Meal Planning: A Shared Responsibility

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I used to tell people that if meat would defrost itself, the divorce rate would be half of what it is, since deep down I truly believe this is a major factor that adds stress to most families' lives. Despite my generation of women who work full time, most women are still likely the one responsible for shopping and meal planning. If meat had the ability to escape from the freezer, onto the counter top, conveniently and in time for me to make dinner the moment I walk in the door, there would have been many nights my husband, Dave and I could have avoided tension. 

Let me start by clearly stating that I am married to a great guy who is an amazing father. He always helps me if I communicate clearly what our meal plan is and what I need him to do. As we celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary, I am continually grateful for Dave’s incredible and superhuman ability to fix all things electronic, computer-related, household-related and car-related. Basically, there is NOTHING my husband can’t fix. Over the years, Dave started cooking more and now often makes dinner for us.   

Since food, nutrition and eating home-cooked meals are my obsession that I impose on our family, I do the grocery shopping, meal planning, meal prep, cooking, cleaning out of leftovers, thinking about the next day’s meal, and have self-imposed ideals about what that should be for us. To Dave, food is the LAST thing on his mind. He is busy working, driving our daughter, Claire daily to and/or from school, addressing everything that I am unavailable to do given the lack of flexibility with my daily commitment when working at the hospital and clinics. Dave is never pickynor opinionated about what’s for dinner. Hence, dinner is not in his awareness. 

For years, when Dave worked from home, I remember having to remind myself to call him from the operating room, between surgeries, or between patients when I was in clinic, no later than 2pm so that I could ask him to defrost some protein from the freezer, if that is, I forgot to defrost something in the morning before I ran out the door. Now that we’ve moved to another state, it’s the same issue. We both get busy, forget to talk about what’s for dinner, and typically I may go all day without eating and drinking much water, so come 6pm or later, as I am walking out of the hospital and calling him to tell him I am on my way home, I may ask the most dreaded question…"What’s the plan for dinner?" 

Dave knows that this is the worst time to reply with “I don’t know,” or “I guess we’ll eat out,” since I am usually tired, grumpy and can’t stand the idea that on a school night we would be getting to a restaurant around 7pm. However, last week we had such a night and such was the conversation. I quickly did a mental recall of what’s in the fridge and in the cupboards, and gave suggestions to him to start making a few healthy dishes as I rushed home to make fried rice and broil some chicken thighs coated with a generous slather of hoisin sauce. 

Here it is: we need an app to remind couples each and everyday to think about what’s for dinner before 2pm…before the hypoglycemia kicks in. The day can go so long and even so poorly that all I want to do is come home to sit down with family to enjoy a hot meal. That’s my version of a perfect day, every day. 

Our strategy? I cook every Sunday, so Monday night and even Tuesday night Dave can help get us ready for dinner simply by reheating it. I also need to think about and plan our weeknight menu while grocery shopping on Saturdays. Dave makes incredible salmon, sauté broccoli and green beans dishes—better than I—and of course he is a grill master 

The bottom line is this—every couple and family should discuss and decide what meal planning and meals look like to ensure everyone’s needs are met and, most importantly, the health goals for the family are achieved. This includes nights when there are activities, such as sports, dance, ballet, work schedule for the adults, etc. Eating out, picking up takeout or purchasing prepared foods are all options but they come at a cost—not only financial but they are often detriment to health if they tend to be excessively high in calories and poor quality.

Until meat and all protein/fish learn to defrost themselves, we all have to continue to communicate with our partners each and every day, so that we can enjoy and maximize our evenings with loved ones over a hot homemade meal. For those who are single parents making ends meet, what I am suggesting may not be a reality, but even then, every family needs to have a plan. Without the best plan possible, one that is realistic, eating becomes an afterthought and our health suffers. 

Planning meals and eating at home also teaches your children the importance of cooking as a life skill and eating healthy foods. 

What’s for dinner at your house tomorrow night?

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