All Your Kitchen Problems Solved!
Ha! Not really all your problems solved. Just the ones you shared with me on Facebook this week.
I am desiring to make this Oven-Love-thing more of a community where we can help each other out. It is hard being a spouse/parent/human person on planet Earth, isn’t it? You’re out there trying to make things work. Juggling all the craziness of life, desiring to feed yourself and/or your family well. I hear you, I’ve been there, I’m there now, too. I love hearing from you guys and helping you to work through your kitchen issues. There were a few topics I wanted to hit on and some resources I wanted to share, too. So here we go, solvin’ problems.
Healthy AND Quick AND Cheap Meals
That’s asking a lot from one meal, but it can be done. I would first ask you this- what is your real priority? Is it feeding your family nourishing food, feeding your family quickly, or feeding your family on a low budget? Which is most important to you? We can incorporate all three elements, but it’s not going to happen every time, since all three are at odds with each other. “Healthy” foods are typically fresh, requiring more time to cook and can be more expensive than processed food. Food that is easy to prepare often sacrifices health with convenience ingredients. Cheap food that is healthy takes time to find (aka looking for deals, couponing, etc). Figure out what your highest priority is, and work on that one first.
So now that I’ve crushed your hopes, ha!, I’ll actually give you some useful tips to make this happen.
Healthy Food Cheap: Have a weekly/monthly food budget so you can stay within it. Shop with the sales, haggle with farmers at the market, buy produce in bulk and preserve it, buy bruised/ugly produce, grow a small garden, buy bulk meat/produce with a friend and split the cost. If you want to have truly healthy food at lower cost, you have to do some work to find it. Make use of food that is in season- it’s usually more local/fresh and on sale.
Healthy Food Quick: Meal Plan if you can (see below). Practice your kitchen skills- I can’t stress this enough! The more practice you have at preparing food, the quicker you will be. Do any prep work you can ahead of time- this could be defrosting meat the night before, chopping vegetables during nap- anything to help dinner time run smoothly. Utilize the slow cooker, or go the other way and utilize the skillet meal. Try your hand at freezer cooking. I will also add this thought- what is filling your day so fully that you feel rushed when preparing dinner? Is there any way you could reorganize your time? Spend a 1/2 hour less watching TV in favor of food prep each night? Just an idea to get you thinking about priorities.
I hesitate to actually give you recipe ideas here because we all have a different definition of “healthy.” But I did want to give you some ideas and tools to work toward the goal of healthy/cheap/fast meals. Don’t be afraid to mess up, don’t get discouraged. It is no small thing that you are in the kitchen, working hard to prepare nourishing food for your family. You will mess up sometimes, we all do. Keep at it!
Oh, meal planning. Our best friend one day, our nemesis the next. All of my best meal planning advice can be found in this post- 10 Tips For Better Meal Planning. The hardest part is getting started. Set aside a time each week or month that’s just for meal planning. If you can, get out of your house and go to a coffee shop to do it so you can concentrate.
Keeping Up With the Dishes
I am the poster child for horrible dish habits. Doing the dishes is one of my least favorite chores, ugh. I just wish they would disappear. Here’s my advice (I’m definitely talking to myself here):
Clear the table right after the meal. Put dishwash-able items straight into the dishwasher. Have one or two times during the day that you will typically work on dishes (I do some after dinner while my husband does bath time with the kids, and then some in the morning after breakfast). Put dry dishes away before you start washing new dishes. If you have an overwhelming mountain of dishes to do, set a timer for 20 minutes, do as much as you can, and then take a break- you will be surprised how much you get done!
Pie Crust without Hydrogenated Oils
You’ve got a lot of options here.
- Traditional pastured lard (can be rendered at home from leaf lard)- Traditional lard is different nutritionally than lard or shortening found on the grocery store shelves. I find it makes great tasting baked goods!
- Pastured butter- I like Smitten Kitchen’s All Butter Crust
- Coconut oil- Try Food52’s Perfect Vegan Pie Crust
- Palm shortening- Try this Basic Pie Crust, Real Food Style
I did a pie crust comparison a year or two ago that may be helpful here, too.
Healthy Meals To Satisfy A Large Family
I only have two kids, so I’m definitely not an expert on feeding a large family. My first thought is that if I had a house of 7+ people, I would only be cooking one meal for everyone. I don’t have the energy to make everyone their own dish! That means not everyone will be happy every night, but to me, that’s okay. Perhaps a meal rotation would be a good idea? Ask everyone for their favorite meal and then put them into a rotation. Encourage them to try meals that are new to everyone, too, so you are all trying new things together.
Bread baking can be pretty intimidating, that’s for sure. I’ve had my fair share of fails. Some resources I love are The Breadbaker’s Apprentice, Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes A Day and Tartine Bread. Also, read the “Air” chapter of Michael Pollan’s book Cooked- it will give you a renewed excitement about baking bread and help you to understand why the process can be so fickle.
Making Dinner with Kids Getting In the Way
I know all about this one. In my mind, you’ve got two options- keep the kids busy or involve them in what you’re doing. I do a little bit of both.
Keep the kids busy: Set them up with play food or a play kitchen. Give them pots and pans, or cups to stack. Get them to set the table if they’re old enough. Give them crayons and paper.. you know, whatever you have. And of course, there’s always the iPad and TV. The healthy food you’re preparing will cancel out any brain cells lost by technology.
Get them involved: Let them help you with prep work. My littles help by putting the veggies I chop into a bowl, mixing things up, adding things to the bowl, etc. Get a kids kitchen knife and let them help chopping if they’re old enough. Buy or build a helper tower so they can help (or just be tall enough to watch what you’re doing)- we built one of these and it has been a lifesaver in our kitchen.
Well that’s about all the wisdom I’ve got in me. Hope it was helpful to some of you. Please keep sending questions my way!