Sunday, August 9, 2015

Cheat Sheets for Good Eats: Tips for Homeschooling Mommas and Their Hungry Families(Back to School Blog Hop!)

Welcome to my little spot in our Back to School Blog Hop!

Let’s be honest. These people in my house want to eat. Can you imagine? The nerve!

The laundry might go by the wayside (until we run out of underwear). Math can wait for another day, but at some point during the day somebody is going to get hungry.

Some of us struggle with knowing how to manage all this menu planning stuff that has to go on. 

Some of us have had trouble learning to dial it down a notch. Don’t our families deserve an exquisitely prepared gourmet meal every night? 

Some of us just have trouble putting anything on the table before 9 o’clock at night.  There always seems to be something going on!

This might be a little naughty (I always seem to go there), but I get just a bit irritated when well-meaning (but clueless) folks think that stay-at-home, homeschooling momma’s have nothing but time on their hands.

Crickets. Crickets.

It can be challenging making sure everyone is fed and watered; not to mention we are trying to provide them a stellar and meaningful education. 

No pressure! 

I am giving you a rundown of just a few tips and hints (ala Cheat Sheet) concerning my nefarious meal practices.

~Embrace the plan. Write down your families favorite meals and start from there. I tend to keep breakfast and lunch simple. I plan my meals weekly.  I also plan around what meat I have found on sale or marked down at the grocery store. If you are a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants Momma (which is me, pretty much) make it a goal to at least know what you are going to fix for supper in the morning. That way you can get out whatever you need. Nothing like waiting for a roast to unthaw at 4:00pm. 

~I worked for a time as a cook for a preschool. I loved my job!  I took pride in making sure those all those precious peanuts had a yummy and nutritious meal every day. If you follow the USDA guidelines for healthy eating you might find this sample menu helpful. If you need to do less of “Drive Thru Dining” and want to present your family with more balanced nutrition this might be the way to go. 

For my part, there is a lot about the USDA guidelines for healthy eating that don’t meet my particular healthy needs or (for that matter) standards for good nutrition. The point is that you have to make the best choices for you and your family. Making compromises is a part of leaving a full and beautiful life. Sometimes the best choices involve a reasonable compromise. Organic veggies might not be in your budget, but don't neglect the vegetables altogether because you can't afford what you want. 

A good rule of thumb is to treat your families plate like a work of art. The more color...the better. If everything on the plate is the same color you are missing something. 

~Release the momma guilt. This is for those of you who deal with perfectionism. I feel your pain. I like all of my meals to be visual masterpieces.  I’ve had to let go some of my artistic tendencies.

Are you the kind of momma who stresses over the nutritional value of your meals, but often don’t have time or energy to make sure the every meal meets your standards?

Here is a tip. My friend taught me. I spend about 30 minutes every week chopping veggies. I also try and make a mason jar full of ranch dip.  This way I never have a meal that I can’t offer a vegetable.  I keep them in plastic containers and just pull them. They are also available for in-between meal snacks. I also try and keep a bag of frozen veggies in the freezer at all times. My favorite to keep is broccoli. I can add a little bit of butter and lemon juice and it tastes like a million bucks.

I also will sneak fruits and veggies in my muffins, pancakes and even chili. My Dad grows pumpkins, apples and winter squash. I always have a jar of something good to put in a dish. 

~Do you struggle with making every meal memorable and fabulous? I feel your pain. Here is the thing. The family probably won’t remember what you had for dinner this week, let alone last week. I generally plan mostly easier meals for our busy nights and days.  I  designated a meal or two a week as a very special one. I can spend extra time making it special.

~Your family have favorites? Don’t throw out your families favorites just because they don’t meet your culinary expectations. My husband loves Tuna Casserole. He feels extra special when I make it for him. I try and stay away from the canned “cream-of” soups so I figured out a way to make it with whole ingredients. He still feels like I am smothering him with extra special attention (and tuna fish) and I am proud to serve it to my family. 

~I love my crockpot. I tend to use it mostly for soups and stews. I have found that they just do better in the crockpot. This recipe of Green Beans & Potatoes is a staple at our house. I generally serve it with sliced to tomatoes and corn on the cob. 

