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Early update: Forgetting to eat, and food insecurity

September 11, 2011

Just thought I’d add a bit of an update on the last post (Forgetting to eat, and food insecurity).

That got a bit ventier than I’d intended, but it’s amazing how this kind of difficulty can sneak up on you sometimes. I got a little panicked. But, after about a week of getting more to eat, I’m starting to feel better physically and mentally–and coming up with some kind of working plan for more effective coping has also helped me feel a lot better about things. Not feeling so helpless (and, indeed, still a bit ashamed of having trouble doing what I “should” more easily be able to do) is worth a lot.

Not too surprisingly, I’m having to do a lot (more) of sorting through ideas I’d picked up about how I “should” be doing things in the first place. (“Define ‘Best’ Please”…) And again, I find myself wishing I’d been able to more closely examine a lot of this stuff before now–with 7+ years of half driving myself crazy trying to do the much-vaunted “independent living” without much regard for actual skills and limitations rather than “shoulds” and shame. But, better late than never: also hackneyed for a very good reason. It’s all a process, and one that doesn’t even come close to resembling anything linear.

But, I have come up with some things to try, which I thought I’d mention in case some of it might work for someone else running into similar difficulties. (It’s yet to be seen if any of it will actually work for me, but it’s got to be better than keeping banging my head against the same wall and then cursing my head for not even making a dent in it.)

In the last post, I mentioned the idea of cooking larger batches of things for the freezer, so I don’t have to put all the time, energy, and general stressiness in every single day. (Or usually feel guilty for declaring it takeout night. Bah.) I may like to cook when not under time pressure, but–to paraphrase a comment somewhere that I can’t locate right now–it’s so much more appealing without that sauce of shame and obligation!

Something I suspect might work better than concentrating on complete dishes: Meal building blocks for the freezer. One of the things that turned me off the idea of specifically cooking for the freezer before (other than, say, a second pan of lasagna or something) was the reduced flexibility. I don’t do menu planning in advance, but prefer to pick up what looks good and cheap right then.

But, just doing simple things like freezing containers of basic onion-and-garlic tomato sauce; meal portions of meats (raw and precooked/seasoned, even with marinade in the bag) and beans/lentils; and chopped celery, onions, etc. would help a lot with the time and energy required to turn out a decent supper. I’ve already been doing that with broths and leftover pasta sauces, and it is so handy to just be able to reach in there and have it available in the portion size you need. Just keeping a tub of sauteed onions in the fridge would be a big help, since the extra chopping is the only thing in cooking more at a time. And that approach leaves plenty of room for combining things in different ways, depending on what else you have and what you’re in the mood for.

I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of doing more of this kind of thing before, but I can see that working. And it’s less intimidating, for some reason, than setting aside a day for assembling whole dishes for the freezer. I am planning to edge into adding items, but do want to get a grocery delivery to prep and freeze this coming week, before Mr. U goes back to work. (Much easier, without a car.)

Another bit from Ellyn Satter that seems very, very relevant here:

Use planning, don’t abuse it. You are using planning when you rough out a menu for the next few days, then take 5 minutes the night before to check the menu for the next night’s dinner, get the canned goods lined up, and put the frozen vegetables toward the front of the freezer. You are using planning when you take shortcuts and make extra and use leftovers for another meal. But you are abusing planning when you make your meals complicated and pile on so much work you can’t sustain the effort. You are also abusing planning when you say, ”Oh, we shouldn’t eat that; it isn’t good for us.”

I had already been thinking in terms of greater sustainability, but yeah. Really need to watch out for sliding into “cook ALL the things!” mode, having something of a history of ending up shooting myself in the foot that way with all kinds of stuff around the house. 😐 Duyukta, indeed…

So far, I haven’t set up reminders to eat on a given schedule, partly because I’m still trying to figure out when and how often might work best. But, I did download an Android app to try, Simple Meal Reminder, which sounds like it does what it says on the box. What I would really like, but haven’t had much luck finding so far, is an app which will let me set up different notification sounds for different tasks–or even categories of tasks–so that it’s easy to distinguish between “snacktime, now!” and “clean the goldfish tank today” without looking at the screen. (What with the tendency toward musical thinking, associating a bit of music with a task might work better as a reminder, anyway.) The default HTC Sense calendar app annoys me enough that I’d like to find a replacement, anyway, to hopefully make doing more in the way of scheduling seem more appealing.

But, I am planning to try setting some kind of reminders, and see how it goes.

Another possibly helpful app I have been messing with: Out of Milk Shopping List. That can also be used for pantry inventory lists, with barcode scanning* or manual entry. As much as the written list on the fridge door has already helped, I thought this was worth a try to keep a better handle on what we do have–besides for making shopping lists so I’m not forgetting half of what I went for. (If I can remember to look at the list(s), that is…)

If any of this does end up helping, it will be an improvement. I’m trying not to get overly ambitious with making too many changes at once, but seeing if things work and then evaluating what else might be a good plan.

But, indeed, I am still also working on getting it thoroughly through my head that the idea of reasonable accommodations does also apply to things I have trouble with; another one of those things that gets hung up in perfectionism too often. Getting toward that direction, with any luck, albeit slowly.


* Particularly after playing around with Goggles, I was not expecting great things from something not UK-specific. But, it did better than I’d expected, trying it out last night, specifically on more international condiments and dry goods like tea and wakame. At least half of the Japanese products did scan properly so that I didn’t have to enter them from scratch, no Chinese or Thai items, none of the (small sample) of Polish items, most British national brand items did OK–but absolutely nothing store brand was in the database it was working from. Maybe it does better in the US. Which is a PITA, since we buy a lot of Sainsbury’s assorted store brand stuff, in particular.

It was a bit funny, what some of the Sainsbury’s products scanned as. Most of the other stuff was just “item not found”, but apparently IIRC a jar of store brand pickles is really “The Pleasure of Inflicting Pain”. Bit harsh… 😉 A lot of their store brand stuff seems to have code overlaps with what would have to be ISBNs from the sound of things. Best to check what an item scans as, yes.  It does at least save what you have entered/edited as the item name for the next scan of that barcode, at least–I checked.

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