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Feeding our Families :: The Basics

Feeding our Families :: The Basics

March 3, 2014

Feeding our Famlies Feeding-our-families Feeding-Our-Families Feeding-our-families Feeding-Our-Families-I am joining a group of amazing women over the course of this year to discuss a subject that is so important in our family; food! I have a very powerful relationship with what we eat, and I am pretty sure that if you calculated how much time I spent researching, learning, and thinking about the topic, it would consume a good part of my day.

As I have mentioned many times in the course of my writing here, all of my children have celiac disease. While our way of eating did have to radically shift when our oldest was diagnosed seven years ago, it still continues to evolve as new research comes our way. I was raised in a family where processed food was never allowed (my brother has some great stories about sneaking Doritos), and our family valued not only good but healthy food. I always felt as though I had a great start when it came to feeding my own family, but as the years have gone on I have realized that I not only had to keep pushing the boundaries of what was considered healthy, but I also had to look at what worked for each individual person I was feeding.

Perhaps the biggest challenge has been having a large family with special dietary needs, and maintaining a system that feeds us not only well, but efficiently. The more kiddos I have been blessed with, the more I realize that eating well takes prep work. Gone are the days of just cooking on the fly, or running in and out of the grocery store. Now meal planning is the way that all of our weeks are organized, and washing, chopping, freezing, and storing become a big part of Sunday’s activities.

For this first post, I thought that I would share a few things that we do every week to keep ourselves eating well, eating the way we need to, and cooking with the most minimal amount of stress.

The Basics

:: I don’t use any type of formal system for putting my meal plans together. I have a pin board on Pinterest that I use for recipes for the coming week, and I love having them stored in one handy area. Once I get to my meal planning day, I look at everything on that board, decide what I for sure am planning to cook, open each recipe, and then put my list together. I normally also have recipes from books, magazines, etc. that I want to work with, so once I know how many other days I need to fill in, I start looking through those. I use Anylist (thank you Bernadette) on my phone for putting together my lists, and I send myself an email once a week with our meal plan (that way I can’t lose it).

:: I am a big believer in pantry cooking. I go through my pantry, including spices, every week to see where to start. My husband and I have been calculating lately that this one move saves us a nice amount on our grocery bill, certainly helps to ensure we are are not ever wasting food, and keeps the space where we are storing dry goods a little less crowded. Sometimes it can create more work in finding recipes that will fit, but if I am ever stuck on what to cook with, I will normally head to Allrecipes, search by ingredient, and see what comes up.

:: Once I get home from the store, I plan to spend the day cooking with my two older boys. This is a good time to provide a cooking lesson, spend some quiet time together, and build a family love of food. It also helps to give the two of them a foundation in what it takes to keep a kitchen running well. This day is devoted to washing produce that needs it, chopping up vegetables for upcoming meals (freezing if needed), cooking stock and beans (soaked that night or the night before if possible), making soups that can be stored in the fridge or freezer for the coming week, and making baked goods.

:: I always keep a hearty selection of salads, meats, and sauces on hand in the fridge. Once or twice a week I will make up the ingredients, sometimes without lettuce, for many different kinds of salads. This past week was chopped apples, hemp and pumpkin seeds, as well as Kale, carrots, onions, and celery. I grill and roast salmon and chicken, cook rice and grains, and prepare 1-2 favorite simmer sauces to add to any of the above. This makes lunch filling, super quick, and always at my disposal, no matter where we are going or what the day might look like. I have no idea why, but I always struggled with lunch. This one move of prep really helps me to make sure everyone is fed.

:: We keep cooked and prepped staples in the fridge or freezer for easy use. Cooked beans are frozen if not used, in easy to measure amounts. Cashew cream, herbed cashew cheese, and hummus is always on hand for quick snacks, or to enhance breakfast. We always have raw almonds, walnuts, carrots, and dried fruit for snacks for the kids to eat. It is a great way to add a zap of nutrients, and to try and teach them to not look at snacks as empty eating.

:: When we make something, we make extras. Having small amounts of food, either in the fridge or the freezer, that can be grabbed and eaten when needed has saved me on so many occasions. When we make smoothies, I always freeze 1-2 servings in a ball freezer jam container for future use. If the kids have a homeschooling class, hike, or outing, I just tuck it into their lunch box first thing in the morning, and it is ready to eat by lunch (it also keeps their food cold, so bonus!). Whatever leftovers we have, we decide how it could best be eaten, and how to save it. Last week we took about 3/4 cup of taco meat that was left from dinner, froze it, and then made crustless quiche a few days later when company arrived. Kids eat a lot, or at least my kids do, so having extra food on hand is always helpful. Some days it means we all eat something different for one meal, but it helps us stretch the budget, while still eating very well.

