Stepping off the Foodie-Go-Round

The marvelous Elayne Boosler once joked that she planned to open a restaurant designed for single folks. Rather than have tables and chairs, she'd set up a series of kitchen sinks over which her customers would stand and eat.

Nine nights out of 10, I eat regular meals at my dining table, from a plate or bowl rather than right out of the pan. I use cloth napkins, too; at six for a quarter from a rummage sale, they're both cheap and eco-friendly.

But check out my meal the next night and it will look familiar. That's because I'm a devotee of the one-pot-glop theory of cooking: chili, stew, soup, casseroles, pasta, curry.

Make that the big-pot-glop theory: I cook a large batch of whatever-it-is and eat it for days, then cook something else.

April Dykman recently wrote about a way to cut the grocery bill: Eat like a peasant. I'll go her one better: Eat like a lazy peasant and you'll save not just money, but time.

I'm risking pissing off a whole bunch of people, but here goes: I think we spend way too much time focusing on what we should eat.

This isn't intended as a slam against adventurous cooks or people for whom a varied menu is important. Nor am I unaware of the many world cuisines that are fairly easy to prepare. But that doesn't mean I need to learn to cook them all, or even more than a few of them.

So if you, like me, don't want to spend much time dithering about food, consider this radical dietary approach:

Polenta and pitiful rice
Or take a day or two off from those big pots. If I don't feel like soaking beans or chopping vegetables I sometimes just “pick,” i.e., I cobble collations together from whatever's at hand. Canned black beans with a bit of salsa and cheese wrapped in a flour tortilla from the bread outlet. A green salad topped with sliced hard-boiled eggs, slivers of cheese (if I have any) and drained tuna. Crackers and cheese and sliced tomatoes. Pancakes and homemade yogurt with fruit.

Sometimes all I eat for supper is a bowl of hot grains: cornmeal mush (which you can call “polenta” if that makes you feel more worldly), oatmeal with dried fruit and flaxseed, or even rice and hot milk with cinnamon and a little sugar (a great way to use up leftover rice).

If I don't want to eat the rice with milk, there's always a stir-fry: whatever veggies and/or meat are in the fridge or freezer, with a splash of soy and a little rice vinegar. Sometimes that ends up being what I call “pitiful rice,” based mostly on a grated carrot (the only vegetable I always have on hand) cooked in a bit of bacon fat with onions and garlic (if I've got them) and sauced as noted above. Not the most nutritious stir-fry ever, but the rice turns a pretty color from the carrot juice.

As long as I don't skip too many real meals, and as long as “picking” doesn't translate to “a bag of Doritos and a Diet Coke,” I won't perish.

All leftovers are wanted and needed
Right now you might be wailing about how boring this all sounds. If so, I have a simple solution: Don't follow my advice. Keep doing what you do if it works for you.

But some of us just aren't interested enough to make variety a priority. Myself, I love knowing there's a big bowl of something-or-other in the fridge that I can just heat and eat. Usually I add a side salad from the bowl of washed greens I keep in the fridge.

I see two advantages to this system:

  1. Cook once, eat multiple times. So easy.
  2. No waste. Food never goes bad in my fridge because I won't let it. All leftovers are wanted and needed.

As for disadvantages, I can't see any — unless it's the sameness. If you're the kind of person who must have variety, then eating the same thing even twice in a week might repulse you.

But that's why freezers were invented. Make the big pot of food, eat some, freeze the rest in small containers. Make another big pot the next night, eat some, etc.

Soon you'll have lather-rinse-repeated yourself into a full freezer and can take a couple weeks off from cooking at all.

An essential human need
This is a country of food abundance, yet our comestible blessings don't seem to mean much. We must constantly tempt our jaded palates with a new potato-chip flavor, a rediscovered heirloom vegetable, beef from a massaged and hand-fed steer, coffee beans grown under organic shade cloth (or, worse, shat out by a civet cat). Any day now I expect to see an entire Food Network program devoted to free-range pickles.

Think about that for a moment: an entire cable channel set up to riff on an essential human need, a need which far too many people have trouble obtaining even in its most basic form. That kid in line at a refugee camp won't wrinkle his nose at a bowl of corn-and-soy gruel and ask for fusion cookery.

Whereas we have slow food, raw food, Paleo, gluten-free, locally sourced, vegan — a cuisine for every cause. Heck, we even have “comfort food,” an entire category of grub that we eat in order to change our moods.

Understand: I know that some people can or choose to eat only certain kinds of foods. After my daughter's bout with Guillain-Barre syndrome, she can no longer stomach beef; she wants to eat it but it makes her physically sick. My sister has been a vegetarian for a couple of decades. My grandmother had celiac, which she insisted on pronouncing as “Celica,” like the old Toyota model. (I miss her.)

People can eat whatever they like. But they shouldn't feel compelled to produce a brand-new meal every night unless that's the sort of thing they really like to do.

I'm not a picky eater. I work a lot of hours. Generally, I just want a plate or bowl of something hot and brown.

Or red: Some weeks I'll eat chili for six or seven nights straight. I cook the pinto beans myself (sooo cheap), buy the no-salt tomatoes, and use a very small amount of beef or chicken. It's frugal. It's healthy. It's tasty. More to the point, it's here, and all I need to do is heat it up.

Hurrah for the peanut-butter spoon
Again, I'm not saying that you have to live on the same three carbs for the rest of your days, or that you shouldn't cook a different world cuisine every night. What I'm saying is that no-fuss meals can add up to decent savings of time as well as money.

My time is valuable to me. Do I want to spend it chiffonading cabbage or hand-dicing a platter of steak tartare? Or would I be just as happily fed with a tasty bowl of homemade chicken-vegetable soup and a little salad?

Nope, and yep.

I used to think that I needed to make a full (and different!) meal every night of my life. But I really don't. And neither do you, unless you want to.

So if you're pressed from time due to a big project — doctoral thesis, community theater, childbirth — give one-pot-glopping a try. Make a big batch of something you really like and eat it three times in five or six days. Then take the time you would have spent chopping, slicing and dicing and spend it in some other way. Like, say, on yourself.

Even if you cook most of the time, admit it: Some nights you just don't feel like it/just aren't that hungry. On these occasions, why not give yourself permission to have a bowl of Cheerios or to enjoy an apple with the famous peanut-butter spoon?

You'll probably do just fine nutritionally, especially if you're not eating pitiful rice too often. Or making supper out of a bag of Doritos and a Diet Coke.

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Ramona
Ramona
8 years ago

Donna, what a frugal & simple way to eat. It’s not for me at this time in my life, but I feel inspired to consider this at some later time. And how minimal your grocery costs!

Davina
Davina
8 years ago

The “Foodie” thing sticks in my craw–spoiled Americans obsessed with what goes down their gullets when there’s so much need in the world.

I eat oatmeal for breakfast, black beans for lunch, a baked potato with chevre for dinner, fruit, a few Hershey’s kisses or homemade cupcakes. Almost everything comes from Costco or other low-cost stores; rarely do I have to go to the dreaded grocery store.

I’m celiac, lactose intolerant and rarely eat meat. This diet is inexpensive, simple and tastes great.

Katie
Katie
8 years ago
Reply to  Davina

I’m not sure how you subsisting on a minimalist diet helps starving people in the rest of the world. (I mean, I’m glad it works for you and all, but it sure isn’t anything I’d ever do voluntarily.)

Jon Smith
Jon Smith
8 years ago
Reply to  Katie

Eating meat is incredibly inefficient. It uses vast areas of land, not just for the cattle, but for the huge amount of crops grown to feed the cattle. Demand for cereals and grains is inflated, available arable land for (more efficient) crops for humans is reduced, and the price of cereals goes up.

If you can avoid eating meat, I believe that it does help.

That said, I eat a lot of meat. Like, a lot. So take what I say with a pinch of salt…uh. Or not. Eat healthy.

Carla
Carla
8 years ago
Reply to  Jon Smith

It depends on what you buy, where it comes from and how it was raised.

Katie
Katie
8 years ago
Reply to  Jon Smith

Certainly, but not eating meat does not mean only eating black beans, potatoes, and oatmeal (all of which may or may be grown locally), and it’s not like that poster is vegan (see, chevre).

Jon Smith
Jon Smith
8 years ago
Reply to  Jon Smith

Good point Katie. I read “lactose intolerant” and somehow assumed vegan, despite the presence of “chevre” and “Hershey’s Kisses”. My bad.

