Don't know how to food
April 14, 2018 1:27 PM   Subscribe

In this modern age and making use of all available resources, what are some strategies for two people who are just not going to cook? I have listed below all the things we aren't going to do, and I'm wondering if there are other strategies or resources that I haven't considered.

Things we have tried & ruled out:
- GrubHub & going out to restaurants. It's great but there aren't enough restaurants nearby to make it a healthy or sustainable option for every day. One or times a week, yes, for sure.

- Munchery is a service that provides pre-made meals in little boxes that you microwave. Food was OK, but not good enough to rely on for every meal every day.

- Actually going to the supermarket and cooking meals like people have done for millenia. I don't know, for lots of reasons, this used to happen but it stopped, and is even less likely to happen in the future. It's a non-starter. It's not going to happen. Nothing at the supermarket that is already cooked (frozen dinners, frozen skillet meals, prepared meals, etc.) tastes good (we have tried it all), and we don't have the time or energy to cook anything that's raw. And yet, the need to eat continues. I don't like the flavor of stuff that comes out of slow cookers.

- BlueApron and other ingredient-delivery services. Too much prep. Also I'm not a big fan of "modern" (as in trendy) flavors that meal kits tend to rely on like lots of big bright sour-y citrus & stuff like quinoa and farro. We like filling, old-fashioned favorites like potatoes, root veggies, gravy, meat.

Things we have not tried & have still ruled out:
- Neighbors bringing us food. We don't know any of our neighbors.
- Hiring someone to cook in our home. I don't know. Sounds expensive, and I don't like having strangers in my space or having to end a relationship. I don't know. Where would we find them, what if we don't like their food? I don't know what to tell them to cook, but I definitely know what not to cook. But I don't know how to manage any of this. What if it's more trouble than it's worth? I even looked into a service like PocketChef that claims to manage all of this for you and the logistics of even that feel overwhelming.
-I investigated some other meal delivery services & they seem to be equally as mediocre as Munchery.

I tried talking to my hubby about what would be our ideal solution if we had unlimited funds (we don't) and he said having someone in to cook for us, but to me it still feels imperfect for the above reasons. I'm so out of ideas and frustrated.

We are in the Bay Area if that makes a difference.

So I don't know, is there something I'm not thinking of or do I need to adjust my thinking and get on board with something I've already ruled out?
posted by bleep to Food & Drink (53 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
Does preparing sandwiches count as cooking? If you use decent wholewheat bread, and add a protein and plenty of raw vegetables, I'm sure that you could live on that for a long time and not be any worse for wear.
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:40 PM on April 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

I would revisit the frozen food section and probably the deli counter. Try Trader Joe's for frozen food and, I don't know, whatever (if anything) replaced Andronico's as the posh Bay Area supermarket for the deli counter. (If you're near the Berkeley Bowl, that'll work, obviously.) My cooking has kind of fallen apart in the last year or two and there's a big difference between feeding oneself out of the frozen aisle at Safeway and feeding oneself out of the frozen aisle at Trader Joe's.

Trader Joe's sells enough pre-cooked and/or pre-chopped things that you may be able to edge your way into cooking as well.
posted by hoyland at 1:42 PM on April 14, 2018 [7 favorites]

Well, I completely understand, because I have the same frustrations with food. I simply hate cooking, suck at it, and am a very picky eater. Where I am isn't booney-land, but i definitely do have even fewer options than you do for takeout/delivery. You've already ruled it out, but I've basically resorted to stopping at a grocery store daily after work and getting their pre-cooked food options, either hot or cold (salads, etc) or anything that can be be popped into an oven. I go out of my way to the grocery store that I prefer, as opposed to the few in my immediate area. It's not the best tasting thing all the time, but it's sustenance. I have found that the quality of some higher end frozen meals has gotten much better over the last decade or so.

What food do you like? You've ruled out restaurant food because it's too pricy, and all prepared food because you don't like it, as well as making it yourself or outsourcing that labour. Something's gotta give here! For some people, obtaining and eating food is just a chore that has to be done to exist in modern society, like cleaning the bathroom and taking out the trash, and obviously not all chores are fun or enjoyable. I'm pretty sure our ancestors didn't enjoy going out to hunt and kill dinner all the time, but they did what they had to do. If all I have to do is stop by safeway and grab a rotisserie chicken and a bag of salad, its not so bad in comparison.
posted by cgg at 1:45 PM on April 14, 2018 [10 favorites]

I would disagree that all the grocery stores' deli-prepared foods are terrible. Andronico's has gone way down since they became Safeway, but they still have some stuff that's good, in both the cooler and the hot bar. Their ribs and mac 'n cheese in the hot bar are great, as is the butternut squash. Woodlands Market also has great prepared foods, including their lasagna (2 locations in Marin, one in SoMa). The fancy grocery stores also sell Vicolo's pizza, which is some of the best pizza you'll ever eat. Another delicious locally-made food item that I really like is Primavera Tamales.

You can also throw together a "grain bowl" very easily. I regularly eat a bowl made of rice (frozen microwave rice takes 3 minutes), canned beans (refried or regular), cut-up tomatoes, sliced black olives, and canned corn. I usually add a dollop of sour cream or greek yogurt or a handful of shredded cheese, a squeeze of lime, and/or salsa. You could add deli-made chicken or steak too.

I think also it helps to re-define what you consider a "meal." Sometimes I just cobble together a plate from various things in the fridge/pantry, like carrots and hummus, cheese wedges, and some cold boneless/skinless chicken from the deli counter. Or, you know, a PBJ and a banana.
posted by radioamy at 1:56 PM on April 14, 2018 [8 favorites]

Do you know anyone that likes to cook and could use some extra cash? You could make a deal with them to do one big pot of soup or chili or stew each week. Pair that with some bread and one of those bagged salads that have the dressing included and you've got a pretty good meal. That would take care of at least half the week, and you could also freeze portions to have in later weeks so that you're not just eating the same thing all week. If you have a rice cooker, you could also do curries, making rice in a rice cooker is stupidly easy.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:59 PM on April 14, 2018 [3 favorites]

(I can't quite tell from you question if you ruled this out, so I apologize if this isn't helpful.)

Have you tried the stuff from the supermarket, usually in the prepared foods section, that is meat/seafood already seasoned and ready to go and literally all you do is heat your oven, put it in a pan, and take out when ready?

