The ADHD Homestead

Create the life you want with the mind you have.

Recap: #askAdultADHD 11/28/16

A Dose of Healthy Distraction‘s Liz Lewis and I hosted our very first #askAdultADHD live chat on Monday, and we had a great time! We chatted about everything from hyperactivity to hormones to video games — and how these relate to life as an adult with ADHD.

We’d love to build on these live chats and include ADHD experts to answer some of your tougher questions. I’m currently considering a monthly schedule, so keep an eye out for the next chat shortly after Christmas.

Did you follow along this time? What did you think? What topics would you like to cover, and what feels unnecessary? What was most useful? Would you participate again?

If you missed it, what would help you join us for the next live chat? Are you not available at 8:30 on a Monday night? Not sure how to follow a live chat on Twitter? Unconvinced the topics we cover will be valuable to you?

Please let me know in the comments!

And, for those who want to catch up, here’s a summary of our conversation:

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Join us for the #askAdultADHD Twitter chat on 11/28

I’m pleased to announce something I’ve wanted to do for a long time: on Monday, November 28, I’ll be hosting a live Twitter chat to talk about adult ADHD. Liz Lewis of A Dose of Healthy Distraction will join me, along with anyone else who wants to drop by.

Log in at 8:30 p.m. EST to ask questions, make requests for future blog posts, or just listen to the conversation. Follow the conversation using the #askAdultADHD hashtag, and make sure you include it in any tweets intended for us.

If you can’t make it, never fear. I’ll post a transcript here afterward.

askadultadhd-2016-11-28

 

Declaring relationship bankruptcy after an ADHD diagnosis

It’s been some years — I don’t remember how many — since my husband and I began treatment for ADHD. I use the word “treatment” loosely: we both began taking stimulant medications, and we still do, but treatment means more than that. The journey includes plenty of hard work and learning, not just a prescription.

That learning changed our lives. We both started reading about adult ADHD. We learned about ourselves, each other, and our marriage. We felt like our relationship could start over.

The ADHD diagnosis can give couples a chance to declare bankruptcy in our relationships — in the most positive, healing way possible.

adhd-marriage-bankruptcy

When we owe more than we can repay

When people (or businesses) declare financial bankruptcy, it’s because they owe more than they can afford to pay.

What a thing to consider in a marriage: what does it mean to owe more than I can afford to pay? If you’ve struggled with late-diagnosis ADHD, you have an idea.

Many of us cling to a feeling that we shouldn’t let someone “get away” with bad behavior: the consequences should match the crime. We fear becoming a doormat or an enabler. But in marriage, we bind ourselves to another person. We create a new family, whether it becomes a family of two or sixteen. We shouldn’t underestimate the emotional and financial price of dissolving that marriage. Sometimes we focus so much on standing up for ourselves, we leave no one standing up for our relationships.

While my husband and I might not have imagined it several years ago, our little family is thriving. Our home is full of love and support and, yes, ADHD-related aggravations. Letting go of the past has freed us to build a strong future. We have the knowledge and power to forge a new path. Grudges will only us back.

Letting go, for our own sake

I used to take pride in stubbornness. I cursed my short attention span for my inability to stay angry when someone “deserved it.” As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that I hurt myself more than anyone by holding onto negative emotions. Stress and anger are toxic to our minds and bodies. There was a time when I literally lost sleep over some of my husband’s ADHD-related behavior. I blamed him for my exhaustion and my elevated stress, and this fueled the cycle of anger and resentment.

Eventually, I realized I needed to take care of myself first. I needed to find a way to forgive and, most important, work around him. I needed to find a way to be content and effective on my own — to take control of my own emotional life. With that, I was free to care for myself, but also to support him in his desire to change.

We can’t build up when we’re busy tearing down

Which brings me to my next point: those of us with ADHD know we mess up all the time. We feel awful about it. Knowing others are angry and disappointed only makes it worse.

I remember when my husband rear-ended someone at a red light. In his defense, there were contributing factors, but it was still all ADHD.

I was livid. This was pre-ADHD treatment, so my own behavior — especially responses to frustration — was out of control. Having never been in an accident as a driver, I felt like I had a moral high ground. I wanted to stand in the middle of the road and berate him until I lost my voice.

