Food is awesome, and I think it’s great that something we need to eat in order to survive can also be something fun and enjoyable to prepare and consume. Of course, there are times when life gets in the way, and ‘remember to eat’ becomes just another item on our to-do lists. It’s times like this you might find yourself working your way into a food rut, eating the same things day in and day out until you’ve forgotten there was a time when food was exciting. This can happen whether you’re usually a gourmet cook, or the type who uses your oven to store sweaters. Believe me, I know, because I’ve lived most of my life in one food rut or another. Fear not, like all other ruts, this one is totally escapable. Read on for ten signs you might be in a food rut, and how to change things up.
1. You’re on a first name basis with your go to delivery/takeout guy.
You also know the names of his kids, and what he thinks about Scandal this season. Kudos to you for being friendly and knowing someone with awesome taste in TV, but perhaps it’s time to pick a different restaurant on Seamless, for variety’s sake (or if your delivery guy is Team Fitz, because he’s the worst).
2. Your coworkers can predict your lunches.
If I tell a coworker I brought my lunch from home, his first question is always “Is it kale?” Worse, my answer is always “Yes.” I once defended myself with “But this week it’s kale in soup instead of salad.” “Sure, because soggy kale is better,” was his retort. I will argue that the soggy kale was in fact better than my usual salad, so even if you’re eating the same base food, try switching up your recipes.
3. You’re not excited about meals.
I love the feeling of “ooh, it’s almost lunchtime, I can’t wait to have this delicious thing I brought.” Less fun is “Well, I’m hungry, guess it’s time to eat kale, again.” Whether it’s something you’re making or something you’re getting at a restaurant, pick meals you’re going to enjoy, rather than ones you’re just going to ingest for the sake of not going hungry.
4. Every trip to the grocery store is for the same things.
For those of us into fresh produce, but also convenience, a trip to the grocery store can be an exercise in ABCs – apples, bananas, baby carrots. They’re healthy, they require no prep work, and they get totally boring when you’re buying them every single week. Whatever your staples are, if you’re tired of them, switch them up! Get something you’ve never tried before. Pick one of those weird fruits/vegetables you have no idea what to do with, and go home and look up what to do with it. If you’re feeling really adventurous, sign up for a CSA box, which will provide you with a bunch of local produce, half of which you’ll have no idea how to cook.
5. You’ve been eating the same breakfast for years.
This could be just me, but I really will eat the same breakfast for years on end. In elementary school, it was blueberry Pop Tarts. In middle school, blueberry Nutrigrain bars. In high school, it was Swedish Fish from the college counseling office. In college, blueberry yogurt. And for most of adulthood, it’s been oatmeal with blueberries. Apparently I have a blueberry thing. Even my ruts have ruts. I’ve recently been trying to switch things up and having eggs on occasion. If you’re usually a sweet breakfast person, try something savory, and vice versa. And whoever you are, if you haven’t, try cake for breakfast. It’s pretty much the best.
6. The only seasonings in your pantry are salt and pepper.
They say variety is the spice of life. Well, spices are the spice of food. Trying something new doesn’t always have to mean venturing to some health food co-op in search of the latest trendy ancient grain (quinoa is so three years ago). Just try different seasonings on some of your old standbys and see what a difference they can make.
7. All your meals come from the same place.
It’s probably not quite as bad as the woman who only ate at Starbucks for a year, but if your meals are all coming from one place, whether it’s your work cafeteria or the hot bar at Whole Foods, it may be time to try somewhere new. If you always get takeout, try cooking! If you tend to make your food at home, treat yourself to a meal out now and again.
8. You’re cooking the same five recipes over and over.
For the first several years of my young adulthood, lunch was ‘salad’ (spinach with some stuff on it) and dinner was either something involving ground meat, or a casserole involving cream of mushroom soup. I never branched beyond my comfort zone, largely due to a fear of having to learn a method of cooking meat that wasn’t mushing it up in a hot skillet til nothing was pink anymore. If this sounds like you, ask a relative whose cooking you love or a foodie friend to teach you a new recipe. If you don’t have any of those, ask your friends The Internet or The Food Network and they’ll be happy to show you how to whip up something new.
9 Your friends can predict your restaurant orders.
“You’re going to order whichever entrée has truffle oil and whichever dessert has salted caramel.” Well, excuse me for knowing what foods are awesome and wanting to eat them always. Still, I recognize I might find new delicious food if I were willing to branch out beyond my usual.
10. You can’t tell which takeout containers in the fridge are fresh and which are old, because they all contain the same thing.
Is this the pad thai from this week, or last week, or last month? Time to play food poisoning roulette! Yes, you can start labeling your containers with dates, but you could also try the green curry instead.
Food ruts can happen to anyone, but there are definitely ways out. That said, if you’re in a food rut you love, then carry on. Just make sure it’s not one of those college student ‘all ramen‘ ruts that puts you at risk for scurvy.
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