You’re incredibly busy! One of the things that shouldn’t be adding more stress to your day is trying to figure out how to make sure there are meals on the table for everybody.
In this episode of the Pantry Chat, we’re talking about the strategies we use to plan ahead for meals and the ways you can create your own system for saving your sanity and still having healthy, delicious meals ready for your family.
In this Episode
- The wood cookstove is up and running and we’re making meals on it and loving it.
- How we’re teaching the older kids how to sew with a personal goal of trying to get further away from buying “disposable” items.
- What is my “secret weapon” for always having a hot breakfast?
- What is my strategy for creating simple lunches? (Hint: It’s about big dinners.)
- What is the typical dinner menu we create and why is it so important to put all your energy into creating this meal?
- How to establish your own meal routine by identifying your current daily problem areas.
- Why creating a meal plan is essential and why you should actually “plan to fail”
- What are my back-up meal options?
- Watch the video on “15 Minute Pantry Meals” for more easy ideas.
- Free training on creating roasted tomato soup and other canned convenience meals.
- Why “producing your basics” should be part of your weekly routine and how you can actually make this a part of your kid’s chores.
- What are the essentials you should always keep stocked and why they should always be included as part of your regular maintenance schedule?
- What are some other good “grab and go” pantry meal options?
- Question of the week: Bethany asks for insight about living life with such a large family and any advice or encouragement we can give to those parents with young kids and no older kids to help them out.
- MadeOn skin care products (use code “homesteadingfamily” for 15% off your purchase)
- Meals on Your Shelf/Roasted Tomato Soup
- Breakfast Casseroles
- Canned Beans
- Canning 15 Minute Pantry Meals
- 20 Minute Meals (From Canned Food on the Shelf)
- Canning Stew
- Homemade Bone Broth
Josh: Hey, guys. This is Josh-
Carolyn: And Carolyn.
Josh: ... with Homesteading Family, and welcome to this week's episode of The Pantry Chat: Food for Thought.
Carolyn: So I'm going to talk about my techniques to be putting three homemade meals on the table every single day.
This episode of The Pantry Chat podcast is sponsored by MadeOn Skincare. MadeOn Specializes in skincare, specifically for dry skin, and they use as few ingredients as possible to get the job done. You guys, this is the type of skincare I would make myself if I had time to make it in my own home. The great thing is, Renee even shares her exact recipes with you. The Beesilk lotion bar is my go-to lotion when my hands get dry and cracked, and it's only made with three ingredients. Renee created it when she needed something to fix the splits in her fingers, cracks in her feet and then she found out that it also worked great on her son's seasonal eczema. Go to hardlotion.com/homesteadingfamily to find out what Josh's favorite MadeOn products are, and also, use the code, "homesteading family," for 15% off today's purchase.
Sp I said I would take this moment and jump right in and talk about something that I have been getting a lot of questions on, and that is how to keep healthy food on the table for a large family or for any family during a really busy time. And of course, I think for all of us, every time it is a busy time. So I'm going to talk about my techniques to be putting three homemade meals on the table every single day that might bring a little bit of sanity to your life. But I don't know, it'd be a little odd to do chit-chat without Josh to chit-chat with. So how are you guys doing? I hope you're doing well. If you are a new follower, we usually do some chit-chat at the beginning, talk about what's going on here on the homestead, but if you want to skip right ahead to the main topic, we always get that time stamped for you so you know exactly when to jump ahead too.
So hey, it is definitely fall here. I don't know if you guys have seen the pictures over on Instagram and Facebook, but the wood cook stove is up and running and we've been making meals on the wood cook stove. So that is a lot of fun here, really exciting, and that smell of wood smoke, just a little tinge of it in the kitchen just makes everything so cozy and so amazing. So we're absolutely loving. Aside from that, around here, all of a sudden, everybody got the sewing bug. So I've been busy giving some of the older girls some lessons on sewing, teaching them how to use their machines really well so that they can take off. They're now just kind of getting independent and really starting to.
