I’ve come to believe that even more than the grand gestures and Big Decisions, it’s our habits that make or break us. Make something a habit, even if it’s a task you don’t relish, and it becomes part of who you are. Showing up for work on time, paying your bills, walking the dog, saying “thank you” may not in each instance seem to make that big of a difference, but cumulatively? Big difference in outcomes.
I’ve mentioned a couple of times that I’ve “automated” my weekday breakfasts and lunches, and a couple of readers have asked what that means. It’s simple really, a) I plan them ahead and b) I have 2-3 menus for each that I stick with. In addition to keeping my food intake consistent, it’s also had an additional benefit: I don’t think about food much anymore. That isn’t to say I don’t get hungry between meals or enjoy trying new dishes or planning where we’ll eat on vacations or browsing recipes. It just means that most days, my mind is no longer preoccupied with figuring out what I’m going to have for lunch or trying to resist the pastries that a co-worker brought in. I vary up the fresh ingredients depending on what’s available and in season, and no, I don’t get bored. The best thing about planning and packing lunches and snacks, aside from weight management and saving money, is that it’s freed up a good chunk of mental energy.
I resisted doing this for a long time. Yes, it requires some effort to shop and prepare but really not that much, once you get your menu down and do some prep ahead of time. Habit, again.
After one of our vacations where our included breakfasts featured lots of fresh fruit daily, I thought that would be a healthy and delicious habit to maintain back home. So every morning I cut whatever fresh fruit is in season and available. I also usually have a serving of oatmeal with a splash of half-and-half, or a soft boiled egg. Weekends I’ll sometimes cook up some chicken apple sausage which is available from a local grocer. Time saver: I’ll make a big batch of oatmeal every few days, and re-heat individual servings in the microwave.
Getting into the brown bag habit took a bit more effort. The main course is usually a wrap sandwich (best wrap material is a low-carb, whole wheat tortilla) with either turkey or lean roast beef and lots of greens (arugula or baby kale usually, sometimes sprouts). I usually prepare the night before, along with le monsieur’s more traditional sliced bread sandwich. I have this down to about 10 minutes. Time savers: lay out all of the sandwich ingredients in the order you use them before you start, pre-wash your greens if necessary (love my salad spinner!).
For snacks/sides, I bring fresh fruit and veggies and either a hard boiled egg (boil up a few at a time) or a Mini Babybel cheese for protein. I keep a bar of 70% cacao dark chocolate (usually Valrhona from Trader Joe’s, but whatever’s available) at my desk and enjoy a square for dessert.
What about you? Do you have a routine for weekday meals? Do you shop/cook in advance or wing it daily? Have you found that certain habits have brought unforeseen benefits?