At an event last week, I got to speak with several other moms of young kids and the conversation turned to food. The other ladies all agreed that keeping up with the family meals is difficult in the best of times. Where are the sales this week? Where is the best produce? Can I fit a grocery run in on my lunch break? Does cereal for dinner more than one day a week mean I'm a bad mother? It's so interesting to learn about other families' situations and how other moms deal with challenges. And it's comforting to know I'm not the only one who freaks out a little at meal times.
I like to think I have my life together most of the time. But this week has been a doosey. And what has suffered the most (aside from my mental fortitude)? Our family lunches. I usually do the job of planning, preparing and packing lunches. Which I love to do and have a natural inclination for...plus my partner in parenting does almost ALL the cleaning. I know, I've got it good!
Anyway, the food planning has been an increasingly important job as we budget our time and money. The morning rush is tough on us and our almost-fifteen-month-old tike. Thankfully, she stays with my mother for the day so even when I'm not on my food game, Nanny has it covered. She loves our little gremlin like her own (or perhaps even more) and she has duplicates of everything: diapers, cereal, treats, sippy cups, etc. It means I can be lazy about packing a bag for the day if I want or need to. Be that as it may, I still like to have things planned and assert some initiative in the healthy diet of our family.
I make at least one big-batch recipe a week which is used for several meals. I roast or steam vegetables and have those on hand in the fridge. And I often have fruit and some snacks packaged up on stand-by (like already-cut-up strawberries, Nutrios or other cereal, or yogurt). Processed foods are limited and we offer drinks like water, milk and only real fruit/veg juice like this one. I make smoothies with yogurt, fruit and vegetables. It can take up to an hour each night to get things in order for the following day for the baby...not to mention the two adults in the house.
All that prep really helps with the mornings and the short half hour evening window between getting home and getting baby to bed before she explodes in screaming tantrums of tiredness. It's a challenge every day. We do splurge with a treat out but usually on the weekends for time's sake.
Sometimes, though, even the best intentions fail and this mama slips up. This week, vegetables have been overcooked and even burnt, chickpeas have been used as a protein several times despite baby not really liking them, and I even sent a frozen salmon fillet in the lunch bag with cooking instructions. One night, I was very thankful for pierogies I had pre-made and frozen the other week...and even more thankful that the kiddo ate it up like it was the best food she'd ever eaten.
So I try to remember my Girl Guide days and the motto Be Prepared. But sometimes, you just gotta go with the flow. Even if that means cereal for dinner.