Changing the Plan

I think my meal planning habits and our usual diet are going to have to adjust. My food “standards” started when I was a homeschooling mom with three young children and an additional part-time job. I was busy but my schedule was flexible. Our budget was very tight and I am naturally thrifty so meeting those self-set standards became a point of pride. It became part of my identity as a mother and wife. I cooked almost everything from scratch, shopped at multiple stores and markets each week to eat seasonally and get the best prices, and seldom bought “convenience” foods. You can eat a very healthy diet for a reasonable amount of money if you’re able and willing to devote the time to it. Healthy food isn’t expensive. Healthy convenience foods are expensive. I never factored in the value of my own time or the amount of time I was devoting to food preparation.

For many years our diet has been based on seasonal produce, whatever we bought at the farmers’ market. We’d had the common American quick breakfast/light lunch/heavy, full dinner pattern of meals. I did one large grocery shopping trip once a week because that’s the best way to stay on budget.

Our current family life is just too hectic. My husband’s business keeps him incredibly busy with an erratic schedule. My kids have evening classes and band practice. I am regularly stuck between beating myself up for another failed meal plan and killing myself to make my over-ambitious meal plans work. We all have been splitting the cooking between us- the kids starting dinner prep and I finish when I get home from work, my husband cooking on his nights at home, and lots of oops nights when dinner ends up being at 9pm or we eat scrambled eggs. Lately it’s been me chasing three teenagers around, haranguing them to eat the dinner that I spent an hour cooking after my 10-hour shift. This habit is no longer working for us. I have to change the way I think about meals for our family.

So, loyal readers, give me some suggestions. What works for your family? Do you eat a larger lunch and simpler dinner? Do you cook ahead? Do you spend the money on high-quality convenience foods? Tell me what works for your family.

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