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Me, Myself, as Mommy: Craving a simple solution to the daily dinner dilemma

By Meg Sanders - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Oct 20, 2023

Photo supplied

Meg Sanders

My mother’s time in Relief Society was the gift that kept on giving. When she wasn’t coming home with a new DIY decorative piece like a flower arrangement or emergency kits that she would present to the family like a cat with a mouse, she had a new recipe. Cream of chicken, cream of mushroom and another type of thick cream were a central piece of the meal. I hated nearly every recipe she came home with, but to this day, Jana Brown Chicken Sauce is a family favorite even amongst my children. Jana Brown passed away this year and she left an indelible mark on my life. I still have the very recipe card featuring a dancing gingerbread man she handed to Mom all those years ago.

Mom also left her mark on the various households by sharing the infamous nacho chicken recipe. Like lasagna, cream of chicken, canned green chilis, sour cream, chicken, cheese and Doritos were layered, baked and served. Its simplicity made nacho chicken casserole a hit in every home in the ward. To this day, my childhood best friend curses the day nacho chicken was introduced to her mother. Now, as a busy mother who hates to spend time cooking and washing dishes, I understand why a one-dish casserole was the meal of choice for my mom. I also wish I could go back to the days when someone made me food. If Mom came over with a hot plate of nacho chicken, I would cry with grateful affection, no complaints. These Relief Society recipe swaps made even more sense when I realized there was no internet to Google “quick dinner ideas”; instead, it was a group of women recognizing they had a life hack to share. Relief Society was the “OG” Pinterest.

After a day of work, shuttling humans, cleaning and walking the line, dinner is the last thing I want to do. I’m quickly falling prey to the numerous advertisements I hear for meal kits — maybe it’s actually pray? Meal kits come right to the front door with preportioned ingredients and step-by-step instructions as a way to make dinner more convenient. The daily struggle of what dinner will look like from the planning to the grocery shopping is cut out. Meal kit services are becoming more popular with a major uptick in use in the last few years. I wonder if there’s a link behind the low unemployment rate and the need for pre-prepped meals. Busy professionals, overwrought parents and people looking to find just another minute in the day may find solace in meals being planned out before they hit the skillet.

There are major companies like Hello Fresh, Blue Apron and Green Chef who are making a name for themselves with their products and interesting recipes. Clicking through the various pages, I see the prices are no joke when feeding a family of five. Nearly all offer some type of promo code knocking off a few bucks, but to make it work I’m going to need about five of those promo codes added together. I don’t know if these companies realize I’m raising kids who think buttered noodles are gourmet, certainly not a group of foodies craving quinoa. Here’s where we do a little math. According to one of these companies, four servings of a “family friendly” dinner for five nights a week is $120. Until I sign up for the actual plan, I can’t select my meals, so I imagine depending on the protein, that price can quickly change. Four servings is the highest option for serving size so maybe we could draw straws to see who wouldn’t get to eat that night?

The only meal prep I had experience with was Fit Life Meal Prep in downtown Ogden, on the same block as The Junction. Owner Lily Arriaza started this company out of her home but has since opened a fitness café paired with her meal prep menus. I actually bought smoothie bowls from her that come with the fruit, fiber and protein that I just throw in the blender when I’m ready. This spurred me on to try her meal prep options and they’ve been delicious if not convenient. With her prepackaged meals, I could snag 14 meals for $132.86.

While I’ve never been on a dating site, I imagine my flipping through meal prep pictures is similar. I click through until I find a picture that makes my mouth water, I imagine what it would be like to make that plate, how simple it would make my life. Then when I click to order it’s so difficult to sign up, the prices fluctuate and I realize it’s just too much work so I may as well make dinner alone after Googling “30-minute recipes.”

The frustration and exhaustion from cooking dinner is real. It’s a problem many of those going hungry at night would love to have; I realize this. While I may feel the pressure of creating variety at dinner time, my children most likely aren’t concerned when the last time they enjoyed Jana Brown Chicken Sauce was. Instead of stewing over dinner, I need to realize the time we’re spending together is what the meal is really about. When Mom came home from Relief Society with a fresh experimental recipe she would concoct, it was a bonding moment with my siblings as we slow-chewed our way through dinner. If ever there’s a night I can’t think of something to make for dinner, there’s always pizza … or nacho chicken casserole.

Meg Sanders worked in broadcast journalism for over a decade but has since turned her life around to stay closer to home in Ogden. Her three children keep her indentured as a taxi driver, stylist and sanitation worker. In her free time, she likes to read, write, lift weights and go to concerts with her husband of 17 years.

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