Being the chef of your household is a big job. For women, it’s more likely that we are the ones who set the “food tone” when it comes to eating for our family, and doing it healthfully. Feeding your family is a rather big responsibility – one that can be crushing as you try to manage family, career and your otherwise so-called-life.
Since baby number two came along this year, I’ve amped up my interest and commitment to healthy eating. Perhaps it all came to a head when I realized at three weeks postpartum that he’d have to go on formula exclusively. As a whole foods eating person, I delved into research about which formulas are least artificial. Turns out even the organic formulas are problematic. For a time I considered making my own, but realized it might not be medically safe for my child, and it would also be just one more time consuming effort. For now, I’m counting down the months until I can give him organic cow’s milk, and put that formula scooper aside.
I’ve already begun stock piling frozen baby purees with lovely produce from the, now-closed, farmers market: butternut squash, zucchini, string beans, peaches, pears. I am at ease knowing that the first foods my baby eats are of delicious, fresh fruits and vegetables. I don’t want to eat food from a jar or can everyday, and I don’t think my baby does either.
I also spent this last month participating in a pilot project to improve healthy eating among families using plan-ahead strategies. It was an ambitious schedule – breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert/snacks for four weeks, weekdays only. Amidst life with a daughter close to four-years-old and a son not yet six-months-old, husband and my work schedules, and trying to exercise and otherwise enjoy life, it was tough because I was learning a new cooking schedule with new recipes. But here’s what I found worked for me when it comes to planning ahead to eat well:
- Make a plan to shop once a week. I thought I loved going to different stores throughout the week, but turns out it was a source of stress and a time sucker. Now I take my daughter with me to Trader Joe’s on the weekend where she can happily push a little shopping cart. We make our weekly trip to the farmers market a family affair. That about does it for the week.
- Do a weekly prep session. I set aside about two hours to prep several meals for the week on Sunday, sometimes making them fully and other times assembling the pieces so I can throw them together quickly near dinner time. I feel really prepared going to sleep Sunday night, dreaming of a week less filled with cooking and more full of family time.
- Make friends with those who appreciate cooking and food. The last few weeks have included lots of emails and conversations with friends also trying to find that sweet spot of healthy eating in less time. I feel like I’m not alone, and am learning from these wise women.
Yesterday I was doing the Sunday prep. I was about an hour-and-a-half in, getting tired, working on four recipes at once (seriously). My daughter looks at me and says, “Mom, you look like a chef in the kitchen.” Well, that made me beam and smile and feel so super. Me, head chef at La Casa de Meren. Here’s what I made yesterday:
- Sweet potato quinoa black bean cakes, from Experience Life magazine
- Brussels sprouts salad with blue cheese dressing, from Experience Life magazine
- Butternut squash soup with quinoa puree
- Egg salad for sandwiches
- Kale salad (super easy!) from Dr. Weil (refreshed it from the previous day’s cooking)
- Prepped ingredients for slow cooker chili for Halloween night this Thursday
- Baby food for my little man: string beans, peas, roasted parsnips and butternut squash; inspiration from Annabel Karmel
So where do you hang your chef’s hat?