Luckily, a close friend was in the car with us, and he pulled me to the other side of the road. Then he told me something I’ll never forget: your husband feels bad enough right now. The last thing he needs is for you to add to it.

I’ve remembered this conversation many times over the years. When we hurt someone we love, we don’t need the wronged party to tear us down. We need support. We needed a firm, kind response that will empower us to do better next time.

Letting go, to get to work

In many ways, treatment and education for our ADHD has given us new eyes. How should we ask to be repaid, except with a promise, now that we know better, to do better? What do I have to gain by creating unreasonable expectations, or by holding my husband to things he said before his diagnosis? Old hurts can be difficult to release, but when we learn to let go, we can find great peace, stability, and happiness in our relationships. Even when things go wrong.

For some, declaring financial bankruptcy can be the best first step toward a strong financial future. In the same way, for some couples, a declaration of relationship bankruptcy can be the best way forward following an ADHD diagnosis. All you need is two people willing to own their flaws and keep doing the best they can with what they have.

When have you struggled to let go of an ADHD partner’s misdeeds? How has letting go helped (or hurt)?

A moment of silence

I had a post all planned for today, but it feels inappropriate to carry on with business as usual while there’s so much negative energy still in the air over this election.

I’m seeing many friends and family take to the social media airwaves today, and the message is dire. Many people I love are experiencing real fears, real frustrations, real hurt and anger. That’s been true for months.

At the same time, those of us with ADHD, especially, should remember how easy it is to hyperfocus on negative emotions — to get stuck. How easily our emotions can spiral out of control.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve heard some very troubling things today. Fears and anxieties I never imagined we’d experience here in the United States. But we won’t heal our nation if we remain mired in negativity. No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, it’s important to remember everyone’s views and actions come from somewhere. It may not be a place you understand, but we can’t silence large swaths of our population with brute force, insults, or accusations. It will just bubble up again.

People with ADHD struggle with empathy and civility. Our emotions can feel extreme and out of control. That makes times like this especially difficult.

My advice: make time for silence this week. Take breaks from the news and social media. Be present with yourself. Most of all, don’t feed the trolls. We’ll be back next week to talk about one of my favorite topics: marriage and ADHD.

Sewing, ADHD, empathy, and learning to switch gears

My husband and I inhabit opposite ends of the ADHD spectrum, and we sometimes clash over each other’s use of personal and project time around the house. I’ve tried to develop empathy and understanding for his work style, but it’s hard, especially when my own ADHD hinders that empathetic response. I’ve learned the most — and gained the most empathy — from a hobby I’m shocked to have in the first place: sewing.

sewing-adhd-empathy

A little background on what makes time management a thorny issue for us: My focus ping-pongs between tasks. I love starting new projects. Anyone who shares an office with me will notice, I have a habit of saying a sentence or two every few minutes. This drives my husband crazy.

He finds interruptions unbearable. Once interrupted, he spends a lot of energy sinking back into his task. My multi-tasking, over-ambitious nature aggravates and overwhelms him. He only wants to work on one thing at once. Once he’s in the zone, he finds it nearly impossible to break away. He can agree the task sin’t worth the time, isn’t a priority, should at least be delayed for the sake of family time, sleep, or food — but he’ll still spend an entire day on it. I can’t spend an entire day on one thing, even if I want to.

In short: we have two very different brains. We both have ADHD, but we struggle to regulate our focus in different ways.

An unlikely truce with the sewing machine.

Until my late 20s, I avoided the sewing machine. It required many things I lacked: Focus. An ability to read directions without missing a step. A light touch. Patience. Willingness to forgo ill-advised shortcuts. My sewing projects ended one of two ways: Abandoned due to some mishap (see above) or looking uncharmingly homemade.

Then something happened. First, I started treating my ADHD. My house also needed curtains, and I had trouble finding the right size and color in the store. Curtains felt expensive for their quality. If I wanted the right stuff, I’d have to make it myself.

From curtains grew a desire to make clothing, floor cushions (another item I considered overpriced), and a weighted therapy blanket. With each project, I learned new tricks, new skills.

