The highs and lows of parenting and real estate.

How Meal-Planning Saved My Life

For my Wednesday food post this week, I would like to discuss: Meal Planning. If we are Facebook friends (and if not, WHY NOT? Is it because you’re talking about me behind my back? Because you know we can still be friends on Facebook and then when you want to make a status update that says, “Dude, did you see what Elizabeth Newlin is wearing today? Honey, Halloween is still five days away, put the sequined leggings back in your closet.” But you don’t want have some awkward confrontation where I comment, “Um, listen, Sweetheart, just because you don’t have the calves for sequined leggings and your mama didn’t teach you how to accessorize your way out of a paper bag doesn’t mean no one else can pull them off.” you can just hide that status from only me. I don’t actually know how to do it, but I totally have a friend whose mom is all, ‘How come you never post anything on the Facebook, Dear?’ even though this friend is Booking Face constantly. So friend me. Even if you like to make fun of how I dress. End Tangent.) you probably see my regular weekend status update about how I’m slogging through meal planning and think, “Oh, really? And now you’re scratching your ear? Thanks for the news flash. My life is now complete.” And you’re so right. It’s one of those things I feel compelled to share that is absolutely not interesting, informative or entertaining. I should stop. But instead I’m just going to do a whole blog post about it.

I’m not going to say meal planning is as fabulous as the cure for Polio or anything, but it’s maybe as good as the vaccine for chicken pox. Not very many people ever died from chicken pox, but it sure saves a whole lot of calamine lotion and parental PTO days now that kids don’t get it any more. Meal planning doesn’t make our family perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but it does keep me from locking myself in a closet so I can curl into the fetal position without my kids pacing around me saying, ‘Oh no, did Mom forget to buy herself Diet Coke again?’ at 5:15pm every day. The end of the day, when I’m starving, frazzled and out of patience tends to be extra difficult for me, and planning out our family dinners a week at a time has been the key to my survival. Let me give you a little illustration of why I’m so into Meal Planning.

Nightly Internal Conversations Before I Meal-Planned:

Wow, today sucked even worse than yesterday, who knew that was possible? I’ve been on the phone with lenders and clients for the last 10 hours and I’m pretty sure the kids are in the backyard tunneling under the block fence. It’s 5:03pm and the last thing I ate was half a free jelly donut at the office meeting at 10am. I’m so ravenous the cat is starting to look delicious. There is no conceivable way I can convert the contents of our pantry (5 cans of diced tomatoes, microwave popcorn, a package of bunny shaped novelty pasta from last Easter and a packet of powdered Hollandaise sauce) into anything edible for dinner. There is also no way I can put the kids in the car, drive to the store, brain-storm what to buy that can be converted into dinner and get home without running over the teenager who puts away the carts from the parking lot in a hunger rage and then make dinner and eat before midnight. We’ll surely all die before then. The only option is to call Jason and beg him to stop and get Chinese takeout on the way home. Well, or I could drink a bottle of wine and eat the microwave popcorn and make Jason and the kids fend for themselves. That’s better parenting, isn’t it? I’m teaching them the art of survival. (2 hours and $45 in Chinese takeout later) I hate myself. That was gross and I’m bloated with salt, grease and MSG. And $45! What the hell? I’m a financial failure; that’s ridiculous. And I just practically fed my children poison. Sweet and sour pork with white rice and fortune cookies has zero nutritional value. I’m a parental failure too. I better still drink that bottle of wine to dull the shame of my shortcomings.

Nightly Internal Conversations After I Meal-Planned:

Huh, is it really possible I just showed 9 houses in four different cities to 3 different clients, burned $40 in gas, and I still don’t have a paycheck on the horizon in the next month? Oh and it’s 4:45pm and we all just shuffled through the door from the 3 sets of child pick-ups, but child #1 needs to be dropped off at soccer in 30 minutes. Is it wrong to hope I am skewered by a stray arrow in the next 3 minutes? There could be archers practicing nearby. I’m just saying it could happen. OK, but it says on the list here on the fridge that I have everything needed to make a quick baked spaghetti with mozzarella, fresh basil and garlic bread. That actually sounds kinda nice. I can drop child #1 at practice and come home and dice garlic and cut up chunks of mozzarella and have a nice cold glass of Pinot Grigio. It’s always socially acceptable to have a glass of wine while cooking. Jason will pick up kid #1 and be home just as the pasta is finished baking and then I won’t have to hang myself from the curtain rod upstairs. We can sit and have a nice dinner. One foot in front of the other. I can do this.

So I’m curious: How many people out there don’t do a weekly meal plan? If you don’t, how do you make life work? I’ve been doing it for over a year now and I don’t think I can ever go back, but I’d love to know if there are other systems I’m not considering, or maybe I’m just a giant 5pm baby. Have I morphed into a ridiculously rigid, unspontaneous, fun-sucker? It’s possible. I do like to go to bed early.

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