‘I’m in a Food Rut!’ 8 Ideas to Inspire Cooking

My friend Beth has a chart on her refrigerator with the days of the week and exactly what she’ll cook for her daughter each day. Monday = pasta with red sauce and broccoli, Tuesday = tacos, Wednesday = macaroni and cheese and cantaloupe and so on. I was impressed and asked her if she made a new menu every week. She said no, this is what her 2-year-old eats each day week after week. My very organized friend Beth was telling me this from deep inside a food rut. It happens to all of us, and for those of us less organized than Beth, we may just not cook at all, and that is very sad. But do not fear, there is hope! You can lift yourself out of the deepest food rut with these ideas to help get you going:

  • Be strong and make what you want to eat. Kids have the power to pull their mommies down into a food rut, especially when they get separate meals. Who could be inspired to make more than one meal a night!? As long as it’s not overly spicy or greasy, they should be able to eat what you do. If they say no, then try, try again. I heard a great quote from a pediatrician once, “It is our jobs as parents to put good food in front of our kids, the rest is up to them.”
  • Get together with a friend and switching grocery lists! We fall into habits (and ruts) and end up putting the same food into our carts week after week. Switching lists is a sure fire way to open your eyes and carts to something new.
  • Try shopping at a supermarket that you don’t usually go to. And give yourself some time to look around. Sometimes when we are always at the same place, we only see what we are used to seeing.
  • Use a recipe. If you are like me, a chronic recipe reader who shies away from actually using one, give it a shot! The food will taste like someone else made it, which is always a welcome break.
  • Make a cooking date either with your kids or your significant other. Pick out a few recipes together, go shopping, and don’t forget to spurge. You aren’t paying a babysitter or restaurant prices, so go wild and crazy with what you can make at home.
  • Give up something and be forced to get more creative. My husband found out he can’t eat wheat anymore, and as hard as that has been (for all of us!), it has made us explore the world of grains with a new zeal. Forbidden rice anyone??
  • “Extreme cooking” I have a good friend who calls forcing yourself to cook whatever is in your fridge/kitchen without supplementing, extreme cooking. It’s a fun and economical way to make sure nothing languishes for too long in the back of your pantry and inspires some very interesting food combinations.
  • Explore seasonal cooking and eating. Yes, we can get strawberries year round, but the strawberries of summer are usually the yummiest, and feel special if we wait for summer to eat them. Strawberry shortcake and strawberry rhubarb pie can pull you out of winter and out of your food rut at the same time.

We all fall in. I thought of this post while sitting at the bottom of one. Then a friend of mine took me to a fantastic Chinese grocery store (thank you, Zhan!) and I jumped out! I bought oyster mushrooms and fried tofu, lychee fruits and a very new-to-me long squash with deep ridges that melted into deliciousness in the saute pan. Next on my list is to switch lists with someone. Who’s game?!

What do you love to buy at the store? Any ideas to lift a fellow mom out of her rut?