Meal Planning Made Simple, our Interview with Stacie Billis
Last week I had the pleasure of interviewing, Stacie Billis, editor of the popular site, Cool Mom Eats, and author of the cookbook, Make it Easy. You can also listen to our conversation on This ORGANIZED Life Podcast episode 60.
1. Can you tell our listeners about you & Cool Mom Eats?
Cool Mom Eats is a resource for parents written by food experts (culinary trained cooks, food writers, professional recipe developers) who approach food as parents first. We share tips, tricks, advice, meal plans and anything else that we think will make life as the family cook easier – especially for people who find it a hard or thankless job.
We’re especially excited about our new Facebook group, Recipe Rescue because, again, as parents first, we know that advice and conversation from the parent mind hive is always more helpful than any single expert’s advice. The group is a place where we can foster that conversation – where we can weigh in with our expertise, but also have you guys weigh in with your personal experiences feeding your families, which is equally informative!
2. What are your thoughts on being a short order cook for picky eaters?
Hey, listen, I’m all about not judging each other. Parents deal with enough of that. If you make separate meals, it works for your family, and you don’t mind, then by all means continue. But in general, I encourage parents to refrain from the habit.
My number one reason is that it’s hard on the family cook, and there’s already so much that the family cook has working against them: time, budget, multiple tastes, and yes, often, picky eaters. Cooking more than one meal just adds to the stress – even when you think it’s alleviating it – because ultimately it takes more planning, time, and effort.
Secondly, it sets a precedent that I don’t think is particularly healthy. Though, again, I’m loath to sound judgy. I guess it depends on your family and your parenting style, but for many families, if you remove the scenario from the kitchen, parents have no problem setting boundaries – and that’s what’s needed at mealtime too.
My favorite example of this: When a toddler has a fit about being strapped into a car seat, we strap them in anyway, even though it’s a headache. We say to ourselves that it’s what we have to do for their safety and that it’s a phase and they’ll eventually deal with it. And it’s true: they do eventually deal with it because we’re consistent and stick with the safe plan of always using a car seat, no matter what their reaction.
But with food, we waver. It’s emotional. But what if you say that it’s negotiable? You don’t have to force your child to eat something they don’t like, but what if you’re reasonable in what you offer – even give them a bit of a say – and from there, decided that serving healthy meals is part of what you have to do as a parent to keep your kids well and safe? Do things change? Do you stop short order cooking? It’s interesting to ponder.
3. How much time do you typically spend prepping and preparing meals?
I don’t think that anyone should spend more than 10 minutes or so meal planning [Stacie talks about this in the podcast for more detail].
As for prepping meals, it really depends on my schedule. I usually plan on using my slow cooker or InstantPot on my busiest days, when I really don’t have more than 10-20 minutes to prep dinner. I’m not all that good at cooking really quick meals – it’s a hazard of my business! If you put me in a kitchen, I start to play and improvise and inevitably take longer, so the InstaPot helps me keep it short.
On weekdays that aren’t super crazy, I’ll typically take 30-40 minutes to prep a meal. I usually do this while my kids are doing their homework.
4. What is your thought on the InstaPot?
Well, I already spilled the beans, didn’t I?! I love mine. It took me a while to get into it though.
I’m not a big fan of recipes like: dump a frozen chicken breast, can of beans, jar of salsa, and envelope of taco seasoning into your InstaPot and, voila, dinner’s done 30 minutes later. It’s just not my type of food, so I was reluctant. But as soon as I started finding the right recipes – and there are great InstaPot recipes out there for every kind of cook and every kind of eater – I started using it like crazy! At Cool Mom Eats, I’m very picky about the InstaPot recipes we curate. Also, the InstaPot cookbook on this list is one of my absolute favorites: http://eats.coolmompicks.com/2017/12/26/best-cookbooks-of-2017-for-families/
5. I am all about authenticity, and regardless of how organized we all are, everyone struggles somewhere. Will you please share with our listeners your biggest organizational challenge?
I’m one of those people who absolutely needs my house to be in order at all times. I work from home and literally can’t think when things are out of place. But – here’s the catch – when I say that it needs to be in order, I mean that it needs to look in order. So, everything on the surfaces is organized, but my closets and drawers… well they can get pretty chaotic!
I recently organized everything, so they’re in good shape now, but once I start moving fast when things are busy, I’ll just throw stuff in a drawer or behind a closed door. If I can’t see that it’s messy, it doesn’t bother me. Ha!
6. Last but not least, where can we find you?
All places Cool Mom Eats!