Exhausted Middle-Aged Mom Making Dinner

Dear ASM,

Being the 21st-century mom that I am, I’m finding it difficult to balance motherhood, housewifery, and working. One of my main challenges is exhaustion. Mental exhaustion. By the end of the day, I often wish someone would just tell me what to cook each evening. Could you create a simple weekly calendar meal schedule with recipes? It’s official: my brain is getting smaller and smaller as I age.

Thank you,

Exhausted Middle-Aged Mom Making Dinner

Dear Exhausted Middle-Aged Mom Making Dinner,

To be clear, you have too much on your plate. My sense is that you know this and that’s part of why you’re asking for help on a specific front that you sense could be improved even if your overall duties cannot immediately be lessened. Given that….

There is a reason housewives of yore had set weekly menus – it makes shopping, preparing, and even serving dinner much easier. You (and your family) may not be up for a “chicken on Monday, pork chops on Tuesday, etc.” approach, but I’m going to suggest something somewhere between that and the approach so many of us take today which involves getting home and scrounging through cupboards before ordering pizza.

Sensible Midwesterners know that it is best to teach someone to fish, because fishing is such a wholesome, relaxing, and noble activity. (In fact, Midwesterners believe so firmly in the improving properties of fishing that they have entire charities dedicated to keeping folks fishing.) So, instead of giving you a set menu I’m going to gently suggest that you and your family take 10 minutes each week to sit down together and decide on the meals for the coming week. One plan you could consider:

Monday: your choice
Tuesday: kid #1 choice
Wednesday: super easy option*
Thursday: kid # 2 choice
Friday: take out
Saturday: spouse’s choice
Sunday: leftovers**

Put the results on a chalkboard or paper on the fridge for easy reference. Sit down a week later and change it, tweak it, or keep it for the following week. Repeat weekly. The person who chooses the meal might even help make it. This could prove a way not only to get everyone invested in what’s for dinner but also to get the whole gang to take on some kitchen duties, lessening your feelings of exhaustion. And who knows, maybe a kid or two will get into cooking and before you know it someone else is making dinner.

* A few ideas: boiled eggs, toast, and salad; scrambled eggs with rice and spinach; grilled cheese sandwiches.

** Don’t have enough leftover of any one meal to make a full meal? Put everything in a pot with some broth; use tidbits to make fried rice; chop everything up, toss it with an egg and some bread crumbs and even a bit of cheese, stuff it into peppers or hollowed out zucchini or tomatoes, and bake until hot and yummy.

One thought on “Exhausted Middle-Aged Mom Making Dinner

  1. This doesn’t solve your meal planning conundrum exactly, but here’s a story I wrote in yesterday’s San Francisco Chronicle about making interactive dinners with easy components (some you make ahead, others can be done last minute) and let the kids choose what they like. http://bit.ly/1gBac95

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