In my last post, I talked about aspirational grocery shopping, it’s impact on the environment, and I touched on how food can be used for productivity. In this post, I’ll give you 7 steps to help make it easier to have healthy meals on the table for yourself and your loved ones. This post, like my last post, has been inspired by Marilyn Paul, author of “It’s Hard to Make a Difference When You Can’t Find Your Keys” The Seven Step Path to Becoming Truly Organized (Penguin Books) and “An Oasis in Time: How a Day of Rest Can Save Your Life” (Rodale).
Before I get too far into this post, I wanted to make it clear that even though we are all striving to waste less food, if you try something that you end up not liking, that’s totally ok! It’s so much better to listen to your body and waste food that your body is rejecting rather than continue basically poisoning yourself. Life happens! If you find yourself throwing out some perfectly good food because you didn’t eat it in time, please go easy on yourself. Personally, I end up having to waste a fair amount of food myself, so in part, I’m writing this blog post to myself as well! Optimize fueling your body with food that is compatible with you. If a little food has to go to the wayside until you can get your diet or schedule dialed in, that’s ok. It’s also great to leave room to be spontaneous with your time and your meals. If you’re too ridged, it may be hard to make forward progress. The point of this post is to help inspire you to take your food prepping game up a notch or two. If it’s not perfect, that’s OK!
In Aspirational Grocery Shopping, I talked about how food can help you be more productive. Not only does eating a proper diet help with energy, mental clarity, and overall bodily mechanics, when you eat a diet that is right for you, your will experience more alignment with yourself. When you have this internal alignment, you will notice other things in your life aligning as well. When you listen to yourself (and what your body is saying about what kind of fuel it wants), other people will listen to what you have to say. When you treat your body right, you will be treated right by others. Some people have an internal system that is very loud, like “I SAID NO ALMONDS!!”. But for others, being able to tune into the quiet requests your body is asking for can be more challenging, ESPECIALLY when you’re experiencing a delayed reaction with your food sensitivities. “Hmm… let me just try this cheese one more time… I think it’s probably fine…”. While you may not be able to rule out orthorexia or another type of eating disorder just yet, if you’re experiencing a lot of internal dialog/internal “noise” around food, you may very well be eating something that is incompatible with you. Productivity around food can also be obtained through mindfulness (slowing down to prepare, eat, and clean up). And productivity can also be obtained through having a connection with your food, with the earth and with the environment, all of which will help you ground to the earth and connect to source energy. In Feng Shui, they call this the “San Cai”, or “Heaven, Earth, and Humanity”. When you can really feel in tune with the chi from the earth converging with the chi from the heavens within you, that is where the productivity wheels can do their magic! I also want to add that if you’re eating for productivity, you may also be eating with other people who are eating for productivity. The more authentically (balanced and mindful) productive people you surround yourself with, the more productive you will be!
So now do you feel armed with the benefits of eating for productivity? Let’s talk about how to do this!
- Values: What is your mission around planning meals? Is this something you can decide on your own, or is this a conversation to include other people living in your household? Is it important to keep things simple, or is it more important to try a new cuisine every night? What kinds of foods do you want to incorporate, or not include? Does anyone have any food restrictions? In this step, identify what some of your values for mealtimes are, and try to be as realistic as possible. You also may want to use this step to have a conversation about what’s allowed and not allowed at the table. Are cellphones or the TV allowed? The newspaper? How long do mealtimes last (ideally)? What time do they start? Or is it different every day? Communicating about these things ahead of time will help prevent any resentments in the future.
