Meal Planning

One of my favorite things these days, now that we are empty nesters, is observing my children in their kitchens. Three are married and one has two small children.

It has been so gratifying watching them cook with whole foods!

Paul and I spent so many years training them in kitchen skills that it has been joyful to see them all baking and meal planning.

Here are a few blasts from the past illustrating what we did.




and HERE

A few quotes are below:

Holiday Cooking with Children

Last thanksgiving I was dreading having the children home for ten days of vacation from school. Why? I don’t know, it probably had something to do with feeling the need to “entertain” them and keep them busy. But one day before school let up for the holiday I had an idea.

Let the kids cook during the holiday!

Jeff made turkey tenders from scratch!

I had been wanting to teach much more in depth the cooking skills that I have mastered after many years of effort. The children have always helped me in the kitchen. But to have complete responsibility?

My daughters are getting older, and my oldest only has a few more years at home. So I set up a plan where the children would each have two days of meal planning, shopping, and cooking. I told them I would do all cleanup.

What happened is really a miracle.

Our holiday sizzled with excitement and upbeat fun as the children poured over recipe books, internet food web sites (Food network consistently had the best recipes). The kids loved the excitement of trying a new recipe and seeing if anyone liked what they had to offer.

I really noticed an increase of love in our home and each child learned from one degree to another the principle that when we lovingly prepare food for our family, it is one of the greatest offerings of service possible.

We repeated the experiment over the christmas holiday, also with much success.

And during the summer we had one whole month of homemaking skills. Each child had a whole week of menu planning and cooking, being in charge of the laundry, responsibility for tending a toddler, and household chores.

The month long experiment was a little less “fun”.

We had several bouts of frustrated crying. Certain children were reduced to tears when no one wanted to eat the food that they had prepared (except Mom and Dad), or overwhelm kicked in, or the deadline for the laundry was looming and they had procrastinated and only finished one load.

I really tried to back away and let them learn by their own experience how difficult it is to keep a home running smoothly.

We gave a twenty dollar bonus to whichever child could do all of the laundry for the week, and have it folded, hung up in the closets properly, beds remade wity clean sheets, and socks matched and put away. Not one child had the gumption to do it. It was just too big of a job. But how wonderful to have them learn that fact.

My daughters have been much more proactive about doing their own laundry this year, and all whining and complaining have stopped (well, mostly) about not having anything clean to wear.

My daughter Allison said that she had no idea how difficult it was to wash all the clothes, cloth diapers, sheets, towells, and cleaning cloths. And I felt much more respect from all of the children in all areas of our home life, as they realized the many tasks I was “supposed” to accomplish each day.

This year I decided that the children would again do the cooking for this holiday season, and Paul would make our thanksgiving supper.

It has been refreshing for me these past four days to relax and not worry about the shopping, meal planning, and cooking. Paul took all of the children to the store on friday night to purchase the ingredients for our meals this week.

Allison did saturday and sunday’s meals and Jeff has been cooking up a storm these past two days.
Jeff made quite possibly the best french toast I have EVER eaten yesterday. He found the recipe on Emerils web site. The bread was supposed to be a baguette, but Jeff decided to make a loaf in our bread machine the night before (the kids earn points for using food storage in their meal planning).

He used the fresh bread with this amazing mix of cinnamon, eggs, cream, sugar, and salt, and slow cooked it. The most wonderful aromas started calling me to breakfast…and we all enjoyed the delicious meal he planned.

I’ll take a few pictures later in the week to share more of what the children did. Granted our grocery budget is blown out of the water when the children do the shopping, and we have dessert every day, sometimes twice a day. Premiums are put on frozen foods that just need to be reheated. (Allison made sweet and sour chicken with rice for our sunday lunch.

The chicken was from the frozen food section and just needed to be cooked in the oven) Cold cereal (which I rarely purchase) and potato chips round out the diet, and marshmallows are everywhere in fruit salads, rice crispie treats, and sweet potato casserole.

