I’ve had a week off from cooking for the family, which is a mixed bag. I really like cooking for them, and I enjoy making sure I get them as healthy a meal as possible without making it taste like dirt, but it is nice to get a break now and again.
I have four boys and a husband. I’m not cooking for all 20 Duggars, or 10 Gosselins (though I’m guessing that my group eats as much as the Gosselins), and I have a standard size, verging on small, kitchen.
One day I was browsing in the appliance section of a department store. Out of curiosity I looked at the refrigerators. I was amused to see that they are rated according to family size. I was even more amused to see that our current model is rated for 2 to 3 people! We have what I would call a standard size refrigerator. I can fit several gallons of milk and orange juice in it, a fair amount of produce, and even squeeze some ice cream in the freezer. The model rated for a family of six would fit nowhere in my kitchen! I do, admittedly, have an industrial sized deep freezer in the basement, which balances out the smallish freezer n the kitchen.
Our family size, and my insistence on fresh food whenever possible, requires that I shop for groceries weekly. I know that some can go every other week, or even once a month, but that would still have me running for quick trips to pick up milk and apples anyway, so it is easier for me to go weekly. My grocery store is a mere mile away, so it is not a trek by any means! I shop with a list. I also shop with sales in mind, if I find that the chicken I had planned is quite expensive, but pork roasts are dirt cheap, I will change menu plans midstream while in the grocery store!
With regards to meal plans, I try to add one new menu a week, and one tried and true favorite a week. Since I returned to work we tend to splurge on a few take-out pizzas on Friday nights. Not the healthiest choice, but my other meals make up for a weekly indiscretion, and by Friday night I am TIRED! I only serve one meal a night. I am not a short order cook. Any rescue peanut butter sandwiches are eaten after the dishes are done. I’m a good cook, and for the most part my boys can find something within the meal that is to their liking. their wives will thank me, I’m sure.
I have to keep a lot of snacks on hand. Growing boys are very hungry. My boys are also very slender and fit, and I would like to keep them that way, so my snacks have quality calories. I always keep about 10 pounds of apples on hand as well as other seasonal fruits. Carrots and celery sticks are always an option as well as raisins, yogurt, and granola bars. I try to limit chips as much as possible, but I often have baked tortilla chips and salsa available.
I encourage water drinking in my household, so all between meal drinking is water. At meals we have milk and sometimes 100% juice or brewed iced tea. I cannot afford to keep enough milk in the house to have boys drinking it with snacks, and really, beyond meals, kids just don’t need that much milk!
I have some food splurges. I get the healthiest pasta I can afford. I cannot pass the whole wheat stuff off on my kids but I can pass off the whole grain blends, and I often do. We have a pretty grain heavy diet here, so I try to make those grains as healthy as possible. I spring for Egglands Best Eggs. they have more Omega 3s than the average egg, and those are fats that I am trying to get more of into our bodies. It is worth the added expense, and they really do taste better. I don’t buy organic milk, but I buy the next best thing, Bessy’s Best, this milk is produced on a local family farm and there are no hormones or antibiotics. I don’t drink milk, but my boys swear it tastes better than other brands. I buy local produce when I can. We eat very few prepackaged dinner sides or mixes. They just don’t make sense for our family economically, or healthwise. Even if they are on sale, it would take 3 pakcages to feed us. I can season rice, noodles, or potatoes much better from scratch, and we KNOW what is in our food.
I’d love to hear how other large families manage meals, especially when they are making due with a not so large space to work in!