An object lesson in hyperfocus.

I also noticed something happening in my brain. I got into the zone with sewing in a way I usually found impossible. I’d finish a seam and want to sew up one more raw edge, and then one more. As the finished product grew nearer, I found it harder to put it down.

I mentioned this to my husband and he said, that’s exactly what software engineering is, except there’s always one more raw edge.

It’s the kind of thing that can become an addiction for a person with ADHD — especially one who struggles with controlling hyperfocus and switching tasks. With each raw edge that disappears, our brains get another little hit of dopamine. With that, we’re already chasing the next.

Brains out of (and back in) the corral.

Regardless of whether it contributes to an ADHD superpower, I don’t think hyperfocus feels good. Sure, my husband likes writing software, but he doesn’t like staying at work all night. Once the spell is broken, he won’t defend his decision to sink hours into a Wikipedia rabbit hole. In fact, it hardly feels like a decision at all. Hyperfocus can feel like a superhuman skill, but at some level, we also know we’re out of control.

My new sewing habit helped me understand and develop compassion for my husband, but I used it to teach my brain new tricks, too. I stopped and considered how long I might like to spend on sewing before I sat down at the machine. I forced myself to stop after that time had elapsed, even if my brain screamed in protest. When I burned out on  a writing project, I drifted to my sewing table. Switching to a spacial, manual task allowed the linguistic part of my brain to recharge. It gave me time to decompress and allow new ideas to bubble to the surface. After a lifetime of trying to corral my focus, I learned that switching gears — done wisely — can be a good thing.

It’s easy to give up on ourselves in certain respects: to say, “my ADHD makes me bad at that.” It’s even easier to get angry with a spouse because we feel they don’t get it, aren’t trying hard enough, or just don’t care how their behavior affects us. To my surprise, sewing has taught me a lot on both fronts. I conquered a previously unconquerable skill, and I got a taste of what hyperfocusers are up against.

When do you struggle most to empathize with your partner? What helps you see the world from their perspective?

Firm and kind: A challenge for ADHD families.

I think I speak for most ADHD-affected households when I say, sometimes we don’t bring out the best in each other. In his book Healing ADD From the Inside Out, Dr. Daniel Amen makes a list of games people with ADHD love to play. One of them is, “I bet I can get you to hit me or yell at me.” Sound familiar?

Most of the time, this isn’t even conscious. People with poorly managed ADHD — or those whose medication has worn off for the day — have trouble regulating emotional responses. They also use conflict to balance out their brain chemistry. Yelling, fighting, or needling someone until they explode provides a boost of dopamine, a neurotransmitter in short supply for ADHD’ers.

Without proper treatment and education, these become lifelong behavior patterns.

firm-and-kind-and-adhd

My goal when responding to these behaviors — and I falter often — is to be both firm and kind. Too many people still believe stricter parenting (like we had in the “good old days”) is the answer for kids with ADHD. When we see unacceptable behavior, we read a lack of visible, tangible punishment as permissive parenting. To some, firm and kind feel mutually exclusive.

This attitude isn’t limited to children: I hear the same about spouses and other adult family members. We don’t like to see someone “get away” with bad behavior.

I’m firm, I’m kind, but I don’t consider myself permissive with my family. I’m certainly not a doormat. In fact, people often tell me I’m the only person so-and-so will listen to, or they ask why a certain family member behaves better around me. It goes to show: Firm and kind can be strong, too.

Respect for myself

I first discovered “firm and kind” in parenting expert Vicki Hoefle’s lovely books and this post on her blog. Her words have changed my life. I feel like I have permission to look out for myself while I care for my family. Returning to Dr. Amen’s game of “I bet I can get you to hit me or yell at me,” I wonder how much respect I can have for myself when I’m falling right into that trap. In parenting, as in all social interactions, if someone can goad me into a fight, they can control me. If my child can make me late every time we leave the house, he’s in control. An out-of-control person doesn’t command respect from herself, let alone others.

When I draw a boundary, I show everyone I mean it. It doesn’t matter whether the boundary is big or small. I’m firm about reducing the number of days our family spends traveling around Christmas. I’m also firm about leaving for school at 8:45 a.m., regardless of who’s still in bare feet.

