A couple of weeks ago, I had an epiphany of sorts.
I was standing in my kitchen, staring blankly into the pantry, trying to decide what to cook for dinner. It was after 4pm, the kids were already tetchy, and my motivation was at an all time low.
The thought of going to the supermarket was beyond me.
No one could tell me what they felt like eating, and after working a few night shifts in a row, my brain capacity was more than slightly limited.
“I bloody hate cooking!”, I thought to myself, as I weighed up our options of porridge or eggs on toast.
But as I reached into the cupboard and grabbed out the porridge, it occurred to me that I was wrong. I DON’T hate cooking. I actually LOVE cooking. I LOVE food, I LOVE eating, and I actually get a fair amount of genuine happiness out of preparing food.
What I DON’T love, is DECIDING what to cook, day in day out, at a stupid time in the afternoon, where I know I’m likely to bail out of cooking something decent.
So, as I cooked up that half-arsed dinner of porridge, I decided that there had to be a better way to navigating this late afternoon vortex of hunger and indecision.
Back in the days when my kids were really little, I’d tried weekly meal planning, where I’d sit down each week and create a menu, and then I’d write my shopping list accordingly. It was supposed to save us money on our groceries, and fill our tummies with healthy food.
I lasted 2 weeks before I was bored senseless with the whole idea..
It seems that trying to decide what I might want to eat 6 days from now is just as frustrating to me as trying to decide what to cook at 4:30pm on any given weekday. The decision-making is still there, only I have to decide for a whole week at once.
It occurred to me that I reckon I’d be quite happy if someone made the decision for me. And given that my little family is about as engaged and interested in dinner preparation as I am in watching competitive chess, I figured they wouldn’t be much help.
Then it struck me.
What if I was to make a numbered list of the meals that I know can be cooked pretty simply, and that most family members will eat, and try using a random number generator to come up with the answer? I’ve seen people use these online number generators for drawing out competition winners and that kind of thing. What if the data set going in there was actually our meal options?
I didn’t want weeks worth of dinners at a time, just one day, or maybe two. And I knew I didn’t want any kind of funky grid or timetable that I was supposed to stick to my fridge like some shining beacon of my domesticity.
I just wanted someone, or more importantly, SOMETHING to tell me what to cook.
“It can’t hurt to try” I reasoned. “It’s worth a crack. At any rate, it might save us from defaulting to porridge so often.”
So that’s just what I did. I consulted with Hot Husband and the juniors, and together we rallied up about 30 meal choices that we could agree that we didn’t hate. I then placed each one next to it’s own number in a note in my phone, googled an online number generator and hit GENERATE.
And there, in front of my eyes was the number 10, telling me that tonight, we would be having soup and sandwiches.
I felt like doing a victory dance.
“But I don’t really like soup” said the Boy Child.
“Don’t tell me. Tell the generator!” I answered, gleefully. “Tomorrow night it will probably tell us to eat hot dogs, which you love, but that I think are the devil. Life’s about balance, kid.”
“Fine! I’ll eat the soup. But I’m picking tomorrow night’s meal!” he grumbled.
And so a weird little routine has been formed in our house, where we rotate whose turn it is to hit the GENERATE button each day or two, and by some bizarre coincidence, everyone has stopped complaining about meals, and started eating what they’re given. We are eating better food (more vegies, and less porridge), and well, everyone is a bloody winner.
(One might say “winner, winner, chicken dinner”, but we haven’t generated that number yet).
And wouldn’t you know it, I’m enjoying cooking again.
Have any of you out there ever tried anything like this?
I’m calling it. I think I’m actually a genius.
Give it a crack if you’re a fellow late-arvo-dinner-planning-avoider (and let me know how it works for you!).
*image from Pinterest. Look how happy she looks! I bet she randomly generates her meals too…