Meal Planning: Avoiding Umming and Erring

Meal Planning: Avoiding Umming and Erring

My wonderful, brilliant, witty husband suffers from a debilitating condition.  Though the signs and symptoms were there all his life, we only found the actual diagnosis during nursing school.  Shall I share the name of his condition?  I shall.  My otherwise (almost) perfect spouse suffers from: Chronic Blank Page Syndrome.

I’m serious, y’all!  His very clever brain slips a gear the moment he’s confronted with a blank sheet of paper!  You can practically hear his mental motor ticking over into neutral.  In nursing school, it took him four hours to write a one hour paper.  This was because it required three hours to stare blankly at the paper, fifteen minutes to stomp and mutter, and finally, 45 minutes to actually write the thing!

However, as I said, this condition was pre-existing.  Asking Liam to make a grocery list, Christmas list, or todo list immediately brings on the ‘brain in neutral’ stupor.  This stupor is quickly followed by an extremely grumpy state.  He glares at the paper in frustration. (Remember, this is all the paper’s fault for being blank!)  Then, he transfers his glare to me and announces “my mind is a total blank”.  I don’t really get it.  This is the man who, at pub quiz night, can immediately call to mind who sang lead, which recording company was used, who did the drum solo, and what year the album came out for any random song dating from 1950 through Lady Gaga!

However, we’ve learned in our exhaustive research on the condition, that it’s more common than one might expect.  So, to help Liam’s fellow sufferers, I’d like to give you a bit of advice and homework.  Your assignment should you choose to accept it is to face three sheets of blank paper!  (Breathe deeply, y’all!  You get to use lifelines.)

I think it’s really helpful to create lists of meals for breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.  If you have a list of possible meals to choose from, it’ll make things much easier as we consider meal planning options.  I don’t have a problem with blank pages.  However, I’ve noticed that without looking at lists of options I tend to get stuck in a rut.  If I have a list of twenty or thirty meals to choose from, I’m less likley to have the same few meals each week.  The great thing is you don’t have to do it alone.  In fact, it’s better if you don’t!  Call the family in, and ask them to list meals.  Don’t ask for favorites or special meals, just ask them to name random stuff.

When I do this, I’m always surprised by the things they suggest.  Often they ask for simple foods that I don’t even consider to be ‘real’ cooking.  Many times, their suggestions are cheaper and easier than meals that I add to the list myself.  However, if your kids are younger you might end up playing detective.  We’ve had several rounds of “Oh, Mama, put that stuff you made with the sauce on the list!  Uh, white sauce.  I think there was rice.  Oh, oh, it had mushrooms…and meat.  Um, beef, I think or maybe pork…  We had it the day number 29 lambed.  It was really good, and you said, Granny’s mama used to make it…”  That would be stroganoff, son.  Now, what’s my starter for twenty?

As you’re making your lists, think about your schedule.  Not to assign meals to specific days, but to be sure you have meals for the different ‘kinds’ of days that are part of your life.  For example:

  • I work at least fourteen hours three nights a week (usually back-to-back). I also have a commute of about an hour and a half each way. So, workdays need a do-ahead meal or a meal the family can make (chicken curry, taco soup, pancakes, crock pot meals…).
  • I enjoy cooking, but I don’t really want to tackle anything complex, when I’m rushed or short of sleep. My first night home after working three in a row isn’t the night for falafel with all the sides or a new recipe. Those nights need to be easy standby meals.
  • My husband and kids are capable cooks. (Some more than others.  Okay, the kids more than Liam.) Everyone (except Liam) likes to cook.  We enjoy piling into the kitchen together. The side benefit is they’re all able to make dinner when I’m working.
  • Cooking is a recreational activity for me.  I need a night to make something new or fun and challenging.  I keep a mental list and a file of recipes to try out.
  • We live on a budget. I know most people do, but taking that into account while meal planning helps us stay on point.

  • I also take any special occasions (meals out, guests, potlucks, birthdays, holidays…) into consideration. We live pretty far from our families. This means, that when they come, I cook for large groups. We don’t eat out much, and I would feel very awkward if family and friends drove two hours to see us then had to go to a restaurant.
  • Meat is one of the more expensive ingredients in any non-vegetarian diet. We raise much of our own meat, which helps with cost. However, we limit meat for both health and money reasons. (Plus, the time and effort that goes into our farm raised meat make us respectful of how it’s used. Believe me, not a bit is wasted.) In order to limit meat, we use several strategies.
    • We try to have one bean based meal per week (baleadas, red beans and cornbread, quesadillas, lentil soup, falafel, blackeyed pea fritters…).
    • We have laying hens, so we typically have one egg-centric dinner per week (Quiche, poached eggs on toast, eggs royale, strata, breakfast for supper…).
    • We also normally have a “something on toast” meal à la Great Britain. (baked beans, eggs, cheese, or Welsh rarebit…) These are odd meals, but we really like them AND they help keep the budget down.
Our Favorite Pork Loin Recipe

So, if you too suffer from Blank Page Syndrome, have your family help.  That’s the best way to ‘phone a friend’.  If you need more ideas Google, blogs, blog hops, and cookbooks are all great lifelines to grasp.  However you choose to do it, I hope you’ll make meal lists.  They’ll make things so much easier as we begin discussing specific meal planning options!

I’d love to know what surprising meals your family asks for!  Favorites around here range from Welsh rarebit to meatloaf to chicken fried steak.  What is the meal you make sure is on the list?  I’m fickle!  I tend to rotate favorites! If you have a moment, leave a comment and let me know what your ‘must have’ meal is!  I love to chat with y’all!

This post has been shared with some of our favorite blog hops and linky parties.  Check them out, if you have time!


About Anne in the Kitchen

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  1. I have to make a taco salad at least once a week. It is one of my favorite foods! It must have a bed of fresh lettuce (OK, it can be leftover salad from the night before) and on top, it needs some shredded cheese, tomatoes, and beans. Sometimes I put leftover grilled chicken, avocado, or corn. I usually have this at work, so I put the dressing in a tiny container and layer it like this: Catalina dressing (lite is fine), sour cream, salsa. Then (THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART) A handful (snack size ziploc bag) of Fritos. I like the scoops kind. 🙂 They make all the difference.

    1. Char,
      I love it to. I can homemade “ranch style” beans. I rinse those and toss them on top of taco salad. It used to be the only way my way my youngest son would eat green stuff. I use doritos instead of fritos, but I agree. The crunch is the best part!

      I checked out your blog the other day, and I love it! It kind of felt like I got to spend some time plaiyng in the kitchen with you! Have a great week!

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