Change and transition can derail any meal plan
Change: noun; the act or instance of making or becoming different.
Transition: noun; the process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another.
Two words associated with a certain amount of stress, even if they are positive changes and transitions. Throw in a parade, a birthday, another school event and other various goings-ons and you’ve got a whopper of a week to get through. We’ve hit the midpoint and so far, pretty good. We’ve kept tears to a minimum, nobody has been forgotten anywhere and no one has gone hungry. (The house clean? That’s a different story.) Looking back, I’ve really got to stop and think about how it is we’ve managed -- lots of strategizing, lots of help and a fair amount of "punting."
It’s important to remind ourselves that every single one of us have times in our lives that seem as though they may completely overwhelm us. The mix may be different -- it could include holidays, houseguests, illness, car problems, flooded basement, broken-down car, etc. -- but those exquisitely poorly timed groups of events invariably seem to come up behind us and whomp us. And we do manage to cope, with the help of family, friends, community and our own management tools. We somehow figure it out until the storm has passed and then are grateful to pass along the favor to someone we know whose turn it is to do the weathering.
Is there a method to it? It depends. If you have some warning about something that is on the horizon it is way easier as you can keep it in mind as you put together your coping plan. If something is unexpected, it can be a lot harder. This is when it is helpful if you have someone who is able to see that you need a hand and take some of the pressure off until you have a chance to get your feet back under and gather your wits about you. Like the group at our church who knew that we needed dinner delivered before we even realized how much we needed it. Or the friend that schedules a play date for your kid because they can tell how overloaded you are by your glazed look.
Once we are aware that we are in for a ride, we prioritize. Is such-and-such absolutely necessary? Not really. But this-and-that is so how are we going to make that happen? Going to a neighbor’s great-niece’s graduation party can probably be let go of (and in our case, so can the house cleaning) while feeding your family really can’t be. Looking back, here is how we’ve survived in the food department:
-- Good Convenience Food: Hard-boiled eggs = quick protein in our house. Abundant thanks to our chickens. These are eaten as is or turned into egg salad for sandwiches. Fruit and veggies can be the same, although some of them take a little more prep (watermelon vs. grapes for instance). We’re also big fans of peanut butter. And cereal and milk, although I think some family members are sick of it by now.
-- Making extra: I’ve been eating the pasta salad I made on Monday for lunches. My daughter had some for dinner tonight. It’s helpful not only to have it ready but to also not have to think about what there is to going to eat.
-- Pooling resources: Potluck! Why not get together with some friends, let off a little steam and eat lots of food, at least some of which has been prepared by others?
-- The Old Stand-bys: Many of these are also in the convenience food department. We add egg sandwiches (scrambled with cheese on an English muffin), apple pancakes and nachos to this list.
-- Mom (or any other Kind Soul): They have a little extra time and a lot of heart so they help out -- we couldn’t do it without them!
-- Take Out: Yes, it can be a budget buster, but sometimes it is just what you need to take the pressure off the cooking department and eating out can also help with a little pampering. Use it sparingly and this can be a great way to recharge.
While certainly not the whole key to getting through stressful segments of life, having options for meals certainly helps. We’re very thankful for the above tools that we have leaned on over the last week or so and do look forward to being in a place where we can reciprocate or even just pay-it-forward for someone else.
As always, I am interested in knowing what you might do in these situations -- strategies, favorite recipes, tips -- as I am always looking to broaden my resources. Feel free to send me a note and let me know -- I promise to take a look at them after we get this week over with!
Julie Potter is a wife, mother of two, avid gardener and passionate cook who believes good food doesn’t have to be complicated. Share your thoughts with her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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