Real food just takes longer. Sometimes I just want to throw up my hands, buy a giant case of cheap processed foods, and chuck my “from scratch” lifestyle down the garbage disposal. Then the moment passes, I get a grip, and I remember the zillion reasons I don’t do that in the first place.
Reality is though that the time required to cook and serve a whole foods diet, while parenting and teaching 5 children 7 years old and younger, is challenging. Admittedly, I start to turn a little green when I think too long about the hours that other families don’t spend in the kitchen. Even though I meal plan extensively, I still find myself wishing I could freeze time a few times a week while I cook. (I am going to take for granted here that you do realize that you must begin with having a meal plan.)
But, there are ways to make preparing real food more palatable for everyday real life.
Here are several of my common sense tips for the day:
1. Involve the kids as much as possible. I know, I know. TRUST ME – I know. Allowing 4 little people to “help” with bread baking or muffin making when I only have 30 minutes to get it done before the baby is going to want to nurse again is not my ideal culinary experience either. But, the joy is not found in my own experience. The joy is found in watching them all learn and grow and delight in theirs. And, the more hours I spend baking at the speed of a sloth now will pay off in the coming years when I can say, “Sophia, please go make a quadruple batch of pumpkin muffins.” And she won’t say, “How in the world do I do that?!”
2. Keep them in the kitchen. This is not groundbreaking advice, I realize. But, all too often I forget this one myself. When the kids aren’t interested in helping me cook or bake, or I am making something that they are just too little to help with – they can still be there. They don’t have to have their hands in the actual process in order to take part in the fellowship of working in the kitchen. I love to tell the kids that I have a few hours of work in the kitchen, but I want us together. I send everyone off to get something that they can do or work on quietly in the kitchen for an hour or so – drawing, books, puzzles, stitching – and we can still hang together even if I am stuck in the kitchen. Waiting for bread to rise or muffins to bake is the perfect time to sneak in a few wonderful picture books, or even listen to an audio version together!
3. Keep most of the meals simple. Jason works from home most days, and works out of the house most evenings. He works a lot. But, we are blessed to have Daddy join us for lunch just about every day. This means that we keep breakfast and dinner simple, and have our bigger meal of the day around noon. Simple meals could mean a lot of different things, but at our house we eat fresh fruit or a fruit and veggie smoothie with some kind of grain (toast, bagel, oatmeal, granola) for breakfast. Dinner is usually some kind of grain (bread, pasta, granola bars, etc.) and fresh veggies or a fruit and veggie smoothie, and nuts or beans. Sometimes I make a fresh fruit sorbet for dessert. Keeping two of the three meals of the day quick and easy is a huge help.
4. Batch bake. I make one batch of pumpkin bread which makes 4 loaves. Double, triple, or increase even more the recipe for muffins, granola, granola bars, etc. Set aside one week or weekend to pound out as many baked goods as you can and freeze what doesn’t get eaten the first day. Next week all you have to do is pull your baked goods out a few hours before you plan to eat them.
5. Batch chop. Since we eat tons of fresh veggies every week, it is nice to chop all at once and just serve later. When we come in from the garden or home from the market, I try to wash and prep a few days worth of veggies at a time.
I have found that if I make it too complicated I will start to slide back in to the mentality of, “Oh, one box of this or that isn’t too bad.” Which quickly turns into far too many boxes of this or that. My budget and our nutrition suffers from my lack of planning and common sense!
Following these tips myself helps us to keep it real.
Don’t forget to head over to one of my favorite blogs, Tammy’s Recipes, for more great kitchen tips. Happy cooking!