What’s for dinner? The words tend to cause an instant cortisol release in my body. Sometimes my wife raises the question, and other times I utter the words myself before I realize what horror I’ve just unleashed upon my household. Why is coming up with dinner ideas—and executing those ideas—so hard? Why can’t we just decide what we want, make it, and eat it without the agonizing back and forth? I thought about it and here’s what I came up with.
It’s hard because we want to make both healthy and enjoyable food. Often, what is healthy is not enjoyable and what is enjoyable is not healthy.
It’s hard because we want to cook our dinner at home but by the time one of us has prepped and cooked and the other has cleaned up, the night is over and it’s time to put the kiddo to bed. We both work full time so we have a limited amount of time to plan, shop, prep, cook, consume, and clean. It’s a lengthy process and we don’t have a system. We want to spend time with our son after work so when one of us is stuck in the kitchen away from the rest of the family, they feel left out and miss that time together.
It’s hard because food is expensive. Sure we could probably last pretty long on rice and beans, occasionally switching it up for beans and rice (nod to Dave Ramsey), but let’s be honest, nobody wants to do that and it’s probably not the healthiest choice anyway.
Eating out is expensive unless we’re getting fast food every night, but then we run into that health problem again. Cooking at home can be equally expensive if you don’t know what you’re doing, and we don’t, because we end up wasting half of what we buy. We either end up having to buy ingredients in quantities that we don’t need or wasting leftovers. (To be honest, my wife is a pretty good cook—but it’s not fair to rely on her to do it all).
We are constantly resisting the urge to choose convenience.
We are constantly resisting the urge to choose convenience. Whether it’s a pre-cooked frozen concoction, take out food, or something easy quickly thrown together, we’re left choosing at least one element to sacrifice—nutrition, enjoyment, time, or money.
I decided that the first step in overcoming this problem is for me to learn to cook. This will cut down on the time it takes to cook a good meal, it will increase our options to choose from—tacos 6 nights in a row anyone?—it will cut down on cost by reducing waste, and it will keep us from relying on my wife to make all our meals (at least all of our good ones). I considered taking a cooking class and probably will take one in the future but for now I decided that learning to cook one meal at a time would be a great way to get started.
My wife and I have also agreed to a system for deciding what’s for dinner and it’s ridiculously simple—we take turns. Today, I decide and tomorrow, she decides. Then repeat! No whining allowed. This way, the torture of decision making is only forced on each person 50% of the time. We also enacted a rule where each person can only choose to go out for dinner once per week. This keeps each of us from always taking the easy way out when it’s our turn.
By learning to cook, I hope to minimize the stress that we go through every time we struggle with ideas for dinner. I also hope to develop the enjoyment of cooking and appreciation for the skill that goes into it while developing that skill for myself.
I’ll be choosing each meal based on it’s usefulness, my own family’s tastes, and the methods of preparation—intentionally covering a variety of cuisines to expand my knowledge and skills. I expect a smorgasbord of disasters with a pinch of deliciousness.
So let’s get cooking! Wish me luck!
Header image – https://unsplash.com/collections/172974/overseen?photo=bQLCyj-9-tk
Ramsay meme – http://thechive.com/2015/06/16/gordon-ramsay-insults-so-raw-theyll-give-you-salmonella-39-photos/