I’ve written before about my struggle to make food comparable to mother’s milk.
And before you laugh at my incompetence, below's a cute clip with CeCe Winan’s mom (Mrs. Phillips), talking about her early days feeding a family of 12 (start at 3:30).
In it, Mrs. Phillips explains her husband's mom was a great cook. Since Mr. Phillips was used to "good food," CeCe and her daughter agreed that Mrs. Phillips had a "hard act to follow." We also learn that Mr. Phillips was an only child, so it was a little harder for Mrs Phillip's mother-in-law to understand or relate to her daughter-in-law learning this new skill with a bigger family.
I too married a man who was raised on delicious dishes. While I claimed to be the better cook in my childhood home -- my husband was definitely the better cook between us (as a couple). One of our first kitchen interactions was him emptying the water from a pot I set to boil. I was taught to boil vegetables, but he respectfully showed me how to steam them -- making them taste 10x better.
That experience made me realize I had so much to learn. Explaining my lack of cooking skills to other wives was often misunderstood. They probably thought I didn't know how to scramble an egg, flip a pancake, or cut a pepper. But I knew how to feed myself -- it just wasn't enough to satisfy our growing family. Picture joyfully making a pot of porridge, only to have it thrown on the floor by your two-year old.
I was determined to provide a solid food foundation for our family's health -- and I wanted to do it right. I wanted to make sure that they not only had tasty home-cooked meals, but that they craved the foods that would keep them healthy, whole and strong for the rest of their lives.
If you too are learning to cook, you are not alone. Cooking is an artform honed over many years. It not only combines physical attributes like enticing aromas, multi-layered nutrition and expertise in food chemistry. It encompasses emotional ones too -- like lots of love.
I will admit I used to take for granted how much heart goes into a delicious dish. Motherhood has made me greatly appreciate those that are blessed in the kitchen.
Enter meal kits!
This brilliant idea is perfect for hands-on learners like you and me. I'm not going to recommend a specific brand, because the one I tried was good (but not great). Nonetheless, I do think they are worth a try and as a first-time customer, you can get a nice deal.
The kits claim to save the planet by minimizing food waste and our carbon imprint by offering just enough ingredients for perfectly portioned meals. They also come with beautifully designed and very visual instruction cards on how to prepare each dish.
After seeing commercials my 6 year old begged me to try it. But I couldn’t get passed the cringy ads and declined. 2 years later, my husband surprised us with a huge box delivered to our front door.
At first, I was overwhelmed. But once I saw how these packages literally lit up our daughter’s face, I gained a deeper appreciation for this activity. I knew cooking would be a great bonding experience (especially during the cold winter months as homeschoolers).
So for the next 3 months, my daughter and I prepared meals together, she was fantastic and took great pride in seasoning the meats.
I too learned some new skills like how to make mouth watering reductions, how deliciously satisfying roasted tomatoes taste and how to whip up super wholesome meals with very little food. This had a lasting impact on my grocery budget, because now I knew how to do more with less. Meaning, the amount of rice they delivered looked soooo small. However, it actually was the perfect amount for our family.
It was also a nice relief to not have to use tremendous amounts of brain power trying to figure out what to feed three different girls three different things. It made me realize how fatigued my mind gets on a daily basis trying to figure out a cohesive healthy meal that our kids would enjoy so that they didn’t succumb to snacking all day (which can be expensive). So even though the recipes can take up to 60 minutes from prep to plate, they ended up being a tremendous time and mind saver. It brought routine to my day and allowed me to function more freely.
I also marveled over the business design. It’s essentially recipes that you can find on Pinterest or Google, but the way the cooking experience was packaged definitely makes it appealing, convenient, family-friendly and educational — like hiring an actual instructor.
While I’ve shed light on the positives, here’s some things to consider.
The particular meal kit we tried didn’t include instructions about cleaning their rice or meat. I'm assuming that's because soaking chicken in vinegar, or rinsing rice before cooking it, is not something every household does.
While there were Mexican, Asian, Italian and American dishes, they skipped Caribbean and African cuisines.
Most meals had a mystery sauce, which I assume is what keeps their kits proprietary, but didn’t make me feel too comfortable not knowing what was inside.
They also obviously had a partnership with a dairy company, because the meals were unavoidably rich in milk, butter and cheese. So sometimes I swapped out the cow for palm oil, which is a nutritious super food full of carotene.
While the produce looked great, it definitely wasn’t as fresh as shopping at your local farmers’ market.
And some meals were just too sophisticated even for our 8 year old’s palette. What do I mean? Despite choosing the kid-friendly plan, some meals were overcomplicated. While she definitely loves flavorful foods, some dishes were just “too fancy” in her words.
Thankfully our younger children (ages 1 and 5) found at least one food (at most meals) they liked. They often picked out the chicken, or just the pasta, because everything combined was too much for their taste buds. In other words, our younger girls preferred the simple and bland foods out of the kit.
At dinner, we would sit down and rate the meals on a five-point scale. I saved a few of our favorite guides. I found that having a handful of rotating recipes that our girls love (not like) was tremendously helpful.
If you’re concerned whether or not the food would be enough. Our plan was for a family of 4, and it was enough to feed me (one adult) and our 3 picky (in a good way) girls.
So I’m super happy I tried it. There are vegetarian options, plant-based, pork-free, and even our local restaurants started entering the meal kit space.
If you too are a frugal mom and are struggling with the cost benefit -- I totally understand. Meal kits temporarily increased our food budget from $500 a month to $800. But I consider it an in-home course, a real investment towards my culinary skills as a mom and our daughter’s home education. Check your credit card for partnerships , and some services offer a discount for first time orders. Lastly, if you’re a loyal Amazonian, the platform now offers cooking classes for as low as $25.
Want to go the free route? Ask family for their recipes. Or you can simply look on the back of one of your favorite ingredients and make a recipe that way. For example, on the back of our chocolate chips, is a cookie recipe.
I hope this post makes you feel better about your mothering journey, please know we are all learning as we go. And I hope this story serves as an example to honor your children’s visions, because they make the journey a little more fun.
Have you tried meal kits? Where do you get your recipes? Need to schedule a one-on-one? Use code: HEART2HEART.
Until next time…
Love The Journey,