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The uninspired pantry

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

I tend to be pretty good about planning meals and such. I post a meal list on the fridge each week so we don't waste time in the evening wondering what's for dinner and do we have enough to make something. I also think I do a decent job of involving the kids in making meal choices. But every few weeks, there will be a night or two that I look at the meal list, look at the pantry, look at the fridge - feel utterly and completely uninspired.

I can't put my finger on exactly what it is that makes me feel that way. I can't say that it most often happens on Tuesdays, one of our family's busier days, or anything like that. I can't say that going out to dinner on a night like that would help because going out to dinner can be just as much of a hassle as making dinner (there aren't many family friendly restaurants near us, either). It's just general meal ennui. It happens.

I can barely bring myself to even cook those nights. I'd rather everyone help themselves to leftovers and curl up with me on the couch, but I know I would never make it to the couch myself. I'd be the one heating up and doling out the leftovers, getting more milk or a sponge for the spilled milk.

While I don't know what causes this, I do try to take the same basic steps each time it happens to combat it.

First, I push through the feeling and force myself to make dinner anyway. I make myself a cup of tea or, if it's a Friday night, open a beer. Then I examine the menu list and see if there is an easier and faster meal remaining in the week that I can switch in for that night. I also try to enlist as much help from the kids as possible in making the meal.

Second, while cleaning up from the meal, I try to examine the contents of the pantry and fridge to see if there is extra stuff in there that needs to be removed. A super-duper-so-hot-it's-illegal-in-thirty-three-states hot sauce that someone gave as a gift once and we'll never actually consume? Gone! Some homemade penicillin? Outta here!

Third, after the kids are in bed, I grab a couple of cookbooks or our favorite magazine that also has recipes and try finding new and interesting meals to add to next week's menu list. I try to come up with two possible new meals. These meals don't always make it onto the menu list, but it does get me thinking about other possibilities, or favorites we haven't made in a while. Sometimes I go online, too, or watch cooking shows.

Four, I consume chocolate. Cliché, I know, but it helps. Good dark chocolate always helps.

Usually these four steps get me through the meal blahs, but if they persist into the next evening, I have one more step: call my husband and ask him to pick up some pizza on the way home, then go hide under the covers in bed.

Points and Prizes Keyword: PIZZA worth 50 points good through 02/03/08.

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