I could not be more excited to talk about how things went during week 3 of my Simple Food project!
This week was completely nuts for me. Not busy like the previous week was when I was running my oldest daughter to rehearsals every night and spending my weekend wrapping brownies and trying to schedule life around performances – it was nuts because it was the second week of working with my toddler to improve her sleep.
I am really proud of myself for being consistent with her; consistency, predictability and following a schedule are not always my strong suit (at least since having children) so this was a really big win for me.
The difficulty stemmed from the fact that, even after two years of terrible sleep, even though I thought that I couldn’t possibly feel worse or more sleep deprived, I actually did. My little one caught a cold last weekend and I had to kiss my one hard-earned full night’s sleep goodbye for the rest of the week. On top of the fact that I was actually getting really poor quality sleep, I felt mentally discouraged because of this setback. Of course I supplemented reality with some stories of my own invention about how this was now to be my life – sleeping close to a child who could get to sleep independently and almost put herself back to sleep independently, but who needed to cry out and wake me about 5 times a night.
I was in a dark place.
Physically I was a wreck too; sleep deprivation doesn’t look good on anybody, but I often wonder if there is something about having an autoimmune disease or two that magnifies the effects of sleep loss. It sure feels that way to me!
All this to say, my actual menu for the week started off as I planned it, but towards the end of the week became almost completely unrecognizable. So all weekend as I was mapping out this post in my head, I figured I would talk about failure and getting back up after you fall and all of that…
Except that I realized that was not at all my take-away for this week! As I wrapped up the week on Sunday and headed out shopping for this upcoming week, I realized that I didn’t fail at all – I’ve just been holding a really rigid definition of success, and that to successfully live with and manage a disease like celiac, you have to have a more fluid definition of what success looks like, in so many ways.
Let me move on to a detailed look at the week: financially, I spent a total of $247.21 – a whopping $52.79 under the weekly budget! That was with 5 out of 7 days involving a trip to the grocery store to pick up something we needed. It’s becoming more and more clear to me that these extra trips are more about poor planning than anything else, so I will be restructuring the way I shop a little – I will keep my big shopping trip on Sundays, but I will intentionally add a smaller trip on Wednesday or Thursday for highly perishable foods that I need for the second half of the week. This means that instead of winging it after Sunday, I will do a better job of planning out exactly what I need to pick up and when. Apparently eggs are a problem – we are constantly running out between eating them every morning and not factoring in how many I need for baking. Two of the trips this past week were exclusively for eggs! I will also do a better job of actually looking at what I need for the baking I plan to do during a week. That usually contributes another whole trip to the grocery store, yes, on top of the extra trips for eggs. There is nothing simple or time-saving about my current mode of operating!
Looking at the actual menu and what I changed this past week: I changed one breakfast outright (Saturday) because I’ve developed a new obsession with crêpes. You should definitely check out my facebook page for pictures and the basic recipe. Lunches ended up being a totally different story – aside from swapping them all over the place, I also abandoned my decision to make the lentil dip and instead just settled on hummus for those two lunches. By Friday I didn’t have the energy required to chop veggies to make a veggie sandwich, so I just fell back on almond butter and jelly with some carrots and oranges (an easy, quick lunch that my kids will eat). The veggies left over from not making that sandwich we ate on Saturday, so not much ended up going to waste either. I dropped two dinners this week that I had planned; one was the improvised soup I planned to make this past weekend, the other was the turkey burgers I had planned for Friday night. Instead we used the ground turkey to make a tasty spaghetti sauce. For the other dropped meal, we also made pasta with a tomato-based sauce. My husband also stepped in a took over the main role of cooking towards the end of the week and through the weekend.
The change in dinners ended up adding some expense to the week because there was a ridiculous sale on the gluten-free pasta that I like, so my husband bought 15 pounds of it. Seeing as we don’t normally eat a ton of pasta (apart from this week, of course), that should last us quite a while.
So given all that chaos, I want to talk about why this past week was a win, because I think it’s really important to look at that piece of the picture.
- I stayed under budget. WAY under budget. We found workarounds and adaptations that didn’t sacrifice our budget or result in a lot of food waste.
- Everyone was happy with the last-minute substituted meals and ate well, even though I was tired and low on energy. This has not always been the case in the past when I was at my most sick.
- We still met the “improvised meal” requirement that I set up, even if the two substituted meals were very similar and simple. The idea, after all, is to keep food simple!
- I was able to abandon the guilt that I normally feel over not doing something “perfectly”. This one is the biggest win for me; I am a perfectionist by nature and have suffered from the delusion that if I can’t do something according to my definition of “perfect”, it means that I’m a failure. Paying close attention to my food, spending and menus, as well as what I had going on all week allowed me to bring awareness to what was happening, the feelings behind it, and to reframe it in a more realistic and helpful way.
So my big takeaway this week is just that: planning menus and setting budgets isn’t done to be restrictive. It’s done to bring awareness to what you are doing, which has the effect of dramatically simplifying things. It was so much easier to adapt when I started really struggling this week because I had this framework in place and I had already purchased the food for the week. That is so much simpler than how a week like this would have ended up in the past!
With all of that said, I offer you the menu for the upcoming week. You’ll notice a couple of big differences this week from the previous weeks:
- I’ve planned to do two large meals that are intended to last two days each. I planned this because of how last week went, anticipating that I might continue to be very tired, and possibly even more tired since I am tackling a new project with my little one this week. We love leftovers here – we pick dishes that reheat well and whose flavors develop with each day, and we love how easy they are! This will also allow me to go to yoga class twice this week, which I’ve realized is critical for my mental and physical health.
- I only have one improvised dinner (scheduled for Friday). I’ve traded the other improvised dinner for two lunches – Monday and Tuesday. This is because it can be difficult for me to think on my toes when I’m really tired and I felt more inspired lunch-wise this week. I’m all about keeping enough flexibility in my project so that everyone eats well and things run smoothly (and simply!)
January 24th through the 30th:
Breakfast: Waffles with fruit and maple syrup
Lunch: Leftovers from the previous week
Dinner: Sautéed chard with salmon
Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with green onions and cilantro, toast
Lunch: Chicken wraps with peppers and cilantro-lime dressing, kale tahini salad
Dinner: Delicious Pakistani Dhal with brown rice, green salad
Breakfast: Crêpes with herbed mushroom filling
Lunch: Crackers, veggies and hummus
Dinner: Wild rice with kabocha squash, steamed broccoli
Sweet treat: I’m still working on the Oatmeal cookie recipe; it will have it’s own post when I’m happy with it. The post will be all about how to modify a gluten-based recipe to make it gluten-free (hopefully the third recipe adaptation is the charm!)
Savory treat: Roasted spicy chickpeas
I hope you’ve gained something from reading about my difficult week; I think it’s critical to remember that we define our own success, and that there are many ways to adapt and work within limits that we need (or choose) to set for ourselves. Being rigid and harsh with ourselves doesn’t encourage simplicity or help us progress towards our goals, but gentle awareness and honesty does.
Have a wonderful week, and as always, please feel free to leave me comments or email me with any ideas, concerns, or other thoughts you may have.