When you get stuck in a rut, what do you do?
Food ruts are ugly. I have served oatmeal the last few weeks so often that my kids were past plotting a revolt and were in the active throws of resistance. Guerilla warfare at the breakfast table is an ugly thing, especially when it’s two short folk against one beleaguered mama.
I’ve had a hard time being creative. I had reached the point that I didn’t want to post on the Facebook fan page ‘what’s for breakfast?’ threads, for fear a fan would say ‘AGAIN?’ I was serving it that often.
Yup, stuck in a rut. Even good cooks flub meals or get stuck in a rut occasionally. I fully admit that when money is tight and I’m pressed for time, I have a hard time getting creative. The last few weeks we’ve had plain or peanut butter oatmeal more times than I care to count. Being creative at 6am is not my forte. Asking the kids what they want or letting them doctor up the oatmeal themselves normally results in an expensive disaster no one will eat.
But that was ok, because I used the last of the oatmeal out of the food storage. They were happy the oatmeal was gone- they had reached the point of refusing to eat a full bowl and I was letting them slide by with it. The kids no longer had a cause to revolt, but I was scrambling to come up with breakfast ideas on a shoestring budget when my chickens aren’t laying eggs. They’re molting so I don’t expect but the occasional egg here and there for a bit.
We spent Thanksgiving weekend cleaning out the basement/garage. When we were done, I attacked the pantry. We got a nice surprise. I found about 10 pounds of steel-cut oats I didn’t know I had. Praise God, thank you for answering my prayer to provide us with something for breakfast!
My kids are going to kill me.
Food fatigue is quite real. I needed a plan.
How do you bust out of a food rut? How do you avoid food fatigue when you’re forced into repeats? You borrow other people’s creative juices. Look online for ways to serve a food that your kids know and recognize (that would be breakfast oatmeal) in a variety of flavors then look for some ways to use it outside of the box. Hide it so they won’t recognize it.
I started plotting. The first thing I’m going to do is to grind some of it and put it into my regular flour mix. Since my normal mix contains buckwheat and I soak my grains, I’m not concerned about the phytic acid content. Oats do make baked goods gummy, so I’ll make no more than 10% of my normal flour mix oats. I’ll use the mix for baking, including making bread.
Straight ground oats will be used to bind together meatloaf and meatballs. I’ll make a ground beef dish once a week until we’re out.
I then went online to find recipes for a variety of baked goods and a variety of dishes I could attempt to convert to being soaked that specifically called for oats. I found all sorts of things and will be working through them as I can. Lunches and dinners will be planned around these dishes.
Then, I surfed the net and came up with a variety of oatmeal flavors beyond the peanut butter standby. If I serve oats more than about twice a week, they fuss. Three times a week and they complain. Loudly. Four times a week and they start refusing the breakfast while hiding the uncooked oats. So two or three days a week I’ll make baked goods for breakfast (waffles, pancakes) with the flour mix and one or two days I’ll make oatmeal. I can sneak in another day of oatmeal a week if the kids are convinced that Daddy wants oatmeal on Saturday mornings. Daddy doesn’t mind obliging.
For the oatmeal days I looked for ingredients I have on hand and my kids would like. I have some dried cherries and raisins that needs to be used up that will work nicely here. Pumpkin is in season right now and I just put a little in my freezer right before hubba got laid off. My homemade white-sugar-free jelly from this summer can be dolloped on in lieu of sweetener, giving strawberry and apple options. If the apple needs extra oomph, there’s applesauce and cinnamon to be added. A mashed banana or two or cinnamon and nutmeg on another day could also be a winner. There’s always molasses and ginger to make gingerbread flavor. The baked oatmeal recipe from the Menu Mailer is also a good option, as is a handful of pecans and coconut flakes. There’s even cocoa powder or maple syrup if I get desperate.
I made a list and tacked it on the inside of my kitchen cabinet. Now, I don’t have to think at 6am. I can look at my list to find what’s next, dump and stir. I’ll work down the list and then start over again at the top. That means they’ll only have each flavor of oatmeal no more than twice before it runs out, depending on how successful the other recipes are.
With this plan, I can cover breakfasts plus stretch the flour for baked goods for a few weeks. Here’s hoping the kids don’t notice.
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