Giving kindness and respect to my family

At the same time, I try to practice kindness without letting others step all over my boundaries. I don’t say, “fine, you spent so long playing around, see how you like freezing your toes on the way to the car!” I say, “okay, time to leave. I’ll bring your shoes to the car so you can put them on while we drive.”

Simple. Matter of fact. Kind.

Hoefle claims that all children modify behavior based on what earns a reaction. We can deduce that children with ADHD do this to the extreme. When we engage in power struggles, allow ourselves to be goaded into flying off the handle, or allow our child’s behavior to control a situation, we set ourselves — and our children — up for more of the same tomorrow. This feels more unkind than letting him get cold toes on the way to the car.

Modeling how I want to be treated

After reading Hoefle’s books, my ears became attuned to how parents all around me spoke to their children. Try this next time you’re in a public place: Imagine the children as adults. What would you think if you heard someone speaking to an adult that way?

“Firm but kind” reconciles my two minds when it comes to parenting. We can be firm. We can refuse to engage in a power struggle. We can also be kind without letting kids ‘get away’ with bad behavior.

In other words, we can be respectful without being permissive. We can be kind without becoming a doormat. I apply these principles to everyone in my family, from ages 3-85. I’ve discovered that the harder it is to get a rise out of me, the more respect and accommodation I get from others. Especially those with ADHD.

Have you struggled to maintain peace and respect in your family? What keeps you grounded?

Why I don’t commiserate with friends about my ADHD partner

It can seem like a favorite pastime for the over-30 set: we commiserate with friends — almost always same-gender, often accompanied by alcohol — about our spouses’ foibles.

We’ve all done it, and we’ve all nodded along while someone else aired their grievances. In the sober light of day, we might wave this grousing off as harmless. It’s not, especially when someone in the relationship has ADHD. Taken too far, it can be as toxic as the ADHD itself.

happily-married

 

Here’s the problem: We view the world through our lens, and others through theirs. It’s easy for neurotypical third parties to misinterpret ADHD behavior. A well-meaning friend may jump to our defense, labeling our ADHD spouse as abusive or manipulative, selfish or inconsiderate. Surprisingly few ADHD behaviors are intentional or calculated, but most of the world reads it that way. We may read it that way. Our friends, eager to support and defend us, reflect it back.

To clarify: I’m not condoning bad behavior. Poorly managed ADHD can make the whole family miserable.  I’m also talking about my own experience in a normal, loving, ADHD-afffected relationship. ADHD affects all kinds of people, including selfish, abusive jerks. I’m not married to one of them.

ADHD hides other sides of the story.

ADHD can color the way I perceive and react to domestic negotiations. Last fall, I wrote about the challenges of being a workaholic homemaker with ADHD. I lamented the loss of our twice-monthly cleaning service, which was supposed to be temporary but which I tried to make permanent. I wanted more time to write, and I thought paying a cleaning lady could give me just that.

Imagine me telling this story, fresh off the original confrontation with my husband, to a supportive stay-at-home mom friend. What might she say? That my dreams are important, too? Who is my husband to deprive me of this over a relatively minor expense? That it’s 2016, and he shouldn’t expect a woman to be a full-time homemaker while he continues to advance his career?

Here’s the truth: My husband is incredibly supportive of my writing on a daily basis. This summer, he took time off from work to stay with our son while I attended a writing conference. He didn’t think twice about spending the money on the conference, nor did he complain about staying home with R. He has complete faith in me and admires my dedication to my work. As for which parent stays home, he would’ve been happy to do it. Our decision was made on the basis of money and, at some level, who was more in control of their ADHD symptoms.

Here’s another truth: Being a homemaker for an ADHD household takes a lot of time and effort. Having ADHD myself makes everything harder. When a spouse has ADHD, the other partner usually picks up slack from them, too. I’m pulling more weight than the average stay-at-home mom, plus I have my own impairments. Not only that, my ADHD hinders my ability to roll with the punches. I had more trouble dealing with the argument about the cleaning lady than the loss of her services.

