Parenting

A bowl of beans for dinner, yet again

Making food is not something that comes easily to me. Actually, that’s a bit of an understatement. What I should say is: food is simply not on my radar. I’d rather do anything in the world but grocery shop, and I am taken by surprise, every single day, when all of a sudden my stomach starts grumbling at lunch time. Besides, I’m a terrible cook.

If I only had myself to worry about, of course, I’d be content grabbing some almonds, eating a cookie, or munching on an apple whenever hunger struck. But, alas, life with kids does not allow me this luxury. So I tried planning. I researched like the good academic that I am and came up with a 2-week rotating meal plan with simple dinners and snack ideas. I then made a permanent grocery list for each of the two menus. Finally, I scheduled grocery shopping for Friday mornings when the kids are in childcare, thinking the task would be less painful without two energetic little people beside me.

The execution of my plan has not been going so well. I can find almost anything to do on Friday mornings, and convince myself that it’s urgent: “I haven’t begun studying for the test on Monday! Must begin NOW!” or, “Wow, those learning strategists are right: if I don’t start working on my essay early, I will never get a good grade. Must start research NOW!” or, my personal favourite, “But I never have time just to myself, and that is so important, too. I need to take a long bath and read a novel NOW!”

Without food in the house, the rest of the excuses flow easily: “I could follow the plan and make a delicious vegetable and beans pasta dish, but…. There are no vegetables. Or beans. Or pasta.” Even then, I do try. Off to the nearby Health Food Store I go, dragging the little hungry people with me. Because they’re hungry they are also grumpy and so the grocery trip has to be quick. I grab a can of beans, some broccoli, tomato sauce, and a package of penne, and then run back home.

But as I’m opening the can of beans, the two of them are screaming — it’s 7 pm already and they are not only starved but exhausted. So I scoop out the beans into a bowl, sprinkle olive oil on it, toast a slice of bread, cut up some cheese, and offer an apple for dessert. Exhausted, I collapse onto the chair and eat the snack-style dinner with them. And guess what is likely to happen the next day? Yup, that’s right. The exact same thing.

There is some light at the end of the tunnel. A couple of weeks ago my good friend Susan, a super efficient single mom, told me her strategy: she picks up her son from daycare, stops by the nearby Health Food store (yes, the same one close to my house) and picks up a couple of chicken breasts and a vegetable (lately it’s been brussel sprouts). She goes home, and puts them in the oven with apples and olive oil, and lets them cook for about an hour, while she plays with her son. Then, at 6pm, she opens the oven and voila: the meal is ready! (She complements it with rice which she cooks in a big batch twice a week). Brilliant, isn’t it?

It sounds simple enough. I should be able to pull it off. But until I do, I will keep my strategy of late: joining Susan for dinner. Thankfully, she is my neighbour, she is generous with her food, our kids play together beautifully, and she likes the chocolate cakes I buy and bring for dessert.