~Double cook. When I make spaghetti sauce or taco meat I double my recipe and stick it in the freezer. A few weeks ago, I let a batch simmer in the crockpot all day. One batch we ate that night. I stuck the other in the freezer and later made an easy meal of baked ziti.  You can find the crockpot taco meat recipe Iuse here. When I make a pot a soup I will do the same thing.This Lentil recipe is delish. 

~We all have those days when the only thing that is going to come out of our kitchens is a sandwich. Consider purchasing a sandwich press or an electric grill (like a George Foreman) to make them extra special. I see them all the time at Thrift Stores. Put out all your sandwich fixings and let everyone create their own masterpieces. Using the press only takes minutes and your family will feel like they are eating at a fancy deli. It is amazing what a PB&J tastes like in one of these things.

~Always have the fixings of an easy meal on hand.  One of the favorite meals I can remember growing up was my Mom’s Potato Soup Sherry. Now I know that this was one of Mom’s “don’t have nothing in the pantry” meals. I can’t have the potatoes as often anymore, but I found a cauliflower chowder that does a pretty good job filling that comfort food spot. I will fix a pan of cornbread when making potato soup for my guys. A little apple butter and honey can go a long way with making the whole thing memorable.

~Consider Breakfast for supper. This is the only time I am giving you permission to become a short order cook! Or better yet, teach the kiddos to operate the waffle iron. My waffle iron has a place of honor. In fact, I was commissioned to take it over to my husband’s work one evening for a Waffle Supper. My family loves a good Waffle (or pancake) supper.  My mom was famous for her “after church omelet suppers.” Piles of people would gather at the house for one of her fluffy omelets.

~How about a Quesadilla? I have found this little dish to be a favorite in my house. I can do fix them for breakfast, lunch or dinner. All you really need is cheese and tortillas. I always have a little bit of protein left over (chicken, a cup of beans, a meatball). I can sauté a few vegetables if I am feeling ambitious. For a large crowd you can simply bake your quesadillas in the oven. I like using my big stove top griddle. I will serve them with a salad, maybe some rice and yogurt or sour cream for dipping.

~A terrific idea for lunch would be an antipasto platter. Basically, you take all the odds and ends of lunch meat, cheese, pickles, etc. and put it on a platter. Everyone digs in. My mom used to get unusual treats to put on our platters (try cactus pickles!).

~Do what your great-great-grandma used to do and only bake one day of the week. My little sister does this and I have followed suit. She works part-time and homeschools. Her day off is on Mondays so she will make up banana bread and some sort of cake to carry the family through the week. Once it’s gone it’s gone. It provides her family with an extra treat and helps ease her baking burden. Last week, I made a chocolate zucchini cake and let Josiah make some chocolate chip cookies on our baking day.

~ Both of my parents worked when I was growing up (and Pastored a church). Now Mom didn't start back to work until I was 6, but I had a little brother and sister (4 & 2, respectively). We never ate out. We always ate at the table and I always remember eating GOOD. She is a Respiratory Therapist so she had spent hours (sometimes a double shift) on her feet. One thing I do remember is that she ALWAYS involved us kids in the meal preparation. I am sure initially it was trying. Little kids in the kitchen can be an adventure and time consuming, but she was building a foundation. It wasn't too long before we could be in charge of tossing a salad or fixing the vegetable, setting the table or filling the glasses. Don't neglect this part of your kids, it eventually pay off. You will have wonderful help in the kitchen!

A simple, simple recipe for kids to help cook is a Hobo Dinner.  It will be a hit all the way around. 

That's it for today. You CAN do this, Momma! 

Don't forget to come back tomorrow. I will be sharing my favorite Audio books and Dramatizations! 

This post is part of the Back To School Blog Hop from my friends at  the Schoolhouse Review Crew and Homeschool Blogging Connection. Be sure to check my landing page out for their links...I know you will blessed! 

1 comment:

  1. Great tips, Rebekah! I have loosen my grip on fanciness. Lately, I have been focusing on healthiness so our meals are lighter.


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