Hearty Meals & Planning Food for your Family

“It is in her [the homemaker’s] preparation of the dinner that the cook begins to feel the weight
and responsibility of her situation,
as she must take upon herself all the dressing and the serving of the principal dishes,
which her skill and ingenuity have mostly prepared.
Whilst these, however, are cooking, she must be busy with her pastry, soups, gravies, ragouts and stock,
being the basis of most made dishes, must be always at hand,
in conjunction with her sweet herbs and spices for seasoning.”
– Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management, 1861




Sitting down on the front porch wicker couch with my book and a glass of cold water, I rejoiced in a few quiet moments that were blissfully mine. The girls and I had spent the morning canning more (lovely!) green beans from our garden, making two loaves of homemade bread and two batches of homemade bagels, we cleaned and tidied up some rooms and put away a load of laundry. Lunch was cleaned and dishes put away  and dinner was slowly cooking in the crockpot, tucked away in the kitchen. Now it was time for a bit of a rest.


The reason the girls and I can take some down time in the afternoon is because of proper planning – proper meal planning and using our given time wisely. My personal rule is to always have dinner ready by 10 a.m. – whether that means a “plan” for dinner or the meat is actually cooking in the slow cooker and the veggies are actually primed and ready to be cooked or steamed. I recently had a reader (Hello, Kristal!) ask how I meal plan or if I do at all. Well, I will try to explain my method.

Tonight, we are having taco salad, so the work load is pretty minimal on my part. I needed to brown the meat (which I did while were canning beans – by using the crockpot, it did most of the work for me), cut up tomatoes and shred cheese {we also keep a hearty stash of pre-shredded cheese in the freezer – if we find a sale on cheese, we buy a big stack and shred the cheese at home and freeze it}. We will use homemade salsa that I canned last year. Before my husband arrives home, I will send one of the girls to the garden to fetch some fresh lettuce and tomatoes. We will cut it up right before we eat.


Other nights, are our meals are bit more labour intensive, but still manageable. I often think of the women ‘back in the day’ and think how easy we have it compared to them. While we do raise our own meat, we do not butcher it  – we happily take it to a Mennonite run operation where they, following government regulations and inspections, process all our turkeys, beef and chicken. It is a huge blessing to not have that workload on our shoulders.
If you buy your meat from the store, it is even easier for you.


So now, our freezers (or at least they will be soon) are full of home grown meat. I do not have to run and catch and chicken whenever I choose to serve chicken 🙂 like the pioneer women did … I don’t have to worry about plucking feathers or draining blood, thank goodness! So on busy days, I am still so thankful that all I have to do is go to my freezer and possibly debone a chicken if that is the work involved. We are pretty blessed compared to those days 100 years ago. No need for griping over our tasks in the kitchen.


While I do not necessarily meal plan in a strict way, I do meal plan loosely in my head and write it down into my planner. {I use a good ol’ fashioned planner, not a digital one.} I also have a list written in the back of my planner with our dinner ideas written down. On a day when I cannot find dinner inspiration, I can refer to my list … look up chicken and think, “Oh yes! Mexican chicken! We loved that one!” and find a way to use that meal in the next day or so. If there are leftovers one day and daddy will call and say we are working late, I know it will be a leftovers night. Mostly, however, we are cooking a new meal every day.


My husband has a very un-settled work schedule – he can hope to be home, but if he gets a call, he cannot come home. He can pull up the driveway, wave hello to us and get a call all in the same minute, reversing his car back out and away he goes. I cannot plan dinner around him, but I do try to plan a bigger meal when he is home. That being said, I plan a dinner regardless if he is to be here or not. After all, there are still nine other people who want and need to eat supper! We are all quite hungry at the dinner hour.

My tips for meal planning would be this:

* Always know what you are going to cook the night before. Get your meat out of the freezer and thaw it overnight.

* Start your meal prep in the morning. Do not let it go past lunch time or you will be wondering all afternoon “What’s for dinner?” During the summer, I have more time to work in the kitchen than when we are homeschooling. The summer hours allow me the luxury of prepping dinner with a  deadline of about 10 a.m. During school days, it might be a bit earlier so I can get the dinner plans out of my way.




* Use your crockpot! It is a lifesaver! I actually have two crockpots now and I love having two. While we are at church, I can have corn on the cob cooking in one and a main meal, such as poppy seed chicken, cooking in the second pot. It is very helpful. In the fall and winter months when the cookstove is running, I use my cookstove as a crockpot and save electricity.

* Write a list of your main meals and put it somewhere that will help you when you are without dinner inspiration. You will look at the list and realize there are lots of options for ground beef and chicken – and find your family’s favorite and go from there.

* Seasonally can or put up your side dishes ahead of time. We know we can have corn, green beans, peas, cabbage or squash all throughout winter. It is a great help. We also eat our beets as a side dish. This takes the thinking out of wondering what goes with the meat and potatoes or chicken and rice … our spaghetti sauce and many other options are canned at home, as well. It makes a huge difference in the work load down the road.

