Food should never be a stressful matter. With all the tasks that are necessary each day, whether that be work, school, sports activities, grocery shopping, going to the gym, planning the day for your children, or simply planning the day for yourself, food should be the last thing that causes you stress rather then a second of relaxation and enjoyment.
Is this always the case? Of course not! We have all had those moments, myself included, where you are so busy in the morning that you forget about breakfast, rush out the door, to then find your stomach growling as you pull into work and your only options for breakfast are the donut variety pack and cold coffee that someone had brought in that morning. Or you haven’t been grocery shopping yet this week, have had an awful day at work, and come home to find an empty fridge. Frustrated you make a hodge-podge meal of leftover spaghetti, a piece of toast, a salad with no toppings (you haven’t been to the store remember) and a bowl of cereal as dessert. You settle into bed anxiously as your stomach lets loose a tiny growl, not satisfied from the make-do meal that you had just eaten. Let’s not forget about the one night of the week where you slave over a hot stove, excited about the new recipe you are trying, only to find that your kids come home complaining that they don’t want chicken and mushroom casserole with roasted asparagus. They thought you were making your famous ooey-gooey mac’ and cheese with bacon and plump green peas. Disappointed, your kids barely touch the meal you made and you feel like a failure for letting them down, wishing you had told them earlier what the plan was for the evening.
Stop the madness now! Food should be something to be enjoyed and something to fuel and nourish your body while tasting and looking excellent; not the dark cloud following you around each day.
By using a few simple tips, you can cut down on the weekly food stress, make your meals more manageable and enjoyable, and have an overall more pleasant experience whether that be for breakfast, lunch, dinner, yourself, or the entire family!
Be breakfast prepared. If breakfast is something you struggle with because you simply don’t have time, don’t fret! There are many solutions to this early morning stressor.
- Have portable breakfast options that can be grabbed on your way out the door. Choose items that will keep you satisfied throughout the morning by combing a carb with a protein. Examples: Hardboiled egg (boil a batch of eggs early in the week to have on hand!) and a piece of toast or 1/2 a plain bagel. A granola bar and a string cheese. A portable Greek yogurt with some granola in a baggie. An apple with a to-go peanut butter packet. An english muffin with peanut butter. A quick smoothie with yogurt, milk, and frozen fruit. An instant breakfast drink or breakfast bar. All of these options can be placed in a bag or cup and eaten once you arrive at work or as you drive (of course be smart…don’t peel an egg while you are driving!).
- If there is a kitchen available at work, another option may be leaving your breakfast options at the office. Leave a box of individual oatmeal packets and a bag of raisins, dried fruit, or mixed nuts in your drawer. Prepare oatmeal with a little hot water, add your toppings of choice, and there you go! Easy breakfast that takes little time out of your morning.
Plan ahead. There is nothing worse then getting home at the end of the day and not having a clue what you are going to eat for dinner, especially when there are 3 or 4 other sets of eyes at home wondering the same thing. A simple solution is planning ahead. If you can prepare ahead as well, even better, but a simple weekly dinner plan can be just as effective. When I take the time to plan out what I will have for dinner each night, I not only feel more relieved each evening because I know what to expect and what I will need to purchase either that week or the day of, but I also feel like I am more inclined to try new things. Testing out a new recipe or buying a food that I normally would pass up at the grocery store is a lot less scary when I know exactly when and how I will be using that food and where it will fit in to the recipe.
Once you have planned, post it! This tip may be more relevant if you live with other people or have a family which you are cooking for as well. No one likes the unexpected, so invest in a small chalk board or dry erase board where you can write down a quick overview of what will be for dinner each night. This way, the family, spouse, or housemates will know what to expect, and if they would prefer something else or have another suggestion, they can do it ahead of time! This can also help with eating out. If you enjoy eating out or trying new restaurants, and have other family members or people who eat with you, keep one day open each week and rotate who gets to fill in that day with a restaurant of their choice. If it is not a restaurant, or if you have children, leave one day a week open for them to pick out their favorite meal or a meal that they would really like you to make and let them take turns filling it in.
Be smart, and keep it simple. Don’t plan to try a new recipe with 15+ ingredients on a day that you typically work late or are extremely busy. This tip is pretty self explanatory.
Keep essentials on hand. No one likes to be in a pinch and not have any options to choose from. We all have those days which are particularly frazzled or where something comes up and we just don’t have time to plan or think through meals for the day. Its OK, just make sure you have something there to choose from that is easy and still satisfying. My essentials: a can of black beans, a jar of good marinara sauce, whole wheat pasta, frozen veggie burgers, frozen peas or broccoli, feta cheese, bananas, Greek yogurt, and sweet potatoes. You could walk in my house at any point and find these items. Cook a veggie burger in the microwave for 2-3 minutes, slice up and place on top of some whole wheat pasta. Toss with marinara, a little feta cheese, and some broccoli, and there is a quick and easy dinner that maybe takes 15 minutes to make!
Follow these tips and tricks to decrease your food stress each week and always remember, food is fuel for the body and can be fun and fast at the same time!
What are some of your favorite, quick in-a-pinch recipes?