They have a lot of this stuff at Whole Foods and probably at other nicer places (not familiar with the regional grocery options in your area), and Trader Joe's has stuff like pre-marinated chickens and roasts that you just...put in the oven, the end. You can throw veggies in with roasts to cook, and there's no shame at all in microwaving bags of frozen veggies.
posted by lalex at 2:06 PM on April 14, 2018 [4 favorites]

I haven't tried Munchery but we use Freshly for work lunches, and we have been really pleased with their food. I had to outsource something, I just don't have time, and my husband will default to goopy fast food every day if not corralled and it was making him feel like crap.

Another critical part of dealing with this problem is managing the novelty-seeking part of the brain that insists it needs a different cuisine every meal. It would be a lot easier to whittle down your meals to X many chicken breasts, Y pork loin chops, Z lasagna, breakfast casserole 4 mornings a week and overnight oats 3 mornings, and either hire someone to cook everything that needs cooking ahead or find a grocery store deli that sells them. Each protein can be accompanied by a steamed or raw vegetable, ready-to-heat starches, and sauces from your fridge. If you consider even this to be too much cooking, then you'll need someone else to do it, but Craigslist is full of personal chefs/trainers/dieticians who will cook what you ask and deliver it or let you pick it up. However you make it hit the plate, you will not die of eating simple repetitive meals as long as they are generally nutritionally sound.

And if you hire someone to make the food for you and you don't like what they made, you can either tell them what was wrong so they fix it or find someone else. If you keep it simple, it shouldn't be that difficult to like the way someone else makes it, and it should be cheaper overall if you're not asking for time or ingredient-intensive food.

You probably are going to have to give in on one of your picky axes if you don't have tons of money to get everything you want the way you want it. If I had to give up cooking I could probably live fine off frozen and fresh vegetables, chicken breasts/meatballs/BBQ from Vons' deli, bag salad, preboiled eggs, burritos, and the occasional frozen pizza/lasagna. It wouldn't be spectacular, but it would be food I didn't have to do more than assemble and warm.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:07 PM on April 14, 2018 [6 favorites]

If you like roasts and veggies, you could probably pay someone to come over once a month, make you a variety of roasts/veggies/whatever (this is the easiest job ever for a cook) and then divide it all up into individual serves and freeze. If they do big enough roasts or meals, you won't have to get them to come over very often, you can scale these things up so it can be quite cost effective in terms of not having to get them in regularly. I'd make a list of the kind of big hearty meals you like and then maybe advertise for a good home cook.
posted by Jubey at 2:11 PM on April 14, 2018 [5 favorites]

I guess this is me and my partner? We don't use the oven and we don't use the cooktop. Almost all of our meals are assemble, maybe heat, and eat. When I am hungry I don't want to dick around for 45 minutes. I want to eat. So if I can't wander into the kitchen and be eating a meal 5 minutes later, I'm not going to be real happy. Maybe this is you?

We buy a lot of cheese and preserved meat. Veggies that can be sliced and plattered. Flash frozen fruit. Rice cakes, crackers. Spreads. Thin noodles that you can just toss in a bowl of hot broth. Yogurt. Kimchi. Eggs (to be hard-boiled, or cooked in an assemblage in the microwave). Trail mix, assorted nuts. Ice cream. Sometimes my partner will slice up an eggplant or potato, put them on the grid in the toaster oven and put it on "toast" and they're done. Hardly cooking.

We do cook a few things, but not during meals. It's prep-work. The instant pot plays into this. We cook chicken and neck bones to make broth (but you can buy bouillon). Ground beef, 3-4lbs at a time, portioned into the freezer in 1lb containers, transferred to the fridge. Hard-boiling one-to-two dozen eggs at a time.

Could work for you, maybe?
posted by seanmpuckett at 2:14 PM on April 14, 2018 [4 favorites]

Either frozen/preprepped food (I echo TJs) or take one day a week to make all the meals. The Instant Pot is a life changer here.
posted by k8t at 2:17 PM on April 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

I think you might have to redefine cooking - or at least investigate different styles of cooking.

old-fashioned favorites like potatoes, root veggies, gravy, meat.

Is grilling an option? I'm a huge fan of Webber Q's.

Season a protein (steak, chicken breast, kebabs from chicken thighs), cut bellpeppers in halves (toss with a little oil, kosher salt, garlic powder), halve some small potatoes (toss with a little oil, kosher salt, garlic powder) and toss on the grill. Prep while the grill is heating, total time on grill is about 8 minutes. When I'm on my game, I can have dinner ready in less than 15 minutes. Depending on the seasonings that you use, you can get a lot of different flavour profiles (standard steak to satay chicken; spatchcocked quail could be flavoured with just salt to a variety of herbs or with liquid smoke). All kinds of different vegetables do well on the grill (zuccini, broccollini [toss in some aged balsamic before wilting on the grill!!], eggplant with a miso/mirin marinade, halved tomatoes straight up).

Kind of misses on the gravy part, though. But you can either make gravy from scratch or from a packet, then freeze down portions of it - microwave as needed.

I've heard that some people really like their Instapots (combination pressure cooker/slow cooker with automation). If your SO doesn't like the taste (or probably, the texture?) of stuff out of slow cookers, the pressure cooker method for stew might suffice. Seafood stews/soups are easy, too. Pick up a nice loaf of bread and you're done.

If it really is the taste and not the texture, maybe try replacing your braising liquids with, say, coffee or (more traditionally, different kinds of) beer or wine. Slow cookers favour cheaper nastier-looking cuts of beef or you could go high end and try briskets and thick cut short ribs. A standby for me is a can of condensed cream of mushroom soup and a packet of onion soup powder over cheap pork or beef roasts - makes excellent pulled meats for sandwiches or you can shred the meat and toss in some cooked pasta and frozen vegetables for a one-pot meal.

If you're not getting enough vegetables from these methods, you can always supplement with raw fruits (and a lot of fruits can benefit from grilling, like pineapple, watermelon, apples/pears).
posted by porpoise at 2:20 PM on April 14, 2018

I sometimes use this meal delivery service called Gobble. You have to “cook” it, but it’s supposed to be under 10 or 15 minutes start to finish, so the ingredients are more prepared than Blue Apron.. not sure if you’ve already looked at it and eliminated it.

I also agree that Trader Joe’s frozen/prepared food is better and cheaper than a normal market. I love to cook, but ate majority TJs frozen food during a very hectic period in my life, and found it reasonably healthy and very affordable.

