Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Dinner - how we do it

I'm excited to share that I've joined in a blog collaboration with six other great bloggers. The collaboration is called "Get Real". We'll be posting each Tuesday for six weeks on a particular topic. Each week we'll be explaining what that area (dinner, chores, gardening, marriage and more) really looks like in our home. The first topic we're exploring is dinner.

I've linked to the other bloggers participating in the collaboration at the bottom of this post. I look forward to reading their posts!

Here is how dinner happens at our house.

In my fantasy world, where unicorns prance around my kitchen and I am superbly organized at all times, our family can be found sitting merrily around the dinner table at 5:30pm on the dot, surrounded by pots and platters of meats and veggies, all home raised and freshly harvested that day. But, this is a post about how it really happens isn't it. ;)

Generally, dinner preparation begins around lunchtime when I ask myself "hmm, what shall I make for dinner?" Over the years I've dabbled in meal planners and schedules, but these days I find it's easier for me to plan day to day. I do our big grocery shopping trip in town just once per month and can't always predict what we'll still have around weeks later, so a pre-planned meal schedule isn't ideal. Also, we might butcher an animal (or animals) mid-month and suddenly I must base every meal around the hordes of rabbit meat we suddenly have. Or, our egg basket will be overflowing, or a neighbor shares a box full of extra goodies with us. So the next question I ask myself after what shall I make is, "what do we have an abundance of?" And that is what I base my daily meal plan on.

Besides the monthly shopping trip to the city, we make a large order with Azure Standard each month. That is where I get our bulk foods and organic fruits and veggies. What I cannot find or afford through Azure is what I shop for at the grocery store. My husband and I have big dreams for our baby homestead. We do hope one day to be growing nearly all of our own fruits and veggies (we planted our very first little baby fruit trees this week! So exciting!).

Here is our kitchen today. We use a huge amount of bulk foods. It is cheaper to purchase food in bulk, they last longer between our monthly shopping trips, we have a large family (four under 8, a 14 year old, an adult daughter living on her own, and I am 30 weeks pregnant), and, I feel much more confident with months of food stored up, just in case. We keep our most frequently used bulks in the kitchen- rolled oats, pasta, brown rice, nuts & seeds (for snacking and granola making), beans & more beans, steel cut oats, popcorn, peanut butter, raisins, olive & coconut oils, and misc. stuff. We usually have an abundance of eggs all over the kitchen. Some waiting to be eaten, some waiting to be cleaned and sold, some waiting to go in the incubator, some, well no one quite remembers what they were for... That red barrel in the center is water. Unfortunately our well is entirely grid-tied for now so the moment we have electrical problems, our water stops flowing from our taps. Getting a manual pump for our well is on our to-do list.
Sea of bulk foods.
A sea of canned foods.

We avoid processed food. By "avoid", I guess I mean I try to limit it to the very minimum. There are a hand full of processed things I still buy each month. One is pasta, though we've transitioned to brown rice pasta instead of white flour. My husband has kindly mentioned ohso many times how much he's sure we'd all enjoy home made pasta. ;) And maybe that is on the horizon- transitioning to home made pasta. For now though, it is my go-to meal when I didn't have time that day to plan a from-scratch meal ahead of time.
Although I make tortillas frequently, I still use store ones as well for quickie meals. This pregnancy brought on a huge craving for Cheerios so I've been buying generic bags of those instead of making all our granola. ;) I also buy cheese, even though I make that too, because we eat so much of it, and butter. I also still buy condiments (ketchup, mayo... though I hope to make our own one day), pasta sauce (until/unless we have our own abundance of tomatoes), Triscuits (GMO soybean oil, yuck I know, but no added sugar & very simple ingredients otherwise), coconut milk, canned salmon & olives,  juice, and teas, herbs and spices.
Mostly everything else we eat we grow ourselves (meats, milk, eggs, broth), buy fresh or frozen (fruits, veggies), or make from scratch from our dry bulks. We rely on our home canned foods as well. I grind our flour in our Nutrimill grinder, and we try to limit our added/refined sugar intake to a teeny tiny bit. However we still have cake on birthdays and candy on holidays.
About once per year my husband brings home food from an Indian restaurant. ;) Yum!
 My husband and me butchering some chickens last summer.
Home made sausage links.  

Rabbit pot pie with dumplings.  

Fried chicken. Or was this rabbit... ?


Apple family carved by our clever then-six year old (okay, so not really dinner related... :p).

My very first batch of canned chicken, 2008.


Cabbage and beef casserole, pretzels.

My view looking down, 2009 (baby in the sling).

My very first turkey butchering, 2009.

This was one of the first times I made broth. I thought it was so funny, I snapped this photo and emailed it to my husband at work to share with him "what was for dinner". 2008

A kitchen "helper" in 2009.

Apple peeling helpers, 2011.

Homemade doughnuts.

From-scratch pizza. Sooo yummy.

Our tasty, grass fed, homemade butters are squished on the right and left there, with store butters in the center.

My teen son follows a basic daily schedule for his schoolwork and chores. He usually helps me in the kitchen from 4-5:30pm. Except when he's at his dad's or more important outdoor chores are keeping him. Days when he assists me, I get much closer to my fantasy dinner served precisely on time. 

