Veggie Ennui

Oatmeal

I’ve been mostly vegetarian for over 3 years now, and I’ve hit a slump. I haven’t told anyone because they’ll say, “At last, you got that out of your system!”

At our house we have continued weekly grocery shopping, and alternating who cooks the evening meal. Usually each of us makes a dish that lasts for 2-3 nights. In principle, that’s still working.

Although I don’t spend a lot on fine dining, I border on being a foodie. Rom, meanwhile, would happily survive on Weetabix, oatmeal and crackers. (Maybe it’s a British thing? Tea and digestive biscuits versus coffee and chocolate chip cookies?) I feel like we have reached an impasse.

Tacos (photo: craftsy.com)

Tacos (photo: craftsy.com)

When we started this way of eating, we both used cookbooks and tried loads of new recipes. We made up monthly meal plans, and intentionally varied the menu from week to week. After a while, we built up a repertoire. Theoretically, we could go back to that any time, or expand the range with new recipes. Instead, there is a growing tendency to “shop the pantry” and make a soup or stew from whatever is on hand from the cupboards and freezer, with few fresh ingredients or seasonings. In other words, we’re in a rut!

It would be easy to throw in the towel and say, “We gave it a good try, but it didn’t work out over the long run,” – it was too restrictive. I don’t believe that, though. Everyone I know has jags of not wanting to grocery shop or cook; of being bored with meals; of “What’s for dinner?” angst. We have to feed ourselves every day forever – obviously we are not always going to relish the effort.

I have looked at the options.

Umm, no

Umm, no

Go back to cooking meat. It would add in more flavours, textures and meal options. I’m sincerely not interested, though. I am a vegetarian for three reasons – the environment, health, and a dislike of handling and cooking meat. All of those reasons still stand.

Have meat-based meals elsewhere. Long time readers know that we eat meat if it is served to us in someone else’s home. In my opinion, how does it help the environment if I refuse food someone has already cooked for me? Each of us has a meat-based meal occasionally, out of the house, but I can honestly say we don’t have cravings and go on meat binges! No desire to increase those opportunities.

Local dining (photo: iloveheartwood.ca)

Local dining (photo: iloveheartwood.ca)

Eat out more often. This could easily become a regular thing. We love our neighbourhood restaurants and all the veggie places in the city, and I could picture us dining out every weekend. But I am thrifty enough not to want to do this. Furthermore, most of the meals available are things we can make at home inexpensively. But do we?!

Veggie Dogs?

Veggie Dogs?

Add meat substitutes to our diet. We don’t buy fake meat products such as tofu hot dogs, soy crumbles (TVP) or chik’n nuggets. We have been eating real food made of real ingredients for ages, and I don’t want to add industrial processed foods back in. I don’t mind “veggie fast food” once in a while, but I wouldn’t want it to be a dietary staple.

Fabulous samosas (from staffoflife.ca)

Fabulous samosas (from staffoflife.ca)

Buy prepared vegetarian foods. Last week we picked up local take-out samosas which were awesome. It’s easy to get prepared burritos, veggie burgers (made with real food ingredients), bean salads, and so on. I usually do keep a vegetarian pizza in the freezer for rush-rush evenings.

Cook ahead of time for the freezer. I shouldn’t wait until I’m inspired and then cook lots, because those motivated days can be rare! But just schedule it like any other “chore” and get it done. When I start cooking, I get into The Zone and enjoy it.

Go back to monthly meal planning. Right now we plan and shop for our meals one week at a time. That is good for picking up in-season produce and specials at the grocery store. When we did a monthly meal plan, we paid a lot more attention to how often we had each dish, and we made sure we had a good balance over the course of the month. We swapped meals from one day or week to another depending on evening plans.

I need to get this!

I need to get this!

Try more new recipes. There is really nothing like getting fired up over new tastes, and finding new favourites!

Do a challenge. Maybe there’s already one out there I could try – like 30 Day Vegan.

My action plan? Get back to monthly meal plans, try new recipes and cook for the freezer sometimes. Mix it up with restaurant meals and take-out now and then. There is finally beautiful summer produce, and salads are waiting to be made for lunches. I just need a kick in the pants sometimes to get going! If I get really enthused, I could even barbecue 🙂

What do you do when you get the cooking blahs?

33 comments

  1. jamielredmond

    I do a weekly meal plan. There are some meals that feature more regularly than others, because everyone likes them. And we always have homemade pizza on Saturday nights.
    Sometimes I find myself getting into a rut. Years ago I used to buy cheap cooking magazines semi-regularly. I tore out all the recipes that looked interesting and have split my recipe folders into “recipes we’ve tried and liked” and “recipes we might like but haven’t tried yet”. When I get in a rut I can look at the back section of my folders (sweet and savoury) and find new recipes.
    I also love the website http://www.taste.com.au. I use it often. I find the recipes from there quite straight forward to make, and they don’t have too many odd ingredients I would have to try to source. I used to have a subscription to Delicious Magazine (https://shop.abc.net.au/t/brands/delicious) and while they had some lovely recipes that are still in our rotation, there were many with odd/expensive/hard to source ingredients.

