Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Get Real - Mealtimes

This six week, Get Real Series, was inspired by Adrie (of the blog, Field and Fire) and I realizing that each of us wondered how the other "did it all".  Of course, the reality is we don't.  There are seven us that will be sharing the realities of how we handle a certain aspect of living over each of the six weeks on Tuesdays.  
This week it is Dinner.

Our family's journey toward eating more whole foods - meaning foods as close to the source as possible and foods made from scratch - continues to this day.  What started first as growing our own small garden nearly 20 years ago has developed into preserving and keeping some of that food we grow and at various times even having a farm stand and having enough excess to share with friends and neighbors.  What we can't grow ourselves, we buy at our local organic farms or local natural food store (which is actually a 30 minute drive).   Finally the remainder of our food is purchased at a small grocery store and our in-town general store.  

Committing to feeding our family meals made from scratch and providing healthy choices means that a lot of my day is spent in the kitchen, not to mention feeding a large family.
   I have simplified things somewhat just because of all of the other responsibilities I have (you know, like having 7 children).  Breakfast 5 out of 7 days is oatmeal (with raisins for me) and cold cereal for those that don't like oatmeal.  The other days are sometimes eggs with maybe bacon and toast and another day may be pancakes with maple syrup.
After breakfast, I do my baking for the day.  With our oldest off to college, I generally make 2 loaves of bread every other day now and then some kind of muffin/quick bread and a sweet on the same day I bake the bread so that it can all go in the oven together.

 Lunch varies but often it is grilled cheese (maybe grilled cheese with egg) on homemade bread with pickles that I canned.  Other days peanut butter or sunflower butter with jelly sandwiches and organic corn chips with salsa.  Sometimes "bread pizzas".  Sometimes soup with toast.   When the garden is producing I nearly always add a vegetable - carrots, greens or potatoes.

Dinner is usually something more involved.  I strive to have a weekly menu, but this doesn't always happen.  However, our meals tend to be based on the season.  Right now we are having our last beef stew and cream soups.  I just made a yummy lentil carrot soup the other night.  As our chickens are now giving us 8 - 10 eggs each day I will be adding quiche, and some kind of egg meal at least twice per week to our dinner menu.  I also give myself a break when I need it and  will make something simple, such as organic ground beef from our local farm and two bags of frozen sweet potato fries with some organic greens from our natural food store. 

We don't get fast food for dinner more than maybe once a month and that is usually Chinese Food.
We haven't been out for a sit-down dinner at a restaurant since Mike and I went away over night almost two years ago for our anniversary.

As far as preparing dinner, I have the luxury that because we have a home based business, my husband generally is around to help with the children from 3:00 - 5:00 so that I can do any wood burning for the business, packaging, answer customer questions and work on dinner.  Sometimes I will even start chopping vegetables when I have a moment or two anytime after lunch.  When Mike isn't around I am now blessed to have older children to help with Emmy but if all else fails, I have will put her in the Ergo to finish up any meal preparation.

When our children were all younger (there was a time when I had a newborn, 2, 4, and 6 year olds) I did make more simple meals and I am sure I relied on a video or two during the meal preparation time.  (The 2, 4, and 6 year old were boys and our house was very lively!)  I was happy if I got noodles boiled and sauce heated on some evenings.

Oh, I also forgot to mention my right hand kitchen helper, Sarah.  She loves to chop vegetables!  If she is around, she nearly always volunteers.

Our children are very fussy, especially the older ones as I didn't cook the same way that I do now when they were small.  I don't fight it.  But for the younger ones, I give them a small amount of each of the meal's offerings and am often happy to find that they will eat it.  Last night Abraham, Sarah, and Abby joined Mike and I and had a bit of salmon, for example.  (This was a rare treat for us as it is expensive but oh so good!)  

One thing I love about life is the excitement of learning new things and putting them into practice.  When I need some inspiration I may spend some time reading Nourishing Traditions or the Encyclopedia of Country Living.  I am also currently taking Heather's course, Whole Foods Kitchen and working on adding new ideas to our meals and learning more about nutrition.

Finally, once the meal is complete, our family joins together almost every night of the week to have dinner.  Abby sets the table and Sarah lights the candle and we hold hands to say grace.  Even though some may finish within 5 minutes, I am thankful for that brief time where we come together as a family.

Looking forward to reading what the other amazing women shared today and if you would like, please share what mealtimes are like at your home ~ 


  1. There is a pretty easy recipe posted on thepioneerwoman.com's website today called hashbrown nest that uses baked potatoes and eggs. Would be a good way to integrate eggs into dinner and looks pretty darn yummy.

  2. this series is going to be so helpful for me as I am really struggling with food right now. I look forward to reading all of the blogs when I have time. I'm really interested in the whole gluten issue. It seems everyone has issues with gluten and it is such a hot topic now I'm trying to understand it all. I don't feel like my children have problems with gluten but I am trying to use less white flour. Anyway, thanks for the post.

  3. Wonderful Tonya! Thanks so much for pulling this together with me, and for sharing yourself and your family so openly and truly. So inspiring and also comforting :)
    With love,

  4. Awesome, Tonya ! :) My in-laws are visiting today and I should be darting around cleaning up like crazy right now but I had to visit you just after posting. And now I feel like I barely said anything in my post, LOL. You included much more information and painted better pictures in my mind. I enjoyed your post very much! I can't wait to visit everybody else. :)

  5. I love this, Tonya! Thank you so much for sharing!
    <3 Melanie

  6. Looking forward to these Tuesday posts!

  7. I do love the mealtime blessing best of all! All that goes into making the meal and a life finds its purpose there.

  8. This is all very interesting to me. I just have four and we have recently started eating gluten again. I make sourdough bread and am toying with how much to make to actually make it through the week. I am also wondering about snacks. Do yours eat many? I am thinking I made a mistake by allowing so many in between meal snacks (by snacks meaning veggies and fruits).
    Very interesting! Looking forward to these posts very much, thanks!

  9. There is nothing I love more than the moments where we hold hands and sat grace. That pulls it all together, all the craziness, the schedules, life. It just makes us stop and remember that we are so darn lucky to be enjoying this food, and this life, together.

  10. We have 12 of our children still at home, 9 of them teenagers. We have always cooked from scratch and involved the kids in all things kitchen. Now we have a crew of competent cooks who prepare many of our weekly dinners from scratch. Our kids are from all over the world and we enjoy home-cooked Ethiopian, Indian and Thai food as well as loads of salmon (we live in Seattle). It is so liberating and rewarding to witness my kids so confident in the kitchen.

  11. Oh I cannot believe your oldest if off to college!!! What a milestone. I'm glad you still have a wee one to squeeze though. Having a large family is a lot like juggling I think, especially when trying to do things a bit "off the beaten path". But like you said, those few minutes where you are all together at the dinner table...it helps keep everything else in perspective. Thanks for sharing!


  12. Dear Tonya, I always appreciate the thought and effort you put into feeding your family well. Sometimes I think I have it so easy, feeding only 4 plus one nursing. But then again I do cook all from scratch so...
    I am so looking forward to reading more of this beautiful series you have all created!
    Thinking of you, looking forward to soon replying to your letter, wishing you happy spring days! Love, Renee

  13. This is such a wonderful series! I look forward to reading them all.
    It makes me glad to know there are so many others out there that are all thinking along the same lines.