Take a load off: A suggestion for lightening the mental load

Two weeks ago, Gemma Hartley came on Best of Both Worlds to talk about emotional labor. This phrase describes the mental work that is done to manage a household and keep everyone happy. Hartley argued that women do the lion’s share of this work.

This episode sparked quite a discussion. One practical question that came out of the discussion was how to lighten this mental load if it is keeping you from building a career, enjoying life, and interacting with family members with less stress. Sometimes outsourcing can be an answer, but you probably can’t outsource everything. So if you’re going to outsource something, what should be the top priority?

I’ve been thinking about this since the episode. My answer? Monday-Thursday dinner prep.

If you are in charge of dinner during the week, you have to think about what to make and what to buy. You have to think about whether people will like it. You think about how long the prep will take, and you think about whether you can get home in time to do that prep before everyone is cranky and hungry. This means that you’re probably ending your work day earlier, or at least thinking about this next task (dinner prep) when you could be thinking about what work problems you need to solve before you leave.

Obviously, some of this can be solved with meal planning, or cooking ahead of time, though I find that the net result of this option is that the person in charge of meal prep winds up with significantly less weekend free time. That doesn’t seem like a great solution. If the meal is made ahead of time, someone still has to heat it up and get it on the table. This takes time too.

Truly having this load off your plate (so to speak!) means that when it is dinner time, a meal appears before you. If you are normally the person who handles this task, this might seem mind-boggling (and probably indulgent!) but I’d point out that a lot of people (probably mostly male people) take it for granted.

So how do you get there? One obvious way is to get meals delivered from restaurants Monday through Thursday. If you live somewhere with a lot of delivery options, this is probably the most affordable way to go. You can set up recurring orders places. You can consciously decide to have the family order from places with healthier options (so we can avoid the Michael Pollan screed about the Kentucky Fried Chicken ad that had a bucket of chicken with the phrase “women’s liberation”). But even if you don’t, if you eat 21 meals a week, having four that are less than saintly isn’t the end of the world.

While this doesn’t get a meal in front of you without effort, you can decide that dinner is a fend-for-yourself time (if you have older kids). One option might be to flip the day. Family breakfast becomes the sit-down family meal. I don’t really mind cooking a hot breakfast for the family, and my husband and I will often do this if we’re home. It doesn’t have quite the same mental load (maybe because breakfast is a less fraught meal?) If you always have lots of microwave meals and sandwich stuff in the house for dinners, this can work.

You can delegate this task to other people in the family. If you feel like the mental load is unbalanced, you might specifically request that your partner take Monday-Thursday dinner prep on as a way to even things up. He/she might not necessarily do it as you would, but so what? Maybe you do the meals you’d like on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Older children could also take this on. Even grocery shopping — either getting groceries delivered, or walking/riding bikes/driving to a grocery store.

And you can outsource this to people outside your family. The most straightforward way is to assign this task to an employee who is already in your home Monday through Thursday (e.g. a nanny or after-school sitter). An after-school sitter might come an hour earlier than necessary to take care of home tasks like this. Preschool or nap hours might work for prep if someone is there full time. If little kids aren’t in the picture, a regular housekeeper could take on the prep for at least a few nights. Or a chef if you want to get fancy!

I’m sure there are other options too. If you’ve taken Monday-Thursday dinner prep off your plate, please share how you’ve done so. And if you think there’s another mental load reduction strategy that’s got a bigger payoff, please let me know that too!

Photo: Wolfgang Puck in the Indianapolis airport. One of my favorite airport meal options! Also, I like Frontera at O’Hare.

44 thoughts on “Take a load off: A suggestion for lightening the mental load

  1. I have been contemplating getting meal prep off my plate for a good two years (pretty much since you suggested it based on my time logs). I keep stumbling over two things–one, I enjoy cooking (although I certainly don’t need to do it daily to still enjoy it) and two, I keep stumbling over finding the right alternative. When I am are looking for childcare after school for 4 young children, whether the person can cook is just not super high on my list. I have spent a fair amount of time looking for someone to come in a cook a few meals for us once a week and then decide it is more trouble than just making dinner. At the moment the take-out options are pretty pricy and not super healthy. One day I will sort this out.

    1. @Gillian – I agree that the person’s interaction with your four young children is the most important factor. But I think “can” cook is relative. Anyone can learn. None of us is going to become a Michelin-star-earning chef, but I’m pretty sure any reasonably competent person could learn to follow a recipe and come up with 5-10 meals they can make decently with practice.

