Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

Food: shopping, cooking, and eating

A while back I posted that I was taking small steps to turn certain daily tasks that I have handled for years, back over to my sz son. While he has been stable for a good while now, the negative symptoms still prevail. Primarily the no self direction, no motivation, isolation and being easily confused.
The first thing I did that has been very successful is I turned over the meds. Taking them twice daily and keeping his plastic pill case full correctly for the week. I’ve been fortunate that he has remained compliant in that regard. I also have him make his own medical, dental and eye appointments. He hates talking on the phone so that’s a big deal.
The next thing I have wanted him to do is make more decisions about his own food. What to buy, what to cook and to have him cook more often. This seems to be a really big stumbling block. When left alone in a store with the task of buying items to make a meal, you would think I left him on a deserted island with a paper clip and a rubber band and said now build a shopping mall. I’ve tried just getting him started, like ok what do you want to make tonight? … no reply…then I’m suggesting, what about tacos? Or chilli? Or … let’s make a list…Etc… He just shuts down, and I go back to cooking.
Today he announced- I’m taking a month off of all milk and dairy products. I asked why? He said because I want to. I said but why?, do they make you feel bad?, do they upset your stomach? He said no not at all, I love them, I’m just not having any for a month.
For him that means no cereal, no milk in his coffee, no yogurt, cottage cheese, grilled cheese etc etc…all his favorites. So I don’t know what made him take this crusade, it’s not his first and likely won’t be his last.
I wonder if it is his own unique way of “handling” his food for a time in his mind. Seems like self imposed punishment in a way…he insists it’s just something he wants to do.
I told him if that’s what he wanted to do, fine by me. (not an argument worthy action in my book)
I try all the time to walk him through cooking a simple recipe, choosing recipe items, etc… There’s just no spark, no connection with the actions, and sometimes it just looks like I’m confusing him and adding unnecessary stress.
I won’t give up trying. I dream of a day when he can shop for and plan meals and cook for himself. Whether that dream will ever come true is anybody’s guess.


It seems like he is progressing toward regaining independence and control over his lifestyle. That’s a really good thing!
I wouldn’t sweat his new plan to avoid dairy. As a matter of fact, I went about six months on a reduced bread and no dairy diet that really helped sculpt my mid-section. Or maybe his diet is a method of practicing exerting discipline and self-control. Either way, it probably won’t be a bad thing.

There is probably a difference to him between managing meds and buying groceries.
Meds are a set cost, you order the same things at the same intervals and prep containers with the same contents with very rare changes.
Groceries fluctuate in cost and specific items. It requires planning meals up to a week in advance and forgetting some key items can be really frustrating to anyone.

Silence when asking for simple answers could be a result of a lot of different kinds of internal things for him. It’s possible that he might simply not want to think about it, or that he doesn’t feel like his input makes any difference (possibly because his tastes might change by the time the meal is made). I’m doing a lot of supposing here, but there are always reasons.

I think it’s a really good thing that you’ve decided not to sweat the small stuff. Keep encouraging him to do things that increase his quality of life and his independence. And keep reassuring him that he’s doing a good job of it.

My DX’d brother is working on his own list of things to master these days. In a similar way, there are unspoken, puzzling adversions to some regular daily tasks. But, as he has slowly gained more control over his day-to-day events, he has started thinking more about how he wants his life to be and how to make it happen.
Living on his own has helped him beyond simply acknowledging that he needs a routine, but also that he gets to decide what tasks that routine will be made of. Beneficial or detremental to his own happiness, it’s his own choices.

It sounds like you and your son are making progress. Keep working at it!

1 Like

Yes, how wonderful that you are trying to give him more responsibility and independence! Even when the person does not want it, I think we have to encourage it. A professional involved with our son’s care insists that our son can do more than he lets on. It is hard to imagine in his confused state of mind and disordered behavior, but I have to embrace the truth in it. The challenge is to find those areas that “click”. And I think some of this can vary from day to day.

Perhaps your son heard or read that dairy can be a problematic food for some people? It will not hurt him to remove dairy from his diet if you can find other healthy things for him to eat. If he is willing to try that, it might be that he would be eventually willing to try some other dietary or supplemental treatments that have possible helps for persons with SZ. If it was me, I would probably leave an article lying in a conspicuous place where he might read it! But not to overwhelm. One thing at a time. I read somewhere that they have a hard time making choices. Our natural idea is that giving them a choice is a good thing. But I’m not sure that is always true. Might writing down some things, like a menu and a grocery list be helpful? Or maybe a simple menu for each day and he could choose which day for each menu? Or a reward for completing shopping, or cooking? Just some ideas!

