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Dinnertime Dilemmas in My ADD Life

April 17, 2013

dinnertime in my ADD life

I always thought I was the only one who struggled with dinner time, but after reading these tips from ADDitude, my dinnertime dilemma makes perfect sense.

Here are the biggest struggles we have and how we have (or haven’t) solved them.

1. No One Has an Opinion

This happens every time I ask what the various males in my house want for dinner.

  • My husband never has any ideas because for him being asked this question immediately makes anything related to dinner hide in the back of his brain.  We think he has a bit of decision making paralysis – because there are so many options and possibilities, his brain just checks out and he can’t think of any.
  • My children will either respond with the one meal they each always choose – Tacos for one, ChiliMac for the other or they will claim they don’t care.

Obviously, this means that all of the meal planning falls to me, which is overwhelming and exhausting.  Without an intervention, our dinner menu would consist of Tacos, ChiliMac, Sandwiches, and Breakfast.  If you noticed that none of those contain any sort of vegetation, you would be correct.

So, we obviously needed to do something different.

We have used various systems over the course of the years but the two that have worked the best (which really means we kind of use them and mostly follow them which is absolute success in our house).  The first is the dinner jar which is a glass jar with slips of paper that list everyone’s favorite meals plus every other meal I know how to make.  Under the dinner jar system, I would pick out 7 dinners before I went grocery shopping and buy whatever we needed for those dinners.  This definitely helped with the indecision problem listed above but it never solved our other dinnertime dilemmas.

2. Until Everyone Does

Invariably, with the dinner jar menu, we would end up having things that no one really liked and everyone would go from “I don’t care” to “I don’t care as long as it is not (insert whatever we are supposed to be having for dinner here)”.  I realized that for some of my ADHDers, this was a type of transition problem.  They didn’t know it ahead of time and didn’t respond well to having some weird meal thrust upon them at the last minute.

3. Tacos….Again?

Apparently, even in a family that loves tacos more than just about anything else, there is such a thing as too many tacos.  Unfortunately, when you have a Mom like me whose memory for important things like what I planned to make for dinner this week is akin to cheese from Switzerland, these things can happen.  The dinner jar was great for picking options and buying ingredients, but when it came to remembering that in order to have chili tonight I needed to pull out the ground chicken in the morning and then remember all day that I was making chili so that I could remember to start it when I got home, it was not helpful.  So it was back to the old standbys of Tacos and sandwiches more than it wasn’t.

So, we needed another solution.

What is working for us now will probably seem extreme for most people, but often ADHD organizational systems do seem that way to NTs.  But it is working so I will keep it until it stops working, and then I will find a different way.

I plan all our meals and do most of our shopping a month at  a time.  I find grocery shopping incredibly overwhelming so this also helps decrease the number of times I have to do it.  It has also helped us cut our grocery bill way down because we aren’t impulse buying things every other day. Here is how it works:

  1. At the start of the month, I start filling in our dinner calendar (dry erase calendar board) with family favorites (including tacos).  Then I pull new recipes that I have saved in a folder in my office and add them in.  Everyone gets a chance to look it over before I finalize it.
  2. I make my list in two parts.  Anything that I can buy now which includes anything that will last the month or can be frozen goes on the first list.  Produce and other things that have a shorter shelf life for the first two weeks go on the first list and for the second two weeks go on the second list.
  3. I shop for the first list at the beginning of the month and then get whatever is still needed from the second later in the month.
  4. The calendar is on the refrigerator where I see it all the time which helps avoid transition problems and generally helps me remember to pull things out of the freezer.

On average, we follow the calendar about 60% of the time but that’s ok because over the course of the month, we actually eat what we planned about 90% of the time.  Since we have everything on hand for almost a month of meals, we can be flexible when we need it and that doesn’t cause us to bust our grocery budget.

Unfortunately, we still have one more dinnertime dilemma that no system has fixed.

4. Crap….How is it already 7:00?

Yes, time insensitivity is a big problem in my house, especially amongst the adults.  Even though I work at home and have set a goal of eating before 7:00 PM every night, it rarely works out that way.  There are just too many other interesting things to do and before I realize it is time to start dinner, we should have already eaten.  While I don’t love the fact that we often eat at 8:00 or 8:30 PM, I can at least comfort myself with the fact that I do cook dinner every night and at least the majority of the time, there is something that was once a vegetable on everyone’s plates.

Sometimes you have to take the small wins!

Do you have any suggestions for how we can solve our last dinnertime dilemma?  We would love to hear them!

Turning Leaf Life Coaching offers coaching for ADHD and Life Transitions worldwide over the phone and in person throughout NH, ME, MA, and VT.  For more information, go to

4 Comments leave one →
  1. May 16, 2013 9:42 am

    This is a problem experienced by many families especially those with busy parents. Communication is really important and I think setting rules will be a good start. Take things slowly because change doesn’t happen overnight.

    • June 28, 2013 2:03 pm

      Great advice! Those of us with racecar brains often struggle with things that are not immediate which can make it really difficult to stick to doing what it necessary to change a behavior (that and we get distracted and forget about it entirely 🙂 ).

  2. mamedubois permalink
    June 16, 2013 6:55 pm

    San Choi Bow is a great, healthy alternative to tacos. You can even just use the taco filing in lettuce leaves. Also, having frozen, pre-made meals is helpful or a slow-cooker meal system where you prepare your meals early in the day when you’re concentrating better and being more productive.

    • June 28, 2013 2:08 pm

      Good suggestions! I have done the “make ahead” thing in the past and it works great as long as I can leave time on the weekend to do all the prep work and then actually remember to take things out to defrost or start the slowcooker. 🙂

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