If I lack adequate time to write, the culprit isn’t ideology, it’s poorly-managed ADHD. I shouldn’t be asking for a cleaning lady, I should be demanding that X, Y, and Z ADHD symptoms be brought under control. Most important, I should wait for a calm moment to plot my way forward. The problem is, I doubt that’s what a girlfriend would tell me over a glass of wine.

Don’t judge: our worst is the worst.

The bottom line: our family is mutually supportive and egalitarian, and we’re doing the best we can. We make mistakes, we overreact, but we apologize an move on. We know and honor each other’s true selves. Both my husband and I admit we have ADHD, admit it’s a problem, and make an effort to manage the symptoms that negatively impact others.

ADHD happens to good people, and it can make us look bad. In our worst — usually unmedicated — moments, we can look downright monstrous. I’ve dealt with this all my life: an outburst, a temporary loss of myself, an irrational response, and suddenly that’s what defines me in someone else’s eyes. It feels awful, and it’s why I try not to complain about my husband to my friends. Because he’s a great guy, and most of the time my life feels inappropriately fortunate. He’s my family. I don’t want ADHD to define him as anything other than that.

Do you struggle to be fair to your partner while satisfying your need to vent? What have you learned?

I’ve accomplished nothing…or maybe I’ve just forgotten.

I end a lot of days feeling like I got nothing done. Like my efforts were not enough.

Moms with (or without, let’s be honest) ADHD: I bet some of you can relate.

I push back against this feeling all the time. It’s important to me to feel like I’m enough, but my sense of industriousness and my mood are so closely intertwined. This is why I rarely relax: it doesn’t feel good unless it comes at the end of a long, productive day.

The other day, a thought flashed through my mind as I pulled up to a stop sign: What if it’s not me, but my memory?

I can’t celebrate what I can’t remember.

Of course, sometimes a day is justifiably disappointing. My allergies have been driving me crazy and messing up my sleep. I’ll admit to spending more time on Facebook and snacks as a result. I know what overtired brains do, and mine’s doing it. But why, on a day when I put in a solid effort and cross several things off my list, do I still sit down to dinner feeling disappointed with myself?

During my AmeriCorps service, I submitted weekly reports tracking my progress and my daily activities. I filled them with meticulous detail, and they were never late. I never made time to fill them out at the end of the week, either. I wrote them every hour of every day. Others found this tedious, but the process had tremendous benefits for me. By the afternoon, I don’t remember what I did that morning. By dinnertime, I can’t tell you what I did with my day at all.

Many adults with ADHD struggle with memory. Not only that, I bounce from task to task, even if I intend to spend all day on one project. I do a lot on any given day, but it rarely makes it into long-term memory. If I can’t remember what I do, how must that affect my sense of accomplishment and worth?

memory-and-adult-adhd

As with everything: write it down.

In my current life, no one’s collecting weekly progress reports. I don’t have a performance review or a regular check-in. It’s easy to lose track of how I spend my time. For a few days, I decided to write down what I accomplished.

The results were surprising. I didn’t include base-level responsibilities like child care, cooking meals, or washing dishes, even though these things take a great deal of attention. Even so, I amassed quite a list on Monday: I changed the sheets on the beds, went for a run, did my weekly review, emptied all my inboxes, made sandwich bread, cleaned the downstairs (that includes tidying, dusting, polishing furniture, and vacuuming), folded a load of laundry, made our weekly menu and grocery list, and began to draw a sewing pattern.

It’s a relatively modest list, with no glory, nothing worthy of celebration — unless you have ADHD and remember your previous life, when your ADHD was out of control and none of those things felt possible. For anyone, anywhere, it’s quite enough to fill a day. With my poor memory, I now understand how I can end a day feeling like I’ve accomplished nothing. I work in small bites, and this means I’m often surrounded by works-in-progress. I now (occasionally) finish them at some point, but very few days contain anything to brag about.

Forgetting is no excuse for self-criticism.

Glory or no, it’s important to give ourselves credit where it’s due. Failing to remember what we’ve done for ourselves, our families, and the world is no excuse. My lesson for this week: if I get down on myself for slow progress, I need to start writing notes. I need to pretend I’ll be asked for a report at the end of the week. I need to find some way to remember, because I have plenty to show for myself. I just can’t remember what it is.

