GOOD HABITS: MEAL PLANNING

GOOD HABITS: MEAL PLANNING - This Wild Home

There was once a time I thought I hated cooking. The idea of getting in a kitchen and making a meal only made me think of dishes and cleaning and lack-luster food that was barely edible. I mostly ate out, but I didn’t have enough money to eat from actual restaurants who might give me a real vegetable. So fast-food became my go-to for a very long time, and even that wasn’t as budget friendly as I hoped.

Fast forward to now and I’ve learned that I really enjoy cooking. I’m at a point where I can look in my kitchen at random ingredients and find a way to put them all together in a way that tastes good. I have a pile of recipes I can turn to when I can’t think of what to make and I have staples that are favorites amongst my family that I can always turn to when I don’t feel like putting in much effort.

This didn’t happen overnight, of course. It wasn’t something I just woke up and realized I could do. Cooking is a skill and it takes practice. Coming up with recipes on your own takes a lot of trial and error and reading of other recipes that others have made. It’s not as easy as going on Pinterest, finding some stuff that looks good, and becoming a master chef who makes creative meals every night.

Making your own food is definitely a habit you have to intentionally add to your life. There are mindsets you have to work on, things you have to learn, and an admiration you need to develop in order to make cooking at home something you do regularly. That may be why so many people opt for frozen dinners or take out.

IN A WORLD THAT REQUIRES YOU TO GO GO GO ALL THE TIME, YOU LOOSE ROOM FOR MONEY SAVERS AND HEALTH BOOSTERS LIKE HOME-COOKED MEALS.

So now that I’m at a point where I feel weird when I don’t cook at home and I’m able to cook all three meals for us every day, I’ve looked back on how I got here and what it really took for me to start cooking at home.

MEAL PLANNING

In order to meal plan, there are a few things you need to let go of in order to do it easily without the pressure of feeling like you need to have an exciting, gourmet meal for every single meal every day. Honestly, the best part of meal planning is you start to know your staples. Things that everyone likes and ingredients you know you can throw together anytime your tired or just not feeling up to it.

GET IN THE RIGHT MINDSET

BUY WHAT YOU LIKE | There were so many times when I started cooking that I’d go to the store and pass some spinach and think, “I should eat more salad so I’ll get that.” Then, of course, it wound up in the trash all soggy and gross, never even opened.

You have to trust that you’ll get there. One day, cooking will be so second nature and healthier options will be so regular that you will eat a salad frequently enough to actually warrant purchasing a whole bunch of spinach. But in the beginning, just buy the stuff you know you like. Even if it’s just ground beef and hamburger helper. Whatever gets you moving around in the kitchen is key.

KEEP IT SIMPLE | I feel like it’s really easy to get wrapped up in Pinterest and social media. It feels like people are making complex, beautiful, healthy meals all day every day all the time. But they’re not. Some nights they have leftovers. Some nights they throw things together in a giant pot and call it a day. Some nights they make the same thing they’ve already made four times that week.

Meal planning doesn’t mean that every meal turns into something fancy all the time. It doesn’t mean you’re suddenly a master chef that makes fancy restaurant quality meals all the time. It simply means you’re making stuff that keeps you fed. That should really be your only goal: Can I eat this and is it good enough to keep us alive and energized for a few more hours?

VARIETY IS OVER RATED | The biggest thing that held me back, in the beginning, was feeling like I had to make something extremely different for every meal every day. I’d try to make sure we were having a different vegetable, meat, side, whatever every night. It was exhausting and way more expensive than necessary. But the reality is, food is only supposed to be fuel to keep your body running. You should try and eat healthy as much as possible and get a good variety of proteins and veggies and things every once in a while. But if you have the same smoothies every day for breakfast, the same avocado toasts every day for lunch, and the same power bowl for dinner, your life will be easier.

Of course, it’s good to switch things up and you may even have fun trying new things every once in a while, but that doesn’t need to be the priority. The only thing you truly need to focus on is getting yourself and anyone else fed.

FORMING THE HABIT

So once you let go of the idea that meal planning and cooking at home is some big flashy thing you have to do, starting the habit really just takes practice. It takes starting small and working your way up to it. For me, creating better habits requires no pressure. I have to make it fun and I have to make it easy or else it’ll never happen. So here’s how I got into the habit of cooking at home and meal planning.

START SMALL | If you go from 0 to 100, you’ll probably wind up with hundreds of dollars worth of food in the trash. Simply having the food at your house will not teach you how or motivate you to make it. It’s also hard to know how much of something you truly need until you’re already cooking consistently. The amount of food I over bought when I first tried to get in the habit of meal planning was such a waste for my wallet and just food in general.

The best thing to do is to start with one meal. Find a recipe that looks delicious and do-able and buy what you need for that. Then, the next week, make two meals and so on. This is a good way to build your recipe portfolio, learn what you like and what you don’t like, learn what’s too much work and what’s easy, and build your pantry inventory over time.