1 Like

I’d love for him to read anything, I have managed to get him to read labels, but books and magazines just pile up untouched. He says this dairy thing is for just one month and funny thing he has already planned what dairy he wants to buy next month (I have to laugh) it is a querk to say the least. Baby steps all the way. :slight_smile:

1 Like

Hi Catherine, Our first step with this is my family member with sz as prep person while I also do prep and cook, after having shopped, sometimes together. We go through everything step by step and it’s one instruction at a time. It’s actually pretty fun and we make meals we both like.

Zero planning and shopping alone are possible at this time, but we do cook together.

And there is no way my family member could manage meds or make and keep appointments at this time, so…


Hi Catherine. My first thought is that you possibly could break down the overwhelming job of planning and shopping to just one simple step, for now. Like @hereandhere said, maybe just food prep.

With my daughter, we simply go to the store, I tell her what I am looking for “first let’s get lunch meat at the deli” and I order what I want, then ask her if she wants any lunch meat for her refrigerator (in her room). Then I say, “next I need juice” and get what I want and then ask her what she wants to put in the cart. Then repeat with vegetables, etc.

However, she announced recently that she is on a “liquid diet” only, (smoothies, juice, water, etc.) I don’t know where that came from… when we went to the store, she put Kambucha in the cart when we went down the fruit and fruit juice aisle. Wow, I was surprised.

Maybe you could show your son how to use a crock pot to cook a roast for instance: roast, water, potatoes, salt & pepper, put on the lid, turn it on, come back 8 hours later… If he liked what you showed him, then he could next learn to shop for a roast and potatoes, etc…

I think you are doing great at getting your son more independent.


I actually hadn’t thought about the crock pot, I don’t have one yet but that’s a good idea.

I think a crock pot is the simplest form of cooking…

1 Like

I found if I make some things ahead and leave them in the fridge, dinner becomes a lot easier for him to manage. I made a huge pot of chili the other night which took care of a couple of days and then I made some veggie macaroni salad and so tonight he is baking some Gorton’s beer battered fish to go with the salad. Leaves me free to make what I want. :grin:


Hmmm, yes, I used to make up big batches and then pre-serve it into Tupperware containers in the fridge for all of us to eat. I also used to pass my daughter several days worth of containers if she would take them. I should start doing that again, and take care of several days’ dinners at a time. Thank you, Catherine. Chili sounds good.

Glad that your son was baking tonight! I think that is a big step forward, learning the oven. My daughter is not interested or capable of that. There are wonderful frozen dinner items he could choose from next time you take him shopping.

1 Like

My son stopped eating dairy also and became a vegan. There is material on the internet that says dairy can be bad for people with schizophrenia. (I’m new here, can schizophrenia be abbreviated SCZ?)

1 Like

“sz” is okay. I’m okay with eliminating dairy --I just try to encourage my son to understand why he chooses to do something…to think critically about it…instead of just “because” …not sure he can do it but I keep encouraging anyway…

My family member has come up with some unusual diets and unusual ways to meet basic daily needs. To me, if it’s not harmful, I’m fine with it, though I won’t go too far out of my budget or make efforts I might resent to support the ideas.

When staring at the sun was being considered as an alternative to eating food, I had to change that plan.


I have found that what my daughter says she will/will not eat is not necessarily what she eats or will not eat. I cook, knock on the door, tell her it’s dinner, she opens the door and takes the food. I continued to serve dinner the same even when she announced her “liquid diet”, and she took the meals from me. She rarely asks me what it is on the plate. She does go out on her own and gets food for the fridge in her room, walking to a nearby neighborhood store, but it is mostly packaged snack items or drinks. The only thing she seems to take out of my big kitchen fridge (when myself and her step father are out of the house) is ice cream or sliced hard salami. Tonight I boiled eggs to give her a dozen cooked eggs for her fridge in her room.

1 Like

That’s great that your son cooks.

My dad cooks sometimes, and he’ll even cook for me. For some reason, he will only taste the food I cook when I offer it to him. Most of the time, he eats things like instant ramen noodles and sandwiches. He is overweight and won’t go to a doctor until he’s sick. I worry about his health sometimes.

1 Like

Glad that your dad cooks sometimes. I understand being worried about his health. Unfortunately, gaining weight is a common problem, and taking it off is also a problem for most older adults. My daughter makes instant ramen also. She won’t see a doctor about anything, so I have no idea if she is healthy or not, but she is probably underweight.