Editor’s Note: I am very excited that we have our very first contribution, by Deanna, in our ‘pulling back the curtain’ series, showing you, our readers, what & how we “typically” eat for our weekly 21 meals +snacks. I wanted to do this series because I often feel like readers of food blogs, not just FSC, have this impression that the recipes we publish is a larger representation of a every meal in that particular house. We all have busy lives and also enjoy eating out, and we’re gonna share what our food weeks usually look like!
I’ve had many, many readers, swappers and FSC Academy students say to me “Oh, you wouldn’t like what I had for dinner last night, we went to Taco Bell” or something to that effect. Whenever I hear this, I cringe a little because I want FSC to be a place of acceptance and I don’t want FSC to come off as hardliners. No shame! On this blog we are trying our best to inspire people to get down & dirty in the kitchen *more often*, to your local farmers markets *more often*…and hopefully make whole seasonal foods and from scratch cooking a priority in you & your families life on whatever level you can. Maybe making some butter, a curry, a slaw, or maybe go high-five your farmer, put those vegetable scrapes to good use….we ‘re not asking for all 21 meals a week. I surely don’t make all my meals from scratch in a week, and I have a severely food allergic son.
I can’t speak for the many FSC Contributor’s food consumption, but I can stay without hesitation that we are all supporters of ‘balance'; balance of life/work or school, stress/de-stress, personal time/mommy time (if applicable), and food: from scratch/convenient/restaurant. It’s all about balance and maybe finding a little bit of time to make a few meals from scratch or starting canning! These posts will be sporadic, but I’m striving to have everyone’s piece in the series completed before 2013. -Christina
One might think from reading the From Scratch Club blog that we (the contributors) cook delicious from-scratch meals every day. I don’t know about the other ladies, but I know that I certainly don’t. Between work and kids and farm and family and all the other necessities of life, I don’t have the time every day to make a from-scratch dinner.
However… with planning, a good freezer, and some basic home preservation skills, I am able to offer my family something that is “from scratch” every day.
So, what’s the actual breakdown? What do I actually make and eat? Here’s an overview of how I feed myself and my family:
My kids are 3 and 2 are in preschool three times a week at the moment. Most mornings I try to wake up before them (sometimes I get a work-out in, but usually not… it’s something I have to fit back into my schedule), shower and get going on some coffee (French press, please!). They wake up between 6am and 7am. Sometimes my daughter wakes up especially early and will come climb into my bed. Sometimes she just comes and sleeps with me, other times she says in my ear, “Mom, I need to eat some breakfaaaaaaaaaaast!”
So, during the week (and often times on the weekend), the kids eat cereal (we’re big fans of Puffins) or perhaps a muffin, scone or popover that I pulled from the freezer and re-heated, and have some chocolate milk. I usually work on a muffin or slice of bread with fruit with a cup of coffee while making lunches or checking overnight/morning emails quickly.
On the weekends I like to try a new dish (perhaps a new morning cake or frittata) or make waffles or pancakes (extras go into the freezer). But I try not to stress about it – the kids are happy either way.
I keep a big bowl of fruit on the kitchen table for the kids and I to nosh on. Other snack typically include some Saltines or Annie’s crackers or Teddy Grahams (If I have them made, homemade crackers or graham crackers are made available, as well). Local yogurt is another tasty option for the kids.
I think I’m becoming pretty good at packing lunches my kids will eat. I rely on reusable bento-style boxes to pack lunches and typically include some sort of carbohydrate or sandwich (peanut butter and jelly on homemade crackers, ham and cheese on a leftover waffle wedge, or pita wedges), carrot sticks (my son loves them, my daughter isn’t as much of a fan), a piece of fruit (grapes and pears are big hits), something dairy (yogurt or a slice of local cheese), and usually something sweet to round it all out (a small homemade cookie or homemade pudding, etc). I try to put lettuce or some herbs on the bottom of bento box to rest the sandwich on to offer another “veg” to the kids. Sometimes they eat them, sometimes not. I send the kids off with an inexpensive cloth napkin and re-usable utensils to try to encourage sustainable living from the start. They get water or milk at school as a drink.
On special occasions, I’ll get creative and make shapes out of their food (will cookie cutters or some creative cutting with a paring knife). I don’t have time to do this all the time, but doing it once in a while seems like a fun surprise for them.
