Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Busy People Eat, Too!

Now that graduate school is officially underway, my barely-working-part-time-with-hours-for-discretionary-cooking days are probably indefinitely suspended. Of course there's no saying how things will play out until the coursework really picks up and priorities like personal hygiene even seem like a long-lost luxury.

This should be an interesting phase in life for many of reasons. The first being that I love school and have always felt in my best element when privileged with the role of "occupational scholar." It's no secret that this M.A. opportunity has been a long-time coming. My career of choice would easily be "life-long student" and I've been known to openly admit that I enjoy paper-writing. It's a weirdness akin to hating the beach and summer... I know.

The second being that now, with my more hands-on, cooking-intensive eating style, I will have to find ways to juggle mind-melting mounds of reading and writing with the conscientious feeding of both myself and the hubby.

I am determined to make both work. 

In fact, I honestly can't see myself making much of graduate school when run down with physical neglect (and that includes sleep and exercise)! Diet, lifestyle, and vocational excellence (school, jobs, parenthood) are all mutually interdependent and are therefore worthy investments. No matter how hair-rippingly busy one's schedule might be, no amount of running on fumes and convenience-food is going to make staying above those waters easier.

Insert Lydia's face here...

Hopefully, if I can devise a decent system, it will help to debunk the "I-don't-have-time-to-eat-right" myth ("or feed my family right," for that matter). Since the all-consuming time investment that grad school IS can arguably stand alongside the busyness of family-rearing, I'm going to consider myself a "mommy" of academic excellence and contend that if I can find a system to maintain this family's health and energy via food, anyone can!

First I have to make sure I can accomplish said system, so stay tuned to see how I do... :)

1). The first thing I've managed to put into place is a "Passing Ships" meal-plan. I have class three nights a week (exactly during the "dinner hours"). So, for all intents and purposes, Zach is left to forage for dinner on his own those evenings.

The image that comes to mind is that of a lonely, bereft man poking through drawers and cabinets and going to bed hungry... Depressing, I know. And it's not that my very capable hunny can't feed himself, but that food is such a low priority for him (something I'll never understand!) that he probably won't. 

However, since I have the mornings at home, I've devised a plan: I make a simple lunch (since I need to eat anyway) and put the extras in the fridge for Zach's dinner! Yesterday I used some needed-to-go veggies in a stir fry and threw some brown rice in the cooker. Voila! And since there's always leftovers in this tiny house of two, we have a no-brainer option for bagged lunch the next day.

Today I'm thawing leftovers of "cream" of broccoli soup and making a simple loaf of herbed bread to pair it with. (Dough takes 1 hour to rise, 35 minutes to bake... not bad, especially since you can walk away and bury your nose in a book while things cook!)

Tasted fabulous warm from the oven with cashew butter on top :)

2). Packing food to bring on campus is so easy it's ridiculous. I've been bagging my own goodies for months now and have yet to see how buying mystery food when I'm out-and-about is any more time-saving than munching on my own groceries and left-overs. Buying out certainly isn't money-saving, either.

I have a little insulated backpack that I snagged from Wal-Mart for $8 that I can use for long days. Yesterday I packed some cold quinoa cranberry salad, cut cantaloupe, and a jar of carrot juice for dinner. Granted I probably looked like a crunchy bag-lady on a park bench to any on-lookers, but it was worth it! :)

3). Another thing I'm planning to do is rely more on one-pot-meals, smoothies, and salads. Smoothies have never been time-consuming and the more greens I pack in them, the more school-power I'll have for the day! Soups are going to be an easy staple. Step 1: throw things in pot. Step 2: let them get warm. I defy you to find someone who doesn't have time for that!

All in all, eating this way has the capacity to make you feel and perform better than ever. It's a system of easy returns: while the stresses of school, conquering the corporate world, or wrangling little ones can make us more susceptible to viruses, exhaustion, and chronic illnesses, taking some time to invest in proper nutrient-dense eating is simply fueling ourselves for the fight! Resist the urge to relegate good eating to the bottom of your to-do list or to feel like you need to default to frozen pizzas and delivery menus to keep your sanity.

Who knows. You might actually be surprised how therapeutic wholesome cooking can be and find yourself a new health-boosting hobby!

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