The Plan

Too sick to go to school, but too healthy to stay home.

After the last meal-related post a friend told me that she wanted to eat more vegetables and she wanted to feed her family better but she just didn’t know how. She thought she should take a cooking class. She seemed to think that at the end of the day she should be able to come home and take whatever staples, leftovers, condiments and spices were available and throw something together.

Dude, it’s not like you’re on Top Chef. There’s this place with tables and shelves and aisles filled with food. All kinds of food. It’s called a supermarket or a grocery store or a co-op. Whatever. Go there.

Here’s what I told her to do:

  1. Get a few good cookbooks, favorite recipe website or cooking magazine.
  2. Over the weekend sit down with them and your calendar.
  3. Choose 3 recipes with lots of veggies. Don’t skimp on the butter, olive oil, cheese, whatever it takes to make those veggies taste good.
  4. Make a grocery list and plan to buy enough food to feed your family for at least two nights. If it’s freezable (like soup or stew), cook extra extra and put it in a glass canning jar in the freezer.
  5. Look at your schedule and plan what nights you’ll cook and what nights you’ll have leftovers.
  6. Go to the store or order groceries online and have them delivered.
  7. Cook. Eat. Sleep.

Now, lest you think I’m a total, perfect, know-it-all blogger, I’m going to take a minute to tell you all the things I don’t do well. I do not clean bathtubs. When Paul used my bathroom while we were dating and accidentally looked in my shower, he was horrified. He says now that it was a jungle filled with monkeys swinging on vines. I barely keep my few houseplants alive (just ask my mother). I do not knit, quilt, sew or scrapbook. I do not make any pretty or thoughtful presents for my friends and family when they are ill or have babies. There are many other things I do not do well, but I think that’s enough for today. Oh, and I’m totally tone deaf.

I know some of you are organizational marvels who quilt and bake and have bags of homemade meatballs and soups in the freezer just waiting to be eaten. You know who you are. Will you share some of your tips?

And even if you aren’t an organizational marvel what are your favorite tricks for getting food on the table? (Did I REALLY just write that last sentence? I sincerely apologize. When did I step off the set of Mad Men? If I’m going to have to cook this dinner, someone better bring me a high-ball full of bourbon and a cigarette, pronto!).

11 thoughts on “The Plan

  1. Barb

    I have a lot of friends that tell me they don’t have time to make fresh vegetables, and I don’t really believe that’s true. It’s just an excuse to help them feel less guilty about the fact that they don’t do it. Every night I can manage to put at least one serving of a healthy veggie on Sam’s plate (and most evenings it’s 2-3 servings). It takes 1 minutes to cut the ends of a zucchini and slice it into pieces. It’s takes five minutes of steaming it in water in the microwave for it to be cooked. A little butter and some seasoning salt or herbs and the kid wolf’s it down. I can do this with asparagus, brocolli, cauliflower, pea pods, you name it. Ten minutes from refrigerator to kids plate. And when he isn’t interested in eating it but insists he wants more strawberries or mango I say, eat one piece of [insert veggie] and you can have more strawberries. And he does. And the more times he tries something, the mroe he likes it.

    And if nothing else, when Sam is pulling on my shirt because he’s dying for something to eat while i make dinner, I slice up an avocado and feed him little pieces.

    Maybe I’m blessed to have a “mostly good eater,” but I’ve never had problems finding the time to get veggies in to his system. It’s not rocket science. If they’re fresh, you can’t go wrong.

  2. Karen L.

    I agree with you, Barb. It’s way too easy to forego some healthy yummies on the plate. I am quite lucky because my husband loves to cook and is typically around before me to make dinner. He seems to ALWAYS forget a vegetable until I remind him. So, it’s often near serving time when we dig for a veggie dish.

    I love sauteed edomomy (sp?) and asparagus. Our favorite veggies are always throwing them right on the grill with whatever else is cooking. We recently smoked some tomatoes and they were delightful….only need about an hour on the smoker.

    For last minute meals, though, nuke up some steamed veggies or give them a quick saute.

  3. Jenn

    my biggest struggle over the years was buying veggies and having them go bad in the fridge and a husband who will cook but won’t initiate dinner b/c he doesn’t know what is in the fridge that he can use. I solved the prob a few years ago by becoming more organized. Once a week I pick the recipies that I want to cook and then go buy the ingredients for them. I make a list of the dinners so both my hubby and I can refer to it when we are thinking “what’s for dinner tonight?” and then the veggies have a purpose and hopefully will get eaten. It also saves money b/c I just buy what I need and not a lot of extra food. Works for us. 😉

  4. Alyssa

    Growing our own (though this may be a hurdle at first ) helps us a lot. I can’t stand the thought of paying for all the irrigation and then letting the cabbages go to waste by not eating them. Now that we have a microwave, Frozen Vegetables are the way to go when I hit the wall for ideas (or the daughter has already eaten the broccoli and brussels sprouts leaves from the garden). I keep trying to incorporate veggies into lunch more too, so I don’t paint myself into a corner at dinner.

