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How To Cook When You Have Funky Executive Function

Cooking with ADHD is a whole new world

ADHD symptoms affect every area of our lives, and the kitchen is no different. Though it isn’t an issue for every person with ADHD, many of us find ADHD cooking to be – dare I say it?- distasteful.

What are the specific challenges we face with ADHD and cooking?

Tell me if any of these kitchen scenarios sound familiar:

  • Inattentiveness – You’re in the middle of making a dish, bringing things to a boil. Since a watched pot never boils anyway, you let your mind slip away into a recap of the day. You’re right in the middle of imagining a witty retort that you SHOULD have said to a coworker when you smell the burning. You sigh, swear, throw it out and get ready to start over.
  • Distractibility – Picture this: the phone rings, you pick up and have a long conversation. You’re enjoying talking to your friend and think when you’re done it will probably be about time to pull dinner out of the oven. You’re giggling over an old memory with your pal when suddenly it occurs to you that the smell of your dinner baking should be in the air, but it isn’t. You go to the kitchen and see that you’ve left the oven off. Time to order a pizza.
  • Forgetfulness – You’ve really been looking forward to trying out a new recipe, so you add the ingredients to your shopping list. You get home, unpack everything, and get started making your meal. You reach for the next ingredient in the recipe only to find it is the one thing that you forgot. Looks like you’re making something else tonight.

Grocery shopping with ADHD is ALSO a challenge

As anyone with ADHD can tell you, the grocery store can sometimes feel like hell.  In order to get through the grocery store, we have to avoid a bunch of pitfalls. The grocery store is full of overstimulation. All of the items seem to call out to us, asking us to try them, taste them, and bring them home. Or they remind us of something that sends us off the beaten path. Impulsivity can lead us to spend more money in the grocery store than we planned, or grab something that we normally wouldn’t eat just to try it. Do you see how much of a headache this can become? Living with ADHD presents a lot of challenges. If you need some extra help with that, read my Ultimate ADHD Guide. Now back to the cooking stuff.

What’s the big deal?

Ok, so lots of people don’t cook and they manage, right? So what if you have some challenges with cooking, you can always door dash it right? Here’s why we need to get cooking right. If you don’t perfect cooking with ADHD you’re going to get stuck relying on delivery service. I knew that I had gone too far when I realized the delivery driver knew my voice. Folks, that just isn’t necessary. Plus, unless you live in a metropolitan area you can’t even get a wide range of delivery options. Just to recap, delivery is:

  • Expensive
  • Unhealthy
  • Not that tasty
  • Hours aren’t great so you can’t get food

What we do instead of cooking:

  • Rely on delivery services
  • Eat out every night
  • Or we starve

Neither one of these options is going to work, folks. That means it is critical for us to get a handle on these cooking challenges so we can have some food to eat that won’t cost us a fortune or ruin our health. Trust me, this is not just a challenge I’m putting out there because I’m so much better at it. Like everything else, I get better or worse at this depending on what is happening in my life. Of course, sometimes even our best laid plans in the kitchen can go wrong. Like this mishap I had one night:

A kitchen tragedy of epic proportions. Of course, the dogs were really happy.

How do I fix this problem?

You can guarantee that if I am working on a big project that takes me out of the house for any length of time routinely that I am going to fall into the order out trap and get away from cooking. But if we’re going to do it, we need some things to make it easier, right? So here are a few cooking methods, recipe locators and product recommendations to help you get the job done a bit more smoothly.

Methods that can make cooking with ADHD a bit easier

Cooking requires more attention than some of us have on a consistent basis, so one of the things I love to do is find techniques that will allow me to eat without consuming too much of my energy. That means I don’t have a ton of time to spend on chopping, dicing and complicated cooking techniques that are best left to the professionals. I want quick, tasty, and to get back to doing whatever I was doing before I had to hit the kitchen. Here’s what I’ve found works best for me.

I LOVE this chicken and rice one-pot meal. Yes, this is my kitchen.

One-pot meals – On Pinterest, they’re better known as “dump dinners” things that people can throw in a pot and run away. They don’t require a ton of time or a ton of thought. Dump and go, that’s the best way for me. Soup– I love love love making soups. There is something comforting about them to me. I love to make soup or chili because then I have a meal that is one pot that I can eat all week long. It’s like a dump meal, but since it is soup people feel like you put more effort into it, which is awesome.

A one-sheet meal by yours truly!

One sheet meals – These are the cousin of the one-pot meal, and I love them. I love foods with different textures so sometimes the soups and the one pots get a little boring. I want something with some crisp to it. Then I can chop up some veggies, season up some meat, toss it all on a baking sheet and run away. What more could a woman ask for?? I couldn’t ask for more than that at all.