Do you feel you have a clear picture of your productivity? Your accomplishments? Do you struggle with feelings of ineffectiveness? How much of this do you think is rooted in reality vs. perspective?

Don’t call me clean, organized, or hard-working.

Sometimes I wonder: what does it mean to be good at something?

When people praise me for being organized, motivated, or a hard worker, I don’t feel complimented. Being told I’m “good at” something doesn’t make me feel accomplished.

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Perhaps because “good at _______,” “hard worker,” and “organized” all hint at innate aptitude, not actual hard work. I avoid discussing so-called natural “gifts” (including those often attributed to ADHD) because gifts don’t set us apart. The nature and quality of the work we do — personal and professional — is what defines us. ADHD makes it difficult to maintain consistency in this work. Success ought to be recognized for what it is, not cheapened with random labels like “organized” or “creative.”

Telling someone he’s good at something can be a comment on ourselves, too. It’s like admiring a person’s physical appearance: we fail to consider the complex reasons she might be thinner or stronger than we are.

This doesn’t come naturally…I have ADHD.

natural-gifts-labels-adhd-pull-quoteI won’t be so presumptuous as to call my house clean or uncluttered, but others have said this about me. Sometimes, I envy friends with messy homes.  I’m not naturally clean. I don’t love tidying up my whole downstairs every single night. I was born a collector, not a minimalist. Maintaining an alphabetized filing system and emptying my inboxes regularly isn’t easy.  It’s like when people tell me I’m good at yoga. Nope. I’m committed to a surprisingly modest daily practice that’s accessible to just about anyone.

And so it is with everything in my life. All my good habits are “for now.” None are particularly ambitious. I expect to fall off the wagon and get back on over and over, for as long as I’m alive. I set the bar low enough to clear, even it makes my goals embarrassingly small.

I’m not an overachiever…I do what I need to do.

Despite my hard work, I only do what I need to do to stay sane. I don’t keep boxing up and giving away my possessions because it’s fast and easy. I do it because I won’t clean my house if there’s clutter all over. I do it because an uncluttered, lower-stimulation environment gives me an uncluttered mind. I maintain an obsessive system for my calendars and to-do list. I write everything down on sticky notes. This is because my memory is so terrible, it’s embarrassing and a little scary.

Sure, you can tell me, “wow, I’m jealous, you’re so organized.” I’d like to point out, though, it’s like telling a person in a wheelchair, “wow, I’m so jealous, you have great upper body strength.”

Likewise, when you call me a hard worker, sometimes I’m reminded of the flip side: I have to work harder than the average person to get the same results — so I do. I maintain my lifestyle because I enjoy the significant personal benefits it provides. But is this worthy of praise?

We can un-earn praise.

And, because ADHD makes us unreliable at times, there’s another worry: if you think I’m a calm, attentive parent, what happens when you catch me on a bad day? When I’m tired, or my meds are wearing off, or I’m in an environment that’s too overstimulating and my brain shuts down? If you think I’m super organized, what happens when I forget something big and important?

A couple weeks ago, I referred to parenting experts Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish’s criticism of vague praise: it’s something you can take away. “Organized,” “put together,” “calm,” and “good listener” feel tenuous to me. I suspect many people with ADHD feel the same. We’re waiting for the other shoe to drop — for someone to uncover our ruse.

Instead of marveling at my natural aptitude for cleanliness and order — it’s imaginary, anyway — ask me about my process for keeping my email inbox empty. Ask me about my favorite organizing book or app. Not only will I feel noticed for who I truly am — a person with flawed neurochemistry who’s worked very hard to construct and environment that supports my and my family’s well-being — I’ll talk your ear off about how you can do the same.

Natural gifts are just that. A great many of them end up gathering dust. When we recognize each other, it should be for our willingness to learn, to forgive ourselves, and to keep trying even when progress is slow.

Review: HelloFresh meal delivery

Home-cooked meals nourish our bodies, our minds, and our budget. I have a pretty solid meal planning routine, but this summer I welcomed a little help from meal delivery service HelloFresh.

