When I used to hear the term “meal-planning” … I would balk at it.
I thought, “I can barely find time to crack an egg for my own breakfast let alone plan out a week’s worth of food for the family!”
As a work-at-home mom to three kids ages 6, 4 and 2, feeling like I lack time in a day is the trigger to many of my stresses.
But one week, I decided I was going to give meal planning a shot in an effort to try to shift our routine. I carved out time on Sunday to scan Pinterest for ideas, take inventory in my pantry, make a grocery list and then bring home the goods to spend a couple of hours putting it all together.
Candidly, it sounded impossible.
I thought of all of my typical excuses about why it wouldn’t work (and why it was all TOO MUCH work)… and knew that SOMETHING would interrupt my plan like it always does.
But I stuck to it, and it was a beautiful eye opener for me.
At the end of my week, I learned that meal planning wasn’t just about eating healthy… it was about creating calm in the places in our family’s week that usually brought stress.
I know I’m not the only mother that struggles to insert time into her day that’s just for her. But, I learned that making time for myself needs to be just as much as an un-erasable part of my calendar as our kids’ school day. Instead of looking at “all of the time” it would take to meal plan, I looked at it as “all of the time” I would get to myself at the beginning of the week. It’s time for me to listen to music (or a motivating podcast) in my kitchen while I chopped, sorted and cooked. I found it all to be calming, and I loved the feeling of success I felt to start off my week.
GIVING MY KIDS INDEPENDENCE:
In our house, there are few moments that one of the kids isn’t asking for something to eat. This means I am constantly getting up and making things for them, and leaving most tasks I’m trying to accomplish half done. Meal planning allowed me to think ahead of time about what kinds of snacks I could make for the kids that I could make easily accessible to them in the fridge. So, I cut up all of our fruit and some vegetables and put them in a drawer in our refrigerator that they could get on their own. They love the ability to get what they need, and I love that they are snacking healthy while opening up a little more space for me in my day.
CREATING MORE TIME FOR FAMILY:
With two working parents and young kids who have to get to bed at a decent hour, our evening time together can be limited. I found myself getting to the end of most busy days and having NO IDEA what I wanted to put on the table. I would either send my husband for take out, or we would stand around when he came in and try to put a meal together. (Which created stress/tension in itself) By the time we were done, there was little time left to just “be” a family. Now… I make sure at the beginning of the week that I have a plan, and that I have EASY recipes where I have already cut up the ingredients on Sunday, or that I can throw in a crock pot mid-day. This way, we are ready to eat when my husband comes home, and because of it, we’ve had more conversation together at the dinner table, and more time to spend together after we are done.
I have always been a “walk through the aisles and grab things” kind of a grocery shopper. It wasn’t great for our budget, and I found a lot of food was going to waste. By meal planning, I can find recipes that include ingredients that I already have in our house. In addition, sticking to a list makes sure I don’t get a bunch of things that we already have, or will go bad before we remember that we have them.
On top of that, I’ve found one-sheet chicken/salmon and vegetable recipes that I can put in microwavable containers in the refrigerator for my husband to take to work (saving him from going out to buy it). This is also a great “backup” plan if something goes awry during the week and my planned meal doesn’t happen. So, instead of paying for takeout, I have those trays in the microwave instead.
CONSIDERING MY OWN HEALTH/NUTRITION:
I can’t tell you how many times my own meals consisted of whatever was left on my kids’ plates when they were done. When I was going to the store, I was thinking more about what I had to get for THEM, than considering what I wanted to eat. Living on an extra frozen waffle, and some bites of macaroni and cheese was leaving my body with little energy. Now… with the chicken/veggie trays, and just simply taking the time at the beginning of the week to LOOK for easy/healthy recipes … I now make time to consider what’s going into my body to make sure I have the energy to keep up with our day-to-day.
Candidly, meal planning doesn’t always go perfectly. Sometimes 3 p.m. rolls around and I realize I was supposed to put something in the crock pot by noon. Sometimes we are out of town on Sundays. Sometimes we get to Thursday and just want to get out of the house and go to a restaurant.
But every week, I at least fight for my self-care Sundays; that time that I spend not just focusing on feeding our family for the week… but, most importantly, giving all of us a little extra calm in the spaces in our days where stress usually exists.
(You can hear Brea talk live about this on The Thinking Branch Facebook page.)