:: If I use a pre-made sauce,  such as a simmer sauce, I always add stock or coconut milk to make it go further. I also add in my own grains, beans, or meat to ensure that it fills my family up.

:: I make teas and flavored waters to reduce juice and sugar consumption. There seems to always be pitchers of mint or berry tea in my fridge, and flavoring water has become sport in my family,with the latest being a cucumber, mint and kiwi concoction from Elwood.

:: We make our own stock and bone broth. I love making stock. I love making soups, so making stock is just a fun way to begin the process. We use bone broth as a remedy for colds and flues, but we do not do a continuous cook method. We make our stock on the stove, and our bone broth in the crock pot, and then both are frozen for future use. We always save our broth making for the end of the week, and use the veggies that are wilted or not suitable for other recipes, but still perfectly fresh and yummy.

:: I always keep 1-2 homemade baked good in the freezer. Scones, muffins, etc. are made ahead of time, and are frozen so that I never get caught without a dessert or gluten free treat for birthday parties, play dates, etc. I have really strict rules on sugar consumption, and baked goods are certainly where my kids would be most at risk of gluten cross contamination, so this one is just a necessity. It also means that if I am having a craving, I can grab something healthy in a jiff, without going looking for something that I just shouldn’t have. I use gluten free, grain free recipes for most of my baking, and I try and bake with coconut oil and honey instead of oils or sugar.

:: While we are on the subject of sweets, I keep a dark chocolate bar on hand for dessert at night. That one piece of chocolate is always looked forward to by all of us, and it is a good way to give my family something yummy, and something semi-good for us.

These are only a few of our basics, but I have found that going back to the beginning is always good when I am struggling. With the addition of Emma Jeanne, life got crazier than I was anticipating, and over the past few months I have had to really put a rhythm and routine to our kitchen time. It has helped to not only make cooking and feeding easier, but also really helps our budget.

I do believe that eating well is not something that has to break the bank, or our time. It takes some basic prep work, organization, and pantry care, but it is so worth it in the end.

Feeding our Families is an on going discussion with a group of blogging women over the course of this year. I hope that you will enjoy each of their posts, and join in the conversation as well. The comments in each of our posts are a great place to continue this topic. So tell us, what are the basics in your kitchen?

Feeding our Families

Melanie from Our Ash Grove
Jules from A Little Crafty Nest
Melody from Bespoke
Sarah from Our Island Home
Tonya from Joyful Living
Taisa from Small Wonders
Lisa from Hullabaloo Homestead
Renee from Heirloom Seasons


{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Maeghan March 3, 2014 at 12:58 pm

Great piece! Thank you for sharing your never ending knowledge.


Heather March 5, 2014 at 11:23 am

Thank you :).


This little blue homestead March 3, 2014 at 2:21 pm

Wow a really great list! I’ve found that always having some basics makes sure we don’t fall into the take out trap which tends to be our biggest vice. I buy meat in bulk straight from the farmer and get a lot if dry goods in bulk as well, that with fresh veggies from our csa and garden keep us well fed usually, but you have some great tips for time saving and stocking up for I don’t feel like cooking nights-thank you!


Heather March 5, 2014 at 11:24 am

I would really love to buy our meat directly from the farmer. I am looking at that for the next season, and seeing what kind of a freezer I would need.


Meryl March 3, 2014 at 6:23 pm

I love using Pinterest boards to organize. I know I must have collected recipes somehow before it was invented, but I don’t remember how.


Heather March 5, 2014 at 11:24 am

That is so funny, I have NO idea how I functioned before Pinterest.


KC March 3, 2014 at 9:14 pm

This was wonderful thank you! I am trying my best to find a rhythm in making just about everything from scratch. I’m coming to the conclusion that it would be a good idea to cook on Sundays in big prep batches.

We have recently decided to cut gluten from our diets in an effort to help my eldest daughter with her wild mood swings. We are kind of at our wits end and this is my last hope before going to therapy. I’ve read that aggression and anger in children can be caused by gluten intolerance. Today was day too and already I am seeing an improvement.

