I read an interesting article this week from the NYTimes called Is Junk Food Really Cheaper? where Mark Bittman questions some commonly held beliefs about why so many Americans choose fast “junk” food over “real” food. He defines “real food” as pretty much anything that can be cooked at home. He debunks three myths (it’s not cheaper, it is accessible, and the time is there) before he gets to what he believes is the core issue “The core problem is that cooking is defined as work, and fast food is both a pleasure and a crutch…Their reaction is, ‘Let me enjoy what I want to eat, and stop telling me what to do.’ And it’s one of the few things that less well-off people have: they don’t have to cook.”
Hmmm…that got me thinking.
Further down he says, “Real cultural changes are needed to turn this around. Somehow, no-nonsense cooking and eating — roasting a chicken, making a grilled cheese sandwich, scrambling an egg, tossing a salad — must become popular again, and valued not just by hipsters in Brooklyn or locavores in Berkeley. The smart campaign is not to get McDonald’s to serve better food but to get people to see cooking as a joy rather than a burden, or at least as part of a normal life.”
So here’s the thing, I’ve never hated cooking. Yes, there are varying degrees of work that go into putting together a meal, but for me the challenge has not been the actual “work” of cooking (I mean, really, crockpot cooking is pretty much no work at all). The challenge for me has ALWAYS been the planning ahead. The grocery shopping and the skill of meal planning.
It gets me every time! Usually the first three days after I grocery shop are good, but after that it’s scrounge-and-search around here. Jason and I definitely noticed a major up-surge in our fast-food intake during the month that I was working about four nights a week. I wasn’t planning ahead at all. But even during normal times I feel like I’m just winging it too much!
It’s time to be a big girl and see if I can figure this out.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how to do a meal-plan that will really work for our family. I can’t assign a protein to each day. That just doesn’t work for me. I can’t assign a “style” of food to each day (Mexican night, Italian night etc..). That doesn’t work for me either. So I’m going to try to assign a “cooking method” to each day of the week and see if that helps me shop and plan better.
Here’s my current plan:
Mon– BBQ, oven or pressure cooker
Thurs– one pot meals or casserole
Fri– leftovers or fish
Sat– eat out (or something easy like soup/sandwich or prepared food from Trader Joes)
Sun– fun food (hot dogs, hamburgers, tacos, homemade pizza)
I’m hoping that this gives me some flexibility in terms of what meat happens to be on sale that week and also allows for lots of different “types” of foods. Stir-fry, chili, spaghetti and soup are all one pot meals. I can even do soup for a crockpot day if I wanted. I can use leftover meat for enchiladas or chicken/mushroom pasta. Feeling lofty and optimistic here, maybe it’ll even get me finding new recipes for these categories! Maaaaybe. If anything it’ll help me re-remember the stuff I already know how to make.
Mostly though, I’m hoping this structure works for us and I can start relying on it for planning instead of always being totally lost by Thursday. This would make a big difference in my ability to be a better cook for my family.
Wooden spoons crossed!
Have a wonderful day!