Products that can make cooking with ADHD a bit easier

Egg timer – yes, I know that this is super basic but don’t pretend that you don’t occasionally dismiss the timer on your smartphone before you realize you need it. An egg timer is external and it is LOUD. Get yourself an egg timer! Crockpot -The Crockpot is every Pinterest mom’s dream device, and with good reason. The crockpot allows you to throw everything into the pot, give it a stir, and go live! It really can be that simple if we let it. I have strayed away from crockpot cooking but I PROMISE it is going back on the list. Cooking with ADHD means I’ll need something I can set and forget. Instant Pot I am ordering mine on Amazon at the recommendation of at least 5 ADHD individuals who swore to me I would never go back. I believe them. Just like the crockpot, the instant pot is there to do the cooking without burning food and driving you to drink. A cookbook with foods you REALLY like – Remember, stimulation is key to making your ADHD brain do your bidding. So if you can find a way to make the task very exciting or rewarding, you have much better odds of getting it done. Try this one out by my buddy David Murphy. You’ve probably heard of him. He’s the guy who made wine in his Instant pot.

Places I Find Recipes

This is the part where it is supposed to get REALLY creative and I tell you all about how I come up with meals on my own? Whomp whomp. Not going to happen, guys. I barely have the attention span to stay in the room to finish the meal, much less invent my own. Unless it is something I have been making for years sans recipe (like spaghetti, for instance), I find something I love and I make it according to the directions I find there. Here are a few places I’ve found that make recipes I like.

  • Tasty – Tasty is awesome for me because it comes with videos. Sometimes I run across a recipe and I have no clue what they’re talking about until they give it to me in video form. Some people don’t need that, I don’t mind saying that I do. They have great variety and I love the recipes I find there.
  • Genius KitchenGenius Kitchen (now apparently is another favorite of mine because I love the reviews they write down in the recipes. The people over there are always so colorful. They are certain to tell you what they absolutely loved or couldn’t stand about a recipe. Sometimes they’re really judgy and that makes me giggle. You’ll like it there.
  • Pinterest – Everybody knows that you can find all the stuff to cook over at Pinterest. Collecting things on Pinterest is digital hoarding, so we’ve all got a board filled with things we have planned to cook that we’re never actually going to cook. But seriously, find something on Pinterest and cook it. It’s going to go well. While you’re over there, follow the Black Girl, Lost Keys Pinterest page. Hell, I’ll even make a recipe board for the occasion.

A super helpful service I’ve been skeptical of trying one of the meal delivery services. I always figured it wouldn’t be helpful to me. Then I found Dinnerly. Dinnerly delivers the meals directly to my door, I can modify the recipes to make sure I’m only getting what I like, and they are SO EASY to make. And they make me look like an amazing cook, even though I’m a moderately decent cook. I mean, just LOOK at this spinach and potato gnocchi they sent me! Try Dinnerly and let me know how you like it!

There’s no easy way to fix the problem of cooking with ADHD

There are no easy solutions to this one. You’re going to need to experiment to come up with what works best for you. For instance, I don’t hate cooking as much as I hate shopping. And I don’t hate either when I’m not under a crunch for time and pressure to get it done. The point is we have to be able to get the food we need to survive and we need to be able to get it without stressing ourselves out and costing ourselves a fortune. Give yourself some time, soon you’ll be able to conquer cooking with ADHD.

Read more from Black Girl, Lost Keys

100 Things You Can Eat When Your Brain Won’t Let You Cook

The ADHD Related Eye Condition You’ve Never Heard Of

ADHD And Time

Finding The Right Professional For ADHD Therapy

What You Need To Know About Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria

Living with a disorder like ADHD touches every part of our lives, including in the kitchen. Here's why, and how you can make meals with less melodrama.
Living with a disorder like ADHD touches every part of our lives, including in the kitchen. Here's why, and how you can make meals with less melodrama.
Living with a disorder like ADHD touches every part of our lives, including in the kitchen. Here's why, and how you can make meals with less melodrama.
Living with a disorder like ADHD touches every part of our lives, including in the kitchen. Here's why, and how you can make meals with less melodrama.

18 thoughts on “How To Cook When You Have Funky Executive Function

  1. Do you have any solutions for the grocery store dilemmas? I am always overstimulated and get increasingly frustrated and anxious the longer I am in a grocery store. And yes, I always forget something crucial despite making lists on paper and on my phone. I’ve come to rely on ordering my groceries through the Shipt app.

    1. I think you’ve found a very solid solution in the grocery order. It costs a little more but it also makes things a bit easier than overstimulating yourself in the store

  2. YESYESYES to all of these!!! I never realized that my cooking strategies were ADHD hacks until reading this post. If you don’t mind, I’ll add a few more…

    1. The Paprika app. I import recipes into it, then from within the app I create my grocery list. Meaning, I can automatically add every ingredient from a recipe to my shopping list right when I decide to make the recipe. Then I know I’m not leaving anything out, and I check things off as I make my way through the supermarket. Bonus: One of the settings allows you to hide items after they’re checked, so the list view is always clean looking and only contains the things you still need.

