The return of the meal plan

Many years ago when I was in grad school, and my husband was in grad school, and we both were working full time in big offices at opposite ends of Chicago, we realized that our interest in eating well was being compromised.  For obvious reasons.

This was BK – before kids (actually, my first son was born into this craziness four months before I graduated) but we had all the same challenges that working families face in eating well, together, on a regular basis. I remember hearing one of classmates admit that she and her husband often ate cereal for dinner. I still today hope that my face did not reflect my horror.  She was a nice woman. Fortunately, my husband and I loved food too much.  Special K would not do.

I did meal plans. Every weekend I’d sit with the grocery ads and cookbooks and our calendar. If we had evening activities, dinner would be frozen pizza or leftovers.  But for all those other evenings I planned menus. Assembled the grocery list. Planned my shopping trip based on best deals for staples and the best shops for produce and seafood or meat. In Chicago in the mid-90s that meant a trip to Cub Foods, a big box for boxed and canned goods. Then stops at Fresh Fields and Whole Foods for the fresh stuff.  Occasional side trips to the Lincoln meat market or to Joe’s sausage shop in my neighborhood (Joe was Hungarian, but every Saturday a German friend played ompah music on an accordian all afternoon).

It was a weekly adventure.  Sure, it was time-consuming but it saved headaches (and time) during the week.  No questions about “what’s for dinner.” And we ate well.  Happy people.

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