Let’s talk openly and honestly for a moment, shall we?
Sometimes, I eat prepared foods. Boxed cereal, chips, store-prepared pizza dough, marinara sauce, salsas, breads, and *gasp* even Velveeta cheese once in a blue moon. Sometimes, we even order pizza out.
Sure, in a perfect world with an infinite amount of time, I’d make my own granola, pizza dough, salsa, tomato sauce, bake my own bread, and have everything we eat made completely from scratch. Heck, I’d even age my own cheese. I enjoy cooking, and many times, what I could make from scratch could likely be cheaper, healthier, and tastier.
But this is the real world. And in the real world, I’m not a superhero.
(Yes, that’s me, in the muddy superhero costume in the photo. Complete with muddy “beard”. But it’s just a costume – the cape hangs in my closet a lot more often than it’s on!)
I get up before 5AM every weekday, just so I can squeeze a workout in before work. I commute over 2 hours each day. I have a full time career completely unrelated to my blog or cooking. By the time I get home, I am mentally exhausted, and on a good day, have 3 hours from the time I hit the door until I need to be in bed…and I need to make dinner, clean up, and maybe even spend time with my husband (and my step-kids, if they’re over), so I am not interested in spending 2 hours in the kitchen every night. There’s also typical household chores, family activities, and I am fortunate enough to squeeze in two indoor soccer games every week. I make cooking a priority, and most of the time, I enjoy it, but there’s just only so much any one person can do. So many meals are simple, and sometimes, they utilize pre-made ingredients.
And I’m alright with that.
I know I’m not alone. Most Americans work, and even if they don’t work full-time, they are away from the home with children’s activities or other obligations, or are stay-at-home parents that cannot break away for any length of time to cook a complicated meal. Or maybe all of the above. Most of us want our families to be well-fed, and we want to provide nourishing, balanced meals. And many bloggers, myself included, have shared nourishing, delicious recipes for foods made from scratch. But I think that perhaps what gets lost in these posts is the “real world” aspect. Some awesome people out there really do manage to make most of their foods from scratch – I am thankful for those people and their recipes! But I know that for me personally, it’s just too much. I plan meals, and I cook a lot of things in large amounts and eat leftovers, but otherwise, I’m allowing myself to take “shortcuts” when I can. I use some boxed foods. I microwave. Store-bought rotisserie chickens are life-savers. Canned sauces make pantry meals a snap. The list goes on. No guilt.
Does that mean we don’t eat a healthy diet? Of course not. We eat a balanced diet consisting of a large variety of foods, and yes, the majority of our meals are still cooked at home. But there was a time when I worried that those shortcuts were compromising optimum nutrition. In reality, it was stress over nothing – we are thriving and healthy. But even moreso, that elimination of mental stress over diet is WAY healthier than spending hours worrying over everything we eat.
So right now, if you’re stressing about being able to juggle the holidays plus your normal obligations, and are worried that all you can manage to make for dinner is spaghetti from a jar and dried pasta – you are not a superhero. Do what you can, when you can, and simply things whenever possible. The holidays definitely add enough stress all by themselves.
For some quick and easy recipe ideas, check out my Quick and Easy section on my blog.