Motherly Collective

Two months after my daughter was born, I sobbed to my therapist, “I just don’t want to turn into a Taco Tuesday mom.” A “Taco Tuesday mom,” would mean I had allowed life to get into a monotonous, dull routine. Fresh to motherhood and deep in the throes of postpartum depression, I was struggling hard with the transition to my new role of mom. 

I’ve always loved cooking, loved the feeling of starting with raw ingredients and turning them into something tasty. Life before kids kids, meant meal planning and wandering the grocery store aisles were two of my favorite weekly activities. 

Post kids? Not so much. It’s well documented that women carry the bigger mental load when it comes to keeping everything running (smoothly or not) in a household. Toss kids into the mix and the seemingly never ending list of things to think about and do just gets longer and more taxing. Meal planning, grocery shopping and making dinner quickly became things that were simply taking up too much brain space and physical time.

Fast forward two and a half years: while my family doesn’t eat tacos every Tuesday I’ve embraced the concept of “Taco Tuesday” and eliminated work for myself using these five strategies.

How to lessen the mental load

  1. Repeat the same cuisines, if not the same meals, that you know your family likes each week. You don’t have to eat Mexican every Tuesday, but I follow the same structure every week when I sit down to plan and shop. For my family this means each week we’ll have a Mexican, Italian and Asian night, a crockpot or sheet pan dinner night, a grill night and then two nights where we’re either eating leftovers or out with friends.

    Keeping this structure makes it easy to quickly build a meal plan. If I don’t have a Mexican recipe in mind, it’s much easier to do a search for one vs starting from scratch on deciding what to search for. 
  1. Keep track of your favorite recipes and put them on rotation. Chances are that my family is eating enchiladas, tacos and taco salad or sheet pan nachos for Mexican night each week. Having a few “go-to” recipes means it’s not the exact same thing each week, but makes meal planning a lot easier. I use an old school binder to keep track of recipes but you could also use something like a Pinterest board to do this too.

    Since I’ve made my go-tos so many times, I know what ingredients I need and how long it’ll take. This really cuts down on the mental energy I need to expend on planning.
  2. Stock your pantry with your most common ingredients. If you know both your spaghetti and taco go-to recipes use ground beef, buy extra to freeze when it’s on sale. If your family really likes stir-fry and they’re on your rotation, make sure you have back up rice, frozen veggies and stir-fry sauce. For enchiladas I know I’ll need enchilada sauce, tortillas and probably black beans so my pantry always has a few of these items. In a pinch you’ll always have ingredients on hand for something that you’re comfortable making. 
  3. Consider grocery services like Instacart to save time and energy. Like I said, I love grocery shopping, but the mental gymnastics of trying to figure out when to fit it into our schedule is sometimes too much. Instead of making a list and then having to shop, I can build my order while I’m watching TV at night. Services like Instacart will let you duplicate a previous order, which almost cuts the work down to zero. There is an up-charge with using a grocery service but the tradeoff of having more time to tackle other things is worth it to me.
  4. Use a whiteboard to write out the plan for the week, and to keep track of what ingredients are running low. I stole this hack from my sister and it has been so helpful. Each week I write out what we’re having each night, what snacks are in the pantry and what I’m prepping for the baby to eat. I free up mental space by doing this, and can easily conceptualize what needs prepping when. My husband also knows he can refer to the board instead of asking me for the 12th time what’s for dinner. Throughout the week if I notice we’re running low on something I can write it on the board instead of trying to keep it in my brain.

I’ve made a full 180 since those early days of thinking that being a “Taco Tuesday mom” was a bad thing. It doesn’t mean that life is boring or monotonous. It just means that moms need a strategy to eliminate the mental load associated with getting food on the table. And who knows? Maybe getting rid of some of that work will mean a bit of time that they can do something for themselves.

This story is a part of The Motherly Collective contributor network where we showcase the stories, experiences and advice from brands, writers and experts who want to share their perspective with our community. We believe that there is no single story of motherhood, and that every mother's journey is unique. By amplifying each mother's experience and offering expert-driven content, we can support, inform and inspire each other on this incredible journey. If you're interested in contributing to The Motherly Collective please click here.