People have already mentioned just assembling meals. I do this sometimes. If you buy a few cheeses, some nice crackers, finger veggies like mini cucumbers and cherry tomatoes... grapes and clementine oranges. Some spreads like tapenade or hummus, maybe cold cuts... you obviously don’t need ALL that, but if you have a few of those things you can throw nice plates together. Since you like meat-and-potatoes type stuff, maybe sheetpan meals would also work for you? ( ). Especially if you make on with precut fresh or frozen root vegetables, and packaged sausage.

Unfortunately I don’t think there’s any options besides going to a store or restaurant, paying someone, or doing it yourself. I do know people who have a weekly private chef come in and cook stuff for the week, based on their schedule and tastes. But that’s obviously pretty pricey.
posted by sometamegazelle at 2:26 PM on April 14, 2018 [4 favorites]

From time to time I hear about people who cook meals for sale, usually things that reheat well like casseroles or baked pasta dishes. They are priced more cheaply than restaurant food, something around $20 for a meal to serve four people. My sil told me about someone doing that near her, but I think she originally found it on FB.
posted by glitter at 2:48 PM on April 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

Do you feel like you need variety or would you be happy eating the same 7 meals every week? If you don't mind repetition, the problem seems more manageable. You only need to figure out 7 different dinners that you like and that fit your budget. (It doesn't actually have to be 7, of course. It could be 5 or 8 or whatever, but having it match the days of the week seems like a good way to do it.)

It sounds like at least one or two of the dinners could be restaurant meals you already know you like. It seems like you ought to be able to find 5 or 6 other meals you like that you don't have to cook. I bet you haven't tried literally every prepared food from every grocery store or deli near you. Maybe you should systematically start investigating all the possibilities. Turn the search for 7 ideas into a sort of game you get to play every night by trying out yet another possible addition to the list.

If I were in your position, things I would keep on hand at home to eat for meals might include containers of soup from the grocery store, yogurt, fresh fruit, snap peas and baby carrots to dip in ranch dressing, corn chips and salsa, bagels, potato salad, spicy Asian slaw, cheese, good quality jerky, and cashews. I wouldn't mind eating that stuff for dinner. You may feel differently. And there are takeout foods I like that aren't that terribly expensive, especially if there's enough for leftovers. I'd probably get a lot of Thai or Chinese, pizza, and tacos and I'd eat leftover curry or pizza a lot.
posted by Redstart at 2:49 PM on April 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

If you’re near a Berkeley Bowl, their prepared food stuff is much better than the typical grocery. Whole Foods & Trader Joe's are also pretty decent.

Another option would be the mostly-prepared meals from the grocery/food service Good Eggs - they’re a local company that is much higher quality but less fussy than Blue Apron. You might try other meal prep companies as well - I found Blue Apron to be the worst of the bunch when we tried out a bunch with a newborn baby. Sun Basket & Good Eggs were my favorite.
posted by Jaclyn at 2:59 PM on April 14, 2018

On the surface, this seems impossible - no cooking + no prepared foods + no private service. I'd like to know more about your definitions of "not going to cook" and "food". There is going to have to be a compromise on no cooking and no prepared foods. Is it okay to heat up some stuff in a pan? Microwave? Oven? Dirty some dishes? Cut a piece of butter? Does the food have to be warm? Served on a plate? Is boiling water going too far?

Here are ten meals (more with variations) that require little "cooking" and still result in warm food though sometimes dirty dishes and require a heat source - kind of a happy medium bringing the best prepared foods together with a little bit of ... let's not call it cooking ... assembling. Start with a Trader Joe's shopping list.

- microwaved potatoes (ours has a potato setting that works pretty well) with variations of toppings - canned chili (Trader Joe's has beef, chicken, vegetarian all pretty good), pre-grated cheese, prepared pico or salsa, sour cream, TJ's spinach/artichoke dip (frozen).

- scrambled eggs or omelette - add favorite pre-chopped or frozen veggies (TJ's has frozen chopped peppers, frozen spinach), add torn up pieces of bread and grated cheese to make a full dish, pour hot sauce and/or olive oil on top, side of TJ's guacamole or hummus.

- DIY sandwich night - put out bread, cheese slices, meat slices (or TJ's refrigerated meatloaf), sliced tomato/onion, lettuce, pickles. Alternate toppings for variations: cole slaw, sauerkraut, kimchi, all from TJ's prepared refrigerators. Start with a bowl of soup from TJ's - the ones on the shelf in the boxes are pretty good - the tomato in particular, the squash is a tad sweet.

- frozen Indian meals - the TJ's Indian meals are pretty much across the board good, add a bag of plain or garlic naan to heat up in toaster or oven. My favorites are the Saag Panir and the Aloo Chaat Kati Pouches though there are several with chicken and one with fish. The frozen rice is good.

- The fried rice options at TJ's are great. I like the veggie and the chicken, but not the one with all the edamame. Can be microwaved. If made in a pan, add an egg or two at the end to scramble in. Pour over some extra soy sauce, sesame oil, and sriacha (all from Trader Joe's though their sriacha is not as good as others) or other hot sauce.

- Most of the TJ's refrigerated raviolis are good. The bolognese ravioli is really tasty. I don't like the ones that taste sweet like the squash and lemon versions, but you might. Best in a pan with a bit of jarred sauce or butter melted in at the end.

- Simmer the ginger broth (from a box), add the little chicken cilantro dumplings from the freezer (by the Asian meals) for a few minutes, add a handful of raw or frozen spinach, extra soy or sriacha on top. Not bad for throwing together a few already prepared items. All TJ's ingredients.

- The British style frozen savory pies are fantastic - there is a beef version and a chicken version that is mildly curried. Do half the microwave time then finish with half the oven time so they are done in far less time than all oven time but crispier than all microwave time (but do all microwave time in a pinch). Serve with bagged salad and bottled dressing.

- frozen fish nuggets or filets baked in oven with prepared cole slaw and wasabi mayonnaise in flour or corn tortillas, so good, sub out the wasabi mayo for hot sauce of your choice mixed with regular mayo.

- rotisserie chicken (oops, not from TJ's, pick up on way home) plus bag salad plus bottled dressing (variations: hot or cold, different salads, different dressings) or cole slaw and frozen french fries.

(These don't look like actual cooking to me but might be too much. What about it is too much - the planning, the shopping, the doing, the dirty dishes, (the inequity of labor) - and can any of these be addressed?)