Ely
Ely
8 years ago
Reply to  Jon Smith

Inaccurate. Raising meat animals turns acreage into nutrition more efficiently than raising grain. Also, animals return nutrients to the soil during their lifetime, extending usefulness of the land into infinity. Except in the case of overgrazing of course. Farming grains and vegetables by standard US agricultural practice depletes the soil and quickly renders the land unfit; hence the need for chemical fertilizers. And grains are an inefficient source of calories for human beings; it takes a lot to get the same nutrition out of them. There are ideal ways to raise crops and animals, usually in some balance with each… Read more »

Courtney
Courtney
8 years ago
Reply to  Davina

I hope you’re taking a multivitamin, because starch + starchy incomplete protein + starch doesn’t make for a well rounded diet.

Amanda #2
Amanda #2
8 years ago
Reply to  Courtney

I’m not agreeing nor disagreeing with you; however,unless you have a major allergy or disease you can’t possibly know how difficult it is to choose what to eat. =)

Courtney
Courtney
8 years ago
Reply to  Amanda #2

Right, which is why I said (and reiterated to a commenter below) “take a multivitamin” and not “eat more foods”. The diet she listed is lacking in many important vitamins and minerals, including A, K, B12, and calcium.

(But – I will add there are plenty of foods that COULD be added that don’t fall into ‘gluten’ or ‘dairy’ categories. Vegetables would be one of them).

Carla
Carla
8 years ago
Reply to  Davina

The so-called “spoiled foodie” thing is also about health and nutrition which is sounds like your diet is void of. No fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, adequate protein, and so on. I hope it works out for you in the long run.

Sara
Sara
8 years ago
Reply to  Carla

Wow, Donna, your post obviously brought out the arrogance of some folks! While maybe not every meal ends up being “nutritionally balanced,” it certainly seems to me that you’re including veggies and proteins, and in the end it all works out. Personally, I can relate to your post. When you eat at home alone a lot, your suggestions can make a lot of sense. Even if not done week after week, sometimes I’m in the mood to follow the type of plan you lay out, Donna. Thanks!

Carla
Carla
8 years ago
Reply to  Sara

Sara, since you decided to use the word “arrogance” under my post, I was just matching the tone with what was already written by Donna and her camp (some of the comments). Readers have a right to defend their lifestyle choices when someone’s crapping all over it – even if that’s our own perception. Now Donna or Davina (since my comment was directed to her) could respond to my comment and defend their choices as well, but maybe she decided to let it go.

It sounds like you just wanted to stir the pot…

Sara
Sara
8 years ago
Reply to  Sara

Oops, I accidentally “liked” your post, Carla (though, obviously, I do not). Anyhow, I was just wondering why you said “NO” veggies, etc., when Donna specifically listed using “veggies,” “salad,” “carrots,” “onions,” “tuna,” etc. It seemed to me you intentionally ignored her languange in order to make your point. Also, I think you calling Donna’s diet “void” of nutrition is totally off base. (See Donna’s comment at 130.)

Carla
Carla
8 years ago
Reply to  Sara

Because if you follow the comment thread, it was a response to someone’s comment, not Donna’s post.

Sara
Sara
8 years ago
Reply to  Sara

Sorry, I did follow the thread, but admit I missed the nesting of your original comment.

My original point in posting is that I think Donna’s style can work well for people in my situation, who may be eating at home alone often and can stand to eat the same or similar main meal a couple times in a row — not that it has to be done as an all-the-time cycle, but that it can have its place in the rotation.

Carla
Carla
8 years ago
Reply to  Sara

I guess there is more than one way to skin a cat. I too eat home alone very often and do eat the same meal more than once. Its usually breakfast from the previous nights dinner; especially if its protein; especially if its my power lifting or high intensity cardio day.

Could I do two days in a row? Yes. Five? No. 🙂 I actually envy those who could, but I prefer variety and no, I don’t cook like Anthony Bourdain *every* night. Seasoned grilled fish and salad is fine.

Jacq
Jacq
8 years ago
Reply to  Carla

I’ve always wondered how my 93 y.o. father manages to be so incredibly healthy all these years growing up on a local diet pretty much void of fruit and minimal veggies – unless you count potatoes (veggies only in season and not a speck of lettuce to be found in the winter). Mind you, he was a beef rancher and was paleo and organic before it was cool.

I just try to eat like my dad and my grandparents. I figure they had to be doing something right to live into their mid-90’s with little to no health issues.

Carla
Carla
8 years ago
Reply to  Jacq

Genes probably have a lot to do with it. Mines (genes) says “get fat” when I *look* at a starch. Also I never considered a diet or way of eating “cool” before…

Andrew
Andrew
8 years ago
Reply to  Davina

You are foodie enough to make a reference to “chèvre!”

Also, since when is Costco less dreadful than a grocery store?

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago
Reply to  Andrew

lolol i noticed that too.

Courtney
Courtney
8 years ago
Reply to  Andrew

She did say ‘spoiled Americans’ so I assumed chevre was another country’s cultural term for cheese.

Andrew
Andrew
8 years ago
Reply to  Courtney

No, “chèvre” is a specific term that means “goat cheese.”. It’s a French word, but it’s foodie-like even in France, as the everyday French word that just means “cheese” is “fromage.”

MinimalThis
MinimalThis
8 years ago
Reply to  Davina

Black beans, chevre? You’re a foodie in disguise. I cook a pot of thin gruel of pureed vegetables once a week, drink only water and take a multivitamin once a day. There is need in the world, how can you eat Hershey’s kisses?

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago
Reply to  MinimalThis

Slavery chocolate, of all things!

http://www.awakenedaesthetic.com/2011/02/exposed-hersheys-chocolate/

down the gullet

sticks in my craw

😉

Esme
Esme
8 years ago
Reply to  MinimalThis

..Trying very hard not to start quoting Monty Python here ( Three Yorkshiremen)..:)

Mom of five
Mom of five
8 years ago

I think the tendency to want a variety in food is genetic. I don’t have it and neither does my husband or our biological children. One of our adopted kids, however, absolutely craves variety. By the time he was 4, we were calling him “epicurious”. Appetite wise, there is a stark difference between him and the rest of the family.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
8 years ago
Reply to  Mom of five

I’m inclined to agree 🙂 My mom and I don’t crave variety — we could eat stir fry and salads for days on end. The rest of the family… not so much! It’s a challenge when the ones preparing most of the meals are pressured to produce something new every night.

Betsy
Betsy
8 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

I hear ya. I have a feeling that if the other family members were responsible for meal planning, shopping and cooking every night, that peanut butter spoon (or nuked leftovers) might be a lot more satisfying!

Kris
Kris
8 years ago

I couldn’t agree with you more. I enjoy cooking – my husband and I typically spend most Sunday afternoons prepping and cooking for the upcoming week – but that’s because it’s something we enjoy.

We also enjoy not having to do it during the week after work.

If you don’t enjoy it, why force yourself to do more of it than necessary?

cc
cc
8 years ago
Reply to  Kris

i dig the YMMV vibe going here!
i can see how it would save a lot of time, but my husband and i enjoy cooking, and we don’t have a dishwasher so every night i have to do dishes anyway. we use it as a time to catch up and experiment in the kitchen. i’ve even started turning down takeout because i miss our time preparing dinner ;P

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
8 years ago
Reply to  cc

Me, too, also with regard to the YMMV vibe.
I recently tried a new recipe that required more chopping and sauteeing. It was kind of fun, but I doubt I’ll seek new recipes every week. ‘Cause my mileage just varies like that.
Bon appetit to all.

EXK
EXK
8 years ago

I totally agree with your overall ideas, but I am curious what inspired this post. I’m kind of confused about what exactly you’re arguing against here, the person who never eats leftovers and uses a sink full of dishes to create a multi-part meal every night just seems like a straw man. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t look forward to good leftovers or a simple tasty meal, even “foodie” types who care a lot about what they eat, at the very least if it will provide lunch for the week! On the other hand, big pot meals can be… Read more »

elorrie
elorrie
8 years ago
Reply to  EXK

Actually I know some people like this. We have a friend that will not eat leftovers, at all, of any kind. Even the amazing restaurant pasta he just ordered and only ate half of. He won’t get it wrapped up to go (don’t worry someone else in our group of friends will always take it or eat it). Its crazy to me though. Still I don’t think reading this article would change his ways. My fiance is often of the “well don’t have time to cook an elaborate meal might as well get take-out mentality”. I’m working to convert him.… Read more »

EXK
EXK
8 years ago
Reply to  elorrie

Aw, that’s…oddly sad! (About your friend, not your fiance, of course.) He probably thinks he’s being discriminating, but he’s missing out on so much good food! Weird.

elorrie
elorrie
8 years ago
Reply to  EXK

Yeah, I can’t comprehend it at all. It seems so wasteful…but our other friends…boy they can eat so someone always swoops in to finish off his plate, haha.

partgypsy
partgypsy
8 years ago
Reply to  EXK

Yeah, especially as some food tastes BETTER the next day (all the flavors meld). He nevers gets to experience that.

elorrie
elorrie
8 years ago
Reply to  EXK

Right? I think something magical happens to Lasagna when left in the fridge overnight.

