on feeding a family

When it comes to feeding myself and my family, I have high ambitions. I want us to eat super nutrient-dense meals based on fresh vegetables. I want starches to mostly come from perennials (tree food). I want high quality meat & fat, bone broth, and ferments. And I want all this to have variety, taste really good (so my 5-year-old will eat it*), be simple & quick to prepare, and not cost 90% of my household income. Do you have similar ambitions? But it’s hard! It got to the point where deciding what to make for meals each day was a significant source of stress. Stressing about the abundant, high-quality food we get to eat is embarrassing. Talk about first-world problems. But if you are the primary cook in your family, I’m sure you can relate.

For some time now, I’ve been trying to crack this code and design a system (it’s always about designing a system in this house of permaculture fanatics). I’ve been watching my new neighbor/old friend Sarabeth¬†feed her hungry family of six, one-pot, gut healing, meals three times a day (outside on her camp stove, no less! My hat goes off to you, Sara!). One day Sarabeth casually mentioned that they eat eggs for lunch everyday. That was an ah-ha moment for me, having lunch be the same thing everyday. Back in the fall, Damian & I started having a big green smoothie every morning, and it made a huge difference in my day -because it has a ridiculous amount of fiber and micronutrients, so feels great in my body, and also because I no longer had to decide what was for breakfast (a teacher once told me that “trying to decide” is basically the worst mental state you can be in). If we have our smoothie for breakfast, and eggs for lunch, we can eat some meat with dinner and all I have to decide is how to flavor my meal! I don’t know if I’m accurately conveying what a revelation this is for me.

In case you are curious, here’s how it plays out:

Breakfast for me and Damian: Giant green smoothie. Oliver is not yet a fan of this smoothie, so he gets some combination of fruit, nuts, yogurt & sometimes grain.

Lunch: best eggs in town (from our permaculture chickens)! I usually serve them fried or poached on a bed of arugula salad (from the garden). Oliver will eat arugula if there’s a balsamic dressing, so that’s nice. In theory a dried fig and a sprinkle of nuts in the salad are enough carbs, but in practice we usually want a little more and will have a chunk of acorn bread or a little rice. My other go-to egg meal right now is what I call “picnic” I boil the eggs and pack containers (or small plates) of olives, cheese cubes, carrot sticks, toasted nuts, mesquite crackers, sometimes hummus, sometimes nori… you get the idea. It tastes better outside. (apologies to my readers who are currently buried in snow). I like the idea that I can do quiche or okinamyaki or any number of other egg dishes, if I get sick of eggs as themselves.

Dinner: I like to make a potroast or roast a whole chicken and then eat it over the course of several days. Sometimes we’ll do ground beef patties or a can of sardines or a fish curry (in which case we eat rice). With some cooked sweet potato or winter squash and a big pile of sauteed greens (from the garden), some kraut, and a cup of broth with miso, it doesn’t take much meat to feel satisfied. If I’m feeling creative I’ll take the meat from the chicken or potroast and saute it with some aromatics or make a sauce so it tastes Mexican or Indian or whatever. These meals feel easy to put together and taste really good.

I’ve always tried to meal-plan, but the world of recipes is overwhelming. I really like this structure and how it goes along with the permaculture** principle of “limitations create abundance” this framework with a few fill-in-the-blanks to allow creativity (or stay super simple if I’m busy or tired) feels like I’ve finally cracked the code. Eating only a modest portion of meat at one meal a day helps our budget a lot. Having a huge garden and laying chickens makes a huge difference too.

*A note on kid eating: Oliver won’t eat a big pile of sauteed greens, but he’ll sometimes eat a few bites. He eats the seaweed in his miso. He’ll eat carrots, and piles of sauerkraut and sometimes broccoli… generally I just serve up nutrient dense food that tastes good to me and don’t sweat it if he doesn’t eat parts of it.

**sorry I keep preaching permaculture, I can’t help it.