  5. Amy

    Yeah but I bet these ‘organizational marvels’ never complete any of these amazing projects on time and always forget to take the damn meatballs out of the freezer until 5:30 on Weds night. Everything always looks better from the outside ;P

  6. Lani

    My number one rule is: It doesn’t have to thaw to cook it. You would be amazed at how well a semi frozen roast will cook. Just add about 20 minutes extra.
    When I was a single mom with 3 little boys I used to get Mother’s Day and Family Circle magazines (do they still print them?). The best feature they had was a calendar of meals for the month and recipes for most of the main dishes and veggies. I would make my own calendar and use their ideas along with family favorites (and planned leftovers!) to make my grocery list from that and buy the majority of my groceries for the month. I posted it on the fridge so I could remember what to thaw for dinner. That little bit of time saved me hours of frustration dragging 3 unhappy boys through the grocery store. I could get a sitter for that one big day of shopping and then pick up the perishables weekly in quick trips. I usually ended up with extra meals at the end of the month if we went out for a meal. When they were teenagers and we had added a couple more boys to the family I would make them sit down with the Wed. paper with all the food sales and each would be responsible for planning one meal for the week. And they had to participate in cooking it. It was amazing how they could handle a budget. I miss those days. Now I almost never plan and we go to the store almost everyday. Hmmm, maybe it’s time to find those old magazines again.

  7. Katherine Post author

    Wow Lani, you fall squarely into the organizational marvel catagory. That is impressive. Now you could sit down and plan the menu for the month and order your groceries from Amazon Fresh to have them delivered to your house.

    Also, having the kids cook is such a good idea. I took a Parenting with Love and Logic class where they recommended having your kids plan, prepare and cook one meal a week starting at the age of 7. Such a good way to teach responsibility, respect, budgeting and, of course, cooking.

  8. Jody

    I envy meal planners. I don’t know what it is but I cannot seem to stick to a plan. I think some of it is just due to my inability to decide on a menu. There are so many good things to cook and sometimes I just swirl round and round in my lists of recipes wishing I could try them all right now. Other times it is because I just hit a wall and I cannot stand having to think of food all day (three meals a day for four people really does seem to consume most of my day…especailly when you factor in the endless dishes.)
    I like to do other things… Some weeks I am a cooking diva and others I am completely uninspired. How sad is it that I can no longer just have a salad or a bowl or cereal and call it good? it just doesn’t cut it these days: everyone else is expecting a meal and I want to feed my family well.

    That said, I think it is okay to let it go at times and realize that a healthy meal for your kids does not have to be gourmet at all. In fact they often frown at the meals I sweat the most over:( So, what I do is make sure that I have constant supply of fruits and veggies at the ready. If I don’t feel like cooking, the kids will be well-served by a scrambled egg or baked chicken breast from the freezer as long as they are accompanied by a variety of fruits and veggies. My kids prefer raw veggies so, I almost always have a veggie platter at the dinner table. While cut up mango, carrots and cucumber don’t do much for me, they are quite willing to eat them (and not at all excited about my yummy roasted potatoes and cauliflower.) And no, edamame does not go with eggs but, the kids could care less so, I try not to sweat over it (I can be Martha Stewart tomorrow.)

    Some other pantry staples at our house: Dried beans of all kinds (soak them in the slow-cooker over night and then turn the cooker on in the morning, add garlic and a bay leaf and let it go all day.) The beans go well with rice and a strong cheese or some avocado….simple and cheap. We also love smoothies and keep fruit in the freezer…I am planning to try sneaking spinach in them very soon. So, that is my two cents:)

  9. Katherine Post author

    Great advice Jody! I love the slow cooker and beans idea. So good. Also, don’t forget about putting avocado in the smoothies. You can’t taste it at all.

  10. Tami

    Love these ideas! dried beans are a fave of mine, too. I cook them in a low oven all day. same idea as a slow-cooker. When I make soup, which is often, I make a giganto batch and freeze up a few jars for later. Lentil soup is a snap, with whatever veggies are lying around from the week.

    I’ve just started an anti-inflammatory eating class, and one of the key aspects is EAT MORE VEGGIES. and fruit. The idea is that each meal is 2/3 fruit and veg, 1/3 grain and/or protein. It really brought to light that although I thought we eat a lot of veggies, we don’t eat enough. So we’re having lots of big yummy salads and homemade soup. It’s feeling pretty good.

    I also do try to plan meals for the week. Otherwise I end up hitting the market way too often, spending too much, and throwing out too much.

    And I rely heavily on local farmstands. OOOOooooh, you CANNOT beat a bag of freshly picked salad greens.

  11. Katherine Post author

    Yes, I love the idea of the anti-inflammatory eating class. It sounds similar in philosophy to the Acid Alkaline diet that I respond so well to.

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