Ruts and Nuts – What to do when a food rut drives you nuts!

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I’m the type of person that orders the exact same food at a restaurant.  I find something, I stick with it, and if the menu changes before I’m ready to break up with that food, well… let’s just say that there’s some pouting that occurs.

In the same breath, I’m the person that will eat something for six months repeatedly for breakfast (oatmeal!) and one day decide that I need a break. A hiatus can last a month or a year, depending on my mood. And hey, if it were up to me, CHEESE would be considered a daily meal.  I’d eat it regularly, or at least until I got bored. (But I don’t think that’s possible.)

I'll take the cheese buffet, please.

I’ll take the cheese buffet, please.

Yes, I’m quite the emotional eater. You can preach to me all that you want that “food to fuel” and rationally, I know that. But I also know that I want what I want, when I want it and that makes meal planning a bit of a challenge.

However, financially, I realize that meal planning is much more – oh, what’s the word? – smart.  So rather than leading solely with my gastronomical whims, I try to incorporate those while eating fairly healthy, and following my grocery store’s sales and ads for the week.

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Not exactly easy but I’ve gotten a lot better at it than I was a couple of years back.  Trust me.

And yet, occasionally, I fall into a food rut.  It’s not that I don’t have plenty of recipes, because I do. It’s challenging at the moment because we’ve got Track & Field practice (for Pooks) three times each week. And if we’re not there, we attend a variety of other meetings (PTO, scouts, etc).  When we aren’t at one of those places, my husband has to work late.

You get the point. Maybe it’s not so much a “rut” but more just not being in the same place at the same time. But it leads to take-out and late meals. Neither option feels particularly healthy to me.

When I attended the Tinkerbell Half Meetup in January, I was fortunate enough to meet Tara Gidus and bend her ear while running.

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Thankfully, she was very open to the idea of keeping in contact (props to runDisney for choosing such an approachable dietician!) When I reached out to her, she offered some great tips to share with you:

  • Plan ahead! Look at your calendar. If you have meetings after work or your kid’s baseball practice to attend, but don’t want to sacrifice good nutrition and eating at home, we have to make planning a priority. Build your weeknight menu before you go to the grocery store.
  • Look at your track record. If you know you won’t have more than 10 minutes to get food on the table before you give in to takeout, do what you can to ensure success. Prep veggies on the weekend, incorporate slow cooker meals, make ahead meals like casseroles and chili or veggie soup, and always have quick and easy menu items on hand for last minute prep.
  • Keep quick meal ideas and ingredients in the house. I always have certain things on hand: spaghetti and marinara sauce, grilled cheese and tomato soup, egg sandwiches or omelettes, rotisserie chicken, minute rice for burrito bowls, frozen vegetables and entrees like Kashi pizzas, Bertolli family dinners, and Amy’s meals. Look at the nutrition facts on packaging to make sure each product is not too high in saturated fat or sodium, but typically these meals will be healthier and less expensive than eating out.

Love these ideas and have already started incorporating them into our active evenings.

Not every evening is going to be a five star dinner but with a bit of preparation and planning, I’m trying my darnedest to make the best of our crazy evenings and enjoy the not-so-crazy ones.

Now if you’ll please excuse me, I’m off to prep tonight’s chicken pot pie!

What do you do for food when the going gets tough (or busy)? Which meal do you find to be the most challenging?

Special thanks to Tara Gidus!

14 thoughts on “Ruts and Nuts – What to do when a food rut drives you nuts!

  1. I tell you, if I didn’t love food so much, I would really hate it. I’m terrible at planning ahead, so I find myself eating out way more than I’d like. I’m trying to get better, but it’s rough, man. My biggest challenge is…oh heck, all of the meals. I usually skip breakfast, or get a bagel at the drive through, lunch is from the cafeteria at work, and dinner. If I’m organized and have prepped something, or used the crock pot, or have a great 20 minutes or less plan, I’m brilliant. Otherwise, I’m eating takeout. Again. Oops.

    • Agreed! I love food but the preparation of food is… a bit anxiety inducing at times. I love breakfast food and would be cool eating it all the time but sometimes breakfast food can be a wee bit unhealthy. Or a whole lotta unhealthy. Lunch planning is difficult so I usually go with a salad or the like. And dinner… well, dinner is my major conundrum. But I’m trying really hard to make each night work to the best of my ability. WE CAN DO THIS!

  2. There are some great ideas here! I try to have easy meal ingredients on hand too… And I often take Amy’s frozen rice bowls to work for lunch too! (my fave? black eyed-peas! which also make me want to dance!)

  3. These are great tips! I’ve been a weekly meal planner for years. It used to be so I could try new things in the kitchen and now it’s just necessary, you know? Otherwise we’d be eating pizza or pb&j every night.

    I always have ingredients on hand for mac and cheese, veggie and tortellini soup, and Josh’s spaghetti sauce in the freezer.

    Chicken pot pie- YUM.

    • Now, I’m not knocking pb&j because that is one fine sandwich. But yeah… I hear you.

      We’ve got more than enough chicken pot pie, Brooke! It’s a favorite here. And makes for good leftovers the next day at lunch.

      • I totally had oatmeal for dinner the other day because we were out of appropriate food and didn’t want to go to the store. We do omelettes all the time too! YUM!

  4. I was in a food rut forEVER because I was trying to skimp on groceries, didn’t care about cooking, and just prioritized other things. I wasn’t eating poorly, just eating the exact same meal pretty much every day. I got out of that by joining Pinterest, funnily enough. I found a whole bunch of awesome baking recipes, which led me to find a whole bunch of cooking recipes, which led me to looking up recipes of all kinds all over the internet! So I try something new most days, and it’s been pretty awesome so far. 🙂

    • Oh, I L-O-V-E Pinterest. It is the best (although don’t go on there when you’re hungry because you’ll want to eat your computer screen). What’s your favorite recipe that you’ve discovered on Pinterest thus far?

  5. Love the post, Mer. Meal planning for a busy family is a constant challenge for me, especially if I’m trying to eat healthy AND stick to a budget. But here’s the thing? When you’re in a rut, you want to try EVERYTHING new, all at once (at least I do). So what I try to do when I’m feeling that way is come up with a list of staple dinners (spaghetti, tacos, etc), things that I know are both easy and well received. And then 1-2 nights a week I’ll plan a NEW dinner, something totally experimental. Because sometimes they fall flat and if you have week of dinners that are all not so great, it’s a downer. This way, even if it bombs, it was just one night (and you also don’t spend a million dollars on ingredients that you don’t keep around). If it goes well, and it’s easy enough, add it to the staples. If not, pick two new ones the next week.

    • I agree, Bec! I try to mix things in so that we aren’t doing five nights of NEW recipes because then each one is very trial and error and I’m not sure how long things will take to make and whatnot. I’m always sad when a new recipe bombs. 🙁

You’ve heard my thoughts! Would love to hear yours here.