I’ve been experiencing particularly high levels of anxiety regarding menu planning lately, and it seems to be because the parameters I set myself for the process are multiplying like Tribbles. The meals must:
- use up the food already in the fridge and garden (and less urgently, freezer and pantry)
- depend mainly on the grocery sales of the week (and don’t even get me started on the horrors of couponing)
- be gluten- and egg- free or easily made in two separate versions (this part pretty much eliminates take-out, at least in our neighborhood)
- be fasting-appropriate on Wednesday and Friday and other periods according to the church calendar (this means no meat, fish, eggs, dairy, olive oil, or wine)
- be mostly seasonal
Then, when I achieve all that, in a great feat of coordination, I start agonizing and second-guessing myself over whether there are enough fresh vegetables every day, too many carbs on regular days, not enough carbs on days before long training runs, too much cheese (now that I’m eating dairy again it’s tempting to overdo it), enough variety, too much labor-intensiveness, enough leftovers for lunches, but not too many, ease of packing for school days, enough use of absurd garden surplus of Thai hot chillis, not enough environmental consciousness (organic/local/cruelty-free) but STILL over-budget…. You get the idea. Last week the process almost paralyzed me and Brooks had to intervene: “Make chicken curry.”
This week I have lapsed into a temporarily more relaxed approach, prompted by a Costco run. I stocked up on meat, cheese, coffee, and useful vegetables like mushrooms, avocados, and spinach, and am figuring out what to make as we go. This is less stressful in the short term but runs the risk of waste or strange makeshift experiments.
Anyway, here is my half-baked idea for a blog project. I’ll post about dinner every night for a month, good or bad, and the interaction of these factors, and you can give me feedback about the process. At this point, your feedback is probably something like: “It’s just dinner, silly perfectionist.” But how do the rest of you cope with the fact that, you know, we have to eat, pretty much every day, and there’s a lot of pressure out there about how we interact with food, and none of us have unlimited time and money?