to leave by 6:45 to get there on time. I’ve got 30 minutes to do something, including feeding the dog and changing into my workout clothes. I’ve started cooking extra food on Sunday so we can eat leftovers for dinner on Monday. She eats dinner before we leave, I eat when we come back. By the time we finish with her dance class and my workout class and get home, it’s 9:15pm.

I do try and prep things in advance sometimes, but there are days when I think I’ll be home on time and then something goes awry at work. My husband doesn’t get home from work until 6:45-7:00pm (and leaves at 6:30am), so there are days where we just decide we are too tired to cook at home, and/or it’ll be too late by the time we get something ready. Wednesday was like that – we ended up at our favorite sushi place at 7:30 because it was a busy day.

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Bessarabsky Market, Kyiv. Ukraine
Credit: Juan Antonio Segal, Flickr