How to Feed Your Family When Food Makes You Gag

Sometimes dinner at my house looks like this:

Tray with veggies, chicken, and eggs for spring rolls

Not often, though.

Actually, only if my daughter, Kara, happens to be visiting.

My family does appreciate beautiful presentations. But mostly they just want to eat. Every day. Whether I feel like preparing food or not.

Sometimes cooking brings great satisfaction, and other times it is just part of a routine daily chore. But what about those times when meal preparation turns your stomach? What about those days when you have absolutely no interest in food? Maybe food smells make you gag. How is a mom to feed her crew when being around food is the last thing you want to do?  Most commonly this happens in the early months of pregnancy, but there will be other times as well such as periods of great grief. At other times you might be fasting, but still your children and husband need to eat. I've had more times in the past year than ever before when cooking was the last thing I wanted to do.

Here are my coping tips for making meals when I can't stand the thought of food:

1. Use a plan.
Knowing what to make goes a long way towards getting the job done, especially when my brain wants nothing to do with food. With no dithering about what to cook, I can go into automatic mode and get the job done. I've written about why meal planning make life simpler before in these posts:

Meal Planning I:Why Bother?
Meal Planning II: Creating a Personalized Meal Plan
Meal Planning III: Using Your Master Plan
Meal Planning IV: If It's Monday, It Must Be Muffins

2. Crockpot!
I've such a fan of  slow cooked meals! Toss some ingredients in, put on the lid, and walk away. Yay! Soups, chicken, and pork are some of our favorites in the crockpot. A newer favorite is this recipe for Garlic Thyme Chicken that uses an astounding 20 cloves of garlic! (Cooking slowly somehow makes it very mild and sweet.)  Or how about Apple Cinnamon Pork Loin? Yum! Or Salsa Verde Chicken? (I add black beans to that one.) Tonight we had one of the easiest meals ever - pork loin cooked with BBQ sauce and served on buns with various sides.

If even the smells from the slow cooker make your stomach turn, put it out on the front porch or in the garage.

3. Children as cooks - a.k.a. "Kitchen Elves"!
The first time I remember my kids cooking dinner, I was pregnant and had the stomach flu. Not a good combination. We were studying earth science, and I was teaching from a prone position on the floor. "Do you think you could make some earth meatballs?" I asked my six and seven year olds. They said they could, and they did, along with some Jello to demonstrate what happens in an earthquake! (Earth meatballs = meatball (earth's crust) wrapped around a cheese cube (mantle) with a peanut inside (inner core.) Here's another version of Earth's Core Meatballs.

Older children ought to gain experience in the kitchen, so turning over meal preparation to them from time to time is useful skills for their future. (We have a requirement that both sons and daughters needs to know how to prepare a minimal number of main dishes before graduating from our homeschool high school.)

A six-year-old can make pancakes. We learned that when our youngest, left home with no one but his dad, decided he was hungry. Electric griddle + pancake mix + syrup = nice snack. Or breakfast. Or supper in a pinch.

4. Freeze partially prepared meats.
I buy chicken in bulk from Sams, and I like to freeze some in marinades. Then, on a day I don't want to fuss with food, I simply place the bag in the fridge to thaw during the day. The meat in minutes for a nearly painless main dish.

5. All else fails - Sam's rotisserie chicken
This is my go-to convenience meal. At under $5, Sam's roast chickens make an economical take-out dinner. I usually have my daughters make mashed potatoes and a vegetable or two, and we're good. Toss the carcass in a large zip bag to make into broth in the crockpot some day you feel better.

A few days ago I asked my husband if he really wanted dinner. He assured me that he did. I don't think I'm going to get a consensus from the family to do something like fast every Monday. Instead, on those days when I need or want to stay away from food, I'll be relying on these strategies.


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