    2. Plan to fail. Any time I make a big dump meal, as soon as it’s done I divide it into individual containers. That way (a) I don’t overeat, which I have a tendency to space out and do, and (b) I can put one or two of the leftover containers in the freezer right away. That way I have a backup plan for those weeks when I just haven’t gotten around to figuring out what to eat. I can just pull something out of the freezer and microwave it. (Bonus points if I remember to stick it in the fridge before I leave for work.)

    3. Buy produce pre-chopped whenever possible. At my local supermarket it’s a little more expensive this way, but not by much. This helps me get all the ingredients into the pot a lot faster and removes one of my barriers to entry (I hate chopping vegetables and will sometimes put off cooking because of it).

    4. Measure all spices first. This one is a recent hack for me. I pull a small bowl out of the cabinet and measure all the spices into it before I start doing anything else. It’s deeply gratifying once I get to the step in the recipe where the spices are added to already be done with all the measuring, and just dump the complete contents of a small bowl into the big pot.

    I’m blushing a little… I don’t usually comment on blogs. I’m so excited to think all these things I used to think I did out of laziness might be helpful to someone. I hope they are.

    1. Nope we are not lazy at all, we are super creative and we are allowed to work in a way that is off the beaten path. So glad you came by!

  3. I have a microwave bacon cooker and a microwave egg poacher. I use them every day for breakfast. It relieves the “oh &*#@, I left it on the heat!” problem because the microwave oven shuts off when the timer on it finishes.

    I am also quite clumsy (possible Asperger’s co-morbidity with my ADHD has been suggested) which makes using a knife to chop vegetables … exciting. Nobody wants severed fingers in their finger food. Mandoline slicers are a (literal) lifesaver here.

    1. Yesssss! Way to work with yourself and not against yourself

  4. Love this article, Rene. I can so relate (and have written about it as well). Glad to see someone else addressing this really REALLY difficult problem for those of us with ADHD.

    1. Terry!!! It is such a pleasure to see you here. You’re a champion. Thank you so much for your kind words.

      1. Thanks, Rene´- I’m really enjoying your posts and you’re doing a great job. Would you be interested in writing a blog/article for my newsletter someday? I’d love to have you guest blog. Seems we are on the same page with women/ADHD but you have the added perspective of the black woman’s experience- something people sorely need to hear and understand. I tried to send you a private message but your contact form seems to be down (mine isn’t working, either- must be a WordPress glitch).

        1. Hey Terry! Sorry for the delayed response- I would absolutely be honored to write an article, and I am fixing that silly contact form as we speak, it is driving me a bit mad. You’re welcome to email me anytime at

          1. Great, Rene’! I’ll email you and good luck with that contact form. If you figure out a fix, please share because my team can’t seem to fix mine.

  5. Thank you for this! I absolutely HATE cooking and only recently realized that a huge part of it is the stress of trying to organize everything so it all finishes cooking at the same time that we plan to eat. And then there’s the challenge of *when* to eat!! Me, my husband and our daughter all have ADD / ADHD and everyone is hungry for different things at different times of the day! Not unusual for me to make three individual simple dinners rather than one big one. Took years for me to let go of my guilt for not having a family dinner every night!

    1. I am so glad it was helpful for you! If ADHD teaches us nothing else, it is that we have to get really flexible about our definition of the “right” way to do things. If things are being done, I’m not really picky about the solution anymore.

  6. This is so relatable! Thank you for sharing these. I really want to try more one-pot/sheet meals now that I know better how to find them online.
    My current strategy is mostly repetition. I’ve found that I don’t really get tired of food, so I just eat the same food over and over. I know it would drive most people crazy, but for me it’s a relief to rely on habit instead of planning ahead, following a set of instructions, and remembering and keeping track of everything. It even makes the grocery store trips less overwhelming when I have a clear routine. Most of the time I make one topping at a time: some friend tofu, sausage, roasted veggies, a sauce, whatever. I keep each one in a separate container in the fridge. Then when it comes time to prepare a meal, I just cook some noodles or rice quickly and put whatever I have on top of them. I can mix up the toppings a little so that there’s variety while still having a super consistent routine. I usually clean my kitchen while it’s cooking so that I’m right there if it starts to sizzle or smell funny, and sometimes if my kitchen’s already clean I exercise in there just to have something to keep me busy while I wait.

    1. Hey Lee!

      Sorry for the late reply, I am so glad the article was helpful to you though. Exercising while you cook is absolutely stinking brilliant.

  7. This calls to mind the first and only time my husband attempted to use the broiler. It ended with him dumping a flaming mess of baguette rounds into the sink and me emptying an entire container of flour onto it to extinguish it while our then-preschool-age kiddo ran away screaming in terror.

    He had no idea how much of an impact a few seconds could make. I told him the broiler was not for the faint of heart — or the easily distracted ?

    I will use the broiler but damn do I set a lot of timers when I do. It’s a menace to people with ADHD!

    1. A broiler is a dangerous place!!! LOL Thank goodness you two thought quickly and got it put out

  8. Anything that has a built-in timer work for me. Worse still seems like everyone I know who could help with cooking has ADHD. Depending on the day I am the best or worst cook you ever met.

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