Dinner time in my home has always been challenging, just ask my husband who for many years walked in the door each evening never sure if there would be dinner available or not. My informal surveys of moms, both ADHD & non-ADHD alike, about dinner-time struggles yielded some common challenges. Many of these challenges can be overcome with a little creativity:
- Challenge: Meal planning is tough – Difficulty stems from it being considered a thankless job and/or one that requires a high degree of executive function. Whatever the reason, there aren’t many moms who seem to enjoy meal planning.
- Possible Solution: Establish a meal planning routine & don’t go it alone. There’s typically nothing fun or interesting about this type of planning, so invite others to share the responsibility. On Saturdays when I am planning meals I invite my husband and kids (when they’re home) to make requests for the next week’s dinner. This helps me feel less stuck with coming up with meal ideas and gives others a meal to look forward to in the upcoming week. My Saturday meal planning routine also allows me time to create a grocery list for weekly shopping on Sunday or Monday.
- Challenge: The grocery store experience is overwhelming – Too many choices, too much hustle & bustle, too much noise, too many decisions – let’s face it, the grocery store can be an overwhelming place on many levels.
- Possible Solution: Shop at smaller stores with fewer options and schedule your shopping during off-peak hours. My favorite stores to shop at locally are Marc’s and Heinen’s because they quite a bit smaller than the national chains. Fewer choices and fewer decisions make grocery shopping more manageable.
- Challenge: It’s tough to get motivated to shop for food, again… – Does your lack of motivation to go to the grocery store stem from challenges with transitioning between activities, the boredom factor, or something else? There are countless reasons getting to the grocery store can be tough. I think we could all agree grocery shopping would be easier if there were something exciting or enjoyable about it.
- Possible Solution: Bringing excitement to grocery shopping might be a stretch, but you could try linking this task to another more enjoyable activity. I will sometimes schedule lunch with friends at the stir fry counter of Heinen’s. Just being in the store makes transitioning into shopping after lunch much easier. I also rely on my husband to serve as my “grocery shopping motivator” on the weekends. He is very focused and time oriented and makes sure we not only get to the store, but that we get through it and home in a reasonable amount of time. Most importantly he helps make the process fun.
- Challenge: We bought the food, but hyperfocus (on something other than dinner) or magical thinking gets in the way of us actually getting it on the table. – I can’t tell you how many afternoons in years past, (though my husband probably can) I got engrossed in a project, lost track of time and totally forgot about dinner. Or, my tendency towards magical thinking allowed me to rationalize that I really could pull together a healthy meal in 10 minutes.
- Possible Solution: Blocking out two hours in my calendar each day to deal with dinner has finally allowed me to escape the magical thinking around meal preparation. It might be less time for you, but over time, I’ve learned it can take me up to two hours to go through my stages of meal preparation: pre-contemplation, contemplation, transitioning into the kitchen, preparing the meal, eating and cleaning-up. Some days I use the entire two hours, most days I end up with bonus free time.
Since discovering the above solutions, dinner actually happens at our house on schedule the majority of the time. Are there still dinner time snafus, like the small grease fire last night when my son & his girlfriend attempted to fry brussels sprouts? Of course there are, but these days, we order in because we want to as opposed to needing to. I’d love to hear about your dinner time challenges or what you do to overcome the overwhelm of dinner time angst!