      I like to cook, too. But not in the circumstances I was normally cooking in on, say, Tuesdays.

    2. Gillian – I have 4 children as well (and a full-time nanny). Actually, being able and willing to cook (something decent, not fancy) was #2 requirement on my list when interviewing nannies – after great childcare skills, of course. I have had 4 nannies in my parenting life: the first for about 6 months and then we moved (she refused to cook, even though the baby slept half the day, and I swore to myself I’d never do that again); the second for a year and a half, and then she quit not long before my #2 was due due to family considerations of her own; the third for 2.5 years and then left because she wanted to work in retail (which she then ended up hating and I got her a job as a nanny for one of my friends); and the fourth (current one), who has worked for us for almost 10 years. Other than my first nanny, who didn’t want to cook, and I didn’t know better, I have always told all of them that taking care of the kids was #1 and, if need be, the only thing they have to do in any given day. However, over the span of the Mon-Fri work week, meal prep was absolutely #2 and much more important to me than deep cleaning the house. None of them have minded, and my current nanny did not start out (at all) as a great cook. She made basic things and has really expanded her repertoire over the years. I do plan the meals (generally), my husband usually grocery shops, but she makes pretty much all the food during the week, and now that my kids are older and mostly in school, she cooks for our weekend as well. I am 100% confident in saying that this setup is the only reason I am able to have the type of career that I do (I’m a partner at an accounting firm) while still having meaningful interactions with my kids and husband. I’d rather spend my evenings doing fun things with the kids, helping them with their homework or even spending some time on myself than cooking (even though I do enjoy cooking). My husband doesn’t see at all why I ever even felt guilt about setting things up this way as, to him, having dinner on the table was frankly just the way he grew up. Anyway…this is all a very long and rambling way of saying – I think you will find outsourcing weekday meal prep to be a life-changing experience. There are so many ways to set it up even if you don’t have full-time childcare in your house. Try it for a month and let us know 🙂

      1. @Rinna- I agree that it is a life-changing experience. There are many reasons I’ve been able to devote more headspace to my work over the past 2 years but this is a big one.

  2. I had someone ask me a couple of months ago how to build a business as a private chef, all be it one who doesn’t have access to a commercial kitchen. I suggested targeting working moms who already use a cleaning service and offering to come to the client’s home once a week while they are at work and prepare a week’s worth of healthy dinners.
    They lived across the country, or I would have hired them on the spot, particularly for help during sports seasons!
    There are services like Blue Apron and Home Chef that send all the food and the recipes to your home each week, but we found that they actually took more time to cook and the recipes weren’t really all that family friendly. Plus the shipping waste was overwhelming.

    1. @Calee – yes, I have to say I fail to see the appeal of the meal kit services. I guess they’re trying to turn cooking into a formal activity, maybe that couples can do together as an in-home date night. But for regular weeknight cooking, not so much.

  3. I am too frugal to outsource dinner via restaurants or delivery services. What I do instead is use my instant pot. The meal is cooked very quickly (frozen chicken to cooked in 20 mins!). I only make a new meal 2 – 3 times, and the rest of the time we have leftovers or truly minimal prep dinners, like a sandwich or spaghetti with (frozen) meatballs.

  4. If your family is not full of picky eaters (like mine), one way to go is to fill your fridge with things that are easy to take out, drop on the table and let each person assemble some kind of plate.

    You can have cheese, cold cuts, prepacked salads, olives, bread etc. My mom would combine that with some leftovers from weekend meals (she was incapable of not cooking way too much) and the whole dinner prep was done in 10 minutes.

    What’s really important to remember is that it’s not always about what you eat. The food doesn’t have to be fresh, healthy and incredibly delicious every weeknight.

    1. We do this on Sunday nights — I think I actually got the idea from a comment on Laura’s blog in the past! We call it “cheeseboard Sunday” and the kids love getting to pick out a cheese or other snack for it at the store each week.

  5. It doesn’t remove the load, but routine really helps. If Monday is pasta, Tuesday is salmon, etc it cuts down on thinking and planning (the hardest part, for me), makes grocery trips easier, and makes the prep itself quicker and less stressful. It becomes a chore rather than a preoccupation.

