On Sunday evening while I waited outside of Tonino's, our preferred Lewisburg pizza place, I found myself feeling guilty about ordering take out for the upteenth time this month rather than grocery shopping or cooking dinner like a responsible person.
Now this guilt had nothing to do with the food choice itself, in fact we had ordered salads, but instead this guilt was rooted in something I am now calling food fatigue.
Otherwise known as exhaustion, stress and frustration caused by shopping, planning, cooking and endless "what should we have for dinner?" conversations day in and day out.
Quickly the guilt was replaced with frustration for feeling guilty in the first place. I knew there was no way that Tom and I are the only couple who finds dinner so hard, right? So I took to instagram to find out.
What started as a quick poll on my story turned into dozens of messages and meaningful conversations from friends who felt the same way. Each had their own vantage point on the issue ranging from expectations related to gender to whether meal delivery services were really worth the expense.
This blog aims to compile some of the key ideas, takeaways, and recipes from the messages I received and conversations I've had.
But before we get into it, I need to interrupt myself to make sure I acknowledge and sit with the privilege that's oozing out of the this blog post already. In a country where about 10.5% or 13.8 million people are food insecure (USDA), my inability to decide what I want for dinner and to have choices is an immense privilege. With access to supermarkets, farmers markets, delivery apps, meal kit subscriptions and local restaurants I have never known the struggle of food insecurity. The struggle I'm describing is far more psychological that physiological. While some of my instagram post was boarderline satire, the meaningful conversations with, mostly women, that resulted exposed some very really challenges that we face related to all things food.
Let's get into it. These are my food fatigue findings. I hope you take what you need, ditch what you don't and use them as springboards for conversations about your own dinner tables.
The expectation to provide for others is still alive and well. A consistent theme in them in the messages I received was the, implicit or explicit, heteronormative expectation that women provide for others. Even if we consciously know that that expectation may or may not persist in our 2022 family structure (or perhaps we are actively rejecting that notion) there seems, for many women, to still be a deeply rooted awareness that we are, or once were, responsible for stocking the fridge and putting a meal on the table. The guilt and shame associated with not doing that, may still live in our subconscious bodies and minds.
Our society is literally obsessed with food. From fad diets to local vegan-juice-raw-sustainable-farm-to-mouth whatever we have become obsessed with what we eat, how we eat and who knows what and how we eat. We are more health-conscious (to a detriment at times) than ever and food has become a moral issue subscribing to the gospel that pizza = bad and salad = good (propaganda!). Closed linked to the morality of food is the pursuit of thinness at all costs. We are operating in a broken system that continued to break us.
Planning for a household with different food preferences is challenging. Whether you have a kid, or husband, who's a picky eater or someone in your household is vegan, vegetarian. gluten free etc. finding meals that work for everyone is a challenge. I don't have the time nor desire to meet everyone's needs, I can barely meet my own!
Meal kit or food subscription services can help, but they may be costly. So many people reached out to swear by XYZ meal service and I think it's a really great option for lots of people. I've heard rave reviews on Every Plate ($45/box for 6 servings), Butcher Box and Misfits Market.
Are my cooking/take out options "normal"? Who the heck cares! Survey says 2% of respondents are superhuman and cook dinner at home 7 days a week, 48% cook five-ish days a week, 29% cook three days a week if they are lucky, an additional 21% asked that I "define cooking"
Efficiency could help us. A brilliant Registered Dietician friend pointed out that if we cook 2-3 times a week meals that can stretch 5+ nights a week we might get some reprieve from this food fatigue we feel. Well played, friend!
Where should we look for recipes? Y'all offered so many fabulous ideas here are some of them.
Create a pinterest board with subcategories for "I'm lazy" meals vs. "I am a chef" depending on how you are feeling. (Obsessed with this recommendation Brooke T.)
Apps like, Mealime offer meal plans and recipes
Do people still use cook books? Maybe! Recently Tom and I bought a bunch of cook books and both post-it-noted pages that looked good. Pages with two post it notes meant we were both interested. Which now makes me think we need a tinder for recipe swiping and matching with people in your household. If this already exists, tell me! If this does not exist, don't steal my idea. If you're an app developer....hit me up.
At the end of a reiki session I tell clients that oftentimes healing generates more questions and fewer answers and that's the way I feel at the conclusion of this writing.
What I can offer instead, is that if cooking/shopping/meal-prepping/food-fatigue is stressful, frustrating or even guilt-ridden it might just mean you are a normal human and that you are certainly not alone.
Lastly, thanks to the nearly 75 unique humans, just like you, who had something to say about this topic. I hope we can keep unpacking what this all means, how hard it feels, and recognizing the humanity in each other