Tonight, he was kept out late working with my husband so I put together dinner on my own, with my pants-less 3 year old who squished the tortillas in the press for me. The other children were playing outside which also made things flow easier. As the days are growing longer I hope they'll often be outdoors at dinner-making time. ;) I made simple soft tacos (tortillas, beans that simmered all day, cheese, olives), and an also simple white sauce (flour, butter, milk, canned salmon) to put on the biscuits that were getting stale in the bread box. You might notice that today's dinner lacked in veggies and other colorful things.... and you would be right. Some days dinner is a lovely balance of colors and food groups, and other days, well...... that's how it really is around here. ;)

All was finished cooking at 6:20. That is when I turned around and noticed the dining table was buried beneath the day's school work books, Easter crafts, with a fine layer of muffin crumbs on top. I scrambled around to get that tidied, and dinner was served. All the children clamored for food around the table, my husband was still outside digging post holes, and I darted to the computer with my meal to finish up this blog post. My eldest son is patiently awaiting his turn at the computer, and the dinner dishes are calling to me. I try (try!) to get the kitchen cleaned up every night at 7:30. Often that is what happens, and our next morning flows ever so much more smoothly, and other evenings..... well, you get the idea.

Here are the other members of the Get Real blog collaboration for your perusing enjoyment!







Oh, one last thought. I wanted to mention my very favorite , most used and food-splashed cookbooks:

~ Cookin' With Home Storage by Peggy Layton
~ Jackie Clay's Pantry Cookbook AND her Growing and Canning your own Food
~ Tassajara Cooking, "a Zen Center book"
~ From Asparagus to Zucchini, by Madison Area CSA
~ Joy of Cooking's All About Breakfast
~ Carla Emery's Encyclopedia of Country Living, of course ;)


Clever Chicks Blog Hop at The Chicken Chicks

monday's homestead barn hop


  1. Aubrey - Awesome! Thanks for adding your voice, and such an open, great post. I try to do the cleanup each night too - and often don't get it done, lol.
    Great idea adding cookbooks at the end.
    You might try cooking some whole grains up for "pasta" instead of making homemade pasta - they're delish served with whatever sauces you like, and about a zillion times easier than making pasta (plus, even more nutritious and filling). Just a thought!

    1. Adrie, I am intrigued by the idea of cooking with some grains instead of pasta.. I'm wondering what sort of grains you'd suggest? Since this post, I've had homemade pasta on my mind so much that I'm planning to make it tomorrow for Easter. :)

  2. Replies
    1. You discover a fine layer of muffin crumbs atop the books atop your table at dinner time, too? :p I'm so glad I'm not alone.

  3. Wow, what an amazing series of pictures! They tell an amazing story.

  4. This was such an open and honest post, and I really enjoyed a look into what a true kitchen of a large family looks like.

    1. Well Heather, to get a better idea of our *true* kitchen, I'd have turned the camera a bit to the left so you could get a glimpse of the dishes piled around the sink- a constant battle (just like the laundry!). But, I figured everybody's seen enough dishes piled around sinks in their lives, they don't *really* need to see mine, too, right??

  5. I really enjoyed reading this- I am in awe of all that you do yourselves!
    I can so relate to finding that table covered with things from the day!

    1. Thanks Melanie. However, we are so busy doing stuff ourselves that I have to excavate the dinner table at the end of the day since I never had time to even think of it during the day! lol

  6. Aubrey,
    Wow - that is all I can say - amazing what you and your family do. I am a complete nervous wreck about just getting our goats pregnant.
    Thanks so much for sharing.

    1. You should breed your goats, Tonya. It will be so much fun! How are you getting your milk now? You could be getting fresh delicious milk right from your own backyard. :) I would be nervous if I had unproductive livestock just standing around eating all day long! lol

  7. Um, I instantly just love your family all the more after your post! We are steps behind you but aspire to be living that life too. Thank you so much..esp for the pics of you butchering with a baby on your back! LOVE!! Grass fed meat and meat birds are new to us this past year and we will be getting some this year...yay!


    1. Perhaps you are wise taking this life in steps. ;) We jumped right in head first like a coupla crazy folk. You know how they drill into your head to make sure you have the housing/fencing BEFORE you bring the animal(s) home? Yeah, we haven't always listened to that. At least we've gotten the foods we *really* wanted to be feeding our family, but it's come with a lot of challenges as well.

      Thanks, I love that picture, too.

  8. we only have 4 of our six still at home( all late teens) and I sort of miss the "craziness" of all the food prep. They make so much of their own now. They even will bake cookies or muffins before I get home.
    Love seeing pictures of your leonsberger. We have one ourselves-the best family dogs ever.

    1. Thanks, our leonberger-beast is a great family dog, you're right about that. I do savor this crazy season. I know time goes by way too fast and I'll be missing it one day, too. At the very same time I am in awe by how much other families get done that have all older children! Like, I get excited thinking about the day that I will be able to join my husband outside all day long, working on our homestead. We could get SO much done together! lol But I'm still mostly tied to all my littles in the house for now. And that's okay. :)

  9. This is a great blog......Thank you for sharing with the Clever Chicks Blog Hop this week; I hope you’ll join us again!

    Kathy Shea Mormino

    The Chicken Chick


  10. Great post! I would love to know where you get your food storage containers!