Sometimes life is hard. Am I right?

Sometimes it’s a little hard…sometimes it’s medium hard…and sometimes it’s a lot hard. There seems to be no real way to avoid this. It’s just the nature of living on planet earth. Even when we make good choices, sometimes hard things find us.

We are going through a season of “hard” here at our house. 

I’ve been facing some health challenges that have sent me through weeks of testing and waiting. At the end of all the testing, we still don’t really know what is going on. On Monday, I will have surgery to determine the source of the problem. What waits on the other side of Monday is a giant unknown for our family.

That unknown is excruciatingly difficult. Thankfully I have a strong mind, body, faith and trust in God, family and support network. For these things, I am grateful.

Besides the unknown, the thing I find hardest during difficult seasons is that life keeps going. Time marches on. It’s such a hard reality to face in the middle of grief, in the middle of challenges, in the middle of the unknown. Time…it marches on. And, as much as we try to slow it down, it keeps moving. And we must move with it. 

The reality is – no matter what we are facing – work needs done, bills need paid, kids need school, tables need wiped, toilets need scrubbed, and people need to eat.

Even though I am tired, not feeling well, and weighted down with uncertainty, my family still needs to eat. Every single day. And that can be challenging!!!! It is challenging for me right now. So, I figured I would take this time to share with you what we are doing to keep our family fed in the middle of this challenging season. 

My hope is that you can use these strategies in your own life when you are finding it hard to get food on the table every night. Maybe you are not facing a medical crisis, but you are in an extra busy season of life. Maybe you are weighted down with your responsibilities or battling depression or anxiety. Or, maybe you’re just plain tired. If this is you, hopefully these strategies can help.

1. Lower your standards

I list this first because it really does start here. When going through a rough time – or a super stressful or busy time, start by lowering your standards. This is not the time to win the “brownie-baking mother-of-the-year award” or to try out for “Top Mom Chef”. It is a time to meet the basic food needs of your family in the most basic way. This does not mean to start feeding your family junk food! Just means to start by asking – what are the basic needs of my family and how can I meet them in the most basic way?

2. Simplify your meals – then simplify them even further

This is a piggy back off step 1. This is a time for SIMPLE meals. Maybe even a time for food that’s “just food” and not even a meal. Check out this blog for an explanation of what I mean. Basically, you want to break down your food needs into the simplest version of a meal that you can – and be content serving that to your family and eating it yourself.

3. Get help

Sometimes, when things are hard, we have to reach out for help. Ask yourself….Is there anyone that can pick up some groceries? Can I utilize curbside pick up? Is grocery delivery available? In the middle of hard times, it’s important to monitor the amount of energy you have available to spend on food (and other activities) and delegate as much of that out as you can. Is there someone you can call to help you with basic food prep, someone who can bring over a meal or two?

Then, of course, don’t forget to ask for help from people living in your home! Get your spouse and children involved!!! To read more about how I involve my children in the kitchen, check out this blog here. Times of crisis, time crunch, or extreme stress is not the time to train your children to help you in the kitchen. So, now may not be the time to get your kids involved – you may have to wait until things ease up a bit. Bottom line…use your creative juices to figure out how you can get the help you need. 

4. Plan for shorter batches of time

I typically plan a 2-week menu and try to do the bulk of my shopping 2 weeks at a time. That is not physically possible for me right now. I am currently shopping for about a week at a time. But, during this stretch, there have been a few times that we were shopping for just 3-5 days at a time. Know that, in the end, this actually takes more time and energy – AND raises your grocery bill.  But, when you simply don’t have the energy for large shopping trips right now, back it down to what you can handle. 

5. If at all possible, increase your food budget

In the middle of a time when you have less time or energy to spend on food, you may have to spend more money. The cheapest store for me to shop at is Winco. Currently, I don’t have the energy for Winco, so I am shopping at smaller stores that are easier and quicker for me to get in and out of. This increases my grocery bill some. That’s ok. 

I am also utilizing more convenient health food options. Things like: sliced apples, bagged salads, pre-chopped veggies, minute rice, and pre-cooked chickens. I know it is better for my budget, my health, and the environment for me to make these things from scratch.  But, I can’t do that right now. Choosing healthy convenient foods IS more expensive, but ultimately it may help meet the food needs of your family with the energy available. Ultimately, it’s cheaper than getting take-out.  

Which brings me to #6…..

6. If at all possible, increase your take-out budget

I’ve got to be honest. At the end of the day, when life gets really hard, sometimes you have to increase your take-out budget. If you can afford to do this, do it – with no guilt or shame. If I can’t afford to do it, I lean harder into steps 1-5.  

I figured I would share with you what my family will be eating this week – while I recover from surgery.  This way you can see an example of what a semi-frugal, semi-healthy, ultra-simple meal plan can look like. You may not like everything on the menu, but hopefully it will give you an example of the type of meal plan you can put together when things get hard, stressful, or too busy to a normal food plan. 

Here is my menu:

  • Pasta with meatballs
  • Rotisserie chicken with yellow rice and salad kit
  • Fried rice (using leftover chicken and rice)
  • Soup (using leftover chicken and rice and adding veggies)
  • Roast with potatoes and carrots
  • Stew (using leftover roast, potatoes and carrots)
  • Steak
  • Fried rice (using leftover steak)

I know this is a heavier topic than normal around here, but hoping this helps you when you face extra busy, stressful, or challenging times.

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