Reducing decisions in the kitchen

market_vegetables_carrots_artichokes_herbs_sage_thyme_radish-715590.jpg!dI am grateful for a week off from food responsibilities (having cooked in advance and left Thom well supplied while I travel). I always find summer to be difficult regarding meals – our big freezer is off, we’ve got unpredictable garden produce, it’s hot and I won’t use the oven, and every week is different due to travel and other activities, some of which arise at the last minute. After 6 weeks of summer, I feel like I’ve completely forgotten what we usually eat.

But this year, it’s not just that. I’ve been trying for years to have Thom and Mari take more of a role in at least planning meals, and I am tired of shouldering this myself. My efforts to grow, purchase, and prepare healthy foods feel largely unappreciated, with both Thom and Mari reaching for the few packaged foods in the house rather than the cornucopia of fruits and vegetables. Cooking used to be a big creative outlet for me, but for months I’ve just had little interest in putting my energy there, and my audience is not particularly appreciative of creative meals and would probably be happy if I would just make homemade pizza every night. Although I don’t intend to do that, I think I will try rotating basic, quick meals, such as

Monday          Black bean burritos and raw veg/salad, or tacos with lentil filling
Tuesday         Curry with chickpeas and greens (extra rice for Thom’s lunches)
Wednesday   A noodle dish (pad Thai, soba, or lo mein) with tofu and veg
Thursday       Leftovers or salmon with potatoes and veg
Friday             Pizza and raw veg/salad
Saturday        Veggie burgers, soup, or spanakopita casserole
Sunday           Chili or pasta in some form (leftovers for Mari’s lunches)

This accommodates all their favorites and leaves plenty of latitude for adding random ingredients and using seasonal vegetables (eggplant, for instance, can hide sufficiently for them in the burritos, curry, veggie burgers, or chili). There are enough nights featuring legumes and greens, those markers of a longevity-friendly diet, to make me happy, and enough nights featuring bread and pasta to keep them happy. My last-minute emergency meal of veg-filled omelet doesn’t appear, so that can fill in occasionally when needed. All of these will work around late evenings at work or school, being friendly to microwave reheating and allowing prep that can be done the night before. And the weekend meals would be acceptable to most of Mari’s friends should we happen to have unplanned guests.

The weekend meals are intentionally basic.  While some families traditionally have a fancier meal on the weekends, I know that I will be getting groceries and preparing breakfast and lunch foods for the coming week.

Meal planning for the indefinite future: check. We’ll try it out in the coming month and optimize before my return to work.  I’m glad to have a plan for reducing mental energy  in the kitchen.

How do you reduce time and mental energy on household routines?

2 thoughts on “Reducing decisions in the kitchen

  1. Hi Ilse, I love this. I understand about food feeling onerous … and I DO have an active partner in food management. This is a graceful and generous way to give yourself what you need and still honor your family. Perhaps I’ll try something similar! It would also help with planning food for weight loss (my focus for the next 3 months). I’ll post if I do.


    1. Definitely share what works for you! I’m still trying to burn off this winter’s extra pounds, too. The extra long gray, cold period was difficult in many ways…


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