Simple Food – Getting the Most Out of Your Produce Box

Today is veggie day. That means we get our produce box and that means it feels a tiny bit like Christmas. I started getting produce boxes from a local co-op because it was such a great deal and I thought it would inspire me to cook and eat more veggies. For a long time I struggled with having to throw half of our box to the chickens because it went bad before we used it, or my freezer would overflow when I remembered to prepare and freeze the extras. Then there were the times when I just felt like I was drowning in produce from multiple weeks of not eating it. Ever seen lettuce ooze in a fridge? It can happen. Ugh.

Image

My veggie box today… mmmm good!

 

I didn’t want to give up the great deal, so I devised a plan. (I’m all about plans…can you tell?) I get my veggies on Thursday mornings. Our co-op is pretty traditional – potatoes, onions, apples, bananas – but it’s always fun to be surprised by what is actually in the box. The first thing I do is make a menu for the coming week based on what I have in my box. Then I prepare anything that needs to be prepared – washed, diced, sliced, whatever. Then I take a bubble bath because that’s a lot of work and forward thinking. On Friday I go shopping around that menu and I try to only buy the extra ingredients we need to make meals out of our veggie box.

This is one of the few plans I’ve actually stuck with for a couple of years. It makes grocery shopping much less expensive and healthier. I never actually lay out certain days to cook certain things. I just know that I have X, Y, and Z in the fridge to make A, B, and C with. I can make them whenever I feel like it and we usually have lots of left overs for the days that I don’t cook. In fact, I actually only cook a full on dinner about 3 times a week, 4 if I’m feeling my June Cleaver genes kicking in.

Not too bad eh?

After a year or so I took over the produce co-op and have been running it for the past four years with my buddy Bonnie. So, if you’re looking for a co-op and you live in the Raleigh area, mine has space. Check out the amazing box we got this week for $10 http://www.garnerproduce.com

Yep, that was a shameless plug.

Cheers

New Blog Site

Welcome to the new site. A special thank you to WORDPRESS for making the move easier than pie – and pi. Actually, lots of things are easier to do than make pie or solve equations involving pi, but I like old figures of speech.

Why did I move the site? Because WordPress is infinitely easier to use and more flexible than blogger, in my never humble opinion. I can also update from the app on my phone, which means you’ll probably be getting lots of gems from stoplights. BLISS!

Yes, I’m the lady you honk at. Go ahead and honk. I don’t mind. It’s actually really handy when you honk at me because it means I don’t have to keep looking up from my phone to see if the light has changed yet.

Short break for a public service announcement… DON’T TEXT AND DRIVE. Once that light is green, put the phone down.

In order to keep myself honest about this life saving law, I have given my children permission to yell “DON’T TEXT AND DRIVE MOMMY!” whenever they see me with a phone in my hand while the car is moving. My third child is the only one who seems to have taken this request to heart. In fact, she frequently screams “DON’T KILL US MOMMY!!” when I’m looking at google maps to make sure we’re going the right way.

Deep yoga breathing is helpful in situations like these.

Cheerio blog readers. Until next time.

Simple Food

Why does every meal have to be so frigging complicated? Why is dinner such a pain in the behind -Every. Single. Night ??

Is your house like this? From 4pm till 8pm complete and utter chaos?

I have no idea who these people are or what they are doing, but this is what my house looks like most nights.

Even when we got rid of our extra curricular activities in an attempt to simplify our evenings and restore some sort of peace to our home while finishing a dump truck load of homework, dinner time was still a complete mosh pit.

I guess that’s because kids are required to mostly sit still and be quiet for all but 20 min of their day, unless they happen to have PE for their special. Who wouldn’t want to come home and run and shout and throw apples at each other?  (True story.)

But even on days like Saturday when we complete a few chores, maybe do something fun and lay around, for some reason my stress levels spike past the moon when it’s 4pm. No one is screaming, no one is throwing apples, but it’s time to cook. I am the sole person responsible for feeding five other human beings a healthy, nutricious, balanced meal that they will LIKE. Because if I force it down their throats and accidentally poke them with the fork then they have grounds for joining the foster system and none of us want that.

