Dedication to cooking, like most things, seems to ebb and flow with life’s changes. I go through phases where I spend hours in the kitchen making meals from scratch and baking nightly. Although those phases feel pretty distant these days.
Since I’ve started writing and cooking (over on my personal blog Daily Garnish), I’ve heard from a lot of folks looking for easy, simple meal ideas. Meal plans. Grocery lists. I hear phrases like “busy moms” and “family friendly” all the time. And while I would always do my best to give my best response to those questions, I’m not sure I really understood what cooking for a family meant until I had my own.
For years now, it’s been just me and Casey. Over time, we’ve gotten the whole “cooking for two” thing down to a science. One block of tofu – split down the middle. One package of pasta – 2/3 to him, 1/3 to me. And so on.
I go to the grocery store with a good idea in mind of what the two of us will eat. I know his preferences and portions, and I know that if I buy a huge container of blueberries, he probably won’t eat any (more for me!). Likewise, I know that no leftover quinoa or roasted potatoes will ever go to waste when he’s around.
But recently, our house has grown. This summer (as well as last summer) my sister is living with us. A roommate. A part-time nanny. A friend. A dishwasher un-loader. A third mouth to feed. She has been such a help to us this summer, and I tend to put my fingers in my ears when she mentions her return to college in the fall. With more mouths to feed, I’m starting to finally understand the whole “feeding a family” thing. I’m amazed at the difference in just adding one extra person, let alone two, three, or more. Now one block of tofu won’t cut it (I’m stingy – not giving up any of my portion!), so I buy a few extra each week.
In addition, we have another tiny mouth (but big appetite!) to feed. Cullen is seriously into solid food these days, which means a lot more meal planning and prepping than I’m used to. I’ve shared before that I’m not much of a meal planner. I usually wing it at stores and markets based on what is on sale or in season.
When Cullen is hungry and bedtime is ticking down, there is no “oh I’ll just whip something together in 30 minutes!” It needs to be cooked, diced, and ready to go – immediately. Steamed pears and fresh blueberries for breakfast.
So it’s forcing me to start actually planning and thinking about our meals ahead of time. Making sure we have ingredients on hand – particularly for Cullen, since his range of options is still more limited than ours. I didn’t use to buy things like mangoes, pears, plums, and sweet potatoes regularly, but now they are staples.
With extra people to feed, I’m also finding myself at the grocery store more often than usual. I’m trying to buy more each time to last us longer. Having our weekly CSA deliveries is helping too! It feels like Christmas every Friday.
There is no real takeaway or lesson here. More just me musing on how I’ve noticed changes in our kitchen since we added to our crew. Casey and I both have big appetites and tend to eat big portions anyway – our produce drawers already seemed pretty packed. I can’t even imagine what it’s like to cook and feed an army of five or six adult appetites. We’re gonna need a bigger fridge.
I’m curious to hear how some of you with bigger families have changed your cooking and meal planning. It will be so interesting so see how it develops as Cullen gets older and starts sharing meals with us, as well as any other babies that might come along.
Read more from Emily on her personal blog Daily Garnish, where she creates healthy vegetarian recipes, recaps her latest running adventures, and chronicles life as a new mom to her son and two crazy dogs. You can follow along on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest too!