“MEAL PLANNING…what’s a busy mom to do? Between working, school, pick up/drop off, dietary restrictions and picky babies and children…I’m struggling to find an easy rhythm in our daily meals. I get frustrated and overwhelmed and dread the question “What’s for dinner?”
– Hungry for a Solution
Dear Hungry for a Solution,
When I talk with friends or clients about their food struggles I hear that everyone has their own story, needs and emotions about this. Giving advice on this topic is tough because of that, but I’m going to give you some suggestions, and then I’ll encourage you to follow up with us, or to find some support as you move forward- support really does help. Also, please remember this is a LONG journey. Your family’s needs will continue to shift and change and make you a little nuts for many years to come, so try and have a light heart about it if you can. Remember that the goal is not perfection, but rather to create a little more ease, functionality and joy around eating and food prep. Below are some suggestions to get you started. Please feel free to respond with more specific questions!
- Carve out some time to make a list of your goals and priorities when it comes to feeding yourself and your family (e.g. snack less/ make more organized meals/ don’t want to make different meals for everyone/ rely on organic food/ get the best deals/ more protein/ plant based menu… etc). Be really (really) specific with the goals and ideas you have. People often don’t get specific enough when they are creating a vision around a change they want to make. AFTER you have made this list look at those goals and figure out what tools you need to make the changes you need to make (e.g. need more storage containers, more recipes ideas, more help from partner/kids, sharper knives or a new spatula, etc.). What is in your way? What is keeping you from being able to make progress? For some it will be easier to make these changes, but for others they need to do more grunt work. Be honest with your situation and clear with your needs.
- Get your family involved. Once you figure out what your goals are- talk about them! Find a way to present them so it’s pleasing and maybe even exciting for the whole family. For example, you can speak to the needs of your partner directly: “I want to help you keep your cholesterol down (energy levels up, headaches at bay, weight loss goals moving along… there are so many options!) as much as I can- I’m going to be doing some more meal planning to keep us on track!” OR to your kids: “I think we should decorate the dinner table before dinner so it looks more like a party. You can put out the forks and napkins and choose a pretty bowl for your carrots and tomatoes.” Get creative when you can. I know you are tired (so am I) but monotony is boring for everyone and having fun is just easier in general than yelling and screaming while you are preparing dinner. Keep your family in the know; getting their support will get them involved, and it will take some of the pressure off you.
- Plan for the week. What does planning for the week mean? It means you have a detailed list of the foods that you will eat for one full week. This is where a lot of people get stuck- they spend too much time digging around the internet for recipes. Pinterest is AMAZING but it can suck you in for hours and end up being more distracting than helpful. Here are a few tips to make it really easy.
* Buy or borrow a recipe book that is filled with yummy recipes you feel can be appropriate for your family. Cook your way through it! We waste so much time trying to find perfect recipes… make your choice and start cooking.
* Pay to have a monthly meal plan service and make your life WAY easier. I personally use a website called cooksmarts.com It’s SO EASY! There are many sites out there like this, so find one that is right for you. It seems like a crazy thing to pay for, but think instead of your frustration levels, and that will be reason enough to take the leap. This service will give you meal ideas, a full grocery list and a detailed explanation of how to prep for the whole darn week. HAPPY YOU!
* Find a buddy (one that you know is serious about this) and batch cook meals to share with one another. I did this with a friend for a few months and it was fun!
Plan ahead to chose your menu, write a detailed grocery list, do the actual grocery shopping and then prep/cook some of the foods ahead of time; it’s an absolute game changer.
- Cook one meal, but make sure you have a variety of options on the table when you sit down to eat. In our house I like to put raw chopped veggies out on the table first, and I invite the kids to come pick at that. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. Then I put out the meal I have made along with some cut-up fruit and maybe crackers or whole grain bread or pasta. Some nights I mix up a batch of mac n’ cheese and that’s our main meal, but I make sure to put out cut-up veggies and fruits as well. Even on pizza nights I make sure we have some foods that are alive (fresh food) on the table as well. Options are good for kids. We all get to decide what is right for our family- what food options are right for your family?
- Food is good conversation: talk with your kids about different foods and tastes and experiences you have had with it. We teach our kids so much by the way we live our lives. If you can get to a place where you are (most of the time) enjoying yourself because you have lightened your load and figured out a way to make meal time more fun… they will see that. They will learn from that. Good luck!!
Do you have a burning question that you haven’t had a chance to ask a care provider or are maybe too embarrassed to ask? We’ve got your back! The 411 is like a “dear doula” column where you get to (anonymously) ask about all those things you think you’re alone in wondering, or that you might be struggling with. We’re here to affirm that no, you are not alone. With evidence-based answers from not only birth doulas, but childbirth educators, experienced moms, lactation educators and more, we’ll help save you from falling down the Google rabbit hole. We wanna know what’s on your mind! Submit your question online.