We all get stuck in patterns of behaviour. Some days (many days) we just go through the motions, doing what we need to get by, even if the way we’re doing things isn’t working. We stick with the familiar routines and behaviours because it’s what we know and it’s easy, at least in the short term.
Habits and patterns of behaviour (routines) are hard to change. It takes research, planning, organisation, thought and re-programming the way we think and the way we act.
One thing in my life that isn’t working at the moment is dinner (there are many other, but this is a constant battle). By the end of the day I’m exhausted. I’m happy to say that DH has been cooking a bit lately and we’ve resorted to mushrooms on toast and two minute noodles rather than eating take away for the most part, but these are band-aid solutions, not long term solutions to the problem.
Obviously, the way we’re doing things isn’t working. There’s a flaw in our routine. We need to eat healthy meals every night, not just the few nights when I’m not tired. So rather than complaining any more, we’ve started to actively take steps to change the way we do dinner. Here’s what we came up with:
- One of the reasons I’m tired at the end of the day is because I’m hungry. I think that one important step to eating a healthy dinner is to eat a healthy lunch. Lunch is usually a quick bite on the run or a bit of cheese on toast. At the moment I can’t really change the fact that I don’t have a lot of time for lunch, but what I can do is prepare ahead so I have something easy but healthy to eat. Which brings me to the photo above. On Sunday night I made a large pot of soup to freeze in portion sizes ready to reheat and eat. Served with some avocado on cruskit, a few almonds that now reside in the fridge and some fruit, this is a filling, healthy, convenient, cheap and tasty lunch that keeps me going until dinner. And the difference in energy levels has been quite noticeable. As a side note, the soup is curried pumpkin and red lentil soup, the recipe is from the TASTE.com website and it is delicious.
- I may have mentioned this before, but I try to do dinner preparation like cutting vegetables while the little fella is having his lunch or dinner. That way, cooking dinner after his bed time is much quicker and easier. I’m beginning to think that organisation is the answer to life, the universe and everything.
- We are saving for a new freezer. What I really want to do is a bit of once a month cooking, or at least have some more home cooked meals ready to go. That way when we don’t feel like cooking, we have easy options at the ready (that aren’t two minute noodles). We currently have a tiny box freezer above the fridge that fits quite a lot of food, but once we do the bulk meat shop and freeze a couple of litres of home made stock and throw in the frozen vegetables, there’s not much room left.
Making these changes takes forethought and organisation. I need to think about and prepare in advance the lunches for the week and dinner needs to also be prepared in advance. Until this becomes a habit, I have to make a conscious effort to be organised.
And it’s the conscious effort that often stops us from changing behaviour patterns. It is easier to keep struggling along with the way things are, than to change to a better model. Below are some insights I’ve discovered when making changes to our routines and habits:
Decide what isn’t working and why it’s not. It might be budgeting issues, or work/life balance issues, organisation issues or time issues. Examine why your systems or routines aren’t working, you may have to be creative here. For example, dinner wasn’t working for us because I’m tired. The hard part is that if you want to make changes you have to take 100% of the responsibility yourself, grasping the proverbial bull by the horns– you can’t rely on others to be inspired and take the lead. Which means if you’re thinking the ‘problem’ is your spouse or your kids, you may have to look a little deeper. Here’s what I mean. Just say dirty clothes never make it into the wash basket. What isn’t working is your laundry routine and the problem is the rest of your family. If only they would lift the damn lid on the basket, right? Or maybe the problem is the lid and the solution is to get rid of it.
Look at the details and the whole picture. When it comes to routine issues, you need to take a whole picture approach to solving your routine. For example, if you don’t have time to cook dinner in the night, when do you have time? In the mornings? On the weekends? On Tuesdays and Thursdays? Maybe you could make time by spending less time on Facebook (my new addiction at the moment). The idea is that when looking at one aspect of your life, you need to look at all aspects at the same time to get a complete picture (and a solution).
Research solutions. Another thing that hasn’t been working for us lately is, well, waking hours. Specifically, the little fella’s waking hours. Rain and illness has meant long days inside, cabin fever, boredom and much screaming (the little fella has been screaming too). As a result I have spent many a nap time Googling toddler activities. If the solution isn’t immediately apparent, I can almost guarantee there will be a solution waiting out there in webland. Or a germ of a solution that you can build on. Forums are an excellent source of information on how other people address the same issue.
Implement and review. If your new routine works perfectly the first time, then you’re doing pretty well. Mostly it will need tweaking and adjusting as you find what works and what doesn’t. Also, life changes, so what works this month might not work next month. You might have found Wednesdays the perfect day to go to the gym. Then your shifts at work change. Time for a new routine.
I find it quite easy to become overwhelmed and think we’re stuck in an unchangeable and unhappy situation, but the truth is quite the opposite. It does take a little effort to make changes, but when things aren’t working out the way you want, the effort is worth it.
Melissa Goodwin is a writer and the creator of Frugal and Thriving who has a passion for living frugally and encouraging people to thrive on any budget. The blog is nine years old and is almost like her eldest baby. Prior to being a blogger and mum (but not a mummy blogger), she worked as an accountant doing other people’s budgets, books and tax.