Archives for Meal Plans

Questions for cooks: Meal planning for picky eaters

Reader Katie submitted the following to Questions for cooks:

I was wondering if you have any suggestions or might do a post asking for reader suggestions about how to balance food likes/dislikes within a couple? There are a number of things that my husband and I are both particular about, but since I always do the cooking, I have a tendency to stay away from ingredients that I dislike but don’t always stay away from the ones he dislikes. I try to make dishes that are still easy enough to work around the stuff he doesn’t like, but I think it is probably still frustrating for him. Any ideas?

A great question, and a problem we struggled with for years in our home. To name just a few items from the long list of foods my husband dislikes: he won’t eat pasta (unless I make it by hand), rice (unless it is accompanying Chinese or Thai food at a restaurant), or anything resembling a casserole (there aren’t any exceptions to this one). Before we met, I’m fairly certain he survived on hamburgers, hot dogs, and limes (that isn’t a joke, he really likes limes).

To be fair, I am also a picky eater. I don’t like store-bought mustard, mayo, or ketchup (I’ll eat them only if I make them) or anything containing one of these ingredients (deviled eggs, coleslaw). I won’t eat raw fish (it’s a texture thing), walnuts (I’m allergic), or heavily processed foods with ingredients I can’t identify (like Oreos and Velveeta).

After three years of eating out almost every meal at restaurants, I started craving home-cooked food and tried numerous strategies to find common ground. In the end, these are the ways we were able to finally sit down together and share a meal:

  • Three strikes. I will offer up three meals that I know he likes that I am also okay with eating. If he shoots down all three meal ideas, he has to make three alternate and legitimate suggestions (naming three things I hate is not acceptable). If he can’t come up with one option that interests both of us, I have to make three more suggestions. This back and forth idea generation distributes the burden of coming up with meals between the two of us, and it also makes us more willing to compromise and revisit a suggestion.
  • Mark it. I’ll get a cookbook (like Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone), read it, and mark every recipe that looks interesting to me with a removable flag. I’ll give him the cookbook, give him a due date (usually a week) for when I want it back, and ask him to look at the recipes I’ve flagged. He’ll then look at all the recipes I’ve flagged and remove the flag if he doesn’t like the recipe. We’ve never had a situation where he removes all of the flags, so the recipes that remain flagged are added to our notebook of recipes to try.
  • Recipe notebooks. As I just mentioned, we keep recipe notebooks. One notebook is full of recipes we both love, and the other is full of recipes we have agreed to try. We go through waves of creating meal plans out of the different notebooks. When we’re stressed, we tend to rely on our the book of our favorite recipes. When times aren’t so stressed and we’re feeling in a rut, we turn to the recipes we’d like to try. Both notebooks are arranged by type: Appetizers, Entrées, Side Dishes, Desserts, Drinks, etc.

Once or twice a month, we also have an on-our-own night. On these nights, we’ll both prepare dinner for our son, and then make whatever it is we want for ourselves. Our son might have leftovers, I might have a bowl of pasta, and my husband may pick up something from a drive-thru (another food type I usually avoid).

Thank you, Katie, for submitting your question for our Questions for cooks column. I hope I was able to give you some ideas, and please check the comments for even more suggestions from our readers.

Do you have any unresolved questions about cooking styles, methods, ingredients, gadgets, meal planning, or anything even closely related to resolving stress or confusion in the kitchen? If so, send us your questions and we’ll find you an answer. If we don’t know the answer, we’ll send it out to a specialist who can, and we’ll all learn something! To submit your questions to Questions for Cooks, go to our contact page and type your question in the content field. Please list the subject of your e-mail as “Questions for Cooks.” Share as many details as possible — the more information we have about your specific question, the better.

SimpliFried’s first Meal Plan

I’m happy to present the first SimpliFried meal plan!

A few notes about the plans:

  • The meal plan is written for one adult, however the recipes are usually for two or more people. I’ve done it this way to indicate serving size. I was afraid someone might read “4 c Cereal” and think one person was supposed to eat four cups instead of four people having one cup each.
  • Obviously, if there is something on the list you don’t want to make, swap it out for something you do.
  • Before going to the grocery store, compare the shopping list with items stored in your pantry. You likely already have many of the ingredients in your cupboards (honey, vanilla extract, flour, vinegar, etc.).
  • Also, if you have chosen to delete a recipe from the plan, cross the item off the shopping list. Check first, though, to make sure the item isn’t used in other recipes you do plan to make.
  • A number of times in this meal plan I have referenced using frozen vegetables. I buy non-salted frozen vegetables. If you buy vegetables with salt, you will want to reduce the salt in the recipe where the vegetables are used.
  • This meal plan requires two trips to the store, the second trip on Saturday to buy fresh fish and a few other items. It is best to buy non-frozen fish the day you plan to cook it.
  • If you are allergic to tree nuts, try hot wasabi peas as your morning snack (assuming you’re not also allergic to wasabi or peas).
  • Both weekend breakfasts and lunches are open. Use any recipes you love in these spaces, finish up some leftovers, or treat yourself to a meal out with friends.
  • The breakfasts, lunches, and snacks this week are really simple. I didn’t want the meal plan to have the world’s longest shopping list.
  • Inevitably, there are mistakes somewhere in the meal plan or shopping list. If you find one, please post it in the comments so we can all learn about it. Please be nice, though. Remember, this is our first meal plan — I’m sure we’ll get better over time.
  • Questions are also welcome in the comments. I’ll try to get to them as they arise.

Download as an Excel file (there are two worksheets — the meal plan and the grocery lists):

Download as a PDF: