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Food

Tips to Make Menu Planning Manageable

To tell the truth making up a menu can be easy for a week or two, but then it can sometimes become a chore.  When it gets daunting, it helps me to remember a few things to make it a bit more manageable.

1.  Take turns.  At least two nights a week, my husband does the cooking, and plans what we eat those days.

2.  Make a routine.  During the summer especially, we have homemade pizza every Friday.  I make large batches of pizza dough and freeze it in one pound balls.  We use it as a way to clean up any left over veggies.  That means we have weird sounding, but delicious tasting pizza.  Steak, onion, and bell pepper;  tomato, basil and chard; potato and rosemary; eggplant, thyme and Swiss cheese; etc.  This makes every Friday a given on the menu.  Combine with whatever my husband has planned, now I only have to think of four more meals.

3.  Be flexible.  Keeping my pantry reasonably well stocked means that if I really don’t feel like fixing what I had planned on the day I planned it, I can usually go another direction without impacting the rest of the week’s meals.  Also, if your neighbor invites you over, feel free to delay you menu by a day.  It’s ok to plan take out once in a while.  Give yourself a night off.  The plan is more like a guideline, really.

4.  Use those bulk purchases.  The elk needs to get used up.  So I make sure to plan one or two meals a week using elk meat.  This removes still more brain damage in coming up with a plan, because I only have so many meals I can make out of red meat.  In the winter, there are lots of stews, chilli, steak.  The summer, we use less, mainly grilling, always with a big salad, sometimes stir fried or fajitas.  When I had to get us through a hog, we had pork a couple times a week too.

5.  Cook once, eat twice.  Plan for left overs.  Your pork roast on Monday becomes Wednesday’s pulled pork sandwich.  Tuesday’s left over pasta becomes Thursday’s frittata.  Cook a little extra early in the week to make it easier on yourself later, when your willpower starts wavering.

What tips do you have for making and sticking to a menu plan.

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Categories: Menu Planning, Thrift, Top 5 | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

UH Boot Camp: Menu Planning Made Easy

Menu planning may not sound like an urban homesteading skill, but I assure you it is.    It is something that, like a budget, takes thoughtful time and effort and doesn’t come naturally to many of us.  Our family would never stay within our food budget if we didn’t do it, however.  It saves us time, money and helps us waste less.

Menu planning saves time. When I sit down for fifteen or so minutes and make a plan for the week, I am gaining loads of time before dinner.  I can plan to eat something quick on the nights H has a violin lesson, and I can plan something that can keep cooking for a while on the nights that Rick could get home late or early.  I know the answer to, “What’s for dinner, Honey?”  There is no standing in front of the fridge trying to figure out what to throw together last-minute.

It saves time at the grocery store too.  If I know what we need for the week, and have a list, I don’t need to wander down every aisle.  I can just grab what’s on the list and get out of there.  And anyone with kids knows that the grocery store can be a time sink.  Trust me, a plan saves time.  😉

Menu planning saves money.  If you don’t know what you need for the week, you are going to spend a lot more money at the grocery store too.  You will need to wander around looking for what you think you might need or use, and you’ll probably buy more or less than is necessary.  Buying more isn’t tragic (unless what you bought will spoil), but not buying enough will kill your food bill, because then you’ll be heading back to the store for convenience trips.  Those convenience trip add a lot to your bill.  I don’t know how many times I’ve run into the store for one or two things and come out with my pocket fifty dollars lighter.  We always find a few extras that we “needed” during those quick trips.  For the most part though, sticking to the plan prevents those.

Menu planning also saves us from the days when we are exhausted before dinner time and too tired to think of what to make.  Somehow, just having it written down already makes it manageable enough to happen.  So instead of being tired and saying “I don’t know what’s for dinner.  Let just get take out,”  we have a plan and can throw together the dinner we have planned.  That mental energy seems to be a tipping point for us.  If there is no plan, we eat out a lot more.  And if our food budget ever gets blown, it’s due to one pizza order too many.

Menu planning keeps waste down.  When we know what to buy at the store and what we’re making each night for dinner, we rarely have any food waste.  I tend to remember the celery or kale and use it before it spoils, I don’t buy as many things that I don’t know if I’ll need or not, because I know what I need.  We eat more regularly from our stored food in the freezer and pantry, and things don’t go bad in the abyss of food storage any more.

I’ve written about menu planning in the past.  While that post is still valid, I have changed the way we plan our menus from monthly to weekly.  The main reasons I plan weekly instead of monthly now is we have gotten in the habit of eating from the freezer in the winter, there is no longer any mystery food in there; and in the summer, our CSA picks our vegetables for the week and I don’t want them going to waste.  Plus it is a lot less daunting to plan a week’s worth of food than a month’s worth.

So, how to plan.  Remember, this is boot camp – the very basics.  If you know how to plan already, make sure I haven’t missed anything.  If not, here is how we throw down a plan on our homestead.

  1. What do you have?
    This week, I planned our menu on Sunday night.  I sat and thought a moment about what we had in the icebox to use up, what was in the freezer and pantry, and how much money we had left in our budget for the month.  In the freezer, we have elk, green chiles, corn, asparagus and tomatoes.  In the pantry, there are still hard squashes, black beans, rice and pasta.  And it’s the end of the month, so we need to use what we have as much as we can, since I don’t want to blow the budget in the last week.
  2. What do you need to use first?
    Is there a little left over from last week that needs to get used up?  Did you get too much of something out of the freezer?  Use those things first.  If you are planning on eating greens, use them right away so they don’t go bad before the day you’re supposed to eat them.  Last night, Rick got eggplant down from the freezer, and then decided not to use it last-minute.  That means, tonight, eggplant is on the menu. 
  3. Look at your schedule.
    Do you need something quick on Tuesday? Are you having family over Friday?  What day are you going to the market?  Figure out what kinds of meals you need.  We are shopping on Wednesday this week.
  4. Make the plan.
    Monday:  Eggplant and tomato pasta bake with olives
    Tuesday: Ham and Egg Fried Rice
    Wednesday: Spinach and black bean enchiladas
    Thursday: Asparagus soup with cheesy bread
    Friday: Mexican elk steak with tomato, onion, chile sauce over rice
    Saturday: Pumpkin Coconut Curry
    Sunday: Bacon and tomato pasta with roasted asparagus
  5. Make the grocery list.
    While you are making your grocery list, keep in mind breakfast and lunch too.  This week, we need: milk, spinach, lemons, limes, avocado, onions, buttermilk, cheese, butter, nuts (for granola), fruit (for lunches), white wine and bread.

Simple enough, right?  In the summer time, the only difference is, I wait to plan our weekly menu until the day we pick up our CSA share, so I can see what produce we have for the week and plan around that.

Do you plan menus?  Does you method look similar or different from mine?

Categories: Menu Planning, Thrift, Urban Homesteading | 4 Comments

UH Boot Camp: Eating Well without Breaking the Bank

Yesterday I talked about the basics of making a budget.  For today’s urban homestead boot camp, I wanted to give you my best tips for saving money on your food bill while still eating well. Some things, to really save money, do take some investment up front, but the pay off in the long run is well worth it.  Other things are simpler, they can be started right away.  But first let me share what I think eating well means.

By “eating well” what I mean is eating real food.  Food that doesn’t come out of a box, that was raised and prepared with care.  Top Ramen is not eating well.  To me, sustainability is important, as is cost.  Eating sustainably means different things to different people.  To some, it means eating all organic, even if your bananas came half way around the world.  To others, local is most important.  And I know what it’s like when you have really limited funds.  Sometimes whatever is cheapest starts to look appealing.  For me, the most sustainable means locally grown without chemicals and pesticides.  An organic certification is optional.

So, how to get those things while not breaking the bank?