Betsy
Betsy
8 years ago
Reply to  elorrie

I know a guy who won’t eat leftovers, also. It almost seems like a phobia.

Amber
Amber
8 years ago
Reply to  Betsy

My boyfriend and I have big fights over leftovers and yet he is a very simple eater. He will go home and eat a PBJ rather than eat my leftover stew or restaurant food from the previous night. Something about it does seem distasteful to him but I don’t understand.
He wonders why I can’t just cook the right amount for one night. sadly I don’t see this pattern improving anytime soon.

Megan
Megan
8 years ago
Reply to  Betsy

I had a friend who could not – and would not – eat leftovers. Her mother was the same way, and they were known for making a big dinner for Thanksgiving and THROWING AWAY THE LEFTOVERS because they “didn’t want to deal with them.”

She told me this years ago, and I still get angry thinking about someone pitching a huge amount of turkey, potatoes, etc., etc. “just because.” It seems so arrogant. (And also, why not save themselves the trouble and just cook a small Cornish hen instead of a huge bird?)

KS
KS
8 years ago
Reply to  Betsy

I come from a family for whom not eating leftovers is deeply cultural (Indian). My parents will eat some leftovers, but the rice should be fresh! I have other relatives like this as well. Even when they do eat leftovers, they kind of wish they didn’t have to, on some level. My grandmother will not – for religious reasons, she will eat no cooked leftovers of any kind. I eat leftovers, but my husband and I get sick of them if we’re eating them more than one day. So our ideal is to make enough for 4 meals – one… Read more »

Laura
Laura
8 years ago
Reply to  Betsy

Amber’s boyfriend sounds like my boyfriend. He could eat sausage and raw peppers for every meal. I like cooking and love leftovers, but he won’t have anything to do with them. He says he’s a simple man with simple tastes, but I have to admit it’s disappointing to cook for someone with a limited palate and no appreciate for the art of left-overing or re-purposing food for another meal.

DR
DR
8 years ago
Reply to  Betsy

My family is also like KS’s (from India) and culturally speaking leftovers are not eaten. Mostly because food is cooked fresh everyday in the morning and evening and cooked at the exact quantities needed. But my husband and i do eat them (if its a day old) and also because we cook dinner and bring it for lunch. But anything more than a day old, even i am not too comfortable eating it.

Becky
Becky
8 years ago
Reply to  Betsy

KS and DR, that is so interesting! I learned to cook from an Indian vegetarian cookbook with a religious bent (though I am neither Indian nor vegetarian nor religious – it is a very good cookbook). The author explained in some very polite language that food, especially vegetables, should *not* be reheated but prepared fresh for every meal. I couldn’t quite understand what she was driving at!

I would assume that historically, in a place with such a warm climate, making sure food is eaten right away is by far the healthiest approach.

Ely
Ely
8 years ago
Reply to  elorrie

Leftovers are my favorite! So many things are better the next day… 😉

Carla
Carla
8 years ago
Reply to  Ely

Especially when you live alone and prepare most of the meals you consume. My guess is people who don’t eat leftovers are not the ones cooking their own meals all the time…I could be wrong.

Jaime B
Jaime B
8 years ago
Reply to  Ely

@ Carla – you are wrong. 😉

I’m not a leftover fan. I do like chili and pinto beans and cold pizza. That’s about it. I *will* eat *some* leftovers just to make my life at work easier but I don’t really enjoy it. I am single and I’m the only one cooking for me. If I didn’t work a 10 hr day without a lunch hour, I’d probably cook a new meal each night and just sandwich it most lunches.

Rosa
Rosa
8 years ago
Reply to  elorrie

I know people who won’t eat leftovers and people who argue quite comprehensively that it is totally possible to cook a fancy meal every night with sufficient planning and time management…even though they don’t actually do it, and my family actually does put a meal on the table 3 times a day, 28 or 29 days a month.

Heather
Heather
8 years ago
Reply to  elorrie

I’m similar, I can’t stand most leftovers. Chili is a marked exception. I will (more often lately) plan lefotvers ahead of time to be made into something else entirely. Thanksgiving leftovers that are made into a stew/cottage pie of sorts. The stuffing from green peppers that layers with the side of rice and beans for a mexi-casserole. Chopped veggies that can be made into a stir fry later, or at least the toppings for nachos. Really, as long as I’m not heating up the same thing to be eaten the same way (again, excepting chili), I’m sometimes OK. I can… Read more »

Minerva
Minerva
8 years ago
Reply to  EXK

My sister used to refuse to eat leftovers. When she got married it didn’t matter because her husband didn’t like leftovers, either. Now they have two little ones and very short on time. They also have to watch how much they spend. So they have learned to like leftovers. Makes life easier. My sister says they aren’t as bad as she thought, but still prefers freshly made food.

Laura
Laura
8 years ago
Reply to  Minerva

I’m just like your sister. I’ve always hated leftovers but have forced myself to start eating them and mostly they’re not too bad. Fortunately DH will eat leftover anything; unfortunately DS takes after me and won’t touch anything on its second time around, even pizza.

A previous commenter said desire for variety in food is probably genetic, and I couldn’t agree more. Initial willingness to eat leftovers falls in the same category.

ali
ali
8 years ago
Reply to  Laura

I’m asking this because I’m curious — why do you hate leftovers?

Becky
Becky
8 years ago
Reply to  Laura

I have always eaten leftovers because my family ate them when I was growing up. And I am practical and hate wasting food, so I eat them as an adult. But if I had a choice, I would eat them very rarely. My favorite kinds of foods have very bright, immediate flavors (think charred fish with a sprinkle of salt and a squeeze of lemon juice, or just-steamed broccoli with butter). I like all the flavors to be separate, even in things like soups (bite of potato, bite of green bean, bite of beef, sip of broth). Foods like this… Read more »

Laura
Laura
8 years ago
Reply to  Laura

Answering Ali’s question – leftovers don’t taste the same. They taste – well, old. Worn. Crisp becomes mushy. Actually, that may be the reason – the consistency isn’t quite the same, and that’s important to me. Food is less about the taste and more about the consistency (I really like crunchy foods, as does my picky son). One spiced dish tastes pretty much like another spiced dish to me; the flavor may differ but it still hits my palate as “spiced” rather than anything more specific. I don’t really pick out individual flavors; it’s just a big swirl of “spice”.… Read more »

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
8 years ago
Reply to  Laura

I can’t speak for other leftover lovers here, but I found the quality of my leftovers improved when I ditched the microwave and started reheating in a double boiler on the stove or in my convection toaster oven. I suspect many of us who rely on leftovers stick to foods that keep well or even improve by the next day (like soups, stews and chilli). I like my meat cold better than hot, for instance, so I can cook a couple of day’s worth of chicken breast or salmon at one time without any problem. Some people I know only… Read more »

ali
ali
8 years ago
Reply to  Laura

@ Becky, I wonder if you are a “nontaster” (which is the opposite of a super taster) which may be why things don’t have individual taste. Although now I’m curious again – is it just spices and herbs you don’t taste, or do all vegetables taste the same as well? I can understand what you are saying about left over food and consistency. Although sometimes there are things you can do to get around that. For example, I never reheat meat in the microwave, if I have chicken or roast or whatever, I’ll slice it up and then heat it… Read more »

Laura
Laura
8 years ago
Reply to  Laura

Ali – more the spices and herbs; that may be simply because my mother hated anything spicy or overly flavored so the food I grew up on was very plain. For veggies, etc., it’s more that the food I taste doesn’t really fire my neurons associated with pleasure. It’s just…food.

ali
ali
8 years ago
Reply to  Laura

I get that. My brother’s kind of like that (and the only one in the family really) he’ll eat stuff and there’s certain things he prefers but food is fuel. Sometimes it’s nice to have tasty fuel but it’s not mandatory.

When his son was first on solids you could see this approach. Sometimes to make feeding time quicker my brother would just mix everything together – I think one combination was rice cereal, applesauce, strained carrots, and avocado. My brother’s reasoning – it ends up the same place anyway.

Megan
Megan
8 years ago
Reply to  EXK

There is a trick to reheating leftovers, though. You should really do more than just throw them in the microwave. Use seasonings, marinades, and herbs to dress up leftover meat and serve it as an entirely different dish. Roasted pork can become BBQ pork sandwiches the next night, and fajitas the day after that.

