Why I Quit Cooking (And What We're Doing Instead)
A while back, I quit cooking.
It was 6:45 on a Sunday evening, and after a day of errands and meal prep (read: not hanging out with my family or doing anything else fun) I found myself in the kitchen nursing a tiny oven burn on my wrist and feeling totally defeated. We were scurrying around to get a homemade dinner on the table and were, thus, late to start Isaac's bedtime routine. I felt rushed, exasperated and in need of an answer to the question, "Where did all my time go today?"
"I hate this," I told Jason.
I hated it even more on the following Thursday when I opened my fridge to see an almost-full pan of casserole (Sunday's labor) uneaten. We'd all forgotten about it.
OK, so the thing is, I it's not the cooking part I hate. I actually love cooking. I love the therapy of chopping, the fragrance of something roasting, the thrill of watching my husband and son taste (and become nourished by) something I've prepared. It's an elemental joy. But our time constraints lately have sucked the joy right out of the process.
So, what to do?
Here are a few steps we've taken to eat healthy when we haven't otherwise been able to cook:
1. We've become experts at salad assembly.
I'd say at least 3 nights per week, Jason and I turn to salad for dinner. We make it hearty by including things like potatoes, chickpeas, beans, olives, corn, cabbage, tomatoes, croutons, nuts and seeds. The more colorful, the better.
2. We've subscribed to a couple frozen-meal services.
We used to do box meal services that came with recipes and ingredients presented at various stages of preparation. The meals were delicious, but again, there was the cooking. So we've been trying a couple of 100% frozen options you can throw in a blender or toss in a pan and serve. Our favorites so far have been Daily Harvest and Veestro. Major Caveat: This is expensive. However, we end up spending less on groceries during the week, and that helps us stay within budget (sort of). It also helps that Isaac eats three meals a day at his school, so he needs only a quick snack at the end of the evening. All in all, we're spending more for the convenience, but we're ok with this for now.
3. We snack more.
Tonight, dinner was carrots, hummus and a few whole-grain crackers. (Oh, and a spoonful of natural peanut butter with chia and flax.) I'd already eaten a large lunch so I wasn't honestly all that hungry. Jason heated up something frozen, so I was pretty much on my own. My little carrot plate did the job: Carbs, protein, vitamins and a little good fat. The dinner snack (no prep) gave me a bit of time back to chop and roast some regular and sweet potatoes for salads tomorrow.
As for family time at the dinner table, well, that's a work in progress, too. Because our evenings start late by the time everyone gets home from work and school, it's hard to put that together every day. But we do make sure we're all sitting down to the same table at the same time on Saturdays and Sundays still, whether it's takeout or homemade.
And that's how we're doing it for now.
How are you answering the "what's for dinner?" question lately? I'd love to know.