Transitions are hard for me, and I don’t like moving quickly from one thing to the next. After 5 pm, my brain is usually limping on fewer neurons than I need to multi-task. So the afternoon transition to home and dinner from quiet work is tough. Remember when they called it “the witching hour” when our kids were toddlers? That 4-6:30 pm timeframe is rough! I feel (and look) like a dehydrated frog, gasping for some air, brain befuddled, and lost in a totally new world (my own home, invaded by hungry and grumpy teenagers). If I had unlimited funds, I would hire a chef to prepare each meal and have it deliciously on the table at 6 pm each night. … to arrive home to a healthy fresh meal all laid out for me. (Of course, in this fanatsy, no one whines that we are “having chicken again?”, “broccoli is not their favorite”, and “the milk tastes funny”)
Instead, I do the next best/cheapest thing- I have a meal plan. Ugh, I hate feeling pushed and routinized. I really don’t like feeling in any way like a robot, and I hate taking orders, but… When I have a plan for the next 5 nights of dinners, I find I can come home from work in a daze, able to follow my own directions, while also checking in emotionally with my teenagers. One of them tells me everything that is going on, with no prompt from me, and I love that. The other, I have to do a little more observing and listening to the ocean’s undercurrents to check in on his day, more deductive reasoning and open-ended questions. But I am up to it, because my hands are on auto-pilot.
The meal plan gives me the flexibility to listen and observe while also getting healthy food on the table quickly, and actually enjoy the process! The dinner plan has to be easy, so home made lasagne is not an option, and salad in a bag thrown on the table for all of us to make while sitting is perfectly respectable, especially if hard boiled eggs are thrown in too.
Amazingly, I got this dinner plan concept from Dave Ramsey.com as well as mint.com to save money on groceries! Woo hoo! So it is a double bonus.
And, as my friend Liz pointed out “Some nights Anne, you just need to eat tuna out of a can to keep the whole kit and caboodle together”. So I do giving myself a huge break when kids are not home for dinner. I eat a bag of popcorn and a glass of orange juice and call it balanced.
Fresh20.com is my favorite meal plan. It calls for fresh ingredients efficiently organized into a shopping list, and it gives me a list of items to do on Sundays to prep for the week (which I always plan to do, but never quite get around to, my loss!). The website will give you a free week to try it out. And, if you want to string a few weeks together to try it out, you can sign up for the vegetarian one week, the gluten free the next week, and the classic the follwoing, and so on, until you have tried all of their sample meal plans! $10 a month.
Next tip- Sunday Prep Day (not my favorite, but it does bring me more peace of mind)
Hang in there, Baby, Friday is coming!