Where Local and Global Appetites Collide

Stuck in a Recipe Rut

Anyone who’s ever followed any sort of mean plan probably knows what I’m talking about with the recipe rut.

Several years ago we were subscribers of a recipe service. There were definite upsides as it totally took care of the “what’s for dinner” quandary each night and, depending on which track you subscribed to, could help you adjust your eating habits to be a little more healthy. We subscribed for quite some time, saved our weekly pdfs, and were pretty happy with the convenience it provided, all-in all.

We stopped using the weekly recipes for a while but noticed, eventually, that we were picking up some tasty, but not quite as healthy, habits again, so at the beginning of the year we dusted off the archives and started cooking from them once again. And it was about that time I stopped going to the farmers market because it was easier to shop all at once from her list, than my current habit of shopping the farmers market and building a menu from that.

This time it only took 8 months (instead of 2+ years) to reach that feeling of recipe rut.

Even though each week’s menus were slightly different, there were a lot of similarities and it just started to get to me: every week there was at least 1 pork dish, 1 fish dish, a chicken dish or two, and something would go into the crock pot. There’d be a rash of the same core flavoring ingredients (I may never be able to stand soy sauce in a fish marinade again, folks), the same side dishes, the same rhythm each week. And it’s like that part of your brain atrophies that can think up creative substitutions.

You’re locked into the list.

That perceived stuck-ness took the fun out of cooking. I rolled my eyes and thought of picking up take-out many times (but I still cooked because I’m a so-called responsible adult). Even on the weeks it was Todd’s turn I’d mentally pout when I’d see what was on the menu that week.

It was just. so. boring.

So this week I went rogue. Played the rebel. Struck out somewhat on my own.

Since we’re still aiming for healthy, I reached for a stash of old Cooking Light recipes I’d kept around. And cobbled together a menu I’m actually looking forward to for a change. I didn’t make it out to the farmers market this weekend, but with fall around the corner I’m thinking I might be able to get back into that habit again as well.

I’m sure there will be weeks when I’m just totally uninspired that I’ll go back to the recipe service archives and pull one out for conveniences sake, but it won’t be any time soon, I’m thinking.

So whether your habit is Meatloaf Mondays or Taco Tuesdays or Pizza Fridays, consider shaking things up every now and then just to keep things interesting. Maybe even before you, too, get stuck in the recipe rut.

Variety is the spice of life, after all.

Jennifer Walker
Jennifer Walker

  1. One of the good things about being single is I don’t usually eat traditionally. Sometimes I am lazy and if I had a big lunch, I am happy to eat cereal for dinner or a toasted peanut butter sandwich or cottage cheese with fruit.

    My habits are not traditional. And like many singles, I eat my dinner standing over the sink. Who needs to dirty another dish?

    I almost always have salad stuff and then throw in more vegetables, some protein whether it be part of a tofu burger (from Trader Joe’s), some cheese, some frozen meatballs (also from TJ’s but I cook the meatballs, canned tuna or cooked chicken, and something for crunch. I can go through a big bag of spinach or container of lettuce quite quickly if I keep up that regime. I usually eat one of those big salads every day either for lunch or dinner. Yes, it gets boring but it’s easy. Easy often wins.

    While I admire people who sit down to a nice dinner every night especially after they work all day — WOW — I cannot fathom it. If I actually do make food, there’s got to be leftovers for the next or two.

  2. I remember nights like that before Todd & I moved in together, but with everything I’ve got going on, sitting down to dinner together each night is our time to catch up on the day before I go stick my head back into one project or another.

    Plus, I find that I’m less likely to graze if I sit down and have a plated dinner as opposed to grabbing something on the fly.

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