INVEST IN PREP | When I first started meal planning, I’d make giant batches of stuff. So one day I’d make enough spaghetti to feed a family of 10 (for two of us) and reheat that for the next couple of days. Or I’d make a giant batch of soup (seriously the easiest meal to make) and have it for lunch for the next week.

I don’t love overcooking to the point of needing to freeze because a lot of stuff just isn’t the same after it’s been prepared and frozen. But making big batches, especially in the beginning, can help you get in the habit of actually eating at home without having to be in the habit of cooking every day.

TRY A MEAL PLAN SUBSCRIPTION | No, they are not quite as budget-friendly, but they are so helpful with getting yourself in the habit of cooking at home. In a way, it’s almost like a cooking class right in your home. You get all of the ingredients you need, the exact amount you need, and all the recipes are made and decided (with a little help from you) so all you have to do it cook.

I think my biggest hurdle when getting into meal planning was simply just getting in the habit of cooking and building my confidence in that. So when I got a meal plan subscription, I already had the food at home, it was only three meals a week, and the instructions were so clear that I felt like I knew what I was doing. I learned different skills, different techniques, different pairings. All the things I needed to learn to really get in the habit of cooking consistently and planning my meals every week.

Meal planning doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does need to be learned.

Building your recipe book, getting stocked on some staples, and really getting in the habit of preparing your own food every day are all things that need to happen to build this habit. If you work at it and go at a comfortable pace, eventually you’ll be at a point where you feel the urge to get in the kitchen and cook up something good.

HOME IMPROVEMENT: THE NEWBORN CART

HOME IMPROVEMENT: THE NEWBORN CART - This Wild Home

We’ve been very cozied over here with the baby and the toddler and all of the slow days we can get. We’re getting used to our new rhythm with a newborn and we’re slowly starting to feel normal again.

Honestly, I’d say it takes about a month to start feeling like a person after having a baby. You get used to the sleep deprivation and your newborn starts to get used to being in the world. Your body starts feeling much better and all in all, you have the ability to actually start doing some normal things.

The one thing that doesn’t change is how much your baby poops and pees. How messy their clothes get. How often you need to quickly access burp rags and things that you don’t always think to have on hand. All the little accessories that babies need is quite surprising given that they’re so little and can’t do much. But any sized human can make a mess and for newborn messes, you need a lot of supplies.

I put a little something together before my second was born. A cart to carry all of his stuff from one room to another with ease. It’s been one of the best things for these newborn days so I can have easy access to all the little things babies need.

THE NEWBORN CART

It may not be the most amazing discovery in the whole world, but it sure has made our lives much easier. Like I said, I have a toddler to keep an eye on all day along with newborn duty (and also newborn doody). For the sake of not making my toddler follow me around the house all day, not having to coop us all up in one room, and not having to lug a baby all around the house, I decided I needed something that can move all of the things I need around with me.

So rather than get drawers or some kind of permanent storage for Charlie’s clothes, diapers, and other necessities that would make me have to run to his room every five seconds everyday, I opted to put together this cart. The set up isn’t too complicated. I had this cart lying around and realized that it’s three compartments would be perfect since I had about three categories of things I needed to keep with me.

TOP - DIAPERS

HOME IMPROVEMENT: THE NEWBORN CART - This Wild Home

At the moment, we’re a hybrid disposable diaper/cloth diaper family. We use the cloth diapers during the day and the disposable diapers at night.

So the top row has a few disposable diapers, since we only use a couple a night, and lots of cloth diaper inserts along with a few covers. The wipes will usually float somewhere on top of all that or just around the house since both boys need them. This way, anywhere my toddler is or anywhere we’re all hanging out, I can take the cart and have all my diapering necessities right there. I just have a designated diaper changing burp cloth that I’ll lay the baby on and change his diaper anywhere on the ground. (It works for now since we have carpet, but I may get a larger mat soon that isn’t quite as thin so we can still use that when we travel or on surfaces that aren’t already padded)

Any extra diapers or cloths we have stay in our closet so if we go through a lot in a day or get behind on laundry, there’s some back up there.

MIDDLE - CLOTHES

HOME IMPROVEMENT: THE NEWBORN CART - This Wild Home

Babies go through a lot of clothes. There’s diaper blowouts, extreme spit-ups, and just general stuff that comes out of babies pretty much all day.

With all of that, and the fact that I didn’t buy my newborn his own dresser for his clothes, we keep his clothes on the cart to grab with ease if anything happens to them. It’s also nice to help keep the amount of clothes we get for him smaller. Babies go through clothes so fast that it doesn’t make much sense to me for them to have a ton of clothes for each stage. Just a few PJs and about a weeks worth of daytime outfits has worked great for us.

BOTTOM - ETC.

