So continue with my life hacks series....meal times!
Feeding children in general tends to be a giant pain in the booty....feeding 5 children is a nightmare. If you are a mom you know the dread that is the oncoming meal, the angst of meal prep and the terror of grocery shopping. So, though I still feel that dread with every meal, a few tricks have helped eased some of the difficulty that is feeding the masses, aka your fam. So here are a few pointers on how we do things during feeding time at the zoo.
1. The General Flow.
We are kind of boring when it comes to breakfast and lunch. We eat at home most days. We have 5 kids, ain't nobody got the budget to eat out with all those humans, and let's be honest, its never super fun with a daycare in tow. We tend to eat out one night a week for one reason or another, and the little kids go with their grandma Wednesday nights and Clay is often at gun club, so I never cook that night (All the praise hands!). But most other meals we eat at home. It helps to kind of have a routine. For us, breakfast usually consists of (on school/busy mornings) bagels, cereal, oatmeal and or scrambled eggs with some kind of fruit. We are entering a season where the bigs can cook and make food for the littles...game changer. The only problem with said scenario is they make a mess....shocker. While that is another blog post, they are required to clean said mess. Again, I am not the maid. Lunch is very similar. I do usually make lunch for everyone, I try to cater to clearly expressed dislikes, for example Coop loves mayo, Cole hates it. Ok, I can work with that. Dinner will get a whole other bullet point.
2. I made it. You eat it.
My kids will probably be in therapy for this one day, but they can add it to the list. In our house if I put it in front of you, you eat it. Here is the kicker....you are NOT allowed to complain or turn your nose up to it, or you do burpees (another blog post). The purpose behind this is two fold. We want to raise little people that are polite and know when to state their opinion and when to hold back. It is RUDE to say you don't like the food someone slaved to make you. While we don't want our kids to be rude we also understand they may want to let us know how they are feeling and we work really hard to not just shut them down. We do allow them to say, "this isn't my favorite." That lets us know they don't like it (maybe a smaller portion next time) and it lets them know we have acknowledged how they feel and they need to suck it up butter cup and eat up! The other reason we make them eat what is in front of them is because, often, they don't even know if they don't like something. More often than not they eat it and go, "oh wow mom, this is really good." Hopefully we have little foodies in the making.
3. Have a plan
So, making roughly 20 meals a week for 7 people is no joke. We try to eat healthy with mostly "real" food and lots of fruits and veggies. I've tried a lot of ways to meal plan, and so far, the thing that works best for us is a website called nomoretogo.com. You pay 7 dollars a month and they send you 5 dinner meals each week and one dessert/snack recipe. The kicker...it comes with a grocery list already done (again, all the praise hands). This allows for diversity in the meals we eat (Clay isn't a big casserole guy and he doesn't love the same meals every week....he is told often to suck it up buttercup, but I do try to accommodate when I can). You can pick none or some or all of the meals and the grocery list modifies itself. I've been using this website for about 2 years now and I LOVE it. All of the meals can be made in 30 min or less, are healthy and have gluten free and vegan modifications. I've heard awesome things about hello fresh and things like that, but for us, and the size of our family, that is just not cost effective.
3. Grocery shop WITHOUT kids if at all possible.
So, I would rather starve than grocery shop with kids. A few hunger pains is surely worth not shopping with children. So, for me, I shop Saturday at some point when Clay is home, or Sunday afternoon. While it's a little annoying to do a chore on the weekend (hello real life), it is exponentially worth it to not take humans. It also helps to have an organized list so you only have to go once a week (though at our publix I often hear, "oh ma'am, I guess we won't see you again for a while." to which I respond, "actually I'll see you next week.") I just recently tried instant cart. It worked great, but it's obviously not the most cost effective, but again, weigh the costs. Another little hack for me is something called boxed. It's basically buying in bulk without having to go to the store, load your cart, unload your cart into your car, drive home and unload your giant bulk items wherever you store the giant boxes. It's obviously all dried foods. Someone did calculate it is about 30% more expensive than actually going to a mega store, but one of those is at least an hour from my house, so if I calculate the gas to drive my bus, and the fortune I spend on random things I don't need, I'm pretty sure I break even. Did I mention UPS drops it at my door!!! My children may call it the snack fairy.
4. Take a breath and have a glass of wine.
While I totally get that some people don't drink wine, I do try and take a breath at dinner. I usually just finished a marathon day and just got home from doing the afternoon run around, which often includes crossfit for me, so I'm beat. I try to remember I used to like cooking and its almost bedtime (praise sweet baby Jesus). For most meals, because we homeschool, we sit at the counter and all eat together, but for dinner we sit around the table and talk. We usually do "highs and lows" which helps lead conversation, and with our maniacs, is usually pretty funny. For everyone who eats their food without complaining they get 2 oreos (don't judge....balance people). Then everyone heads off to bed. It makes dinner time a sweet constant in our day.
5. Close the kitchen
In our house we eat breakfast around 8, lunch at 12 and dinner at 6:30 when dad gets home. Snack time is 10:30 and 3:30. Other than water, after that, the kitchen is closed. On the days that are "looser" and my apathy overtakes, the kitchen is trashed constantly, and it looks like a landfill in my kitchen. MAKES.ME.NUTS! For snacks I do buy individually packaged snacks. Survival. I don't have time to portion out 20 bags of pirates booty, but if I don't they are as stale as cardboard after the first day because kids don't close things....they just throw them on the floor of the pantry. So, for us, ironically, this cuts down on wasting food. Again, for me this is survival.
Again, I have none of this figured out, and if you "pop in" to my house I'll probably have morphed something, but for now, this is how we roll....Good luck with meal times, and may the odds be ever in your favor!
The assembly line, hoards of food and pretending I'm a food blogger...that uses paper plates.