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What to cook when you don’t feel like cooking

Woman staring into fridge

Healthy Food Guide founding editor Niki Bezzant shares super-easy, healthy meals you can whip up even when you really don’t feel like cooking.

We all have times when we don’t feel like cooking, or simply can’t summon up the energy to do more than very basic tasks in the kitchen. This might apply if you’re sick (a very real possibility right now with Omicron circulating), if you’re somewhere the facilities for cooking are limited, or even when life gets in the way and you’re super busy with very little time to shop for fresh food. Here are some things to keep in your store cupboard and healthy dishes you can throw together with minimal effort and one pan (or less).

Frozen veggie fritters and other finds

Your freezer is your friend in times of low energy. Fill it with vegetables, edamame beans, frozen fish and chicken fillets and other easy-cook items. If you have leftovers, label and date them (crucial!) and pack these away too, so you can pull them out for an easy reheat. A fritter is a super easy dish to turn frozen veg into a satisfying meal. Just beat eggs, season, and add frozen vegetables such as peas, broccoli, edamame or beans. Add a little grated cheese and herbs if you have them. Upgrade to the Japanese pancake, okonomiyaki, by adding chopped cooked meat, prawns and some bagged chopped slaw. Cook in large fritters over medium heat for 5-8 minutes each side, or until cooked through. Serve topped with sauce of your choice and mayonnaise. Find tons of fritter inspiration here.

Noodle soup with vegetables

Keep packets of instant ramen and miso on hand and you’ve got a quick meal base. Use just a little of the flavour sachet – these are packed with sodium – or toss it and use miso instead. Use as many of the noodles as you like and toss in tons of veggies – use fresh or frozen. You can also add protein in the form of tofu, meat, egg, chicken or fish. For more ideas and inspiration search the site for ‘noodle soup’ or try these recipes:

Omelettes and scrambles

Eggs are a boon when you’re feeling lethargic – they make a meal just minutes away. Fold your favourite fillings into a simple omelette – try to include vegetables, protein and carbs – or make an easy scramble using the same strategy – just toss your vegetables in a pan, add the lightly beaten eggs and gently fold until cooked through. Take it in a Mexi direction with chilli and cumin, black or red kidney beans and a tortilla on the side.

For more ideas search the site for ‘scramble’ or try these recipes:

Quick fried rice

Packets of steamed brown rice (or leftover cooked rice from the freezer) are a perfect base for another quick-cook and tasty meal: fried rice. Make use of your frozen veggie supply and round up any leftover bits from the fridge, too. Get a pan nice and hot, add everything but the rice and cook for a few minutes. Add the rice, along with seasoning such as soy or chillli sauce. Toss it all together for a few minutes. Serve topped with nuts, seeds and/or herbs of your choice.

Search the site for ‘fried rice or try these recipes:

Pimped-up toast

Who says toast has to just be for breakfast? When you’re low on energy, toast can be a meal any time of the day, especially if you can fancy it up with substantial toppings. Try a can of tuna and some cheese and corn (melt under the grill if you like) or avocado, tomato and slices of cheese. Or go for chilli beans, cheese and herbs, or wilted spinach and ricotta. Search the site for ‘toast’ for lots more ideas or try these recipes:

Super salads

A salad doesn’t have to be a bowl full of leaves. And it can be assembled easily without any cooking (unless you want to). Use this basic formula:

  1. Lots of vegetables. Try corn, broccoli, courgette or capsicum. Think colours and texture.
  2. Some protein. Try chicken, tofu, tuna, salmon, cooked leftover meat.
  3. Some carbs. Make easy croutons by toasting up some grainy bread and tearing it into bits. Other great options: chickpeas (also adds protein), lentils, brown rice, kumara, potatoes (leave the skin on), soba noodles, toasted corn tortillas.
  4. Something crunchy. Think nuts, toasted seeds, crispy seaweed, wasabi peas…
  5. Something creamy. Avocado, tahini, hummus, ricotta, mayonnaise, etc.
  6. Something tasty. That might be cheese, olives, peppers, kimchi, pickles, spicy sprinkles… whatever flavour bomb you like.
  7. Dressing. A simple mustardy vinaigrette or a creamy dressing. Use quality flavoursome oils and get creative with seasoning.

Other easy minimal-cook meals

  • Poké bowls, Donburi and Bibimbap – use a base of steamed rice (microwavable ready rice is fine) and mix up your toppings
  • Frozen dumplings and sides – steam frozen dumplings along with mixed vegetables and serve with soy and chilli sauces
  • Tostadas and nachos – top crispy corn tortillas or plain corn chips with chilli beans (canned are fine) salad, tomatoes, sauces and salsa.
First published: Feb 2022
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