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
8 years ago
Reply to  Megan

Agreed. Leftover chicken, fish or meat can go atop a salad, or shredded for tacos, etc.
I like to use the toaster oven to reheat some items, because the heat crisps things up.
Mostly my proletarian palate doesn’t much care. But again, YMMV.

Kara W.
Kara W.
8 years ago
Reply to  EXK

For the longest time my husband didn’t eat leftovers because his mother would just leave the pot on the stove, and then force her kids to eat it until it was gone. They were sick regularly.

It took many, many years of my properly packaging and storing leftovers (and then not getting sick from eating them) for my husband to even try it. Happily, he will now eat “home” leftovers, but we still leave our food at the restaraunt. Or we’ll just order an appetizer and soup or one entree to share.

Amber
Amber
8 years ago
Reply to  Kara W.

Kara, thanks for the encouragement. There is hope to get a loved one onto the leftover train. And that is gross about his mom’s habit. I grew up in a leftover house and the worst my mom did was microwave with the plastic wrap on everything. She still does this sometimes. We are working on that habit too!

Meghan
Meghan
8 years ago

Great article! I totally agree. I find that I’m a creature of habit. I eat oatmeal with dried fruit almost every morning for breakfast, if I want to change it up, I add a bit of peanut butter. I seem to not get tired of it. Sometimes I’ll make eggs on the weekend. And I’m a big fan of the make a big pot and eat it up method of cooking. Right now I have a pot of veggie chili in my fridge 😀 Although I do love cooking, I often don’t have the time, but I still want to… Read more »

Dogs or Dollars
Dogs or Dollars
8 years ago

As someone who probably does spend too much time thinking about food, particularly where it comes from, I see a couple different issues going on here. Sure, cooking exotic meals days in and a day out is not required. But, just because you are someone concerned about your “massaged, hand fed” beef doesn’t mean you want to use it to for filet mignon. Can’t my chili meat be grass fed too? In my head, there are political and moral connotations to the food choices we make. Its not about eating exotic. It’s about health. Its about my local food economy.… Read more »

Amy
Amy
8 years ago

Yes, yes and yes! I am fairly passionate about this issue but haven’t yet been able to concoct a polite reply to this article. Thank you for articulately and graciously explaining your point of view Dogs or Dollars. I use and prioritize my dollars to ‘vote’ for local, well raised food. In my mind this creates health and wealth for me, the people who I buy the food from and ground that supports the food production. It’s a choice to support my local community, not the internation food conglomerates. FYI – Often I am eating the same thing over and… Read more »

MamaMia
MamaMia
8 years ago

Thanks for saying what I was thinking, and in a much more articulate way than I could have managed. No, “that kid…at a refugee camp won’t wrinkle his nose at a bowl of corn-and-soy gruel,” but choosing cheap, Monsanto branded, GMO corn and soy for my own dinner table does contribute to global hunger.

Meghan
Meghan
8 years ago
Reply to  MamaMia

Ummm… it kind of does. If you save money by eating simply you can donate money to your local food bank (or donate more money if you already do).

Becky+P.
Becky+P.
8 years ago
Reply to  Meghan

This makes a huge assumption that somehow “saved” money will go to a food bank and not for a vacation somewhere, for a kid’s pair of shoes, or to pay for camp, etc.

Cortney
Cortney
8 years ago
Reply to  Meghan

Careful there, because couldn’t we take it to the logical conclusion that we should all be living in one room shacks instead of “wasting” money on mortgages that could go to schools in Africa? I’m just saying, when we start getting into very specific things like “Well, yeah, buying grass fed beef contributes to global hunger because you could save the money and donate it” we could basically point that argument’s finger at oh, pretty much every single thing in a typical American life. I mean, you don’t really *need* toilet paper, right? Why not just use cloth, hand wash… Read more »

Michelle
Michelle
8 years ago

I agree too. I make big pots of food and eat it all week. I much prefer to eat good, local food, especially animal products. But since this is food is far more expensive than the subsudised stuff at the grocery, I often choose vegetarian options. Last week I had a mushroom lasagna that lasted me the week. This week, I roasted a locally-raised chicken, which has served me many meals and is now a big pot of chicken soup that I’ll be enjoying all week. By cooking this way, I can both vote with my food dollars, and stretch… Read more »

I Am 1 Percent
I Am 1 Percent
8 years ago

My wife does the cooking in our house and I’m trying to get her to adopt this habit. Too often, she doesn’t cook enough to have leftovers and ends up cooking dinner several days in a row. Since we both work, it is an inconvenience for the both of us….

Mom of five
Mom of five
8 years ago
Reply to  I Am 1 Percent

How about you take over the cooking for a month or two and show her how it’s done? If you don’t feel strongly enough about it to do it yourself, then it’s a wonder you feel strongly enough about her meal prep approach to complain about it on a public forum.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago

I know it’s all about “do what works for you,” but this is depressing. Where’s the fun? 🙁

Jen
Jen
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

Do you do the cooking in your home? If so and you like cooking every night, then great, ignore the advice. But if you aren’t the every night meal preparer, that person might feel differently! In our house, my husband doesn’t mind daily sort of cooking — but since he’s not home until dinnertime (6:45 – 7) each night, that’s not practical. I, on the other hand, would love to cook a really big, nice meal and invite people over, about once or twice a month. Oh well! Reading this reminds me to at least think strategically, since I do… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago
Reply to  Jen

I cook 3 meals a day and love to cook and I actually cook large batches that get eaten through the week, and I have no leftovers, but I regard food as one of life’s greatest pleasures, not a penance.

Rosa
Rosa
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

how is making a large batch and eating it throughout the week not leftovers? I think we’re using the same words to mean different things.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

I mean we eat everything and waste nothing.

We can’t eat 6lbs of pulled pork in one sitting! (Though I’ve tried… I’ve tried…! 🙂 )

Rosa
Rosa
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

that makes more sense 🙂

I’m pretty sure the people who say they have leftovers mean they’re *eating* them. I have to plan for dinner leftovers, or I have to cook lunch the next day, too.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

Ah, yeah. I think of leftovers as involuntary inventory surplus, e.g., I cook 3 burgers but we only eat 2, 1 burger is “leftover”. Like the “doggy bag” at the restaurant. That’s a form of waste that can be recycled, but that almost never happens here. What I do is I cook in advance. For example, with all the time and effort that it takes to cook something like beans (soaking, rinsing, slow-cooking for 4 hours), it makes no sense to prepare them for a single meal. So I make a pot and eat them through the week: with eggs… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

ps- the ultimate arbiter of knowledge in western civilization seems to agree with my definition of “leftovers”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leftovers

DOT
DOT
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

The fun is anywhere you want to make it because you are not in the kitchen for hours preparing a meal. simple food = time to create more fun.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago
Reply to  DOT

Alright, lemme reply to this with a quote from The Little Prince. — “Good morning,” said the little prince. “Good morning,” said the merchant. This was a merchant who sold pills that had been invented to quench thirst. You need only swallow one pill a week, and you would feel no need of anything to drink. “Why are you selling those?” asked the little prince. “Because they save a tremendous amount of time,” said the merchant. “Computations have been made by experts. With these pills, you save fifty-three minutes in every week.” “And what do I do with those fifty-three… Read more »

Short arms long pockets
Short arms long pockets
8 years ago

You present an interesting perspective and if it works for you then it is something that deserves to be shared with the group. However, there is an alternative viewpoint. I agree with the quote that goes something like “Food is one of the greatest pleasures that you can partake in legally.” 🙂 That doesn’t mean that there aren’t nights when I don’t feel like cooking or that I break the bank every time I walk into the grocery store – but the bottom line is that food is important and for many people it is a source of pleasure and… Read more »

EXK
EXK
8 years ago

I agree with both you AND Donna though – this doesn’t need to be a dichotomy. You can make food you are really excited about, that is cheap, fits in one pot, lasts for more than one meal, without making it bland and unenjoyable or eating it six days in a row – as she mentioned that’s what the freezer is for. (This is where learning to cook different world cuisines comes in handy though, one pot meals with the same seasonings could get pretty boring.)

Dogs or Dollars
Dogs or Dollars
8 years ago
Reply to  EXK

Agreed! This should not be opposite ends of the spectrum. It doesn’t have to be ‘fun’ vs. ‘crock pot eating’. ‘Foodie’ vs. ‘reality’. It’s unfortunate that the term ‘foodie’ even exists, let alone that it has all the elitist connotations that it does. My homemade pizza, with roasted garlic (grown by a friend), shitake mushrooms (grown by me), local peppers (frozen when they were cheap and in season) and humanely produced (but not certified organic) sausage… That might seem pretty darn snooty for some people. I’d wager it’s cheaper than take out. Especially when I’m eating it for lunch the… Read more »

cc
cc
8 years ago

omg homemade pizza.
i sorted out an amazing tomato pie recipe – home made dough, oven roasted tomatoes with olive oil and basil with parmesan cheese-
only bummer is it takes like SIX HOURS to make and about two minutes to eat. and i never share leftovers, because it is so good. it’s just a day in the kitchen followed by pizza gorging and a nap.
which, actually, might be a good plan for this weekend.

