The Dinner Give-A-Crap-O-Meter

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“How are you?”

It’s a simple enough question that most people field casually every day, with the typical response being something along the lines of, “good,” “fine,” or “well, thank you.” But are you really good? Are you really fine? It can be hard to tell. The next time you find yourself wondering (or someone else inquiring) about your current state, I suggest you utilize the Dinner Give-A-Crap-O-Meter.

The Dinner Give-A-Crap-O-Meter is a pyramid-structured system that is incredibly easy to use and is, undoubtedly, as accurate at determining your current mental state as any other method you might consider. To accurately place yourself on the chart, identify what you served for dinner last night or what you plan on serving tonight, read the corresponding description, and voila!

It is important to note that how much whining you will experience from your children is inversely proportional to how much effort you put forth. Hence, your crappiest, lowest effort on the Dinner Give-A-Crap-O-Meter will provide the happiest children. It may also provide diabetes and heart disease down the line, but that is not today’s concern; this is a short-term scale…

Let’s examine the Dinner Give-A-Crap-O-Meter, beginning at the very top, with the pinnacle of dinnertime achievement.

The Dinner Give-A-Crap-O-Meter
The Dinner Give-A-Crap-O-Meter, Patent Pending Of Course

“Tip-Top, Gold Star, Brag Away, Post a Picture on Facebook Level”: A fresh, home-cooked meal

This requires the conversion of a lot of different elements. A recent grocery shopping must have been completed to ensure a supply of ingredients. This is an impressive feat in and of itself. Then, you must decide what to prepare from the infinite possible meal choices (well, 25 choices really, if you’re selecting from foods your children are likely to eat with minimal misery). Finally, you must prepare the actual meal, and this preparation will coincide with your children’s absolute worst time of the day. By the time the process is completed, you will look around the room, waiting for someone to bring you an Olympic medal (or at least a participation trophy). Nevertheless, you’ve done it. You have hit the top-level on the Give-A-Crap pyramid and you should be proud.

“Silver Medal”: Leftovers you cooked recently

If you managed to hit the top level of the Dinner Give-A-Crap-O-Meter last night, let’s hope you prepared enough food to last for two dinners. It may not be anything special, and the family may say unkind things like, “Not this again,” but they can close their ungrateful mouths because there are starving children in ________ (insert the place you prefer to use for this timeless parent-ism). In Talladega Nights (my taste in movies is quite juvenile), Ricky Bobby said, “If you ain’t first, you’re last,” but he clearly wasn’t talking about the Dinner Give-A-Crap-O-Meter.  A second-place achievement here should be celebrated!

“Honorable Mention”: Leftovers you cooked “recently enough”

This is the place for the purely average and the criteria for this achievement level is a tad subjective. For example, my mom generally doesn’t like leftovers at all. Meanwhile, my beloved Nana M was of the school of thought that food pretty much never expired. “Just smell it,” “It’s fine,” and “I just bought that,” are among the truths she was known to occasionally regularly stretch. I tend to fall somewhere in between these two extremes, but in the end, if it tastes okay and no one gets ill, I think it’s safe to say you’ve achieved this level on the Dinner Give-A-Crap-O-Meter.

“Meh”: Frozen whatever

Maybe it’s a casserole you previously cooked and froze. Maybe it’s a sodium-laden Stouffer’s special. Maybe it’s chicken nuggets shaped like dinosaurs (the box does say “all natural’). The point is: you made it. I don’t care what the judges from The Worst Cooks in America have to say, microwave-cooking is cooking too. This meal is definitively below average, but as they joked in school, “Ds Get Degrees.”

“At Least I’m Not Last”: Ordering pizza

We are making our way to the bottom of the pyramid, but we’re not there yet. This choice is easy, but still requires some effort from you. You placed the order, you paid for the pizza, you served it up. You deserve a spot on the meter that is better than dead-last.

“Dead Last, Zero Effs Given, Bottom of the Barrel”: Fend for yourself dinner night

Sorry kids, but you broke Mom. She literally cannot. Even hitting up the Chick-fil-A drive-thru or pulling up the Domino’s website is too much for her. Congratulations! Good luck foraging for whatever granola bars and snack-packs you can find in the cabinets. In some houses, this may also be referred to as the “Dad Dinner.”

And there you have it! The Dinner Give-A-Crap-O-Meter is just the scale of parental assessment you need in your life. Patent pending.

Like bathing and clothing your kids, feeding them dinner daily is, unfortunately, a mandatory part of the parenting gig. If your performance was not up to snuff tonight, you’ll get a chance to try again tomorrow (and the day after… and the day after that…).

**You may have noticed that I left “going out to eat” off of the list entirely. This was not an oversight. Going out to eat with children is a tortuous exercise that requires its own scale for evaluation.

Want to be a good friend? Share this post with another parent who could use a laugh. Want to be a bad friend? When you share it with them, predict their average achievement level on the Dinner Give-A-Crap-O-Meter.


dinner give a crap o meter text overtop a food pyramid
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  1. I am either Meh or Dead Last. My kids are older with unpredictable schedules and one is super picky. OCCASIONALLY I go for gold with homemade mac and cheese, taco night, or something in the crockpot. But it’s rare. Grocery shopping and everything to do with putting away the food and keeping the kitchen clean…ugh!

    1. Hi Carlie,

      I’m so sorry I missed your comment for so long! I can totally sympathize, as I feel like our family is hovering around the very bottom of the pyramid more often than not. Even when we crawl our way up a few levels, it’s clear that our standards have dropped significantly since adding kids (and then more kids, ha). What used to be a lazy, slacker-attempt at cooking dinner now qualifies as an impressive dinnertime achievement in this house. And you’re right, it’s not just the cooking, it’s all of it (the planning, the shopping, the cleaning, BLAH).

      Thanks so much for reading!

  2. I’m the mom of three kids. My oldest son is 8, my daughter is 6, and my youngest son is 4. I swear that when they were babies, they ate everything that we ate, within smushable reasons, and they didn’t have a food dislike at all. The, somewhere around the age of 2, my daughter decided her palate was too good for anything except hotdogs and chicken nuggets. The boys did a little better with their picky eating, but I feel like most days, the hubby and I eat pretty good and the kids are just, “meh”. We’ve really been trying to make them eat what we eat, but most days, they are ok without eating dinner. It makes me want to pull my hair out, some days.

    1. Hi Brittany,

      I COMPLETELY agree with you on the pulling out of the hair! Dinner is, without a doubt, the most frustrating part of the day — and it has to happen every day! All of my kids are reasonably good eaters, but the foods they like/dislike (aside from dino nuggets and fries) really don’t match up all that well, so someone is almost always unhappy. Hang in there — solidarity!


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