Paradox of Choice and the Free Weekly Menu and Shopping List from Home Ec 101 #12

Heather says:

Here we are, another week, tomorrow’s Fat Tuesday party will colorfully mark the passing of time, as on Wednesday we, and at least a billion others, solemnly begin the season of Lent. I know most of you don’t come here for reasons related to religion, just tell me how to get the mustard out of my shirt already, but tradition and history are a big part of our personal culture. Sometimes paying attention to those cultural cues can make life a little easier. What on earth are you babbling on about, Heather?

Many of our problems stem from having too much choice, at least for those of us in developed countries.

That’s crazy talk, Heather, choice is what gives us freedom.

Well yes, but only to a point.

We live in a weird, often wonderful, place where having too much much choice is actually a detriment to our ability to function. There is a name for this term, coined by Barry Schwartz author of  The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less.  If you have fifteen minutes, head over to TED and check out Barry Schwartz’s talk. His talk may help you understand why sometimes simple chores like buying clothes or even making a grocery list can become these overwhelming tasks. There’s just to much worry about what we might be missing when we choose one thing over another. To counter this, I suggest you:

Shift your mindset.

Set some parameters.

Enjoy less complicated choices.

This brings me back to menu planning and tradition. In our church, during the Lenten season we abstain from meat on Fridays. This is one less choice I have to make. It’s Friday, so we’re choosing fish. I don’t have to find a fancy fish dish, either as that would totally miss the point. Well, think about it, dining on lobster isn’t exactly a sacrifice. You get the point now, right?

If you are just starting to menu plan, I suggest you use parameters to make the task manageable. We are told to eat fish at least once a week, but what night? Fish on Fridays, boom, one less choice to make. Reduce your intake of animal protein, both for health reasons and as a means to cut your budget. Yes, but what night? Meatless Mondays, check and done. In our world, as strange as it is, you just might find placing parameters on your planning freeing.

Do you use parameters to menu plan?

Here’s the printable shopping list for this week’s menu courtesy of

What are you having this week?

Submitted to OrgJunkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Check out the new Home Ec 101 Forums.


  1. Amanda on March 23, 2011 at 10:00 am

    You showed us how to handle the overwhelming "choices" of what to cook by implementing a simple plan. Bravo! Barry Schwartz should have used you as an example in his talk on TED. Having many choices is Not the problem as he suggests, it is how people deal with making decisions about those choices. You are a good example of "how to."

    Barry gets it wrong when he says having too many choices is bad for us. Yikes!! Instead he should have talked about "how to" handle making choices (taking personal responsibility/learning to vet information) instead of calling for limiting our choices. In his world we would all require arranged marriages because that is an almost unlimited choice. Think about it. A world full of Choice allows for creativity and individuality.

  2. HeatherSolos on March 15, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    It really depends on the leftovers. I do make "Mustgo Soup" out of vegetables and some leftovers. Other times, we'll just serve them up as is with sandwiches for people who have no interest.

    Somethings like meatloaf or roast chicken are quite conducive to new meals.

  3. […] The awesome blog, Home Ec 101, had an incredible post on the “Paradox of Choice.” […]

  4. Michael on March 8, 2011 at 6:37 am

    The old business phrase is "analysis paralysis". Too many choices and over analyzation brings progress to a standstill.

    Oh, and by the way, laissez les bons temps rouler!! Yes, I was born in Louisiana.
    My recent post Dusk

    • HeatherSolos on March 15, 2011 at 3:36 pm

      That's almost poetic and it's a state where I spend far too much time.

  5. Marianne on March 7, 2011 at 6:37 pm

    Very thought-provoking, Heather. Thank you.

  6. dearmommybrain on March 7, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    I can't handle the overwhelming amount of choices we have these days. Which book to read? What to cook? Where to go? But I've found that if I narrow myself to two choices, it's easier. And when I can't decide between the two I defer to my husband. He makes decision making so easy. That's why I married him. That and he puts up with me.

    • HeatherSolos on March 7, 2011 at 12:48 pm

      Curation is the only tool we have available right now and even that has its faults. Who do we look to for cues?
      There's no way we can handle the firehose of info any longer, but choosing whom to trust is going to be one of the bigger issues of the coming years.
      Where do we get our information, how is it vetted? Who benefits?
      It's overwhelming.

      • Amanda on March 23, 2011 at 10:23 am

        Curation of Information…. A subject that should have been in Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. One of the best books ever written. I see parallels to it in real life all the time.

  7. Annett on March 7, 2011 at 10:20 am

    The Shrimp Etouffee, Cornbread, Collard Greens sounds great! I've never tried to make etouffee, but I do enjoy eating it! Have you ever tried Tilapia chowder? We are having that for dinner this Friday (it may make a good Lenten meal) . I try to have themed nights too, it makes my planning much easier. Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, Slow Cooker Wednesday, Raw Thursday (though not every Thursday) Fish Friday, Simple Saturday (usually soup and sandwich), and Super Sunday (usually my more time intensive meal or eating out). I found you on MPM, you can check out my menu if you like.

  8. annika on March 7, 2011 at 9:51 am

    Hi I'm stopping by from MPM. I've never made oven fried fish, it looks good! Thank you for sharing recipe links. Have a good week!
    My recent post MPM

  9. Christian Fisher on March 7, 2011 at 8:43 am

    Thanks for sharing TED!

    • HeatherSolos on March 7, 2011 at 8:53 am

      I thoroughly enjoy some TED talks, but I have to admit, I also have been enjoying @jeffjarvis's recent rants against TED. Where we live, to my knowledge we don't have a lot of lectures to attend. (I am sure there are some downtown, CHS, but the reality of where I live is that it's difficult to make things like that a part of my life). Therefore I enjoy access to the TED site, but it's not the only viewpoint I subscribe to. Does that make sense?

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