Things that take some investment upfront:

A freezer.  This is a tool that can save your bacon.  And beans.  And everything else.  You can freeze most things.  If you find a really great deal on some chicken, it makes sense to buy a little extra and put what you’re not going to use right away into the deep freeze for another day.  Freezers are pretty inexpensive and run more efficiently than most refrigerators.  Check craigslist or freecycle.  You can get a great deal.  Even our chest freezer from the 80’s runs more efficiently than our fridge did.  We have two.  Both were given to us; hand me downs from relatives.

Joining a CSA.  Community Supported Agriculture, where you buy a “share” of a farm’s predicted crop before it is even planted.  You and the other CSA members front money for a farmer to plant and then, along with the farmer, share in the risks and rewards of the weather.  In my experience, this is an incredible investment.  The farm we’ve been with for the last five years has never had a bad year.  Of course you are betting on nature, a crop might be totally wrecked by hail.  But you are also sharing in the reward when things are good.  Some are bumper years for bell peppers or corn, while the beans didn’t make it.  But we always get WAY more than we paid for.  Local and organic.  Our CSA also sells optional shares of fruit, honey, eggs and meat.

Oh, and when you are getting way more than you can eat in a week, you can put the surplus in your freezer for the winter.  January is the time to call CSA farms.  Farms are filling memberships as I type this, so check around.  Some farmers will even work out a payment schedule with you if the fee is too much for you to pay all at once.

Hunting or buying meat in bulk.  Both of these methods do the same thing; receiving a whole animal at one time.  You better have a freezer first.  When we bought a hog a couple years ago we paid about $400 for the whole animal.  This worked out to about $1.33 a pound for bacon, hams, pork chops, shoulder roasts, pork loin, lard, everything.

Hunting requires a skill set, equipment, time and licenses.  It’s not complicated, but you will need to attend a hunter’s safety course and get access to land (and a gun) in the fall.  The cost is slightly harder to figure, but not counting the gun my husband already owns to hunt with, we spent about $360 on licenses and gasoline for various hunting trips.  We have an entire elk in the freezer to show for it.  Roughly $1.44 per pound of lean red meat, said and done.  Some years, it’s much less expensive, depending on success rates.  And some years, we’ve gotten nothing.

For either meat option, now is a good time to look into it.  Local farmers and ranchers are taking orders, and you need to buy hunting licenses in advance (April here in Colorado).

While I’m talking about buying in bulk, I’d also like to mention that once a year we drive to an orchard to pick peaches.  It’s a far drive, to the western slope, so we make it count.  We spend about $400 on 300 pounds of peaches, including gas.  We race home with the A/C blasting and then spend the next week slicing and preserving peaches.  The majority of them get frozen, though we jam and can some too.  But these peaches last us a whole year.  So investigate local U-Pick farms.  We do the same on a smaller scale for berries and cherries.

Things that everyone can do now:

Make a meal plan for the week.  I used to plan a month’s worth of meals at a time, but that can be daunting, and over time I’ve realized that weekly works better for us.

Plan meals that are in season.  This is easy with a CSA.  Apples are least expensive in the fall, strawberries are cheapest in the spring.  If you want asparagus in August, you’re going to pay a lot for it at the market (and it won’t taste all that great).   This puts us eating things that are in season the majority of the time.  In season means relatively inexpensive.  We pretty much don’t eat bananas.

Use up what you have.  Until you get into the habit, it’s easy to keep ignoring the beans in the back of the pantry or the sausage in the bottom of the freezer.  Get into the habit of planning meals the use what you’ve already purchased.  You’ll spend less at the grocery if you aren’t buying what you already have.

Plan to eat less meat.  Meat costs more than other forms of protein.  Use meat more like a side dish.  Try adding one more vegetarian meal to your menu per week than you normally make.  Try making chili with black beans or stir fry with eggs.  Over the last few years we went from eating meat at dinner every night to eating meat only three – four times a week.

From your meal plan, make a grocery list.  And stick to it. This keeps me from impulse buying.  Also, it cuts down on incidental/emergency trips to the store which end up costing a lot more over time.

If the store that I’m going to has a double ad day, I’ll go on that day, but I don’t usually plan my meals around the ads.  I just figure if I go on that day I double my chances of finding things on sale.

