I am absolutely one of those artistic sorts whose muse is not especially concerned with things like making sure I eat. It's probably for the best that I live with a partner and a small being who continue to require sustenance even while I'm on deadline, or else I would probably forget that I too, require sustenance when on deadline. All humans require sustenance, in fact, even when they are on deadline. Who'd have thought?
When I was younger, I could get by on a few cups of coffee and a PB&J, but those days and the days of trad pub deadlines didn't happen to line up for me. I'm in my 30s now, and have to like, eat actual meals, or I feel like garbage.
As I gear up to dive into what promises to be a very intensive edit of Lucky Lovers Book 3, I thought I'd share how I handle this aspect of life when all I really want to do is chug lattes and obsess over snippets of dialogue. If you're an author, or someone who finds themself on difficult deadlines regularly, hopefully something in here might be helpful to you! At the bottom, I've included my favorite easy recipe that was invented for my very first Edit Month.
I'm trying something new this time around. I've been through a good handful of deadlines by now, and while I've got dinner down pretty well, if I'm not careful, I'll skip or half-ass the earlier meals. I decided on a whim to try the Daily Harvest frozen meal delivery service thing over my winter break (they are not paying me to name drop, I am paying them... paying them plenty lol), and think it will be helpful. I didn't like any of the actual food items, but the smoothies were good, and some of them were way more filling than ones I make myself. They come frozen and ready to just throw in a blender with some oat milk or whatever, so I got a bunch of them, and they are in my freezer.
They're a little pricey, but it's personally worth it to me, because it's actually helping me get some food in my stomach in the morning. With a little extra planning, you could certainly portion out your own favorite smoothie ingredients in a similar sort of paper cup and freeze them. It's kind of a cool concept, whether you make them yourself or buy them premade.
Lunch is the worst, because I always either want something really tasty, or don't want to bother. I had hoped I could use that Daily Harvest thing for frozen lunches too, but I just really didn't like them at all. It did make me realize though... if I was willing to pay a gazillion dollars for the reasonably healthy frozen lunches in this box, I might as well stock up on the reasonably healthy soups and frozen mac-and-cheese thingys at the store that are like half the price. So I did that. I'm taste-testing my way through the frozen meals section of the Whole Foods 365 down the street from my house, and stocked up on the Amy's chilis and soups that I like. I've found some winners, and most of them are pasta, which is fantastic, because I love pasta.
Dinner I've got down! At the beginning of the month, I write out a little meal plan on the whiteboard I attached to my fridge. The key here is that every week in the deadline has the same meal plan. This makes shopping easy, because I always need the same ingredients, many of which are shelf-stable and I can buy all at once at the start of the deadline. It takes all thought out of things for the month. It's not super exciting (not that dinner always has to be exciting, but I actually love cooking exciting dinners and putting them on fancy plates and stuff, so it's a sacrifice), but it works well. The Edit Month Menu always looks like this:
Monday: Ravioli and Peas (recipe below!)
Tuesday: Veggie Stir Fry (with pre-marinaded baked tofu)
Wednesday: Fried Rice (with yesterday's leftovers)
Thursday: Order Pizza
Friday: Grilled Cheese and Soup
Saturday: Go out or Take out
Sunday: Wild Card
I leave that Sunday open to whims, because as I said, I do like to put together awesome dinners. I'll usually do a nice soup, stew, or chili. It helps me slow down, relax, and feel taken care of for the week ahead. If that's not your jam, you could use up leftovers, get more takeout, or throw together another stir fry.
As you can see, this menu is not, like, exceptionally healthy, but it's nutritious enough for my family's needs, and is realistic. It's easy to shop for, not super expensive, and doesn't result in buying a bunch of food we are too busy to cook. If you're putting together your own menu for a deadline, you've got to be honest about what's realistic for you. I'm not going to be trying new recipes or cooking anything that takes more than 20 minutes to throw together. It's just not happening. On the flip side, I personally can't live on pizza every day (as much as I would like to), so I have to make sure there's enough protein and veggies to keep me feeling good. I also blew a bunch of my food budget on those fancy smoothies, so the cash isn't there for a ton of high-quality takeout. I still have to cook some days.
It's a balance, but once you strike it, it keeps this one aspect of being a living creature running a bit more smoothly when your attention is needed elsewhere. I've used this same menu during times of personal difficulty as well. It's a way of taking care of myself and my loved ones that feels manageable and genuinely helpful.
Edit Month Ravioli and Peas
Here's what you're really here for: my Edit Month Ravioli. This has got to be the best bang for your buck (and time) ever. It's not an exact science, so the measurements are estimated to the best of my ability. You can easily tweak the proportions and ingredients to your preferences (though part of its charm is how the spinach and mushrooms soak up the flavors.) You can chop stuff yourself, but most stores carry all the ingredients pre-chopped, in which case this whole thing takes about 15 minutes start-to-finish and is freaking delicious.
Makes about 4 servings
1 bag frozen cheese ravioli
1 c frozen peas
1 package sliced mushrooms
handful of baby spinach
Chopped garlic to taste (I use 2-3 cloves)
2 tbs butter
2 tbs olive oil
Splash of Worcestershire or soy sauce
1 tsp oregano or basil
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated parmasan cheese.
Boil some water for the ravioli. While it's heating up, saute the mushrooms in the butter and oil. Once they've released their liquid and start to dry out a bit, add the splash of Worcestershire and garlic. Cook for about a minute. Add the peas, oregano, salt and pepper, cooking until the peas are not quite so frosty. Then add the spinach and cook until it's all wilty and soaking up the butter and the peas are warmed through.
By this point, your water probably started boiling, though if not, you can set the veggies and sauce aside; they'll be fine. Cook the ravioli according to the package directions, drain, and add to the pan with all the good stuff in it. Stir it together, add more butter or oil if it's dry, and more salt if needed. Top with parmesan cheese.
That's about it for my musings on deadline meals. I've definitely found this little bit of planning and realism to go a long way toward making for a less stressful time. Do you have any favorite foods that you reach for during busy times?