Now, one of my personal goals this winter is to really move up in terms of our getting away from disposable items. I really want to move further and further towards that zero waste mark. We've been working on this for years, Josh and I, but this year I'm ready to take a whole nother leap. There's all sorts of household items that I would like to stop buying. There's a lot of things we already don't buy. We don't buy paper towels. We don't generally buy paper napkins unless there's some sort of a big event that a lot of people are coming over, but I know we could be doing better. Some of the toiletry items, some of the cleaning items, things like that, we could be doing a lot better on. So that's going to be one of my goals, and breaking out those sewing machines and having people in the house who want to sell is a huge benefit for that.
So I'm glad to be getting them going. So I'll have a little bit of extra help when it comes to getting their stuff done. They can jump right in and help with their own items that we want to stop buying disposable versions of. So anyways, that's some of the stuff going on here at our homestead. Hey, we'd love to hear what's going on with you. So leave a comment below and let us know what's going on. All right. So let's get to a question from a follower. This one is from Bethany. She actually sent this in by email. So thank you, Bethany. That's great. I just have such a soft spot for this in my heart, and I'll read it to you. You'll know why.
She says that she'd love to have more insight into the life of such a large family like ours. She grew up with only three kids in the household and she and her husband now have five, five years old and under. She just had twins in May. Already, she feels like she's outgrown the conventionally sized pots, pans, casserole dishes, et cetera for the cooking and knows that she's going to be feeding teenagers one day. "I know that you've done some Q and A's on time management, so I'm not asking about that, but I think your kids might've been closer in age like mine. I'm wondering if you have any advice or encouragement on getting through these early years with so many youngsters and how you lead the lifestyle you lead before you had the older kids that can help so much."
That is such a great question. To that, I just say, you know what? We didn't do nearly what we do now when all of our kids were little. What we did do though, was made a real point to slow down and include them in the things we did and hopefully, make it joyful. Maybe not even a fun occasion, but a joyful time together. Sometimes life just isn't fun. Chores aren't fun, but you can still feel really good about your contribution in it and have a joyful heart in it. So we really try to encourage them to have that joyful attitude and to demonstrate that while we slowed down enough to be able to get them involved, which a lot of times when they're little five, five years and under, that means they're not really helping honestly. They are actually making big messes. They're causing probably more work than they are worth in the kitchen in terms of their input in their help.
However, what you're doing is you're creating an environment where that kind of work is just what you do. It just standard. It's your work and your play. It's how you spend time together and it's a very normal as our children have aged, we now have... Our oldest is about 14 and then we have a 13 year old and then we have 12 year old and then we have a 10 year old, 10 and a half, right on down to the baby who's just two. So we've really seen this already come to fruition. I can't imagine what it's going to be like in another five years when we have a large number of older ones because already, we can get done so much in a day if we need to. The kids are jumping in with their own ideas, their own things that they want to do. They're jumping in with their own angles and really owning a lot of the projects. So I think that just that idea, slow down and don't do more than you can do while including the kids and doing it joyfully.
At five children, five and under, you might just be getting through laundry and getting good meals on the table, but include them in making good meals. Take the time to make homemade pasta or homemade bread with them in the kitchen. Yeah, that means you might have babies on your back, and a baby in the crib, and a baby... People close by, but keep them close. Let them get involved, even if it means just sticking their hands in a bowl of flour or something like that because they will love it and they'll just have great memories of it. Before long, they'll be saying, "Hey mom, you want me to make the pasta for dinner tonight?" And that'll be the moment where you feel like you've arrived. So stick with it. You're doing a great job. Give yourself a break, a cup of tea and make sure you get yourself a midday break every day. Take a few deep breaths, have a little bit of planning time at desk, have a little bit of quiet time. Those are really important things for moms when they're so many littles around. So thank you, Bethany.
That was such a great question. Thanks for asking. Okay. So today. We are talking about keeping meals on the table. Wow. This is a big topic. If you grew up in a home where eating home cooked food was the standard, this might not be such a challenge for you. But if you grew up in a fast paced world where you're grabbing food out, maybe at school lunches where the whole family's busy and going in different directions, and then all of a sudden, you're trying to put three meals a day on the table, that can be a little daunting. It can be a little challenging. So I'm going to share with you some of what I've learned through my years of keeping food on my family's table, some tricks that I've learned and just the systems that I've put into place.
