Better Menus

The Creative Force

Most of you know of our daughter Brooke, who writes the popular blog Inchmark.  (If you go to Inchmark and scroll down a bit, you can see a picture of the beautiful wife, taken back in the day.)  It was Brooke, when I noted the need for a good book on living the Mormon health code known as the Word of Wisdom, who suggested I first write a blog.  “A blog,” she promised, “will start a dialogue that tell you what readers actually want to know.”  So we started this blog, and she was right—we’ve learned a lot from reader comments and suggestions. 

Brooke, who polished her graphic design skills as an art director at Martha Stewart Living, has also guided the design of this blog.  She provides the artwork for the Healthy Changes and regularly pushes for better design in my posts.  Another daughter is a photographer and up to the birth of her second child, provided many of the pictures.  There’s a big difference between her pictures and mine, so I get some pushing on that also. I don't mind the pushing; I'm pleased by all my children's competence.

So this Monday, when Brooke was about to leave her house, I asked if she couldn’t post my photos for the recipe post on Apple-Bread Pudding, before she left.  She gave me a look I remember from her teen years—not quite a roll of the eyes, and a little short of an exasperated sigh, but definitely a “look.”  But she posted the photos and hurried out the door.  Where was she headed?  To the hospital—she delivered a baby boy a few hours later.  He’s really cute.

A New Food Culture

To escape the 20th century way of dying—the tragic tendency to premature death—we first have to change the way we live.  It’s pretty hard to change one’s lifestyle.  In fact, based on how people continue to live after some dangers are known, it’s darn near impossible.  But if we divide that change into 52 weekly steps that any motivated person could do, and provide supporting information and encouragement, then nearly impossible, becomes very doable. 

One of our early insights was that unhealthy living is the default consequence of failing to live with purpose.  If you don’t swim upstream, societal currents, cleverly promoted by Food Inc, will carry you downstream.  It’s like we’re playing in the water just above Niagara Falls—there’s real danger downstream.

So planning and organizing is key to living with purpose; they keep us—and our families—from being swept downstream. 

In Healthy Change #3 we invited you to “Write a weekly dinner menu.”

In Healthy Change #16 we said, “Shop with a menu-based grocery list.”

These are the two keys to taking control of your cuisine:  Write a menu and use a shopping list.

Dealing with Complexity

A couple of years ago I was at the annual meeting for anesthesiologists, sitting in on a doctor’s session about reducing the unacceptable death toll from accidents and mistakes by healthcare providers.  These avoidable deaths, the speaker claimed, just in the U.S., are equivalent to a 747 airliner crashing every single day of the year.  There was a collective gasp from the assembled doctors; this was a new look at an old problem. 

It’s rare for an airliner to crash, so the airline industry is doing something very smart.  The speaker suggested that healthcare people could learn from what the airlines had done, and proposed procedural tools such as the required use of a pre-flight, or pre-operation, checklist.

Well the recent Healthy Change Report Card is a form of checklist.  When I graded myself with the mid-year Healthy Change Report Card, my score fell short of perfection (I scored 110 of 130 possible).  The year’s just half over, but it’s hard to juggle even 26 Healthy Changes.  So, thinking of how pilots manage complexity, I decided to add a checklist to my menu.  The menu is basically for dinner planning, but these Healthy Changes apply to dinner:

When Brooke has settled in with her new baby, we’ll share a menu planning form with a checklist included.  In the meantime I’ll practice with an improvised list.

Please comment:  Share your menu writing ideas and resources.  What works best for you?

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Reader Comments (8)

I've been working on writing a checklist-based menu for way too long! (we just moved across the country, so I guess I've been distracted!). But I hope to really finalize it this week. It's been so hard to feed my family properly during our move, so I'm really looking forward to getting on the ball again. Thanks for the inspiration!

July 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJamie

Hi Jamie

Please share your menu with checklist when done. I imagine a cross-country move is quite a challenge and a disruption to the usual order of a home. Best to you.

July 18, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterskip hellewell

Congratulations to Brooke and her family on the birth of their son!

Jamie, I'd love to have a copy of your checklist. With 6 kids of my own, there's little time for me to create one, but I think it would definitely help us eat more deliberately.

Skip, Thanks for all your wonderfully inspiring posts... I love all the useful information and it's making a difference in my health :)

July 18, 2012 | Unregistered Commentervalena


I have a quick question about your blog, do you think you could e-mail me?


July 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJillian Mckee

I joined a CSA for the first time this season and it definitely helps me with meal planning. I pick up my produce on Wednesday mornings, come home and decide what to make during the week working with the produce, and then go grocery shopping that night for the following week. I think I am actually saving money and definitely eating healthier :)

July 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEmily

I have been thinking about this. Thanks for the challenge. I would also like a format from which to work. Usually I just make a plan and write down what looks good, but I often miss getting enough vegetables and grains as well.

July 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMcKenzie

Quick question: Is there a place where I can access a list of all the healthy changes? I'd like a one page printout, but haven't been able to find one on the site. Thanks!

July 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLiz

Hi Liz

The recent post, Report Card, gave half the list— first six months of 2012 Healthy Changes. I have a draft for the other 26 but this is a work in progress so will finalize as the year moves on. If I write the blog again in 2013 I expect there will be refinements of the list, perhaps even the removal of items that most people have mastered.

Here's one problem we have: Only a few people shared their score for the year-to-date on the Report Card post. If more would do this we'd have better feedback if the list is making a difference. Best to you.

July 23, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterskip hellewell

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