*Have a well stocked pantry. It is not helpful to run out of rice or potatoes or herbs and spices. Stock your pantry and stock it well. Pasta, your homecooked pasta sauce and a helping of your canned zuchinni {don’t forget to can it this summer! Add it in to soups and stews or pasta sauces to bulk it up, not to mention boost the vegetable intake} in the sauce can make a heart meal in a pinch. Just grate some fresh Parmesan on top and your children will be delighted. If possible, purchase your main ingredients in bulk for larger families.

* Personally, I skip the fancy meals that are trendy and cook good ol’ fashioned meals … one you might find in an old farmer’s wife cookbook … meat, potatoes, vegetables, chicken, rice, gravy, vegetables … lots of healthy butter and a dash of love and you are ready to serve your family dinner.


Here are a few dinner suggestions, just for the fun of it. Most of these, if not all, may be made in the crockpot.


Spaghetti, homemade pasta sauce with salad (in season or vegetables that are in season) and homemade bread –
❤Roasted chicken with scalloped potatoes and green beans
❤Lasagna (one of my favorite’s!) with seasonal vegetables and bread
❤Shepherd’s pie with bread or salad
❤Poppy seed chicken casserole with rice and vegetables
❤Creamy curry chicken with rice and vegetables
❤BBQ chicken and mashed potatoes
❤Parmesan chicken and rice
❤Roast beef, mashed potatoes and Yorkshire pudding (a favorite) served with vegetables in season or canned beans and pickled beets
Sloppy Joes with vegetables and homemade bread or buns
❤Sweet and sour meatballs with steamed rice and seasonal vegetables
❤Chicken pot pie with homemade pastry and bread
❤Adobe chicken with rice or tortillas and melted cheese
❤Baked beans and rice served with sour cream and nachos
 Chili with melted cheese and rice and homemade bread (yes, we eat a lot of homemade bread!)
❤ Zuchini parmesan with salad or vegetable side
❤ Homemade pizza


I hope this gives some good ideas for the dinner hour. How do you handle meal time with your large or small family?


August 14, 2018 - 6:17 am

Gigi Oh, for sure, Kristal. It is our family’s favorite. We do not use the canned soup – I have made up my own version, but will try to post a detailed recipe.
Breakfast – yes, for sure!

August 13, 2018 - 11:50 pm

Kristal A few questions since my initial response to the blog post (hehe):
1) Can you please share you recipe for poppy seed chicken casserole. I had never heard of this, but all the recipes I have found use canned cream of chicken soup. I have a strong inkling yours does not utilize this. Do you mind sharing? 😀

2) Would you please do a blog post sharing some recipes you like to do for breakfast, especially once homeschooling starts up again?

Thanks again for sharing your ideas. I really like the idea of having a master list of tried and true recipes to reference. Simple, yet great idea! Take care Gillian!

August 13, 2018 - 3:17 pm

Kristal I love this! We have been out of town camping and I just had a moment to finally catch up. Thank you Gillian for sharing this with me and your blog viewers. This is exactly what I needed. 🙂

August 13, 2018 - 2:57 pm

Gigi Bobbie, I make bread about every other day. I don’t bake and put in the freezer because I’m not too fond of bread that way, but that certainly would help if I could do that. It doesn’t take too much time to make bread so I don’t mind doing it every other day or so. For rolls, I would use the same recipe, just roll the buns, maybe brush them with butter when they come out of the oven. Lunches are usually leftovers, soup that I have canned or mac and cheese (homemade).
Rabbits? We have so many! Hah! We love the floppy eared version but they always seem to die quickly. I think all rabbits are great, so I’m not sure which ones would be “the best”.
Sadly, we do not have our dog anymore. We had to give her away as she turned into a problem for our family (it’s a long story but she was too much on attack mode all the time).
No, we have not started table schooling yet. We will start end of August or September …
Book selections – okay, I love books! I will write up a list! 🙂

August 13, 2018 - 9:32 am

Our Home of Many Blessings Also do you have any large family muffin recipes? or large family cookie recipes.

August 13, 2018 - 8:20 am

Our Home of Many Blessings I am the same exact way! How often do you seem to make bread in a normal week? Do you have a go to way of making rolls at dinner? What do your lunches usually look like? Can’t get enough of this lovely blog of yours! I would love to know your photography skills and tips as well. Your pics are gorgeous and comforting. Do you have suggestion on good bunnies as pets? We would love to know about all the animals you have and how to take care of them as well. Do you still have your dog? and have you guys “started” table schooling yet?More kids book selections would be great also! The housekeeping book that was suggested previously is a good book. I have that in my stack of good old fashioned advice.Oh I wish I could sit and chat with you everyday over tea! I would learn so much!

August 12, 2018 - 12:45 pm

Danessa Stride Thank you again for such a lovely read! I to prepare a good hearty home cooked meal every evening for my family, I am a firm believer that the evening meal, we call supper time here in Newfoundland, is a time for families to sit around the table together and enjoy each others company and a good meal. I will pulling some meal ideas from your list for sure! I eagerly look forward to your next post? God Bless!

