Last year, one of the goals I made was to "try a new recipe every month." I was sort of successful, the excitement dying off by about March. So, come to think of it, I wasn't very successful.
I wish I could say that the reason I made that goal was to improve myself or expand my skill set but the real reason is that meals in our house had become a stressful state of affairs and in some ways, they still are. Everything is generally fine. The kids are healthy. They're ok but not great eaters, Nora the only one who is truly difficult, although difficult in a weird way: she loves all fruits, most vegetables and a moderate handful of healthy standards that she can't get enough of, like tomatoes and mozzarella (with good olive oil), shrimp, guacamole, sourdough bread and olives. You might think this is charming, and I am here to tell you it is only charming when you're at a mediterranean or Mexican restaurant.
I have a general and - I believe - reasonable philosophy about food, which is that you put food on the table, and the child can eat it, or not, but that is the meal and there is not another option. In theory this works out fine, but the problem is that just getting the food prepared and on the table was taking up so much energy while also not getting done in an efficient manner. No upside. The reason for this is planning. I wasn't planning our meals because I never put aside the few moments necessary to do so, and also because meal planning is lame.
But like many lame things, it helps. SO MUCH. I'd imagine it helps any individual, couple or family, but with three little kids and weeks that look like ours - often with every night a presenting different scenario in terms of various activities, and in terms of which child is ready to blow a gasket - planning out what we are going to eat for dinner makes everything much, much easier. Because when the evening arrives, and the kids are very urgently telling me something about "SpongeBob" and exactly how many they are going to get to watch and when, and also screaming that they are hungry, HUNNNGGGRRYYYYY! BUT NOT FOR APPLE SLICES! and the dog is carrying somebody's shoe around in her mouth (commence more screaming) I don't have to make a decision about dinner, only to find that I can't even make that decision because we don't have the ingridients necessary to do so. Which is very upsetting and is when I start thinking about ordering pizza (which, let's be clear, occurs a lot regardless of planning).
What happens on a good week - a week in which I am prepared, like this one - is that I look at the dry erase board and am all, "HEY problem solved. That's what we are eating, and the ingridients are all here in this kitchen, because I shopped for them ahead of time, and THAT is because I planned the living hell out of this week!"*
* at least as far as dinner is concerned, otherwise: no
(yes, it's true, I am taking an adult ballet class, post upcoming)
This week, like many, we got a Blue Apron delivery - three dinners that J and I make for ourselves on nights when the kids eat before us - and there was one night I was out, so we had to work with those specifics. It took literally ten minutes of work to plan out what we'd eat and put the required items on a shopping list. And voila, it is Wednesday and no one has had toast for dinner yet this week. Yet. This week.