Friday, January 06, 2012

the unplanned menu

My favorite thing about the new year is all the inspirational quotes that everybody posts, tweets, and tacks up on their wall.  There are some great ones out there.  Terri and Delia both have posts this week about not letting other people define what your goals should be, or how success should look for you.  So, I'm taking that and running with it, because by most counts, I have a 50% success rate on my January goals so far, which is a fail.  The Diet Dr. Pepper one has been fine, but the 'planning our menus' thing has been a complete non-starter.  More about that later.  But I don't really feel like a failure, because ... well, I'm not sure why.  I just don't.

That's a new one for me.  Those of us who are on the spectrum, even if only minimally, have a hard time with flexibility, with making allowances for human foibles.  If your goal was this particular thing, then you are a failure if you didn't do this particular thing.  But I know what my week was like this week, and the things that came up that I wasn't exactly expecting, and I understand why the menu planning didn't happen.  And I also have some renewed insight into why it might not work for us, and why I haven't done it in the past.  And, plus, my cousin Heidi said in the comments on my last post that it didn't work for her, so I can always claim that it's genetic, right?

Anyway.  Here is what the menu-planning post was going to say back before I already goofed it up.

I don't think I've ever posted about my obsession with cookbooks.  Compared to people who actually collect cookbooks, I don't have that many.  But I probably have 25.  OK, maybe 30.  I look at my book buying budget as part of our entertainment spending.  A new cookbook will keep me entertained for at least 8-10 hours, sometimes longer (and then if it's a good one, I'll use it for years).  That's the equivalent of 3-5 movies. Theater tickets are $8.50 around here ($11, that's ELEVEN DOLLARS for 3-D, is that the same nation wide? it seems insane to me).  I almost never go see films in the theater, so I figure buying a cookbook every 3-4 months is OK.

But the thing that makes this habit weird is that I don't cook all that often.  We've had this conversation before, here for example.  I read cookbooks all the time, but I cook maybe 2-3 times per week.  And I'm a decent cook, not a great cook.  I don't hate cooking, but I don't particularly enjoy it either.

Also, Dean does not cook.  He doesn't mind fending for himself if I don't feel like cooking, but he doesn't then step up to the stove and whip up some scrambled eggs or boil water for pasta.  He will just sit down happily to a bowl of cereal.  There's nothing wrong with that, and I have no problem with cereal for dinner every once in awhile.  But I don't like for it to be more than once every couple of weeks. 

I lost my train of thought.  This was going somewhere that had to do with menu planning, wasn't it?

so anyway, I read these great new recipes I want to try, and often I'm even motivated enough to go out to the grocery store and get the ingredients.  But then we'll have 3-4 nights in a row where the kids have school activities or Dean is working overnight, or we've been invited over to someone's house, or whatever, and by the time I get back to the cooking mindset, I've forgotten about whatever it was I planned to cook.  So the ingredients pile up in the pantry, and I can't remember exactly why I bought Patak's Hot Mango Chutney (2 jars).  I'm sure there was a reason.

So I thought menu planning might help. If I wrote down three recipes that I wanted to try in a given week, then got the stuff for them at the market, I would have something to refer to if I forgot what my plan was.  (Lists, I'm telling you, it's all about lists when you're absent-minded)(and 50). 

But I forgot that I hate planning.  It felt like I was setting myself up to fail.  I couldn't quite make myself do it Sunday night, and then Monday MadMax was still at home (they didn't go back to school till tuesday), and then I had those moles removed Tuesday morning, and Wednesday I felt wonky, before I knew it, it was Thursday and I had never planned a menu.  Dang it.

But what I remembered is something that has worked in the past.  While I am in the grocery store, I see beautiful broccoli, and I think, oh, I could make that broccoli recipe that MadMax likes.  And then I see that they have tilapia on sale, so I buy some of that because I have a good recipe for that, too.  And etc.  Then when I get home from the grocery store, I grab an index card (keep those in the organizer box by the phone)(which only does a marginal job of keeping me organized, but it does keep index cards, a pair of scissors, and two sizes of envelopes to hand).  And I jot down on the index card the ideas I had while I was shopping, so I know what I was planning and I don't forget that I bought cauliflower until it has turned into a yellow and black furry mass at the back of the crisper drawer.  The index card gets stuck to the side of the fridge with a magnet and voilĂ .

So maybe I will do that instead of menu planning.  It's sort of reverse menu planning.  Or maybe I will just try again next week with *Real Menu Planning* and see how it goes.

Work in Progress.  It's always a work in progress.


  1. The mango chutney either goes in a really yummy chicken salad or it makes a kind of glazy-saucy thing for a pork tenderloin. :)

    You know, just because something works for some people, doesn't mean it works for everyone. I like having a plan of what I'm cooking. I hate going to the grocery store more than once a week. So planning works for me. It's like Delia's post on resolutions (which wouldn't let me comment!). They work for her, but not for me, so I don't do them.

  2. I'm a firm believer in finding systems that are "organic", that work WITH the way your brain works, etc. So maybe your first goal could be "FInd the Right Meal Planning System" and then you'll feel *free* to experiment with index cards etc. til something starts to click. :-)

    I don't like to plan meals, but I also don't have kids. When I see a recipe I'd like to try I fold down the bottom corner, leave the cookbook(s) out in the holder, and add the missing ingredients to the grocery list on my fridge.

    Since you lurv your cooking books, you could maybe put sticky tabs on them instead. ;-)

    Anyway, you're a smarty pants and determined so you'll find something. I look forward to the exciting developments!!

  3. I really have NO assvice, because the brilliant commenters before me said it best, and I'm a crappy cook.

    Have to agree with the need for lists, notes, and reminders though. Does your new phone have something in it that might help?

  4. @karen-- exactly. I have to figure out how to make it work for me. There's no pantry in the new house, so I have to figure out how to not let the ingredients pile up-- there's no room for them.

    @terri-- organic systems, I like that! and believe me, the cookbooks are already littered with stickies!

    @julie *snort* if it does, I haven't figured it out yet. "Trials and Tribulations of my new phone" -- a post that will doubtless be coming soon.

  5. 'm always surprised at how lists, planning on paper and other organizing strategies that work well for other folks just make me feel like a prisoner, even though I constructed the cage.