Sunday, June 10, 2012

On the table: Planning Ahead

Let's talk about food and family for a second (okay, more than a second). We live in a convenience-society and a fast food nation. Our idea of preparing ahead of time for dinner is downloading the Domino's Pizza app on our iPhones or figuring out which restaurant we're going to eat at.  We are constantly bombarded with images of great looking food (that rarely looks that good in person, and certainly doesn't taste as good as it appears) and tempted by tricky labeling (All Natural! Low Fat! Sugar Free! Organic!).

I'm in one of those stages of life where there's been a lot of go-go-go, and I haven't been smart about preparing ahead.  It's also a stage of life where I'm pretty darn exhausted (hello, five children!) and sometimes don't have the brains or the energy to slave over a stove.

When I go grocery shopping, I avoid certain foods because I know they are unhealthy, and I don't want to put that into my family's bodies, but then, a couple days later, I am wishing I would have grabbed that frozen pizza because it may not have been healthy but neither were the tacos we just scarfed down from Taco Bell (and the frozen pizza would have been cheaper).

I am recognizing that with all I have on my plate (no pun intended), I really need to have a plan. I have made meal plans and such before, but they never quite worked out because I would have a day or two where I felt really weary (and lazy) and didn't want to put forth all that effort.  Then veggies and food would go bad, and I would have wasted lot of money and.. bleh.

I see that, especially in this season of our life, I need to be super-duper prepared.  I need to have food I can just grab and go- throw in a lunch box before heading out the door or quickly put together when we get home after an exhausting day. I don't want to sacrifice nutrition just because we are busy.  In fact, I need that nutrition even more!

I realized the problem with my meal plans was that I did not allow for quick and simple meals beyond a peanut butter banana sandwich, so, a couple weeks ago, I decided to give meal plans a try again.

In an effort to eat more real food, less processed crud I am trying to make more foods from scratch.  I enjoy cooking and baking, but, like everyone, I have those down days.  And, like everyone, sometimes I just don't have time to make tortillas or bread from scratch.

But wait, actually I do.  IF I plan ahead.

A month or two before I give birth, I usually start cooking (and baking) up a storm so I can have a freezer full of food to rely on after the baby is born. I know this is nothing new to most of you, but I often forget that I can use my freezer to my benefit in this area.  So, when I have time and energy, I can make a large batch of muffins, pancakes, and breads to enjoy later.  (I have a bread maker, which means I really have no reason not to make my own fresh, healthy bread.)

Have you ever looked at the ingredients on store-bought breads and such?  It's pretty gross.  I mean, the list on the package of flour tortillas I picked up the other day had me wondering why something that only takes three or four ingredients had a list of at least twenty (most of which I could hardly pronounce).  This is one of the main reasons why I like making my own sandwich bread and tortillas.

While I was raised on mostly whole, real foods, I took a rebellious turn when I left my parents' home.... mostly because I didn't know how to cook (but I could bake brownies, cakes, and cookies!). It really didn't occur to me that junk food was not just stuff that had loads of sugar.  I didn't realize that most of the food on grocer's shelves were bad for me.  I thought food was food, and I didn't think it really mattered what I ate. I didn't know about GMOs and whatnot. Of course my mom talked about eating healthy food and would tell us what was healthy and what was not, but I didn't understand the true impact of unhealthy products upon our bodies.

Only in the last 4 or 5 years have I finally began to get a clue about food, and even then I still often make poor food choices simply because I am tired and am not prepared.

Looking back on my childhood food experience, I can see that my mom really worked hard to put nutritious food on the table.  (All my friends knew that you didn't come to my house for snacks like Fruit Roll-ups or Cheetos. They knew my mom was a "health nut".)  I am really grateful that she gave my growing body that healthy foundation.

I want to give my children that same healthy food foundation as well as the knowledge and understanding that goes with it.  So, while I'm learning, so are they. When they ask if we can have something, we pick it off the grocery shelf (or look it up online) and examine the ingredients.  They have come to understand what certain ingredients are, and we've researched various ingredients (especially icky stuff like aspartame!) so they know the adverse effects they can have on the body.

I really struggle with eating whole, real foods because I really enjoy sweets. I would much rather have a whole, real food meal, but then I want to finish it off with a big bowl of Bluebell ice cream with Reese's Pieces and Butterfinger crumbles mixed in. I'm not big on Hamburger Helper or Mac & Cheese mixes, but, by-golly, I sure enjoy chocolate by the (double) handful.

I am having to train myself to reach for a sweet apple or banana instead of junk food sweets. I feel like I need to write myself a note and put it on the fridge. That note should say, "EAT AN APPLE, WOMAN," so I don't forget.  Because, hey, aren't fruits and vegetables the original fast food?

Anyway, last week's menu plan did not go as well as I had hoped, mainly because my husband's work schedule has been all funky and so it threw our meals out of wack, plus he's been working on a friend's house and is often not home for meals, or we are all out of the house and starving. On the plus side, I did manage to whip up several healthy dinners even in my exhaustion and even put together a great lunch for a picnic at the park.

So, I've confessed my struggles, figured out (what I hope is) a good solution, and am going to put more effort into planning head.

What do you do to make sure your family has healthy meals for busy days? Are you good at planning ahead? Do you make a meal plan and stick to it? Do you struggle with all of this like I do?

1 comment:

  1. Girl I have the same troubles! One thing that does help me is the do batch cooking, then putting it into individual servings for lunches (kids for school, me for work) The struggle I run into with that is how picky we all are!