Last updated on September 21st, 2018 at 05:55 pm
We live in the golden age of cooking. If your Facebook feed is anything like mine, you see it filled with dozens of short recipe videos every day. And like me, you’ve possibly saved a bunch of them, planning to get back to it someday. Then there’s Pinterest, an endless supply of food and recipe ideas. Yet even with all of these resources available, I still struggled to get dinner on the table every night.
The 4:30 Panic
Inevitably, the afternoon would roll on, and next thing I knew, it was almost dinner time. Not only had I not started dinner, I had no idea what I would make. Not to fear, right? I could just go check my trusty saved links and whip something together. Raise your hand if that’s ever worked for you.
It never worked for me.
The truth is:
- I was paralyzed by too much information.
- I was paralyzed by not having the right ingredients ready in my pantry.
- But mostly, I was paralyzed by the expectation that each meal should be amazing. My own expectation.
Perfectionism was the main thing keeping me from successfully having dinner on the table every night. Once I had a little talk with myself about my expectations, I began to see results. When I focused on the most important thing, it became easy to make choices and to improvise a meal (sometimes out of thin air.)
The Most Important Thing
That “most important thing” had nothing to do with the food at all. For me, and possibly for you, the most important thing was seeing my family gathered around the table every night. Don’t get me wrong, I love great food and so does my family, but I realized the food is secondary and a means to get to be together regularly.
Perfect is the Enemy of Good
Letting go of my perfectionist tendencies hasn’t been easy, but it’s been worth it! I still like to make fancy, pretty food, but I’m ok with something thrown together. There are nights when I just can’t pull something together, and we’ll still all sit around the table with our scrambled eggs.
Releasing my perfectionism has also allowed me to tap into one of my best resources: My children. My kids are pretty good cooks, but they make a lot of mistakes as they learn. They can break plates, or have other accidents while they cook. And they make huge messes! But you should see what they come up with. And letting go of control of my kitchen has set them free to explore food, and has set me free to work on other things at dinner time, with the occasional consultation. Honestly, there’s no other way I could prepare 189 meals in a given week!
This hasn’t been an overnight transformation for me. But if you also can see yourself in my story, here are some steps you can start to take.
1. Focus on the big picture.
If your priority is to have dinner with your family regularly, keep that image in your mind as you make other decisions during the day. Do everything possible to move toward that goal.
2. Eliminate mental clutter.
Stop pinning recipes that you’ll never cook. Stop saving sixty-second recipe videos on Facebook that give a false picture of how much work is involved. Focus on a few simple recipes and a small set of ingredients that you can make several dishes from.
3. Start small.
Eating dinner at home regularly with your family requires an entire culture shift in your home, but you’ve got to start somewhere. I recommend getting your kids involved now. Start with scrambled eggs. Kids can crack eggs (and love to) and the older ones can cook the whole dish!
4. Give yourself grace.
If you’re just starting out on this journey, there is lots to learn and a lot of messes to come on the way. Be ok with it. Be ok with dirty dishes, messy counters and ruined recipes. Keep the big picture in mind and give yourself lots of grace. Once you start having regular meals with your family, it’ll be worth the struggles along the way.
There’s a whole system of meal planning and prep that I’ve unwittingly developed as I’ve cooked for my family of 9. I’ll be teaching parts of it through a series of posts, but this is a crucial step that all the remaining pieces rely on. Decide on the Most Important Thing and let’s get there, together.