I don’t use coupons at all.  There are never any coupons for bulk rice or apples or pork loin.  I can’t recall seeing one for milk.  Coupons usually make me feel compelled to buy things that I would not normally put on my list.  They are always for things in boxes or bags, things with weird ingredients.  Things that are processed and full of chemicals…

Buy whole foods. Processed foods are expensive.  Potato chips cost more than potatoes.  Rice-a-Roni costs more than rice.  Pasta and milk is cheaper than a package of noodles with a powdered sauce.  Not to mention a billion times better for you.

Buy foods from the bulk bins.  When you buy a pound of rice or oatmeal in a box or bag, guess what.  You care paying for that box.  And for the marketing of that box.  It’s much less expensive to buy oats from the bulk bin.  There is no packaging to pay for.  No labels, no marketing, and no weird ingredients.  And if you buy or make your own reusable bags, there is no waste either.

There you have it.  Those are my big tips for saving money on food.  Between the meat in the freezer, the vegetables from the garden and the CSA, and eggs from the chickens, there are times I can spend $30 at the store for the week.  All I’m buying at that point is dairy and grains.  But it takes time to get to that point.  And I’ve already invested money up front.

What does your family do?

Categories: CSA, Food, Hunting, Menu Planning, Thrift, Urban Homesteading | Tags: , , , | 9 Comments

UH Budgeting Boot Camp: Building a (Food) Budget

Seeds, plants and soil all cost money, building a coop does too and those canning jars don’t come cheap.  But we urban homesteaders feel it’s worth it.  We are in it for the food.  So we have to find a way to make it work.  How do we eat well without breaking the bank?

This week we’re going to talk about budgeting, particularly budgeting for food and how to eat sustainably.  It’s not the funnest skill for me, but it is an essential one.  We could not do the things we do around our urban homestead without it.

When Rick and I started this journey, we had just had a baby and I decided to stay home with him, cutting our income in half.  We thought we’d be ok financially, but I had to get my appendix removed three weeks after H was born and medical bills ate through our savings.  Soon we were using a credit card to make ends meet.  And then one month we couldn’t pay off the balance.  And the debt racked up faster than we could have imagined.

Eventually, we cancelled the credit cards and started trying to get it under control.  But there were months where we were looking at choosing between gas and groceries.  Now, when I hear people talk about being “broke,” I think about those times.  The only way we made it through, all the while feeding ourselves, was budgeting.

Budget is a four letter word for many people (often those four letters are D-E-B-T).  But I have really come to understand that a workable budget is the only way to survive.  I’m not a natural budgeter.  I’m much more of an instant gratification person.  And people like me often have a hard time sticking to a budget.  I have a really hard time keeping the willpower up for an entire month (or few months), and tend to want to reward myself for being so good all month long by blowing my money on something silly.  I know I’m not alone.  It really helps me to trick my brain into doing some sort of project or challenge that is a budget in disguise.

One things that really helped me during that dark time of choosing between food and fuel was Crunchy Chicken’s Sustainable Food Budget Challenge in 2009.  The idea was to see if it was possible to eat sustainably on a food stamp budget.  I was successful at the challenge, but at the end of it I noted that,

I don’t know if this would actually be possible on food stamps because the majority of our savings came from food saved from the CSA last summer, the hog we bought whole last fall, things we saved our money up for so that we could have a year of sustainable eating on our tight budget. That and two years of practice at cutting the grocery bill each week a bit more, while still making fresh meals for my family.  Things like eating out, coffee shops, and convenience foods have not been in the budget for a long time.

That’s right I had already been at it for two years, and I had some secret weapons up my sleeve; a whole hog and a CSA membership.  So in talking about budgets, I’m also going to tout the benefits of joining a community supported agriculture farm.  I am not exaggerating when I say that this one thing saved us.  Seriously.

More on that in soon, but first, how do you make a budget?  There’s a lot of places online you can learn to do this.  Just find something that works for you without too much brain damage.