Marcella
Marcella
8 years ago

Please tell us how you successfully freeze peppers so these are useful when thawed. I find things like this with high water content turn to mush when thawed. Don’t get me started on the time I tried to freeze celery stalks…

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
8 years ago

Guys, guys, guys — I’m not subsisting on fat-free Soylent Green sprinkled with salt substitute. My meals really DO taste good. They just tend not to be that varied.

Bert
Bert
8 years ago
Reply to  Donna Freedman

I hope I’m not the only one that got the Soylent Green part! :>)

bareheadedwoman
bareheadedwoman
8 years ago
Reply to  Bert

~chuckles~ nope

Carla
Carla
8 years ago
Reply to  Bert

Nope! That made me laugh out loud. 😀

WWII Kid
WWII Kid
8 years ago
Reply to  Bert

Oops – we’re showing our age here, eh?

Sara
Sara
8 years ago

I really enjoy cooking, especially complex and time consuming dishes, but not since I had children. I stay at home with my young children and frankly, by the end of the day I’m tired and I don’t want to spend an hour plus slaving over dinner. Now that my children are a bit older, they want to help me with dinner and complex recipes don’t really go with their short attention spans. I still make my own salad dressings, bread, marinades etc but these are all things that the kids enjoy doing. My oldest can stand at the stove and… Read more »

Becka
Becka
8 years ago

What an odd article. This reads less as thoughtful advice, and more as a defensive justification for your indifference to food. If that works for you, fine, that’s lovely, but I think on the whole, most Americans would benefit from taking more interest in and ownership of their diets, not less.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
8 years ago
Reply to  Becka

I think it depends on what batches you make. I’m single too, so it doesn’t make sense to cook one serving of stir fry when I get make four meals out of it and enjoy a healthy dish without a lot of extra work. (Sometimes I make a big pot of mixed vegetables and vary the grain and protein part of the meal.) When you eat alone, it’s easy for food to become fuel because there isn’t the social experience of sharing a meal. I enjoy cooking and baking for others, but that may be because it’s not a daily… Read more »

Becka
Becka
8 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

I don’t really take issue with the idea behind the article. I think giving people who don’t like to cook tips for making eating in quicker, simpler, and cheaper is a great thing. It’s the article itself I don’t care for, and its kind of high ratio of rationalization to actual tips.

I love to cook, and I have time for it, so obviously I know this article isn’t for me. My problem is, it seems this article is for Donna more than anyone else.

Laura
Laura
8 years ago
Reply to  Becka

Disagree. This article is for people like Donna who, for whatever reason such as genetic hardwiring, simply don’t derive as much pleasure from food as others do and thus have no problem eating the same thing regularly. And she does mention several times that it isn’t for everyone, and to do what works for you. I have some wonderful friends who are foodies and I’ve never been able to understand how they can build entire conversations around a particular food and how to prepare it. They can’t understand why it just doesn’t appeal to me in the same way. They… Read more »

Becka
Becka
8 years ago
Reply to  Becka

Laura- Like I said, repeatedly, I don’t have a problem with the idea of the article. It’s not for me, obviously, but it can totally work for a lot of people, and even be an advantage in terms of consuming more reasonable, healthy, inexpensive meals. I certainly have my moments of wishing I didn’t love food so much! My issue is the attitude of the article. She may say explicitly, “Do what works for you,” but the tone isn’t nearly so clear-cut (really? She thinks I’m “wailing” about her diet?), and for all that attitude, there’s not a whole lot… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago
Reply to  Becka

@ Becka — yes! Last night my wife and I were looking (for anthropological fun) at American-style “dinners”. She googled “Hormel pepperoni mac and cheese” and we looked at the pictures. (She had seen some commercial in which a mom says to a kid that’s what she’s making for dinner). We were laughing so hard at the photos of all the… anti-nutritional glop people call “dinner”. As she scrolled through pictures on her phone, we’d ask “where are the vegetables?” “where’s the protein?” and “how can people feed this to their kids?”. It was a kind of gallows humor, to… Read more »

Judith
Judith
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

You can definitely prepare Mac and Cheese with vegetables – put tomatoes in it (and it will be way better!). And I’ve thought of it always as some kind of vegetarian meal, so there shouldn’t be any meat in it. But mostly I just cook Mac and Cheese to get a different and simple meal from leftover pasta. In my opinion, making tasty meals from leftovers is an art in itself.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago
Reply to  Judith

We weren’t laughing at mac and cheese per se, we were laughing at all sorts of deep-fried balls of starch, “dinners” in styrofoam cups, and tv dinners, frosted flakes, and all manner of atrocities that pass for meals that were on display in the photo stream. We also laughed the high cost of health insurance while staring at children posing with junk food. Early Diabetes Training! http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-vDSKIDofWys/TyHWqEiQtBI/AAAAAAAAARc/tg2LwA_IDX4/s1600/IMG_1627.JPG “See you in 300lbs, kid!” I don’t know if the mood from last night can be recreated, we were in a particular frame of mind, but google “hormel pepperoni mac and cheese” and… Read more »

bareheadedwoman
bareheadedwoman
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

your comment at #196 reminded me of Peter Menzel’s book HUNGRY PLANT that came out a few years ago of photos of families from around the world and what they spent a week on groceries…with the groceries themselves nestled around them. I think there was some GRS discussion on it back in the day. Yeah, when you look at ‘merica food stacked on the table, even among westerners, the food is mostly packaged crap and the ratio of fresh items is the lowest as well as some of the highest cost i.e. $119/week on cardboard covered junk vs $5/week on… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago

yeah, that book is great!

fyi, i found again the “mac and cheese balls” and they are still hilarious:

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-JYs77DFzTkI/TlwtC8P7uNI/AAAAAAAAAlk/lIPUbN_2RXI/s1600/Blogg+071.jpg

“dinner”!

Betsy
Betsy
8 years ago

I love this article. “Celica”, LOL! I aspire to live like this when I’m not feeding 3 other people. I’m pretty close to this method as it is though and am a big believer in leftovers as one of the great delicacies of all time.

Marianne
Marianne
8 years ago

We do a lot of one pot cooking because we have limited time during the week. I’ve been really challenged lately to cut down on our food budget so I’m going to be setting some goals on that in March and blogging about it for the month. I have some funny food ‘issues’ that will keep things interesting I’m sure. lol

Barb
Barb
8 years ago

donna, this is interesting, but overly simplistic-more than what you usually write. It sounds like you don’t really care about food, or even what you eat per se. Thats fine for you. That said there is a world of difference between doing what you do and using bon appetit daily. Most people are going to be happier with more traditional solutions for not cooking every night. That includes things like cooking and freezing, planned leftovers and simple meals that can be cooked individually. I like to cook. I hate the idea of coming up with a different solution every night.… Read more »

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
8 years ago
Reply to  Barb

I’m pretty sure the food I eat IS “real.” It’s also pretty good. If what you mean is “I need a meal with variety every night,” then please do heed my suggestion to keep doing what you’re doing. But enough people have chimed in with “me too! I don’t much care about food either!” that I think there is an audience for this kind of plain-fare-without-guilt cooking. The reader who commented about friends who want to show the “light” of their ways? That’s the kind of pressure some people feel about food — that they have to justify their choices.… Read more »

imelda
imelda
8 years ago
Reply to  Donna Freedman

Yes, yes, yes.

And there are others of us who hate cooking so much that we just don’t do it, so we buy takeout or prepared meals each night, and eat terribly.

I thought this article was wonderful, and potentially very helpful. I struggle to feed myself every day, and have issues with my relationship to food. I love the idea of fueling yourself this way.

