This is an article I wrote back when my kids were teens but it has some great tips for moms still cooking for children at home (and for themselves as well!).
When you wake up in the morning, what is the first thing that pops into your head?
1. “Am I late for work”?
2. “Are the kids going to make it to the bus on time”?
3. “Where am I”?
If you answered 1, 2 or 3, then you are not a kitchen phobic.
I am one of many ADD women whose nightmares begin upon awakening, rather than during the wee hours of the night. For the first thought that comes into MY mind when my eyes open at 6:45 am is….
WHAT SHOULD I MAKE FOR DINNER TONIGHT?
The thought alone is enough to make me want to reach for a Xanax. But no, I decide to fight the urge and face the fear.
The first 20 years of my marriage produced meals that were at least consistent- daily potluck surprise, I called them. Throw something in a pot, and be surprised if it came out tasty enough to pass the lips of a living soul. Dogs and cats were excluded, of course.
I don’t know why people bothered to give me those beautiful Corningware casserole dishes for my wedding shower way back then, when an ashtray would have been more appropriate.
In my 21st year of marriage, I decided it was time to conquer my kitchen phobia head on. Collecting cookbooks became my newest addiction, and they soon piled up on my kitchen counter. They made my kitchen look homey. They also remained unopened, unstained. And they didn’t solve the age old question that haunted me for so many years:
“WHAT SHOULD I MAKE FOR DINNER TONIGHT?”
Let’s face it. For an ADD woman, procrastination and distractibility are often issues that are faced on a daily basis. We hate to be bored and dislike chores that are repetitive. If meatloaf is the only dish that comes out of the oven looking like it’s supposed to, no cook is going to want to repeat that meal day after day. Throw in a couple of ADD kids who are fussy eaters, and you’ve really got a problem on your hands.
So in my 21st year of marriage, I came up with some solutions. My favorite was to stop cooking. That may or may not work for you, depending on whether your budget will allow you to eat or carry out every night. That resulted in daughter number one learning how to fend for herself…until even she got sick of frozen pot pies and Scooby Do Dinners.
Since neither of those were long term options in my case, I came up with some solutions to help beat my kitchen phobia.
Ugh, the ugly “P” word. It goes against every grain of my ADD body. But believe it or not, it really does work once you get into the swing of it.
I’ve since developed my “POS” (Plan Or Starve) Cards , as I fondly call them. For every day of the week, I have an index card with a full menu on it. By menu, that means there is one home made course- the main dish- and ready made side dishes. If you are like me, then preparing just one part of a meal is enough to feel like an accomplished cook.
My cards, then, look like this:
MONDAY: Meatloaf, frozen peas, mashed potatoes from a box, bagged salad
TUESDAY: Roast Chicken, canned string beans, bagged salad….and so on.
In addition to the M-F cards, (no cooking for me on Saturday or Sunday-those days are sacred) I also add a couple of Jokers (wild cards). These consist of two choices: take out, or a *really* quick and easy recipe, like cooked pasta with bottled spaghetti sauce. Or tuna on toast, topped with cheese. You get the picture.
Now, I am not beyond cheating. Not by any means. So, if I find that on a particular Monday, I will be arriving home late from a meeting, I ditch the Monday card for my wild card, which in that case, usually means stopping at a fast food restaurant to pick up burgers.
This “POS” card method solves one of the biggest kitchen phobia symptoms that I happen to suffer from- making decisions. Once that particular anxiety is out of my mind, all I have to do is to remember to have the ingredients on hand. Another “P” issue.
Why is it that some people are able to grocery shop one day a week and have an entire 7 day’s worth of menus all set to go? That is truly beyond me. So, I’ve learned to compensate and accept the fact that I will always be the type of person who will have to run to the store at least 4 days out of the week, in order to pick up ingredients for that day’s dinner.
I was blessed with a daughter who is comfortable in the kitchen. I was doubly blessed with a husband who cannot differentiate between the textures of shoe leather and pot roast. So, when I’m in no mood to cook, I let my teenager fix her own dinner and let my husband fend for himself. Eating tuna out of a can never killed anyone, and besides, he likes to reminisce about his bachelor days at times. If I’m really lucky, there’s enough leftovers from my daughter’s culinary experiment to feed her younger sister.
The lesson here? Let go of your internalized expectations of needing to have a hot cooked meal on the table every night. Not only will you teach your children to become more resourceful, your husband will then pay you a million compliments the next time you follow a recipe from the back of a Campbell’s soup can.
You may have noticed that I only gave two examples of meals on my POS cards. That’s because I’ve kept the best secret for last. It’s a strategy that isn’t quite cooking and isn’t quite carry out, but it is one of my favorite tricks, aside from eating out. You can add these ideas to your wild cards for those days where you don’t want to or don’t have time to cook.
Easy cooking entails finding ready made foods at the market that look as if you’ve spent a couple of hours over a hot microwave…er….stove. I promise you that if you take the time one day to really study what is offered in your local supermarket, you will be shocked and pleased to see all the possibilities.
One of my favorites is the frozen bag that contains “everything” you need for a full meal: chicken, vegetables, and if you’re really lucky, a starch like rice or noodles. VOILE!. Buy two bags and dinner’s on the table. You can even get away without adding a salad.
Some other ideas-
* Check out the deli section for cooked chickens, ribs, etc. Grab a ready made container of potato salad or coleslaw, and you’re set.
* Scour the ethnic foods section- a great meal can be made from pita bread, hummus spread and canned soup.
* Buy large quantities of a frozen side dish you like, and make that the main dish. Instead of one box of mac and cheese, buy four. Add a salad or cut veggies and you’re set.
Break The Rules
Since when does making dinner mean having a meat, starch and veggie…every day?
Here are some ideas that will make your kids’ friends drool with envy:
* Serve breakfast for dinner. Scramble some eggs, toss a couple slices of American cheese on top- or sliced hot dogs- and dinner is ready in minutes.
* Have an appetizer dinner: buy cocktail hotdogs in a crust (in the freezer department), tator tots and if you’re really feeling adventurous, slice some fruit and thread them onto skewers.
* Make mish mosh: Pull out everything in your fridge that is one day away from turning green, and throw together into a surprise meal. There’s no reason why you can’t have a plate of cold cuts with left over soup and re-heated veggies from the night before. Be bold!
Nobody said that dinners have to be fancy. In my house, the sole purpose of a cooked meal is to fill hungry stomachs. Anything more is icing on the cake.
Remember, no one is going to suffer from your cooking shortcut methods. I truly believe that once we, as ADD women, give up the pressure of having to “perform” in the kitchen, we’ll end up actually enjoying our time there.
Now…pass the menu, please!
How about you? What kitchen/cooking tips work for you? Please share in the Comment section below.