Thursday, April 19, 2012

The care and keeping of a large family - meals

In the previous post in my little series, I talked about how my grocery shopping has morphed into something completely new over the past year or so. Now I'll address how I actually turn all the stuff that I buy into meals for our family. People frequently express their sympathy to me that I have to cook for so many. ;o) One man said it was like I ran a small restaurant, and in some ways, I'd have to agree with him. Really though, I don't think it's that much harder to make meals for a crowd, it just takes a little longer. I think most of my friends with big families would agree. A lot of it is about organization, planning ahead, and making the most of your time.

My meal planning starts on Saturday afternoon, right after I've picked up my Bountiful Baskets. I inventory everything I have, and then sit down and figure out what meals that produce can become. I have tons of vegan cookbooks, but I also use the internet to help me find good recipes. Next, I make a menu, such as this one for this week:

Once I have my menu figured out, I start processing all the produce. I cut up anything that can be cut up and get it ready for whatever recipe it will be going into. I also bag up snack-size bags of veggies for school lunches for the coming week, as well as some of the fruit (most of the fruits, like apples, bananas, pears, and oranges go into the lunches whole). I have bins in my refrigerator that hold all these bags. The other prepped veggies go into storage containers until I'm ready for them.

Each morning, while my kids are at school, I do any prepping for dinner than I can and get the lunches made for the coming day. Sometimes I'll also make up a big batch of pancakes or muffins or breakfast cookies to put in the freezer for breakfasts. So for today, I'll make sure the pineapple and all the veggies are ready and get out the noodles. My husband always cooks on Thursdays, so tonight's an easy night for me. :o)

Most of the lunches I make for the kids are very simple, and I rotate through pretty much the same 15 or so main items. They get pb&j, the occasional "turkey" sandwich (made with Yves deli slices), brown rice and soy sauce, hummus and pita or falafel chips, salads, cold cereal (which they think is fabulous), bean burritos, bagels and cream cheese, peanut butter crackers, spaghetti or other pasta, pancakes, chips and salsa etc. Their lunches always include a fruit and a veggie, and on Fridays they get some sort of treat.

Since we run a vegan kitchen (and again, not all our kids eat vegan outside the home, but some do), I focus on making sure our dinners are balanced with fruit, veggies and plenty of protein. I always laugh when people ask where we get our protein because we get PLENTY. I log my meals (which are what everyone else eats) into my My Fitness Pal app, and protein is never a problem.

For snacks, our kids can always have fruit after school, but sometimes they'll have nuts or dried fruit or a piece of toast or leftovers. I don't keep treats in the house except for the ones they get on Friday, but sometimes they'll walk to a nearby small grocery store for a treat with their allowance money.

When I plan my menus, I consider which days of the week work best with certain meals. I always need easy meals on Wednesdays, for example, because most of my family has church and need to be able to eat quickly. I can get away with harder things on Mondays, and I try to keep things easier for my husband on his Thursday cooking nights. Sometimes I hit him with some doozy recipes though. ;o) Sunday lunches are our big meal of the week, and it's the only day I make a dessert.

Gone are the days when I would throw open the cupboards at 5:30 to figure out what was there to eat, only to order a pizza 15 minutes later. Planning means that I always know what's for dinner, and preparation means that I'm, well, prepared. But I also keep a well-stocked pantry and basement, and that means that if a quick substitute needs to be made, I still don't have to resort to calling Pizza Hut.


  1. Hi, I found your blog when googling bountiful basket vegan menus! I'm LDS, vegan, mom of four. I cannot imagine your household, and daily life, but thanks for these posts about how you handle routines and meals. Your kids must be very good at eating veggies, we don't even get through one basket a week. I want to do better at planning our meals and not be stressed out. The hardest part is deciding what to cook, because everything sounds good to me, and I love to read cookbooks and vegan blogs and recipes. You seem to have things down smoothly. Congrats on your adoption!

  2. Hi Lindsay! It's nice to meet you. :) It's awesome to know there are more of us out there!