Asserting control over my reality during a difficult time

When J was in hospital for 3 weeks last year, I was stressed. Very, very stressed. I put the kids into daycare again (Thursday and Friday), and her mum came to stay with us and take care of them the rest of the time. I need to point out that having J’s mum stay with us was not what made me stressed. What I was stressed about was worrying how long J would be in hospital, whether she’d get worse or better, and how to make sure the kids knew enough about what was going on.

One of the coping strategies I implemented in short order was to write weekly meal plans. We had a number of A5 sized notebooks around the house, which worked out to be just about the right size for what we needed (especially given my terrible handwriting).

Here’s an example. This week’s list is fairly standard, though there’s only one veg-only meal and we’re having a lot of salad right now because it’s ETOODAMNEDHOT.:

The meal plan


chicken stirfry noodles


bbq miniburgers/steaks with salad


chicken wraps with salad


J’s butter chicken


pesto pasta and vegies


chicken and pumpkin risotto


bbq snags and salad

The miniburgers are those you can get from our local Coles in a pack of 8; they’re just the right size for the kids. The chicken wraps are our excuse to get something vaguely Mexican flavoured into our diet, rather than merely lots of Italian and Chinese inspired dishes. The kids don’t need to have the guacamole or any salsa, so J and I can have just a bit more of it to ourselves.

Nothing particularly unhealthy in there, nothing particularly flash. What the plan does give me, though, is time. I know roughly how long each meal takes to prepare, so if I work backwards from the ideal on-table window being 5:30-6pm (we like to get the kids bathed+dressed and A in to bed by about 7pm), then I know when I really have to stop for the day. I also try to work with the assumptions that 100g of meat per adult, 50g of carbohydrate (pasta or rice or spuds) per adult is about sufficient, assuming that we have pretty much free reign with veggies and/or salad to bulk things up as required.

This meal plan idea worked sufficiently well for us that we have kept it going and don’t expect to stop. It helps us keep our portion sizes in order, helps with the grocery bill since we can then plan just what we need each week and don’t wind up with a pantry or fridge that’s full of food which could go to waste, and helps relieve time pressure too. Wins all around.