Okay ladies, what does this little age-old question evoke in you? Do the creative juices start flowing as you think of all the delicious meals you know how to make to nourish your family with? Or do you cringe with sinking dread as you stressfully rack your brain for last minute ideas, wondering if you have all the ingredients? Or perhaps every night is a blank stare into the fridge and pantry wondering, "what can I make with chicken breasts and a can pinto beans?" This post has been brewing in me now for a couple weeks. I think the answer to the question, "What's for dinner", has a telling and important answer for each of us. I think we can agree that we as women were created to nurture those around us. For centuries and longer, a big part of the way women have nurtured those they love is through the preparation of meals. I know most of us have read Proverbs 31, and perhaps some can't see how it applies to the modern woman. But consider too that we may be called to do things differently, to be different, than our culture's modern woman. Verses 14 and 15 say,
"She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls."
Verse 27 goes on to say,
"She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness."
There are qualities the Lord gives us here that transcend the time in which we live. "She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar...". What can we get from that? Another question may clarify. Why would a woman travel a long distance for food when there most likely was food to be had in her own village? My guess, she had something specific in mind, a plan, a menu, and knew where she could get that special or higher quality ingredient. The next verse says, "She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls...". What is the virtue here? The woman described here is willing to make the sacrifices necessary to feed her family good food. Perhaps she is waking up early to prepare a healthy breakfast, maybe to make early preparations for the big meal of the day. But whatever the case, she is working hard, doing what it takes to nourish her family well.
Let's face it, we live in a culture of laziness when it comes to matters of the home. With more and more women working outside the home, culture has moved right along with this shift creating all kinds of gadgets and foods to "make things easier". To name a few, the microwave, frozen meals and fast food restaurants. But in making things easier, we have NOT made things better, coming from a nutrition standpoint. Before I say a word more, let me just say that I fully realize the pull and crunch for time the working woman must face. I do not cast judgement on women who work in the payed world; some of my dearest friends juggle work, parenting, homemaking, and marriage and are doing an amazing job! The fact is, the more we put on our plates, the more that vies for our time and attention, the more work and effort and planning it will take to do right by our families in this area. But it CAN be done! It should be done.
Before I begin to sound preachy, let me say that the primary reason this post has been on my mind is because I have failed at feeding my family well on numerous occasions. I have been lazy or ill-prepared, or just plain not in the mood to cook some nights. We've made our runs to Taco Bell, called for pizza, or thrown in those frozen meals, I couldn't go on with this without you knowing that first. In looking at my own shortcomings though, I am learning and growing, and I hope that's what we call all do together:).
Some women were born with aprons on, you know who you are. You LOVE to cook, have always loved to cook. The desire, the ability, the creativity comes naturally to you. Most likely your mothers loved to cook too and were teaching you how to do it from the ripe old age of three. Or perhaps it's a hobby to you. Your job is a little easier in this department than it is for others. But what would you think if I told you that I believe you can learn to like cooking more? More importantly, what would you think if I said that God sometimes asks us to do things we don't like to do? Do we really think it will fly to say, "I hate cooking, that's why I don't do it."? Could we say that about the care of our children in other ways? Can you imagine a woman saying, "I hate changing diapers, so I just don't do it," or "I hate getting splashed by bath water, so I just don't bath my children." Most of you are laughing at this point, but do you get my drift? If we only knew half of the harmful things, and lack of nutrition likewise, that are in most processed, frozen, or fast foods, it would make us ill. There are some amazing books out there on eating healthy, and I hope she doesn't mind but Andrea has some good suggestions (I have them on my reading list). Another book on my list is "You, The Owners Manual". The Christian title would read, "You, the Temple's Manual".
Before I get too long winded, which I fear I may have already, let me share some practical tips that I've found helpful.
1. Create a menu! I try to do one each week and then make my grocery list accordingly. A menu is a list of complete evening meals you will make, including side dishes, for each night. We usually have one left over night and one out to eat night each week, so that's only five meals, not so bad. Our breakfast and lunch meals are generally pretty simple and don't require much menu planning, I just go straight to the shopping list, but some day I hope to get a little more gourmet for these meals. (Note: This may take a little longer if you don't already have a repertoire of meals you know and like, but as your list of meals grows, this won't take so long I promise.)
*Schedule time in to make your menus. If you shop on Monday morning, maybe Sunday night you make your menu and shopping list.
2. Simple can be just as nutritious as gourmet. There are plenty of simple, delicious meals that your family will love and won't have you slaving away all day long. There are many cookbooks and websites filled with these.
3. Don't be afraid to try something new. Even if it's a flop, you will have learned something in the process. Just keep some nutritious soups on hand for back-up, brush yourself off and keep going.
4. This is one I haven't done yet, but am inspired to start doing. Keep a list of meal hits divided into categories, like main courses, side dishes, desserts, etc... This way, you can refer to these lists while planning your menus. I've found that half the battle is remembering all the great things I've made in the past. Travis said the other day, "remember that curry pumpkin soup you made, I really liked that!" I had completely forgotten about the soup. A list like this will help immensely in my menu planning I think.
5. For those of you working moms out there, or those who foresee periods of less time to cook, consider doing some freezer meals. There are many meals that are freezer friendly and can be made ahead of time. You can pull these out to thaw in the morning and then throw them in the oven when you get home from work. Then all you have left is preparing your veggies and other sides and you're done. I've heard of these neat groups of working moms who get together once a month and cook all day long making these freezer meals. Then they divide them all up and they're set.
All this said, I hope we can walk away from here energized and ready to do what it takes, not feeling defeated, but ready to be powered by the Lord to be the kind of wives, mothers, and queens of our domain that we've been called to be. Let's take captive those thoughts that would have us think we can't do this, or that it's really not that important and run to the cross. After all, we can do ALL things through Him who gives us strength. We ARE the proverbs 31 woman, we've been made new in Christ. It's only through Him that we can LIVE and ACT as we ARE. And let's encourage one another along the way. We will never arrive, let's just keep sharing what we're learning along the way. If you have more tips to add, please share!