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WIS, WWA | Do you think we’ve over-complicated dinner?

In Laura Ingalls Wilder’s book, Little House in the Big Woods, she describes a visit to her grandparents’ house, where she and her family share a meal with the grandparents plus some uncles and aunts.

When I reread this book to my own kids, I was very surprised to see that dinner consisted just of a pot of polenta (hasty pudding, they call it), topped with maple syrup. I’m pretty sure that if I was hosting 5-10 extra people for dinner, I would feel compelled to serve more than just polenta and maple syrup!

fried sliced cornmeal mush topped with butter on a white plate.

Whenever I think about this, I wonder if we have made meals more complicated than they really need to be.

I mean, obviously, a meal of polenta and maple syrup is not the greatest thing, nutritionally speaking. Some produce and protein would make that a much more well-rounded meal.

A bowl of polenta, eggs, and broccoli.


And obviously, Laura’s family was limited in their ability to obtain fresh, healthy food year-round; we are privileged to have many more options available to us.

But still, I can’t help but think that maybe we are putting a little too much pressure on ourselves when it comes to deciding what constitutes a meal, and when we think each meal we eat has to cover all of the necessary food groups.

And I definitely can see how we put too much pressure on ourselves when it comes to making meals for guests; maybe we don’t need to do drinks, appetizers, a main dish, and a dessert. It might be fine to just order pizza, or make BLTs, especially since the point of getting together is to be together.

Anyway. This is why we sometimes just eat pancakes and orange juice for dinner!  It doesn’t have to be fancy; it just has to get people fed.

What I Spent

I have an embarrassing number of receipts this week.

We spent:

  • $9.50 at Weis
  • $11 at Giant
  • $74 at BJs
  • $17 at Lidl
  • $13 at Safeway
  • $35 at Harris Teeter
  • $25 on a Hungry Harvest box

That all adds up to $184.50 which is my highest spending week in a while!

November Grocery Spending

Week 1: $103

Week 2: $184.50

What We Ate


Mr. FG and Zoe were out shopping together, so they ate at Chipotle. Sonia and I had Swedish pancakes.

swedish pancakes lazy crepes


Mr. FG cooked! He made a chicken salad based on Panera’s summer salad (lettuce, berries, oranges, chicken, poppyseed dressing, sugared nuts) + garlic breadsticks.

strawberry orange lettuce salad.

I don’t have a picture of the actual salad, so here is an inaccurate placeholder photo.


A rotisserie chicken story, which you have already heard if you follow me on social media: on Monday, I decided (rather last-minute) to go buy a rotisserie chicken so I could make chicken and biscuits.

rotisserie chicken

Giant was out of them, and I was a little annoyed, but I decided to go to the Safeway next door to get one. Well, Safeway was out too.

THEN I decided to go to Harris Teeter, but their chicken-heating apparatus was shut down for repairs. (!!)

So I called Mr. FG on his way home from work to see if he could stop at BJs to get me a chicken.

Well, BJs didn’t have one either. (womp-womp)

Is Monday a day when everyone buys rotisserie chickens? Did we just have bad luck?

I do not know.

But we gave up after four stores and ended up having ham and Swiss panini with sun-dried tomato mayo, with chips and raw produce on the side.


(By the way, we lived in an area that is seriously saturated with grocery stores, which is why we could conceivably check four places for a chicken without venturing more than 5 minutes in any direction from our house!)


I made pasta alfredo topped with chicken sausage (for Zoe) and shrimp (for the rest of us). Raw produce on the side.


A silver lining to Monday’s chicken fiasco is that Safeway guarantees that chickens will be available between 11 am and 8 pm. Customer Service gave me a coupon for a free chicken, and I redeemed that on Wednesday.

Coupon for a free rotisserie chicken.

So, we finally had chicken and biscuits. 😉

homemade chicken and biscuits


I made a quick batch of chicken broth so that I could make this sausage and orzo dish.

skillet orzo

A good thing about this recipe is that it is quite flexible…I just use whatever veggies I happen to have on hand, and this time around, I only had red wine on hand, so that’s what I used instead of the white wine.


I have an event at church tomorrow afternoon/evening, so I think we will do our date night tonight.

What did you have for dinner this week?

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Monday 15th of November 2021

Thanks for sharing your thoughts about meals. It has been on my mind lately that I'm making dinner too complicated. With the kids' allergies, it is hard enough to get a main dish without worrying about side dishes. I've started to simplify meals and it's made a big difference in my stress.

Hawaii Planner

Monday 15th of November 2021

It was not our best eating week, as I had two evening work dinners, and I'm the organizer/planner/chef. Things got a little crazy. And yes, I definitely think meals have gotten more complicated. My husband is a believer in the more complicated meals, while I would be much more toned down, if it was just me.

We ate some combo of the following: -Steak and salad (butternut squash had gone bad, much to my dismay, as we were supposed to have this with roasted squash). -Tacos -Taco quesadillas -Salmon -Spaghetti & meatballs -Chicken curry & rice

I also took my son to Chipotle, at the end of a very long day of soccer. The cashier says he rang up my free chips & queso (the inspiration for the visit) & managed to use up my gift card but also charge me full price (including the freebie item). I'm so puzzled. I've emailed them, so hopefully they can sort it out & at least give me the value of the gift card back. The cashier looked flustered - I think he was new. :-) As the parent of two teens who are looking for part time work, I'm sympathetic. The combo of apps & in person, paying with your phone, things to scan, etc, it's complicated for the cashiers, I imagine!


Sunday 14th of November 2021

If you haven't made Kristen's chicken & orzo dish yet, know it is so delicious and so versatile that it will quickly become a weekly staple for which I will be forever grateful :)


Sunday 14th of November 2021

Yay! It is a great dish for using up whatever veggies you happen to have on hand. And you can switch out the type of sausage too. So glad you liked it.


Sunday 14th of November 2021

Yes, I think we over-complicate everything related to food! My husband likes to cook when he has time (thankfully!) and he likes ''complicated recipes''. Me? Give me a bagel and cream cheese and I'm all set! If I was rich, I would hire a chef to make all our meals, that would be awesome to never have to cook again :)


Saturday 13th of November 2021

I don't think we've necessarily overcomplicated dinner. I like having access to fresh and nutritious foods, so that I don't need to have pure starch + a little sugar as my main meal.


Saturday 13th of November 2021

@WilliamB, I should add: keep in mind that my usual dinner is hunk of meat + raw/steamed/airfried veggies + raw fruit. Plenty of fresh produce and still not very complicated.

After going to the aquarium today, dinner was omelet with sauteed mushrooms and onions, and a smoothie made of frozen strawberries, leftover bananas, and yogurt in a flavor I didn't like much.

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