    Also it seems like meals are unnecessarily optimized, at least in pop culture. I don’t need to cook Instagram-worthy meals. I don’t need to make people ooh and ah. I don’t need to make my own, well, *anything* if I can buy it. We can go to restaurants when we want an elevated dining experience. Right now, for me and my family, a reasonably tasty and reasonably nutritious meal is good enough.

  6. We found about 8 recipes that only get 1, maybe 2 pans dirty. I can cook them mostly without looking at a recipe and my husband is learning. We don’t get tired of them and there is not much mental burden. I got this idea from the YouTube channel “the minimal mom”. It’s been a. Game changer!

    1. @Katie – I am a big fan of one pot recipes. I think Martha Stewart had a whole book devoted to such things.

    2. Yes! I find one sheet pan options that all have the same cooking time and don’t require chopping to be a huge help. Chicken + fingerling potatoes + baby carrots, shaker spice mix. Salmon + asparagus + couscous (in a container with a lid, filled 1:1 with boiling water and a broth packet). Double lined with tin foil = minimal cleaning.
      Spouses or kids of a reasonable age can use an oven (even pre-assembled).

      As for outsourcing – if you’re getting takeout, get an extra serving of protein (like spicy chicken), make/microwave your own rice the next day with frozen veggies. Done. No extra delivery cost!

      1. Sara, yes! I make Chicken Spaghetti, Beefy Black Bean Soup, burrito/enchilada bowls, Barbecue Shepherd’s Pie, a pan of roasted chicken/potatoes/vegetables, winter red bean soup, and then an easy stir fry with either rice or ramen noodles. I try to practice intuitive eating also, which has made meal prep and shopping much less stressful!

  7. My situation is unique, but I teach part time in a college setting, and we have been eating on nights that I teach in the college’s dining hall. They offer a special price for families of employees, everyone gets what he likes (and it turns out that young kids and college students like the same kinds of foods), and there are always healthy options (salad bar, baked sweet potatoes, beans, etc.) Much better than a restaurant since it is already noisy and the other diners do not mind small kids. Plus–no waiting for table service and no dishes to wash.

    1. @Meg- I love this. What a great idea. And probably great for college students to have their professors eating alongside them too!

  8. I’m in the UK (hello!) and would really recommend Jamie Oliver’s website – he has a bunch of recipes that need only five ingredients and are mostly using just one pot. They’ve become favourites of mine and reduced a load of mental effort!

  9. I outsource Monday to Thursday in a couple of ways. The first step is We use a meal ingredients service (we’ve found one that uses less packaging than ordinary shopping and has pretty simple recipes). Then our babysitter often does some meal prep during the day if she gets a chance (e.g. prepping vegetables) and feeds the kids early on the days I’m first parent home. And finally- when I’m not first parent home, I make sure I don’t turn up until well after dinner should be cooked. (And on Friday I hope we’ve got leftovers!)

    1. @ZM – yes, not showing up until dinner should be cooked is often an effective strategy! Though if it isn’t cooked it can be quite a letdown…

  10. I’ve been working on this as well. A few strategies:

    A meal template, ie. Monday – soup, Tuesday, pasta, Wednesday, mexican. There can be variation between these by swapping out the veg and protein. We typically eat out at Saturday lunch so have nice sandwiches for dinner, and I do a meal on Sunday which will do for leftovers.

    Nursery lunch, it’s a hot lunch which moves the pressure for us to prepare a full dinner for him. Yoghurt, crackers, fruit, scrambled eggs etc are all fine.

    Make enough for leftovers – if we don’t have to worry about going and buying lunch, that saves some time.

    Sunday night shopping – my husband goes on Sunday night, the shelves are stocked for Monday am but the store is deserted so he’s in and out super quick. We also shop at Aldi and Lidl which are small stores.

    Really easy meals – I think I’m a decent casual cook, would definitely prefer most of my meals to takeaway, but everything I make is pretty simple and packed with veggies. A nice quiche, instant pot soup, pad thai, smitten kitchen one pot pasta. I can often use whatever veggies I have in the fridge. We are veggie at home which I think also saves time.

  11. I’ve been teaching through dinner a few nights a week this fall and we’ve also had 2 kids in soccer practice so we’ve had to shift some of our previous dinner approach. I’ve been buying ready to cook meals from Wegmans so the protein and sometimes veggies just need to be thrown in the oven and my partner can put some rice or potatoes on quickly and get dinner on the table. He’s a fine cook but not fast and this gets dinner on the table at a reasonable time. We also have do your own thing nights which the kids love and occasionally pizza delivery.

