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03 November 2010

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Angela C.

I really, really, really appreciate your gluttony/weight posts, Bearing. They've been interesting and have helped me in many different ways for a long time (I've been reading since about 2006 or so, I think). Anyway, this evening my husband and I went grocery shopping with a list and menu plan, spent around $100.00 or so, and as we were getting ready to drive home I was thinking "We didn't buy anything I really want to eat". How dumb is that?

How do you get interested in eating meals that sound ok when you're making a menu, but can't stand the thought of it when it comes down to actually preparing it? Or should that just be something that I offer up in reparation for sin, and just be glad I am not wondering where our next meal is coming from?

Erin

I took on the challenge of eating down my pantry one winter. I made a bet with my sister that I could go 12 weeks without grocery shopping and not run out of food. I allowed myself fresh milk, I wasn't allowed to eat out more than usual, and my meals still needed to be balanced. I made it easily. I had frozen and canned veggies and fruit (home canned fruit)and the only thing I really missed towards the end was a banana. It was a great lesson, I learned to use what I had and I think I ended up eating healthier. I throw away far less food after this challenge.

bearing

Erin, that's a great story.

I wonder how long I could go without shopping, with a family of 6 to feed? I think I'd have to allow shopping for a few fresh things (I'm not sure my 7yo could survive without a continuous supply of apples) -- but I bet I could get the staples down to a fairly short list (milk, apples, whole wheat flour) and still be able to stretch it out for several weeks...

A modified challenge if you can't bear the thought of no fresh stuff for weeks on end would be to decide in advance on a very simple, always-exactly-the-same weekly grocery list -- one kind of fresh green veg, one kind of fresh yellow veg, milk, that sort of thing -- and see how long that lasts you, getting all your variety from your pantry. You certainly won't die of malnutrition on a steady diet of carrots and spinach.

'Twould be a good exercise in simplicity. Maybe a decent Lenten practice. But please get your spouse's permission first :-)

bearing

"How do you get interested in eating meals that sound ok when you're making a menu, but can't stand the thought of it when it comes down to actually preparing it? Or should that just be something that I offer up in reparation for sin, and just be glad I am not wondering where our next meal is coming from?"

Hmmm --- I am stumped at that one (I suppose the easy answer is "offer it up")... I rarely have the problem of the food I make being unappetizing to me :-) But perhaps that's because I have the bad habit of designing my meal plans mainly to please myself! Or because basically, the kind of food I like is the edible kind... I marvel at all the children in my life who reject so many kinds of food. I just don't get it! It's all good to me.

In my ideal kitchen, I carefully make sure that every night, every person has *something* on the table that he or she likes to eat -- it might not be the main dish, it might be a side dish, but there's at least *something.* In reality, this doesn't happen. Part of it is because my kids' likes morph unexpectedly from time to time; part of it is forgetting to plan; but a lot of it is denial of reality...

OK, so why am I writing about kids when it's you who doesn't want to eat your food. My point is that the same things that work with picky kids can work with a picky self. One thing we have tried with some success is the "constantly available alternative food item." Everybody in our family likes a cut-up apple with peanut butter spread on it. By itself it is a balanced mini-meal. If somebody doesn't like what's on the table, and that includes me (not that this ever happens), they are always welcome to have a peanut butter apple. I'll even cut it up for them. Sometimes when I anticipate kids won't like the dinner I just put the apples, knife, and peanut butter on the table among the other dishes...

I don't know what your family's "peanut butter apple" will turn out to be, but maybe there's something...

Erin

Erin, I probably should have mentioned that my household includes just me, but obviously I tended to shop (and cook) as if I'm feeding a family of 6! I also allowed myself my normal eating out pattern of about 1 lunch and 1 dinner/week. Towards the end of the challenge, those meals largely became huge salads because I was craving fresh produce.

honeybee

I don't waste food, because living in a small apartment in Europe, I just don't have the space to store it (my refrigerator is tiny). I have to walk to the market every other day or so and buy what I need for the day.

What interested me in your post was the comment about our need for variety. This is something I think about all the time.

Trying to decide what to fix for meals is one of my most vexing tasks as a housewife. And yet, I don't remember my mother or grandmother stressing about it. The reason was that we had a weekly rotation of the same dishes.

If it was Monday, we knew meatloaf was on the menu and so on. Not only did no one complain, but the ritual was very comforting.

Nothing stops me from doing that now, but I have not been able to bring myself to take on that discipline, although I am quite sure that I would find tremendous freedom in it.

This is a question that goes very deep for me.

Thanks for this post.

Angela C.

Thanks for your response! Yes, I've always been a picky eater but as time has progressed I've become less picky, much to my surprise. I married someone who will eat just about anything (that's something I really appreciate about him too) so the problem with not liking the menu is all me. It's just the two of us (very sadly) so I guess I should just fix what sounds good to me and hang feeling selfish about it.

Honeybee mentions having the same dishes on a set basis. I grew up in a house where homemade hamburgers were served every Saturday night, which took a lot of pressure off my folks. It's not something I do, but it's a very nice way to have grown up.

Barbara C.

I've been trying to cut down on our waste as well; I am tired of throwing so much food away even when everyone eats a little bit. For instance, last night I only made half of a box of Velveeta shells, putting the other half in ziplock bags to make next week. I also started going to the butcher counter to get just 1/4 lb of ground beef instead of a prepackaged pound when I know that's all I will really use for the week.

Growing up my mom never checked her supplies before she went to the store and we would often have three bottles of ketchup and 20 cans of the same type of soup in the cupboard and 10 packs of bologna in the freezer, and she would still buy more just because she wasn't sure. She could have saved hundreds of dollars each month probably.

bearing

Re: your velveeta shells. It's funny, I find that sometimes avoiding waste entails making only part of a box instead of a whole one, other times it's the other way around.