I told the kids they could use any prepared foods they wanted, and really cook whatever they desired.

They could offer the family cold cereal three times a day if need be, but that they would have to live with any complaints generated by lack of preparation and effort.

I’m pleased that they mostly have taken this very seriously and have put some quality time into preparing menus and shopping with lists.

During the summer, I plan to give them a budget and take these lessons to the next level. But for now they are learning powerful lessons that will serve them for the rest of their lives.

When I was nine I informed my mother that I wanted to cook lunch for our large family of nine (my baby sister was not born yet). I am a middle child, born after three brothers.

I have three little sisters, and a younger brother.
Mom asked me what I wanted to make, and I told her I would cook Macaroni and Cheese. She gave me a dollar and I rode on my bike down to the grocery story to purchase three boxes of Kraft Mac and Cheese.

I will never forget my first pasta experience. I put all the pasta, cheese mix, and COLD water in the big cooking pot and turned the heat up to high. It a couple minutes a horrifying scent started wafting over the whole house. Burned pasta, nasty cheese smell etc…

My mom told me that she would clean the pot while I road my bike down to the store to get some more mac and cheese.

I remember seeing the same sales clerk and him making some stupid comment about “Wow, you sure do like macaroni and cheese” when I bought the food.
This time I actually read the box which told me I needed to boil the water first. So I waited until that water was boiling and then I threw the macaroni and the cheese mix into the water to cook.

I realized my mistake after I drained the beautifully cooked pasta. Oh, this is when I need to add in the cheese mix, after the pasta is drained.

Once more I road my bike to the store to purchase three more boxes of Mac and Cheese (Snarky checkout guy was wise enough not to say anything) while Mom cleaned the pot and started the water boiling. I don’t know how she had the patience and wisdom to let me learn by my own mistakes, but she did and I will never forget it.

This time I cooked the pasta correctly, added in the final ingredients with the cheese mix and offered this hot and tasty meal to my hungry brothers and sisters. I have never been more proud of finishing a task as I was after my morning of effort at the tender age of nine.

I had been thinking about this memorable experience when I made the decision to let the children learn how to cook without my help.

The thing is, we are on a tight food budget. Letting children learn can be expensive in terms of food wasted if it is burned or mangled in some way and if we allow them to use expensive ingredients that I rarely purchase. (Jeff bought a whole quart of fresh cream as he is making several recipes that require it). But I had to balance all of that and let my tightwad tendencies relax so that they can have this learning experience.

The funny thing is, they are so busy cooking, meal planning, and just living, I have not had one child demand that we do something “fun” in the past four days.

We have not felt the need to go to the rec center, the mall, or the movies to keep the kids “busy” during this holiday because they are already engaged in something far more exciting and fun than simply being entertained.

And I truly have a break from the monotiny of meal planning, and the extra work of cooking three meals a day instead of just two (two hot meals with a packed lunch is my typical offering on monday through friday).

I’m still doing all the dishes and that is fine.

I would rather wash my dishes anyway. Twice a year we go to Savers in Boulder to replenish our crockery and plates and I pick up a couple do dads in the form of serving dishes and bake ware. Why do I shop at Savers for this bric a brac?

Well, I like to eat off of breakable dishes. China, glass, and crockery up the frequency of the foods you serve. Plastic cookware, plates, bowls, and cups are nice when you have children, but they lower the frequency of your foods. And because I love to serve and eat on glass cookware, we have LOTS of breakage at our house. The sounds of smashing plates and bowls is a weekly occurance.

Tea Cups, water glasses, and serving plates are regularly dropped and smashed – accidentally of course, but I never worry about it because when you have purchased those things at Savers, you really don’t care.
I like to do the dishes because then I can control the breakage a little better. What is it about nine year old boys?

You send them out to wash the dishes, and soon, crash, bang, and he comes out with a gash on his finger from the broken bowl. Andy has been sporting a large bandaid the past few days.