    • You know, I have this huge folder of recipes that is unorganized. All paper – either clipped or photocopied. I worried that something might happen to them, so I typed them into a Word file. But still never organized them. Now that would be a project! I am always rifling through the folder for my own “tried and liked” recipes. Back when I first learned to cook, I relied on Canadian Living magazine and Canadian Living cookbooks. I still like them because their recipes are all properly tested and I always know they will work – not true of all cookbooks!

  2. I’ve been a sometimes eating fish vegetarian since 2004. Sometimes I do get bored and in a rut. Going to the farmers market cheers me up, as does making some favorite dishes. Also reading food porn works. I’m reading Food52 Genius Recipes – just for ideas and fun – off their website but maybe your library bought the book based on the cooking column and you could take it out.

    • Absolutely, there is really nothing like shiny food photos to energize me again. I’ve been having cravings to get back to the Farmers Market! Now that there is actually summer produce to buy.

      YES! My library does have that book (Genius Recipes by Kristin Miglore) – I am only 45th on the waiting list now 😛 Thanks for the recommendation!

  3. Fiona

    It’s very admirable to have stuck with the vegetarian diet so thoroughly, largely on ethical grounds re: environment.

    I do think cooking ahead helps enormously, if only because it forces you to clear the decks and devote considerable time / creativity into batch cooking. And trying to stick to seasonal cooking helps, too. I know that when we try to eat by the season, it leads to ‘famine’ and ‘feast’ that creates its own cycle. My neighbour gave me two whole bags of lemons from her tree a few weeks ago and we’ve tried all kinds of new marinades, slices and pies to use them up, which has temporarily got us over a hump of food blahs!

    • I have just received bags of leaf lettuce and Swiss chard! I am looking forward to new salads. My cookbook from Amazon just arrived; the one from Food for Thought restaurant. The recipes are unfortunately complex (i.e. roasting vegetables and pureeing them to make sauces for vegetable stews) but I will try to remain up for the challenge!

  4. Yep definitely get the food blahs! We tend to eat healthy when it’s me in charge, planning and marching us off to shopping. When he’s in charge, there’s a little more ‘let’s go get burgers’ or get pizzas. And then, there’s the ‘you’re making me fat’ as if his lack of planning is my fault :p His work seems pervasive, intruding on weekends, and that’s why often groceries don’t get done..

    Anyhow, I think you have a range of solutions. My biggest ‘blah’ is having the umph to make healthy food. I can do it. But I would rather we were a team in it!

  5. EcoCatLady

    Well, vegetarian or not, I find it hard to get enthused about cooking in the summer time. Perhaps it’s different in Canada, but here, it gets so hot that turning on the oven is just not very appealing – neither is standing over a hot stove. So I tend to resort to lots of salads and quick meals – and some days it’s just a bowl of fruit with Greek yogurt.

    I also agree with Fiona that “going with it” in terms of the seasons helps tremendously. Having a garden means that some of this happens by default, because when you’re overrun with zucchini, or eggplant or whatever, there’s sorta no choice but to get creative. But I’m also a sucker for seasonal produce on sale. I enjoy buying a bunch of stuff with no idea what I’m gonna make from it and then playing the Google recipe game. I just type in the names of some ingredients that I want to use, and the word “recipe” and see what pops up. That often takes me in directions I never would have thought of.

    • Sometimes i feel the opposite – that if the house is so hot, what difference can a hot oven make?! But I am always happy to eat leftovers. I make salads for lunches and when I get really lazy I just make myself cheese toast! I am so glad that fresh vegetables and fruit are coming into season and there is endless variety on the way.

  6. I agree, I think everyone gets this way sometimes. We don’t usually eat dessert, but this summer I’ve been craving so much fresh fruit that we’ll eat bowls of it before most meals and it’s been so fun. We had plums and grapes with pizza yesterday (when normally we’d just have a salad) and pears with bananas are on the docket for today. Just a little something new spices it up! I recently checked out a vegetarian cookbook too – hopefully we’ll both find some new yummy meals!

  7. In our household, we are surrounded by temptation. There are many great restaurants within walking distance of our tiny apartment, with its tiny kitchen. I’m trying to remind us that we are also within busing distance of several great farmers markets.

    • Hi Paul, We have lots of cheap and cheerful restaurants nearby, too, and sometimes I convince myself it’s important to keep them in business! But you are right, I am also close to great quality ingredients for our own cooking.

  8. I like meat, but even that pile of bacon makes my heart stop. It reminds of the bacon wrapped pizzas they are serving at Pizza Hut. One of my son’s is a pescataren and he seems to get enough variety. He loves those black bean veggie burgers.

    • Yeah, there seems to be a difference between people who eat meat, and those who CRAVE meat, the more the better. So far I have not made bacon out of coconut and smoke flavouring as is the current trend, ha!