- Menu Planning: What’s on the menu? What are ideal breakfast, lunch and dinners to have every day? You may want to use paper or the computer to plan out what you think you’d like to eat for the week. Are you not a big planner? That’s ok! I, myself, am an intuitive cook, so planning things out like this is not what I usually do. I like to think of approximately how many servings of which food group I want to eat each day. If you’ve ever done the Beachbody 21 Day Fix (TERRIBLE name, AWESOME program!), they use portion control containers to help you get consistent with eating. Instead of thinking of these as “portion control”, I think of them as a way to make sure I’m eating ENOUGH of each food group. Prior to doing that program for the first time (6+ years ago), I didn’t eat NEARLY enough! When I followed their program (which I have since modified), it helped me make sure I had sustained energy all day. Do your best at mapping out what an ideal meal plan would be for the week. Keep it simple! Then list out all the ingredients you’ll need for the week. If you’re only shopping once a week, plan to eat the meals with the more perishable food earlier in the week. Check your cabinets and fridge to see what you already have on stock, and then make a list. I’m a fan of making a list on my phone. I use the “Notes” app to keep a running list for things I want to get at the grocery store, Costco, Bartells, Ace, or where ever else I need to purchase things at. That way, when I’m at a store that I don’t go to very often (like Costco), I’ll be able to know what I need when I’m there.
- Shop: Are you someone who gets very distracted at the grocery store, and wants to try everything that catches your eye? Since you’re working on building up your meal prepping skills, you may want to delegate this task off to someone else who can stay focused with only buying what’s on the list. Alternatively, you could use an app like Instacart or Amazon Prime to purchase your groceries online. I’ve taught several of my clients to purchase their groceries online. They love it!
- Unpack: If you get home from the grocery store with a car full of groceries, carry them inside, and are exhausted, you’re not alone! It’s very tempting to want to throw them in the fridge as quickly as possible and be done with it. Can you eat a snack prior to putting them away so that you have some mental and physical capacity to put them away in an organized fashion? If not, put them away as you do, but make a note to return back to the fridge and pantry to do some maintenance organizing. Ideally, organize the fridge BEFORE you go to the store so that you have space to put things back in an organized fashion. It’s much easier to declutter your fridge when it’s nearly empty rather than when it’s full. You may also want to use this time to wipe down the shelves and clear out any food that is past its prime.
- Make the Magic Happen (aka: cook): You know what you’re making for dinner, your kitchen is stocked, and you’re ready to start cooking so that the meal will be done at the agreed upon time. Take a few breaths to relax before you enter the kitchen so that you don’t bring the stresses of the day into the meal. It may sound funny, but you can probably taste the difference between food that’s been cooked with love vs. food that’s been cooked with tension or resentment. If you find that by the time you’re ready to start cooking, you’re already too hangry, you may either want to adjust your mealtime, eat a small snack prior to cooking, or consider eating a lower glycemic diet, which will give you more sustained energy.
- Soup’s On!: In my house, breakfast is called “breckles”, lunch is “lunchers”, and dinner is “dinnerie”. Yes, I think it’s fun to make up words and talk to my dog. But infusing this type of humor into my day is one of my favorite things to do. It’s great to be a little silly! What do you call your meal times? Do you use a bell or a triangle to denote mealtime? Music? Candles? What sounds, smells, and sights do you like to have present while you eat?
- Swab the Deck: Either rotate cleaning chores or find another method for dispersing the process of cleaning up after a meal between everyone who’s involved. There’s clearing the table, washing the dishes/pots/pans etc, putting the dishes away, putting leftovers away, wiping the table down, wiping the counters, and possibly even sweeping and wiping down the floor, or taking out the trash. I personally have a lot of fun cleaning, so like to have a variety of different cleaners to choose from. I also love noting cleaning techniques when I travel abroad. I get so inspired by the cleaning section of foreign grocery stores, or watching how someone else cleans their kitchen in another country. I’ve incorporated several of these methods into my own cleaning routine.
Remember, meal planning is a practice. It doesn’t happen overnight. The more you stick with it, the more tips and tricks you’ll pick up along the way! You’ll figure out what works and what doesn’t work for you. And you may backslide a bit! But that’s ok. You’ll start to notice that when you backslide (which is NORMAL), you won’t backslide as far back as you did the time before. You’re human, congratulations! Just get back on the horse and try again.
Do you have any meal prepping tips to share? Please let us know in the comments!
Posted By Jean Prominski, Certified Professional Organizer
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