I know the Holy Spirit has guided my paths and helped MOTIVATE me in various and sundry ways to get prepared, learn how to cook the foods, learn how to eat the foods, and not give up even under the most intense pressure from those around me, especially my children during the ages of 7 and 15.

I remember making really great lunches for Paul the first year of our marriage, and the blowback that hit me in the face when I went to the office parties and I was the pariah among the other wives, most of whom who did not cook, was intense.

I was not aware, but the other men had been watching the food that I lovingly packed for my sweetie and complaining to their wives about it.

This side of home making is uncomfortable and has been my constant bugaboo since I was first married.

Friends have confided that they hated me when we first met because I seemed to like to cook and be home with my children and the complaints of “why can’t you be like Jenny Hatch” from husbands and older kids rattled them and put wedges in our potential relationships.

My best friends are mostly into Primal Conscious Mothering and it helps so much to have a circle of ladies around the world who spend time on the same things I do; Shopping for whole foods, cooking, breastfeeding, and doing dishes. (Not implying that I am breastfeeding anyone at our house right now, but I have spent 13 of the past 23 years with a child on the breast).

It does seem odd that when we try out best as Mothers we have this army of people who get threatened because they have not made similar choices and feel the need to throw rocks of derision and hate.

One of the funniest parts about being a dedicated home maker in Boulder is that I am NOT a Boulder athletic “skinny” mom.

Boulder county is over run with professional and amateur athletes who spend just about every spare minute running, working out, doing Yoga, and comparing workout routines with friends.

These types of Moms tend not to cook, and even though many of them have big gourmet kitchens to work in, they only use them for parties and holidays and feed their kids packaged crap day in and day out.

I have a BIG plus size Mama Bear Body and my workouts revolve around necessary things like walking the dog, biking to the store/school and my personal favorite form of exercise, enjoying intimate time with my husband!

Because I enjoy eating, cooking, and use my kitchen several times a day, often I have dirty dishes in the sink, various and sundry cooking messes going in the crock pot, oven, bread machine, and juicer, and I don’t deep clean my home very often because of asthma.  So when my “skinny mom” friends show up at my house they are often horrified by the messes, the disorder, and the seeming chaos and often treat me as a “problem” that needs to be fixed.

I have taken this judgement for many years…but lately I have about had it with busybodies getting in my face trying to “fix” me and my life.  We all make our choices about how to live.  My choices have revolved around being a deliberate home maker and mother.  Both jobs are messy and time consuming.  Because I enjoy spending my spare time reading and writing about current events, I don’t really get into the gossiping, fashion, home decorating, and Perfection of body and house that some of my peers seem to revel in.  They really don’t get me, even though I have been acquaintances with some of them for years.  And frankly, I don’t understand how my Mormon friends can look at what is happening in the world and not prepare, not learn self reliance, not take the time to really buckle down and master the skills of mothering.

So many of them are in complete denial and absolutely believe that the infrastructures that have been built will continue on for the duration of time.  I wonder if they have read the scriptures and if they have read them, do they understand???

Well, I guess we can all do a little less judging and a little more understanding and give each other the space and the grace to grow and learn at our own pace.  Did’t mean to be so “Rhymy” just now, it just sort of typed itself…

I trust that the Holy Spirit is working in the lives of others just as he has worked in mine, and I need to not be so defensive and hurt when others judge.

Anyway, I will be blogging this adventure quite a bit over the coming weeks, so stay tuned…

Thanksgiving crafted by the Hatch Men

Yesterday Paul and Jeff woke up early to begin preparations for our thanksgiving supper. Paul made corn bread, yes grinding the whole corn himself in the electric grain mill. I heard the grinder go on really early.

He baked the corn bread and then used it in his stuffing. Trouble was, nobody liked the stuffing except me. Not even Paul liked it. He was rather sad as he chucked it in the garbage last night.

All those hours of work trying to come up with a perfect stuffing. Everyone agreed that Stove Top would have been better. Poor guy. Welcome to the wonderful world of cooking healthy food for a family.

When they don’t like it, not only does it not get eaten, but Mom and Dad hear long and loud how nasty it was.

