I used to be well known for not being much of a cook. Throughout college, I’d be proud of myself for making an egg in a basket. If I wanted to be fancy, I would saute vegetables, pan-sear chicken, and mix it all up with brown rice. And that… that was the extent of my cooking abilities. (Although I must say, I was a pro at ordering 3 a.m. delivery from South Mouth Wings or Cosmo’s Pizza.)
I began to broaden my horizons once I left the restaurant industry. I had never known another schedule and, therefore, hadn’t really thought too much about what would happen when I switched to a 9-to-5 job.
It was eye-opening. No more late nights of eating the cheapest thing on the menu at the restaurant where I worked. No more picking up sandwiches at a nearby shop to shovel down before my shift started. No more frozen individual meals to microwave in the middle of the night after getting home, positively exhausted.
With my evenings suddenly open, I had the time to learn some simple, staple dishes. I became a little creative, often finding interesting recipes and tweaking them a little (that’s my extent of cooking creatively). However, I admit I stayed within my cooking comfort zone. In other words, I cooked with ingredients I was already well accustomed to.
Fast-forward a year and a half. I cook about four nights a week (compared to maybe four times a month back in the day), and it has especially become more enjoyable since Jake’s work schedule recently changed in which he comes home at the same time. However, I’ve been starting to get bored with the usual cycle. My cooking comfort zone—once so exciting and new—has grown predictable, and I’m rather unimaginative when seeking out recipes to “shake it up.”
So last week I came to the conclusion it was time to check out meal plans. I told myself, “Whatever it says is next to cook, I’ll try it!”
And here’s my reality of one week’s worth of meal plans (using eMeals):
- I prepared Jake for the upcoming unique meals by pulling an Aladdin: “Do you trust me?” Luckily our relationship is healthy, so he answered that he did. Then I said, “Okay, good, because I’m changing our meals up this week and you just have to trust the mystery of them.”
- Was my grocery list less expensive like everyone says it will be? Oh goodness, no. It was so frighteningly pricey, I actually hid the receipt so Jake wouldn’t find out just how much I spent on these mystery meals.
- I had to Google Image multiple items on the grocery list. Like bok choy. And okra. And others I’m too embarrassed to tell you.
- The very first meal was coconut chicken tenders with Dijon mustard sauce. Jake hates coconut, so I didn’t include it—immediately breaking my rule of cooking whatever it says to cook next. I also had to bring out ranch for him because he refused to eat the Dijon mustard sauce. It wasn’t my favorite either, to be honest… but hey, I tried!
- I was so stinkin’ proud of the slow cooked ginger orange pork; I had never made anything like it before. Jake’s response? I only let him eat red meat on occasion and this isn’t the way he prefers it, but it’s still good.
- These meals almost all indicate they only take thirty minutes to make from start to finish. Am I just a really slow cook? Because I feel like I’m working on them from 5:15 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
- Even so, I feel like such a little chef in my kitchen. Whisk red wine and whole wheat flour, then sprinkle in several spices I’d never heard of? Don’t mind if I do!
- There seems to be a disproportionate amount of leftovers. How do we have so much leftover meat, but no sauce? And how do we not have enough vegetables? Should I be reading the measurements more clearly?
- I keep asking myself, “Why didn’t I think of this meal before?” In all honestly, I never would have thought of it. Ever.
I’m really curious to hear your meal plan stories, especially paired with your significant other’s reactions to these mystery meals. I’m still determined to keep trying them (with some ingredient adjustments, because my bank account cannot take another trip like that).
Time to go make meatball leftovers and besides, I’m way over my 400-word limit.