  12. Something wasn’t sitting right with me after listening to the Gemma podcast, so I began to listen to the book on audible and went in search of “Fed Up criticism:” https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2018/11/arlie-hochschild-housework-isnt-emotional-labor/576637/.
    I continue to be frustrated by discussions on this topic that lack the voice and adequate weight of sociologists and counselors. I’m also curious to know if anyone else is listening to the audio version and finds the reader’s tone off-putting in a way that paints Gemma as a martyr. I’m having a hard time separating the tone from the text.

    1. Yes, thank you for pointing this out! I think the term “mental load” is a much better one, and the use of “emotional labor” bothers me both for the erasure of the sociologists and counselors and especially the erasure of women of color, for whom emotional labor is a very real issue (see also “tone policing”).

      This isn’t to detract from this issue, which is also very important! I think using the best term is a way to keep from other discussions detracting from the mental load issue.

  13. we have a live in nanny who makes dinner Mon-Fri. My husband and I in general alternate making a meal plan for the week, and shopping on the weekend so that all the ingredients are in the home. Then… our work is done. The “menu” is taped on the fridge and our nanny cooks the dinners and leaves them in the fridge for us to heat up when we get home. We choose easy things that are fine to reheat and that don’t take long – instant pot meals, stir fry, pastas etc. Since we need a live in nanny due to our work schedules, we find that using her help in this way has been amazing and a real game changer.

  14. Love all the discourse on this post! As those who listen to bobw know, our nanny does this for us (and she cooks 3x, we happily eat leftovers 2x!). It really is a lifesaver. I think I’d probably go the restaurant or hired chef route if we didn’t have a nanny. I may be interested in cooking more again when kids are older (and I love idea of having them do it!) but for now it is not how I choose to spend my time. I’m grateful to be able to outsource it.

    PS: icebox restaurant in Miami airport is great 🙂 and cowboy ciao in Phoenix.

  15. my boys and nanny eat out most times and i have a full time nanny who can cook , i have 2 picky eating boys 8 and 3 so i rather eat whatever and make it less torture to person feeding them , i wonder is this is a bad idea

  16. I have tried a bunch of different things, but what I’ve landed on for now (2 parents who work outside the home, a 4 year old and a 1.5 year old who are in bed by 7:15p) is that we really don’t do “family dinners” on weeknights at the moment. On Saturdays and Sundays, we cook a more intensive meal that generates leftovers (meatloaf, chili, beef stew, coq au vin, etc etc) and eat together as a family. On weeknights, I sit down with my kids while they eat. A few nights a week, they eat leftovers – earlier in the week, it’s from those weekend meals, then later it’s the grown up leftovers from the previous night. The other nights I will do simple things for them like breakfast for dinner, fish nuggets and veggies from Trader Joes, pasta, and the like. My husband and I generally cook and eat after they go down, and we try for simple things (sheet pan dinner with chicken thighs and brussels sprouts; quiche and salad; etc). My ultimate goal is to have that dinner prepped either the night before or during kid dinner/playtime so if it’s something that can go in the oven while we do bedtime (e.g., quiche), we can eat when we are done.

    The remaining mental load that bothers me is that I am largely responsible for the meal planning/grocery shopping, but my husband and I are attempting to schedule so that we alternate weeks – we shall see if this happens or not!

    Beyond the leftovers tip, my other lightening of the mental load for kid meal prep is to not go too crazy. My 4 year old isn’t picky but his fave veggies are raw spinach w/dressing, bell pepper slices, carrots, and mushrooms. If I happen to make something else and he branches out, fine, but I’m comfortable with a fair amount of repetition. My 1.5 year old is picky and has had some feeding issues so she’s a different beast, but my basic point is that some of it is tempering expectations.

    Finally, on meal kits – I love them but not for weeknight dinners. When we do Blue Apron, I usually schedule the delivery for Wednesday or Thursday and we do them as an in-home date night (caveat: both my husband and I like to cook).

    1. @Erin – if my (almost) 4-year-old ate spinach, bell peppers, carrots, and mushrooms, I would not worry in the least bit about repetition. I think many adult diets are not that varied on the veggie front!

  17. All the grocery stores in my town (four different companies) offer meal kits and pre-prepared meals. I usually get one or two each week — they taste good, save time, and don’t have the packaging issue the mail delivery services do. They’re mostly sheet pan dinners or slow cooker/pressure cooker dinners.