(I wish I was one of your neighbors - it is my dream job to meal prep and stock other people's refrigerators.)
posted by RoadScholar at 3:00 PM on April 14, 2018 [19 favorites]

Taro is another service that delivers bulk ready to heat meals, specializing in Indian, Chinese, and Korean. We tried a box of 8 Chinese entrees. The portions were smaller than expected, but the food was very good, and quite authetic.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 3:31 PM on April 14, 2018

I’m not sure what kinds of meal delivery you’ve looked into, but this situation screams personal chef, which shouldn’t be hard to find in the Bay Area. You seem to have a lot of anxiety about that, so here’s my radical question: could your husband deal with it instead of you?

Two other points:
Trader Joe’s frozen food is indeed way better.
There’s nothing wrong with having cereal for dinner. Or peanut butter sandwiches.
posted by FencingGal at 3:48 PM on April 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

I know a few people in my small town who pay a nice older lady to cook them dinners for the week. Could you look for something similar on Craigslist or your neighborhood Facebook group?

Also, personal chefs work like this and don’t necessarily need to cook in your home. I found this by searching “personal chef delivery” in your area; maybe a start?
posted by stellaluna at 4:10 PM on April 14, 2018 [4 favorites]

I don't think there's anything realistic left aside from what you've ruled out. So it's gotta be pay for a chef if you can afford that, or try making really simple food at home. Baked potatoes, cereal, sandwiches, noodles, scrambled/boiled eggs. all require almost no effort and have long shelf-lives. Frozen spinach/broccoli/peas/corn/lima beans cook up in like two minutes, add salt and/or butter. You might find that getting in the habit of cooking makes it easier. Add in some raw fruit.Or you might not, and you can keep on with that.
posted by skewed at 4:16 PM on April 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

I have had very similar problems, as a single person, and I am making progress by doing restaurants some nights but other nights just settling for something that counts as a meal even if it's incredibly boring. Like, lats night was: One piece of salmon, vacuum-packed frozen, pan-fried. Half of a package of frozen cauliflower rice. Half of a can of black beans. It was, in fact, a meal. (In this case, it was seasoned with Mrs. Dash's fiesta lime and a bit of salt.) Tonight it's going to be one pork chop and asparagus and some rice. Super, super simple stuff.

I know it isn't going to taste good next to restaurants. The key about this is accepting that every meal you eat is not going to taste like a restaurant meal. It just isn't. But you also probably aren't appreciating restaurant meals like you used to--because this is just how you think food tastes now. You have to get off that treadmill and let food taste like regular food for four or five nights a week so that it can taste special the other two or three. The above does taste better than most frozen dinners, but it's never going to equal what you'd get if you were going to order in, and you have to train yourself to be okay with that again. I have come to the conclusion, for my own purposes, that it is not reasonable to expect there to be a solution for this problem that tastes as good as eating something with, like, three times as many calories but with less than fifteen minutes' worth of prep. It's not magic, it's just telling myself no when I go to pull up Skip the Dishes again.
posted by Sequence at 4:18 PM on April 14, 2018 [9 favorites]

We have a bit of the same issue, predominantly related to working and living in the tropics trying to avoid the heat in the kitchen.

Salads - vege as well as fruit, tuna, chef’s salad, pasta, etc. (Boiling pasta for 12-14 min is not too difficult, I hope.)

Frittata - chop, sauté briefly, and pour on a few beaten eggs = great and easy

As suggested above, grilling. Sit on the porch with a cold beer and grill Brussels sprouts (oil on cookie sheet), artichokes, corn (in the husk), etc. Throw in a fish filet at the end - done in 5 minutes.

Pre-make sauces - my mate and I cook on Sunday and make curries and various sauces (marinara, primavera, etc.). Then, after work, all you have to do is make rice or pasta.

Frozen pizza (or left over take out) - chop all kinds of veges and toss it in the oven, or even on foil of a cookie sheet on the grill.

Mexican/Tex-mex - heat tortillas in a pan or toaster oven, and veges, beans, etc. Don’t forget the salsa.

Of cource sandwiches as noted above. Make then on Italian or French bread like a sub; they seem more substantial.
posted by sudogeek at 4:18 PM on April 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

Because no one's said it and you're in the Bay Area: have you considered Soylent or the like? It's not clear how much you enjoy the ritual of eating, and since meal prep seems to be a real burden right now, maybe the pleasures of the ritual are worth giving up for ease of satisfying your caloric needs.
posted by batter_my_heart at 4:19 PM on April 14, 2018 [4 favorites]

I hear that you like filling, old fashioned foods, that you're not in a situation to cook them for yourself right now, and that the options in which other people make them for you (whether that's a chef or a restaurant/deli counter) feel daunting or infeasible.

I wonder if you could, for right now, let go of the idea that food needs to taste good. Can you just let yourself let go of that expectation, for a limited amount of time -- say, tell yourself you're just going to eat to fuel your body until the end of the summer, for example. Twice a week you use grubhub to get something you really enjoy, and the rest of the time you treat it as if you'd been given a particular eating plan by a nutritionist? And in warm weather people are often more drawn to cold, raw foods than in winter anyway, so you could tell yourself that you'll figure out a more satisfying plan by the time Fall rolls around?

There are a couple points where I'm not sure if this comes up against some of the things you're ruled out, but: When I had a little one in the house, I went through a period when I could not really manage to cook, just to assemble meals. So for every meal we just did a cold healthy grain (whole wheat crackers, bread, tortillas, healthy cereal), and a cold protein (sliced cheese, hummus, hardboiled egg, yogurt) and 2 servings of produce (sliced fruit, sliced raw veggies, salad, or grilled veggies picked up from the store). If I was feeling fancy I would open some cans, rinse things, and dump them in a bowl -- black beans, corn, chickpeas, roasted red peppers from a jar, pickled artichokes, pitted olives -- or heat something up (dip cheese sticks in heated tomato sauce, or put salsa, black beans, and cheese on tortilla chips and heat that). But it mostly was just pick one protein, one starch, 2 produce, eat cold, treat it like a picnic.
posted by eafm at 4:20 PM on April 14, 2018 [3 favorites]

I must reluctantly admit that some of what's on offer at the average Whole Foods is better than what I could cook for myself (which is actually saying something).
posted by queen anne's remorse at 4:27 PM on April 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

Given your constraints, the main things I would suggest have already been mentioned:

(1) Find a supermarket or other store with a good hot bar, which is generally a lot better than most frozen food.

(2) Acquire ingredients for no-cook meals: good bread, crackers, cheeses, smoked or cured sausages, vegetables (fresh, marinated, or pickled), tapenades and other spreads, canned and smoked fish, hummus, peanut butter, etc.

