As a mom of two young children, I have often thought that I wish that we didn’t need to eat; that we could just get our nutrition in a way that didn’t require so much WORK.
But, alas, God chose to create us the way that He did, so let’s make the best of it. Let’s enjoy our food. That’s actually not hard. There’s sooo much good food out there. But enjoying the process of getting the food to the enjoyable state? Ugh, that’s just more work.
“Dinnertime is often rushed and chaotic – a rowdy capstone on a busy day rather than a sacred respite from busyness.” (Pg. 45)
Reading that sentence was convicting.
Simplifying Meals starts in the space where those meals come to fruition – The Kitchen.
1 – Declutter
Start in food spaces (i.e. fridge & pantry) and then move on to storage spaces (where cooking tools and equipments are stored). Paring these spaces down to only what you need and use shaves precious minutes off of meal prep time, which means more minutes to enjoy the good stuff.
2 – Create Zones
When putting items back after decluttering, group them into zones. Think about how and where you use items and place them accordingly. This isn’t going to be able to be done perfectly, even in the most customized kitchen, but start with that as your goal in mind and get as close as you can to the end result.
3 – Beware of over-organizing
Don’t be swayed by pretty matching containers and labels with perfect hand-writing. While those tools can be helpful, they can also complicate a process unnecessarily. If maintaining an “organizational process” is complicated and taking too much time, then it’s not worth it. The goal of organization should be simplifying and making things easier and quicker to do.
Pretty bins may make things easier to find. That’s great. But they may also add another step to your grocery process that doesn’t end up saving you time in the long-run. That’s not great.
4 – Make Mealtime Special
Create patterns or traditions that focus on the relationships with the people with whom you share your meals. Emily Ley suggests saying a blessing together, using the meal time to talk about the day and creating an atmosphere that makes the time together set apart (she suggests doing this by using your best dishes and tableware). The food on the plates doesn’t determine this atmosphere – your heart and mind do.
Meal Planning is an integral part in simplifying meals.
3 Tricks to Successful Meal Planning
- Start with your family’s schedule and plan meals accordingly
- Be realistic about what you are willing to cook and the time you have to do it
- Create a list of tried and true recipes that your family enjoys and that you know how to make well
Planning meals saves time during the week and makes dinner prep simpler. Who doesn’t want that?
HOW you meal plan (i.e. weekly, monthly, choosing meals without assigning them to specific days) matters less than creating the habit and making sure you do it. Don’t overcomplicate this process and don’t try to reinvent the wheel with each meal.
One of our family’s favorite traditions is “Snacky Supper”. Every other Sunday night, we have Bible Study where we have potluck suppers. On the Sunday nights when we don’t have Bible Study, we cut up meat and cheese and put them on a tray with crackers. We put fruits and veggies on another tray and bring it all to our TV room where we enjoy “Snacky Supper” while watching a show or playing a game. Our children literally shriek with excitement when it’s “Snacky Supper Night!!!”. It’s the most pathetic excuse for a meal, but at 3 and 5, each of our kids already have fun memories of a special family time.
The thing about meal planning is that we all have to eat and we have to make the decision what to eat and we have to buy the stuff to eat. Making those unavoidable decisions earlier rather than later saves time and puts us in a frame of mind to be able to enjoy the process together when we’re not ‘under the gun’ to get food on the table.
Read more on Emily Ley’s Blog about Simplified Meal Time.
At the end of each chapter, Emily Ley has a ‘Simplicity Challenge’, which are 5 steps that you can do right now that make big strides toward achieving your goal.
Comment on each blog post with the number of simplicity challenges you completed that week. I will track each person’s progress (this is a total honor system thing) and the person with the most challenges completed at the end of the book will get some swag. Like good, helpful swag. No clutter-y stuff.
Don’t forget to take photos of the process AND the progress and use #simplifiedsummer so we can all celebrate together!