    I can’t recommend the Lazy Genius (Kendra Adichi) enough. She has a couple of ways of tackling the meal planning/prep issue that are game changers: backwards meal prep and “brainless crowd-pleaser” lists. I use both, plus use a weekly template, and also ask my husband to do the meal planning, since he cares more about what we eat than I do, and I am tired of it after 15 years.


    There are other resources for meal planning and other home stuff on her website, but those are the basics.

  18. I have a family of picky eaters and busy schedules. I print a week’s calendar from Google where we each have our own color-coded calendar and the Meal Plan also has its own calendar but they are all overlayed on the same weeklong printout. We can see where there is extra time to make a longer prep-time meal or where there is barely enough time for takeout. I get the whole family to make their requests and I fill them in on the Meal Plan calendar that everyone has access to (on their phones, etc) so they know what’s cooking any given day. It ensures that there is something for everyone and that there is buy-in from even the pickiest. My kids are in high school now but we’ve been doing this for years. Whoever is home at the right time can start the meal.

    I have tried to put in recurring appointments of the well-liked meals every two/three weeks or so. Sometimes this helps but they never seem recur on a good day, so I end up changing or moving them. I also keep a list of our meals handy as a reference while we’re meal planning.

    One of my best tips for using Google Calendar is to start the week on Monday. That way you see the whole school/work week and you see the whole upcoming weekend. Then you know if you have a party or other obligation on the coming Sunday without having to print 2 weeks. You won’t plan to order pizza Sat night if you know you’re going to a pizza party on Sunday.

    Since everyone is picky, I’ve gotten into the habit of discussing a prospective new dish with everyone before actually trying it. I know that’s not ideal for raising kids who you want to try new things. But my husband is the pickiest of all, so this is how it ends up with his example to follow. Plus one of the kids has food allergies. After that experience, it’s hard to encourage trying random new foods.

  19. Hi from Australia! After spending many years struggling to be a stay at home wife and mother, I discovered Laura’s books and read them all, which changed my life. I happily returned to the workforce full time and find myself a happier person and better wife and mother. Viewing work from a 168 hour perspective truly changed my outlook and freed me from guilt, I work, exercise, sleep 8 hours a night, socialise both with family and alone, spend good quality time with my family and plenty of time reading, work on my masters degree and have date night. I never thought this would be possible.

    With regard to the mental load, my husband is responsible for dinners and I’m responsible for lunches. He deals with all the child related extra-curricular activities (He starts early and finishes early) and I keep the house clean and tidy (with a cleaner once a month for the irregular stuff). He does the yard stuff and I do the food shop and meal planning.
    We are both really happy with our division of labour and it works for us.

  20. I find the mental load of what to eat the most taxing so Blue Apron is a god send for me, but I enjoy the act of preparation/sitting down to dinner. I don’t get a shipment every week, but I do enjoy the weeks when I do as I don’t have to think about it. I often have extra veggies around and enjoy figuring out how to make the meal go farther or more veggie heavy. I actually get a delivery on Thursday for prep Thursday or Friday, and over the weekend and maybe one on Monday so it doesn’t really fit the Monday-Thursday request but it does allow my Monday to be a “recovery day” (usually a frozen meal if we don’t have a meal from Blue Apron to make), Tuesday = Taco Tuesday at the local taqueria (or something else easy) and Wednesday a toss up (whatever is left over/sometimes frozen pizza and a salad) easy meals without feeling any guilt whatsoever since we have relatively healthy meals at other times.

  21. With a 2.5 year old and an almost one year old that are both in full time daycare, we don’t arrive home until 6 each evening. At which point I quickly distract them with dry cereal, apple sauce and water in straw cups (exciting!) while I grab anything fast! We do a lot of scrambled eggs and avocado. We also rely heavily on some of the healthier frozen food options. For example, Trader Joes sells frozen brown rice that heats up in 3 minutes. I also splurge on frozen baby/toddler food from Raised Real. It comes cut up in small pieces and cooks on a pan on the stove in about 5 minutes. My 10 month old can eat it as finger food and for my 2.5 year old she can have it as is or mixed with some rice or pasta (usually make some pasta at some point during the weekend or week and have leftovers). Once I’m ready to sit down I grab some fruit and cut it while I’m sitting with them as their dessert. On a good night, we’re moving upstairs by 6:45ish and onto 730 and 8 pm bedtime goals. It’s pretty hectic though – not a warm, calm family dinner. When the baby was smaller we had a mother’s helper a couple times a week and it was glorious when she would arrive home before us and make dinner (she moved on to a job in a different industry right as we moved and it was getting easier to do a joint bath and bedtime with the girls so it hasn’t been as urgent to hire another mother’s helper… but without a doubt it made the evening feel much calmer). We’ll have to figure this out more as they get older so definitely bookmarking some of the resources mentioned above. Thanks for the discourse, all!

