While my almost, (but not just quite yet today) fifty year old body tends to go into hibernation mode in December, my activity level actually increases over the holidays. I feel like sleeping more, but actually sleep less. There are more special kids events, presents to buy, guests in the house, travel plans. Not surprisingly, when I’m running around town, I get tired and hungry too. Everywhere I go, temptation lies in waiting, offering the convenient way to stuff my mouth.
But I know if I started giving in at the end of the year, I could gain a few pounds just in December. Then if I never lost them again, I’d gain about twenty or thirty pounds in a decade, just by losing control of myself over the holidays every year. Then on my fiftieth birthday I wouldn’t be able to look down and see my toes!
When I go shopping I am subject to state-of-the-art behavioral inducements to throw caution to the wind. People with multiple degrees have sat down together with infinite data at their disposal and designed the perfect storm to push all my buttons during the holidays. Subliminal messages might even be the real reason I’m hungry for all I know. There’s a voice in my head that says eat now, get take-out, find energy in a cup of coffee. There’s that person in me who will wait on every line for every sample at Costco. I can only be grateful to the slightly wiser person in me who reasons that I need all those little samples of highly packaged and processed stuff like a hole in my head. You know they never give out samples hoping to convince you that you need apples or oranges. No one ever hands me a free carrot.
If I go to support my childrens’ school activities, like a winter concert, there are tables full of treats. Free food, but not exactly a dinner menu most of the time. I could pile up a plate of sweets, but never see a fresh salad at one of these events. I could let my kids pile up their plates, but instead I tell them not to act piggy, and I get stares and dirty looks from other parents who think I’m too hard on my kids. The thing is I know they aren’t hungry, because I know I already fed them before we left home.
If you want to save money, never eat out, and fix your own coffee (or tea or smoothie or whatever your habit is.) Before you leave your home, eat some healthy food. If you know you’re going to get hungry again before you return, bring a healthy snack and put a hot or cold drink in a thermos. If you’re not hungry in the face of temptation, you will have more willpower to resist what is not good for you.
The thing is, when you get home, and it’s time to eat again, and you have other mouths to feed too, and you might even have to turn around and leave again, you have to be prepared in advance. Otherwise you might decide to pick up take out, or pile everyone back in the car and eat out somewhere. You know these days happen. Usually you’re the culprit because you feel tired and unprepared. Everyone has to be in the appointed place at the appointed time, and generally the first thing to go is the family dinner together, replaced by dinner on the run (usually not as healthy or cheap as what you could have eaten at home.)
I have two ways to deal with a quick easy meal. One is to pull a pre-cooked meal out of my freezer and stick it in the oven. I have these meals because over the summertime I cooked meals for ten instead of five, while the abundant harvest was coming in. But maybe you didn’t do that (no judgments here.) If you know that you have a well stocked kitchen, then you don’t have to be one of those hyper-organized super moms who have the whole week’s menu planned out in advance. I have never been able to do that for some reason. It’s like a personality defect. But I do keep plenty of things in stock, like pasta and sauce, salad fixings, cous cous (takes fifteen minutes to prepare.)
There was a time that I used to just go shopping for food when I needed to. Now I have a weekly shopping day, and rarely stop to shop, to get this or that, during the rest of the week. I keep a shopping list on my tablet. After a few weeks of entering all the items I usually buy, I have almost every grocery or household supply item I ever generally buy. Now I just check and un-check the items on shopping day. This way I don’t really have to think about what we’re going to eat, because I know I always have a variety of things on hand to make a good meal.
The most important time to be organized is in the morning before I leave the house. I go around with my checklist and get together my coupons, on shopping day. I also think about dinner in the morning. I might take some meat from the freezer or start something cooking in the slow cooker. By giving it a few minutes thought in the morning, I will not only already have dinner under control, but when I’m tempted later in the day I can tell myself that I already have dinner for everyone under control and I just need to get everyone home to eat it.
It’s not that tough really. So don’t let the holidays make you tired or fat. You make the holidays delicious and nutritious and keep sight of your toes!