The cold truth is that there simply is not enough time to do it all. For this very reason, as you may remember, once upon a time, I used to make a weekly dinner plan. Which is what I’d really like to talk about, just for a bit, not too long. Also, buried at the end of this rambling post is a weekly dinner plan that is not unlike the old ones.
As a refresher,
Many years ago I made a weekly plan for my family, and I printed the plan, and we all worked from the plan, and the plan was good. Boring, but good. The plan covered breakfast, lunch and dinner. The plan included lots of chicken, pasta, grilled cheese and Taco Tuesdays because even though I love to cook-cook dinner at our house included (still includes) finicky kids. And it got us out of the Chick-Fil-A drive-thru line (mostly) and back to the dinner table, even on days when I worked later than I meant to and kids had sports practice and the dogs needed to be walked and so on.
I started including weekly dinner plans at the end of weekly posts – just five things each week, with links to the recipes I was going to use, recipes that were mostly tried-and-true (think Ina Garten) though sometimes a tiny bit adventuresome (think Saveur), often tied to whatever was fresh at our neighborhood farmers market.
Feeling super-energetic and ready for something new and exciting (bored with baked chicken), I decided to start a second, DAILY, dinner-focused blog and also to create a dinner planning book and related tools. And I explored dinner subscription services like Blue Apron and Plated and Home Chef and Hello Fresh. And I did a tiny bit of market research and had a few ideas about how it all might come together. And I thought to myself: dinner, you are my life’s work.
I went on a diet, the book project died, the second blog overwhelmed me, I turned 50, my favorite dog died, my work-work got complicated, I hit a melancholy spell, and I mostly gave up cooking dinner. At least for a while.
I thought I was the only one who cared, in any event, about the whole dinner thing. My children would be happy as pigs in mud to live on frozen chicken patties, fresh fruit, Caesar salad, string cheese, Goldfish and Cheerios. Occasionally they would like pancakes and scrambled eggs.
My daughter started asking why I didn’t really cook dinner much anymore, like with magazines and cookbooks as guides, and why we were always having the same things, and what ever happened to the weekly dinner plan. And when I said that I didn’t think anyone liked what I was cooking, she said: well I liked some of it. And then my son said the same thing. And so did Bernard.
I decided it was time for a comeback, and for the past month we’ve been back to A SEMBLANCE OF our old dinner routine. With some help from my old friend, Plated, which was the clear winner in my box service investigation. The recipes are good and interesting, but not weird. The produce and other ingredients are good. The quantities are right. Et cetera.
If you are thinking to yourself: that seems an awfully expensive way to eat, you are mostly correct. It is pricey, but not as pricey as eating out or as pricey as throwing away the entire weekly farmers market haul because I couldn’t get my act together to cook it. But understand that the Plated box isn’t an every week thing at our house, nor is it a dinner for four plan. We get three meals for two people about every other week, and I stretch the recipes or round them out with other things (salad, bread, roasted vegetables) so that each meal for two will actually feed four with virtually no leftovers left to develop mold in the back of my refrigerator.
And I also subscribe to Gathered Table, where the recipes are terrible but the organizational tool is a solid B; so the plan is a starting point, and then I use my own recipes.
So between those two subscription supplements, and with ongoing inspiration from Michelle and Steve at Gourmandistan, and with the huge archive of my own dinner plans and notes and posts and scribbles, and with my family’s surprise encouragement, I’m back at it, possibly on a weekly basis, though I’m reluctant to make any promises. And we’re back at the table, though not every single night. Because sometimes even I need bigotry, ignorance, a week’s worth of sodium, Jesus, and a gall bladder attack.
Food | Week of February 1, 2015
From Plated: nothing; we’re skipping this week
From Jennifer’s archive: Ina’s weeknight Bolognese, baked eggs with sourdough toast and citrus salad
Something new: Farmers market quinoa salad