By Janice Russell

Do you have a large family and find that you are eating dinner at all different times? Are you single and eat out more often than you eat in? Does the thought of cooking a meal overwhelm you? Are you experiencing weight gain due to too much fast food? Let’s discuss how a little organization will decrease the money spent dining out and facilitate good health and reduced stress from eating healthy meals.

First, identify all factors that prevent you from preparing family meals. Is it difficult to get everyone to the table at the same time? Do you dislike meal-planning or grocery shopping? Do you lack time to cook? Is your kitchen cluttered? As appropriate, include other family members in this identification process. Once the meal-inhibitors have been identified, generate a list of possible solutions. For example, maybe it is time for you or other family members to “say no” to current or upcoming obligations to free up time to eat together or to cook. Having some set menus and therefore setting shopping list items could lessen the stress associated with meal-planning or grocery shopping. Eliminating unused kitchen appliances, dishes, etc. will help cut kitchen clutter.

Second, map out a two-week menu. For example, the first Monday is spaghetti with salad and rolls, the first Tuesday dinner is stir-fry chicken with vegetables and a side of fruit, etc. It is okay to designate a night for dining out, for instance, the second Friday is pizza night. If you want to be more creative, you can have marinated chicken breast on the first Wednesday but cook up a double portion. Then freeze the leftovers and use them in a chicken and rice casserole for the second Tuesday. As appropriate, include other family members in creating the two-week menu. Once the rotation is set, a standard grocery list can be generated. Then when you go shopping, you will know exactly what to buy, with the exception of stables that you need to restock. If you are fortunate enough to have a teenager, they should be able to take care of the shopping.

Don’t worry; you don’t have to keep the same two-week rotation forever. You can change it every three, four, or six months as you wish. If someone gets a “cooking bug” and wants to make something not in the rotation, live it up!

Third, be prepared for backsliding. You may go “great guns” for awhile and then one night you just don’t feel like cooking. Or the thought of what is on the menu just doesn’t “strike your fancy”. As long as it is the exception and not the rule, give yourself a break. Also realize that there will be times of crisis in your life that may necessitate breaking your meal routine for a period of time. The last thing that you want during a turbulent time is add anxiety by feeling that you can’t depart from the schedule. If for a week or more you decide that your meals will consist of whatever you can get your hands on, then so be it. After the emergency has passed, resume your meal routine.

If the thought of planning and implementing healthier meals is still overwhelming, put the new plan into place over a period of time – it doesn’t have to start tomorrow. Maybe it takes two weeks to identify your meal-inhibitors, two more weeks to formulate the rotating menu, and one additional week to produce the grocery list. That is fine! As long as you are making progress, you are on track.

Wishing you happy and healthy meals!

Janice Russell, CPO-CD, is the Overseer of Order at Minding Your Matters® Organizing Consultants. The company consults with business and residential clients with the intention of decluttering and organizing space and time to effect changes which will lead to attainment of personal and professional goals. Seminars on a variety of organizing topics are also available. Janice is a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers and the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization.