Before I became a working Mom, I home-cooked every spoon of food that went into my child’s mouth. Jars of babyfood were unknown in our house and I even baked my own bread. I had time to go shopping in farmers’ markets and browse delis and speciality shops, for the freshest, best-quality ingredients. I was privileged to be able to do this. I had put my career on hold, and although I was cash-poor, I was time-rich, and I look back on those years with my daughter as very precious ones.
But the idyll of those early years with my growing child had to end if we were ever going to own our own home. When I became a busy working Mom again, it was quite a jolt! Suddenly, as sure as my finances shot up, I became time-poor and energy-poor. It was the classic working mom’s dilemma.
I felt like Munch’s painting ‘The Scream’. He must have painted a working mom!
I was a wreck, juggling so many things and not having the time to do anything well. Cooking and the running of the house seemed to get squeezed out. Like many working Moms, my shopping consisted of unplanned, grab-and-run forays into the supermarket and I hardly ever had time to cook properly the way I used to. My daughter was happy enough with what I was feeding her and sending her to school with. It was the same bought rubbish all her friends were getting! But I knew, on a deeper level, it did not nourish her properly, or satisfy her true needs. We had both been incredibly healthy up to that point. “You two are freaks! You just never get sick!” my working-Mom friends used to joke. But now we seemed to pick up every bug that was going around. Besides the obvious affect on our health, I hated the very notion of feeding my precious child awful ready-meals and snacks, not to mention the unhealthy ingredients they contained.
But I was struggling to maintain my integrity and principles, in a world that was hostile to them. Too busy and too exhausted, the pizza in the freezer, or the processed cheese junk, with the cartoon character that she liked, often seemed the only solution.
Trying to do everything, tearful and exhausted, I felt like I needed an angel to arrive in my kitchen and sort out my cooking, meal-planning and food shopping. Feminism hadn’t prepared me, or any of my generation for how difficult it would be to juggle career and doing the right thing for our children. We were the generation who thought we could have it all!
I knew I had to work out a better way of living. I realized that it wasn’t just cooking that was the problem. It was also shopping and planning. Thinking about what food to eat was actually the hardest part. I needed to reorganise my life, now that I was a working Mom, juggling far too many things. My difficulty with home-cooking was a symptom of a bigger problem—the problem of how I organised my life. All mothers have to be organised. But working mothers who commit to feeding their children well, have to be even more organised!
If I could fix my system of living, cooking would be easier. I needed a new, efficient way of planning meals, because I no longer had the luxury of deciding spontaneously, from day to day, what I would like to cook. My life as a working Mom was a treadmill and my challenge to myself was to build old-fashioned home-cooking into my 21st century existence.
One weekend, I wrote a long list of all the dishes I loved to cook and my daughter loved to eat. I worked out a way of planning, week by week, what we would eat and what I needed from the shops, so I would have everything to hand. To save time and effort, without compromising on quality, I reckoned many dinners could be served up again in the following day’s lunchbox and used as a base for another dinner.
I decided many meals could be made and stored in the freezer until I needed them. A lot of cooking could be done at the weekends, and could get us through the week pretty well. And cooking would be much easier if I knew what shopping I needed in advance, instead of planning menus as I trailed the supermarket aisles.
The more I worked it out, the more it seemed to be a question of planning and thought, rather than just cooking. The more I could plan everything in advance, down to the last detail, the easier it would be during my working week. I wouldn’t have to think all the time: “What will I cook for the dinner? What will I put in the lunchbox? Have I got all the ingredients I need? Will I have to dash to the shops on the way home?” This is what I call the ‘Mom Mental Shuffle’. I think we all do it, as we commute home from work, frantically trying to plan meals as we drive, or sit on crowded trains and buses.
Using my list of possible ingredients, I drew up pages of checklists for everything I would ever need to have in stock, to cook any dish from my list. I got my daughter to work out what she would like to eat, on each different days of the week. I made a meal-calendar and cross-referenced it to my lists.
Once I did this, everything to do with food became so much easier and the time I invested in planning it all soon paid off handsomely. I had out-sourced my cooking brain, and no longer had to carry it around in my own head all the time!
Of course, this all went against my natural preference for spontaneous cooking and being inspired by what fresh food delights I came upon in the markets, from day to day. But that kind of lifestyle was a luxury I could no longer indulge in, now that I was a working Mom. Being more regimented about everything, at least meant we could still eat as well as we used to, when I had a lot more time.
And so the Good Food Survival Plan was born. I created it so save myself and I became my own Good Foodie, that helper I wished for on those tearful days when eating regular home-cooked, healthy food, seemed like an impossibility.
Then a funny thing happened. Other children carried news home of what my daughter had in her lunchbox. Other mothers heard tales of my child’s unusually healthy eating habits and became curious. They asked my advice about how they could stop their children eating junk and I was frequently ambushed at the school gate for meal ideas. Soon I was photocopying recipes, explaining how I juggled through the cooking week, recommending Healthy Eating books and sharing my philosophy of food with my fellow parents. They too were living difficult lives, just like me, just like you. And just like me and you, they wanted to do the best for their children. But the 21st century is a harsh time to be a parent. They were desperate for help. Most working Moms wanted to do what I had done, if only they could find a way. We all need a Good Foodie in our kitchens to help us manage our difficult lives. I developed a system which walks you through the thinking process of all the issues involved in building sustainable healthy eating habits into your lifestyle. This website is for working parents everywhere, who, like me and my friends and colleagues, are struggling to feed their children well in our time-poor world.
I hope you enjoy!