Okay, I tried to dive straight into Post No. 2, but I just can’t.
Thank you so much: for the likes, shares, comments, reads, and whatever else transpired with this page yesterday. Laying in bed last night (listening to my beagle’s hypnotic snoring), I tried to think of another time in my life when I started something new and felt so much support from “my people.”
You know what? Aside from our wedding day, I couldn’t.
My dance teacher from my middle school days is probably twitching somewhere right now because I’ve now used the “c word” (can’t, in case you just got really confused and thought inappropriate thoughts) twice in less than 100 words. I should probably go do some push-ups. But I digress. The point is, I am feeling both lucky and grateful for all the love. The poem “The Author to Her Book” took on a very real meaning for me yesterday, and it’s a relief that, as I let this “child” of mine out into the world, she was received with a warm embrace. 🙂
Much better. Now I can start in earnest!
Isn’t the title of this post just the age-old question? What’s for dinner? I remember this phrase as one of those things we probably didn’t want to ask my mom growing up, especially if she’d had a very long day (which was basically every day). However, my dad, being the human garbage disposal that he is (I come by it honestly), just couldn’t help calling up my mother and asking this very question on his super-awesome Nokia (think this) most days. Hilarity would ensue as we listened to my mom’s sarcastic end of the exchange while happily downing a bag of McDonald’s greasy goodness on the way to dance/gymnastics/soccer/piano/baseball/insert activity here. Side note: I swear that blue Dodge Caravan still smelled like french fries when I inherited it on my sixteenth birthday.
When Mike and I went through premarital counseling last summer, our priest told us that deciding what’s for dinner is one of the biggest sources of arguments and general frustration in people’s marriages. Can you believe that? We laughed. Then we stopped. Then we thought, well, there’s probably something to that. We’re still new to this being married thing, and there’s clearly a learning curve. Apparently little things can become really, really big things!
Here’s our threefold plan of attack against the dinnertime blues:
- Weekly Meal Planning and Shopping
- The Meal Jar
- Cave to Cravings
Step No. 1, Weekly Meal Planning and Shopping, is probably the least glamorous of the three, but we find it the most essential. Pretty much every Saturday morning, Mike coerces me into sitting with him in the office, thumbing through a stack of cookbooks, and knocking out a weekly meal plan and shopping list. Full disclosure: in case you couldn’t tell, this is not my favorite weekly activity (I hide it so well, don’t I?). In the moment, it flat-out sucks to be an indecisive person having to make so many decisions in one sitting, not to mention the fact that it’s basically impossible to know what will sound good on an evening four nights away. Right?! Well, maybe, but only a little bit. In reality, our jobs are decision-making frenzies, and when a crazy Thursday night rolls around, we’re basically just happy to come home from our classrooms with a plan! It’s truly a beautiful thing. Here are the files we use:
Once we fill out our trusty planner and hit “Print”, the rest of this is fairly smooth sailing. We bust out a week’s worth of shopping at Fred Meyer, unpack our groceries, clip the plan to the fridge, and dinner just happens for the rest of the week!
As you can imagine, we rarely eat out; since the meals are already planned and purchased (and we typically rely on the leftovers for the next day’s lunch), it honestly feels pretty wasteful. With that being said, sometimes we just have “those days” — you know, when you come home and all your best-laid plans just don’t feel worth carrying out because you’re just so gosh dang pooped? If you never feel this way, please share your secret with me immediately. Assuming that most of you know what I’m talking about, this is where The Meal Jar comes in!
We have Father Tim to thank for this idea. On our kitchen table, we keep a glass jar full of about 15-20 little squares of card stock. On each square, we wrote a super-quick, super-easy, little-to-no-effort dinner idea. Some of my favorites include breakfast for dinner, fried egg sandwiches, big salad, and a whole litany of my favorite take-out options (Dickey’s BBQ, Jimmy John’s, Noodle Express, etc.). No energy to cook? Draw a card from the meal jar. Don’t think that option sounds yummy? Draw again! Although we consult the meal jar only rarely, it’s freeing just to have the decision-free backup plan if we need it. Organization really does make our lives happier.
Of course, as with any system, I believe balance, flexibility, and realism are key. Cue the super-rebellious option: Cave to Cravings. Sometimes it’s Tuesday, but the Friday dinner sounds so much tastier. Live it up, you rebel, you! Crazier yet, sometimes we jump ship altogether. Case in point: last night it was cold and rainy, Mike wasn’t feeling so great, and we both really wanted chicken noodle soup. So that’s what we ate, gosh dang it! I know — we are such crazy kids. Basically, we are married to each other, not our meal plan, and the point is to simplify, not imprison. Zapping the joy of cooking is just about the last thing these foodies would want for you! Don’t forget: planning can lead to freedom, but…
Okay, time to go snag a piece of leftover pie from Pi Day.
Before I go…
How do you meal plan? What systems do you have in place that make dinnertime a little bit simpler?