We are fairly fortunate individuals, with a roof over our heads and good jobs with the ability to work from home, our son is safe with us, we have working internet, and our fridge and freezer are reasonably well-stocked. Once a week, I make a grocery run and we can make outings to vegetable/fruit stands to get some fresher food than the grocery store too.
We also know how to cook, with my wife doing the vast majority of the meal planning and cooking, with decently healthy choices, particularly with her Epicure options. In a non-pandemic world, Andrea and Jacob would have breakfast together, and I may or may not grab something in passing. I rarely sit down for a full meal with them in the morning. Dinners, as I said, are usually in Andrea’s domain and my job is to fetch the groceries she needs in order to cook. Lunches were more of a hybrid option. I would make something the night before, almost always some form of sandwich for Jacob, different ingredients, and we would often order him something from the school programs like pizza one day or subs another. Andrea would handle the fruits and vegetables to be added.
But I frequently crave more spontaneous choices than what’s on tap in our fridge. I am not a huge fan of leftovers, but even I get tired of sandwiches all the time too. At work, I would just pop down to a restaurant or the food court. At home in the pandemic? Fuhgeddaboutit.
We still do take-out at least once a week, maybe twice in ten days on average, and we’ve gotten pretty good at giving everyone a chance to choose WHERE we are going. Harvey’s is acceptable to all, McDonald’s for me and Jacob only if Andrea is doing something else, we can all eat at Wendy’s. Subway is popular with all three of us but we’ve been a bit leery of the openness of their food prep during the pandemic, so we only recently returned to eating there. We used to go once a week after piano, we’ve now gone twice in five months. Swiss Chalet is popular with me, not so much with Andrea and Jacob. I’ve enjoyed more Tim Horton’s in the last few weeks than in my entire life, I usually avoid them for slowness but I’m not hating the drive-through. We’ve also done Lone Star, Local Heroes, Baan Thai, Edo Japan, Montanas. Pizza is popular for all three of us, particularly Pizza Hut for Jacob, but Colonnade more for myself. We’re planning to expand to a few others too.
So why do I mention all those? Because they are almost ALL dinner options. We did do Edo Japan and Tim Horton’s for lunch, but only on weekends. Everything else is generally a nighttime option when we don’t feel like making anything, or just not what we had planned when we did the planning three days before. I like to BBQ, but not so much when it’s raining or when lava is melting in the shade. We need a bit more variety and the flexibility to change from time to time.
Today, we made two outings to help with that variety. First, very simple, I ordered Pizza Hut for lunch. Andrea wasn’t interested, but I’ve told Jacob that at least once a week, for something different at lunch, I’ll make a run out for something of his choosing. Not surprisingly, he went for pizza immediately. But not something like Pizza Pizza, he wanted real pizza at Pizza Hut. Personal pan pizza, thick crust, Hawaiian, ham, and I even added chicken. I opted for wings and a Caeser salad, two things I rarely have at home on our own. It was a nice change of pace.
For our second outing, Andrea and I went to Supperworks. For those of you not familiar with it, it is one of those places where normally you make an appointment, you go in, they have a number of work stations set up around the storefront, and you assemble a series of meals. For example, if they have lime chicken kebabs, you go to the station, put two kebabs with chicken on them in a bag, then add all the sauce ingredients, a bunch of spices, etc., and mix it all up, before sealing the bag. All the food prep is basically done — everything is chopped, diced, sorted, and good to go. You have to measure ingredients for sauces and spices, but they have all the spoons ready to use. When you’re done, your food goes in the fridge while the spoons and bowls go in a dishwashing bin. Then on to the next station. They usually have about 10 different meals of the month going, and you can choose all of them, or some of them. A default meal package serves about 4-6. We do a “split” option that is enough food for three of us, but just enough usually with no leftovers. It’s good for a meal, and that’s it.
Obviously, in a pandemic world, you can’t do this. While normally you save money assembling everything yourself, it’s not cheap, you’re basically paying for them to chop everything for you, buy all the ingredients, wash your bowls, etc. But we go home with 5-6 dishes usually and double options for each, so 12 meals. And they’re complete meals with rice, noodles, buns, etc.
Their current options are a bit more expensive, as they assemble everything for you into the bags, and they’ll even deliver it all to you for a fee (like lots of the companies that deliver assembled meals ready to cook or others that deliver the ingredients but you still have to prep everything). But you can go and pick it up, which we did today. We’ve done it once before during the pandemic, but we don’t often eat it up fast enough to do it every month. If you repeat month after month, you can get discounts for the subsequent months. We tend to want it maybe every six weeks or so. It IS 12 meals and it is usually way more complex than we would normally do for choice of meal.
Today we went for some lime chicken kebabs, tarragon chicken burgers, bacon pineapple wrap burgers…those are all for the BBQ and sure, we could do it all ourselves if we felt like doing all the prep too. Often it isn’t very economical though, as some of the spices or sauces they use are things we would use once every six months and the recipe only calls for a tablespoon or two. We also got a creamy Thai coconut chicken, a beef stew-like mixture with noodles, and a big bag of chicken wings as an extra one. Oh, and a Mexican shrimp skillet option. Three of those are likely ones we would never make on our own, we’re venturing out of our weekly grind.
Don’t get me wrong, we have some fantastic dinners on our own. Andrea is a great cook, and we try to do meal planning regularly to give us some variety without increasing the workload too much. And if I can BBQ, all the better. But our Supperworks meals tend to be as much about variety as it is about avoiding eating out, while still giving us something “different’ that feels like a treat since we only have to cook it, not prep it too.
But it is often easy to forget about the choices available, and it’s not like you pop over to Supperworks and pick up those meals, or swing by Pizza Hut today at lunch. It’s good to remind ourselves that there are still options that are light, fun and a treat in a Covid world.
Today I choose more flexibility in our meal options, even when it requires some advanced planning and booking.
What choices are you making today?