For instance, I used to always have partial boxes of pasta around, taking up space until someone spilled them. Finally I said "Forget this" and (except for lasagna noodles) I now only cook integer numbers of pasta boxes. Immediately after we finish eating the pasta, I take whatever is left over and turn it into a ready-to-bake pan of macaroni and cheese. (Yes, I'm the sort of weirdo who can make cheese sauce while cleaning up the dinner and call it "no extra work.")
Somehow this always gets eaten within a few days, whereas those partial boxes of pasta would never get eaten.

But I can totally see how, depending on someone else's style, the key MIGHT be to quit cooking the whole box and only make what you're going to eat.

I really need to apply this same philosophy to frozen peas, partial bags of which are always getting lost in the back of the freezer.

Donna Jannuzzi

I've been reading your blog for a while now, but this is my first time to comment.

As to your last comment, about the pasta, yeah, that's funny that you have found that you have to cook a whole box of pasta or else you end up wasting. I cook only what we need, in fact I weigh out our servings. This is mainly because I find that it is way too easy to overeat pasta.

The point of my comment though is that I'm not sure that the general wasting of food is specifically tied to gluttony. I actually think it's more just plain ol' laziness and maybe ignorance (although I can admit that the gluttony subtopics you brought up also do play a role). Speaking only from my own experience here, I started meal planning before my oldest was born, about 5 years ago. It was mostly an attempt to save money, but I found that we also wasted a lot less food. Every week I make a menu and then from that menu I make my shopping list. And actually, before I make my menu I check the refrigerator for any perishables left over from the week before that need to be used up. I have found after doing this now for several years that we really do throw away very little food.

I think a lot of people go to the grocery store and just shop randomly. That's how my mom used to shop, and still does (and I remember throwing away a lot of food growing up). Also, talking with a lot of my friends I'm one of the few who does menu planning. The reason I think that laziness is mostly to blame is that the fact is, it is work to make a menu every week. It's work to stick with the plan, especially on days when you're tired. I do it because I think of it as my duty, and most of the time I do it happily (I enjoy cooking). But I also do it because I know it works. The ignorance comes in because I think so few people these days, of at least my friends and acquaintances, know how to really keep a home. And sorry to say a lot of them are even a bit hostile to the idea that doing such a thing might actually be their responsibility. They just don't know what is required to do such a thing (ignorance) and they have no desire to learn (laziness).

I don't know what else to add. Those are my thoughts.

bearing

Nice to meet you Donna :-)

Strong words in the end there! But it may be that you're right (hostility, ignorance and laziness re: housekeeping?) Some people don't like their lot in life very much. Others might view their position as temporary and not worth expending energy on. I know I spent a couple of years in major culture shock when I found that I was, essentially, a homemaker (still have trouble typing the word and want to write SAHM, how pathetic is that? It's just a word, and an accurate one, I don't know why I fear it so much.)

But I like to problem-solve by nature, and it has turned out that I am constantly surrounded by problems, small and large, which could be solved. This is something that keeps the "job" interesting for me. I understand that some people hate to cook, and maybe their circumstances are such that they have to be the cook anyway, and I can understand how resentment of that role might make them want to think about it as little as possible. And maybe they're financially comfortable enough that the money wasted is worth the "not having to think about the stuff I hate." I see that same tendency in myself, though not in the grocery list and the menu plan.

Donna Jannuzzi

So, I read your comment yesterday and I've been thinking about what you said, that I had strong words there in the end. I guess that after re-reading them I can admit that they might sound a little judgmental (or a lot judgmental; I'm not sure). That's not what I intended. I actually have a lot of empathy for those who may not like to cook or perhaps aren't very good at it. It's hard because your family has to eat and it's a task that just isn't going away and I can see how some might feel overwhelmed by that. Also, I appreciate what Angela C. said in her first comment. It seems that she really does want ideas about how others do the whole dinner thing. She's asking questions. I may have the food thing figured out in our house, but there are other areas where I need to improve. I guess my frustration shows itself when I see others who just have no desire to learn or grow. Or, no desire to accept their responsibilities; as if someone else is going to come and feed their family day after day, week after week. I get what you're saying about those who don't like their lot in life. As for those who feel that their position is temporary - for instance, a mom who leaves work to raise her children until school age but then plans to go back to work at that time. Well, I suppose her situation is somewhat temporary, but it is still her position *right now*. Also, her family will always need to eat (or have clean clothes, or clean bathtubs or whatever one's own personal housekeeping struggle is). I just strongly dislike apathy. I think it is the one thing in someone that really turns me off. I know that is something I need to work on, to keep from dismissing such persons completely, but it is a struggle for me. I am a problem-solver by nature too and very goal-oriented. I dislike myself when I give in to laziness and I think that when I see it in others, especially those who also show indifference to their duties, that response is just amplified. Does that make sense? Anyhow, I hope I haven't taken this too far off course.

And since I do meal plan I can offer my simple advice to Angela C., for whatever it's worth. When I come up on a menu item that I don't feel like cooking on a certain night I'll see if there is something that I can switch it out with. Either another meal that uses the same ingredients, or another meal from later in the week. I'll admit that as the week goes on it is harder to make substitutions since I generally only buy what we need in terms of fresh produce or meats for one week. If a switch cannot be made then I go to plan B, which is that I also keep a few of my favorite pantry items in stock at all times so that a quick and easy and *favorite* meal is always an option. What those staples are will vary depending on your family and your tastes, but I have found that to be a useful tool for us as well especially on those rough or tired/long days (we all have them).

Oh, and should I call you bearing, or Erin? Do you have a preference?

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