Anyone who knows me well (or even knows me from Facebook) knows how much I hate meal planning and prep for our family. This little issue I have with getting food on the table has been an ongoing problem when you are, as I am, the married mother of five children, all of whom expect to have things like snacks and meals ready in the house at regular intervals. I don’t know where my dislike of all aspects of preparing and serving food came from but it’s something I have battled with ever since I became a parent. I just hate fixing food for other people, but kids reasonably expect to eat.
And therein lies the dilemma.
People who don’t really mind meal planning and prep are baffled when I explain my hatred of these activities to them. Often, when I express my issues with this particular household chore they respond in a rather annoyed way that they don’t see what the problem is; you plan the meals, go to the grocery store and buy the necessary ingredients, and then you follow recipes to get food on the table. Well, I say to these people, I’ll bet that there are plenty of other household chores that I’m good at and don’t mind (washing laundry, taking out the trash, cleaning baseboards, mopping, decluttering clutter, sweeping and vacuuming, weeding the garden, among other things) that I’ll bet that they themselves hate and avoid unless absolutely necessary. I mean, nobody is good at everything, right?
In the last six months or so, though, meal prep has become significantly less stressful for me. Why? Because I had the “a ha” realization that it’s not the actual cooking that I hate so much (although I’m never going to love it), it’s the going to the grocery store that gives me hives. I don’t know how or when I realized this exactly but once I did, I really, really realized how much I hate going to buy groceries. I don’t know if it’s all the sensory input in the grocery store that overwhelms my ADHD brain ( a condition which I actually have), with the overly bright lights and the bad music, or the need to price and comparison shop right there in the aisles, or the fact that there are fewer and fewer actual grocery store employees available to help me when I have a question, or the takeover of “regular” aisles with the horrible self service aisles which – despite Jon’s best efforts to teach me – I simply cannot learn to use. I don’t know if it’s any of those things or all of them or something more but I just abhor grocery shopping.
Now one exception to this rule is that I actually kind of (tepidly) enjoy shopping at Three Rivers Market, our local food co-op. It’s a smallish, manageably sized market without bright lights or muzak. It has plenty of helpful employees and no self-checkout aisles. It carries enough food items but not so many that I stand in the aisle, slack jawed, trying to figure out what to buy. Pretty much all the food I can buy there is reasonably good for me, so I don’t worry that I am buying junk. And it also smells very, very good in the store all the time. I don’t know how they make it smell so good in there but it’s awesome.
Yes, as grocery shopping goes, Three Rivers is the way to go. Unfortunately, it’s also significantly more expensive than the local Kroger or Food City so I can’t really do my shopping for basics there. Same holds true for Whole Foods (which is also quite large and too far away from us to be practical)
But anyway, back to my realization that I simply hate grocery shopping and am no good at it. When I finally figured out that I hate cooking significantly less when Jon does the pre-cooking grocery shopping it was like a lightbulb went off. I HATE THE GROCERY STORE! And so I expressed this realization to Jon, thinking he might be annoyed with me because like most regular people, he doesn’t love going to the store but it doesn’t give him mini panic attacks either. So in his typically kind, easygoing Jon sort of way he just agreed to take over most of the grocery shopping. If I’d choose what meals to cook, tell him what to buy, and do most of the cooking, he would do most of the grocery shopping. That’s what we agreed on. And guess what? It’s working.
We have now pared our dinner meal menu options down to 6-10 things that we prepare on a regular basis – all things that I can cook reasonably well, and I no longer worry about introducing fabulous new concoctions into our kitchen repertoire. We eat these 6-10 meals in rotation. Jon does 80% of the grocery shopping and I do 80% of the coming up with meal ideas and the cooking (although he does make a special wings & fries family meal every Friday night. It’s something he enjoys and we all love eating).
And this is actually working – better and better as time goes on. The less I worry and obsess over having to venture out to the grocery store on any given day/evening, the less I dread cooking. And the less I dread cooking, the more cooking I do.
It’s interesting that when you have a problem- almost a phobia on my part – and you sit down and logically parse out what it is about that issue that makes you break out in a clammy sweat, you’re better able to get to the bottom of what’s really going on. But when you do take the time to do that, to really figure out step by step what’s actually bothering you, it’s amazing how much more effective you are at getting that problem behind thee.
So grocery shopping is no longer my problem. And preparing food is no longer so much my problem either. And this is a Very Good Thing.
So what household management chores do you hate the most? Do you find yourself putting them off until you have more of a problem than you did in the first place? Share in the comments below.