So I resolved to make dinner a simple time of night. Breakfast is simple, most mornings, at our house. Everyone just gets toast or cereal or oatmeal for themselves. If they want something more they can ask me and I’ll make them eggs or bacon, it’s just really laid back. So I thought, why can’t dinner be like that?

My favorite dinner times are when we have breakfast for dinner. I thought about making spaghetti for breakfast, but that just made me kind of sick. I decided that the reason breakfast is so easy going is that there is no pressure on me to find something to feed everyone that they will all love and sing praises to.

SOLUTION #1 – Let the kids take turns picking out what’s for dinner.

This worked pretty well for a while. Everyone had their own night and we made the meal plans ahead of time and the kids were excited when their night came around. I let them be the special helper and told everyone else to stuff it if they didn’t like what we were having.

But really, who is this organized ALL THE TIME? Not this mommy.

SOLUTION #2 – Let them eat whatever they can find.

I found this to be a VERY nice change as I didn’t have to do ANYTHING for dinner. One time I even sat and read a magazine while the kids raided the pantry and fridge. The problem: clean up. Even though I have my kids help me clean up the kitchen after meals, this was epic. We only did it a couple of times, but for some reason breakfast foods are much easier to clean up than dinner foods. Hmmm.

SOLUTION #3 – LIGHT SUMMER FARE

When it’s bleeding hot outside and we’ve been at the beach all day or digging in the yard, no one ever wants to eat much, but I still feel that push to keep them alive with food stuffed in their faces. One summer I read an article in a parenting magazine (NOT Parenting – I hate that rag. Terrible, nasty publication.) that gave me permission to feed my kids a smoothy for dinner. Ah ha! I thought! Liquid gold. Perfect!

My smoothies are pretty all encompassing. I use a protein powder, spinach (always spinach), frozen fruit and any other kind of vitamin or mineral I can get in there. They are generally well received and provide most of the basic food groups. (We don’t really count grains as a food group around here because most of us are overweight or allergic to them, but if you really want, it’s fun to throw in a handful of oatmeal in a smoothie.)

I’ve also been guilty of throwing the veggie tray on teh counter and saying.. DINNER IS SERVED! I run a veggie co-op so we almost always have fresh fruits and veggies around. Does it hurt my kids to have a protien shake and raw carrots for dinner? NO. Especially if they are hot and tired and ready for a movie and bed.

Side note, popcorn is a nice follow up for the smoothie/veggie tray dinner.

I’ve also done a lot of other things to try and make dinner time easier, and while some of them worked, none of them worked all the time. The best thing I ever did was stop telling myself that we had to have a perfectly baked casserole with meat and veggies and a side of homemade rolls to go with it every night. We really don’t. I don’t even like casserole unless it’s snowing outside. My kids would rather die than eat something baked in the oven with SAUCE – Heaven help us!! So why bother? If they are eating fruits and veggies and healthy grains and meat once in a while (most of us are vegetarian around her these days) then who cares? WHO??? Not this mommy.

And I’ve tried to apply that idea to my eating as well. I do not need a giant sandwich with all the fixings and a side of chips and a soda for lunch. Most of the time I’m  not that hungry. I can eat an apple and some nuts and feel great for a couple of hours and that’s fine.

I guess I didn’t realized how brainwashed I was into thinking I needed to feed my kids well planned, beautiful, calorie dense meals at every sitting. I certainly don’t need that much food in my face. Why do they?

I’m hoping this all turns out to be the kind of set up that teaches my kids to eat food to stay alive, not for enjoyment and ritual only. My guess is that’s why America has such a weight problem: it’s a ritual, it’s enjoyable, it’s easy and the easiest, cheapest foods are the worst ones for us.

My family is trying an experiment this summer. We’re going to see how long we can go without eating out at all. Every meal made at home. I’ll let you know how it’s going as the summer progresses. Hopefully we all survive.

How do you simplify dinner time? Why else is excited for school to be out and their kids to be home? This mommy is!!!

Our New Improved Simple Life

My poor little neglected family blog. I have left you sitting idle for two years while I ran amok chasing dreams of literary excellence. Unfortunately the state of my blog mirrors the state of my life a bit as well. I haven’t completely abandoned my children and husband for hours of writing in a darkened room, but I haven’t been exactly attentive either.