I am NOT an expert, this is just what we do.  I start by writing down on a piece of paper our income and all of our expenses.  My husband gets paid weekly, so I do the math and figure his income for the month.  Then I list out each bill we have.  I know financial experty people tell you to save money and pay yourself first.  That’s all good and fine, if you can do it;  if you can, you should, but for about five years, we couldn’t.  Anyway, I deduct the expenses from the income.  The rest of the money that is not going to a bill is what we have left to split between food, gas and whatever else you like to spend your money on.  Hopefully, you can save a bit too.

I try to be realistic about what we need to spend for each category.  Using a computer program for this really helps (like Quicken or Quick Books or whatever) that allows you to see how you’ve been spending in the past.  I might try to trim down certain things, like eating out, but I’ve learned that I need to leave us a little wiggle room.  A budget is not a diet.  You can’t go into it thinking about what you are depriving yourself from or you surely won’t stick to it.  Also, it is not permanent.  It can change month-to-month until you figure out what works for you and your family.  Lately, I’ve been using Erica’s Budget Fun Cards, because I like checking boxes.

The savings is key for us.  We don’t have much cushion built up yet as we’re fresh off of paying off those rotten credit cards and still are working on knocking out Rick’s student loans.  But we try to set aside a little every month to pay for some seemingly big-ticket items, which in reality save us lots of money.  Once we have a number for what we want to spend on food every month, we have a starting point.  I don’t follow all the experts that say your food should only be 5% of your budget.  Honestly, that is ridiculous.

Our food is easily our largest expenditure after our mortgage.  But we have ways of keeping the month-to-month food bill manageable.  Things like buying meat in bulk, the CSA membership and buying 300 pounds of peaches are financially tough to swallow all at once, but saves big time in the long run.  Those bulk items pay off in spades, particularly in lean financial times.

Tomorrow, I’m talking money savings in the food budget department.  In the mean time, do you budget?  Do you buy in bulk or have tips for saving on the food bill?  What questions do you have about eating well on a budget?

Categories: CSA, Food, Simple Living, Urban Homesteading | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

What we are planting in 2012

A few of you were curious about what we are planting this year in the garden.  SO, here is the plan for 2012…

In the four main garden beds we are planting seeds of both grey and yellow zucchini, Mexican Sour Gherkins and Long Anglais cucumbers, pole beans (purple ones), Australian brown onions, golden beets, red Russian kale, and arugula.  I’m hoping the kolhrabi that we have been trying to overwinter are still going strong, so we can possibly get seeds from them this year.  We will buy started tomato plants as well; not sure what varieties until we see what they have at our garden center.

The boys will have some Cosmic Purple carrots in their hugelkultur as well as some cherry tomato plants and possibly a bean or pumpkin teepee for fun (stay tuned).

We have a couple of other planting areas around the yard, and in those areas we are going to put some lettuces, some lemon yellow Habanero peppers, and lots and lots of spinach.   Plus I’ve planned a couple of giant variety sunflowers to screen out some neighbors and later feed to the chickens.

In the neighbor’s yard, we’ll do potatoes again, and his corn.  Plus he’s made room for watermelons and the giant pumpkin.  We can’t wait!

Any locals have tips on herbs (basil, parsley, cilantro…)?  I’ve had mixed success with them, but want to add more, inter-spaced in the flower beds out front.

What are you planting this year?  Also, did I miss anything in last week’s veggie garden basics that you were hoping for?

Categories: Food, Garden, Hugelkultur | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Boot Camp Bonus: When to Harvest

This week’s boot camp focus was on vegetable gardens.  It turned out to be a bigger subject than I could cover in just one post.  Coincidentally, Erica at Northwest Edible also made a timely post covering some great tips on How to Plan Your Harvest Based on What You Eat.  Make sure to check it out.  I won’t repeat anything she posted here and I’m really grateful she put it up.

For me, one of the things that was hard to learn when we first started gardening was knowing when to harvest.  Some vegetables are easy to tell when they are ready to be picked; tomatoes turn red (or yellow or purple or what-have-you), but some things are a little harder to tell.  You can certainly count days, as implied on your seed packet: 60 days; 75 days; 53 days, two hours and thirteen minutes… where did I put those torn, empty paper envelopes again?  Right.