The kids eat basically the same lunch at home. Sometimes they’ll get some leftover chicken soup (or soup I premade and froze, then reheated for lunch), or chicken nuggets (either homemade or the AppleGate variety) or local beef hotdogs.
I typically make a salad with whatever I can get from the garden and a local cheese (blue or goats milk), a panzanella, or hummus with veggies or pita/naan. Iced tea is also a must during the day (I brew a fresh batch every night).
My kids loooooove air-popped popcorn dressed with a little olive oil and kosher salt. I’ll pop a batch in the afternoons and they nosh on it with an apple or other piece of fruit.
My rule is to make a from-scratch dinner at least four nights a week. If I do it for more than four nights a week, I give myself a pat on the back, but if not, I don’t stress about it. Lately I’ve been cooking a lot of the same meals over and over to get my kids to eat new items (couscous, lentils, seasonal veggies). Pasta with a quick homemade sauce, roasted chicken with veggies and grains or potatoes, enchiladas or tacos, stews and soups, casseroles (and sometimes breakfast!) are typical dinners for us during the week. If it takes more than 40 minutes or can’t be made in the slow cooker, it doesn’t get made during the week.
I try to take the kids out once a week to eat. I worked as a waitress for a long time in high school, college, and grad school, and I have witnessed some pretty horrific behaviors from customers/children in restaurants. I would be beyond mortified if my kids acted that way, so I take that one day out as a chance to teach my kids proper etiquette (and as a break from cooking).
We have “pizza night” once a week, where we make homemade pizza and then cozy-up on the couch together to watch a family movie (sometimes we’ll have rootbeer floats or milkshakes, too). It’s typically Thursday or Friday night. If I’m too exhausted to cook, I’ll order a pizza from the local joint in town, but typically if I have the dough and ingredients ready that morning or the night before.
Weekends are typically when I make new dishes to post on my blog or longer-cooking items, like roasts. I really enjoy entertaining and cooking for friends, so Saturday nights have a tendency to be last-minute dinner parties with friends. I try to take a little time for myself each week, and sometimes this means grabbing drinks and dinner with a friend or having a quiet dinner alone at a restaurant I’ve been wanting to try.
When we eat dinner at home, we turn off all electronics/phones and focus on the meal and each other. I’m sure when my kids are bigger and become involved in extra-curriculars, our schedule will need to change and cooking from-scratch meals will prove more difficult.
I try not to eat after 8pm unless I had a work or personal event or I’m starving. But I have to admit I’m a bit of a coffee addict. I love the stuff. And since I’m self-employed, I usually have a good chunk of work to do after the kids go to bed. So I’ll make another pot of coffee or a cappuccino and sit down for a few more hours of work and emails.
When do I make From Scratch meals?
After dinner, I usually bath the kids right away, then let them play or watch a movie for an hour or so before reading time and bed. This gives me the chance to pick up the house and do some prep work or additional cooking (everything from prep for the next night’s dinner to baked goods or items for tomorrow’s lunch). I try to get some cooking done on the weekends, as well (Sundays are usually canning/baking day, when I make breads or home preservation items like jams, jellies, relishes, sauces and dressings, etc.). If I have a few extra minutes before school/work after making lunches, I’ll get my groceries from my garden and pantry, and try to buy everything else from the great shops and farm stands right in my small town.
Tips for From-Scratch Cooking
- Keep a well-stocked pantry of essentials. Pick up produce and meats throughout the week and rely on grains, beans, spices, vinegars, and oils to build your from-scratch repertoire
- Try to plan ahead. Even if you don’t have full menus planned out, try to have a rough idea of what you’ll be cooking though out the week
- Learn to preserve. If you put-up food, you can turn to your pantry for slap-dash cooking that’s still from scratch, even when you are pressed for time or too tired to really cook.
- Eat local. If you can’t cook and bake from-scratch, be sure to buy groceries from local farmers and producers to ensure that you are getting wholesome food make close-to-home.
Do you have tips for cooking from-scratch? How do you really eat? In an ideal world, everything I consume would be made by me, but it’s just not realistic for me and my family. Stocking my pantry with homemade preserves helps me with my dedication to a from-scratch lifestyle. Please share your stories tips (or struggles) with the rest of us!