Oh well, everything else was really yummy.

Paul and I are traveling to the Denver Temple today to do an endowment session. He has the next three days off work and we plan to enjoy this stake temple day and then have a relaxing weekend. He has been very busy with work, pulling multiple all nighters, and is exhausted.
I told him I would be happy to do the thanksgiving cooking this year, but he and Jeff had a great time last year doing it, and they wanted to do it again this year. No skin off my nose. I had a great day, caught up, mostly, on the laundry, deep cleaned the living room without my constant helper by my side (Ben was outside playing with his sisters and the puppy).

It was nice to be able to scrub the hardwood without him grabbing the mop away from me every five minutes. When he came in from playing he saw the mop and bucket and asked if he could clean. I said sure, and he took over.

Why is it that the four year old is always the one who is excited to help with the housework???

Anyway, it was nice to be able to clean and not have the stress of cooking too. We had a relaxing day and enjoyed watching some football and movies later in the night. Michelle has gotten me hooked on the sitcom Reba.

I never watched it before, and she had taped a couple episodes and we watched them together last night. It was so funny, we were just laughing our heads off.

I’m re-reading the Anne of Green Gables series for about the 20th time. I like read the series every year of so. My grandma introduced me to Anne when I was about twelve, and I read that book over and over not knowing that a whole series was hiding from my view.

Over the years I have collected all eight books, as well as many other Lucy Maud novels, and they are among some of my prized books in our home library.

All of those characters are like old friends to me. With my favorites being Susan Baker, Anne’s son Walter, and little six year old Davy keith, who provides the humor in the hilarious parts of Ann of Avonlea.

I love those books because I can trust them. I dont’ have to worry about my mind being assaulted with ugly images or foul language.

I feel the same way about most of my favorite authors. Laura Ingalls Wilder, Jane Austen, Chaim Potok, Orson Scott Card (I know, Orson can write funky and strange, but I still love his books, especially the Alvin and Ender Series), Tolkien, Rand, C. S. Lewis etc..

Lucy Maud Montgomery understood people. She knew and eloquently described the way men and women think and feel. The depths of her understanding of human nature continues to astound me as I mature and read and re-read those novels.

I wept just as hard as ever I did as a teen when I read of Matthews death yesterday. As I finished up that novel it felt like I had just enjoyed a wonderful meal, it was so nourishing to my soul to spend some time on Prince Edward island with those wonderful characters.

The main goal of our home schooling efforts was to teach our children to love to read and to love books! I often find my kids tucked away in some quiet corner of the house immersed in a book, and it is so fun to share good reading with them.

Andrew recently introduced me to the Eragon series of books and we have been enjoying the story together. I was amazed when he received some money for his birthday and wanted to spend it on the hard cover version of Eragon and its sequel.

We are planning to be at the theatre on the opening day of the Eragon movie in a couple weeks. Several times the children have mentioned that the books are always better than the movies, and this has thrilled me to know that they understand the limitations of the screen.

While it is fun to watch, to truly get into the minds of the characters in books you have to read.

I need to run, we are getting ready to attend the temple this morning.


This summer I will be teaching our four oldest children some basic meal planning and food budgeting.

Our experiment is going to include five days of lunch prep for each child. Michelle, Allison, Jeffrey, and Andrew will each be given five days and $100.00 to prepare a five course meal for our family of seven.

Each meal will include an appetizer, salad, soup, main dish (w/ protein, carb and vegetable), and dessert. Each serving must contain at least 25 grams of protein and the meal must cost less than $20.00 to prepare for the whole family. The children will be encouraged to use our food storage for basic ingredients, but will be required to do most of the cooking from scratch – with just a little help from mom.

I will continue to prepare breakfast and a light supper during the month of July, but the point of this experiment is to take our cooking/teaching to a higher level in terms of nutritional content and staying within a budget.

Paul works from home and most of us like to eat our main meal in the middle of the day, so this month of July is an ideal time to have our adventures in cooking.

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