Okay. So first of all, I want to tell you how our daily eating pattern usually goes. So my trick number one is for breakfast. I have a family who wants a hot breakfast every morning. That's a really important... Health-wise, I believe that's really important, but here's the thing. I'm not a morning person and I don't really like breakfast. So while I agree it's a really important thing and I really want to see my children eat a hot, healthy breakfast with protein in it, not a muffin or some just quick grab and go thing, I want a real breakfast on the table, I don't want to make it in the morning. So I have a super, super important secret weapon, which is my breakfast casseroles. We make breakfast casseroles during the week throughout the week, so that every single morning of the week, we can just pull something out of the refrigerator, stick it in the oven and between 45 minutes and an hour later, we have a hot, healthy breakfast on the table.
Now, I know I've talked about this before, and I also have a download for you guys. You guys can grab my... I think it's my top four favorite breakfast casserole recipes. I'll put the link in the description. So you guys can try those out too if you want. You can see some of our favorites that we eat. So we'll talk about making those a little bit later, but just know that it is part of our weekly routine to get those made, get those in the refrigerator and then the breakfast person, the person who's first up in the kitchen, that's a designated job. It's not just who happens to be there, the person who's in the kitchen first in the morning just turns the oven on. They slide them in cold. They don't even wait for the oven to preheat and they turn out great time. So that is really, really important to me is to get those breakfast, get that first meal of the day off to a great start.
Now, lunches, while they're homemade, they're also really, really simple because I try to make big dinners and I try to make enough to make sure that I have leftovers for the next day, sometimes leftovers for a few days. This is so important because it allows us just to heat something up really quickly and have it still be a really nutritious, really delicious meal, not just a quick throw together. That makes it really fast and easy. Okay, but there are those days when everybody ate all of the dinner, or maybe we did something like a quick convenience food, one of my home canned convenience foods. We'll talk about that in a few minutes. Maybe we did that instead and we don't have leftovers. So what do we do?
Well, I want the meal to be nutritious and I want it to be homemade, but I still need that to be really, really simple. So I've got a couple of different options that we go to in that case. One is we'll do a simple beans and rice. Just start some rice while I'm walking around the house late morning. Make sure that rice is done. Usually, it's a brown rice in our house and oftentimes, we'll have some leftover beans. If we don't have that, I have canned beans that I've home canned from dry. We make sure that we have a quick meal that everybody likes of just beans and rice and grab whatever condiments or vegetables I have in the refrigerator ready to go and let people add that. Sometimes it's cheese, sometimes it's a little cilantro or salsa on the top. It's just whatever I have on hand.
Now, some other options that I have that we'll make is maybe a quick cheese sandwich. Of course, we'll always have the option of grabbing another home canned convenience meal, which we have no problem doing. Something like a chili or anything like that at lunch is wonderful. Then dinners, I tend to try to go all out on the days that I have time. That's the meal that I really want to put my heart into. I want to make sure that we have a raw veggie, a cooked veggie, usually some sort of a starch or maybe a root vegetable on the side, and then a meat of some sort. Either that, or I'll do a dish like a homemade lasagna or something of that sort with a salad on the side, maybe some fresh bread. So I try to really kind of put my heart and my energy into that dinner, again, making sure that I make extras wherever I can so that we can have another meal or two to follow it up.
All right, getting your routine down. It may not look like mine, but understanding your needs is, I think, a first part of keeping meals on the shelf. For me, that really fell into place when I started realizing where the problems were. I did this because I went through this period where I wanted to get my household systems in order. I walked around for a week with a notebook, just a little notebook in my pocket in my hand. I noted the things that just weren't working or were causing me frustration or were not smooth running for me. One of the things I really found was that the meals needed to go smoothly in the morning and the lunchtime meal. That really helped me to step back and think about it. So maybe your solution is not to have a breakfast casserole. Maybe it's something different. Although, you should try those breakfast casseroles. They're really good. But maybe your solution is, your problem is more that your dinners aren't ready. Maybe it's that\ you're not remembering to defrost meat the day before.