Here’s what I’ve learned for some of the trickier crops.

  1. Test green beans and peas early and often by picking one and eating it.  If it’s plump, sweet and good, they’re ready, if they are hard – too late.  When they are ready, pick them every day.
  2. Corn is ready when the silks turn brown and are dry.  If you want to check the kernels before picking, slice along the husk with your thumbnail about an inch instead of pulling it back.  Peek in and if it’s not ready yet, just close it back up.
  3. Watermelon is ready when the curly tendril nearest the melon shrivels up.
  4. Winter squashes (butternut, acorn, pumpkins, etc.) are ready when the vines fall to the ground.
  5. Pull your onions when the tops fall over.

What indicators do you use to know when your crops are ready?

Categories: Food, Garden, Top 5, Urban Homesteading | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

The Homestead Resolutions for 2012

I hope you all have enjoyed the holidays so far.  Our family has agreed that this was ones of the best Christmases we’ve had in a long time.  Health-wise, we are in a holding pattern and I’ll keep the blog updated if anything changes on that front.  In the mean time…

The other night, my Hard-Working Hubster looked at me and said, we need to set some goals for the new year.  Yeeah… I’m not so into New Years resolutions, and I sort of figured he was hinting at setting financial goals, which are my least favorite, so I was not really excited about what I figured he was about to say.  But, it turns out that’s not what he meant at all.  He was referring a bit to my 101 in 1001 list and some other personal goals, as well as to some things we’d like to do together.

Something that I’ve been working on in 2011 and really want to continue to work on in 2012 is building community.  I loved that last year our next-door neighbor enlisted our help to put in a garden and then shared his harvest with us.  He’s up for round two this year and I want to keep the momentum going on things like that.  I’d really like to strengthen the community between our neighbors on our block.  I also want to increase community between other friends that live nearby but are further out than our immediate neighborhood.

One thing I really want is to increase our self-sufficiency on the homestead.  I want to grow more food and process our own chickens for meat.  But by “self-sufficiency” I don’t mean by ourselves.  I mean, “not relying on the grocery store.”  And, I really want to make a fun special place for the kids in the garden… something they can look forward to, play in or around, and take care of.

So with those things in mind, here are my top five goals for the Schell Urban Homestead for 2012.

  1. Grow a giant pumpkin.  The neighbor has already volunteered a spot in his yard for this.  We’re scouring seed catalogs for the biggest one we can find.  It’ll be a pet project, but out in his front yard for the whole neighborhood to see and monitor.  And the kids can really get in on this one (I’m hoping).  Maybe in the fall, when it’s time to harvest we can do something cool with the results!  
  2. Grow enough in our own neighborhood gardens to feed ourselves for the summer.  I’d like it to be our own garden in our own yard, but I’ve realized this just isn’t realistic.  We eat a lot of veggies and have a lot of people to feed and not much garden space.  So instead of setting our sights on the impossible, I’m hoping to make it possible between our place, the next-door neighbors and the neighbors across the street.  I think they are all open to this.
  3. Process chickens.  We wanted to do this last year – order meat birds or a straight run of chicks and then process them for the table.  It didn’t work out in 2011, but I’m hoping we can work it out for 2012.  This will include culling any hens that are eating eggs and getting egg production numbers to where they should be.  Yay homegrown protein!
  4. Harvest Honey.  Our bees are still here, doing well, and we’re hoping to get a good harvest this coming year.  We even have a neighborhood contact to help us with the first go-round. 
  5. Start a monthly potluck circle involving neighbors and homegrown or locally raised foods.  I really, really want to do this.  I’ve mentioned it to a few friends here and there, but gotten no real commitments.  I might just have to jump in for it to take off.  ??

What about you?  Any gardening goals for the new year?  Is community a part of the goals you are making?  How do you plan to get others involved?

