Back in the 90s, I envied those who lived in New York City. Apartment dwellers who could pick up a phone and order dinner delivered right to their door. Dinner being anything other than pizza, which is all I had to choose from here on the west coast. Sitcoms, movies, novels flaunted the kitchen drawer full of menus and the simple process of having a delicious meal arrive at their doorstep any day of the week. Though green with envy, the 90s were also the start of our crowded nest syndrome and feeding the family takeout was expensive, let alone the hassle of having to pick it up on your way home.
Fast forward to the Covid pandemic, smart phones and the delightful choice of carryout or delivery across all spectrums of eateries. UberEats, GrubHub, DoorDash and Postmates are happy to bring you various local cuisines morning, noon or night. Granted the delivery fees and such put a spendy total on the bill. It’s not like ordering off the dollar menu to stretch things when your budget’s empty. But the ability to order food online and not have to fight traffic or nasty weather is a delicious treat. And an equalizer between humongous metropolitan areas and the smaller cities to this benefit.
Now that there are just two of us at home, I do have to be careful not to indulge the spoiled attitude of not wanting to cook. Seriously, no one warns you that you will have to decide and prepare cooked meals every freaking day for the rest of your life. I am not Betty Crocker or the latest popular has-their-own-show chef. And I do worry about the environment and nutritional values of eating processed foods consistently over time. So, yes, it is a complicated tightrope of life – balancing the concept of fresh produce, healthy dieting, plastic-free or less footprint against the frustration of walking into the kitchen (again) and baking, stirring, sauteing, boiling, slicing and dicing, the list is endless.
I love how I can now order just about anything my little heart requests and have it appear on my front porch with contactless delivery. I’m already in my slippers and leggings, I’m not in the mood for masks and hand sanitizers. Bon appetite!
I remember growing up and my mom would have various magazines on the coffee table: McCall’s, Redbook and Good Housekeeping. Now, McCall’s was my favorite monthly because the issues came with Betsy McCall paper dolls. But as I grew older, the recipes and articles in Good Housekeeping, especially the holiday issues, kept my attention.
And in Googling tips and tricks for freezing, what’s the first site to pop up? Why, my old familiar friend with a fabulous online website. Gotta love the quality of their posts and topics. Still teaching me after all these decades. So, first it’s good to know how long raw meats and fish will last in the freezer. With the just of the two of us at home, variety is important. So I’m watching the meat sales with even more of a shrewd eye. The Buy One, Get One Free was a favorite when the house was crowded. But BOGO doesn’t help if I forget to cut the pieces into smaller portions before freezing. Like my two-pound packages of ground meat. I’m stalling in thawing one of them, because the clock starts ticking once it’s in the refrigerator.
And not everything can or should be frozen. Who knew? Again, never have I ever considered myself a Suzi Homemaker. That name probably isn’t PC any more. My nose has always pointed toward a career. A brand new 3×5” file box filled with blank cards was more exciting than a Easy Bake Oven. So I’m very late to the game of cooking and storing. The word leftovers, I thought, would be a standard part of the week’s menu. What’s it is not meant to be is leftovers every night. Creativity is important.
Stay tuned for more exciting tales of culinary madness for two.
After years, decades of feeding teenagers and/or extra mouths at mealtimes, as of August 2021, I’m left with cooking for just my husband and I. How in the world do you slam on the brakes about food? How many habits are ingrained into my culinary system regarding shopping and preparation? So much to learn.
· Make the freezer your new best friend
Organization was never a strong suite. I was never the woman who cooked all day Sunday and had prepared meals for the rest of the week. Or created large batches and froze ahead. I looked in my freezer and saw a couple of two-pound packages of hamburger. Good grief, they looked huge, like frozen turkeys huge. Before one package made a meatloaf or casserole for a meal and I never worried about leftovers for long. Maybe squeezed an extra lunch or so from it, but not often. I’m learning to use a lotta Ziploc baggies and Sharpies. I may be late to the party of freezing, but here I am, ready and willing.
· Online grocery shopping
Whether pre-pandemic or post, using an online grocery service is a great way for empty nesters to minimize the number of groceries purchased and teach better control of impulse buying. Make a list of what perishables and produce will or could be consumed during the week. Check the pantry and freezer and adjust your list accordingly.
Many familiar stores today have their websites set up to order online and pick up in a designated area and a scheduled date and time. Many also offer home delivery, usually at an additional cost. Keep in mind what is the price of your time and transportation? I am finding I am sitting in front of the computer more often. For years, my only form of consistent exercise was pushing a shopping cart up and down the aisles of the local supermarket. Heaviest days were during sales of Diet Coke. You can burn quite a few calories lugging a pyramid of 12 packs. We’re not coffee drinkers, our form of caffeine comes in muscle-creating packages. By shopping online, I maybe not be using up calories, but my wallet is much happier.
I’m breaking the subject of cooking for two into segments, as it is one of the largest areas of noticeable change once you have an empty nest. It’s a learning curve. I’ll share the adventures and angsts with you.