HOME IMPROVEMENT: THE NEWBORN CART - This Wild Home

The bottom row is mostly just burp rags along with a hat, some socks, and any swaddles that aren’t in use.

Again, we try to keep a small amount of things for the baby because you can always just wash what you have. So we have a few burp cloths, only about 3 pairs of socks since they always fall off anyway, one hat, and two swaddle blankets. It’s so nice to be able to grab a burp cloth without having to scramble around. Or a swaddle when the baby gets fussy and we’re desperate for something to keep him calm.

So that is the newborn cart! Super convenient and easy to put together. Also, surprisingly easy to keep organized!

MY NEW MORNING RITUAL

MY NEW MORNING RITUAL - This Wild Home

A few things I’ve learned about myself:

  • I’m definitely a morning person

  • I really value alone time

  • I crave peace in my environment and day

All pretty standard stuff I’d say.

Really what it comes down to is, I like for my day to be predictable. I like having a purpose behind the things I do. And I like feeling like I have the time to do everything I want to do.

I’m always working to create some kind of normalcy to the day. Our lives shift a lot with a toddler who has needs and sleep schedules that are constantly changing. We just moved into a new home and Ian has moved into a new position at work which means his schedule will change up a bit and our environment is totally different. Plus, we’re about to totally change up our whole dynamic with the birth of our second child.

With all of this in mind, I’ve been trying to add a few moments of peace to the day. Some kind of activity to look forward to. Having these little rituals helps to stay on some kind of schedule and keep our days fairly predictable. It’s nothing huge or complicated. Just little things to look forward to so we can all stay on track.

MY NEW MORNING RITUAL

I have discovered mornings are very important to me. I never realized how much I love starting the day all by myself. Recently, Ian and I started waking up earlier than normal so he can be ready for work at a good time and since alarms wake me up on the first ring and I can’t go back to sleep after that, I decided to try this early morning thing too.

This has given me about an hour all to myself while Ian gets ready and starts his work day and Oliver sleeps or talks to himself. It’s amazing and is quickly becoming one of my favorite parts of the day.

GETTING READY

This part has stayed pretty much the same. I learned much later in life the value of getting out of bed and getting fully ready for the day, even if you plan on spending all day at home. It’s motivating being ready for anything. It gets me in motion, helps wake me up, and honestly give me an extra sense of purpose for my day.

Here’s how I get ready for my day:

  • Check my phone - weather, social media, etc.

  • Make the bed

  • Brush my teeth

  • Wash my face

  • Get Dressed

I try to not overload myself on getting ready. My wardrobe is small and my morning skincare routine is pretty simple so it doesn’t take me much longer than 15 minutes to get all of that done.

PREP

It may sound silly to “prep” for just 30 minutes of your day, but the last 30 minutes of this ritual are extremely sacred to me. I’ve recently learned the value in getting little things out of the way now so you don’t have to do it later. And that is the most important part of this little morning routine: starting my day peacefully. So this prep is pretty crucial to the whole system.

Prepping my morning:

  • Turn on coffee for Ian (prepped the night before) and start a pot of water for tea

  • Set up tea pot with peppermint tea

  • Empty dishwasher while water boils

  • Steep tea

  • Turn on diffuser (prepped the night before) - or light a candle when I’m in the mood

  • Open blinds to let in the sunrise

  • Share my first tea pour and the weather on instagram (I don’t know, I just like doing it)

Once the mood is set, it’s time to indulge in my favorite part of the morning.

My ME Time

Ah yes. This is what makes me hop out of bed every morning with urgency. Not stressful urgency, but excitement!

This is the part of my day that I have been missing basically my whole life. A peaceful, slow start to everyday. I’ve never been good about waking up at the same time everyday and once I started having kids I tried to take full advantage of all the sleep I could get. But this new routine has taught me the true value in going to sleep early and waking up early. It’s not for everyone, but for me it’s the perfect way to structure my day.

MY NEW MORNING RITUAL - This Wild Home

Here’s what I do for me-time:

  • Drink tea

  • Journal

  • Spend some time drinking tea and coffee with Ian

For all the hype, it may seem simple. But it’s exactly what I need. A moment to reflect on life, how I’m feeling. To get my thoughts in order and get a good idea of what I have to do and want to do with my day and life in general. I can get out any negativity, let in some positivity and all while I sip on something cozy and good.

When I’ve finished my journalling, Ian and I will take a few minutes to talk about anything. What we’re doing that day, how we’re feeling, politics, current events, the drama from The Bachelor, you name it.

Around 8 - 8:15am I’ll start breakfast while Ian lets the dog out and gets the boy ready for the day (aka slippers and a clean shirt) and then we all have breakfast together.

It’s a quick little ritual. I don’t need much time, but I definitely have found this is something I’ve been missing from my day and I’m so glad to be making time for it now.