12 Tricks for Feeding Yourself When Depression Makes Cooking Feel Impossible

When you live with depression, often everyday tasks like eating multiple meals a day can feel at best, difficult, at worst, exhausting. When you’re struggling to get out of bed, fighting ruminating thoughts and perhaps experiencing a change in appetite, feeding yourself may be one of the hardest things to do. 

If this sounds like you, know you aren’t alone. 

We wanted to know what tips and tricks people with depression use to feed themselves when they’re struggling, so we asked our mental health community to share their “hacks” for days depression makes it feel impossible to cook.

Here’s what they had to say:

1. Meal Prepping on “Good” Days

“Prep meals! When you’re having a great day, make a bunch of meals and freeze them. Then when you’re having a hard day, you don’t have to try to think up what you should have for supper.” — Raelyn W.

“Planned leftovers. Pack them up in a container and stick them in the freezer. Having a couple on hand at all times is so handy. I’m a former restaurant cook who had to quit due to mental health issues, so I can also batch cook and freeze stuff to microwave easily.” — James R.

I pre-make smoothies with fresh and frozen fruits and Greek yogurt and keep them in Mason jars in the fridge. All I have to do is pour some into a cup.” — Samantha H.

2. Making “Dump” Recipes

“I’ve recently discovered ‘dump recipes.’ Some people use the term to describe anything fairly easy, but real dump recipes are literally recipes with no prep work. You just dump everything into a slow cooker or baking dish.” — Anastasia A.

“Crockpot meals. They only require a little bit of prep, then you dump everything in, turn it on, and let it go until it’s done. Makes for an easy clean-up and you don’t have to continuously stand there watching it. The recipes usually make enough food for a few days, so you’re set for a bit.” — Meredith M.

3. Drinking Meal Replacement Drinks

Protein or meal replacement shakes! You don’t even have to put them in a blender — most times you can just shake in the powder and milk/water (I’ll add veggies/fruit if I’m feeling up to it). It’s easy and actually filling while getting nutrients.” — Brooke B.

“When my depression gets really bad, I oftentimes cannot handle many solid foods. I’ll drink Ensure so I know I’m getting my vitamins and make myself a baked potato. The potato has a texture I can handle and is easy to prepare.” — Skye G.

4. Using a Grocery Delivery Service

“Grocery delivery services because sometimes the grocery store is too overwhelming and overstimulating. This way I can plan ahead for meals and know what to make in advance and make sure we have the ingredients. Sometimes just making the decision on what to eat feels impossible, so this helps.” — Michelle N.

5. Having Snacks on Hand

“Always having quick grab and go snacks. I never feel like cooking when I’m having a bad day so something like cereal, a Nutrigrain bar and fruit are easy snacks I can just grab and eat. It just gets a little something in my system.” — Helen R.

“I keep fiber and protein snack bars beside my bed. Sometimes when I can’t even get out of bed, I at least have something to keep me from starving and the fiber will encourage me to get up to use the restroom.” — Jamie R.

6. Buying Pre-Packaged Salads

“Prepackaged foods in general are a godsend, particularly salads since most convenience food is unhealthy.” — Chelsie B.

“Since I struggle to eat anything on the bad days (won’t cook or prepare food) I like pre-packaged salads. They are healthy and I don’t have to do anything except peel back the plastic and it’s ready to be eaten. “ — Scarlett L.

7. Adding Protein or Vitamin Supplements to Food

“I keep a stash of instant ramen, some tasteless protein powder, an electric kettle and a large coffee mug by my computer. It’s simple enough that I can manage on even my worst days. I’m always making tea, so I never worry about the kettle being empty, but if it is, I’ve got a pitcher of water ready to fill it up again. Turn on the kettle. While the water boils, break the noodles in half and dump in the mug with a scoop of the protein powder and flavor packet. Pour the water over the noodles until the cup is almost full. Cover the mug (I use an upside-down coaster) and wait five or so minutes. I try and do something while the noodles are ‘cooking,’ even if it’s just washing my face. Then the soup is ready to eat. The heat from the soup is comforting when I’m not having a good day. The protein is just an added bonus, not exactly necessary, but it doesn’t hurt anything to make ramen a little healthy.” — Jacky S.

Chia seeds or flax meal mixed into other foods can help provide vitamins and nutrients. It helps you feel fuller sooner and for longer, but with a low carb count that’s forgiving of stress eating.” — Bethany I.

8. Stocking Up on Store-Bought Frozen Meals

“Lean Cuisine meals that I can eat while watching YouTube or Netflix.” — Nichole J.

“Pizza is my go-to. I always have a frozen pizza put away for emergency. If I’m having a day I can’t leave my bed, room or house, I know I can put a pizza in the oven and I will eat on it all day. If I have had a bad day at work, I’ll grab a pizza so I can have leftovers from it. I do try to get something with lots of veggies and as healthy as I can find it.” — Caty P.

9. Ordering Takeout

I try to treat myself or be kind to myself by getting fast food or takeout, without any remorse or regret about how unhealthy it might be, on days that are really bad, if I can even get out of bed or function. But chips and dip have always been an easy comfort food for me. And toaster struedels.” — Brooklynn N.

“For ‘rougher days,’ I have a petty cash amount on a debit card for delivery meals from local restaurants that I keep on auto-dial.” — Hannah O.

10. Making Easy Sandwiches

“Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and turkey sandwiches.” — Jaime F.

11. Using Disposable Dishes and Utensils to Cut Down on Dishes

Anything that comes in a can that I can heat up in the microwave (Beefaroni, Spagetti-O’s, cup of noodles, etc.) I also have a special collection of paper plates/bowls and plastic utensils if I feel like I won’t do dishes for a few days. It’s a pretty good set up if you ask me.” — Kaitlyn C.

12. Eating “Instant” Foods

I keep plenty of non-perishable, instant-cook meal items on hand that take 90 seconds to three minutes in the microwave.” — Hannah O.

“Any kind of hot porridge. There are lots of instant porridge if I am too depressed… or instant smashed potatoes.” — Susan N.

What would you add?

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Depression

What I Need as a Mother Struggling With Depression

I’m a mom of a child with a disability struggling with depression, and now I have pre-cancer cells. The mom of a child with a disability label is no secret. If you know our family but don’t know that Hannah has Down syndrome, I’ll assume you’ve been blinded by her awesomeness for the last two and [...]
Woman looking out window lost in thought rumination

Depression and Rumination: How It Works and How to Beat It

When I first found out I had depression, I downloaded and read quite a few Kindle books on other people’s journeys. There were some good ones and some horrendous ones, but one of the little ones I read really stuck with me. It was called “Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It” by Kamal [...]
woman looking relaxed and happy in park

My New Year’s Resolution as a Person With Depression and Borderline Personality Disorder

Welcome to the new year! If you made a New Year’s resolution, I wish you success on your path. If you didn’t, that’s OK too. I’m not much for resolutions myself, but this year I did make an important one: not to beat myself up too much about my struggle with depression and borderline personality [...]
young woman in cosplay as Belle from beauty and the beast and Bellatrix from Harry Potter

How Nerd Culture Can Help With Mental Illness

The greatest gift on this green earth is a happy nerd. When I see someone who doesn’t claim to have it all together following their heart and having a ton of fun doing it, my heart swells and I want to cry. Renaissance fairs are my favorite, but I’ll settle for a good local video [...]