I’ve decided to start my own 30 Days of Dinner In Challenge… I guess because I’m the kind of person who likes 30 day challenges? I’m not big on New Years resolutions, but there is something something about a 30 day challenge that’s inherently motivating to me.
As you probably guessed, the goal of my challenge is to cook and eat a family dinner at home for the next 30 days. You would think that as a food blogger (who also has the blessing of being a stay at home mom), getting a meal on the table every night is a no brainer, right? Well, strangely enough, it’s not. I love food blogging, cooking, and taking care of my family, but somehow I still often find it difficult to get a meal on the table every night. I feel like my family eats dinner out or grabs fast food a lot more then I’d like.
I don’t think eating out is a mortal sin or anything, in fact it’s a good thing to grab a quick bite and just take a break sometimes; and depending on a person’s situation eating out might be the way to make life work. That’s a-okay by me. But, for my house I want the key word with eating out to to be, sometimes. I feel like we’ve definitely started swinging too far in one direction and I want to correct our course.
There are some pretty good reasons for eating in.
I feel like eating in the majority of the time is:
a. Generally far more nutritious then eating out a lot. Let’s face it, McD’s just isn’t healthy. b. Far more economical. It does’t matter if it’s fine dinning or fast food, it all adds up.
And you know what else I’ve realized? While I love going out to eat, as it’s fun and social experience for me, I’d rather save our time eating out for when we can really enjoy it. I’ve definitely noticed that my best dinning out experiences since having kids have pretty much all been during a weekend lunch. My kids are better rested, I’m better rested, we rarely have to wait for a table, and the service is usually much better because the restaurant isn’t so busy. Eating out can very quickly use up your discretionary dollars. If I’m going to spend mine, I want the experience to be enjoyable -and relaxed. I hate walking out of a restaurant feeling like I wasted my time and money. On the other hand, if it’s a good experience I don’t mind paying for it at all.
Looking at all this, it seems like dinner in, and maybe a lunch out now and again is is the way to go for my family and I.
But… there are obstacles making it hard to eat in as much as I’d like to see.
Now, when I take on a challenge, I like to be successful with it. I realized to make that happen this time, I needed to figure out whats going on that’s already causing me not to cook and eat at home as much as I’d like in the first place. So, I sat down and really thought about the problem. I realized there are three main factors that are leading to the too many dinners out problem at my house.
The First Factor: Perfectionist Tendencies.
I have perfectionist tendencies. I often think things like, “I’m a food blogger, right? So then, I should have a Pinterest worthy meal on the table every night.” There are nights when I’m on top of my game and thats fine. After all high standards lead to excellence, right? But, there are nights when I’m not at my best, and the standard I’ve set for myself is so high it feels completely overwhelming. I end up paralyzed, unable to get started with the large amount of work it would take to meet my dinner expectations. So I do nothing, we grab fast food, and I feel guilty about not cooking. I think one of my biggest problems with getting a meal on the table is that instead of relaxing my expectations of myself and picking a simpler meal to put on the table when I’m having a rough go, I stymy myself by not letting these high, dare I say unreasonable expectations, go.
I know I’m not the only one out there with slightly off kilter expectations of meal times. Do you feel like you should be scratch making everything because thats how your sister does it? Or exclusively feeding your kids fresh seasonable vegetables with every meal because that’s what the experts say you should do? Or coming up with a new gourmet crowd pleasing meal every night because of your own perfectionist tendencies?
The Second factor: Sometimes I’m Just Plain Old Busy or Tired
Being a stay at home mom/ food blogger isn’t a walk in the park. Now, don’t get me wrong. I LOVE it. It’s a seriously awesome job. I love being able to do something I enjoy and be home with my kids. But, I’m busy. I spend my days hopping to keep up with my chores (the sheer volume of laundry at my house is astonishing), spend time with my kids and the rest of my family, and actually do all the bits and pieces required to run a blog.
I’ve heard other food bloggers say things like, “After a full day cooking and photographing for the blog I just don”t have anything left in me to make dinner.” That totally happens to me too. Or sometimes it happens that I’m exhausted from being out with the kids, or cleaning the house and doing mounds of laundry, or, or, or… you get the idea.
