This is Part 1 of a collection of posts used to help write my book The Famiy Dinner Solution
I was talking to my friend’s mom about how she did dinner when her kids were little. She mentioned how every parent needs “the 5 meals” to rotate — a fish dinner, vegetarian meal, meat dish, etc. I realized after our talk that maybe family dinners happened more frequently back then because meals and planning were simpler.
In 2014 I worked to revamp my kitchen and have had some successes. But recently I have been more serious about simplifying. I realized there are just too many distractions around. So I stopped my subscription to a cooking magazine and have given away the cookbooks I don’t use. I have been focusing on the meals that work for us and what I want to see on my table in 2015.
We live in an era where “tips for a better life” are everywhere. For example, I recently read a headline recommending 50 ways to simplify your life. 50! Just reading that made my life more complicated. I think we have made things more difficult than they need to be and that includes meals.
I’ve been reading a lot about “decision fatigue,” something that happens when our brains get overloaded with decision-making. It’s like when you feel exhausted after a not-so-busy day but your mind was getting a workout. Consider the sheer amount of products you have to choose from and outfits to wear and play dates to plan and grocery stores to shop at and…
This article explains how very successful people, like the President, avoid decision fatigue by removing small decisions, like what to wear:
This is all related to the concept of decision fatigue. This is a real psychological condition in which a person’s productivity suffers as a result of becoming mentally exhausted from making so many irrelevant decisions.
Simply put, by stressing over things like what to eat or wear every day, people become less efficient at work.
In order to simplify, I want to master a set amount of meals and put them in a continual rotation. After looking at my meals and considering what I want to make the magic number seems to be right around 30. Of course, I will make changes periodically based on the season and new meals. I have worked my way up to about a dozen of these “go-to” meals but I want to more than double that. And the best part? I am done with traditional meal planning.
Although meal planning has served me well it has never brought me what I truly want — a kitchen that runs smoothly without the crushing effects of decision fatigue. There’s still the last-minute runs to the grocery store or nights when I think, “that was a bad choice.” And more often than not, I turn to the go-to meals I feel the most comfortable making.
This is why I’ve stopped posting meals plans. I felt like I was contributing to the meal distraction ever-present on the internet because I believed it was my job to give you more and more ideas. But now I realize this is not the type of contribution I want to make. In a nutshell: I’ve come to believe that less really is more.
Here are benefits of prioritizing, simplifying and rotating meals:
- Assign jobs for kids to help prepare since meal prep becomes so familiar.
- Discover kid-friendly sides that work for different meal themes.
- Ensure a good variety of food from each of the food groups.
- Prep ahead of time such as freezing sides or main meals.
- Rotate food items often enough so they become familiar to children increasing food acceptance.
So for the month of January, I’m kicking my cooking into gear. I will post 30 meals by the month’s end (some days I might post 3 meals, other days 1). I will let you in on my thinking behind each meal choice and hopefully inspire you to come up with your own masterful meals. This means I will be posting more than usual but this will only be for the month of January. Come February, I will be back to one or two postings per week.
Are you up for the 30 meals in 30 days challenge?
Posts Included in the Series:
1. 30 Meals in 30 Days Challenge
2. 30 Meals in 30 Days: The Plan [Next]
3. 7 Dinner Rules That Will Transform Your Family’s Mealtime
4. The Side Strategy that Saved My Family’s Mealtime
5. If I Had to Start From Scratch Feeding My Kids, This is What I’d do
6. 6 Kitchen Shortcuts That Really Work (And Why)
7. The Family Dinner Solution Launch Party
Want to see the final product with all the recipes and strategies? Check out Maryann’s book The Famly Dinner Solution: How to Create a Rotation of Dinner Meals Your Family Will Love