When thinking about marriage, one of the aspects that caused the most anxiety was the thought of cooking meals for somebody else. My senior year I had a meal plan at the sorority house as well as on campus for being a resident assistant. Even if I wanted to cook, I lived in a dorm so my options were pretty limited. This summer I moved into our house for 6 weeks before the wedding. For the first time in a while, I had to think about food and how I was going to eat. I was more than okay with cereal for dinner and sandwiches every day. The truth is, I was terrified of being really bad at something. I had cooked some at home and could handle the basics but had never really had to consistently prepare food for myself, let alone for someone else.
The last six months I have learned so much about food. Not just about what I’m eating (Whole30) but what it symbolizes and why it matters. The table is more than just a place to sit and eat meals. It’s a place to invite people and welcome them in; not just into the kitchen but also into life - both the pretty and the messy parts. I love this quote from Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist:
“I think preparing food and feeding people brings nourishment not only to our bodies but to our spirits. Feeding people is a way of loving them, in the same way that feeding ourselves is a way of honoring our own createdness and fragility”
Along the way, I’ve learned a ton of practical things as well. I still have so much to learn but I’ve come to see meal planning and food preparation as something to be enjoyed and not dreaded. With Taylor working full time and me in grad school and working 8-10 hours a week, we’ve had to fine tune the balancing act. We’ve figured out how to plan ahead, shop better and stick to the budget. Here are a few things we’ve learned along the way:
- Plan ahead. I try to sit down on Saturday or Sunday and map out what we’ll have for dinners for the week. I know that Thursdays we have our community group so we’ll only have to bring a side. If there are any birthdays or events going on that week, that’s one less night to plan for. We try to get everything we’ll need in one trip so that we aren’t constantly running down the road to the neighborhood market. The less you go to the store, the less money you spend.
- Make extra. Having leftovers in the freezer has been HUGE for us. It means cooking less and really stressful weeks we can pull something out in the morning and let it thaw all day. It also helps not having to eat the same leftovers for so many days in a row.
- Price match and don’t be afraid to use coupons. We always check the Aldi ad for produce prices and then price match at Wal-Mart because its closer to our house. We don’t consistently use coupons but if I know that we need toothpaste/laundry detergent/toilet paper, I try not to buy it without one. Products that aren't necessarily "name brand" are just as good at a fraction of the cost. I'm a huge fan of trekking across town to Aldi - don't forget your quarter!
- Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone and try new things. And if its a flop, Eureka Pizza is never too far away. Most of the things we love are so simple they probably don’t even count as recipes. Here are some of the foods we’ve enjoyed along the way:
Pinterest is so handy for meal planning - you can find me here. Have any must try recipes? We would love to have them!