Relishing the Speedy Meal


I *kind* of remember the days when I would plan, prepare and share gourmet meals with my husband and friends.  The shopping for special ingredients, the long prep times, the lingering over a simmering pot with a glass of wine.

Things are a little different now.  My life simply necessitates a different approach: highly organized weekly meal plans, once a week trips to the store for groceries, streamlined shopping lists and a strong emphasis on quick to prepare meals with a simple list of ingredients.  These are the hallmarks of my cooking experiences these days.

There’s a lot of benefit to this new way of doing things.  We save money by keeping our meals simple.  We emphasize fresh fruits and vegetables in our diets which boosts our health.  I’m efficient and productive with my time by organizing my weekly food needs and meal planning.  Food costs don’t spin out of control because I don’t impulse buy any longer.

But I have noticed one aspect that I’m not happy with.

It seems that I’ve assumed a different perspective when preparing meals for my family now, which probably stems from this very efficient, time-saving approach.  I now prepare and cook meals with a more frenetic and harried manner.

It’s true, the time I have to cook is much shorter than before, but I no longer truly enjoy the little time I have to do it.

Many nights my husband will take sole-care of the kids for 30-45 min so I can get dinner ready and on the table without little hands grabbing at the counter with me.

So I actually have the kitchen to myself (most times) and, yet I rush around, hyperfocused at the task at hand as if I have a boss over my shoulder timing me.

I seemed to have let the “quick meals” mindset strip me of enjoying the preparation of the meal.  Even though I am not multi-tasking or being interupted, I act like I am.  I’m chopping, scrambling, slicing and stirring with a factory-line workers mentality.

And I am sure that this energy flows straight to the dinner table— “let’s go guys and get this dinner done so we can move on to bath, floor game time, books, bed”…bang bang bang.

I’ve decided to change this.

Just as simple as that.  I decided to stop going down that paradigm and recreate something new with my meal prep time— and it’s been fantastic.  Giving myself this time to enjoy has made space in a busy day for me. I’m more mindful and relaxed, right at the time of the day when I’ve often hit my most frazzled.  It’s transformed our dinner time and resultant evening time into something much more peaceful and enjoyable.

Here are some suggestions to help calmly prepare your quick meals:

1.  Use music Music that you love– gets you grooving or relaxing or just plain happy.  If there is music that you love but your family doesn’t (and so, like me, doesn’t tend to get played)- that’s the music you may want to put on- try to make this a special time.

2.  Light a candle The calming and soothing aspects of candlelight happen even when other lights are on in the room.  It’s a quick, simple way to acknowledge that you are deeming this time to be spent differently.

3.  Wear an apron  This may or may not work for you, but if you like aprons- try it.  Like the candle, it is sending a message that you are switching gears and now you are cooking a meal, a task that you are enjoying and can give your full attention to (for however many minutes you have).

4.  Think about why you are doing this and who you are doing it for This is probably my favorite.  I spend time in my thoughts about the nourishment and care I am giving by providing a meal; nutritious, delicious and made with love (which means a lot).  And the people I am preparing for– those who I want to nuture and give something to.

You do not have to be making a 5 course gourmet meal.  Pizza and salad can be served as loving and nourishing as lobster– remind yourself of your intention and you may even find new special ways to present and dress up your meals– (a sprinkle of basil on top of the pie that may not have happened before.)

5.  Smile This works many times in my day- but just choosing to change our moods with a (admittedly fake) smile at first, normally helps a genuine mood follow.  I like to put my apron on, turn on the music, light a candle and let out a goofy big smile.  It’s kind of dorky, but man, does it work.

6. Use the Time to Check-In Use the food prep time to slow down and notice your breathing— A great time to slow our mind and give our body some deep smooth breaths is when we do things with our hands or bodies that are repetitive, like weeding, walking or chopping carrots.  For me, I naturally tend to pray when I am quietly and calmly doing simple work with my body or hands.

Using these precious few minutes to decompress from a busy day has really blessed my life.

It is a way that I’ve learned to “fill up my cup” from a day that may have felt draining or frazzling.

Do you also feel rushed during your dinner prep?  Do you have ways that help you slow down and enjoy the process?