5 Ways to Get Out of a Food Rut

October 8, 2009

Lets face it, we all get stuck in food ruts. Seared salmon on top of mixed greens has been my fast and healthy go-to dinner for far too long. Time to shake things up! Of course like anyone, saying one thing and doing another can be challenging when you work full time, have a family or planning within a budget.

1. Make it Easy on Yourself
You don't have to get all Martha on everyone and make every single meal from scratch, complete with hand-sewn napkins. Obviously, that would be pretty cool, but maybe you should work up to that. You can still buy a pre-made roasted chicken at the store on the way home, but instead of serving rotisserie chicken as is, cut off the meat and put it in a panini or toss it with a vegetable-packed salad.

2. But I Love Spaghetti Every Night...
Really? Okay, no one is going to blame you, but you might want to mix it up a little bit- what about adding some sauteed peppers or throw in some olive and capers for a little puttanesca inspiration? Try a different sauce or put that irresistable tomato sauce on a grilled chicken breast or roasted eggplant.

3. Plan Ahead
Doesn't someone telling you to plan ahead sound super bossy and for some of us, unrealistic? I get that. Honestly though, doing one thing like throwing flank steak into a quick marinade the night before or prepping one thing for tomorrow's dinner while you are throwing tonight's dinner together doesn't add up the hours, 15 minutes maybe. Have an office refrigerator? Cooler in your car? If you get a long lunch break, you can save a trip to the grocery store after work, by going on your lunch break.

4. Buy a New Kitchen Tool to Experiment and Force Yourself to Try Something New
Nothing makes you think outside the box more than purchasing a fun new kitchen tool. You don't even need to splurge on a Vitamix to stir things up. Even buying something as cheap as a potato peeler that has fun ridges on the sides or even purchasing a panini press from the Goodwill will help inspire you to write up a different shopping list.

5.  Use Resources Right Around You
If you are grabbing lunch at a restaurant, don't just read the menu for what you are eating now, see what else looks appetizing and try and replicate it yourself for dinner later on in the week. Ask all your friends, your mom and your co-workers what they are making for dinner, sometimes the simplest ideas are buried underneath all your creative brainstorming. And lastly, nothing is more inspiring for getting you out of your food rut by reading food blogs. They are overflowing with ideas and they are all cooked by real people who are not trying to sell you something!

Here are a just a couple of food blogs to check out:

Steamy Kitchen
Roots and Grubs
Cooking with Amy

Above Photo by: Gudlyf



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Sarah's picture

Great tips - I get in lunchtime and snacktime food ruts - but we end up trying so many new things for dinner that sometimes my husband will say "but I LOVED ___ so much! why don't you make it again!?" Going to post this to the Semi-Sweet Facebook page!

Melissa Peterman's picture

Hello Sarah,

Thank you for your comment- I hear what you are saying when people fall in love with one recipe, they want it again and again, why not- if you love it! Thanks so much for posting it on the Semi-Sweet Facebook page!

Bec's picture

great tips thanks!

Karen's picture

Great suggestions. Planning ahead is the big one for me. I plan dinner for each night a week ahead on a weekly scedule I print out. The I can make a grocery list, note the steps I need to get done ahead (like marinade, assemble, or defrost) on the schedule on the day I need to do them. I actually find myself being more creative this way, since I already have the meal planned in advance, it is way more likely to get cooked than if I tried to do it spur of the moment with a busy schedule and missing ingredients.

Melissa Peterman's picture

Hi Karen,

Wow, planning a week ahead with a game-plan sounds great! Yes, I hear you, there is nothing worse than coming back from the grocery store having forgot one or two necessary ingredients!!