I hate cooking. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned that here before, but OH MY GOSH do I ever hate cooking. I hate planning meals, buying groceries, doing prep work, serving food and then cleaning it all up again afterward. I hate spending a bunch of money and making a big mess in the kitchen only to have Taylor sleep though dinner and Symphony pick at it, leaving me to eat everything, get fat and feel unappreciated.
Grocery shopping is, for me, a huge pain. We don’t have a car, so I can only buy as much food as I can carry, which means I hardly ever have anything on hand and end up going to the grocery store five times a week. It got to the point where the cashiers were calling me by name and saying “see you tomorrow!”, which made me feel very uncool. Sometimes we’ll book a Zipcar and do a big grocery shop, but that requires making a meal plan, which I really hate doing.
When we’ve gone on vacation we’ve had success with meal plans. Since all three of us are around and awake we eat all our meals together and hardly anything is wasted. During “regular” life, though, this rarely works out. Usually after a week or so I lose interest in planning meals, which means I stop grocery shopping and we run out of food. The result of this is either getting takeout every night or running to the market for something fast and easy that comes in a box. This isn’t healthy, but every time I try to fix it the same thing happens: I lose interest in planning meals & grocery shopping, we run out of food and then it’s macaroni & cheese night. Again.
After reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma this past week, I really want to try again to inject some nutrition into the food I serve my family, so obviously I need a new plan. Instead of trying to plan 7 breakfasts, 7 lunches and 7 dinners each week and getting frustrated and overwhelmed, I’ve decided to plan out the ABSOLUTE MINIMUM number of meals. The only ones the three of us eat together as a family are dinner on Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights, and breakfast/brunch/lunch on Saturdays, so these are the only big meals I’m going to plan out and make. I really think this might work for me, since I’m less likely to get sick of planning meals if I’m only planning 4 a week instead of 21.
Obviously, my family eats more than four meals a week, but not all together and not all here. Symphony has lunch at school five days a week (she and I make her lunch, but it’s just like, sandwich/fruit or veggies/snacks), dinner at her dad’s three nights a week and breakfast there three mornings a week (she usually gets her own breakfast on the mornings she’s here). I have breakfast and lunch alone five days a week. Two nights a week Sym and I have dinner by ourselves (one of these is Tuesday and we have to eat between the time I finish work at 5:15 and the time we leave for piano at 5:45) and two nights a week Taylor and I have dinner by ourselves. Due to his schedule, Taylor rarely has breakfast or lunch or anything at all, unless I wake him up and force him to have dinner.
As you can see, planning around these RIDICULOUS scheduling requirements is basically a nightmare. Compounding everything is the fact that I hate making a big mess cooking for just myself, or myself and Symphony, because the time I have to spend cleaning up doesn’t seem worth it. Plus I’m often so tired after work that the last thing I want to do is run out to pick up groceries and cook a bunch of stuff that no one but me is going to eat anyway. These are the days I end up lazily ordering pizza or better yet, having a bag of potato chips for dinner.
As I mentioned yesterday, I’ve been sick and feeling rundown non-stop for the last month, and for a lot of the rest of this year as well. I’m tired of being tired and unhealthy all the time, and I think it’ll really help if I start eating actual food with actual nutrition in it (I also started taking my vitamins and beloved Genuine Health Daily Detox pills regularly again).
Last Sunday I dragged Taylor in a walk around the city looking for this elusive wrapping paper I had had the brilliant idea of decoupaging onto my ugly piano. I didn’t find any paper, but I did find what is my new favorite grocery store: Choices Market. The Yaletown location is only seven blocks from my house, but even though I’ve walked by it a bunch of times I’ve never gone in. I’ve just looked at the ~gourmet grocer~ sign and rolled my eyes at what I perceived to be pretentiousness. HOWEVER, I’d been looking high and low for Dutch process cocoa powder to make those dang peppermint patty brownie cupcakes, and when I saw Choices that day I realized that they would probably have it, which they did. I found my cocoa powder, but I also found somewhere I don’t actually hate to shop for groceries!
Choices is locally owned, with just eight stores in the Lower Mainland and Okanagan. The store itself is small- one thing I hate about the big shopping trips we do every so often is going to giant stores with eight billion options for bread and junk food that ends up overwhelming me. Not that Choices is lacking in, well, choices. They have tons of things, including stuff you’d find in a “regular” store. One thing they didn’t have was a great big aisle full of junk food (chips/pop/candy, etc). Considering my proclivity towards scrapping the whole idea of cooking and eating chips for dinner, this is AWESOME.
I decided to go down on Tuesday evening and buy the groceries I would need to make my family a proper meal on Wednesday night. I picked up wild sockeye salmon and fiddleheads, organic red potatoes and lemon, and BC-grown garlic, butter lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber. So everything was either wild, organic or semi-locally grown. I figured it would be more expensive than the stores I usually shop at, but the total came to just $25. Every time I go into one of the regular stores I end up spending $40 or $50 on stuff to make a pre-packaged meal and a bunch of junk food to eat later after I am unsatisfied and hungry again. The last time I bought wild salmon at Safeway it was $18 just for the fish!
For the salad I added some peas I already had and some goat cheese feta Taylor picked up to the lettuce, cucumber and tomatoes and tossed it all with fresh-squeezed juice from the 3/4 of the lemon that didn’t get sliced for the salmon (I dislike 90% of salad dressing and usually just use lemon juice).
check out my sweet salad hands in action
My awesome home cooked meal definitely did not leave me, or anyone, unsatisfied. Even Symphony, who is super picky, ate all her salmon and 2 helpings of salad. She even tried the fiddleheads, although she didn’t like them (she still gets points for trying them though). I think the only person who was disappointed by the outcome of this meal was Dougal, because he didn’t get any.
You might have noticed that I listed organic potatoes as one of the things I bought for this meal, but clearly they weren’t in it. One of my biggest failings as a cook is timing it correctly so that everything is done at the same time, and unfortunately the potatoes were way underdone when everything else was ready. I decided to skip them for this meal, and instead save them for hash browns on breakfast for dinner night or to top a shepherd’s pie or something. But. Get this: I LEFT OUT the starchy, filling potatoes, and everyone was still full and satisfied by the meal! I chalk this up as a HUGE success, and I think that as long as I stick to my Four-Meals-a-Week plan, I can keep making delicious and healthy food for myself and my family.