My husband Eric is a picky eater. I often joke with him that he doesn’t like anything good except me. I think this might be karma repaying me for all the grief I gave my mother as a picky eating child. However, I outgrew that and Eric, while he has made strides, hasn’t completely outgrown that phase.
I really value being able to plan meals and cook at home with and for each other. It saves money, it’s healthier, and I feel like it strengthens our connection. However, it can be frustrating trying to figure out dinner each week with a picky eater. Have you ever tried Googling recipes for picky eaters? I have, and basically went through recipes saying “nope, nope, no way, nope, WHAT KIND OF PICKY EATERS ARE THESE PEOPLE FEEDING THAT THEY THINK THEY CAN GET AWAY WITH SHRIMP AND SQUASH ORZO?!”
So, here are some tips and tricks I’ve learned on living with and loving a picky eater. (Note, this is primarily for adult picky eaters. I’ve never had to feed a child picky eater… yet!)
1. Make a list of things you know work
When you live with a picky eater, you might feel like you eat the same things over and over and over. I was starting to feel that way, and so I made a list of all the recipes I know Eric loves. There were a lot more than I was expecting! I came up with about 18 recipes I know we can make that we both enjoy. This may not seem like a lot, but we cook on average three times a week (and eat lots of leftovers). That means if we planned well, we have about six weeks of recipes.
2. Find the common threads in those recipes and expand from there
When you look at our recipe list, you see lots of pork, lots of chicken, lots of potatoes, and lots of bread. Throw in some pizza and I’m pretty sure Eric would be completely happy with nothing but those things for the rest of his days. When I look for new recipes, I look for stuff that includes at least two of those, and maybe one new element.
3. Try new things, but not too often
I try a new recipe probably once or twice a month. Probably one in four is a hit with both of us. If I was trying new recipes every week (which I have done in the past) I would get frustrated, fed up, and stop trying. If it’s a smashing success, it gets added to the rotation. If it gets anything less than a rave review first time around, I usually don’t bother trying that recipe again.
4. Ask for help
Generally speaking, I am the planner and the grocery shopper, and Eric and I split cooking duties. However, sometimes I don’t feel like dealing with his eating habits and I say “You are planning dinner this week.” Sometimes I don’t have the time to grocery shop, and I turn the list over. This is not the easiest thing in the world for me. I have had some fairly incapable roommates before, who could not be trusted with those tasks (to be honest, I think they failed on purpose so as not to be tasked with those tasks again, but that’s another story). Eric is capable and I need to let him help me when I need it. The world did not end when he got the wrong butter.
5. Some stuff, you have to let go
I definitely worry about Eric’s fruit and vegetable intake. However I am his wife, not his mother, and he is a grown-ass man. He seems healthy. He is capable of taking care of himself. He doesn’t need me to make him eat his vegetables.
6. Sometimes, you gotta treat yo self
I love biscuits and gravy. I love fruit. I love macaroni and cheese. I love steak. I love mashed potatoes. I love soup. These are all things Eric does not like, and most are difficult to make in small portions. Whenever Eric goes out-of-town, some of my friends and I get together for what I call “stuff Eric won’t eat” night. For my birthday this year, I told him I was cooking whatever I wanted to eat all week, and he could fend for himself. Every now and then I cook for myself and our roommate and don’t consider Eric. I eat lots of fruits and veggies for lunch. I consider him when meal planning probably 90% of the time, but I would go crazy without the other 10% of thinking only about what I want to eat.
I am lucky that Eric is usually willing to try new things even when he is fairly certain he won’t like them. He generally doesn’t like pasta. I made some sausage pasta with curly noodles the other night; he ate it and loved it! Another recipe goes into rotation. Slowly but surely, we are working together to find things we both love and can enjoy together, without me getting bored of eating the same stuff over and over.
What are your picky eater hacks?