I heard within two days from three moms who told me they are overwhelmed and don’t feel like they’re coping well. So I thought it might be helpful to give a starting point to work your way out of the feeling of being in a quagmire.
First of all, don’t compare yourself to anyone else! A saying I love is, “Don’t compare your insides to someone else’s outsides”. And that’s what we all do. You know yourself on the inside, and you think what you see of someone else is what they really are, through and through. It’s not true, and even if it would be, it doesn’t matter. You are you, and learning to love and accept yourself as you are, for who you are, should be part of your efforts. That means, forget being perfect and just do the best you can wherever you are right now.
There are probably a number of potential first steps you can take to start to putting things in order. I’ll give you my suggestion for the first step – make a menu plan.
I suggest this as a starting point because there are three meals a day that need to be prepared, and when you don’t have a plan for this, then you’ll constantly be scrambling to pull something out of thin air. When the food isn’t ready, everyone feels hungry, irritable, and out of sorts. When everyone is fed, they’re much more enjoyable to be with, and then you can get them involved in being more helpful with other areas. Also, feeling rushed and pressured every day before mealtime rolls around is emotionally wearing, and you end up spending a lot more money on food because you’re reaching for whatever is quick and easy. So we’ll break the cycle here, by doing something that will save you time, energy, and money. Sound good?
How do you make a menu plan? For the first weeks, let’s keep it very, very simple. Don’t overwhelm yourself by planning time consuming dishes that require several pans to prepare. Take a piece of paper, and make a grid that has each day listed going across the top, with the first day indented about an inch or so – like this:
Sun Mon Tues Weds Thurs Fri
Okay, now that you’ve done that, on the left hand horizontal side, write the three meals you need to prepare – like this (add in snacks if that’s part of your day):
Now make grid lines between everything with a ruler (you don’t have to use a ruler, it will just make you feel really organized and neat – I usually don’t). Repeat this so that you have two empty menu charts on the paper (this will be enough for two weeks).
Okay, now that you have an empty chart ready, get out your cookbooks. Take out another piece of paper, and make four sections: breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks. As you go through your cookbooks, if something looks good to you, put in under the appropriate category. I like to make a note of which cookbook and what page the recipe was in, because if it’s a new recipe, I won’t remember later on where I found it, and it would be time consuming and counterproductive to have to go through all of the cookbooks to find it again. Try to list about 5 – 10 options for each meal that look like options your family would enjoy. Also, if it’s a recipe that I won’t automatically be able to recall which ingredients are in it, I make a note right next to where I’ve listed it of the main ingredients (not every little dash of spices) so that when I compile my food shopping list, I can buy what I’ll need for the planned meals.
Now, here’s the easy and gratifying part. Put your cookbooks away, and with just the two pieces of paper in front of you, start filling in the boxes on your menu plan. Fill in all the breakfast meals first – if you want to eat the same thing every day, that’s fine. If you don’t, planning all of them at one shot helps you to schedule it so that you won’t have eggs or cold cereal two or three days in a row. I personally think it’s just as easy to plan two weeks of menus as one, once you’re in the mental planning mode, but if you don’t, then just fill in one week’s worth of menus right now.
Next, on to the lunch menu. Do the same thing as you did with the breakfast menu, keeping in mind what is already written for the breakfast meal that day so it won’t be repetitive. Once that’s finished, fill in the dinner menu.
If this is new to you, you might want to plan to begin using your menu in a few days, or a week from now. If you try to jump into it without being properly prepared, you’re going to end up feeling overwhelmed and like a failure. You’re going to need to go shopping to be sure you have everything in the house you’ll need, so if you want to start right away, then make sure you have all the ingredients you’ll need for a week already in the house, or go shopping first thing tomorrow.
Remember, keep it simple! That can mean cottage cheese and bread for lunch, baked potatoes and chicken for dinner, rice and beans, canned tuna, etc – whatever – anything that takes very, very little time or effort. You can plan for slightly more involved meals after you’ve done this for a week or two and feel like you’re starting to get into a groove.
Now, post this on your refrigerator. Take your list of menu options and file it away somewhere, in a cookbook if you don’t have somewhere else you’ll remember to look for it. You’re going to add to this list over time, and can pull it out each time you make a menu plan (saves you having to take out a pile of cookbooks every week or two).
Any questions? If so, please ask.