Stuck in a Dinner Rut? You've Got Lots of Company

by Sarah Henry on November 17, 2009 · 8 comments

in comfort food,kids & food

Fascinated by a report out of the UK (thank you Food News Journal) that reveals the average mother rotates through just nine different meals to feed her family. (Ah, why weren’t the fathers polled as well?)

And one in four make the same meals on the same day of the week.

Wow. You’d think with all the variety of food available these days, the easy access to free and interesting recipes on the Internet and wildly popular TV cooking shows we’d mix it up a bit. But, no, it seems that hectic work/life schedules, choosy children, and partners who toil outside the home for long hours mean that mealtimes get overlooked and we fall back on favorite foods we know and love.

The poll of 4,000 Brits conducted by a food product company found that the nine most repeated meals are:

1. Spaghetti Bolognese

2. Roast Dinner

3. Shepherds Pie/Cottage Pie

4. Pasta

5. Meat and two veg (hello 1960s!)

6. Pizza

7. Casserole/Stew

8. Sausages and Chips/Mash

9. Indian/Curry

Truth be told, allowing for regional and dietary differences, I’m probably equally guilty of rotating through a limited menu list.  My family’s nine:

1. Tofu/Brown Rice/Couscous/Quinoa and veg

2. Pasta with Pesto or Pureed Veggie Sauce

3. Indian (Still tofu, rice, veg, tamarind sauce, naan & mango lassi)

4. Soup & Salad (granted, some variations on this theme)

5. Homemade Tortillas, Beans, Guacamole, Cheese

6. Japanese: (Um, tofu, rice, nori, pickled ginger, raw veg)

7. Pseudo Thai: (That would be, tofu, rice or noodles, & coconut milk)

8. Eggs (boiled, exactly seven minutes!) with toast & salad

9. Pizza (Weekend treat, Cheeseboard, she notes defensively)

Yikes! Like the mamas surveyed, when I cook for my vegetarian son I make simple meals I know he’ll eat. I don’t want to waste time or money on food he won’t try and I’m keen to make sure he gets the nutrients he needs in the small windows of time we have together. Sometimes we whip up butternut squash pot stickers or falafel and hummus but not as often as I’d like.

Since I think a lot about food, I do try to mix it up a bit, by adding different seasonings or sauces or substituting new ingredients for old standbys but I’m frankly a little embarrassed by my narrow range.

Should I be? Would you be hard pressed to come up with nine or more than nine meals you prepare for your family on a regular basis? Do you have your own standing list or do you make a point of experimenting each week and adding something new in the mix?  Do tell.

Flickr photo by helen.2006 used under the Creative Commons license.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Jordana @ Menu Maniac November 17, 2009 at 12:26 pm

Intriguing post, made me smile (somewhat sheepishly). I can’t even come up with my top nine.


Sarah Henry November 22, 2009 at 5:28 pm

I hear you Jordana and I suspect you’re not alone.


Karen November 17, 2009 at 10:01 pm

Oh it’s tricky to answer this without too much introspection about what’s right and wrong with the food we eat!
My top 9….
1. Salmon – yes we eat it weekly & we love it
2. Shepherd’s Pie – I am English after all
3. Pasta – usually good ol’ spag bol, but we have a fave with peas & proscuitto, and a well loved tuna bake
4. Schnitzel – sometimes homemade veal, or chicken if it’s deli prepared
5. Sausages – gotta have mash & peas with these
6. Meat and as many veg as i can find. I’m particularly fond of trying brussels sprouts with the kids, because one day I know they’ll actually eat them!
7. Salmon & rosti stack – our fav with a dill sauce
8. Meat pie – preferably slow cooked overnight with winter veggies
9. Tacos or homemade hamburgers with all the trimmings

Yep, that about covers it.


Sarah Henry November 22, 2009 at 5:31 pm

Hi Karen, I’m loving your list, which reflects your Aussie-English roots — and, perhaps, a nod to your recent pit stop in San Diego (tacos)?


russelnod November 24, 2009 at 7:00 am

Guilty as charged. I used to be a lot more interesting for during the week cooking, but given time constraints and advanced exhaustion, my wife and I tend to stick to mostly the same meals. Your list is far more healthy than mine, I notice. Also, I will tend to add one or two new things, such as roasted Brussels sprouts that will replace the (sadly) overcooked ones that my wife favors this Thanksgiving.

In no particular order:

1. Pasta and sausages
2. Chicken or chicken and sausage or shrimp etouffee
3. Rotisserie chicken (lazy nights)
4. Rice and chicken (the day after #3)
5. Chicken cutlets with either marsala sauce or a quick pan sauce.
6. Tacos – picadillo, vegetables, mashed black beans.
7. Baked cod, sweet potatoes, and string beans (Always elicits the same comment from my wife: “I know this is too simple for you, but I love food this plain.”)
8. Mussels in marinara sauce over pasta.
9. Italian meatloaf – turkey meatloaf cooked on the stove with mushrooms, tomato paste, and white wine.


Sarah Henry November 30, 2009 at 8:42 pm

Russel, I suspect you’re not alone in flagging time constraints and exhaustion as reasons for rotating through familiar, fast favorites. Roasted Brussels sprouts sound delicious, by the way.


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