Below is a Twitter post that sums up a big portion of text message conversations with my husband.
Seriously, that question characterizes my life! My husband and I would easily exchange six or seven text messages on the mundane topic of dinner…Every. Day.
The convo would go something like this:
Me: How’s your day?
Him: Not bad, and yours?
Me: Pretty good. Just thinking about dinner…what do you want?
Him: Haven’t really thought about it…you?
Me: Thinking maybe about chicken
Him: Nah – we had that yesterday. Steak?
Me: I feel like we’ve had beef a lot lately. Pork chops?
Him: Sure but what style?
And on it goes…
Anyone else participate in conversations as stimulating and exciting as this with family members? I feel like it would be an even greater time suck with kids or teenagers, with flavours of, “I don’t like that!” or “That food touches other food!” thrown in for good measure.
Not only are those conversations boring and annoying but they’re time consuming. You might not think so but consider how long it takes to type sentences like those and also how much time it takes watching those three little dots in their bubble that signal to us iPhone users that the other person is typing (and don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about! HAHA)
I don’t know about you but those little dots are my brain’s signal to stare at them in anticipation of a response…heaven forbid I might just go back to whatever I was doing while the response is formulated and sent 🙂
At our house, here’s what we’ve done to solve for this time suck and change our daily conversation.
Save time with a Dinner List
Each week, on a Tuesday (for no other reason than this was the day I started this routine), I make a list of dinners for the next seven days. We debate the list at this time, talking about what else is going on during the week that might affect meal times, what food is at the bottom of our freezer that could be eaten and also trying to space out the protein types so we’re not eating chicken three days in a row.
Create a Grocery List
Once the list is decided on, I create a grocery list of all the ingredients I’ll need for the dinners as well as a quick Pinterest search for new recipes I might want to try.
This 30 minute activity once a week has saved me so much mental time and space each day.
I can’t even describe to you how much – there are barely words (and goodness knows I know all the words!).
It’s not even the physical minutes this has saved although I feel like that’s a lot too. It’s also the feelings of annoyance when I get that, “What’s for dinner?” text. The anxiety-inducing thought of “What do I even have in the fridge?” that I could turn into something I’d even want to eat. Or how about that guilt that comes with trying to intentionally find something nutritionally balanced while reacting instead of being proactive?
Our brains are designed to be as efficient as possible so if you can find ways to stop repeating the same non-routine things over and over, your brain will get into the habit of doing the productive thing without too much extra energy required. Being proactive in this way means means one (okay, maybe two!) trips to the grocery store each week instead of daily and helps get me closer to healthy meals each day.
This planning fits really nicely into my work/life integration approach too. Because the meals are pre-planned and I know I have all the ingredients already, during any break I have throughout the day, I can get started on prep. Whether it’s marinating meat, cutting veggies or turning on the crock pot, it’s not a rush at the end of the day and I can do other things – walk dogs, relax or laundry.
You’re right – sometimes it gets boring and sometimes, what’s on the list for tonight isn’t what either of us feel like. And sometimes both of us forget to take the meat out of the freezer. So we mix it up – we switch nights or skip one or eat out. We’re not talking about turning meal time into a communist regime here but I am talking about doing once what we used to do daily and saving time, both physically and mentally, which has honestly helped a ton.
The other bonus has been meal prep help. Our niece stayed with us for a few weeks and at 18, she didn’t spend a whole bunch of time with her auntie or her uncle. But she started to check the dinner list each morning and would be home for supper because she knew what to anticipate. She and I made the list together and we had some nice bonding time over meal prep too.
Seems like such a small thing but it’s totally working for us. Let me know if it works for you too!