Kraig @ Young, Cheap Living
Kraig @ Young, Cheap Living
8 years ago

Great Post, Donna. My opinion on cooking and eating is just like yours. I’m single so I cook for myself and as you said, would rather spend my time (and money) on other things, although I do still want to eat healthy. My recent favorite is home made chili, which I’ve gotten pretty good at making. It lasts me 4 meals and I never let any of it go to waste. I too, want and appreciate left overs. I’d love to see a blog dedicated to this topic. It would be one on quick, easy and large pots of food… Read more »

KM
KM
8 years ago

I enjoy cooking complicated stuff, but weeknight fare for my family (includes 2 teenagers) is simple, fast, satisfying & healthy. – a steamed fresh vegetable of some sort (most typically broccoli), – a starch of some sort (baked potatoes, rice, or pasta), – a meat of some sort (fried chicken breasts, grilled steak or hamburgers, or sometimes frozen breaded chicken if I haven’t had time to go to the store), – a small green salad (throw a pile of prewashed greens on each plate, slice on some carrot & avocado & maybe tomatoes if we have any). – a pile… Read more »

Queeb
Queeb
8 years ago

When I was growing up my father would not eat left-overs so we never did. That worked OK since my mother didn’t work outside the home. However, since raising my own family (and having a husband that NEVER complains about what is put before him) we have leftovers at least 2-3 times a week. We even jokingly call a hot dish I make “Quantity Hot Dish”. (Casserole for those of you not in MN) I LOVE cooking and baking on my days off and whenever I can, just don’t always have the time. On another note though, I am almost… Read more »

Shawn G
Shawn G
8 years ago

My wife and I live very similarly. We usually make meals Mon, Tues and Thurs (we eat at church on Wed) and eat the left overs the rest of the time. It works out well, we always have food in the fridge to pick from.

Although we are a little more adventurous in our meal choices because we like some variety. So each week we cook different meals. Also, I am one of those people who buy grass fed beef. I buy it because the animals are raised in a sustainable manner.

lostAnnfound
lostAnnfound
8 years ago

My husband and I are quite happy eating like this – simple fare, leftovers, maybe just soup and salad on any given night – but the teens are a different story. So if they don’t like eating what’s leftover, then I tell them to make a sandwich. At least they are not going hungry.

a
a
8 years ago
Reply to  lostAnnfound

My parents used say we had two choices, eat what they were eating or got to bed early without dinner. It definitely curbed pickiness (at least mine), because they followed through and we would actually be sent to bed at 6 pm. Usually after laying there in my pajamas hungry and not sleepy, I would get up and eat the now cold supper. My younger brother on the other hand, would stubbornly lay there and wait until mom and dad went to bed, then get up and eat plain cereal from the pantry.

cc
cc
8 years ago
Reply to  a

ugh, childhood dinner stories. when i was a kid, i couldn’t leave the table till i finished dinner. my dad is a gourmet chef which is fun sometimes but was not so great as a kid. eventually my dad would leave and mom would make me eat a bite then i could go, but i remember many hours waited out at that kitchen table because HELL NO i wasn’t eating that. as an adult i am a super picky eater. i don’t know if i started that way or if the above policy contributes, but dinner is tacos, burgers, pizza,… Read more »

Katie
Katie
8 years ago
Reply to  cc

I know you’re probably just joking, but I’ve been to some seriously hoity-toity restaurants and I’ve never seen any that don’t have some “safer” options for folks. I appreciate the article, even though I’m probably not the target audience. Food is my major vice and I’ve cut down on rent, shopping, and other entertainment costs to go to restaurants/buy nice ingredients. I also love cooking and baking, I find it really relaxing, and taking cooking classes and hosting dinner parties. I think that this article is a good example that, for those things that you don’t care about, you can… Read more »

Laura
Laura
8 years ago
Reply to  cc

cc, I am ROFLMAO! I was lucky that my mom was a picky eater so was fairly lax with her children, and I’ve tried to hit the right balance with DS. HOWEVER…once (only once), DH got tired of DS’s pickiness, sat him down at the table and refused to let him leave until he ate his Kraft macaroni & cheese. DS was 2 years old, mind you. I told DH, “You’ve created a problem, now you get to solve the problem,” and I left the house till well after DS’s bedtime. I found DH had steadily decreased the amount of… Read more »

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
8 years ago
Reply to  cc

My daughter used to babysit for a chef who worked in one of the most expensive restaurants in town. I went to pick her up one day and guess what Daddy-o had made for his little guy? Kraft Macaroni & Cheese.
I briefly considered blackmail.

Rosa
Rosa
8 years ago
Reply to  cc

My parents used to force my little brother to eat things he wasn’t willing to eat. I remember a lot of tense dinner-table standoffs.

Turns out he has some life-threatening allergies that as a kid he experienced as numbness/tingling in his mouth from certain foods.

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
8 years ago
Reply to  a

There were four of us kids and relatively limited food choices. We were always so hungry that we ate everything — and quickly, too, because if you finished what you were given you might get that last spoonful of mashed potatoes.
We ate a lot of vegetables, too, because we either grew and froze them ourselves or bought them from nearby farms. I never understood why some kids said they hated vegetables. As an adult I realize it might because they never had FRESH ones.

Anne
Anne
8 years ago
Reply to  Donna Freedman

Isn’t that a reason not to cook the way you suggested in this article?

Ely
Ely
8 years ago
Reply to  Donna Freedman

Anne – No, that’s a reason not to buy canned veggies! 🙂

LennStar
LennStar
8 years ago

One of the best buys I ever did was a little rice cooker. Put in: rice, water, salt, plug and press start. (Don’t use the ultra-white rice, parboiled is far better in everything.) Then you have 15-20 minutes to do something else. After that, use 10 minutes to make scrambled eggs or (especially for kids) fish sticks. You can also use bolognese from yesterday’s spaghetti (and you can put several types of vegetables in, I like a bit radish), just mix it. There is not much hot food you can make that is as easy and fast (work-time) as that.… Read more »

Susanne
Susanne
8 years ago

One could add a lot of variety to a diet like this by cooking these large quantities and then freezing some of it in smaller portions. That way you would not have to eat the same thing night after night.

I never understood the aversion to leftovers. Each night’s leftovers, for us, becomes the next day’s lunch. If there is a lot, we freeze it for dinner another night. Nothing gets wasted.

Cathleen
Cathleen
8 years ago
Reply to  Susanne

I personally don’t like the texture of food that has been frozen, I’m weird that way.
And yes, I’ve been tested and can almost always tell. Not worth the risk to me so I adjust my cooking to avoid freezing anything.

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
8 years ago
Reply to  Cathleen

I’m not wild about the texture of previously frozen food myself. That’s part of the reason why I eat the whole pan (or most of it) before cooking again. But I sure don’t want to discourage others from freezing their food; batch cooking works really well for many people.

BrokeElizabeth
BrokeElizabeth
8 years ago

I do the exact same thing… it definitely saves me both money and time. Love it.

Nick
Nick
8 years ago

When we first tracked out spending I almost puked when I saw how much we were pending at restaurants… I’ve never been a big foodie, but it’s amazing how little trips to the restaurant add up. I did PB&J for a while. It was actually pretty fun and saved a ton of cash.

Love the leftovers idea, too. My wife does most (read: all) of the cooking in our place too. There’s usually leftovers, but I generally leave them for her to make her life easier the next day.

Jennifer Gwennifer
Jennifer Gwennifer
8 years ago

Great post Donna! I agree that too much thought is put into food, but of course that’s my personal opinion. I once read somewhere that you shouldn’t order anything in a restaurant that you could make at home, but I’d like to reverse that and say don’t make anything at home that you’d order in a restaurant. If it’s something that I know I love and that a restaurant prepares well (like scallops), I simply wait until I go out to eat to enjoy them. I really don’t see the point of going out to eat for something like chicken… Read more »

FL_RN
FL_RN
8 years ago

I loved this article, because it closely decribes how I eat. I work overnight at least 12.5 hours a shift, and barely have time to get enough sleep before the next shift, let alone cook. Also, my kids are grown and out of the house, and I’m single, so this way of eating works very, very well for me. I usually cook a big dish or two on one of my off-nights. I do get a variety of foods overall, just not in any given day or so. I am middle aged and healthy.

Ms Life
Ms Life
8 years ago

I never used to have a problem with eating the same type of food for a week or so. However, getting married changed me. My husband prefers eating varied and easy to make food every day. I have picked up the habit and actually now enjoy it. I only time consuming dishes over the weekend.

Miss LJ
Miss LJ
8 years ago

Yep, definitely took a risk with this article. Food effects your emotions. Hence why your diet of the same icky brown food everyday has given you an icky brown attitude of what people should eat.

Let’s talk about healthy eating on a budget. I can go to local grocery store and get 2 full bags of produce (lots of colorful fruits and veggies), and few cans of tuna or chicken breasts for less than $20.

You don’t have to be a foodie to eat an interesting meal that makes you look and feel better.

Judith
Judith
8 years ago
Reply to  Miss LJ

Let’s talk about avoiding eating out when you don’t like to cook… that’s what this article is about, not about scrooging on food until being miserable… If you don’t like Donna’s suggestions, fine, then it’s just not for you, but there are enough people who just don’t care enough or don’t want to put in the time to cook elaborate dinners each night while still wanting to eat better than McDonald’s.

