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Kickstarting your week: Do the hard things first

Catherine Al-Meten

Do the hard things first

Kickstarting your week after a long weekend, perhaps even a week’s break or vacation, may seem antithesis to how you feel. However, sometimes, giving yourself a boost involves tackling the hardest things first. Once you have accomplished one difficult or seemingly overwhelming task, you will feel so much stronger and able to get more accomplished than you ever imagined.

Today, the sun was out early, and the day’s schedule requires me to be out until late this evening. Rather than sleeping in or lounging around, I woke early this morning, wrote a couple of articles, got dressed, and headed for an early yoga class. Monday yoga classes often aim to get us moving and today’s class was no exception. It felt good to do some core work, get some heat generated, and push myself just a little bit after a weekend of sedentary lazing. Afterwards, I went to lunch on the pier with a friend, and we both allowed ourselves some time to eat a good, healthy lunch, sip a cup of coffee, and share some uplifting conversation.

Back home for a few hours, the choice was mine. Before I head out tonight, I could do any number of things, but what is on the back of my mind is the refrigerator. When seasons change, so does my appetite. For some reason, there seems to be “nothing in the refrigerator.” That is not true, but what is in the refrigerator needs to be managed better than I seem to be doing it. I sit here imagining what’s in there--the pea soup remnants from a week ago, several cut lemons, half a pound of sliced meat for sandwiches (but no bread), grapes, milk, eggs, and a number of other items in covered containers. What to do?

Instead of putting off and letting my imagination go trying to figure out the last time I cleaned the fridge out, I decided to tackle the hardest thing first. Our thoughts are energy, and when we carry a heavy burden around in our head or heart or body, it tends to cause us much more stress than it would if we would begin taking care of whatever it is that has become a burden. One good friend got me thinking when she wrote last night that she tricked herself into getting her house cleaned by promising a reward of time to paint afterward. Another friend told me of how rather than complaining about her lack of space and inability to find time to do her art, she rearranged her living room, studio, and office to accommodate her real life. Rather than storing everything, she created a working studio--paints, brushes, canvases, and supplies out and ready to be used. We often spend way too much time contemplating how to arrange our space and use our time.

When stewing over my refrigerator, I was doing so because I want to do a better job of planning, preparing, and partaking of my meals. As things were, before tackling the refrigerator, things were such a mess I had no idea what I had to work with. In just 15 minutes (the time it took to clear the fridge, take the trash out, and clean up), I was able to get this main part of the home in order. Now after all the years of listening to the Splendid Table’s Lynn Rossetto Kasper, I am ready to tackle the next big chore-planning and preparing some healthy, delicious meals. For those of you who are not familiar with the Splendid Table on NPR, there is a segment Kasper does each week where listeners call in and give Kasper a list of 4-5 ingredients they have in their cupboards and refrigerators, and Kasper concocts a recipe for using all ingredients to make a meal or appetizer.

Creating menus, finding recipes, and making a shopping list . Creating menus and preparing food is a necessity, and when I get into the habit of sticking to the routine, it works beautifully. When I get out of practice, I waste a lot of food, and do not eat as well as I should or could. On Wednesday, I do my monthly major grocery shopping.

Today and tomorrow, I am working on creating some menus for the next few weeks, and coming up with a list of recipes and ingredients for my shopping list. It is also time to go through the cupboards and see which staples I am in need of (rice, beans, honey, tea, condiments, spices). I shop for produce, dairy products, and meats when I need them so the food is fresh. For ingredients I use regularly for soups, salads, breakfasts, lunches, and dishes I make regularly, I stock up on ingredients. Making menus helps me be more conscious and intentional both about what I eat and about what I buy when shopping.

Some steps that help me prepare:

Make a list of menus for 10-14 days. Vary the menus for good nutrition and to give yourself a nice variety. If you shop once or twice a month, you can buy enough supplies to repeat your recipes more than once. Some recipes use similar ingredients, so determine which dishes you would like, and include some that could be substituted depending on your needs or tastes. For example, I may get a roast chicken to use for one or two meals, and use the carcas and leftover meat for a soup. A homemade tomato-basel soup can be eaten at 2-3 meals, and the leftovers can be used for the base for a pasta dish, or to add taste and moisture to a baked loaf, casserole, or stew.

Use your menus and your staples lists to put together your shopping list. Check the newspapers or internet adds for specials and coupons, and visit the Farmer’s Markets to get fresh fruit and vegetables (and often other items including meats, jams, condiments, honey, and specialty foods).Try to eat what’s in season locally, and purchase or barter a trade for local meats (smoked salmon, canned tuna, venison, sausage), dairy, and eggs.

Putting together menus takes me about 15-20 minutes, the first time I do it. Later it becomes a work-in-progress that I keep posted in my kitchen. When I get new recipes from friends, or have some good ideas, I add them to the list. For example, I have been thinking about Chicken-Mushroom Rissotto for a week. The ingredients are on this week’s shopping list.

Take the shopping list to the market. This may seem like a simple thing, but how many times have you wandered into a grocery store, and realized you have forgotten your shopping list? If you are a member of the local grocery store, part of the online service provides you with a print out/or app for you phone of the items you intend to buy. I use paper and pen, and keep the list in my purse. Using a list and sticking to it helps save time, money, and energy.

Cleaning and reorganizing the refrigerator used to be chores that took me all day it seemed. Now it has become a regular task that I do fairly regularly, and it makes my life better in so many ways. Today, I spent 15 minutes. I worried and fretted about it for a lot longer than it took me to do something about it. The same with menus and shopping. Simplify and streamline the task. You always have the flexibility not to follow the menu, but at least you have given yourself some freedom by having a bit of a plan to take care of your nutritional and dietary needs. Food and eating becomes a much bigger issue and problem than it needs to be when we have neglected to prepare for one of the main necessities of life. Stop putting your needs off or lowering their priority on your list of things to do. In Feng Shui, the energy of the kitchen and of food preparation and dining is crucial to the health, well being, good fortune, and abundance of the whole family. Treat yourself and your basic needs as if your life depended upon it---it does. Take time, act with intention, and take good care of yourself.

We are so fortunate to have so many opportunities and choices. Make healthy and wise choices for yourself and for those you love.

Some wisdom thoughts on taking care of ourselves, our health, and our relationship with food.

“Our bodies are our gardens – our wills are our gardeners.”
~William Shakespeare
“Your body is a temple, but only if you treat it as one.”
~Astrid Alauda
“People too busy to take care of themselves, are like mechanics who don’t take care of their tools.” Spanish proverb
“To keep the body in good health is a duty, for otherwise we shall not be able to trim the lamp of wisdom, and keep our mind strong and clear. Water surrounds the lotus flower, but does not wet its petals.”

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