How many of you don’t mind cooking meals but absolutely hate coming up with ideas of what to cook each day? If you are like me, this is the worst part of providing meals. My husband is no help in this area either. I ask “What sounds good for dinners this week?,” and his usual response is “I don’t care, whatever you want.” Not helpful.
I read an article recently that stated that most of us eat the same ten meals over and over. Thinking back to what we eat each day, I realized that is probably true. But, if I am sitting down to do my weekly meal planning, or walking through the grocery store trying to come up with what to have for dinner that night, I find myself at a total loss for ideas. Either I can’t think of anything at that moment, or nothing sounds good. I can walk around a store for half an hour hoping something catches my eye. I get frustrated at the waste of time.
Realizing that we eat these same meals over and over, but that at any one time when I most need the information I can’t come up with a single one gave me an idea. I decided to make a physical list of our most common meals. I keep this list in two places. One is on the front of the refrigerator; the other is on my phone.
My list includes four to five easy, fast, healthy meals that I can put together when I get home from work with little or no effort. Three or four that are a bit more time-consuming for nights when I have more time, and the last two are a bit fancier, maybe for a lovely weekend meal with friends.
Having this list does not mean that these are the only meals I cook. If I happen to think of something else that sounds good, or come across a recipe that I find interesting and want to try, or on the rare occasion when my husband had an idea about what to have for dinner, I will undoubtedly deviate. I will modify the list at times. We may get tired of a particular meal. Maybe something we have tried recently makes a big splash. My summer list may have more fresh vegetables and salads. My winter list more soups and stews. I may put more of the easy meals on in the seasons when our weather is such that we can spend more time biking. Winter has more comfort foods. Summer more cold dishes.
Your list may have more or less than ten. You can structure it however you want. Maybe all your meals are easy and fast. Perhaps you and your family’s evenings are always filled with activities that don’t allow you time to prepare much, but you want to have better options than pre-packaged microwave blah. You may have all the time in the world to cook meals, but just have trouble thinking of what to prepare. The trick here is not the list itself, but having the list available to you when you need it; when planning your weekly meals before going to the store or when at the grocery store and trying to come with a dinner that fits your needs that night.
Sometimes it is the little things that add up to bring us down. Finding ways to make these little things just a bit easier is vital. When our minds get bogged down in trying to figure out the minute details of everyday sustainability, we have no space left for the things that matter. Every hour spent in planning meals or at the grocery store is time lost from doing the things we love. I would much rather use that space and time for the big stuff, or the fun stuff, or the comforting stuff. We all have to take care of the mundane. We just don’t need the mundane to take over us.