It’s kind of a joke that certain nights of the week are for certain meals —that Tuesday is taco night or Thursday is always meatloaf. I think some people believe having that kind of schedule is boring, joyless, and rigid. How spontaneous can life be if you know you’ll be staring down a salmon filet and baked potato every Wednesday of your life? How much can you possibly like food?
Well, I beg to differ. There's no shame in kitchen repetition, and it's one of the most important tools in my toolbox for better eating.
But there’s a lot to be said for codifying your meal plan. Anything that limits the choices you need to make conserves willpower—a resource you need to protect as much as you can when you want to eat healthier or lose weight. If you’re one of those people who feels overwhelmed by the project of meal planning, having a weekly schedule you keep every week makes it a total snap. Your list is always pretty much the same.
I think the food media—all these blog, magazines, and TV shows that shape our home cooking aspirations—has made very simple dinners seem uncool. A few nights ago, my husband and I had an unusually basic supper: hamburgers and salad. You know what? It was amazing. On the rare occasions we make this dinner, I remark how satisfying it is and that we should have it every week.
An Opportunity to Make Favorite Recipes Healthier
One of the best things about reclaiming "boring" dinners like this is it gives me the opportunities to make hamburgers healthy. I start with grass fed beef shaped into simple 4-ounce patties seasoned with just salt and pepper. Instead of buns, I used nutrient-dense sprouted whole grain English muffins. I topped the burgers with a little mayonnaise, raw onion, and pickles. Not exactly something I’d take photos of for a food blog, but perfect for a busy Tuesday.
An Opportunity to Practice Skills
Another benefit of making the same five weeknight dinners week in and week out is practice. Making the same dish over and over again is the best way to build skills and confidence in the kitchen. If you do this for a while, soon you won’t need the structure you’ve built. You’ll be able to improvise, and you’ll be energized and inspired to try new things.
A repeating weekly menu can teach you how to cook. And as your repertoire of weeknight-friendly dinners grows, you can start having meatloaf every third week instead of once a week.
Feeling like you need to reinvent the wheel every week only adds to the stress of cooking. Create a fallback meal plan stacked with dead-simple, totally boring no-recipe-needed dinners you actually love, and it will be there for when life gets crazy—and when you don’t feel like meal planning.