Weeknight Cooking

17 Easy, Inspiring Meals That Are Busting Us Out of Our Cooking Rut

Cooking fatigue is real and it's here—but we've figured out how to get rid of it.

January 22, 2021

By now, you've probably heard about (if not, begun to experience...) what folks are calling the pandemic wall. Nearly a year into this new state of living we're collectively experiencing, there's plenty to fret about—and frankly, without aiming to go full-on Eeyore, it's exhausting. But because cereal for dinner gets old after the third night straight (trust me...I'm speaking from experience), I turned to the Food52 team to find out what's keeping them eating well and saving their energy these days.

Below, 17 dinners that require only a handful of ingredients and minimal active cooking, like speedy grits, bubbly bakes, or done-in-a-flash fish. Let us know what you're cooking these days—we gladly welcome suggestions.

Breakfast for Dinner (or Whenever)

"Maybe it’s oversaturated at this point, but we’re enjoying brainstorming all of the flavor and ingredient combos for the quadadilla. (P.S.: Breakfast quadadillas are highly recommended.)" —Brian Mahoney, Director of People & Culture

"I've been cooking a lot out of Eden Grinshpan's book Eating Out Loud. I have been playing a lot with her classic shakshuka by adding things like eggplant, delicata squash, or roasted potatoes. It's such a comfort dish without a ton of effort." —Angela Bartolotta, Drop Ship Supply Chain Manager

High heat browns the eggs’ exterior and crisps up the cheddar, while the kimchi helps keep the insides nice and runny. If it’s been a looong time since lunch, feel free to add another egg in there.

Soups & Stews Galore

The stew starts simple: oil, onion, lentils, tomato paste, curry powder, salt, water. And the process involves chopping one vegetable, pouring some stuff in a pot, and stirring every so often. Really, that’s it.

"The more tired I get, the more I want to eat soup for every meal—I riff on this pasta fazool (real ones know) with staples I have on hand. Since I never remember to start dinner on time, I make it on the stove, not the slow-cooker. The full recipe is great, but even with just an onion or a few cloves of garlic, broth and tomatoes, a can of whatever beans I have hanging around, and half a box of short pasta, it's a one-pot meal I can slurp down (and clean up) with very little energy." —Rebecca Firkser, Assigning Editor

"This speedy chicken meatball soup has been my new weekly go-to." —Shannon Muldoon, Director of Studio52

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“My go to comfort food is omurice. You almost always have everything you need in the pantry. Rice? Check, just need to steam it. Ketchup? Check. Onions? Yup. Frozen or canned veggies (peas, corn, carrots) or deli meat? Check. Eggs? Check. Just steam the rice, fry it up with the veggies and meats you have on hand and make an egg "pancake" or omelette/omu and put it on top. Smear some more ketchup and a dash of curry powder on top if you have it and are feeling fancy. Comfort in a bowl.”
— Wesley D.

Taking Shannon's lead, here are a couple meatball soups short on prep and full of verve.

"I've been making this hearty, satisfying, ultra-savory recipe, but with Beyond Sausage Sweet Italian for a plant-based version!" —Dina Losito, B2B Business Associate

Chicken (& Fish!)

"I roast chicken all the time but I took it up a notch the other week with this version. I don't usually brine my chicken because it seemed pretty fussy, but turns out it wasn't at all, and made for phenomenal flavor. I'm so glad I tried this recipe—it was great!" —Alex Egan, Senior SEO Strategist

"I usually only cook vegetarian at home and leave meat to the professionals, but this easy-to-follow recipe has helped me expand the offerings at my very exclusive restaurant. I did it with chicken thighs instead of breasts and tomato puree instead of fresh tomato, and served it with crema, avocado, and lime in tacos. (But when I was being lazy with leftovers, it was just as good with crispy tortilla chips.)" —Mollie Doherty, Senior Account Manager

This “slow” roasted technique takes 30 minutes, tops, and results in a beautifully tender, evenly cooked, not-one-bit-dry piece of fish.

Carbs of All Kinds

"Mac and cheese is my ultimate comfort food, so lately, we've done many variations on this classic. Adding pulled pork, spiced and fresh veggies, different cheeses, portioning into ramekins and baked with a butter bread crust, mixing in the last of a ragu or butter chicken recipe...it's always been delicious." —Kaleigh Embree

Macaroni, make way for tater tots. For this dish, you smother your tots in cheese sauce, then broil until bubbly and golden.

"When my cravings land on Indian food, which is on a pretty reliable basis, but I can't fathom mincing onions, garlic, and ginger (which is almost always necessary) let alone concocting a whole curry base and then currying something, I turn to yogurt rice. It's satisfying and nourishing, has all the flavors I wanted, and is a great bed for an egg or any kind of leftover vegetable." —Jess Kapadia, Senior Editor

“This is a dinner you can fish out of your bare kitchen and cook in 10 minutes that will make you feel whole, with nothing more than modestly proportioned dry pasta, butter, chicken stock, pepper, and lemon.” Kristen Miglore, Founding Editor & Creative Director of Genius

"Miso and mushrooms make the dreamiest, umami-est duo in this silky-creamy pasta I’ve been making on repeat since December. Each ingredient requires a little bit of care (sauté the mushrooms in batches for the best sear; whip the miso with butter before adding to the sauce), but it really does come together in 30 minutes or less. The first time I made it, I finished my serving in about five minutes and immediately went for seconds—it’s that good/I promise it'll get you out of any pasta rut.