  22. Professional meal prep is something that I look into every 6-12 months, but always end up deciding that our current method is the best. At my husband’s suggestion we started requesting that our in-home after school caregiver feed our children dinner. This dramatically improved my evenings. I typically arrive home to sit with them while they eat, then my husband and I eat after they go to bed. Some nights this means the nanny preps them an easy meal with fruit or veggie, then later my husband and I eat a prepared meal purchased at the grocery store, or seafood that is quick for us to cook. Other nights we all eat the same crockpot meal that I’ve started in the morning. Weekends are our family meals. Luckily my husband has no problems eating leftovers, so the crock pot meals stretch.

  23. Some great discussion here! I too have a full-time nanny who does all our grocery shopping, cooking and even school lunch prep and packing for the kids. Since all three of my kids are now in school full day, we shifted her work hours to 11:30-7:30. This means I’m mostly on my own with the kids for breakfast (my husband starts work early). For breakfast, I put cereal, bowls etc where the kids can reach them to make their own. They also know how to microwave oatmeal and make toast on their own. My nanny’s later hours means she is there after school, so no dragging all 3 kids to one kid’s activity. And, she helps at/after dinner. I’m really fortunate, but also very conscious of evolving things to meet the needs of our family (and sanity).

  24. I enjoy cooking, and I love to eat (the way I see it, you only get 3 chances a day and I want to make each one count), so batch cooking and delegating aren’t that appealing to me. For many years pre-kids, I planned our meals on a weekly basis, but before coming back from maternity leave, I took it to a whole other level and planned our meals for a year.

    I took 16 index cards and wrote 4 weekly menus per season (to integrate fresh, seasonal vegetables). From experience I know that the right amount of planning for us is 5 dinners a week, with the other hot meals consisting of eating out, takeaway, leftovers or easy meals (fried eggs, pasta and jarred sauce, frozen food). That’s 20 meals that rotate over 3 months, so we get a very decent variety. Then on the back of the index card, I wrote the matching grocery list. The idea for me is not so much to know in advance what we will eat on any given day in the next year ; if I want to add a fancy home cooked dinner, or seize the opportunity to use some rare produce from the farmers’ market, there’s enough slack in my planning for that. But on grocery days, when I have no ideas, no time or no inclination to plan yet another week of dinners, I can just grab an index card and we’re good to go. So far I am loving it.

  25. I find having a routine menu to work well too. Basically we’ll do one Mexican, one pasta, one chicken of some sort and one stir fry. There is obvi a bit of overlap as stir fry is also chicken often, but in general this makes M – Th easy peasy but still allows a bit of variety. However, I find variety to be overrated. One month I literally alternated spaghetti and tacos for like three weeks and everyone was super happy. Go figure.

    I had considered giving a couple nights of cooking to my husband, but I realized that the actual ‘cooking’ isn’t the hard part. It’s thinking of what to cook, having ingredients avail, and knowing what time the family is eating based on schedules and how much prep time a given evening offers. He wasn’t prepared to take all that into consideration so I just kept the task on my plate, so to speak. Now my kids are teens and my cooking days are almost over. Happy? Nostalgic? I feel differently on different days! 🙂

  26. BigLaw attorney here with a physician husband. When our second child was born, I found a local chef who plans a weekly menu, cooks it and delivers it right into our door while we are at work. It has been absolutely life changing and I would highly recommend it. It really isn’t that much more than we would be paying for take out or convenience foods, but we get the benefit of high quality, healthy meals catered to our specific likes and dislikes AND we don’t have to plan, cook or clean. I love to cook, but I love the time this has given us in our evenings so much more.

    1. @Deckled Edges – this strikes me as a great solution, and probably a lot more affordable than people think (like comparable to take-out, and if you don’t value mom’s time at zero, probably a savings!) While I appreciate people’s suggestions for very easy meal planning and rotations in this discussion, to me getting rid of the mental load means that a meal appears when it’s dinner time, which is what this solution you’ve found brings about.

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