For the purpose of this review, I used HelloFresh for around six weeks. I received one free box , but all opinions are (as always) my own. This review is based on the veggie box. I tried to keep it concise, but I welcome your questions in the comments.

adhd-in-the-kitchen

Flavors

I enjoyed every HelloFresh meal. The flavors were on point for summer: fresh, light, and seasonal. Many meals were based on our household favorites — beans and rice, quesadillas, stir fry, etc. — but offered a new twist.

ADHD sabotages impulse control, so pre-portioned meals were a plus, especially after overeating on several vacations this summer. However, meals with greens had too many, and some salad-based meals felt too light to stand alone for dinner. I enjoy vegetarian meals, but that doesn’t mean I’m on a diet.

Families with allergies or extreme pickiness should know, HelloFresh doesn’t offer meal preferences unless you order the 3-meal Classic Box. My husband is mildly allergic to tree nuts, but I could usually leave the nuts off his portion.  I don’t recall receiving anything with peanuts, but many meals contained tree nuts, gluten, soy, and/or dairy.

Ease of preparation

HelloFresh boxes are stocked with everything you need to prepare your meals. Expect to stock staples like salt, pepper, and olive oil, but that’s about it. None of the recipes require a microwave (good, because we don’t have one), and all clean up easily without a dishwasher (don’t have one of those, either).

The meals were so easy to prepare, I took HelloFresh on vacation.  There’s no contract and it’s easy to change your delivery address week to week. Changing or pausing the service is no big deal (great for ADHD-affected families, where these details are often overlooked). I had a box delivered to our beach house and combined meals to make a two-course feast for friends.

While I thought preparation was a breeze, my husband found meal preparation “so stressful.” He’s my cooking opposite: he’s a novice, he’s fastidious, and his ADHD makes multi-tasking almost impossible. The recipes were easy, but some required multi-tasking: having two pots on a flame at once, broiling veggies while sauteeing onions, etc. That said, he successfully cooked 2.5 of the 3 meals I assigned him to cook without my help.


HelloFresh changed the way I think about meal preparation. Since the birth of our son, I’ve relied on big batches. I’ll make meat sauce for spaghetti in the crock pot, then freeze it in three-cup portions to use later. My rotation of big batch recipes is big enough to eliminate from-scratch cooking on weeknights.

With HelloFresh, I learned to simplify from-scratch meals and get them underway quickly. Each meal has its own labeled box with ready-to-use ingredients: tiny jars of honey, vinegar, or other condiments; peeled, wrapped cloves of garlic; a single carrot. I had no idea how much time I was spending collecting ingredients, putting containers away, and measuring tablespoons of oil! I plan to save some of those little jars and build my own meal boxes for non-HelloFresh nights.

Freshness

We had a few nasty heat waves last month, and some of our produce arrived in poor shape. On a particularly punishing afternoon, I opened my box to find the food inside already rotting. I’m glad I never ordered a box with meat inside. As long as temperatures didn’t exceed the low 90s, everything arrived fresh.

HelloFresh provided excellent support when I emailed a complaint about this. The representative who wrote back was prompt, friendly, and quite apologetic. She applied a credit to my account for the full cost of my box, even though many of the ingredients had been usable. However, I continued to receive distinctly un-fresh perishables on hot days. Throwing away food makes me sad, and I ended up pausing the service for a week because of the heat. (For reference, our delivery carrier in Baltimore is LaserShip — others’ experience may vary.)

The verdict

Overall, I think I’m hooked. HelloFresh adheres well enough to my pre-existing dietary preferences: simple meals, whole foods, no synthetic dyes, etc. Although I’d love more organics and whole grains, I’m willing to compromise because HelloFresh is so delicious, convenient, and economical.

Though it won’t magically transform a non-cook into the family chef, HelloFresh is a snap compared to a service like Blue Apron. It’s perfect for folks with ADHD who enjoy cooking because meal planning demands so much of our executive functioning.

Interested in trying HelloFresh for yourself? Use the code JACLYNP35 to get $35 off your first box. Tell me what you think (or ask me anything about my HelloFresh experience) in the comments!

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