"Also, unrelated—but OMG, EmilyC's sweet potato stew is absolutely incredible." —Erin Alexander, Brand Partnerships Editor

And speaking of sweet potato—creamy cubes of the beloved root veg, plus a hit of tangy goat (or other!) cheese get a little help from chickpeas to make a flavorful, belly-filling topping to go on toast. But, in my opinion, every food is a toast topping-to-be.

What do you make when you’re too tired to cook? Share some ideas in the comments.
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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • HalfPint
  • HolisticDiva
  • Shelley Sorani
    Shelley Sorani
  • Wesley Dee
    Wesley Dee
  • Annie I
    Annie I
Brinda is the Director of Content at Food52, where she oversees all site content across Food52 and Home52. She likes chewy Neapolitan pizza, stinky cheese of all sorts, and tahini-flavored anything. Brinda lives in Brooklyn with 18 plants and at least one foster pup (sometimes more). Find her at @brindayesterday on Twitter and Instagram.


HalfPint January 25, 2021
My mother use to take hard boiled eggs and mash them with fish sauce. Then mixture was then mixed with hot cooked rice. I often cook the eggs in the same pot (of rice cooker) along with the rice. This is my lazy dinner and comfort food when I'm too tired to cook.
HolisticDiva April 1, 2018
Hmmmm, I didn’t realize the request was for critiques and/or criticisms of what someone chooses to make when they don’t want to cook...anyHEW, when I don’t feel like cooking per se, my go to is a bullseye; thick slice of sourdough, egg fried in a little unfiltered extra virgin olive oil AND cultured butter (gasp!) until crisp but yolk deliciously soft. I top it with a generous amount of spicy Hungarian paprika, applewood smoked sea salt and eat it with an avocado and slices of deliciously sweet heirloom tomatoes! Damn! Think I’ll make one now! 😘
Shelley S. March 26, 2018
With all due respect, Wesley, it sounds dreadful. Ketchup is bad for you. So is too much fried food and canned veggies have loads of preservatives. My suggestion? Make risotto (rice) or a fresh veggie omelette (eggs).
Mike April 7, 2021
"with all due respect" no one asked for your suggestion. Ketchup is delicious, fried food is delicious, and canned vegetables work great in that sort of dish. Get over yourself
Wesley D. March 26, 2018
My go to comfort food is omurice. You almost always have everything you need in the pantry. Rice? Check, just need to steam it. Ketchup? Check. Onions? Yup. Frozen or canned veggies (peas, corn, carrots) or deli meat? Check. Eggs? Check.

Just steam the rice, fry it up with the veggies and meats you have on hand and make an egg "pancake" or omelette/omu and put it on top.

Smear some more ketchup and a dash of curry powder on top if you have it and are feeling fancy. Comfort in a bowl.
Shelley S. March 15, 2018
Great beautifully photographed article and maybe even helpful if it just so happens you have kimchi, scamorza, tater tots, grits or tahini in your pantry.
scoot87501 January 30, 2021
I can only assume from your comments that you came on here to attack people-how very charming. Perhaps you can find someplace else to vent.
Danielle January 31, 2021
Agreed Scoot. I also have a limited diet but I still keep 3 of the 5 things listed above in my house all the time.
Annie I. March 15, 2018
Poached eggs! love them with a nice grind of fresh pepper, a bit of proscuitto or speck and some mushed avocado on toast. Yum!
HalfPint March 13, 2018
When I'm too tired, I make cooked spaghetti tossed with a little salted butter and some Maggi seasoning sauce (or soy sauce). This, btw, is my toddler's favorite meal. She asks for it every day.
HomeCookinCrazy March 12, 2018
When I'm too tired and craving comfort food, I make steak and eggs :)!
I start by putting frozen tater tots in the oven.
Season thin cut ribeye or strip steak with salt + pepper.
Add 2 tbsp olive oil + 2 tbsp butter to cast iron skillet. Turn burner to med-high heat. When oil+butter begin to sizzle, place steak in skillet and sear for 1-2 minutes on each side to desired doneness. Plate with juices.
Add 1 tbsp butter to same skillet. Fry 2 eggs over easy or Sunny side up. Add eggs on top of steak, season to taste. Add tater tots to plate. YUMMMMMY
debplusthree February 1, 2021
Sounds delicious!
Pete F. March 12, 2018
what do i make when i am too tired to cook? reservations ! (ba-dumdum !)
Jill R. January 31, 2021
Now that we're in 2021 - reservations turn into Covid-take-out.