The Value of Meal Planning and Habits

Well, after my last post, I found myself unable to do a whole lot to work toward my new goals. How terribly disappointing, right?

My situation at the moment is that I am stuck in bed nearly all day, everyday due to hyperemesis gravidarum. The resulting difficulty I am having is getting enough calories to ever stand up, let alone actually do anything. Unfortunately, a lot of what I have planned in my goals will only be realistically achievable once I have given birth (hopefully in the next month!) and I can adequately nourish myself again.

In the meantime, my prayers to know what I can do to bless my family and work on my goals have been answered!

While collecting recipes, I came across the idea of writing down what dinner will be each night in the upcoming week… ahead of time. That’s right: meal planning. Of course, I’ve seen this idea before; it’s hardly an unusual one!

The difference was that this time the Spirit gave the idea an added oomph so that I didn’t pass it by yet again. I confess I’ve passed by the idea multiple times as something overplanners do rather than something that might help us.

I began to think. This might bless my family even now while I am unable to cook at all… even now, while my body tends to react most violently to healthier food… even now, while we are eating easy-prep processed foods… couldn’t planning out our meals still potentially bless us?

With my extreme illness, and with my husband at work or commuting a staggering thirteen hours each weekday, we’ve been basically scrounging through the fridge and pantry for snacks at dinnertime instead of eating a real meal, so here, the answer was clearly YES.

We’ve been “meal planning” for about two weeks now, and it has been a great success.

Even with me in bed, not able to do a lick of food prep, my husband now comes home and, on autopilot, if you will, starts the quick dinner idea we wrote down earlier.

James has expressed appreciation multiple times for this; it seems we had underestimated the amount of work it was to simply decide what to eat each night! It was often more work to try and think of something to eat than it was to actually prepare dinner. Wow, that’s lame (what a first world problem), but in all seriousness, it blew my mind when I realized it because it was true.

Have you ever thought about that idea? Decisions are hard work! This is why good habit formation is so important, especially the “little” decisions!

Here’s the thing about habits. They decrease the amount of effort it takes to do things. Let me say that again: habits decrease the effort involved in action!

That is profound.

My husband took the Top Performer course from the bloggers Cal Newport and Scott Young; it was essentially a self-improvement course on how to be more awesome and productive. A common motif from Cal’s blog Study Hacks is this: plans and habits form the scaffolding for a productive life.

There are lots of ways of to sabotage yourself from doing awesome, productive things. Your habits, or lack of them, can create unnecessary friction when you are trying to get into the smooth glide of productivity.

And humans are very good at getting out of productivity, yes? It is terrifyingly easy to sabotage yourself from doing something awesome, even something terribly important.

Case in point, when my husband had to decide what was for dinner each night, that little expenditure of mental energy was often enough to sap his motivation to cook a real meal, and so we’d snack instead. Bummer.

Adding in the meal plans removed that “unnecessary friction”, as Cal would call it, and enabled James to make us dinner without feeling overburdened.

So, we’re not eating healthily, not yet. But, we ARE eating dinner together each night, which is a vast improvement. And, while dinner still doesn’t usually settle well for sick me, what it does do is keep my kids and husband better-fed and in a better mood for the evening.

Such a small change, but with such remarkable results! And that reminds me of a treasured verse from the Book of Mormon:

Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise. (Alma 37:6)

I challenge you, dear wonder worker, to find a small, simple thing you can change that will bring great things for you and yours! If you cannot think of something, ask the Lord, “What lack I yet?” à la Matthew 19:20… And then do it!


One thought on “The Value of Meal Planning and Habits

  1. Pingback: Nature Study in a Suburban Backyard | To Work Wonders

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