I often find myself eager to enter a more organized rhythm of my life at the start of the New Year. After the joyful, yet lax free-for-all that is the holiday season, I am ready to make some plans and eat my vegetables, both literally and figuratively. I think you would be hard-pressed to find many people who are not ready for a refresh on many things, including what they are eating when January rolls around.
With that in mind, I try to bring myself out of the anything-goes mentality of December and get back into the rhythm of meal planning, shopping regularly for groceries, and yes, doing some prep on the weekend that makes things a bit better for the upcoming school and work week ahead. Being intentional about my meal planning at this phase in my life means balancing the needs of growing kids, a husband who travels (or used to!) and myself, who works outside of the home as well.
While everyone does not enjoy meal planning or cooking the same way as I do, eating, feeding, and caring for people isn’t going anywhere, I would argue spending some intentional time planning it out is worthy of a second look regardless of how you feel about the act of cooking.
Prepping and planning is the gift of time for later. This may seem obvious, but when I spend a few hours Sunday afternoon storing up short cuts for the week, I am investing in my future self and gifting myself time. What will I use that time for? Maybe, I will use it to bake a loaf of bread for a neighbor, or maybe sitting on my daughter’s bed and watching her draw or tell me about her day. Maybe it will allow me to schedule some prayer or rest time. Regardless, by being intentional with few focused hours, I know I have banked some real-time. Instead of spreading a bunch of jobs over the week, I get them out of the way in a few focused hours. This translates into less mental energy spent daily wondering what I am going to make, less doing the same repetitive jobs over and over, and less kitchen cleaning up (huzzah!).
Prepping and planning food ahead of time also means I am more likely to make wholesome nourishing choices when I am tired, frazzled, or hungry. We all need to eat, and it would be best to eat well, providing quality and wholesome nourishment for our bodies and those we are tasked with caring for. Making a salad for lunch is so much easier when I have pre-washed greens and dressing pre-made. But if I need to throw together a vinaigrette at 7 am before I leave for work, chances are I am going to be searching for another option. The same is true of my kids. When I have carrots pre-cut and sitting in ice-cold water visible, guess how many carrot sticks get eaten? All of them. All of them get eaten. If they have to dig in the crisper for carrots? None get eaten, but all the goldfish do.
I am not here to convince you that meal planning and prepping has to exactly be enjoyable, but I am here to argue that it can be a worthy effort in pursuit of other goals. It can be a purposeful preparation for an upcoming feast–whether that feast is more time when you need it, or whether it is the actual act of feasting and nourishing your body with wholesome food. Embracing a preparation rhythm into your January can be a refreshing change that sustains you.