I can’t wait to checkout the rest of the ladies on your list! 🙂


Heather March 5, 2014 at 11:25 am

I can tell you from experience that if any of my kids got gluten, they would be truly different humans. I hope that this yields you something positive, and I am always here if you want to chat.


a little crafty nest March 3, 2014 at 11:03 pm

Thank you, Heather, for your wonderful thoughts, ideas, and inspirations. I always learn so much from visiting here, and once again, I am filing away some of your ideas. I like the practicality of a soup making day to store large amounts of soup for another time…brilliant. And freezing extras for another meal or snack is a no-brainer…but why do I rarely ever do it? The smoothies…that is super easy to manifest and I shall! One question, what is pantry cooking? I’m pretty sure you mean using what is up in your pantry which is funny and so true ~ we have so much hidden in there that never see the light of day (or rather, the bottom of a cooking pot)! I so look forward to sharing more with you.
xo Jules
P.S. Your apple salad looks delicious!


Heather March 5, 2014 at 11:25 am

Yes, I did mean using up what is in my pantry! Sorry, I should have explained that better. I just always have so much in there that is random, but that can and needs to be used. It is a great trick to keeping the grocery bill down :).


MamaAshGrove March 4, 2014 at 10:31 am

Dear Heather, this post is so full of goodness- I am going to go through and read it again after this comment. 🙂
I am also a big believer in pantry shopping- in fact, often I find I have enough on on hand to create meals for the whole week, and if I hadn’t actually gone through things and tried to create meal plans from memory I would have forgotten much of what we already have.
I also love the idea of cooking extra each time. This is something I try to remember to do as well- but often forget!


Heather March 5, 2014 at 11:27 am

I am the same way, I just forget what is in there. Last month I was cleaning out the pantry, and I found 5 jars (in different places) of diced hatch chilis. I know I had gotten them which each visit, but I clearly didn’t need to :).


sondra March 4, 2014 at 11:52 am

Thank you for the suggestions and tips. We are expecting baby number 3 in a few weeks and I have been very stressed about meal planning after the baby is born – it is something I really struggled with after my second son was born. Are there any book recommendations that you could make – my son and I struggle with a gluten intolerance and I would love more information on feeding our family more wholesome meals. Thank you.


Tonya March 4, 2014 at 2:22 pm

Thank you for sharing all of this wonderful information Heather. We also have a bit of dark chocolate for our treat too:)


Sarah March 4, 2014 at 6:07 pm

Very interesting post, full of so many good ideas! Thank you for sharing all of this. I’m so glad that you’ve joined us!


Heather March 5, 2014 at 11:27 am

Me too Sarah, thank you.


renee~heirloomseasons March 5, 2014 at 7:18 am

This was so wonderful to read Heather, and I am so happy to have you joining us! We make great use of the pantry and leftovers also. And the freezer for extras too. Even dinners are often to made to last two meals. We eat simply but with a huge focus on quality (organic, made from scratch) and we do this on a very (too much so) limited grocery budget. Thank you for showing so many ways that it can be done well!


Heather March 5, 2014 at 11:28 am

I love the idea of eating simply, While the food movement has been wonderful, I think that there has been an overemphasis on the idea of complexity in cooking.


Mackenzie Haydu March 5, 2014 at 5:48 pm

Oh I really enjoyed this post! So Many great ideas!! I had never thought of doing all of the produce on one day! And since I started gf baking I never thought to do enough to freeze… could you share your scone recipe? I’m going to be pouring over this post a few more times for sure. xo


Adrie March 7, 2014 at 7:55 pm

Inspiring and yummy – thank you Heather! It’s such a blessing to hear your voice here again, and so frequently! Thanks from all of us.


Faye Henry March 22, 2014 at 3:41 pm

Hi. thank you for such an interesting post full of nuggets of wisdom.. Although, our family have
grown and gone it is still a challenge to cook just for two.
I love the look of your wrap and salad and was wondering if you made the wrap itself and what
you put in it and the salad .. If you don’t mind..
I always like the nitty gritty… smile..


Sheila St. Amour April 5, 2014 at 2:35 pm

Thank you for an awesome post. This has helped me schedule my cooking week better so we have more healthy choices in our frig. Can you possibly share your bone broth and/or stock recipes or sources? Especially with bone broth I have not found one that has much flavor and I wonder what I am doing wrong. Thanks for all your inspirational blog posts on topics that matter. I can only speak for myself but you have so improved my life and my families life.


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