A few things have happened to make me slow down and readjust my priorities. I won’t go into all those gory details, but the outcome of much deep thinking and observation has led my husband and I to some pretty big decisions. I will list those farther down the page. The next thing it led me to was the need to express some of my “AH HA!” moments in writing. I think this little corner is the perfect venue. So without further delay, may I present my first big fat epiphany.

LIFE IN AMERICA IS TOO COMPLICATED (for my family)

I am a simple girl at heart. I grew up on a farm. I like to sew and grow my own vegetables. For the past few years I’ve watched my friends living the “American Dream” – soccer games, public school, church every sunday and during the week as well, camp outs, DisneyWorld, soccer, softball, school plays, soccer, PTA and on and on and on. So many of my friends seem to thrive as a family in this environment, but I feel like I’m drowning trying to keep up with it all. I find myself day dreaming about buying an island and teaching my kids how to forage for coconuts then watching the sunset on the beach every night. (

In the past I’ve had my kids in dance, gymnastics and softball. We’ve also done home school, private school and public schools depending on the status of our needs and the services offered. We’re very active in our church and we attend all the meetings we physically are required to attend. But after I survived delivering Baby George (my fourth) into this world things got a bit out of control and I thought, something’s gotta give. 

I ended up making a list of all the things we do. Then I broke it down into the things we HAVE to do and will not give up. That pretty much looked like this:

Church on Sunday
School (of some sort)

Pretty nice list eh? Everything else I realized we could really live without. Then I added what I wanted for my kids and the list looked like this:

Church on Sunday
Quality Education
Activities with other kids
Down Time

Even with my dummied down post baby schedule, my kids were only getting two of the four on the list.

It took me 18 months to sort it all out (yes I’m slow, but I blame part of it on baby.. that’s why we have babies right? To blame stuff on them 😉 and this is what my husband and I came up with:

We are not good at living the typical American schedule so we aren’t going to live the typical American schedule. Our kids don’t do very well on that schedule either. When you break it down to its very basic roots, our kids don’t even function very well on a public school schedule. They get up early and run out the door then come home late and cranky, facing an hour (at least) of homework, dinner, maybe reading time and then bed. We haven’t even done ANY sports this year at all because we just haven’t had TIME.

So we’re throwing out public school for good. We just can’t do it. And that is fine. We’ve had a great school to work with this year and great teachers, but for a number of reasons, it just isn’t the kind of childhood we want for our kids.

My goal for my home is to live a SIMPLE LIFE. I want those four things for my kids. Church, Quality Education, Friends and time to rest and play and just discover who they want to be when they grow up. We live by 14 acres of beautiful wild forest, my kids should have time to explore it and dream and just breath. As it is now, they don’t.

Along with that I’ve simplified the way we eat, the way we spend our money, the expectations I have for my kids in general. My kids aren’t out of school yet, but I’ve tried to implement this theory into everything else that we do. We explained most of it to the kids on their level and things around here are feeling much less constricted. There are plenty of things I need to work on as a person and especially as a mother, but for the most part this feels good. GOOD!

I feel GOOD about what I’m doing! And it feels so GOOD to feel GOOD! Like I’m finally getting something right!

In the past I’ve felt selfconscious doing anything off the beaten path. That didn’t ever stop me, but it didn’t feel good either. Not like I feel now. Maybe it’s because I’m older and I care less about what other people think and say to me. Maybe it’s because my nieces and nephews are getting married and having babies all over the place and I have this real sense of just how short childhood really is. These babies won’t be with me much longer. My oldest is turning 10 in a couple of weeks and that means he’s a full year into the downward slide right out of our home. There are rocky years ahead for him. It’s rocky as a preteen and teen in this life as it is without throwing autism on top of it all.

So that’s it. I’m trying to readjust my life so that it serves my children a rich but simple childhood they can look back on and feel GOOD about. Luckily I have an amazing husband who is on the same track as I am and who works hard so I can home school these sweet kids and take them to co-ops and field trips. We have the makings for a perfect storm and I can’t wait to make kites!