Have you ever had those days or weeks when you’re burnt out in the kitchen and feel like all you ever do is cook one meal after another? OR, do you feel like you just don’t know the alternatives to use to accommodate your little’s food allergy(ies)?
This is definitely something I deal with. I don't have to tell you how busy things can get with kids. Add the requirements of safe food because of food allergies, and I often feel like I’m sinking in a huge puddle of overwhelm.
I know this is a problem for lots of food allergy moms; so I thought I would talk about how to manage it.
I recently went through a time of overwhelm this past spring. As I was going through it, I happened upon a podcast by Amy Porterfield called “How to Get Overwhelm to Eat Your Dust”. If you haven’t heard of Amy, she’s a very successful online business guru.
Now, I know I’m not talking about business overwhelm here, but as I was listening, many of the ideas Amy came up with can be applied to the life of a food allergy mom. And so what follows is inspired by Amy’s podcast but with a food allergy mom twist.
A couple of things about overwhelm. It’s not constant. It comes and goes based on the seasons, situations and circumstances of life. For me, it hit me hard this spring when my daughter was newly diagnosed with a food intolerance after years of only being allergic to peanuts and tree nuts. We had our “normal” with the peanut and tree nut allergies. We knew what to do and how to cook in many situations. But add that new food intolerance and “BAM”, overwhelm had me sinking.
I now realize things are getting back to a new normal and the puddle of quicksand is drying up. But even though it’s getting better, I KNOW overwhelm will be back at some point, which makes it important to figure out how to beat it.
Recognize Food Allergy Mama Overwhelm
The first step is actually recognizing that you’re overwhelmed.
Some times, overwhelm means feeling burnt out in the kitchen. These times I feel like all I ever do is cook one meal after another (and if that’s not enough, then there’s the darn dishes!). I start to feel like I’m doing the minimum I can, only to feel guilty for not cooking better.
Other times, overwhelm means days and evenings when I can’t stop thinking about everything that needs to get done. The “to dos” are constant and they don’t stop when I go to bed because I often wake up thinking about them at night. When this happens, I know I’ve stumbled into the puddle of overwhelm.
And then there’s the overwhelm of learning a new way of cooking using alternatives and substitutions. It was hard enough cooking with regular ingredients let alone know how to make things delicious using a whole new set of alternatives, right?
Recognizing overwhelm it is only half the battle. Once we recognize it, we can then use strategies to beat it.
Now that we recognize overwhelm, how do we beat it? Here are three easy strategies that have worked for me.
Strategies To Beat Food Allergy & Special diet Cooking Overwhelm
Once I recognize I might be drowning in overwhelm, it's time to take pen to paper. I write EVERYTHING down that I think needs to get done. I go through the list and PRIORITIZE the most important things. During this time, getting the food allergy information straight is the priority. Which means I cross off things that others can do for me. For example, in my family, I do the cooking; but I have a great hubby and kids who will help with other jobs like laundry and supper clean-up.
Next, I CLEAN the list which means REMOVE things that are not as important during the season of overwhelm. This spring that meant missing Parent Council meetings at school. At other times it might mean saying no to a commitment or removing other things from my plate. As hard as it is, I try to be as honest and thorough about removing non-priority tasks as I can.
2. Create Meal Planning Systems
Looking at the list of priorities, I’m now able to see a few things that create stress for me. This spring, one of those things was dinner time meals. I didn’t have my “fall-back” meals and restaurants anymore and needed to find new ways to feed my family safely (while keeping my sanity).
One thing that was REALLY helpful was meal planning. I’m not perfect when it comes to meal planning. But when I do, it totally decreases my stress and overwhelm. Why? Because it allows us to do the work once, but get many results.
It might seem daunting when you’ve never done it before but start by sitting down and finding one week of safe meals. Go week by week, and keep each week in a file so it can be re-used. It may take a bit of time for the first month, but after the first month or two, you can re-use the lists in a meal-plan rotation.
Re-using your list and rotating it saves tonnes of time and effort in the long run. For example, if we spend just 2 hours per month researching safe recipes, that adds up to 24 hours per year. That’s three, 8 hour days! By taking that 2 hours and creating something that can be re-used regularly, you’re saving at least a WHOLE weekend of time. Imagine what you would do with that extra weekend (Maybe a binge watch of This Is Us or The Crown might be in order??).
For an easy, reusable recipe organizer, click HERE:
There are also systems that you can create for the “in between” times. What do I mean by that? The “in between” times are when you either lose all track of time and forget to meal plan or you just need a break from meal planning for a week or so. I’m a big fan of meal planning, but I want you to know that with a few systems or plans in place, you can still feel less burnt out even when you don’t meal plan, using this technique.
Many, many times in my life overwhelm surrounds constantly cooking without having a break OR constantly thinking of finding safe food. Given my recent bout with overwhelm, I realized that food DOES NOT have to be fancy all of the time. In fact, simple, easy, paired down dishes can be REALLY good if you focus on flavour.
I came up with a list of simple meals that use real food and are found mainly in the perimeter of the grocery store. Because they’re so simple, I don’t have to read a ton of ingredients on the label which saves time grocery shopping, and I don’t have to go searching for the ingredients at specialty stores. In fact, I even have most of the ingredients (minus the meat) in the pantry now. I would challenge you to think of a few meals like this for when you come into a season of overwhelm OR click for a copy of the list I came up with.
Times of stress and overwhelm can hit us all. Even though overwhelm ebbs and flows, it’s important to understand and plan how to deal with it so you can feel less burnt out in the kitchen and confident you’re feeding your food allergy family well.
What about you? Do you have solutions for overwhelm that help you as a food allergy mom? Share what works for you in the comments.