August 11, 2018 - 5:20 am

Gigi Diane, your dinner sounds amazing and one of our favorites! I forgot about meatloaf – thank you for reminding me. I make up a batch of them and freeze them for dinners. I will add that to the list.
Yes, eating out is expensive!

August 10, 2018 - 8:50 pm

Diane I love to plan my meals on Monday morning. I also clean out the refrigerator so it’s ready for the new grocery haul on Tues. Supper time is my favorite time of the day. I love to sit down and have homemade breads and yummy comfort food waiting for hub when he gets home. Our favorite is homemade chicken potpie, or meatloaf. Relatives think we are so weird having homemade suppers everyday. We live a ways from town so it can be pretty expensive to eat out too often. Thanks for all the great ideas. I have been binge reading your blog lately. It’s like reading a wonderful picture book on homemaking!

August 10, 2018 - 4:18 pm

Gigi Kristin, I love lemon balm, too. I have some in my garden that I need to dry for winter.
Your grapes sound amazing! I have always wanted to try making grape juice but I do not know of a source for organic grapes and I am hesitant to use the store bought ones… let me know how it goes.
I agree with you – a garden keeps you wondering what will produce the best year after year. I always hold my breath for tomatoes. They are so versatile and useful. I hope we harvest a lot this year! It is just beginning, very slowly.
I will keep the posts about main dish ideas in mind. Do you mean, which meals do I can? Or just canning posts in general?

August 10, 2018 - 4:15 pm

Gigi Thank you, Crystal. I will do a write up on canning zuchinni for you.

August 10, 2018 - 4:15 pm

Gigi Teresa, you are wise to invest in your skills! It took me quite a few years to learn homemaking skills. I am sure my poor husband suffered, although, amazingly, he never complained.

August 10, 2018 - 3:30 pm

Teresa Your blog has become such an inspiration for me. I would love to get back to my roots and do things the old fashion way. My boyfriend appreciates being able to come over to my place after he gets out of work at night and being able to have a hot dinner ready for him (showing him my wife skills don’t hurt either lol). I love being able to do that for him and I know he is going to miss it when he goes back to college in a few weeks. While he is gone I am going to work on my skills more and be able to surprise him when he comes home for Christmas.

August 10, 2018 - 2:26 pm

Kristin Love, love, love these homemaking posts!
I too am always so encouraged when I see one of your posts.
Thank you for taking time to share…especially when you have readers who don’t often comment! (Me) Ha.
I love to read about how others manage their homes, meal plan, preserve the harvest. Care so intentionally for their families.
We are excitedly getting ready to process grapes, that we grew ourselves, for the very first time. They are a white variety. The plan is for jelly and juice.
I find, each year our garden does better with some things while not as well with other things. It’s never the same from year to year.
We grow the usual basics, but then each year, we try something new. This year…popcorn. And loofah gourds.
We have and milk our own little dairy goats. With some of the extra milk, I saw a fantastic idea for making your soap base and pouring it into the dried and cut pieces of loofah. Creating a lovely exfoliating soap bar.
We are also harvesting our Lemon Balm and making homemade-honey sweetened lemonade. Without lemons and the Lemon Balm is lemony enough.
I love preserving the harvest and keeping that running meal plan list. It’s a loose plan. But with a well stocked-basic pantry and garden…one can go a long ways!
Thank you for sharing! Would love more of your canning posts with main dish ideas that are tried and true. Thank you!!!

August 10, 2018 - 11:41 am

Crystal I always look so forward to reading your posts! They are truly an encouragement. I am wondering how you can your zucchini. I love canning. Just seeing how pretty the glass jars are filled with different soups and veggies is such a delight!

August 10, 2018 - 9:09 am

Gigi Thank you for your encouragement, Monica. Yes, meal prepping is a major part of a mom’s life – at least, it should be. However, it we do it properly, it should not be stressful. It should be a joy to serve our family a good home-cooked meal.
Yes, the Mennonites are a huge blessing to us! We have even attended one church service with them and it was truly a joy.

August 10, 2018 - 8:51 am

Monica This topic has been on my mind as well and I hope to do a post on it soon. You are so right on the early prepping! My goal is at breakfast, to prep the lunch (unless it’s leftovers) and at lunch, start the supper on the crockpot (unless I have to thaw out meat and I start that early in the morning. Planning and early prep is sooo key! There is nothing that, ashamedly, makes me grumpier than not knowing what I’m going to cook or the “dinner hour” taking me by surprise (and by storm!)
I love this post and plan to reread it and see if I can incorporate some of your meal ideas! PS. That is awesome that you have a Mennonite company that can butcher your animals for you! I’m going to check to see if we have something like that. I think our closest Mennonite community is about sixty miles away. We have an extra empty pasture now that we are considering putting in pigs…