“I’m hungry” may be the most well-known words to any mom or caregiver on the planet. I used to strongly dislike those words. And I do mean strongly.
Chaos, madness, stress, frustration, guilt…
Sound familiar, when trying to cook healthy meals for your whole family?
Before I finally figured out a better way, these words and emotions stuck with me, day in and day out.
And one particular moment sticks out in my mind (of which you might be able to relate to).
What’s for Dinner?
It’s 5:30pm and my kids are hungry. I’m hungry. My husband walks in the door from a 10-hour work day and the first words out of his mouth are, “What’s the plan for dinner?” (All eyes were on me and I just wanted to hide, pretending they were talking to someone else.)
What I really felt like doing was pulling out a box of macaroni and cheese, possibly some frozen chicken nuggets and replying with a sly “Dinner will be ready in 5 minutes.” For a brief moment, it felt really good to think about how easy that would be.
Well, reality soon set in and I knew I couldn’t feed them food devoid of any nutrients – again. The guilt, oh the guilt, of feeding them a 5-minute processed meal for the 3rd night in a row was weighing heavy on my heart and mind.
Don’t get me wrong, there may still be the occasional night where it’s going to be either a quick 5-minute meal or no food at all. Let’s just say I try not to make a habit out of it, because I know better and I want more for my family. I’m sure you do too.
As a thousand thoughts and feelings went through my mind and the cries, pleas and questions continued, I started to rummage through my freezer.
“Surely I have some sort of homemade dish in here.”
Needless to say, they ate one more frozen meal that night. I can now look back and realize that night was a blessing, because it pushed me to dig deeper and figure out a better way.
And as a result I’ve come up with 3 of the best tips I’ve personally built into my meal-planning regimen. I think these will really make a difference in your life, too.
Tip #1: Utilize the Freezer (it is your friend!)
Imagine coming home from a long day’s work and pulling out that prepared meal from your freezer, popping it in the oven and sitting down to rest with your family.
Freezer meals will help you save time, money and eliminate the feeling that you have no other choice but to buy another frozen pizza.
Key #1: One third of the meals you prepare each week must be doubled and frozen. For example, if you prepare 15 meals per week, at least 5 of them should be doubled and frozen.
Prepare the meal just to the point where you would begin cooking, and then freeze it in a casserole dish covered in saran wrap and tin foil or a freezer storage bag (think soups).
Example: How to freeze a meat and vegetable stew (choose the meat and veggies that work best for your family)
- Label a gallon-sized plastic freezer bag with the recipe name, cooking instructions, and date in which the meal should be used by (typically 3 months)
- Add all ingredients to freezer bag and place in the freezer
- Thaw it in the fridge when you’re ready to cook it
- Set your slow cooker to a “low” setting and cook for 6-8 hours
- Break apart any larger pieces throughout the cooking process
As you may know, not all foods will hold up to the freezing process. You’re in luck, though, because Paleo/SCD foods, like meats and vegetables, typically do well in the freezer.
Tip #2: Get Ahead on the Weekends
Whether it be 30 minutes or 2 hours, we must dedicate some of the weekend to tasks that allow the week to go much more smoothly.
Key #1: Make a menu plan accompanied by a specific grocery list. If that seems unfeasible for you, consider our done-for-you menu plans that can be adopted to fit any family.
Nothing frustrates me more than heading to the store without a plan in mind and ending up at home with a bunch of random items. It’s important to know exactly what you’re getting and how it will be used. Turns out this really helps save money, too.
Key #2: Chopping vegetables takes time, and a real food diet inherently includes more of them. You may want to invest in a food processor, like this one by Hamilton Beach. You can toss them in the fridge for easy use during the week, cutting meal preparation time down considerably.
In fact, you can even get your kids involved with these awesome tips.
Key #3: If you’re going to freeze the vegetables for later use, I’d suggest blanching them first. Blanching is a process that includes boiling the vegetable and then immediately cooling it to inactivate the enzymes that can cause color changes and loss of nutrients. One study found that blanching was actually able to reduce some anti-nutrient factors (tannic acid and phytic acid) in select vegetables.
Grab this complete guide to blanching vegetables (a 1-5 minute process).
If you’re unsure of what vegetables freeze well and the duration that things can remain in the freezer, read more in this freezing and thawing 101 post.
Tip #3: Cultivate 3 Go-To Recipes (Here are Mine)
Last but not least, I highly recommend building some go-to recipes into your repertoire. These go-to recipes must be quick, contain 5 ingredients or less and you must have the items on hand at all times. These are the kind of recipes you have memorized and can “whip up” in a pinch.
Breakfast: Sweet Potato Pancakes (click here to print)
These are great to have on hand for the kiddos – lots of protein, vitamins and minerals. Not to mention, they taste amazing. I typically make enough on the weekend to last all week, making breakfast time a breeze.
Are you shocked we’re suggesting you eat starch? Learn who this recipe is right for, by reading this article – Starch: Pure Evil or Evolutionary Gold? You can also click here for an SCD compliant version.
Lunch: Zucchini Cakes (click here to print)
Each time I go to the store (or pick them out of my garden when possible), I grab 4 or 5 zucchini. They are soft enough for smaller children to eat and can easily be put in a container for lunch on-the-go.
Dinner: Stuffed Pepper Tacos (click here to print)
I love these because they’re tasty, a little different than regular tacos, and there are only 3-5 ingredients. Kids love these because they can pick and choose what toppings to add. If you need to pretend the pepper is a sailboat or a pirate ship, by all means do so 🙂
It’s All About Adopting New Habits…
I can’t say I personally like change or take well to it. In a world full of chaos, I like predictability. However, continuing to manage mealtimes the way I was, simply wasn’t working and I had to give into this notion of change. They say a habit can be made in as little as 21 days and I’d have to say I agree. I know, because I kept a close eye on my new meal time process, just waiting for it to fail so I could go back to the old, familiar way.
But it didn’t fail. Adding in these tips has helped me to create a seamless meal-planning process flow and I want that for you and your family, too.
Try these 3 tips for a minimum of 21 days and see what happens in your family. Feel free to change them up to fit your situation. Whatever you do, don’t settle with anything that isn’t working.
There’s a better way to feed your family without all the stress. Don’t be afraid to dive in and adapt to a new routine.
If you’re a little nervous about starting, our SCD done-for-you meal plans can really help ease the load as you make your way along this journey.
Happy cooking 🙂