If the former Takeout Queen could see this girl now– sharing ideas for family dinner that can’t be picked out of the freezer section– well, I hope she would be proud, but I’d probably have to scrape her jaw off the floor first.
It’s taken me longer than I’d like to admit to get here– “here” being the place where I actually enjoy preparing soul-warming dinners with my own two hands rather than pulling out a stack of paper menus from the take-drawer.
Do we still get take-out occasionally? Of course! I’m no Molly Poppins, you guys. And there’s a place in Omaha that just kills it with their falafel sandwiches and curry fries. About once every other month we’ll go out of our way to get those magnificent sandwiches or try a new local place. But gone are the days of the fast-and-furious meal being the rule, not the exception.
What was holding me back from making the effort to do more than grab a pizza on my way home or (gulp) out of the freezer?
As silly as it sounds, I think it was fear.
Fear that my toddlers would reject my labor of love. Fear that the time it took to prepare and clean up a meal with more than five ingredients would leave me exhausted and cranky at the end of the day. Fear that I would be a domestic failure.
Let’s get one thing straight- I’m totally a domestic failure, but I’ve learned to accept my shortcomings while, at the same time, continuously striving to push myself to be a slightly better homemaker than I was yesterday. When I really peel away the layers of why I reigned as the take-out queen for too many years, I realize that I was just striving for one aspect of my life to be simple. And if you’re reading this, perhaps like me your hands are forever busy changing diapers, folding endless piles of laundry, wiping tears, band-aiding boo-boos, loading dishes, and doing it all over again the next day. What you and I both need, my very domestic friend, is to make this whole mealtime thing one of the easiest (and dare I say most joyful?) parts of our days at home.
Without further ado, here are five simple habits you can borrow from me for limiting processed and take-out foods.
Stay on the outside of the grocery store. This one probably isn’t new to most of you, but do you always follow this golden rule of grocery shopping? The outer most perimeter of every grocery store is where the produce, cheeses, fresh meats, and eggs are located. The middle aisles are where you’ll be tempted to just throw in that boxed dinner with the cute packaging (“hey, it’s organic?!?). Try it once and you’ll be more likely to do it again!
Have a standing grocery list. Type it out and laminate it to make it fancy and usable (no offense to the wrinkled post-its I used to use). Love the foods that are on your list. Choose items that are building blocks for a simple, yummy meal. Always have an onion, eggs, a type of meat, a fresh vegetable, butter or olive oil, and a grain like quinoa on hand because VOILA! You now have the makings of a delicious and easy meal!
Don’t let the cupboards get empty. Because THAT is the moment you will justify picking up Chick-fil-A. It takes some discipline to stay ahead of the food stock in your home. I used to lack this very discipline, and I wondered why I would stand before the open refrigerator, willing food to magically appear.
NUMBER FOUR: Make your own version of your favorite take-out.
This one is my favorite, but I can’t take credit for it. One day, weeks into our commitment to just knock off this nonsense with fake food, I wanted to cave to tacos. My husband’s willpower is both admirable and annoying, and he reminded me that tacos are a pretty easy thing to make at home. He led the charge in making the tortillas from scratch (I know, he’s a keeper), seasoning the ground beef without those chemically-loaded pre-made packets, and picking tomatoes and lettuce from our garden to garnish. There’s no doubt in my mind that YOU can replicate your favorite restaurant foods at home with a little imagination and will power.
NUMBER FIVE: Baby steps are better than big leaps.
Don’t think about all of the bad habits you’re going to break. Think about today. Today you’re making food at home using your stove top or oven instead of a microwave. That’s it, no big deal. Today you’re not getting food passed to you through your car window. Easy enough, right? … RIGHT?!? Really, friend. Just one foot in front of the other today, and then do it again tomorrow.
I’ve seen the damage that processed and poor quality foods can do on oral, sleep, and overall health. And it’s just not worth it. Once you start ditching the drive-thru and getting a little braver in the kitchen, you won’t even want to go back to your old habits because you’ll see that your culinary masterpieces taste so much better anyway.
To your health!