My partner and I are busy people working in the field of live events planning and producing. When we’re not at our day-jobs, we’re typically working on freelance projects, he as a sound designer and audio engineer, and I as a theatre and performance art producer.
I always dreaded the question, “What should we have for dinner?” After a full day of work, sometimes one that started at my desk at home before going to the office, the last thing I wanted to do was make another decision…let alone a meal. Figuring out what to eat in the evening often resulted in angst and fights or one of us saying in frustration, “Let’s just go out.” We would end up eating food that wasn’t very good for us and often wasn’t even that good. We were destroying our food budget every month and not saving as much as we wanted to. We both enjoy cooking, but found ourselves without the energy to go to the store and then make dinner at the end of the day.
Beyond that, without realizing it, we were creating a negative and dysfunctional culture of eating within our home, one that doubled-down on my own anxiety issues. In the last few years I’d made huge strides in my self-care (pat on the back!), but I had a big blind spot when it came to food. It was one of the few areas in my life in which I was still letting anxiety regularly rule my decision-making.
A really helpful and simple self-help tool that everyone can use, because we all have bodies, is HALT. When you’re feeling upset or anxious, ask yourself, “Am I hungry, angry, lonely, or tired?” Usually, one or more is contributing to your mental state, and tending to that first tends to help make you feel better about whatever it was upset you, supposedly, “in the first place.” (It can also help you try to stave off “The Sneaky Hate Spiral.”)
Apply that tool to the dinner scenario. Trying to make sound, healthy, time-sensitive decisions while both of us were hungry and tired, sometimes even angry about something that happened at work? A recipe for disaster! We knew we had to change something.
I realized, with the help of my therapist, that what really stressed me out about the dinner conversations wasn’t actually about eating–it was about having to make decisions quickly at a point in the day when I was ready to start letting my decision-making brain relax. My husband and I needed a solution that would provide more structure, while still being flexible enough to accommodate our somewhat erratic work schedules in which a meeting or an event could get slotted in with only a week or so of notice. I looked at some meal planning sites and menus, but I knew we would need something that could incorporate my pickiness (I’m not that bad), our highly variable schedules, and our love of cooking.
Enter the “Night of the Week Plan.”