Categories: Beekeeping, Chickens, Community, Food, Garden, Top 5, Urban Homesteading | Tags: , , , , , | 11 Comments

Getting Kids to Eat Their Veggies

This weekend our boys, once again, amazed friends by eating vegetables.  And it wasn’t even pizza. They ate winter squash, green beans, salad (with garlic, cilantro and cabbage), sliced kolhrabi, beets…

We always get comments on this, apparent, oddity.  Our five-year old and two-year old beg us for carrots and green beans.  I’ve been known to complain to my sister that H ate all  the carrots and now I don’t have enough for tonight’s dinner.  And I’ve had to hide tomatoes from them.

People always ask how we got them to be this way.  My number one rule is that I’m not a short order cook.  What I make for dinner is what we all eat together.  No exceptions.  Besides that, here are my tips on how to get your kids to eat their vegetables:

  1. Grow Veggies.  It is cool to see something go from seed to plant to fruit to table.  Let them plant.  Let them water.  Let them harvest.  I betcha they’ll eat it.  If I ask H which vegetables taste the best, the ones from the garden or those from the store, his answer is not surprising… the garden!
  2. Let Them Shop.  After the garden, H likes vegetables in this order:  “The Farm” (our CSA), the farmer’s market, then the store.  He loves knowing where his food comes from.  Our dinner conversation typically involves some, “where is this from” Q & A.  He is more invested in the farm vegetables, because he has seen the ground it was grown in.  The farm is fun.  He like the farmers market because we talk it up, and because he usually gets to pick something out to take home.  But even at the grocery store, he gets to weigh in on choices.  “Would you rather have kale or broccoli for dinner this week?”  Making a choice, gives them an investment in eating the vegetable later.
  3. Let them cook. Even little kids can pull up a step stool and wash carrots and potatoes.  Older kids can stir the onions as they sauté.  If they’ve helped make it, they are more likely to want to help eat it.  Putting work into it makes it more appealing.
  4. Eat YOUR Veggies.  Kids don’t buy the “do as I say, not as I do” garbage.  They will do what you do.  If I hear my kids saying something I don’t like, chances are they heard it from me first.  Same goes for food.  If you don’t like something, only eat a bite or two.  But eat some, and eat it with a happy face.  This applies to your partner too.  If Dad doesn’t want to eat the green stuff, you kids probably won’t either.
  5. Offer Veggies.  I know that I’ve already grown tired of hearing “Can we have a snack?”  But I know I can grab the bag of green beans from the ice box and they can go to town.  This is because I say, “Sure, would you guys like green beans or carrots?”  They usually say yes to both.  If I offered green beans or bunny crackers, they’re going to pick the crackers.  So I don’t offer the crackers.
  6. Remember, Tastes Change. Remind them of that too.  Just because they didn’t like it last time, doesn’t mean they won’t like it this time.  Babies and children need to try foods several times before they really know if they like them or not.  At every meal, they have to at least try every thing that is served.  This is good practice as adults too, and it’s great for teaching good manners as a dinner guest – just because you don’t like Mom’s potato salad, doesn’t mean you won’t like Mrs. Dickinson’s.  You need to at least try a bite.  It’s polite, and you might be surprised.
  7. Don’t Buy Junk.  Just don’t.  If potato chips aren’t available, they’ll eat an apple instead.  You will too.  😉

The recurring theme here is investment.  The more work they put into their food, the more they will want to get out of it.  And you can’t argue with delicious results.  We don’t draw battle lines with food, but we do negotiate.  This summer, the only vegetable H really didn’t like was zucchini.  That was tough at first.  I still made lots of zucchini.  But at every meal, I told him, he didn’t have to eat all of it, but he had to try it.  By the end of the summer, he had no problem with it.  It still wasn’t his favorite.  I put one into a late ratatouille, and when he asked for seconds, he said, “but no zucchini, please.”  I’m ok with him picking it out, especially on seconds.   Especially because he ate some with his first serving.

It’s not automatic.  We still have to remind them to try things.  Sometimes although I offer two veggies, they ask for crackers.  But generally, it works.  You too can amaze your friends!  😉

Moms, what are your tips for getting the greens into your kids?

Categories: CSA, Food, Garden, Top 5 | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments

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