31 Days to Less Noise: Preparing Food

Providing my family with good food is becoming more and more of a priority to me, but I absolutely detest the food prep that goes along with that. (I must be in the majority with that mindset based off of the high consumption of convenience foods in this country.)

Food preparation can take up a lot of space in my head, with meal planning and grocery lists and “I want a snack!” and recipes I want to try and reading labels and “what should we bring to the family reunion tomorrow?”

I’ve been experimenting with the best place to have my meal planning sheet, and the best way to keep a grocery list – on my phone, on paper, hanging up, on the counter? I want to keep it simple so that it’s not stressful for me to figure out what we need from the store and what recipes I’m trying and need to buy for.

Freezer cooking has been a saving grace for me, and even as I explore more healthful options, I’m having to look a little harder, but it’s well worth it. This past weekend, I whipped up some meatloaf with a lot of veggies in it, cooked and shredded chicken to have on hand, and made my own taco seasoning.

Breakfasts also go pretty well, because I’ve realized that by keeping a few things on hand in the freezer – muffins, egg and sausage cups (my favorite) and breakfast burritos (Evan’s favorite) – there is always something homemade and filling that takes less than a minute to prepare.

Sausage egg cupsHowever, I struggle with lunch, and with snacks. And often by the time I’ve gotten the kids all served up at lunchtime, they’re done and ready to move on before I can get my lunch ready.

A few weeks ago, I tried something new, inspired by Crystal from MoneySavingMom: I pre-made my salads for the week. I love having a good salad for lunch, but dread the time it takes to throw it all together. It worked beautifully, and I loved it… and then I fell off the bandwagon.

So this week, I’m jumping back on and trying it again. You only have to get the ingredients out once, and it takes 5 seconds to throw your salad from a jar to a plate (I like my dressing good and mixed, so a plate is necessary for me vs. eating straight from the jar). And I’ve found that when I pre-make it, I’m much more likely to throw in extra vegetables like broccoli and carrots that I just don’t have time to cut up and add each day.

pre-made salads

Now for snacks. I just need to get into the habit of heading to the fridge – for fruit, or cheese slices, or hummus – instead of to the pantry for Doritos. I think that will be a work in progress!

How do you take the time aspect out of food preparation each day? And send any good freezer recipes or easy snack ideas my way too – especially kid-friendly ones! I’d like to continue learning some simple ways to provide healthy food for my family all day long, without it taking up my entire day and without bombarding my brain with what to prepare, how to prepare, what to buy, and more.

31DaysLessNoise

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31 Days to Less Noise: Unpreparedness

This week, I can feel life start to slow down. The darker evenings feel cozier and quieter, and the cold weather is sweeping in, pushing us in front of the fireplace.

And I am so grateful for this 31 Days experiment so far. Posting every day has at times felt a little “noisy” in itself, but I can feel the difference internally – less distraction, more intention.

This week, I’m going to be tackling perhaps the biggest “noise”-maker in my life right now – Unpreparedness.

Feeling unprepared causes me all kinds of stress, and I feel like it wastes time and money. I’m not a fly by night kind of girl, and I need some semblance of organization to feel sane.

But when birthday parties pop up, and I don’t have a card…

Or I have a rare meeting, and I don’t have an appropriate outfit…

Or I need to pull together a meal for a potluck…

Or there is a blank spot on my menu planning chart…

I scramble and I stress.

And when I scramble and I stress, I get frustrated and too often, I take it out on the kids. I’m distracted, I’m trying to plan extra trips to the store, I’m paying full price for something I could have gotten on sale…when I could be and I should be simply prepared. I want to appreciate and enjoy an event or experience, instead of it feeling like a burden because of what I need to do for it.

So this week, I’m tackling preparedness. As we continue to get settled and find new routines in our new house, I want to stop scrambling and be a lot more prepared.

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Trading the “noise” in my head for the noise in the car

So, that phenomenon where, no matter how prepared you try to be or how early you get up, you all still end up frantically searching for things and running out the door 5 minutes late – well, we completely had that down the first few weeks of school.

Living much farther from our school this year has been a rough adjustment. And there have been too many mornings where there is yelling, frustration, things forgotten, complaining about getting up…and then by the time we all load into the car (late), I’m stressed, the kids feel bad, and then I feel bad about making the kids feel bad.

And then I would be cranky and distracted, and feel like a mess.

So at the end of September, I said enough.

First, I made it a goal to start waking up Brenna a little earlier, because she’s such a bear to get up in the mornings, and that has made a huge difference.

And secondly, I decided to start using our 22 minute drive to school more intentionally.

Rather than wallowing in my distraction and grouchiness, I now push any stress or worry about the day out of my head, and I engage with my kids. We usually do one of two things:

1. We learn together. Connor has had an intense fascination with languages the last few months, so we’ve been practicing Spanish. On our early morning drives, I teach a new word or phrase, and we practice the other words and phrases we’ve learned. Sometimes, he wants to know a word that I don’t know, so we look it up and learn it together. (My high school skills are rusty, at best.) Even Brenna is trying to count in Spanish. It has become a fantastic way to engage the kids in conversation and learn together.

2. The other thing we do is listen to a CD of songs from last summer’s Vacation Bible School. When I hear those sweet little voices in the back singing along about Jesus’ love…oh my heart. They just love this CD and ask to listen to it all the time. We all have the lyrics and corresponding hand motions memorized :)

And here’s what I’ve noticed from focusing on these activities – it completely fills us up instead of draining us in the morning. It distracts me from all other “noise” surrounding my day – what’s on the schedule, what’s for dinner, who I need to call – and allows me to plug into my children. And in return, I have noticed a big difference in how they feel during this time because of how I feel.

Using that necessary drive in the morning for time that tunes out other “noise” in my head for the beautiful noise – singing and learning – from my kids has filled our mornings with positivity and peacefulness.

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