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Things I Do to Make Life Easier Part 1: Food & Meals

Being an adult is legit.  You have to be more mature than you want a lot of the time. Add kids AND summer break into the adulting game and hands down, you have to level up.  But here’s a big secret, being an adult can be easier. Parenting can be easier. You can always make your life easier.

As a company owner, a mom of four, and someone who likes things fabulous, I realized a long time ago, that life is hard, but I can make mine easier through my choices.  When I am adding anything additional to my life, I ask myself, “Does this make my life easier?  Can I do without it?  Is there a simpler way of achieving what I want/need?  How can I do this in a simpler way?”

Now there are certain things in life that are hard… and they are always going to be hard.  Some of hard things just come to us without any invitation (i.e. cancer, Hurricane Katrina, mental illness, etc.).  Others difficult things we choose, even though they are hard, because they are worth it to us.  Examples of these things could be pregnancy, adoption, starting your own business, political change, eating huge hot fudge sundaes regularly with a metabolism as crappy as mine and having to jog a lot to stay in shape, etc.  Those things (and there are many others) are the reasons why you need to make the OTHER things in your life easier.  We need to be able to focus on the BIG more difficult things in life and cannot waste energy on small stuff.  Whatever things that waste our energy and take us away from the BIG real difficult things, we should simplify and make as easy as possible.

I am going to break this post into a few parts to make it easier to digest.  Today I am listing a few things that I use and do in regards to food and meal planning that make my life easier.  Later this week, I will continue the series.

Part 1: Food and Meals

Part 2: Beauty & Self Care

Part 3: Creating a Supportive Team

Part 4: Creating A Working Schedule

Part 4: Miscellaneous Things that Just Make Life Easier

Here is a list of just a few things that I do/use on a daily basis to make my life easier in regards to food and meals.   Please note, these are just things that work for me.  If they don’t work for you – don’t do them!  We are all individuals.  Some may seem inconsequential, but I’m sharing anyway and I want you to share as well in the comment section! Even a seemingly small thing could really help someone else live a less stressful life!

