1. How much you enjoy making meals for your family is not a morality issue.
You may be someone who loves to cook and enjoys the entire process from start to finish. If so, that is wonderful! I am one of those people too. But if not, rest assured, this in no way, shape, or form makes you a lesser parent or person. It’s just cooking. Last time I checked it is not a virtue.
You also might have seasons where you enjoy the process much more than others. When my firstborn was a baby, I loved the meal planning and cooking! I had the time and mental bandwidth to do it. Nowadays, it is much more of a challenge for me. I feel like there’s all these hoops I have to jump through in order to make a meal I enjoy and also my children won’t revolt against me for. That list is short, and can get old fast.
2. It’s just food. One meal shouldn’t have the power to make or break anyone’s day.
I hope this allows you to take the pressure off of yourself! You are not on Top Chef. Your judges could very well be tiny humans who applaud boxed macaroni and a husband who silently fist pumps when you are “too tired to cook” and he gets to order pizza and wings. Not every meal needs to be a winner. Let them eat some bad meals! It builds character.
3. You eat approximately 21 meals a week;
1,092 meals a year!
If you make a terrible meal no one likes, remember, it’s one meal amidst 21 you will eat that week. Heck, you could even bomb a week of meals and it would still only be 21 meals amidst the 1,092 you will eat that year! Much like point number two, remember that the meal you make is one drop in the bucket over a lifetime of cooking. You are bound to make some bad ones.
Also, 1,092 is a lot of meals to try and be original. EMBRACE THE REPEATS. Just think: if there’s one meal you repeat every week, that would be 52 times. That is still less than 5% of your total meals.
4. Utilize convenience foods.
In keeping with point three and the 1,092 meals you will eat in a year, you are bound to get tired and need a break. Chick-fil-a and convenience cooking exist for a reason. Use them with zero guilt.
Bonus: something practical I do weekly is double meals I am already cooking in order to freeze one. That way, I have an easy “convenience meal” from the freezer for a later week. Is there a meal you are making this week you could double?
5. Dinner doesn’t have to be the best meal of the day.
There is no rule saying dinner needs to be your best meal of the day. Or fanciest. Or healthiest. Nor is that the case for your kids.
Maybe breakfast is easier for everyone to get a solid dose of protein. Or maybe an empty house while they are at school gives you time to make something you actually want midday. Maybe your kids won’t go near something at dinner but will be more likely to try it packed in their lunch.
Unless someone brings us a meal or I take something out of the freezer, dinners for us right now are the bare minimum. I’m talking PB&J with a side of applesauce. Maybe a grilled cheese. Frozen tortellini. You get the picture.
Whatever your season, let your meals and how you plan and eat them work for you! If you’re worn out, you don’t have to put pressure on yourself to make dinner the hero. Heck, no meal has to be the hero.
6. Find a way of meal planning that works for YOU.
In going on with point five, I know there are some amazing systems out there. Websites that will link you to all the groceries you need or apps that keep you on track. I think that is amazing! But it’s only amazing if it helps you.
Personally, I list out the 4-5 meals l plan to make that week on the right side, and the days of the week down the left side. But I don’t assign meals to specific days. Why do I do it this way? It is likely a personality thing, but I like to keep my options open. Maybe the temperature drops overnight by 20 degrees and chili out of the freezer just makes more sense than a big salad. Or maybe the baby had me up three times and so I don’t have the energy to chop the sweet potatoes I was planning to. I like to know the meals we plan to eat that week, but enjoy the freedom that comes with not assigning to specific days.
7. At the end of the day, whether anyone thanks you or not, you are doing a good and faithful work.
Cooking for and feeding people (especially over years and a lifetime) is one of the noblest acts of service you can do for them. You are meeting the deepest and most basic human need. You are sustaining lives in your home! It might get monotonous, but it is not small.