I love that scene from A Christmas Story, when the little brother, Randy, won’t eat his dinner, and Mother and The Old Man have to rely on a combination of threats and games to get him to take a bite.
I love it because I was that kid. In fact, Mom and I once held a two-hour staring match over a forkful of peas. I still hate peas.
Sure, I was a picky eater. There’s no question about that. But sometimes, I think I was just bored with the options. Never again will I eat chicken baked in cream of mushroom soup – it was delicious, but I’ve had my fill for a lifetime.
Recently, I read an article from Reuters that stated the average mom in the UK relies on a rotation of nine meals to feed her family. Just nine! While the study was performed in the UK, I’m sure results in the USA wouldn’t be that far off.
Explanations were all pretty similar – time constraints, picky eaters, and expense. Most moms stick with what their families know and love, rather than waste time or money on something that may not go over well. Others also admitted to cooking two meals – something for the kids early in the evening, and a different meal for mom and dad, later at night. Most common are true comfort foods – spaghetti Bolognese, roasts, casseroles, stews and pizza.
When hubby and I first got married, I was on a mission to increase my repertoire. Pre-wedding, our weekly menu consisted of take-out, chicken and stuffing casserole, chicken tacos, and the occasional pasta night. To fight it, I forced myself to try one new recipe a week. Some were complicated, some were not. Some made it onto our regular menu, and some more, did not. The effort may have tapered off, but today we have seasonal favorites, quick options and more drawn-out weekend fare, and more importantly, vegetables! We may average more than nine, but there are definitely items we eat every 10 to 14 days.
It’s important to add a little variety, but I certainly understand how hard it can be most nights. That’s what makes kit meals so important. Allowing minimal effort, but still a sense of self-preparation, kit meals allow many home cooks the advantage of trying out new foods, hopefully at a low cost. Comfort foods are great most nights, but exotic options can help to freshen things up. Take a look at ethnic cuisine, like Thai curry, tamales, and chicken tangine, to create more variety for your consumers.
There are also ways to deliver variety in prepared foods, while tapping into those conventional recipes that everyone loves. At the 2009 Innovation Roadshow, we featured Meatloaf Cupcakes – mini-meatloafs with whipped potato “frosting.” We varied the meatloaf itself, with Italian herb and carmelized onion flavors, and further extended options with the potatoes, in butter parmesan and brown sugar cinnamon sweet potato.
Just a little creativity and flavor can help consumers get out of a food rut!