Meal Prep as Self-Care
“Meal prep has been the single most important act of self-care for me.”
I said this to a friend not too long ago, and it was one of those occasions when I didn’t fully realize I felt that way until, in the context of a much-needed friendly conversation with an adult human, I found myself blurting it out. I recall going on for a few minutes about how I’ve always eaten inconsistently, get overwhelmed in the kitchen, etc. and what a huge relief and convenience it is to know that lunch and dinner are already taken care of every day. I don’t have to make decisions, dig through cabinets, or try to pull some creative spark out of my butt to make a handful of random ingredients into something fast, filling, and relatively nutritive. MacGyver of the kitchen, I am not.
It’s a lot of work and I certainly don’t feel like spending most of my Sunday cooking, but remembering the rewards of our labor is not difficult. The impact of vegetarian meal prep on my quality of life is too significant.
When it comes to self-care as an idea or practice, able-bodied people tend to think of it as things that make life pleasurable, refreshing, or peaceful: reading in a hot bath, going to yoga classes, making and drinking a green smoothie, painting your nails, reading a fun book, and the like. I’ve read a few articles and blogs by differently abled or lower income authors who have pointed out that self-care is sometimes just taking a shower to be clean. Or baking a potato so that you can eat lunch. It’s care in a very literal, direct sense. (Which is not to say that disabled/differently abled people don’t want or seek joy. We absolutely do! Our expectations are simply more varied.)
During pregnancy, I read a couple articles by mothers about how essential it is for them to do self-care in order to be good mothers. “If you take care of yourself, you can take care of your child.” I’ve never liked the self-sacrificing wife/mother trope, so I wholeheartedly embraced this idea, and yet once my child was born I could see that this would be an ongoing challenge. For one thing, a child’s needs are seemingly endless and a body (disabled or not) can only do so much.
And even if you’re able-bodied, childfree, and financially buoyant, I’m sure you face challenges that make it difficult for you to choose to take care of yourself. Knowing you have a choice makes it easier theoretically, but not necessarily in practice.
I haven’t been able to figure out how to relax enough to enjoy a nice long bath, but I have been able to commit to the satisfaction I feel when all I need to do for lunch or dinner is heat up an inexpensive, healthy, and delicious meal that last Sunday me made for future me. The satisfaction of that commitment allowed me to choose to go hiking on Saturday mornings with my family. Those commitments allowed me to consider myself as someone who deserves care, and with the stability of that care, can provide care for others.
Whatever self-care looks like for you, whether it’s as basic as feeding yourself or as luxuriant as remodeling your bathroom to be more spa-like, take one step toward it.