Meal Planning Futility


My hat goes off to not only the couponing moms, but the ones who spend painstaking hours planning, shopping, and creating weekly family dinners. On occasion, I find myself thinking over a random meal–usually in the form of a casserole–and do sometimes turn the mental list into fruition. About once, sometimes twice a week, I cook a meal. And, if I’m honest, it is never planned ahead of time.

Sad, isn’t it?

Over the course of the last three weeks, I set my mind to cooking again. I love to shop. I love to cook. What I hate is to sit around, planning meals for the week. First, they rarely happen on the day I plan them. Second, leftovers push the schedule back. So then I am left with too much food, not enough days to eat it in, and a cupboard brimming over.

But, when I do rush to the store–last minute–to grab ingredients for a meal, at least I know I’ll be in the mood to eat it. Craving chicken and broccoli on ham and green bean night is just terrible. And, because I happen to like my cooking, I always think my meals are delicious. Occasionally disastrous, but good.

Unplanned, tasty disasters.

So, I haphazardly plan a meal, cook it, and then we sit down to eat. It’s then that I remember why I refuse to cook, and frustration ensues. When I plan a meal, I tend to forget one, little, tiny problem. A tiny, green-eyed, stubborn-willed problem.

Tiny Tot. Picky eater doesn’t begin to describe his stubborn attitude when given the chance to try something new. Or eat, in general. I mean, the meals I cook are not a new recipe I pulled from a hat, and thrust upon him without considering his preferences. He has eaten each and every meal I have cooked before, and loved each bite! I mean, trust me. This momma doesn’t cook fancy, and rarely opts for something that takes brain power to make.

Insert Mommy irritation here.

Tiny Tot and I sit down to eat. I eat. I cajole. I remind him that his food is getting cold. And still, his meal sits on the table, untouched. My tiny human sits there, nose in the air, like I am trying to force feed him cat food from a jar.

On second thought, he would probably eat the cat food.

So, being his mommy, and a tired one at that, I wheedle the only way I know how, with the words of Yo, Gabba Gabba.

“Son, son, please. Try it; you’ll like it!”

When that doesn’t work, I revert to bargaining, “You only have to take one bite. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to eat it.”

This, of course, is a gamble, and I know it. On the off chance that I hear, “Mmm, this is nummy,” my tiny human may still only take three bites and declare himself, “all done!”

Not only that, my tiny person is prone to announcing, “I all done, Mommy. I want candy.”

Healthy food loses, junk food wins. Hands down. No contest. For a mother who does not eat candy regularly, and eats healthy, this is a problem.

My counter goes much like every mother who bites her tongue at a non-eating child, “If you want candy, you’re not all done. Eat your food.”

Generally, this awards me three more bites, enough to know that my child won’t waste away in starvation during the night. Still, I am left with a plateful of untouched food, and a 9×13 dish of leftovers. The amount of food going to waste in my home is alarming.

When I make a meal, I cook like I have a family of six. I don’t. It’s just that my brain refuses to catch onto reality. My family is a tiny unit consisting of two people.


I could sit and try to eat my way through each meal, alone, but what I really need to try is scaling back. Unfortunately, the way I scale back is by rarely planning extravagant meals, and by cooking only when necessary. Like when I think the tiny one will actually eat what I put on his plate.

Therefore, we go back to the staple basics. Tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches. Peanut butter and jelly with a piece of fruit. Macaroni and cheese with broccoli. Meatloaf with green beans and mashed potatoes. Turkey hot dogs with applesauce and cheese. These are the tried and true meals that I know my son will eat.

The other problem, aside from my child’s lack of eating anything he deems yucky, is my own lack of creativity. I admit this freely. If it has more than six ingredients, if an egg has to be beaten, if flour has to be sifted, or if there are multiple steps, I am probably not touching the recipe.


But, every once in a while, I decide to gather up a load of magazines, and flip through the recipes to see what I can find. I find a lot; the meals look delicious. Things are glazed, smoked, whipped, and sprinkled. It almost makes me want to make the beautiful recipe on the page, until I start reading up on the process.

Let’s see … third ingredient, capers. Capers? Is that a pea? I own peas.

Hmmm … a shallot glaze? How do you make a glaze? What the heck is a shallot? That’s like a pearl onion, right? Ew. I hate pearl onions. Pass.

Spices include: mint, thyme, and fresh-picked herbs? Pass.

A side dish of quinoa? Keen-wah. Keen-wah. Keeeeeen-wah. Who the heck thought up that name? No, thanks.

No, seriously, my mind goes through a nixing process with new recipes. I am difficult. I won’t even cook bacon in my house because the smell lingers for days. When I cook, I want my old staples. Lasagna, homemade spaghetti sauce, meatloaf, chili, chicken with broccoli, chicken with mushrooms, chicken pot pie. Things that I can make in abundant supply.

Basically, food that either gets frozen, or goes to waste.

All kidding aside, I envy the women who have their act together. The ones who sit down, clip coupons, write out a detailed list, and execute a timed, successful meal that their children dutifully eat. Really, I do. Perhaps one day it will even happen for me.

Like, the day I become Super Mom, or my son drops his food-hating stage.

Until then, bring on the PB&J!

No comments posted on December 5, 2012 in Parenting, Winging It, Mom Style

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