Executive functioning food hacksFeb 09, 2022
We may be taught that humans have 5 senses, but in reality we have many more. One sense, the sense of interoception tells us what our internal processes are doing, so it tells us when we’re hot or cold, tired, thirsty, hungry full up etc… Often this sense is faulty in autistic people, pair this up with executive dysfunction and it’s not always easy to understand why we can’t do things that others seem to find so simple, things like consuming healthy meals each day. I noticed that my eating was really going to pot, I was bored of food, I was fed up with cooking, I didn’t even want to leave the house to go and get the food to cook it in the first place, as I live with my teenage son I need to be doing these things not only for myself but for him too, I’d often get easy meals that I could just put in the oven but even that felt like too much hard work after a long day of work. Something had to change but I had no idea where to start.
I’d been considering batch cooking for a while, but the thought alone was so overwhelming, therefore I procrastinated for ages as I wasn’t really sure how to get started. Then I decided to upgrade my kitchen tools, new pots and pans, new knives that actually cut the ingredients because once upon a time I did enjoy cooking, I thought that maybe by having tools that helped me rather than annoy me would be a good starting point, I wasn’t wrong. I was excited to test out my new tools and my other half whipped out an amazing little cooking book from the cupboard, it was filled with easy one pot recipes with few ingredients, brilliant!
Together we went over the book and chose some recipes we liked, I started to make a list of all the ingredients I’d need for these dishes and once again got really overwhelmed by the list, so I ended up breaking it down further. I chose 3 meals from the list I had made and made a shopping list detailing the ingredients I’d need, the serving sizes ranged from 4-8 I would freeze the leftovers for later consumption. I knew that I’d need to cook these meals up during the week but by the end of the week the work was worth it, my freezer was full.
I took my shopping list into the supermarket and was immediately overwhelmed, I had forgotten my pen so I couldn’t mark the items off my list, I had also done the list in meal order rather than aisle order which meant I couldn’t really work out what I had got, there was no order and I wasn’t coping very well with it, with the help of my partner (who brought me a pen) I managed to finish the trip and get the items I needed, so have someone to help you when you start if you can and avoid these silly mistakes I made, simple things make such a big difference here.
Some little things I’ve found that have really helped is having things like garlic, ginger and chillies already prepped, you can get jars ready for you to use this takes the preparation time down and these are staple ingredients for most meals. I use farm shops where possible for my meat and veg, the meat is pre-diced which saves more time and although it may seem like the expensive way to shop when you break the costs down over the meals you’re buying for it’s cheaper than the supermarket and the quality is far superior.
Keep the ingredients simple, use one pot recipes where possible, utilise your slow cooker, mine had been on top of the fridge for a couple of years gathering dust, I almost threw it out at one point, but it was good quality and I thought it may be used one day. Make sure you have at least one large oven dish 2 would be even better and a large pan, this means that you can have up to 4 meals on the go at one time, this could be enough for a months worth of meals for 2, if that doesn’t get you excited then I don’t know what will!
I personally like a little variety through the week, so I batch cooked around 20 meals and then I just top up what we’d eaten and I do this over the weekend when I can take my time and enjoy the process, this gives us a little variety, I have a couple of mid week dishes that literally take me 10 minutes to cook, usually a pasta dish and sometimes there’s enough for an extra meal, this gets frozen or eaten as a lunch the next day.
Another mistake that I've made is not planning brunches, lunches and snacks, it’s all well and good having your evening meal prepared, but you need to eat more than that in the day, so I made up a shed load of breakfast muffins, there were some great ideas on Pinterest. I’m going to be making loads of pancakes for my next batch cooking session, they can be frozen and they can have both sweet and savoury topping/ fillings, which adds that variety. I cheat a little and get a selection of pastries at the farm shop they do all sorts of yummy treats both sweet and savoury, they’re made on site, this is the more expensive way to do things but it’s worth it for me.
The other thing I initially forgot was to purchase storage containers for the meals, we got these from the supermarket and I brought reusable containers that had 2 compartments from amazon later on, this means that I can cook rice or veggies to go with some of the meals and that’s another time saver. You could use food bags to store your meals too, not as pretty but if you’re short on space and want to build your stock up then this would be a great alternative.
I started this journey in January and it has been a total game changer, no more standing staring into the fridge and cupboards, no last minute takeaways as I really didn’t have the capacity to work out what or how to feed myself, less internal stress, more time to relax, less washing up, less triggers to tip me into meltdown. This last point wasn’t something I’d really considered, then I had a change to my routine and wasn’t at home, this meant that I had to think about food again in the week and this was so stressful, I didn’t appreciate how much energy feeding myself and my son every day was taking from me, now I see it and this is one habit that I fully intend to keep around. The only time this will change is when someone else cooks the weekly meals for us, but we’re not quite ready for a personal chef so this will do for now.
Processes and systems help me to thrive, if you’d like some help to put systems into place that support you maybe you’d benefit from coaching with me, check out my coaching package here.