Whatever it is, as soon as you start recognizing what that problem is, start coming up with a system, not just a one-time fix, but an actual system that gets into place that's going to help keep that running. For me, sometimes I have the problem of defrosting meat the night before. So I went to a system of meal planning, writing my meal plan up on a chalkboard wall and then it's one child's job at chore time to go look at that chalkboard, see what meat needs to be defrosted, go to the freezer, get it and get it in a defrosting pan for me. That just made things run so much more smoothly. So look at your systems and see where you are having a meal breakdown and look to fix that system. That's where you're going to start seeing your systems get smooth. You'll start figuring out what you need to do for breakfast, lunch and dinner to make your household run well. Okay.
So number two, I just mentioned it, and that's the meal planning. Now for years, I heard that old adage, "If you fail to plan, you're planning to fail." That really helped me in a lot of ways in that I started doing a meal plan and I would get it posted. It was really important to me to get it up, but to realize that I had flexibility so if I needed to change it, I could at the last minute. That's okay. It's there as a tool for me, but there was still something missing and that's it was always when life got so busy and hectic that I needed the meal plan most, then I wouldn't get the meal plan done. So I had to add to that, which is that not only if you plan to fail you're... No, no, no. If you fail to plan, you're planning to fail, but that you also need to plan failure because there are some days where it's just not going to work and that's okay. There's nothing wrong with that.
It doesn't actually have to be a failure on your part, but you have to be ready for a system failure. You have to realize, especially if you have a bunch of littles in your house, there are days or animals... If you have farm animals, you'll know all about this. There are days where it just does not go the way you have planned and all the sudden, it's 5:00 PM, 5:30 PM. Everybody's hungry. Everything fell apart. You don't even know what's for dinner. So you need to have a backup on hand that is kind of your insurance against those bad days. Or what about the days somebody invites you to come over for a play date and that sounds really good? You're ready to get some time away and you want to go visit. You want to take the kids and go have a nice time, but you know that's going to cramp your evening or cramp your lunch. Having that backup on hand just gives you a lot of flexibility.
So for me, my go-to backup is to have convenience foods in jars. This is a chicken enchilada soup. Everybody loves this one. This is a roasted eggplant and pepper puttanesca sauce. I don't know if you saw the video, the 15 minute meal video that came out last week, but I was using this for that video. This stuff is so good. I wish you guys could smell that. I think I said that three times through that video because it smells like a gourmet pizza shop when you open this up and heat it up. Here is a roasted tomato soup. I have a whole free training on this, making this for you guys where I step you through every step, teach you how to can while making this. I'll put that link in the description. But these are just some of the examples of things that I like to have on hand to make my life easier on those days that don't go right?
So a lot of other people do freezer meals. Freezer meals are great. Before I canned so much or knew how to can meals on the shelf and put meals on the shelf, I did a lot of freezer meals, especially when I was expecting a new baby or when I knew I was about to hit morning sickness and I wouldn't want to cook. I would get a lot of meals in the freezer. Right now, our freezers don't allow for that because they're so filled with our homegrown meats. I have a dairy freezer that has some fresh cheeses and butters and all sorts of stuff. So I don't really want to take the space up for that, but that's another great way to go. Some people put dehydrated meals together in jars that you just have to add hot water to. That's a great way. Even if you have to go to the grocery store and buy a backup meal or two while you're getting your systems into place, I really don't recommend staying with that answer because those things are so not healthy.
If you find a healthy one, it's so expensive. You could put so many jars of food on your shelf for the amount of money you spend on just one meal's worth of a convenience food. But while you're getting your systems up and running, give yourself some grace, get yourself some backups and get ready to get some other backups on the shelf. Okay. Now, you're planning to fail. So you have your backup systems in place. That's always important. Now, number three of my top recommendations, the top things that I have learned is to make producing your basics part of the weekly routine. If you have children, teach them how to make something and get it into their chore schedule. If it's just you, maybe it's just you and you work all week and you just have the weekends, get your program that you do every Saturday morning or Saturday afternoon to fill up your basics for the week.
