So I’m working a job now where I don’t get home until after 8:15 p.m., but Rick is working a more normal schedule. That means that he gets home hungry for dinner three hours before I’ll even be hopping into the Buick Regal to wend my scenic way back to the nest. If I start fixing dinner when I get home, that means we’ll be eating as late as 9:30 p.m., and it’s not healthy for Rick to go to bed at 10 p.m. with a full stomach.

And unless I’ve been exceptionally proactive and motivated that morning, it means Rick is either cooking hamburgers/hot dogs/sloppy joes for himself, or eating (yet another) peanut butter and jelly sammich.

And we all know exactly how proactive and motivated I am in the morning, which is -4 on a scale of 1 to 10, so my Wonderful Pumpkin eats hisself a LOT of PB&J.

“Don’t worry,” he says trying to make me feel better, “I really LIKE peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.” That doesn’t really work, because the Pumpkin likes a lot of different foods, but it doesn’t mean that he should eat them for days and days on end. Nutritionally speaking it doesn’t seem balanced, and I worry that it might eventually cause him to snap, and I’ll come home from work to find the entire 7-pound jar of Peter Pan we found at Sam’s Club pasted over the whole kitchen.

Rick insists he can’t cook, which is really not true. The man can make a mean chicken stir-fry on his own, with just the envelope of stir-fry seasoning mix from the store, which is still home-made in my eyes. He could do that before we met.

“But I can’t just go into the kitchen and say ‘Oh, we’ll have pan-fried chicken tenderloins with cole slaw and biscuits for dinner tonight’ and fix it,” he says to me. I have to remind him that I started cooking and baking when I was old enough to hold a hand mixer steady in a bowl of cookie dough, and anyone with 33 years experience in anything is going to be ‘better’ at it than someone with less.

When I was on the fire department in Highland Township, I’d be in the middle of fixing dinner when my pager would go off, and I’d have to abandon everything to respond. In the middle of grabbing my stuff and listening to the address of the call, I’d be giving Rick instructions on how to finish fixing all the food that was in-progress at that moment. “Finish steaming this until it’s fork-tender, drain and mash the potatoes with butter, milk and salt & pepper, and pull the biscuits out when they’re nicely browned on top!”

And when I returned, dinner was always done perfectly. So the man can cook–he just doesn’t know it.

Or maybe he doesn’t want to know it.

But I’ve been fretting lately over how poorly nourished we are, and the more often we opt for pizza or take-out food, the more money we waste on junk that just fills our stomachs without really doing us any good. We’ve got to figure out a way for us to have home-cooked meals with me on this crazy schedule.

The logical thing to do would be to plan the weekly meal menu, and then do as much of the food prep as possible ahead of time, either on the weekend or in the morning. I’d then leave instructions for Rick on how to finish preparing the meal, and he could have a hot, homemade meal when he’s ready for it, and I could have leftovers when I get home.

Again, though, that’s assuming that I can remain focused and motivated to plan all this ahead of time, stick to the schedule, and peel potatoes at 8 a.m. on days OTHER than Thanksgiving.

So we joined E-Mealz, to get their weekly menu plan and shopping list that will allow us to save money while still eating well. We were pretty gung-ho about it, until I looked at the first menu plan.

It sounds lovely, and I’d be very pleased to be working with a ready-made meal plan with such wonderful food, mostly from scratch. But I’m not the one who’d be doing most of this prep–Rick would.

I looked at the first recipe, Chicken Dijon, which calls for two chicken breasts pounded to 1/4″ thickness, and asked him “Are you okay with doing all this prep and cooking?” And then I knew that for this first week, at least, that Rick would be eating PB&J.

This weekend, we’ll take a look at the menu plan and see how much we can collaborate on the food prep.  I’ll let you know how that works out.

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