I know meal planning isn't a typical mental health topic, but just hear me out on this. When I ask my adult clients or client parents about the most stressful part of the day, 9/10 times they say dinner time.
In our town, school starts in one week. After a day of school and work everyone is tired, there is homework to do, there might be activities to get to, yet everyone is hungry and needs to eat. And there is nothing more stressful than wondering what's for dinner while everyone is whining at 6:00 pm.
This isn't about making intense, fancy, or inflexible meal plans. Your people have to eat, so it's just about getting dinner on the table in a reasonably non-stressful way. In a world that's full of so many things we can't control, we can make an attempt to turn dinner time into a time of peace and connection in our homes, rather than a time of stress and chaos. I learn again and again, both from clients and in my own home, that there's something deeply important to be said for that time of connection.
This DOES NOT have to be complicated. This is a logistical thing that I work with clients on very regularly to help them clear up mental space to make room to tackle issues that may be much more difficult--like a child having trouble with school work, a child having trouble falling asleep, or you needing a little extra downtime in the evenings during a hard season.
The important part isn't creating a "perfect" plan. It's creating a plan that's practical for you, for your season of life, and your family.
A Few Things to Consider:
- Food is not a moral issue. It's not bad or wrong to feed your family boxed macaroni and cheese or frozen pizza in seasons. Diet and wellness culture have taught us to put labels on food, but putting forth effort to feed your family in a way that is practical for your time, budget, and mental health is a good and noble work. Always.
- Make a meal plan that works for you. Do you have soccer late one night? That night might always be Chick fil a night. Do you enjoy cooking a more labor intensive meal on Sundays? Make enough to freeze for a busier night later in the week.
- Make use of your crockpot.
- Sandwiches with chips and fruit or easy breakfast meals are perfectly appropriate for dinner.
- Not knowing specific days for specific meals, but knowing what you have available in general works well for plenty of people.
- Having a general rhythm to your weekly meals might be helpful when grocery shopping. For example, this is what I tended to do each week last spring:
There are so many ways to go about making a meal plan that works for your family. There's no right or wrong way and what you decide to do now will likely change as your seasons change. But one thing will stay the same--a few minutes of planning will help bring a little peace to mealtimes (some days--other days will be wild but we can always give it a good shot and have grace for ourselves along the way).
My mom texted me a few months ago and told me she was proud of me for always working hard to cook for my family and I thought it was the nicest thing. I'd never thought about it in this way before, but cooking food in any way or form takes effort, energy, and work. It really is something to be proud of yourself for, no matter what the "cooking" looks like. I hope you'll remember that you're doing a good and worthy work when you cook for your family or for yourself this week:)