I’m guessing pretty much everyone out there can relate to this in one form or another, right? I don’t care if your a 9 to 5-er, a stay at home parent, a student, working the night shift, or somewhere in between, you are probably pretty darn busy. We all have a lot of responsibilities and we all get tire. Lets face it makes dinner awfully challenging some days.
The Third Factor: The Late Afternoon/ Early Evening Slump
You know the witching hour? In her article on parenting.com, Nancy Kalish describes the witching hour as, “That time in the early evening when kids — and parents — all across America seem to fall under a spell that causes mass meltdown.” Well that’s mega crash hour for me. I think a lot of people experience a slump at this time, but what often elevates it to a full crash for me is some of the medications I take, for example a muscle relaxant; and the chronic pain I regularly deal with.
(I should mention, for those of you that don’t know, that after delivering my second son Tristan, I got really, really sick from a staph infection I picked up at the hospital. I spent about six months on IV antibiotics, and about eight months using a walker because the infection damaged my nerves and I couldn’t walk normally. I still struggle a lot with chronic pain. It’s not something I talk about a lot because it was a very difficult time for me, and I generally prefer to keep an upbeat tone on the blog. But, I think it’s pretty directly relevant in this case, so I figured I’d share.)
I think there are days my body truly just doesn’t have anything left by afternoon. When I’m in one of these patches of time it is really difficult to do normal things, and dinner can feel out of the question. Compound that with the perfectionist problem and you’ve got a recipe for fast food.
Don’t be a perfectionist.
When I was a kid my Dad used to tell me, “The good is the enemy of the best.” And it’s solid advice, sometimes. Always striving to improve, do the best, be the best, is a great way to achieve some pretty awesome stuff. But sometimes, always needing achieve the best can become the enemy of getting anything done at all. There is a place for being satisfied with good enough. That doesn’t mean slacking, but it does mean recognizing perfection or nothing at all isn’t always the best option.
What I realized is that to make this challenge successful, I need to acknowledge my real life and my real situation. I don’t need to make this challenge fancy, by requiring myself to try a new recipe everyday, or make every meal for 30 days “blog worthy”. The goal here is to cook a healthy enough meal, that my family will eat every night. That might look like frozen meatballs in the crockpot some nights. And that’s ok. We’re going to be real here.
Plan ahead, and get the work done when I’m feeling good (and maybe even ask for a little help).
I think the two best things I can do, along with setting reasonable dinner expectations for myself, to combat both normal I’m just plain old busy and tired, and the more extreme slump I sometimes get is to: a. Make a dinner plan a head of time, and b. Make dinner when I’m feeling good.
If I already have a simple dinner plan in place when I’m regular tired, I’m so, so much more likely to follow through with it. A lot of our fast food runs end up happening because the clock strikes five, the kids have started whining that they are hungry, and I haven’t yet put together a dinner plan.
The other thing I think that will really help me be successful is to cook during my good periods. For me that might mean cooking in the morning when I have more energy and hurt less, and then tossing everything in the fridge to warm up at dinner time. (And the hubby might be doing the warming up!) For someone else that might look like doing make ahead meals on the weekends and having a spouse or child tossing them in the crockpot during the week. Or maybe even buying a number of convenience foods to cook with on the tough days.
Not to sound hokey, but, will you join me on my little journey?
I want to re-form and reenforce the habit of cooking and eating at home together. Without the food blogger guilt. Without the mommy guilt. Want to come along for the ride?
Perhaps you’d like to commit to your own 30 Days of Dinner In, or maybe just check in and see what’s going on at my house? Either way, I’ll be taking quick not-so-Pinterest-ready-snaps on my iPhone (since the goal here is good enough, not more pressure), and posting on Instagram (@chelle_sand) and Twitter (@feedme_imhungry). I’ll also be using hash tag #30daysofdinnerin. Please feel free to use #30daysofdinnerin or tag me and share your thoughts, dinners, or suggestions with me. I’ll also be re-twweting the great stuff I see from you guys! I’ll also share a weekly update of my progress here on the blog. And, If I do end up making any “blog worthy recipes” be posting them here too!
So, wish me luck. Here’s to more cooking and more eating in!