  9. I have about 300 cookbooks (embarrassing). Try books by Jeanne Lemlin (esp Quick Vegetarian Pleasures). She’s not as well known as she should be. Martha Shulman is also good. Both authros have well-tested recipes.

    My husband and I would be happy eating beans and rice 6 days a week. I guess we are happy in a rut.

    • Thanks for the recommendations – we have a Lemlin book at the library, so I will give it a go! We are OK eating leftovers of the same dish 3 days in a row, but after that I want the next dish to be very different.

  10. Megyn

    Ok, so I challenge you to look into the faux meat options in your area. I can guarantee there are many brands that are just as minimally processed as those samosas. Tofurky is a great brand that uses organic tofu and ingredients you know. There is a BIG push to make more natural faux-meats. There’s a really great faux bacon that is just marinated tempeh. Gardein is another decent brand that comes to mind. Very few brands are just soy protein isolate now 🙂

  11. tess

    I’ve been mixing canned beans with different salad fixings, feels like cheating not cooking them myself, but it’s so easy just throwing a salad together. Today, drained and rinsed garbanzo beans warmed in olive oil, tossed with chopped celery, green onions, yellow tomatoes, feta cheese and balsamic vinegar. Bam! 10 minutes and done.

  12. Margie in Toronto

    I tend to get that way in the summer – even with A/C I just can’t drum up the energy for anything too elaborate. I rely on Salad in a Bag and general fruit & veg since it’s the best time of year for it. I will buy some prepared salads and cooked chicken and salmon, add in some cheese and that’s pretty much it for the summer.
    I don’t beat myself up about it – I look on it as a vacation from the kitchen and by the time September rolls around I’m usually eager to get back in there and try out some new recipes and stock up the freezer again.

  13. Doris

    May I suggest that if you eat meat, however occasionally, then you are not a vegetarian, but someone who eats a predominantly vegetarian diet. This may seem pedantic, but as a vegetarian of 30+ years, I see this blurring of the definition to be problematic. I have been offered fish as a ‘vegetarian’ option on numerous occasions as people have stopped recognising vegetarianism for what it is. A vegetarian does not eat any meat, poultry, game, fish, shellfish* or by-products of slaughter.

    • Yes, you are right, Doris, technically I am a “flexitarian” or someone who eats a primarily plant-based diet. It is definitely a compromise position compared to vegetarianism. Thank you for saying this in a non-confrontational manner. That is the way to start true discussions.

  14. I cook and eat meat. But except for my sons husband I could eat a lot less. And we still get that Blah, don’t feel like cooking feeling.

    Sometimes we eat out to sidestep that feeling.

    What about ready made vegetarian ravioli and the like? I love roast pumpkin ravioli with a tomato based sauce. Much yummier than the meat ones.

  15. turtletoms

    My husband and I have been vegetarian for many years, and luckily live near a year-round farmer’s market. We endeavor to get all of our veg from the market, which imposes seasonal limitations. This serves to create variety, and seasonal cravings (love it when the tomatoes come round, but am ready for them to go when they go). We use some meat substitutes- grilled haloumi often stands in for bacon, and Field Roast makes a sausage that my Brit husband thinks is perfect alongside his egg and beans on toast. I rely on a few good websites for recipes/inspiration- My New Roots is lovely and The Chubby Vegetarian is crazily creative. I freeze leftovers, make lots of soups (nice with a poached egg on top), and have become pretty good at making a spicy veg curry in a pinch. The trick for me is to have a good selection of spices/condiments so I’m able to create a variety of flavors. Keeps the boredom at bay. Hang in there. The planet thanks you!

    • Thank you for visiting and for your recommendations! I’ve heard Field Roast is a good brand and will have to see if it’s available in Eastern Canada. I have been wanting to grill haloumi and should do it while the weather is still good. We do suffer from a lack of regional produce in the winter (severe climate), but I do buy fresh veg year-round, albeit from the grocery store. I have a few standby curries and veg stews which I really don’t get that tired of. I will check out those websites – I would love to feel inspired!

  16. I’d really recommend you have a look at Deliciously Ella’s cookbook (the one I always bang on about on my blog), everything is vegan and the things I’ve tried really have been delicious!

    • Hi Amy, Based on your opinion of it, I placed it on hold at the library but it will be a while before it comes in. I’m looking forward to it! Also waiting for Genius Recipes and the Oh She Glows cook book.

  17. I often get the cooking blahs. I thinks it’s because our family of four don’t seem to like the same food! My husband loves hot curries, the boys hate them. One boy, myself and my husband love pumpkin soup which makes the other boy gag. Having been force fed brussel sprouts, I won’t make him eat something that makes him feel ill. The boys eat red meat, my husband and I don’t. Three of us like fish, one doesn’t and so on…
    I don’t really have a solution, but The oh she glows cookbook looks like it would be full of things I’d like to eat…

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