You know those comics, memes, tweets… that all say something like “I can’t believe that I have to make dinner every day for the rest of life until I die?” But in a more clever, not quite as dark way? Almost every time I see one of those I will share it on my story because man oh man do I feel this! I mean I enjoy dinner, and I love food, but every single night… It seems a bit excessive! Add into that my ADHD brain that absolutely hates monotony, gets decision fatigue rather quickly, loves to be a workaholic and therefore is often useless by the time dinner rolls around or would rather work instead… I tend to get more of a recipe for disaster than a recipe for chicken piccata come 6 pm.
I always assumed my inability to make dinner most days was tied to my ADHD traits and executive function deficits to some degree. Difficulty planning ahead, being organized, breaking down long-term projects ie. feeding my family dinner every night until I die… (at least I wasn’t being dramatic about it:) It wasn’t until I started building the ADHD coaching side of my business and working with more ADHDr’s as a therapist that while my ADHD was definitely to blame I should be following my own advice! I tell my clients daily to stop comparing their organizational tools and habits to those who are neurotypical, stop reading organization hacks for those who are neurotypical, stop getting advice on organizing their lives from those who are neuroatypical… Unless of course, those people have a wealth of experience helping those who are neurodivergent with these strategies. Instead, like so many things in life, utilizing our strengths to get through the challenges is going to be the most effective! “Our” ways may look different but they can still get the job done!
Ok, so if you are reading this you likely have ADHD and are thinking: “For Pete’s sake Franki get to the point!” I hear ya! Here is what I did and what I recommend you do:
Find some MOTIVATION:
I tend to grocery shop in a very “adhd way” I’ll have a list of things we must have, including a list of ingredients for a planned meal (that I will never make) and also impulsively pick up things that look interesting or are staples that we typically like without knowing if we actually need them or not. This leads to paying some “ADHD Tax” and throwing some perishables out or even finding things in the back of my pantry hiding from 2018. I hate wasting food and I hate wasting money. Therefore I was strongly motivated to improve both!
Find some NOVELTY:
One day as I was looking in my chest freezer I realized it was so full it could hardly close and I hated using anything from there because it was so hard to find anything. What if I challenged myself to buy nothing for a month? Well, almost nothing. I could only buy produce and other perishables ie. dairy and eggs. When it came to dinner each night I would pick items from my full freezer or shelf-stable items from my full pantry and full “back up” pantry. I called it the “buy nothing, eat everything challenge!” Ok, I actually didn’t but I wish I did!
Because I had fewer decisions to make and eliminated steps of the dinner-making process by not buying any new groceries, I had the energy left to be creative. So I powered up my air fryer, preheated my oven, turned on the microwave, got out some pretty platters I hadn’t used since I received them at my wedding shower in 2004, and had fun “plating” our meals!
Here are some of my family’s favorite meals during the challenge!
Breakfast for dinner! Upon a deep dive (literally, this is a big chest freezer and I’m always a little scared that I may fall in) I found frozen cheese omelets, mini egg muffins- 2 varieties, frozen mini muffins, 1/2 package of frozen pancakes, 1/2 package of frozen french toast sticks, and 1/2 package of frozen waffles, some frozen spinach pies, a box of uncrustable PB and Js my kids insisted they would eat but alas did not & cut up some fruit, and avocado that wouldn’t last much longer in my fridge! I had my extended family over for this fun meal and everyone was happy!
I found a dry lentil soup mix and threw in some frozen chicken breast, chicken thighs, and frozen string beans that I had found in the back of the freezer.
I found tons of packets of tuna, so I cut up some celery that I had on hand and wouldn’t last long, some crunchy apples, and mixed them with a little mayo. “Fancy” tuna salad and ritz crackers courtesy of a huge Costco-sized box I found in the backup pantry. So this one wasn’t plated so well, forgive me Gordon Ramsay.
had frozen leftover already chopped-up rotisserie chicken that I defrosted in the microwave and paired with a bag of romaine lettuce, some chopped-up cucumbers, and shredded parm. We all loved the chicken ceaser salad night even if one kid (you know who you are) only ate ketchup with a side of chicken!
The next salad platter is similar but includes chopped-up leftovers from earlier in the week as salad toppings. Shredded salmon (that I made in the air fryer from frozen—- google it- it works!) and chopped-up dinosaur chicken nuggets made great salad toppings. I also used some tortillas I had in the freezer and made some cheese quesadillas.
Appetizer night! I made a frozen pizza, chicken nuggets, fish sticks, and spinach pies. I didn’t have enough of any of them for a full meal so this was a great way to use them up and not waste them! I also put out a bagged salad and some microwavable frozen brussel sprouts I found. This was by far my kids’ favorite night even my big kid a.k.a my husband was ecstatic I made fish sticks. This is one of the reasons I love him. He’s most impressed by hot dogs and fish sticks maybe not served at the same meal.
As I got to the bottom layer of the deep freezer, I found tons of frozen bread. How did it get there you ask? I’m not sure, maybe it came with the house? I chopped up a loaf of Italian bread still frozen, googled “overnight french toast casserole” mixed up the ingredients, and let it sit in the fridge until an hour or so before dinner. We all loved this dinner for sure! I added some scrambled eggs, and turkey bacon and cut up the rest of the fruit. Since I didn’t have to really do anything except preheat the oven I had the energy to put on some show tunes and chop up all of the rest of the fruit in the fridge!