How to Reduce Stress in the Kitchen… and in Your Life
It’s 6:30 on a Tuesday night. Your meeting ran long and you’ve been stuck in traffic, starving and cranky. You stumble through the door, irritated and exhausted. Just when all hope for a decent evening seems lost, you open your refrigerator to find the makings of a delicious, colorful meal that you can have on a plate in less than ten minutes. (Sounds of angels and trumpets)
You change into something cozy and just like that, you’re digging into a big, warming bowl of soup with a side of lemony quinoa and grain -free chocolate chip cookies for dessert. You mentally thank the considerate person who thought ahead and made all this food.
(That person is you.)
If you’ve been around here for a while, you’ve probably heard me sing the praises of Sundays at the farmers’ market and getting organized for the week after that. It sounds like I’m overselling it, but it’s not an exaggeration to say that food prep has changed my life. It has exponentially reduced my stress, halved family meal gripes, and made it easier for everyone under my roof to eat healthier
When you set yourself up for a week of healthy eating, you’re so much more likely to succeed! You’re reminding yourself that you and your health are a top priority.
To get you started, here are my recommendations for stress-free meal prep:
If you’re not in the habit of meal prepping, don’t overdo it with three pots of soup, two different snacks, and 15 pounds of produce. Start with a few dishes and go from there. Whip up a batch of granola to add to your homemade yogurt. Slice red peppers, cucumbers, and carrots to eat with the hummus. Throw some grains in a pot while you roast a few root vegetables and prep all the colorful veggies for fresh salads.
When we keep things doable and fun, we’re more likely to keep doing them – which is the whole point, right?
Be just prepared enough
I wouldn’t really suggest heading to the market with a long, itemized list. Surprised? I also don’t usually cook from recipes during the week! So, what do I recommend?
Have a loose idea of your coming week and how you can prepare. Do you need protein bars to help you get through your afternoon slump? Will you have early meetings all week, toss together some overnight oats for the easiest breakfast option? Let your week (and seasonal produce) guide your shopping decisions.
Make plenty of ‘base’ foods
If you include quinoa in most of your meals, make a huge pot of it. If you toss roasted sweet potatoes into your meals, throw two trays in the oven. If you always start with a leafy green salad, wash and slice those greens. If your family loves beans, make extra to add to lunch and dinner bowls.
Think about the foods around which you center your meals and prepare enough of them to get you through the week.
Involve your friends & family and have a good time
It’s easier to get your partner/child/roommates in the direction of better choices if you involve them in the process. Ask them which of your recipes they like the best and invite them to join you at the farmers’ market. Encourage them to pick out the colors of the rainbow and stock up on the tomatoes, squash, and avocados that they love so much.
When you get home, have a good time in the kitchen together. Turn on some tunes, pass them their own cutting board, and enjoy each other’s company as you chop, peel, roast, and grill.
View it as self-care
Instead of thinking about batch cooking as a huge effort, try reframing it as time you give to yourself to make an investment in your health. That change in thought alone makes a pretty big difference!
And if you’re still not convinced, imagine how thankful Future You will be when she opens up her fridge mid-week to discover an array of prepared fruits, vegetables, soup, and snacks.
Show Future You how much you love her: Make her something good to eat.