My Irish great grandmother had 16 kids and spent some of her life working the family potato farm in Michigan. In the Midwest 1800’s, there weren’t refrigerators for home use, nor were there chicken nuggets or frozen pizza or oranges or boxed mac n’cheese. When I think of the labor that went into preparing a meal while also making sure that 16 CHILDREN didn’t somehow fall into the fire or die playing with farm equipment….let’s just say I’m thankful for Costco.
As preparing food as gotten simpler, somehow expectations of grocery shopping and meal prep have skyrocketed into the extraordinary: organic, grass-fed, whole grain, non GMO, unprocessed, gluten-free, dairy-free, sustainably raised, locally harvested food. There’s some floating societal expectation that all of us have the money to buy high end, have the organizational prowess to meal prep for the week, and have the desire to spend time cooking meals that will magically delight every member of the family.
There’s also a message of what you should be doing to create health and wellness in your family. However, if trying to achieve these standards brings your wallet and stress level to the breaking point and you are the person suffering for it, then it’s not creating health at all.
I challenge you to discover how you can make buying and preparing food easier for yourself. Not healthier, but easier. Because, likely if you are reading this you are already working your ass off trying to keep everybody eating healthy.
When my oldest was 3, the savior of my world was some mom blogger who posted an article about monkey platters. These plates are a mini-buffet for kids who graze and can’t sit at a table for more than 20 seconds. The frustration that develops from trying to get a toddler to sit and eat will pretty much halt all of your own digestion, interrupt your meal 20 times, and end with nobody being happy. Creating a monkey platter and allowing them to graze rather than sit at a table for a “meal” can relieve a vast amount of stress. It only took me 2 years to learn this.
So what else works to create ease? Maybe stop fighting about whether your toddler needs to sit and eat and instead put out a monkey platter. Don’t stress over whether your 6 year old can have screen time with her cereal and just say yes to it if you need an extra 30 minutes to hit the snooze button. Your 10 year old is old enough to make his own toaster waffles- just think, my grandfather was likely plowing fields at 10 years old. So your child can operate a toaster for God’s sake and he will survive without homemade french toast every single day, unless making it truly brings you joy.
And dishes. This may get me in trouble, but I’m going to admit that when things are busy and time is short, I allow paper plates. A couple dirty plates may not seem like a lot but there are five of us. Five plates times three meals and two snacks times three kids = 21 plates to wash every day. It’s not the 71 PLATES that my great grandmother would have had to wash using the same math, but she obviously was way tougher than me and likely did nothing but wash dishes for hours a day. Or more likely, every child had one plate and washed it themselves. Ok, I love that idea. To gain her strength and wisdom, I will give away all but 5 plates and start my potato diet tomorrow.
Meantime, on a day when there’s a diaper blowout or someone pees the bed or I have spilled my coffee all over the rug (seriously, how do you get coffee out of the rug) some recycled plates are forgivable.
Grocery delivery, printable meal plans, and meal-kits brought to your door are all wonderful, too. Any way that you can loosen your standards if they feel too tight, if they are creating stress for you, is good. Identify what’s not working for you and aim for what might work. Try something new and simple. If your 7 year old wants to eat under the table and it means he won’t argue about eating, great. Try it for a week. Give them granola bars and smoothies for lunch. Make things a little easier on yourself. Let the expectations go just a little. You can always make a change whenever you need or want to.
Food is even more nourishing when stress is removed from the equation.