A while ago I stumbled across a meme online that stated, "Choose two: Sanity, Happy Family, Healthy Family, Clean House".
My first reaction? A maniacal laugh. "#TrueStory !" I commented. I read the comments below mine: "Ain't this the truth?" and "You can't have it all!" and "No! Choose ONE!"
I started thinking about my crazy lifestyle. Both my hubby and I work full time and commute several hours in traffic hell. After we get off of work, we play the "pick up game"--whoever was able to leave work the earliest and/or is in the least amount of traffic gets to pick up all of the kids from two separate locations. The other person goes straight home and starts dinner. If one person is on a business trip or has to work late, the whole thing falls apart. Game over.
Often-- especially in residency when I had to work overnight-- I'd get home to find (cue horror music) hamburger wrappers from fast food restaurants littered around the kitchen. I'd flash back to hours before when I'd advised several patients not to feed their kids french fries, hot cheetos, or soda as I scavenged the empty fast food bags for fries left at the bottom (those are the BEST!).
Bless my hubby's heart. If asked which options he'd choose, I'd bet 99% of the time he'd choose "Happy Family" and "Sanity." And thank God for that-- my kids are happy and my hubby is sane! But as a physician, I couldn't reconcile feeding them junk food 3-4 nights a week. Even on the nights that we were able to cook, we barely had time to check homework, check in with each other on the day's happenings, or exercise. We were both getting fat. and tired. And unhappy. Feeling forced to choose between eating healthily or going insane.
I started brainstorming. We needed to figure out how to simplify our evening routines so that we could best utilize those precious two hours we have together each night-- before we have to go to bed and wake up to do it all over again. I determined that something had to give.
Hmmm.... Can I check homework and cook at the same time? Can I exercise while I check homework and catch up with the kids? Can I eat and work out at the same time? Can I add another hour to the day? nope. nope. Nope. and No.
Monthly Meal prepping! BINGO.
We got a deep freezer from Best Buy, we got these awesome BPA-free, microwavable, dishwasher safe freezer containers on Amazon Prime, and we took off running!
The first month was a sort-of trial and error thing. I discovered which meals freeze/reheat the best, which meals my family liked the best, and what we need to buy at the grocery store to be the most efficient.
I am now on my 6th month of meal prepping, and I can honestly say it changed my life for the better. I invest about 2-3 hours on a weekend morning in the beginning of the month and either pre-cook or pre-prepare (for the crockpot) all of our meals for the month, weigh and portion them out into individual meals, and drop them in the deep freezer. For the 2-3 hours of time I spend once a month, I save probably 12-15 hours per month precious evening time to play with my kids, help them with homework, take a walk, or spend QT with the hubby.
We get home, pop a few meals in the microwave, and use the time we would've spent cooking to go for a walk as a family.
If the 7 year old wants spaghetti and 3 year old wants chicken and rice, but hubby wants enchiladas? No problem. Boom. I got you, boo! I get to feel like Oprah. "YOU get spaghetti! YOU get chicken! You get enchiladas! EVERYBODY EATS WHAT THEY WANT TONIGHT!!" It's not the tv-family life where everyone sits around at the table enjoying the pot roast that mom slaved away cooking all day. But you know what? This isn't TV. And I ain't June Cleaver!
I've perfected our recipes/portions so that we know that no meal has more than 520 calories. Most have fewer. And they taste delicious! I'll post my recipes and a how-to in a separate post.
Hope my post inspires you to find a solution that works for your household.
Friends, we CAN have it all! Or at least a little bit of it all. In small portions. Everything in moderation.