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Happiness Is Knowing What to Fix Before Mealtime

Woman In Green Crew Neck Dress Holding Green Vegetable

The Remaining Steps To Reclaiming Your Kitchen

In my last blog, I began my series, “Love Your Kitchen, Love Yourself.” The goal of this series is to help you take ownership of your kitchen and take ownership of your in-kitchen mindset. By following my 6-step method, you can cultivate a comfortable space for yourself in your kitchen. Don’t let the perceived simplicity of my tips fool you! By following my suggestions you can change your attitude toward your kitchen for the better.

Step 2- Meal Mapping: Knowing What’s For Dinner

You can think of meal mapping as a more approachable version of meal planning. I choose to call it meal mapping instead of meal planning because there are so many emotions and expectations tied to making a meal plan. The word “map” is much more comforting. After all, a map can also be used to find a way through uncertain surroundings. 

When we talk about meal mapping, we can think of our map as a chart that helps us navigate our kitchen. Your meal map can help you better understand how you need to shop, prepare, and clean up after you finish cooking. Think of it as a kind of treasure hunt that you are on to help yourself be a healthier, happier human being in the kitchen. Your meal mapping process needs to have general bearings. If we take a path without the help of a guide, we may get lost in our refrigerator and our pantry. We may find ourselves bustling around, unsure of what to do next. 

We might become so confused or overwhelmed that we end up reaching out for takeout, or maybe we give up and decide we won’t eat dinner at all. Knowing what you need is your first step to finding your sense of direction. Some people need to know what they are going to eat each day and buy those ingredients to make those meals. For others, this doesn’t work. 

Unlike a strict meal plan, meal mapping lets you get creative with your meals. Meal mapping simplifies life because once you have a plan or a vision in place, you no longer need to think about it. Instead of obsessing over the food you HAVE to prepare, you’ll think about making the food you WANT to prepare. It’s all about a shift in perspective. 

It’s a great mix of control and freedom. You may have to follow some guidelines (think recipes), but you don’t have to rack your brain to figure out what to eat that day or what ingredients you need to have on hand. You will have an understanding of what is needed, and you’ll enter your feed preparation with confidence! 

There are a few guidelines that you can aim for as you begin your meal mapping path. Think of them as trail markers: 

  1. Have ideas for the week: Gather inspiration from healthy cooking blogs, Facebook cooking groups, and more! Don’t be afraid to consider new foods. Don’t overdo it by trying too many new things at once. 

  2. Pull out things from the freezer for the week: By planning what you need, you can always ensure that you have the proper ingredients on hand. 

  3. Prepare something little the night before or in the morning: If the recipe you’d like to try seems complex, try preparing ahead of time. This will help you get a jumpstart on your meal making! 

Even jotting down meal ideas for the week can psychologically help alleviate some of the overwhelm. Make some decisions and get started! You get to chart your course. When I work with clients, I typically start with meal mapping. I usually give everyone I work with a notebook to begin this process. I have them spend time with the journal creating a vision for what they want in their kitchen. 

Meal Mapping Starts Here: 

  1. Refrigerator Rescue

  2. Pantry Makeover

  3. My Pantry List 

  4. My Whole List 

  5. Incorporating More Vegetables and Fruits 

  6. The Basics: Start with five go-to-dinners and, if needed, transition those to healthier versions. Work up to 20 go-to healthy meals.

Step 3- Set Yourself up for Success in the Kitchen

Your kitchen is the heart of your home, so simplify the time you spend there. Meals can be easy to make, easy to clean, yet still delicious. Feng shui for a soulful kitchen is a fascinating topic with almost never-ending options and possibilities in creating good energy in this special area of your home. Of course, in applying feng shui to your kitchen, you always start with the basics— keep it clean and clear of clutter and follow the logical flow. 

Step 4- Fresh Ingredients, Fresh Mindset 

It’s important to be mindful of the energy you bring into your kitchen. Try following these tips: 

  1. Never discuss problems in the kitchen or at the dinner table.

  2. Make sure everything is in working order, in both your kitchen and your mind space. 

  3. Keep your kitchen and your food clean. Eat healthily, be healthy.

  4. Make it a priority to clean out and do an inventory on your refrigerator(s) and pantry.

  5. Keep it simple and try not to make your meals too complicated.

  6. Don’t try doing too many new things in the kitchen at once. Change happens over time. Be patient with yourself. 

  7. Choose a day to start putting together a meal map for the week with items you have available. Use what ingredients you have before you buy more. 

