Can we talk about meal planning?
I’m single. I live alone. Meal planning should not be a stressful event in my life. In general, it isn’t.
But meal planning, for me, is probably not what typically comes to mind when someone uses the phrase, “meal planning.”
I know when I think “meal planning,” I think about the people out there who really have it all together and spend about two or three hours on a Sunday afternoon or evening putting together everything they plan to eat throughout the coming week. I have never been this person.
I’ve had intentions of being this person from time to time. You know… I’d tell myself that I would at least get my lunches together because who wants to throw a sandwich together at 7:00 a.m. while trying to get ready for work?
Sometimes, when I say I’m gonna try a new thing or a new activity in my life, I’ll actually give a shot a few times before I get bored or decide I just don’t want to do that. With the above mentioned “meal planning” idea, I never got past the idea stage. Never once did I spend a Sunday afternoon making enough sandwiches to get me through a work week.
For me, meal planning generally involves standing with the refrigerator and/or freezer door open while I stare at the contents within. What thoughts could be going through my mind as I let the cool air escape, you may ask? Usually, I’m silently asking myself if I think it would be worth it to put in the work it takes to cook item A or item B.
A silent yes leads to the slight hassle of cooking something for lunch or dinner. Or both… As a single guy, I do have leftovers a lot. It’s really hard to cook for just one person. Anyone else notice this?
Anyway, a silent no usually means I can’t be bothered to use the oven, stove, or even the much faster microwave. So then I move over to the cabinet to see what may be hiding in there. This is where you find items like canned goods, Easy Mac, and a plethora of cereals. If I’ve already decided not use the microwave, then the Easy Mac is probably a no-go. But cereal is always on the menu. This decision hinges only upon if I have a bowl that’s clean and enough milk to make the pour worthwhile.
There are occasions, I won’t lie, when even that feels like too much work. And that is why I love the good people at DoorDash.
While I was making dinner recently, I got to thinking about how other people do this. I’m standing at the stove cooking for only myself. I know it’s necessary so I can survive. But it’s also kind of annoying.
I know… first world problems. I should probably go back and delete this whole post because how freakin’ privileged am I to be able to complain about being able to cook full meals for myself three (or, if I so desired, more) times per day. Such a jerk.
Anyway… How do families do this?
Growing up, Dad did the bulk of the cooking. Sure, he was good at it, but he wasn’t trying to open up any five-star restaurants either. I would say he was as good a cook as I am. I mean… read a recipe, follow instructions… BAM… dinner.
I’m told that at the start of my parents’ marriage, Mom started as the cook. But it didn’t take long for them to kind of realize it didn’t make much sense. Not that my mother isn’t a good cook. As kids, my sister and I, of course, gave her a hard time when she did cook, just because we weren’t used to such a thing.
No, the reason they switched off on kitchen duties was because of their work schedules. Working for the railroad, Dad would find himself home from work before 4:00 p.m. each afternoon. Mom, on the other hand, worked for the city and wasn’t home until after 5:00. Ergo, it just made sense for Dad to have dinner ready when Mom walked in the door.
All that to say, I think about the meals my father prepared for us. Again, nothing fancy… just the standard fare that kids of a certain age will be willing to eat over and over again. I’ll admit, I was a super picky eater (still pretty much am) and the parentals never really forced me to expand those horizons.
But as I was cooking my own meal for only myself, I thought about my dad doing it for four of us. I’m sure my sister and I were grateful. I’m sure we told Dad thank you when he presented us with a plate of food. But I know, speaking for myself, I took it for granted a lot.
Here’s this guy who worked a full day in a hard labor kind of job then came home and made a meal for his family.
On the flip side of that, here’s my mom who worked a full day in an office with a bunch of horrible people, then came home and occasionally made a meal for her family.
To explain, there were some stretches there where my dad worked the 2nd shift at the railroad which meant he wasn’t at home for dinner five nights a week. That’s when Mom took over.
Honestly, there are a lot of things about what parents do that I just can’t grasp. And I know it’s because I don’t have children of my own. I’m not sure I can fathom the responsibility a parent has when it comes to taking care of their kids. At least, the way it’s supposed to be… I’ve worked with a lot of families where the parents clearly couldn’t care less about their children, but that’s not a story for the now.
Where am I even going with this?
Again, I know I’m complaining from a position of privilege and I completely understand just how blessed I have been throughout my entire life.
I guess I just don’t get it, as a single guy, how parents manage to do what they do. So to the ladies and gentlemen out there who cook and serve meals to their children, kudos. And on behalf of those kids who may not be as grateful now as they may be some day in the future, thank you for what you do.