Bachelor Nation may still be reeling from the ridiculous antics featured on this past season of Bachelor in Paradise, which culminated in (spoiler alert!) three engagements. And as former Bachelor contestant and Bachelor in Paradise success story Jade Roper tells Shape, she still believes true love can bloom in the context of reality TV. (Related: The 6 Relationship Lessons You Can Learn from 'Bachelor in Paradise')
"Maybe that's just the hopeless romantic in me, but I do think there can still be genuine connections and I hope people are still going on, open to finding that," she says.
Roper's foray into The Bachelor franchise began in 2015 when she appeared on Season 19 of the series and vied for the affections of then-star Chris Soules. After being eliminated in the eighth week, Roper joined the Season 2 cast of Bachelor in Paradise that same year. There, she met and got engaged to Bachelorette alum Tanner Tolbert, whom she wed in 2016. Five years later, the couple is parents to three kids: daughter Emerson Avery, 4, and sons Brooks Easton, 2, and Reed Harrison, who is just shy of a year old. It's not hard to imagine the chaos that must ensue in a house full of toddlers, but Roper, 34, says she's found ways to minimize stress and maximize quality time.
"As a mom of three little kids, dinner time is definitely one of the craziest times of the day for us," she says. "It's like, all of a sudden, those last couple of hours before bedtime, they just get super wired so sometimes mealtime is very stressful. I try to come up with what I call 'mom hacks' — ways you can do things faster in the kitchen but also, I still want to serve my kids healthy meals."
Roper, who graduated from the Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Las Vegas in 2009, studied the art of fine food prep but says since she's out of practice and short on time, she relies on quick, convenient, wholesome options. "I love Del Monte's Veggieful products because they do all the prep work for you," she says of her new partnership with the brand. "Their riced veggies have broccoli and cauliflower — I put it in my freezer so that when I'm in a bind and I need something, I can reach in there and it's already made for me."
Roper says that the pre-seasoned staples also don't require elaborate cooking methods. "It's amazing to me how good and fresh it tastes, even in the microwave," she says. "I've been really pleasantly surprised and my kids love it too. It cuts so much of that prep time and it's easy to clean up — all the extra work you don't want to do so you can spend time with your family." (Related: Jessica Simpson's Secret to Happiness Is Making Time for Family and Self-Care)
While Roper hasn't had time to call upon her professional culinary degree outside of the house since becoming a mom, she does look forward to cultivating that lifelong passion with her kids. "There's something that I find very peaceful about cooking and preparing meals and the self-care and creativity involved," she says. "I've always been someone who's really creative, even as a kid, and doing something in the kitchen with my mom — I used to love that. I think that's where I got it from and that's something that I love now as a mom, being able to cook with my kids. My daughter especially loves it at this age and it's just something that's always kind of carried over and as my kids get a little bit older and I have more time, it's something that I'd like to get back into doing more of."
For now, Roper is happy to get her kids involved in the kitchen any way she can. "Taco night is a huge tradition in our family," she says. "One of the ways I've found to make a healthier alternative is by using the Southwest riced cauliflower — I just use that as a base and all the kids add toppings and can customize it. It's a fun, easy way to make a recipe that everyone's gonna love."
Despite the jam-packed schedule at home, Roper says carving out solo time has been essential to preserving her mental health as a busy mom. "It's so hard nowadays and the pandemic has changed everything," she says. "A lot of the ways we practice self-care were stripped from us. I think the biggest one for me is getting alone time which is almost impossible as a mom of three, but I'm an introvert and my alone time is so valuable to me, especially to recharge. So I really just have to try and communicate to Tanner and say I need this right now even if it's just — and this sounds so cliche but — a bath or to go outside by myself in nature for 15 minutes. Something that's just mine is so precious to me." (Related: How to Make Time for Self-Care When You Have None)
Another way Roper unwinds is, of course, by keeping up with the happenings in the Bachelor universe. While she's just as into the drama as any other fan (notably the controversy surrounding Brendan Morais in the past season of Bachelor in Paradise), Roper also has a unique perspective into the experience, which she acknowledges has changed given social media's association with the show in recent seasons.
"I think everyone just kind of has to address the elephant in the room which is that there are so many opportunities past the show now and the show is that platform that gives you your social media followings," she says. "When we were on, Instagram had just started becoming a thing, but it wasn't something anyone really thought of. Nowadays, people go on and they've already met and gone to events and all of them get together in the same social circles. We didn't have that; we weren't allowed to interact with each other before Bachelor in Paradise — it was like, you would've been blacklisted. So now it's different, they can't really control everybody with all the opportunities that come up after the show."
Still, Roper maintains that real love connections can and do occur in and beyond those rose ceremonies, and she has some words of advice for the next Bachelorette, Michelle Young, who kicks off her season on Tuesday, October 19. "Try to be as open as possible to it," she says. "It's such a whirlwind and such an interesting social bubble, but try to still stay grounded in who you are and try to really get to know those guys."
While extended periods of solitude don't always fit into Roper's schedule, she has other ways to find her zen beyond cooking and reality TV marathoning. "Even driving back from dropping off my daughter and listening to my music and blasting Celine Dion and singing at the top of my lungs — that's my self-care!" she says. "And those moments are harder to get nowadays so you really have to cherish them when you do because it is so important to practice self-care."