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
8 years ago
Reply to  Miss LJ

Funny, that sounds like the way I shop, too. My most recent trip: asparagus, lentils, an onion, winter squash, bananas, carrots, an orange Bell pepper and apples.
My entire diet is not icky and brown! Sometimes it’s icky and red…. But seriously: I eat salads and fruit on the side. Meat occasionally, usually as a flavoring. Lots of pinto beans, because they’re just so easy. Many dishes of homemade yogurt with blackberries (which I pick myself each summer) or applesauce (which I make myself).
I feel fine, thanks.

Sharon
Sharon
8 years ago
Reply to  Miss LJ

“Icky?” That is way out of line. If you don’t like the concept, don’t do it. But your attitude is so, well, icky, that I’ am glad I’m not in your circle of people.

Amber
Amber
8 years ago

My favorite weeknight meals usually involve an egg, a carb, and no meat. Sometimes this is in the form of stir fry, quiche, croque madame, etc.

Another great fav is hummus and pita. Add some cucumber & feta. Is this exotic cooking? It is about as simple as dinner gets. I’m grateful for the variety our grocery stores and markets offer today, and find that other culture’s ingredients are often much easier and simpler than the standard american diet I grew up eating.

KarenJ
KarenJ
8 years ago

I think that the purpose of eating is to make sure our bodies get what they need nutritionally. It is nice to have variety, but when you live alone or are a couple like us, it’s not always easy to prepare a gourmet meal every evening, especially since I work until 8pm most nights. We do all our cooking on Sunday mornings for the week, and make two basic dishes. Staples are soups, chili, brown rice, bagged frozen vegetables and beans. We try to alternate meat, chicken, fish so we’re not eating the same thing all week. I plan so… Read more »

Jane
Jane
8 years ago

Ironically, I do think making moral judgments about people based on what they have on their plates has become an American past time. I say this is ironic, because we are more obese than we have ever been. It is an interesting contradiction – the preponderance of foodies and the increase in obesity in others (and maybe the same people as well). I can’t imagine they are not related somehow to societal trends and backlashes. As someone with children who don’t eat very much variety, I have largely internalized the societal obsession with variety and thus feel like a total… Read more »

Courtney
Courtney
8 years ago
Reply to  Jane

I’m sorry you took issue with me pointing out a fact. However, I didn’t say “you should eat more foods” (and certainly not ones that cause her digestive issues) – I said “I hope you take a multivitamin” because the diet she listed is lacking in many vitamins and minerals, particularly vitamins A, K, B12, and calcium.

KSK
KSK
8 years ago

I love to cook, but only several times per week. So, I usually make a big pot of soup and a casserole 2-3 times per week for my husband and I to eat for dinners and lunches. I’m so glad that my husband loves leftovers as much as I do. Because that’s what your going to get from my kitchen most days of the week!

Jenn
Jenn
8 years ago

My husband and I do this. We lived apart for about 6 months; I’d just started a new job in SF and money was really tight. I started making large batches of everything and just eating it daily until it was gone, and I think I saved tons of money. It’s really good for avoiding the takeout trap, because when you don’t feel like cooking, chances are you don’t have to anyway. Now that my husband’s back with me we stick to the same plan, and my grocery bill barely increased with the addition of another person. Also, we vary… Read more »

Adam P
Adam P
8 years ago

Cooking single is definitely different. I tend to go grocery shopping every other day (I live downtown in a major city) and grab veggies and a meat and make a big pot of something as Donna says (chili, curry, stir fry, rarely pasta). Then freeze one portion of it immediately, eat that night and finish it off the next day (later in the month I will eat the frozen portion). And, egads, from time to time I will order in! Blasphemy! But with the high cost of groceries it tends to work out nearly the same. Eg, a package of… Read more »

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
8 years ago
Reply to  Adam P

You must be Canadian too 🙂 I’m envious of how low food prices are in the U.S.

Adam P
Adam P
8 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

I am! Lol..when I shop for groceries in the States I am always astounded. I know our wages are a bit higher but wow they get cheap food.

Courtney
Courtney
8 years ago
Reply to  Adam P

I think you’re still coming out ahead considering the whole health insurance thing…

Carla
Carla
8 years ago
Reply to  Adam P

Cheap for the most part, but very low quality and at times unsafe with very little nutrition depending on where you shop and what you buy.

Lori
Lori
8 years ago

Nice piece! As a full-time working single parent whose oldest is 26, I spent many years cooking a pot of something that would last for days because I didn’t have the time or energy to cook up something fresh every night. And frankly, I went through a period where I was burnt out from cooking for everyone (each who had different likes/dislikes) and working, cleaning, chauffering (sp?),etc for decades. I went from loving to cook to being a minimalist about it. But as I’ve turned 50 and started cutting out many things in my life to get off my human… Read more »

Nick
Nick
8 years ago

Of all my expenses, food is my most difficult to control. I find myself eating out far more often than I should. In the past several weeks I’ve made great strives in this area. I cut out eating out for lunch months ago, which has saved me quite a bit. Now I’m going without soda and drinking water instead. I try to keep my food consumption under $5 a day. I have a .75 breakfast, a $2 lunch, and a $2 dinner. Everytime I go and get a pizza for 12-13$, as much as I love it, I cant help… Read more »

ImJuniperNow
ImJuniperNow
8 years ago

Donna! This is my favorite article by you. I love it! All I want to do most days is fill the hole. Period. Finally, you have validated me!!!

I’m a cereal whore – there’s nothing wrong with Captain Crunch for dinner. And so what if I eat something right out of the pan/box/bag?

If I want a treat and I’m going past McDonald’s I get a kids meal. if I’m home and the only thing that appeals to me arecurly fries and mint ice cream, I’ll eat it.

Quest
Quest
8 years ago

LOL for cat poop coffee! When my kids were younger, I felt compelled to produce a new meal every night so much so that, even though I was working 10 hour days, we’d go out to eat more often than not because I just had this mental block when it came to preparing the ‘perfect’ meal. I should’ve just prepared a big pot of something and told them to like it or lump it!

These days, my relationship with food is changing. Instead of living to eat, I try to think ‘eat to live’.

mike
mike
8 years ago

I love my bag of doritos and drink of my choice. I just had my physical and levels tested all is well, so eat as many processed foods as possible.

Angie
Angie
8 years ago
Reply to  mike

go right ahead with your bad self then 😉

remember though, sometimes that stuff takes awhile to catch up with you…

Sharon
Sharon
8 years ago
Reply to  Angie

There is zero verifiable experimental or epidemiological evidence for that statement.

imelda
imelda
8 years ago
Reply to  Sharon

Just thousands of years of cultural wisdom.

Frances
Frances
8 years ago
Reply to  Sharon

Yet.

Sharon
Sharon
8 years ago
Reply to  Sharon

Really, Imelda? We’ve had “processed foods” for “thousands and thousands of years? Back in the good old days when a ripe old age was 30?

Sigh.

Ely
Ely
8 years ago
Reply to  Sharon

Fast Food Nation anyone? 😉

Seriously, human beings are the most adaptable animals on Earth. Most of us will get by eating just about anything. Like that kid who has lived 15 years on nothing but chicken nuggets.
Most people, however, can quickly tell the difference between eating well and eating poorly in how they feel day to day. So if Doritos etc work for you, who am I to tell you to stop? I’m just not going to do it myself. 🙂

imelda
imelda
8 years ago
Reply to  Sharon

No, Sharon. We’ve had thousands of years of parents telling their kids, “eat your vegetables,” or “use this olive oil to cook your potatoes,” or “eat this seaweed, it’s delicious and healthy.” Thousands of years of wisdom passed down that has kept us healthy and fit. These traditional cuisines have been swept aside in favor of the “science-based” processed foods that brought us “healthy” things like margarine and fortified fruit loops. And boy, do I wish people would quit throwing around that “everyone died at 30 back then!” BS. 1) Infant mortality drastically reduced average life spans. 2) People used… Read more »

Sharon
Sharon
8 years ago
Reply to  Sharon

Imelda, you don’t know much about the good old days 2000 years ago. I would suggest that you do some research about just how much food variety was available 2000 years ago. Also, if you can point me to a single, peer-reviewed, non-diet recall, longitudinal study that supports your statement about people dying of “lifestyle-induced disease” that passes the muster for a well-designed, null-hypothesis study, please do so. Otherwise, please stop thinking that you know it all. You don’t

mike
mike
8 years ago
Reply to  Angie

I did not know I would cause such controversy. Of course I was being facetious regarding the processed foods but I do enjoy doritos on occasion. That being said I don’t know if want to live to 95 unless I have the mental and physical abilities to fully function without being in extreme pain. I exercise regularly and I am decent shape but would quickly trade 10 years of pain and misery if it was unavoidable to go out healthy and at 85. Of course no one really knows when or how they will go and genetics has a lot… Read more »

ImJuniperNow
ImJuniperNow
8 years ago

PS – I work with two Foodies. They talk all day long about it (rather than say, do their work). It’s like listening to the fellas on Big Bang Theory discussing physics.