Some of the things that we keep on hand all the time are several different types of homemade bread. We keep a pizza dough on the refrigerator shelf for a good homemade pizza night. That just makes a Saturday night movie night actually relaxing and not the big stress of making a fresh pizza from scratch right there. Let's see. We keep broths. Every week, we're making some good bone broth and make sure that we have good broth on the shelf. We keep some really good ferments going all the time. We have dairy ferments, we have vegetable ferments, we kombucha. We keep those things going all the time, but it's somebody's job one day, every single week to keep that ferment going or to start a new one. So you just want to make sure that you're getting the basics that you need into your schedule so you can plan them in. In our house, the eight year olds, six year olds start making pizza dough and one day a week, they have a chore of making pizza dough.
Now, of course, there's days where people don't want to do a chore, but in general, they love the opportunity to get into the kitchen to bake something or to prepare something that the whole family is going to, "ooh and ahh," over, and that is definitely the case with the pizza dough. Those six, seven, eight year olds who are making that pizza dough always feels so good about themselves when the whole family bites into a pizza and just says, "This is so good." So it's a great thing for the kids. They just gain so many skills and they can certainly make a pizza dough at six years old. It's not that hard of a project. Let's see. The eight year old start making French bread in our house.And we like to keep a batch of French bread on hand. Just once a week we make it and use it throughout the week. Sometimes it gets used up all in one or two nights.
If we have company over, sometimes it lasts through the week a little bit longer than that. Sandwich bread gets made usually, by about the ten-year-olds in the house and they make six loaves of sandwich bread once a week. We make a batch of cheddar cheese once a week. We make a batch of mozzarella cheese once a week when the cow is in milk. So we always have some good cheeses to work with in the house. Vegetable ferments and kombucha is once a week, and it's a child that takes care of most of that. If it's a new vegetable ferment, usually I'm doing that. Things like taking care of our cultures and our starters happens usually, on a daily basis and it just fits into a few minutes short time.
So once you get that system down, you just kind of have all these options on your shelf. A quick soup is just a few minutes away. If you have a broth on hand, you've got some vegetable ferments you can top it with, you've got a little bit of rice or noodles or something that can be in the pantry just waiting for you and maybe you have some home canned vegetables or some frozen vegetables that you can add, you can really put together a lot of good meals if you just have your basics down and you're making those every single week. So those are some of the basics for me. Now, let's see. Let me check my list, make sure that I'm not forgetting anything.
Oh, yeah. Make sure you have some basic pantry meals in your pantry., Things that you can just go grab out of your pantry and make. A lot of times, that's something like a spaghetti because you can have your own canned tomato sauce. You can have maybe a little bit of canned ground beef. You can have pasta sitting on the shelf dry. So just make sure you're always giving yourself backups and be constantly planning on refilling your supplies of backups for those busy days. Okay. So those are my tips for keeping three hot, healthy made me On the shelf for a large active family every single day of the week. Usually, we give ourselves a big pat on the back by Saturday and Sunday, enjoy a really hot, fresh, delicious breakfast, something that's nicely freshly made, not a casserole and a big roast dinner that's easy to just cook all day while we're out and have a great dinner when we come back.
It's just getting those systems in place so that you know what to expect, you know what to do when, and you're ready for all of the meals that are inevitably going to be your responsibility to feed your family. Okay, you guys, thanks for hanging out with me. Ask your questions below and jump on over and check out that free training series on canning your own convenience meals, an amazing roasted tomato soup. It is so delicious. It's so easy. You don't need any special equipment. No pressure canner.
Josh: Thanks for listening to this episode of The Pantry Chat: Food for Thought. If you've enjoyed this episode, please subscribe, rate and review.
Carolyn: To view the show notes and any other resources mentioned on this episode, you can learn more at homesteadingfamily.com/podcast.
Josh: We'll see you soon.
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