  • Food and Meals
    • Practical Kitchen Appliances –  I believe in not doing things that a machine can do for me just as well or better.   I invest in practical quality kitchen appliances that make things for me that I regularly need.  Think of meals that you make regularly and purchase appliances that will help you make them quicker and easier.  Here are a few things I find helpful:
      • Crockpot & Crockpot Liners
        • Despite, This is Us (possibly my favorite show), giving me nightmares about my family being engulfed in flames, I still use my slow cooker several times a week.  If you are a person in America, I believe you should use one.  You don’t have to learn a million Pinterest recipes.  Just know two that you like and are easy for you.  On Sunday, throw in a half of a roast, a cup of water, some vegetables, salt/pepper and click low.  When you walk into your kitchen at four o’clock the aroma will be your utter fabulousness.
        • Crockpot liners – Self-explanatory.  No one wants to clean something they don’t have to.
      • Egg Cooker
      • Four slice toaster
        • Double the amount of toast at the same time.  No brainer if you have growing kids.
      • Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker
        • This makes gourmet ice cream quick and easy.  I will even serve a gelato on Christmas with it!
      • Ice Maker
        • I have to have ice all the time.  If you are like me and need ice to survive, buy one.
    • Pre-chopped vegetables, meal kits, and frozen meals
      • I purchase tri-color peppers, onions (red and white), chives, pico de gallo  – all diced and prepared.  They cost maybe a dollar or two more, but they make meals easier for me to pull together and it’s 100% better than finding a smooshy red pepper in my fridge that I swore I was going to use. You can find them in small plastic containers near the deli area. Here’s a link for you to see, these are also available through Amazon Fresh, etc.   If you have time and/or cutting onions brings you to a meditative state, just prep them yourself and store them the same in your refrigerator.  I also cut my own cucumbers and celery for snacks, etc. and it makes my life a million times easier.
      • I always have in my freezer a few frozen meals just in case.  Don’t judge; I check the sugar and sodium levels on all of them.  As a woman on the go, I have to have these on those run-run days.  I especially love the frozen soups available through Great Value.  Here’s a link to one that you will love.  The tortilla strips are included and are great for fall school days!
    • Rotating Menu
      • As many of you know, I have a purposely vague but straightforward weekly menu. This gives me the flexibility of choosing what I feel like creating, but at the same time, the structure I need so that I’m not staring at freezer chicken at 5 pm. For example,  I always know Wednesday is Pasta Night.   So I always have plenty of different noodles and sauce in the pantry, but I also know that if I’m in a rush I can throw in a Stouffer’s Lasagna for the team.  Here is the menu I follow: Sunday – Roast and Potatoes,  Monday – Slow Cooker Meal,  Tuesday – Mexican Night,  Wednesday – Pasta Night, Thursday – Soup & Salad, Friday – Chef’s Choice, Saturday – American Barbecue.  I have my menu on a huge sign in my kitchen to keep me on point.  You can find it here.
    • Grocery Pick Up/Delivery Service
      • Changed my world.  These services are almost everywhere now.  I wish I would have had them when I had four kids under 5.  Wow! What a game-changer that would have been. I began a year ago with grocery pick up, now I use Amazon Fresh and wake up to my groceries on my doorstep.  You may differ, but I find I spend less using these services because I am not adding unnecessary things to my basket while in the store.  I also can quickly find coupons online.  Another plus,  I can add to my virtual grocery basket in real time, as I find I am out of things, and then check out days later.  If you do this, definitely click on “favorites” so you never have to search for your weekly grocery items and can shop quickly and efficiently.
    • Lunch
      • Kids Lunch = School Lunch
        • I understand that there are picky eaters who will not eat school lunch.  I also understand that there are certain children due to dietary restrictions and/or sensory issues that school lunch is not an option.  That being said, if you feel relatively comfortable with the healthy food choices at your child’s school, have your children eat school lunch.  The time, the hassle, the stress will be worth it.  Go over what are healthy choices and not healthy choices and let them choose!  I’m not going to say they will love it every single day, my kids hate the fish sticks and I don’t follow the school menu to see when it’s fish stick day.  But I do have a stack of premade PBJ sandwiches in the fridge that they can grab with an apple and take to school if it IS fish stick day.  Other than that, (for me, and you may be different and that is TOTALLY fine) making four lunches every day before school is not worth the time with them that I get in exchange for choosing school lunch.  Note: On special holidays (Valentines, Halloween, Birthdays, etc.)  I make super fun sack lunches that go with the theme.  I feel they make a bigger impact due to school lunch during the regular school week. Again, I am just saying these are things that work for me.  If they don’t work for you, do something else! No judgment here.
      • Your Lunch
        • Prep your lunch beforehand.  If necessary just buy the premade salads/sandwiches from the store.  They begin around 3.95 and then you won’t find yourself in the Chick-Fil-A line.  I have found that if I don’t premake my lunch or have a premade lunch waiting for me in the fridge then I either a) don’t eat or b) don’t eat things that are as healthy.  When I do either of these things, by the time 4 pm rolls around I am depleted, ornery, and unable to be as productive as I want to be. By making my lunch a priority like I do my children’s lunch, I ensure that I eat and have the energy to keep going all day.
          • One rule: if you have a child with you at lunchtime, they don’t get to eat your lunch.  Your lunch is for you to eat.  Their lunch is for them to eat.  In my opinion, moms shouldn’t eat off of kids plates.  Kids shouldn’t eat off of parents plates.  You can think differently, I’m okay with it.  This is just what I think.
    • Snacks
        • Kids Snacks.  Kids just need a lot of snacks. They just do.  I have found two ways that make snacks easy for me. 1) A limited snack jar 2) An unlimited snack plate
          • Limited Snack Jar – I have a snack jar in my pantry that does not have a lid on it and the kids have complete access to.  In the snack jar is substantial snacks.  Depending on your child, you will know what he or she needs as a substantial snack.  For my children, these are peanut butter and cracker packs, granola, rice-on-the-go, etc.  My children know they can have two of these a day anytime – no need to ask at all.
          • Unlimited Snack Plate – On my kitchen counter, during the summer, I have an unlimited snack plate that I make in the morning and leave out all day.   I throw baby carrots, apple slices, orange slices, grapes, cucumbers, celery sticks, etc. on the plate for my children to graze on all day.  What isn’t eaten, I save for the next day or put in water to make “fun infused water” they think is cool.
        • Adult Snacks.  Have snacks just for YOU on hand.  Sometimes as a parent, I find that I just think about everything my kids will eat and I do not purchase things for me to eat.  Obviously, I try to streamline the two so we are all eating the same thing.  BUT I often find that all the snacks are GONE if I don’t set mine apart! 🙂   By stocking my pantry full of snacks in a special place that works for me (packed almonds, Vitaminwater, etc.), I find that I am happier and I am less likely to stuff my face with fruit snacks at 3 pm which tastes good, but maybe won’t help my energy.
    • Disposable Dishware
      •  I believe in paper plates, cups, and utensils.  Depending on your phase of life, disposable plates and cups may be a must, a good fit, or unnecessary.   I used them a lot when my kids were younger.  Now that my children do the bulk of the dishes, I do not need them as much.  Of course, when using paper products we should all have a recycling bin and be buying recyclable (we all need to take care of our planet) – but also don’t be afraid to use disposable dinnerware if it makes your life easier and creates more time with your family.

These are just a few things I do, to make meals and food easier in my home.  I don’t do them perfectly at all, but I find when I do do them – my life is much easier.  Please share what you do.  We will continue the series with the next blog posts!  Let’s make our lives easier together!