Amy
Amy
8 years ago

There is so much I could say about this topic, but I will try to limit myself. I self-diagnosed a few months ago with a gluten sensitivity. (What can I say, when I stopped eating it, years of chronic stomach pain ceased overnight.) My challenges are great because my husband and I always went out to eat for almost every meal. The reason being I hate to cook, but love to eat; hubby likes to cook, but is extremely picky and eats the same 3 or 4 things over and over. So we eat out so we both get what… Read more »

Cathe
Cathe
8 years ago
Reply to  Amy

Chili recipe from my grandma: 1 lb ground beef, browned in a separate pan, and oil (mostly) drained. 1 can beans of choice. Two cans diced tomatoes (usually found next to the pasta). Cup of frozen corn. 1TBS of chili powder, 1 diced onion, 2 garlic bits diced (you can replace the fresh with powder if you wish, just do it in teaspoons at a time until you learn how you like it.) Throw all in a large pot, cook for at least 30 minutes. Salt pepper at end, throwing in whatever hot peppers you wish. Chow down with some… Read more »

Cathleen
Cathleen
8 years ago
Reply to  Amy

Let me recommend http://www.mealier.com. They have a free tool you use to copy recipes from major websites like Martha Stewart, food network, cooking light etc. with one click. You can schedule recipes and print shopping lists with a click. I love it!

I love to cook and I can spend a few minutes each week web surfing, adding recipes, scheduling them and printing the shopping list. It’s great. Try looking up gluten free free websites for inspiration. I know the woman who runs the 365 slow cooking website is gluten free.

Cathleen
Cathleen
8 years ago
Reply to  Amy

Let me recommend http://www.mealfire.com. They have a free tool you use to copy recipes from major websites like Martha Stewart, food network, cooking light etc. with one click. You can schedule recipes and print shopping lists with a click. I love it!

I love to cook and I can spend a few minutes each week web surfing, adding recipes, scheduling them and printing the shopping list. It’s great. Try looking up gluten free free websites for inspiration. I know the woman who runs the 365 slow cooking website is gluten free.

Bella
Bella
8 years ago

This has been an interesting read. By all measures my friends would defintely classify me as a ‘foodie’. Grass fed beef, everything from scratch (almost everything – there are a few processed food I’m working on eliminating) Yes, I even had a subscription to Bon Appettit for several years. And yet, I find that the way Donna and I cook is vaguely similar. I do a lot of one dish meals. We don’t eat the same thing more than one night though. I used to get a little hung up on making a ‘great’ meal every night. In the last… Read more »

ali
ali
8 years ago
Reply to  Bella

Have you tried your local library for cookbooks? I’m not sure what kind of selection your library has but that can be a good resource. They probably have at least one cookbook geared toward beginner cooks and you can try out the cookbook before you buy it. An online resource to try is allrecipes.com. There are a LOT of recipes so it can be intimidating at first, but they are mostly submitted by home cooks and can be very easy to follow. I usually look for recipes with lots of positive ratings. Check out the reviews of the recipes, because… Read more »

Maria
Maria
8 years ago

This article is all over the map or, as I like to say, not every meal needs to be a production.

But that doesn’t mean it can’t have nice/expensive ingredients (even that can be 2 different things) or take a lot of time. Or no time.

Ditto to the person above who said most people don’t care enough about what they eat.

modF
modF
8 years ago

Clearly, you have never tried a free range pickle.. simply amazing!

We make big meals, from there we get lunch the next day, and sometimes something we make into something else. If not, no biggie.

Economically Humble
Economically Humble
8 years ago

Cook once, eat twice is great advise. In our house we also eat a lot of veggies and in the rare chance that they start to look not so good, we give the veggies to the chickens… and then eat their eggs.

Linda
Linda
8 years ago

Same here. Between the chickens, the dog, and the worm bin, there is never any food that gets tossed out in this household. I do still put a few things like onion peels and such in the compost, but I don’t consider that a waste. I’m stumped by all the craziness in the comments. I love to eat good food and try to buy local and/or organic, grow my own, and cook from scratch as much as possible. But even though I enjoy cooking and trying new recipes I still eat a lot like Donna. I love having leftovers and… Read more »

Young Professional Finances
Young Professional Finances
8 years ago

I love a variety of food but when I’m cooking dinner, I have no problem cooking the same thing every night. I try to shake it up a little but my dinner basically consists of the same thing: meat, two vegetables and rice. The meat is usually cooked the same way but I’ll get different cuts and I’ll switch up between veggies. I’ll always make enough for lunch.

I’ll use the time I get to go out to eat to eat all the fancy stuff I want. 🙂

Kristi
Kristi
8 years ago

This made me laugh as my favorite “meal” in college was Doritos and Diet Coke. Now that I’m married w/ kids, we eat much healthier, but as I also have “Celica,” we have to spend a little more on the Gluten Free varieties of things like pasta.

My slow cooker is my best friend (okay, not really, but I love it) and I frequently make big batches of things like chili and store the leftovers. Great advice!

Russell
Russell
8 years ago

My wife and I heartily subscribe to Donna’s philosophy. I enjoy cooking, but only in small doses. If a meal doesn’t last us at least two suppers, it takes too much time, the longer we can stretch a pot of food the better. Being good Midwesterners, though, we tend to lean heavily on casseroles.

Sheryl
Sheryl
8 years ago

That`s a lot like how I cooked for myself when I was a student. Pot of oatmeal cooked for the week, stews or soups or casseroles cooked a couple of days a week and packaged to last for several meals. Now? Well, I’m a bit of a foodie. I enjoy cooking something new most days, and if I’m not cooking chances are I’ll bake something – but it’s because cooking is something I do to feed my soul. I enjoy the act. Still, though, I use some of the same principles: plan for leftover lunches or figure out some ways… Read more »

frugalportland
frugalportland
8 years ago

I guess I don’t understand the anger, or the anti-foodie mentality. Particularly when you yourself say that you cook big batches of slop/gruel. Live and let live, right?

Andrew
Andrew
8 years ago
Reply to  frugalportland

Yes, there is a nasty undertone to this article that is not typical of Donna’s writing.

Contrary to what she seems to be saying, I am not a bad person because I occasionally watch the Food Network and prefer foods whose production methods don’t destroy the Earth.

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
8 years ago
Reply to  Andrew

Then either I didn’t do my job right or some people are taking offense where none was intended. It’s just that I have heard people (mostly women) say, almost guiltily, that they probably SHOULD learn to cook more kinds of food. My thought: WHY should you? Because you want to? Then run with it. If not, then don’t feel compelled to buy into a foodie mindset. Send your energies where you want them to go rather than following some imagined pack. Remember, too, that anti-foodie sentiment (which, again, was NOT my point) sometimes erupts because of snobbery from some foodies.… Read more »

Laura
Laura
8 years ago
Reply to  Donna Freedman

“Prairie oyster cassoulet with the testicles of free-range platypus” – mmmm, my favorite, how’d ja know??? 🙂

Sharon
Sharon
8 years ago
Reply to  Donna Freedman

I certainly didn’t see any nasty undertone, Donna.

Sara
Sara
8 years ago
Reply to  Donna Freedman

I think everyone’s taking this article too personally. They found the one thing they were offended by and ran with it. People are going to eat what they eat. You don’t need to defend your food choices (whatever they are) to anyone. I think Donna was just writing about a good budget friendly, time saving option for people if they want to embrace it. Relax people

bareheadedwoman
bareheadedwoman
8 years ago
Reply to  Donna Freedman

aw now, there you go again. your free range pickle gave me the first laugh i’ve had today and then you had to go and serve up some prairie oyster cassoulet and give me another…

~grumbles~ ruinin’ a perfectly good bad day.

stellamarina
stellamarina
8 years ago
Reply to  Donna Freedman

I think that most women get into a rut of cooking the same dozen or so recipees…just because they are easy and quick with foods that we always have on hand. I often wish that every women would make up a list of their top 5 everyday recipes and then share them with me so that I had some new ones. Mine tend to be stirfrys….meat and vege all together with rice or breadfruit as the starch.

Sara
Sara
8 years ago
Reply to  Andrew

Seriously? That’s the message you got from Donna’s post? My takeaway was that you should not feel bad about yourself if you are not up to fine cooking each and every night.

Andrew, since I see you calling others “judgmental” in comment below, I note your heavy judgment implying that Donna’s way of cooking “destroys the Earth.” A little overdramatic, no?

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