Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Anxious about meal planning? Here's one small tip to help

We're all here at this blogpost for the same reason: Dinner dread. Planning, prepping, executing, serving, sitting--even if you've got a fabulous partner and kids who are pitching in, this is not an easy task.

So let's take one small step to reduce dinner dread and get everyone fed:

Use Google Calendar to make yourself a Meal Calendar.

It's simple to create. You can set an alert to remind you on your phone. And it takes a ton of stress out of the daily "what's for dinner?!" question.

All you have to do is think of the basic dish you want to serve on a particular night, and set up your reminder. 

Here's how to set it up:
  1. Head over to https://www.google.com/calendar/ and login with the Google account you want to use.
  2. On the left sidebar, you'll see a red "Create" button. Click it.
  3. Title your new event "Prep dinner" and have it start whenever you want the reminder. You don't have to actually prep the entire dinner at that time. It can be set in the mornings as a reminder to just pull the spaghetti out of the pantry and leave it where you'll see it later, closer to dinner time. Even just chopping one onion for later helps.*
  4. Be sure to click the "Repeat" box and choose to have the event occur weekly at the same time.
  5. In the description box, write the basic dish you'll be making (keep it very basic so you can tailor it week to week; see below). Click Save. 
  6. Do this for each day of the week. Think of a main dish and a couple of sides you want to eat or have for leftovers. Think of your schedule: Is Monday evening super busy? Let it be sandwich night. Every week, you'll know you have Sandwich Mondays. The filling can change (and so will your prep work), but now you know roughly what will be on the table. There, doesn't that already feel better?  Keep the sides simple, too: Toss some baby carrots into a bowl and some dressing on the side, steam some broccoli in the microwave and you're done for Mondays.

Of course, it's more fun to have everyone in the kitchen if you've got kids and adults around who are able. And with your new calendar, it'll be much easier to assign tasks and get dinner served.

* This is my #1 favorite technique for busy people-- do little 5 minute tasks ahead of time. I learned it from Debbie Koenig, who calls it "naptime cooking" in her fantastic cookbook "Parents Need to Eat Too." Ain't that the truth. I give this book to everyone as a baby shower gift. The slow cooker chapter itself is worth it. Check it out!

** More inspiration for 30 minute meals, like this Green Bean Salmon Salad I tried and loved, at Sunset.com.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Top 3 Tips for Blogging When You Feel Nervous About Blogging

Because I've been holding up my own blogging, I needed to write this post. What's my deal, bro?

1. Know Your Audience (this #1 tip brought to you by Lizz Winstead)

Who are you writing this for anyway? Speak directly to and for them. This is for them. Remember that and the fear (aka "perfectionism") often evaporates.

If you know anyone who might fit the bill as a desirable reader (eg, your friends and family), ask them to come comment. If you don't want to go that route, then imagine a person reading your blogpost and getting something out of it. Write just for that person. Ignore the noise of everyone else. The older I get, the more I joyfully embrace the fact that I will never please everyone. But the people I care about, they're the ones with whom I want to have this dialogue.

Or just write for yourself. Tell yourself you're never going to publish the post. There's nothing forcing you to publish it, and there's so much satisfaction to be gained from getting the words out of your head and onto the paper or screen. So just take that small step.

And then trick yourself and hit Publish before you can stop yourself.

2. Channel your inner frat boy.

You know who I'm talking about. The big guy who wears a backwards baseball cap, or maybe a power suit. He doesn't know what the hell he's talking about any more than anyone else does-- not really. But the guy is just so damn confident. He acts like everyone should be listening to him. He shuts others down because HE has to talk and make his point right now-- he's not waiting for the talking stick. And you should be darn grateful he's here.

Yes, this guy is annoying. No, you don't want to be an arrogant ass. But think for one minute about what it'd be like to just *act* like this. Not even out loud if that's too much. Just in your head for a second, try it out. "Everyone, listen to me. I've got the idea that's gonna work." For one minute, don't worry about cutting anyone off or hearing anyone out. For one minute, just write whatever you want to write and believe that it's God's gift to humanity.

This can really work wonders.

Then go back and edit that. But you've got something on paper/onscreen because you've gotten past your own silencing politeness.

3. Let your blog be a blog.

I've decided to adopt the philosophy that a blog is a place to experiment. This blog is a public place, so I don't want to be TOO messy. But I also don't want to wait for perfection. I want this blog (and my much more dashed-off tumblr blog) to be a blog, not a novel, not a poem. It might communicate something useful, or give someone a needed break, or inspire someone to write a comment or to write their own blogpost. On a great day, it might approach beauty.

And it's ok if today is not that day.

So go forth and blog! And please do share the link to your blog below so I can check yours out.