Just to be clear. This is not 1950. If you are in a long-term relationship (officially hitched or not), you should definitely be sharing the responsibility of feeding your family. Capeesh!? This is step numero uno of alleviating some stress, ok mommas!? Share the load.
Maybe this will require some negotiation in your household. I know in my home, my husband does more of the cooking and dish clean up than I do, but this is what works best for us. I do more of the vacuuming and laundry (namely because he couldn’t fold a fitted sheet if his life depended on it), also, he has shrunk far too many of my sweaters.
If you enjoy being the primary chef in your home, awesome, there’s no judgement here. It’s just important to take inventory of these domestic responsibilities with your partner to ensure that you’re not carrying more than your fair share.
After all, ask any family with young children what their most hectic, stressful time of the day is and they will inevitably say between 5:00pm and 7:00pm (dinner to bedtime). Utter chaos! Having to prepare a different meal from scratch every weekday evening is not realistic nor is it sustainable.
Before having a baby, my husband and I would spend an hour or more making dinner each night. It was our time to unwind and catch up on each other’s day. We would get home by 5:30 and start dinner by 6 and eat by 7:30. This schedule is laughable to me now.
My husband still gets home around 5:30 but from then on we’re scrambling to get ourselves all fed by 6 so that my son can be in bed by 6:30-7. Oh and if we can fit in a bath, great. Otherwise, he’s going to bed with sticky yogurt hair.
Obviously, our meal times have changed considerably, but something that hasn’t changed is the fact that we love trying new recipes, shopping local and eating by season. I still believe these food goals are possible with children but they definitely require more planning and improvisation.
Here are three things that we are learning to do more consistently that has revolutionized our lives. It means we eat better as a family but it also helps our weekday evenings flow a little smoother.
In our home, this happens at week’s end, Friday or Saturday. We look at what we have in the cupboards and freezer and then peruse our favourite cookbooks and our shared Evernote file of saved online recipes. We have our go-to recipes but we might choose one new one to make that week.
On a chalkboard in the kitchen (something like these), we write down what meals we’ll have on which days (based on what is upcoming that week). Once we choose the recipes, we make a grocery list of items we need to pick up, usually organized by how early in the week we need it and whether we can get it at our local farmer’s market. We try to do our grocery shopping in chunks to ensure freshness of produce but sometimes it’s easiest to do one big run for the coming week on Saturday, depending on how busy the upcoming week will be.
Sometimes it’s hard to find the motivation and more accurately the time to plan but it is a task that only takes 30 minutes for an entire week’s gain. And honestly, it feels really great to do and save a whole lot of headache during the week. Everyone’s on the same page and I find it helps with ensuring that freezer items get taken out in time to defrost and there’s no ambiguity about what’s on the menu each night. This has definitely reduced the bickering in our house…at least about meals. 😉
Fall is definitely an ideal time for batch cooking. I mean soups, chilies and casseroles are ideally prepared in bulk and enjoyed in the cooler weather. These types of meals also freeze really well.
On any given Sunday, we might have something cooking on the stovetop, something simmering in the slow cooker and something roasting or baking in the oven. All contributing to three or four different meals. It’s busy and takes up most of the afternoon but it’s so worth it when we have multiple meals ready to go for the week.
One thing that we also love to make ahead of time and freeze are breakfast burritos. This is something we picked up from close friends of ours who showed up to visit us after our son was born with a cooler full of breakfast burritos, wrapped and ready to freeze. They are seriously the best (our friends I mean!) The burritos are great too. They make a healthy, quick, filling breakfast or even a good lunch choice. I’ll share the recipe in an upcoming Foodie Friday!
I also take some time on the weekends (or even a weeknight) to make a nutritious snack for the week like energy balls or Oh She Glows Glo bars (I make a batch of these almost every week). It ensures that I have a good mid-afternoon snack or have something healthy to take on the go.
I know far too many mommas, myself included, who survive exclusively on coffee and whatever scraps of food they can round up in a hurry, heading out the door. Maybe you’re the mom who settles for their children’s mushed and mauled leftovers to avoid the waste. Yep, I’m totally guilty of this too.
Point is, it’s important that we moms eat, and that we eat well so that we can feel good. Most of us wouldn’t question that our children need wholesome, healthy, well-balanced diets but we tend to neglect our need for this as well.
Batch cooking and food prep is an awesome way to ensure that everyone in your household is eating well without the daily stress.
I resist this a bit because I love variety and trying new foods and recipes but having “go-to” meals that you have consistently is a fabulous way to simplify eating as a family. Maybe it’s having pancakes every Sunday morning or pasta every Wednesday night.
We typically have homemade spaghetti on Thursday evenings and we’ll do a homemade pizza night two Saturdays a month. We have oat and chia pancakes every Saturday morning and we usually make two varieties of overnight oats during the week. We have fish usually once a week as well.
We aren’t entirely vegetarian in our house but we make an effort to eat at least two vegetarian or vegan meals a week. These dishes tend to be less expensive (because meat is costly, especially when you buy organic, local, free-range) and don’t have as big a carbon footprint.
We will often have eggs for dinner one night because they are so easy and our son loves them. Breakfast for dinner is the best! My husband makes this super delicious dish with eggs, sweet potato and spinach. It’s great for breakfast but also for dinner.
Getting organized about mealtimes will inevitably help open up slots for you to take some time for yourself too. You’ll feel less frazzled on the whole when you’re planning and prepped meals ahead of time. Batch cooking one or two days a week will also help to reduce the volume of dirty dishes you produce during the week.
Sure, flying by the seat of your pants is an important skill in parenting. However, there are stressors and chaos that you can certainly minimize by being proactive about how your family gets fed.
There’s no question that meal planning and batch cooking take some effort and due diligence. But, it’s just like anything else, the more you do it, the more habitual and easy it becomes. There are going to be weeks where you fail miserably and your family eats cereal and take out for dinner. Take a breath, this is okay! Forgive yourself and start again the next week. There’s no room for perfection here. It’s simplicity, functionality and doing what works.