  8. Choose a day to go to the store and pick up things you need. 

  9. Join a CSA at a local farm or go to a local Farmer’s Market once a week. The fresh food will help you feel inspired. 

  10. Keep a variety of seasonal vegetables and fruits available in your kitchen, where you can see and use them easily. 

  11. Spice up your kitchen with your favorite seasonings to add a little flair to your cuisine.  

Step 5- Make Space For Yourself

Taking the time to nourish our bodies and souls in the kitchen is essential to becoming more healthy in our lives. Not taking the time to work on this step continually can send us through a spiral of unhealthy habits. It would be great if we all could wake up every day and make preparing healthy food a priority. But, honestly, it does not always work like that for many of us. In our culture, busyness is a big part of our lives, which can take away from the time we spend in our kitchen. 

How do we become too busy? When we have difficulty in our lives or trauma we have not healed from, we will sometimes force ourselves to stay busy to avoid facing pain. This struggle is because we have not truly let go of what is hurting us. We are just hiding, so we don’t have to feel. Inevitably, our issues will resurface.

Another way that “too busy” can be seen is in doing mindless activities. You might think that doing passive activities like being on your phone is helping keep you from going too fast, but how are you spending your time and your day? Are you wasting a lot of your day with mindless activities and procrastinating on other things? These mindless activities can lead you to feel as though you are rushing to get things accomplished. It is essential to analyze how you’re spending your day. If you’re wasting a large number of your hours on mindless tasks, you might become overwhelmed when trying to get other things done.

In our culture, we buy into the mindset that more is better. We think, “If I just get everything checked off the to-do list, then I am being productive and can do more!” This mindset is not valid. When we are so busy and our minds are working overtime, we find ourselves in a sort of “fight-or-flight” state. When does the to-do list end? If we aren’t careful, it may not end!

If you try to work through every task and then add more to your plate, you will find that you’re not enjoying the sweetness in life. This state of being can set you up for many chronic health issues. It can manifest in other ways, too. You may find yourself craving a candy bar in the afternoon because you are not embracing the sweetness in life.

Ask yourself this question: “What I have I done throughout the day that allows me to be in that place of creativity, joy, and wonder?” Let’s be honest. Sometimes you will find yourself uninspired, overwhelmed, unproductive, and asking the question “What’s For Dinner?” 

Below you’ll find a typical conversation I have with my clients when we discuss time management and creating space for ourselves: 

Q: “What do I need when I am too busy?

A: “You need Space. Not more hours in the day.”

Q: “Where do I start with finding space?”

A: “Break your quest down into consumable steps.”

 How are you spending your day? Be honest with yourself. Tracking your time with a timesheet can help you to break your day down. I recommend that you utilize the “Off the Clock” timesheet and track your time for two weeks. It’ll help you get an understanding of how you spend your time. I find that it’s a nourishing, centering act that gets me to slow down and focus.

Step 6- Expectations and Being Accountable in the Kitchen 

We all have different attitudes that we wake up with each day. These influence what we decide we will or won’t do. Why is it that some weeks or days it seems easier to prepare and make healthy dinners and other times it seems more complicated? Understanding why you are motivated to do the things that you do can help you to sustain some healthy habits in the kitchen. What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? Most importantly, where do you need support? 

Are you Intrinsically or extrinsically motivated in the kitchen? Maybe you are a little of both. Sometimes it depends on the situation you find yourself if while planning, shopping, preparing, and consuming your meals. It is essential to investigate this for yourself. Figure out what you need. Be curious! Kitchens and food can have many emotional triggers attached to them. We need to recognize these triggers and work on letting them go in order to move towards a better relationship with our kitchens. 

Setting Up for Accountability in Your Kitchen

Being accountable to yourself and getting the help of a coach can help you have a better relationship with your kitchen. Being accountable and empowered allows you to move into a responsible stance in your kitchen and life. You can finally navigate through the excuses and rationalizations that have possibly hampered your relationship in the kitchen. 

Start by asking yourself these questions: 

  1. “How would you like to be accountable to yourself for that?”

  2.  “How can you be supported so you can be responsible for yourself?” 

We need to connect the dots between the changes we want to make regarding our relationships with our kitchens. We need to evaluate the core desires and values we hold deep within us. What are our inborn preferences and intrinsic motivating style that will help guide us? 

Self-discovery is a life-long journey! We are all a work in progress and should not be judged or analyzed. Just by asking the questions above and investigating your relationship with your kitchen, you’ll begin to expand your understanding and achieve a greater sense of wholeness. 

I would like to end off with some advice from Author Gretchen Rubin

“Knowing our Tendency can help us set up situations in ways that make it more likely that we’ll achieve our aims. We can make better decisions, meet deadlines, meet our promises to ourselves, suffer less stress, and engage more deeply with others.”

“In continuous health, healing and light, we heal through community support”

Brandy Lane Hickman

Inspired Nutrition, Health & Life Coach, Living Light


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