If you're willing to consider very basic cooking, grilled or baked pieces of meat can be very simple. It takes me literally no more than 2 minutes of preparation to get a pork tenderloin or rack of lamb ready to pop in the oven. It's just as easy to bake chicken breasts. Add uncooked ingredients as sides and condiments.

And since you mention that you used to shop and cook meals, I'll offer this: get a large freezer and a lot of containers, and once or twice a month, block out the time to cook a soup or stew that you really like in a ridiculously large quantity, then parcel it out in two-person servings and freeze it. I love to cook, but I also have a stressful, time-consuming job, so I often make large quantities of food and then freeze it to eat later. The previous owners of my house left a large freezer behind when they moved out, and it has been one of the best windfalls of my life.
posted by brianogilvie at 4:38 PM on April 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

Came back to add that a lot of the work is not actually cooking. I make light above but really there is a lot of emotional and physical work in addition to the cooking:

planning the meals,
making a list of groceries (check the current stock),
planning a trip to store,
actual shopping,
cleaning up dishes,
storing leftovers,
repurposing leftovers,
throwing out old leftovers and anything that went bad.

Cooking is only a part of it. There may ways to share some of these duties that work better for you. It is a lot of tasks and doesn't just happen, but there might be some tasks that can be better assigned or outsourced than calling the whole task: cooking. I bet there is a gig economy in the area who would shop at Trader Joe's for you. Maybe the tasks are alternated - one person planning/shopping/unpacking/cooking and the other dishes/leftovers/refrigerator then vice versa the next week. Or one person does all one week and gets off duty the next week.

Eating is important.

(My downfall is cleaning :( and I outsource where I can but still have to choose some cleaning or live in sloth.)
posted by RoadScholar at 4:40 PM on April 14, 2018 [3 favorites]

I'm going to push back on the impossibility of cooking a little, because probably the most straightforward way to solve this is to be able to do enough (and only enough) inexpensive and simple yet appealing meals at home to dine out the rest of the time.

Can you deal with toweling off a piece of meat and searing it with a blowtorch? If so, you can sous vide a steak, pork chop, etc. Sides can be easy: prepared salad bag, and a starch. Baked potatoes cook themselves, or pasta with jarred sauce. If you really don't want to use the stove there are some veggies that microwave well -- basically the same ones you'd steam and have with butter. A copy of Barbara Kafka's Microwave Gourmet is helpful.

I'd also look into some sheet pan/baking dish meals. These aren't cooking so much as taking ingredients out of jars/cans, stirring in a bowl with the marinade (you can use bottled marinades, sauces, salsas, etc) and then spreading them on a baking sheet and popping them in the oven. Maybe some very minor chopping/slicing of veggies.

Anything that can be served over rice can be kludged over cous cous. You boil water according to the box, dump it in, cut the heat and cover. Stir when ready and season it appropriately for the flavors in your main. From the recent arroz con pollo thread, my cheat version uses this: chicken thighs, marinated them with canned salsa ranchera, roasted in the toaster oven, served over cousous spiked with more salsa.

I don't know what your standards are but I'm a foodie and some nights I'm fine with a hot deli sandwich. That just requires a source for good bread and cold cuts (I'm sure you can find some in SF), and a few minutes in the toaster oven.
posted by snuffleupagus at 4:47 PM on April 14, 2018

I wanted to address your point of certain foods not tasting good. I noticed that when I started doing serious exercise, (long distance bike riding) my appetite changed and food actually started to taste better. Even just the simplest food like avocado on toast with a little cheese, tomato, and salt/pepper became simply sublime. (and ready in under 5 minutes) Also consider the example of going on a long day hike. Once you've expended all your energy and you're at the top of some peak, ANY food tastes good. So, my suggestion would be to consider doing more outdoor exercise. If that works for you, it would be easier to find simple food satisfying.
posted by oxisos at 4:47 PM on April 14, 2018 [7 favorites]

What about making your personal chef experience less personal? Instead of hiring someone to do cooking for *you*, contact a caterer for n meals per week. We have a few gourmet carry out and catering services near us (midsized, Midwest city) that do exactly this. If you end up not liking the food....just don't re-order and find a different company. There MUST be similar services in the Bay area.
posted by this-apoptosis at 4:49 PM on April 14, 2018 [5 favorites]

It seems to me that most grocery stores have more and more items of the heat'n'eat persuasion. Whole Foods and Trader Joes are the first to come to mind, but any store that caters to an affluent market will have lot of variety in various places around the store: deli, frozen, salad bar, etc. Heck, even Target.

That said, I think you may have better success with take out if you try restaurants that aren't specialists in take out. Not the cheap Chinese and not the pizzeria. Most diners will prepare anything on their menu for take out, and many family-owned restaurants do some catering on the side and would be happy for your business.
posted by SemiSalt at 4:49 PM on April 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

In my town we have a local meal place that you can pickup or have delivered. No prep required. It's fresh unprocessed home cooked food. I would look for a local place like this that puts together fresh meals. A google search comes up with several options.

You could always hire a personal chef to cook for you in their space and deliver or pickup. You don't have to have them in your house.

Apologies, edited to add that you have already viewed local meal prep services and found them unappealing. I would go the personal chef route and have meals delivered.
posted by loveandhappiness at 5:00 PM on April 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

What's your definition of cooking? It's all about strategy to put minimal effort into maximum meals. I know this because I food prep from leftovers.

One thing that changed my life was the Instant Pot. In combination with a Costco membership (or other bulk item store), you are good to go.

So, Costco has these great packs of preseasoned, raw St. Louis ribs. All I have to do is stand them up inside my Instant Pot, set it for 35 minutes on high pressure, and they're ready when the cycle's done. On the side, I have a salad or some microwaved spinach. To top it all off, some pre-made sweet potato fries that were in the oven for 20 minutes. Pre-heat oven, insert tray, pull them out when finished. Easy.

The nice thing is the pack comes with so many ribs, all you need to do is reheat later in the week. Add some pre-made ranch sauce if you'd like.

Costco also has other lovely pre-seasoned gigantic servings of meat. Like flap steaks, corned beef, chicken legs, tri-tip... all of which were a success in the Instant Pot. There's also gigantic servings of pre-cooked meats (some with sauces) that are pre-cooked and just need a good microwave session. And it's all bulk. A food prepper's dream.

Oh, and the rotisserie chicken? Hey, if you just boil up some pasta for ten minutes... add the chicken and sauce. Bam.

