The ADHD Homestead

Create the life you want with the mind you have.

Tag: food

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.

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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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Home economics: small hacks make a big difference

If you feel like you're working too hard to maintain order at home, there's hope: you may be right. Minor tweaks can lower tension and chaos exponentially.

If you feel like you’re working too hard to maintain order at home, there’s hope: you may be right. Minor tweaks can lower tension and chaos exponentially.

When it comes to ADHD in the home, the key is to work with it, not against it. Let go of expectations and figure out what really works for you.

Most importantly, make it easy on yourself. When something’s not working, don’t beat yourself up, refine your process.

Here are a few tips for a more peaceful, organized home.

Create supports where you need them

If you or your family struggle with the same thing(s) every day — like picking out clothes in the morning — you need strategy and communication, not tough love.

Example: after reading a parenting book that told me a five-year-old should be able to pack his own lunch, I decided my husband should, too. Except he often didn’t. Instead of berating him or just continuing to do it myself, I put a dry erase board (pictured below) on the fridge. He uses it for lunches, but I actually appreciate it most on weekends and on nights when he gets home late. Instead of interrupting me to ask, “what can I eat?” or “what can I give R. for snack?” he can assemble something from the food categories on the list.

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Keep rags, cleaner, and an old toothbrush under your bathroom sink…

…and if you have young children, clean during bath time. Every ADHD parent has gotten bored during bath time, so why not fidget with something productive?

Even if you don’t have kids, keeping all the supplies within arm’s reach allows anyone to clean up when they see a mess. Often, ADHD’ers notice the toilet could use a quick swish with the brush, but we’ll forget by the time we open the bathroom door. Once you remove this barrier, you might be surprised at the cleaning help you receive!

Use a highlighter

A highlighter can help you slow down, mark things you need to remember (like deadlines or supply lists), and catch important details.

I learned about highlighters’ magic powers in college. It was senior year, and we were learning to write grant proposals in Business of Art. Our professor suggested color coding with highlighters: using a different color to call out phrases we should regurgitate in the proposal, documents we’d need to attach, important dates/deadlines, etc.

In the years since, I’ve used this strategy to win thousands of dollars in grant funding, file my tax return, complete complex banking documents, and bring all the required items to our orientation meeting with R.’s preschool teacher. It’s probably the most practical skill I learned in college. Go figure.

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Fill donation bags as you receive them in the mail

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: never trust yourself to drop anything off at Goodwill. We live in the city, and we often receive printed plastic bags from charities seeking clothing and houseware donations.

The charities mailing out these bags will pick them up — full of distracting, unwanted clutter — right from your doorstep. The bags are preprinted with contact information to schedule your pickup. It doesn’t get any easier.

Every time you receive one of these bags in the mail, unpack it right away and look for things to put into it.

Contain clutter and distractions (literally)

Baskets can save an ADHD household. Whenever I see a clutter hotspot forming, I ask myself, “would a basket solve this?”

For example, my husband used to store a lot of clothes on the floor. His reason: he planned to wear them again, thus they belonged to neither the closet nor the hamper. I bought him a basket for his in-use clothes and the clothing-on-the-floor issue disappeared.

Baskets and other open-top containers also help with out of sight, out of mind issues. If your family resists putting something away, they may just want to be able to see it (i.e., remember it exists).

If you feel like you're working too hard to maintain order at home, there's hope: you may be right. Minor tweaks can lower tension and chaos exponentially.

A less conventional idea: create a home for distracting objects to get them out of your hands. Smart phones can kill your focus, not to mention family dinners. Our cell phone bin invites anyone in our home to deposit their phone, reduce distractions, and enhance our time together. It has made a huge positive impact on my everyday life.

What about you? What small change has delivered huge benefits to your household?

5 tips for meal planning success

DSC_3677Maybe this has happened to you: you’re getting hungry, it’s almost dinner time, and you wonder what you should eat.

It’s the worst.

Afternoons aren’t my best time. My meds are wearing off, I’ve been on the go all day, and my energy and blood sugar are dropping. Before I started meal planning, we ate a lot of packaged food and takeout.

Until I decided I wouldn’t settle for frustration and a substandard diet at the end of every day.

Now I sit down every Sunday and plan our menu for the week. It can be a chore, but it liberates me from thinking about our dinners at all during the Monday-Friday circus.

If you aren’t meal planning, jump in and give it a try. It minimizes trips to the grocery store, reduces food waste, and — most important — saves our sanity.

Here are a few strategies that have helped us over the years. We’ve never subscribed to a meal planning service like Fresh20, but it may be worth a try if you’re having trouble getting started.

1.      Look at your calendar.

What nights will you be rushing in the door late (and hungry)? Do you have a stressful day coming up when you know you won’t feel like cooking? What about after-dinner activities that leave no time for cleanup?

Give yourself some slack on these nights. Plan leftovers, a meal from your freezer stash, or something you can prep the day before.

2.      Family dinner isn’t working? Make it breakfast instead.

We’ve all been hearing the “families need to eat dinner together” mantra since childhood. Well, that doesn’t work for our family. We’re on toddler time, which means dinner needs to happen before 5:45, and my husband is a chronic hyperfocuser.

Rather than banking on him getting home for dinner, I made breakfast our family meal. We’re sitting together around the table by 7:15 a.m., seven days a week. At night, R. and I eat at our usual time and I keep a plate warm in the toaster oven for my husband.

Family dinner is a nice goal, but if it’s not working, forcing it may not be the answer. As long as you’re sitting down together for one meal almost every day, you’re doing great.

3.      Use free time wherever you have it.

IMG_4713A friend of mine uses his Sunday afternoons to prep an entire week of family dinners: he precooks pasta, grills chicken, chops veggies, and packages everything up so he just has to heat and serve on weeknights.

If you’re dragging by the end of the day, are short on time in the evenings, have impatient children, or all of the above, you may want to find a low-pressure time to do your prep work in bulk.

If you have young children, consider cooking during nap time. I learned this technique from Debbie Koenig’s fabulous cookbook Parents Need to Eat Too, which I now buy for every expectant mother I know.

4.      Buy a slow cooker

Slow cookers allow you to prepare dinner ahead of time — before work or during nap time — so you have little (if anything) to do in the chaotic moments before dinner. I rely on our slow cooker for at least one meal a week. Large batches of curries, stews, and sauces usually freeze well in containers for easy meals in the future.

Not sure where to start with your slow cooker? Koenig’s book has a nice slow cooker section, and I’m in love with Anupy Singla’s The Indian Slow Cooker. I’m also happy to share my slow cooking Pinterest board.

5.      Keep track of what works.

Confession: even if I loved it, I usually won’t remember anything I ate the previous week when I sit down to make my meal plan. Find a way to keep track of successes so you can repeat them: keep a running list of favorite meals in Google Keep, take a photo of your shopping list or meal plan each week, or mark pages of your cookbooks with sticky notes.

Have you tried meal planning before? Were you able to stick with it? Please share your story!

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