Making meal time work for you so that you can move ahead with goals.

As the work day comes to an end our minds start to think about what we have to do after work.  The animals need fed, laundry is waiting, the house probably needs picked up, there are errands to run, mail to go through, and oh yeah we have to cook!  What are we going to eat becomes a big question every night of the week and takes up a big portion of our night.
We may have a nice recipe Pinterest board, a food blogger’s feed running on our Face book timeline, and like a lot of great food pictures on Instagram, but that doesn’t always motivate us to change into Julia Child or Martha Stewart when we get home.  We may enjoy cooking and feeding our family, but long to do other things.  We may desire to actually get some rest during the week, read a book, sit in silence, watch a movie, meet a friend, start a side project, work on a goal, take a class, attend a play, or just enjoy our back yard, but we have to cook.
Decide what meal time means to you.
When the kids were small meal time meant enjoying a nice meal every night of the week.  As the kids grew older and I went back to work meal time meant catching meals together when we could.  As they left home our meaning of meal time has and is changing.
As our lives grow and change what meal times means may change.  The key is to make it work for you.  Maybe it’s time to make meal time a grab and go so that you can get to the kids events.  Maybe meal time is ordering take out so that you can get homework done after work.  Meal time might mean doing meal prep on the weekend and heating up meals during the week. Maybe it’s simply not the time to cook like Julia and serve like Martha.  Maybe it’s a time when you grab some Egg Foo Young and start on that project.
Plan your week
 
We don’t have a lot of time after work.  If we want to use our time for things that are important to us than we need to plan our time.  You can start by making a weekly menu plan.  You might cook a couple nights, or one, eat leftovers, grab take out, or order a pizza.  Just have an idea of what you are going to eat and what you need to put that meal together.  Go by the store on a day when you have more time to make good buying decisions.  Frequent trips to the store cost more and are less productive.
Organizing it all
 
Grocery day at our house is also take out the trash and clean the fridge time.  Quickly cleaning the fridge out once a week will make it easier to deep clean later on.  It’s also a good time to clean out the pantry, change the litter box, clean clutter off the counter tops, and organize unkept areas.  Have what you need where you need it so that when it’s time to cook everything is easy to find.
Organize spices in a spice rack, or in a cabinet.  Use storage containers to store utensils, cooking oils, cereals, sugar, flour, and any food item that you use a lot.  Just make things really simple and easy to find and get to.  Obstacles in the kitchen may rear the ugly head of procrastination and we don’t have enough time to procrastinate.  We have many important things to do in our lives and don’t want to spend more time in the kitchen then we need to.
Clean Up
 
When food is simmering I load the dishwasher and hand wash pans.  My goal is to have all the dishes clean by the time the meal is ready to eat.  When we are done eating all I have to do is load the dishwasher with the dishes we ate on.  I cook and clean and cook and clean.  If we wait to clean up until after the meal we will face what seems like an insurmountable task.  Get in the kitchen start cooking, put your stuff away, stir the food, do some dishes and keep going until it’s time to eat.  Afterwards load the dishwasher and move on.
Do you want to change your life and start doing things that are important to you?  Do you want to write that book, start that blog, get that side business going, or just take some time to relax?  Good!  Now start organizing your day.  You have time, not a lot, but you have time to accomplish your goals.  By tweaking a few things in your day you can find the time to get some more things done.  This might be a time to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and read a book.  Next month you might have time to cook like Julia and serve like Martha and sometimes you might do a mixture of both.
Get things organized, make a meal plan that realistically fits in with your goals, get things cleaned up and move on.  Don’t let your time in the kitchen keep you from moving forward with your goals.
Marcy Pedersen
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