Same with Trader Joe's, on a different scale. But it helps to break monotony. They have packs of pork belly that are one of my staples. Mix with rice and some steamed (or microwave steamed) bok choy and soy sauce--you're good. They even have frozen rice you can microwave (though you can use the Instant Pot for that too!!). Lots of preseasoned meat packs that can go in the Instant Pot. They also have preseasoned veggies that you can stick in the microwave. Very helpful.

Happy eating!
posted by artful at 5:28 PM on April 14, 2018 [3 favorites]

I think you need to look at why the supermarket and groceries and putting meals together doesn't work for you. You say nothing they have tastes good. That's a red flag. We could all make suggestions but if you say, "It doesn't taste good," then nothing anyone suggests will be helpful.

There are a number of reasons why you might find nothing tastes good, or that preparing meals becomes too much effort for the return. That's what you need to figure out. For example if you are getting calories from pop or from booze, actual real food might become too much of a chore. Or if your kitchen is just too, too stressful because you've had too many conflicts there, or if you are depressed and it has robbed you of your appetite.

It sounds like you want to be fed without having to give any thought to the food. This sometimes is because of anxiety. It can also be because you are waiting until you are deep in a blood sugar crash, too hungry to think by the time you start thinking about meals.

If you have any pets you might try linking feeding yourself to the care you give to them - eg. when you feed the cat, you feed yourself. Turn it into a forcing function.

I know you say that cooking is not going to happen, but could you commit to cooking if you make it only for three hours on Sunday afternoon, when you cook up fourteen meals worth of food, such as a large batch of spaghetti, a large batch of stir fry and a ham, which you boil and slice? Then it could be food that meets your aesthetic taste - not too many artificial ingredients and some actually meat in the spaghetti sauce - And then those fourteen meals only need to be thrown in the microwave, or eaten cold throughout the week and you don't have to think about it at all until time to go to the store next Sunday morning.

Is going to the grocery store part of the problem? Is that daunting? Because there are a ton of things that don't require cooking - cereal and milk, corn chips and salsa, applesauce etc. many of which have been mentioned above. I am wondering why you aren't doing that, or if you are doing that. Is the problem that these kinds of things don't taste good? Cheapie yuppie TV dinners and canned pasta can be really gross, but what about the things they sell at the store that you don't need to cook? Or is part of the problem that you can still eat things like this, but they aren't heated up and it doesn't feel like a real meal?
posted by Jane the Brown at 5:41 PM on April 14, 2018 [22 favorites]

Outside of the box suggestion: Do either of you have a family member who needs a place to live and who likes to cook? I'm thinking, ideally, someone's aunt, grandma, cousin, who could move in. Because it sounds like you want hearty homecooked meals to magically appear and the only way that would ever happen is if you still lived with parents or if my grandmother came back to life and moved in with you and got free reign over the kitchen. It's not a totally unheard of thing - tons of people love living in larger family groups and there's absolutely great reasons in addition to food delegation to live with people other than your spouse. It might be that the tiny nuclear family approach doesn't work for you guys, and that there's something that would work for the benefit of more than just you, plus get you fed.
posted by Mizu at 5:45 PM on April 14, 2018 [3 favorites]

Is going to the grocery store part of the problem? Is that daunting?

If this is it, I cook almost every day and I rely heavily on Instacart because the monthly fee for unlimited free deliveries of order > $35 is way cheaper in gas and time (as a single person who also does all the cleaning, laundry, etc) than going to the market all the time. There are some things I do really want to pick out myself, but as it turns out surprisingly few.
posted by snuffleupagus at 5:57 PM on April 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

What about freezer meals. I like the "Don't Panic, Dinner' s in the Freezer" books. You can dedicate a Sunday afternoon to cooking and have actual dinners for about a month. The recipes are all designed to be family-friendly, so not too many 'exotic' flavors.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 6:25 PM on April 14, 2018

My local facebook marketplace has a LOT of people cooking meals for people that seem to be what you are looking for, home cooked solid food - often from specific cuisines, but not always. They're cheap, and designed for this kind of situation? Setting up ongoing orders would probably help with the mental load, as well as price.
posted by geek anachronism at 6:48 PM on April 14, 2018 [6 favorites]

I eat a lot of finger foods: cheese, crackers, salami, smoked fish, olives, bread, hummus, peanut butter, roasted peppers, grapes, berries, a few pieces of chocolate.

I love the Trader Joe’s prepared soups and stews.

Honestly, when I am just eating alone or preparing food only for myself this is a lot easier. I give myself allowance to just eat olives and salami and bread and cheese for dinner until I’m full a few times a week. I never do this when I am living with a partner, and when I am it is one of the things I miss, the ability to just... heat up a bowl of oatmeal or have a weird spread of finger foods and call it a night. Perhaps you and your husband could do a few nights where you “fend for yourself” and give yourself the permission to just eat whatever you want without having to worry about feeding everyone in the house, if that works for you.
posted by sockermom at 8:02 PM on April 14, 2018 [6 favorites]

I’m sorry this very hard for you. It sounds like you are trying to tackle a “we” problem with just “me”. Your husband needs to come up with more than the one solution that he knows is financially unavailable (in other words, not a solution and, hey, the problem is yours again!). You need a break from thinking about this.

There sounds like some disordered thinking happening and I am not sure if focusing on the symptoms (where to shop etc) will really help the root problem. Do you have access to therapy? Are they able to help? With my husband’s disordered thinking about food we actually brought one of the five foods he was able to eat to the appointments to eat in front of his therapist addition to talking about cooking etc. His disordered thinking REALLY affected me and I suspect something like this is also happening to you. Had he made any progress the next step was to get him in the kitchen while I cooked, then a shopping trip together, then help washing dishes, then help with cooking prep, and so on.

Meanwhile, this all sounds very exhausting for you. Can you go on “strike” from being responsible for food and just do the bare minimum to keep yourself alive? Your husband is an adult who can feed himself. If he is unable to feed himself without you doing all buying/ cooking/ preparing/ serving then I think you need to look at in-patient care to get him stabilised. Being unable to feed oneself (which means more than just bringing a fork to your mouth) is pretty much the baseline for “needs urgent intervention”. If he actually does not have a problem doing all the work around meal preparation than he can help get some decent food in you (I suspect if this was an option it would have already happened though). If he can not care for himself in this basic manner due to illness (whether physical or mental is irrelevant) then you are NOT helping by being a band-aid enabler; he clearly would need professional help and you are stopping him from getting that help by just helping *enough*. If he has a chronic illness like diabetes that has specific dietary needs than he can meet with a dietician etc - a professional, not you. He needs to take ownership of this problem while you are figuring out your own relationship with food without him triangulating it.

