Why is dinner so hard?

I have a goal to eat dinner as a family. But getting my family to wait until dinnertime is only part of the problem. The other part is what the hell to fix.

My children and I are vegetarians. (Not that this is a huge issue with Kai at the moment.) So our boxed-crap options are pretty slim. And I’m sick of them all. I love pasta, but am burned out on store-bought sauce. And that’s pretty much the food industry’s answer to prepackaged vegetarian food, at least at my grocery store. (Oh, Schnucks, I miss you.)

My daughter thinks macaroni and cheese is a food group.

My partner thinks ramen and freezer burritos are acceptable meal options.

I have a collection of recipes that I am working to expand, but right now it’s pretty small. And when I ask “What do you want for dinner?” the answers never come from my recipe box.

I tried making a menu planning board. I put the names of recipes we all like on cards and put the board in the kitchen. All we have to do is select and post a handful of recipe names each week. We did that once. The same dishes have been up there since around June.

I created a similar list on my phone. The names and recipes for all our standby meals are all there — I just have to pick a few, then go to the store and buy what we need. But apparently even that is too much work.

When I lived alone, I made a pile of new recipes and planned menus around them. I shopped every two weeks, and tried out 4 or so recipes between shopping trips. I planned the menus to reduce food waste but still afford myself a little variety. I ate healthy food, dropped a few extra pounds, and felt great.

Suggesting we try a new recipe to this crowd is about as popular as suggesting we play a fun new game called Russian roulette. Even when I promise we can go to Sonic if it sucks.

I am not completely innocent here. I hate going to the grocery store so very much that usually I buy whatever we used the week before, toss in some healthyish junk food for Anya to nosh on, and call it done. So my pantry remains full of pasta and tomato sauce that I don’t want to eat.

I need to get a handle on this before Kai is old enough to grab snacks on his own, or it’ll be anarchy around here.

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