Do the “little” people in your house have you outnumbered? Do you often feel like they are eating you out of house and home? And therefore it’s not realistic to forego the packaged products? Or to call in for takeout when life calls? I’m here to tell you differently; real food for large families is a possibility. I’d be lying if I told you it’s easy … but with a few tips, it can be done. And this post includes tips that I’ve learned on how to feed your family healthy.
I have 4 kids ranging from age 6 – 13. I feel like we’ve entered this new stage, and I want to go back to their younger years. I know the grass is always greener – but honestly between the activities, social lives, homework requirements and asks from school, I feel like I don’t have time to breathe. My daytime is filled with work, and the only saving grace is that sometimes it involves recipe development (which later equals dinner, snacks, etc.). If I didn’t work in this field, I don’t know what I’d feed my family! Actually I do know, because I was there 5 years ago. I was cracking open the can of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup for the casserole that looked oh-so-good on Pinterest. I was mixing brown sugar and ketchup with vinegar and dumping it on chicken in the crock pot and calling it dinner.
I didn’t wake up and make a complete turnaround, but instead I’ve learned over the years, and I want to share some of my tips with you. These are some of the ways that I am able to serve up real food meals to my family of 6:
Plan ahead – This one is paramount. Whether you have napping babies or toddlers or tweens and teens with a better social life than you could ever imagine, life with a large family is most always busy. And you know the saying – fail to plan, plan to fail.
There are numerous meal plans that are out there that can take the guesswork out of what to do, complete with shopping lists, menus and more. I personally fluctuate from planning myself, or sometimes utilizing a plan. I’ve tried the Fresh 20, Once a Month Meals, Nourish Evolution and Plan to Eat. I use the latter on a regular basis and love Nourish Evolution, too. If you are a good planner, then this is your forte and will make your life easier! Regardless – make a plan and figure out a schedule. Which brings me to my next point.
Create a schedule – We’ve all been there. The weekday (or even weekend day) where we realize with horror: we have no food in the refrigerator. NOOOO! It’s off to the grocery store you go, but chances are good that you don’t have time to plan meals or even create a list. Here’s the thing; you have to create a schedule that works for you. Maybe you make your list and plan on Saturdays and shop on that same day. Perhaps you pin recipes throughout the week and then make your meal plan for the upcoming week on Fridays, and shop the next day. Whatever works for you, put a system into place and stick to it. There are so many great organizational tools, planners, apps and more, that I’m confident that you can find something that works for you. If you need any assistance in this area, I’d be more than happy to help!:)
Get everyone involved – We switched our kids to a Montessori school 4 years ago, which stresses independence. I quickly learned that I was the one who was holding my kids back from so many duties that they were actually capable of doing themselves. Lots of them involved the kitchen. At school, they all set out their place settings, clean up after themselves, load the dishwasher, sweep up, etc. They help with snack planning and prepare meals – my 3rd grader used a chef’s knife for the first time at school. Gasp! At that point, I don’t think I would have let her use it until she was 20;). All kidding aside, I realized that kids are capable. Give them the opportunity (within reason, and with what you are comfortable with), and they can shine! And bonus: it’s a huge help!!
If your kids are of age, making real food for large families is, in my case, only possible with a little help here and there. Think of duties for all ages: taking out the trash, setting the table, emptying the dishwasher or putting away groceries. I even *hire* my 10- and 13-year-old to make whatever they want – muffins, tortillas, etc. I suggest a few places to search for recipes and they take the task from start to finish. Which makes me soooo happy, as I’m sure you can appreciate!
Cook once, eat twice – This is one of my favorites. I’ll make a bunch of grilled chicken over the weekend and serve it up with sides first, and then “reinvent” it atop a salad, or in a sandwich. Or make a batch of quinoa and create a salad out of some and egg + quinoa muffins in another. Not only does this minimize your cooking time, but it also minimizes the dishes that need to be cleaned, which is a real winner in my book!
Be unconventional – occasionally – Real food for large families may not always be Bon Appétit worthy. Who am I kidding – at my house, it rarely is, lol! All joking aside, I’m truly just happy to get a nourishing meal on the table for my crew. And sometimes that means getting creative – like when we “clean out the fridge” and make meals out of whatever is leftover. Or when I play my game of Me vs. The Pantry and try to create foods with what is left/available. Or when one of my kids is hungry (there’s ALWAYS someone hungry) and they need to piece together randomness, like a hard boiled egg + a bowl of frozen fruit. It’s all good!
Shop the sales – A few years ago, I was behind a woman at our grocery store and she ordered 13 one-pound packages of local ground beef, simply because it was on sale. She turned to me to apologize (for the time it would take) and explained that she had 6 kids, and she was going to freeze most of it. And I attribute this time to her. Shop the sales – whether at a Costco (or similar store) or wherever you shop, and be ready for when those hungry mouths are calling;).
Don’t beat yourself up – I’m a 90/10 gal, and that honestly fluctuates to an 80/20 sometimes. I do the best that I can, but I just can’t lose sleep at night if I let my kids indulge on Domino’s pizza at a party and top it off with cake. This is my mentality and I don’t judge those who do “better” or “worse” than me. We can only do what we can do, and we need to be fine with it. Having a large family is a lot of work, and personally speaking, there are plenty of things that can keep me up at night. I don’t want this to be one of them.
Okay, so I want to hear from you. What tips do you have on how you feed your family healthy? Any that you can share?
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