Meanwhile, make a timetable of your day and decide when meal times are (breakfast, lunch, dinner) and what you will eat for the week and just do that. Nothing fancy and repeat the same food all the time. During a busy period of my life (fourth child just born, one FT job, one PT job, and FT school, lol) on Monday’s I bought a bag of tortillas, a bag of salad with dressing and a bag of sliced Swiss cheese. Viola, lunch of a salad wrap for five days in a row with no thought and minimal cost. For dinner, can you arrange to meet with friends? Whether at their house (omg, people love to feed their friends) or at a healthy restaurant, you need to start associating food with love and good times and friends - NOT stress and disappointment. If you feel you are lacking in friends, what about looking for evening volunteer opportunities that feed their volunteers for working around the dinner hour? Social causes and political organizations are two I am most familiar with. On nights you are staying in, have dinner for one, quietly, at the table with real plates and cutlery. I’m not religious, but being grateful and saying something nice about yourself in a prayer-like form is a good idea “thank you to me for earning the money to buy this food, thank you to me for being able to choose something healthy to eat, thank you to the universe for one nice thing that happened today, thank you to my husband for clearing the table earlier so I can eat” etc.

You’ve got this. You can get through this rough patch, but it WILL take a bit of work to get past it.
posted by saucysault at 8:18 PM on April 14, 2018 [12 favorites]

A grocery store with a good prepared foods section (including deli and salad bar) is a lifesaver.

But circle back around to people cooking for you! This is a thing that a fair number of stay-at-home moms do on a casual basis -- you might be able to find them on Craigslist, or Nextdoor, or Facebook as someone above mentioned. It's often not super-gourmet -- a lot of sheetpan meals, "dump meals" (frozen food in a ziploc that you dump in the crockpot), or casseroles/lasagnas sorts of things, but they're heat-and-eat for the most part. It's generally a "family meal," so not restaurant style or flavors but home cooking focused. They generally don't charge a whole lot; they're not pros, they're just batch-cooking on a Sunday and are willing to batch-cook for strangers for a small profit that helps pay for their kids' activities or whatever. You might even be able to advertise for this on those sites above.

(Another option might be a high school or college student who's either studying culinary arts or who's a good cook and earning money for school, who'd jump at the chance to shop and cook for you according to your needs, for less than a pro chef. Especially if you'd give references or letters of recommendation. Another great enticement for college students is "you can use my washing machine and dryer while you're here." A college student who shops, comes over, and cooks your week's meals while doing their laundry, for a less-than-chef monetary fee? That's a bargain!)

I don't know what the Bay Area version of this is, but in the Midwest we have Schwan's, which basically comes around weekly and delivers you frozen food. It predates the internet and is a lot cheaper than internetty versions. It's cheaper and less work than things like Blue Apron; it's a bit more expensive than your grocery's prepared foods. It's pretty meat-and-potatoes.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:39 PM on April 14, 2018 [4 favorites]

I hate to cook, and have the same issues as you, re Grubhub and restaurants. We need to eat healthier than that.

What I have done is to learn to use healthier convenience foods. Reduced-sodium canned stuff. Pre-chopped fresh vegetables. Bagged salads. Frozen steam-in-bag veggies. Microwave-pouch rice. It helps that we eat vegetarian at home so a lot of the stuff I fix cooks up pretty fast (and no tedious chopping up hamburger with a spatula until your arm falls off bullshit.)

I spent some time finding recipes that are super-simple and fast to prepare, which also meet our health requirements for the most part. Currently I have about 10 dinner recipes I regularly make. And when I cook something, I always make enough for 2-3 meals.

So, for example my chili recipe requires dumping a few cans into a pot on the stove, and in 15 minutes I've got dinner for 3 days. Two days we eat a bowl of chili, the third day I'll dump some rice into whatever is left, add some taco seasoning and throw it on a salad with some olives and grape tomatoes for a taco salad.

If you plan 2 meals a week on that basis, you can work it so you're not eating the same thing three nights in a row, yet you've got 5-6 meals out of two short barely-cooking sessions.

Before we started eating veg, my go-to barely cooking plan hinged upon sticking some meat in the oven on a foil-covered cookie sheet (smoked sausage, chicken leg quarters, pork tenderloin, etc), steaming a bag of frozen veg in the microwave and then microwaving a couple of sweet potatoes or baked potatoes.

If you have Peapod in your area, you can save a list of your favorite food items such that you can go in and edit the list quickly to add or subtract anything you don't need this time around before you place your order.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 8:44 PM on April 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

When prep time is limited and clean-up is a drag, here are some options. Sometimes the plan is come in... wash hands... grab something quick to eat... toss the garbage and head back to the construction site (it's summer, my husband is building another house, same-old, same-old....)
This assumes that you have shelf space and a refrigerator and are okay with some slicing and assembly. Running water is nice, too.

Boiled eggs (I prefer my own to getting them from Wally World). I currently boil a dozen or so at home and keep them in the fridge at the job site. Add ingredients for egg salad, tuna salad, chicken salad, use as a protein for chef salad. I've gotten lazy and just add the deviled egg ingredients and chopped eggs together.

Canned or foil pack tuna, rotisserie chicken (we immediately pack the deboned leftovers in Ziploc bags or they are not eaten later), freezer aisle salmon that can be microwaved. Sometimes I make salmon or mackerel patties, enough to serve cold the next day, but that's cooking at home.

An assortment of cheeses and breads, plus condiments for a sandwich or snack platter. Shaved ham or turkey from the deli. Freezer aisle patties (hamburger, chicken) that can be microwaved.

Canned soups, stews, chili with hot dogs.

Microwaved veggie pouches. Microwave a small red potato or sweet potato. Canned or frozen veggies.

Fresh veggies and fruits.

I've cut out my old standby carbs (pasta, rice, oatmeal, stuffing mix, instant potatoes) but are you okay with making some of the microwave versions?

I take it you're not interested in baking veggies or meats. I'm still trying to figure out the induction countertop burner at the job site. I have a little convection oven, but limited space for more gadgets.

I appreciate that you aren't going on the bag/box/candy wrapper meal plan.

Let's just pretend the ice cream in the job site fridge doesn't exist.
posted by TrishaU at 8:49 PM on April 14, 2018

I am someone who generally loves to cook but who will go through long stretches of time where, for reasons, cooking just isn't going to happen and I can't bear the thought (or expense) of another night of takeout or delivery. When I'm in one of those stretches, I rely on a combination of cold appetizer type foods (cheese, crackers, prepared meats, olives, pickles, boiled eggs) and throwing together salads from bagged and prepped ingredients. Sometimes supplemented with a rotisserie chicken from the one store that does them well. A microwave-"baked" potato if I'm feeling fancy. If I liked sandwiches, I'd probably include sandwiches in there, too.
posted by rhiannonstone at 11:35 PM on April 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

So many answers, I'll just throw this out in case it helps (???): when we had our kitchen renovated by an (ahem) slow contractor, we had to eat out or use just our refrigerator and microwave for all meals in a very crowded dining room. I found Costco frozen to be a big help. Quality is consistent, a wide variety of types of food, and you can write down the times that work best with your microwave after the initial attempts. To this day I still like the Tyson Chicken Nuggets, Frozen Cherries, Chicken Egg Rolls, Ultimate Fish Sticks. Also for toaster there's their "sleeves" of raisin bagels. Also there's their cases of yogurts of various types.

On preview I see that artful also mentioned Costco. I hope you find a solution that works for you.
posted by forthright at 8:42 AM on April 15, 2018

Other items from our CostCo that could be of interest that my husband and I eat when we can't muster up the effort, prices and availability may vary:

* They have a rotisserie chicken for $5. This is cheaper than buying an actual chicken and roasting it yourself.
* They sell an entire pizza for $10, it will last us for a couple days.
* They have these packs of 15 tamales for $16ish. And they'll sell me 3 pounds of sour cream for about $5. You cook them by microwaving them in a damp paper towel for a couple of minutes, and they are very good and filling. My husband doesn't tend to eat these but I really like them. These are good for a month in the fridge.
* My husband likes the chicken burrito bowls, though they are not my style.
* They sell these Terra Firma quiches that bake up in 25 or so minutes and can be frozen to last even longer if need be but they last so long you probably won't have to.
* In general they have a whole bunch of refrigerated prepped food that is pretty accessible and good.

Another thing my husband and I do when we need to eat and ugh why is it so much work is to just take some tortillas, put on a smear of refried beans on half, add some shredded cheddar on top of the beans, fold over and pan fry each side with a bit of oil for a couple minutes. Simple but very satisfying. Can also add sour cream. And if you have leftover rotisserie chicken, can add some shreds of that.
posted by foxfirefey at 11:46 AM on April 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

If you can’t persuade your taste buds to cooperate with the prepared grocery store foods idea, I think a little cooking might have to happen. Luckily, the food you like (which is also the food I like) lends itself to distributed labour.

You could do a roast on Sunday (get a big piece of gorgeous beef, lamb, pork - for like 6 people). Roast it in the oven so it gets nice and seared and juicy. Not a loooot of work in roasting compared to other methods (and I’m with you on the slow cooker) - you basically prep it, throw it in the oven and relax for a few hours. Then portion it off and freeze that in Tupperware (with the lovely jus) for use later in the week/month. (I think meat does ok in the freezer, unlike most veg/sides.) Within a month, you’ll have a good selection in your freezer.

Weekdays, all you’d have to worry about are the starches and sides, and those can be done quickly. Go for pasta, Uncle Ben’s jasmine rice (done in 10 minutes), or get some baby potatoes, boil for 30 mins. (Mash them and add a little butter and parsley if you’re feeling energetic.) Bag of salad on the side - or microwave some asparagus or broccoli- and you’re good.

Some days, you could do restaurant food, or maybe a roasted chicken from the store if that’s not inedible. 2nd Whole Foods’ hot counter, too.
posted by cotton dress sock at 12:22 PM on April 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

BTW, the taste thing you and your husband are experiencing is classic Anhedonia; different foods/cooks can't solve a medical issue.
posted by saucysault at 7:48 PM on April 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

Perhaps MealPal could work for you? It's restaurant food that you pick up but for cheaper and you pay in advance per month... like, instead of my average lunch being $10-$15, it averages out to $6.50 or something for lunch. They also have a dinner option, which I haven't tried, but it's at least cheaper than GrubHub for every meal.
posted by Grither at 6:41 AM on April 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

What are you doing for food now, if none of the things on your list? What are you eating while you try to figure this out?
posted by a fiendish thingy at 6:45 AM on April 16, 2018

You can't be as picky about taste if the level of effort you are willing to put in is 0 and you aren't willing to outsource the effort. You can eat peanut butter out of a jar and take a multivitamin and not fare to poorly.

A more realistic option - if you both work out of the house, you don't need to eat at home. Just get big lunches, save some and eat it later. You still need to do something for weekends, but there's no need to force family dinner on yourselves if it's not working.
posted by WeekendJen at 10:59 AM on April 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

I have a friend who hates to cook. She eats crackers and things (cheese, hummus, baby carrots) for dinner most nights. Sandwiches are a similar option.

If you like meat and potatoes, here is something I do for dinner when I want something that feels like a hearty home-cooked meal but isn't a lot of work. Buy:
- A rotisserie chicken
- One of those packages of microwaveable potatoes. These are available from the store brands of many supermarkets, and they are usually in the produce or deli section. It's a microwaveable container of new potatoes that comes with a spice packet. You microwave the potatoes for a few minutes and then combine them with the spice packet and some butter or oil. They are really good!
- A bag of salad greens+dressing or some frozen broccoli florets. The frozen broccoli can be microwaved at the same time as the potatoes. You can even toss them with the same butter/seasonings if you want!

Once I get home, all I have to do is microwave the potatoes, and either dress the salad or microwave the broccoli. It is 100% not cooking but it's a reasonably healthy meal and gives me leftovers too.

If you don't want chicken, you could also buy steaks or some other protein and pan-fry them. Yes, that's cooking, but it's only cooking one thing, and everything else is taken care of.

Oh, and if grocery shopping just seems like too much, look into grocery delivery. Amazon Prime Now delivers a lot of things if you don't want to have to plan ahead.
posted by lunasol at 2:08 PM on April 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I appreciate all the helpful advice. To answer the question, we’re eating the Munchery boxes, pizza and Starbucks sandwiches. I know it sounds like anhedonia but I don’t think it is, cause some stuff tastes good. We just don’t have the energy to get it. Convenience and frozen foods are just inedibly gross. I’m going to give Gobble a try next.
posted by bleep at 8:17 PM on April 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

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