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Can a Large Family Have a Minimalist Kitchen? {Kitchen Tour – Part 1}

Back in March, I wrote a post about keeping your kitchen clean.  I mentioned in the post how reducing clutter in your kitchen helps tremendously, but I’ll be honest, sometimes clutter lurks in places you forget about, or sneaks onto your counters, and sometimes it shows up in the form of a gift from a well-meaning someone who brings it into your kitchen and leaves it there.  Before you know it, the kitchen has been overrun by things that do nothing but take up space.

So, when I saw a post on Pinterest that begged me to take a look at one woman’s minimalist kitchen, I couldn’t help myself.  What I saw made me sigh happy, clean counter, sighs.  But, it also made me wonder…

Can a large family live without a lot of extra kitchen appliances, dishes, tools, and gadgets?

In other words…

Can a large family have a minimalist kitchen?

Can a Large Family Have a Minimalist Kitchen? (plus Kitchen Tour Part 1!) | RaisingArrows.net

I will start off by telling you that kitchen gadgets are NOT my thing.  They hold no appeal for me, so you won’t find a lot of that type of thing in my kitchen, minimalist or not.  In fact, in nearly every area of my life, I tend toward the minimalist category.  Decluttering is cheap therapy for me.  I like to throw things away.  But everyone knows a large family naturally accumulates more stuff than a smaller family.  More people bringing in more things, not to mention outsiders who figure you need more stuff since there are so many of you, can easily overtake a large family kitchen.

I was determined to take the minimalist approach to the kitchen, and run with it – just to see how far I’d get.  I can definitively say that you ABSOLUTELY CAN HAVE A MINIMALIST KITCHEN in a large family, but there are a couple of things you have to take into consideration.

1.  Have the RIGHT SIZE of tool for the job.  You will waste a ton of space if you are trying to accommodate a large family with 3 too-small pots, rather than 1 perfect-sized pot.  Don’t hang onto items that don’t really fit your family.  Upsize and declutter the too-small things.

2.  Purge often.  Because of the sheer number of people in a large family household, you have to be on your toes with sorting and getting rid of things that don’t truly belong in your home.  If you receive something that is a better fit, get rid of the item it replaces.  And don’t look back!

OK, let’s get started with the tour…

{affiliate links included}

Can a Large Family Have a Minimalist Kitchen? | RaisingArrows.net

This is the main wall of my kitchen.  This is by far, the largest kitchen I have ever had; however, it has a few tricky spots I’ll point out as we go.

On the far left, you see a glimpse of an antique ice box that holds our teas and my Bosch mixer.  While I use my Bosch often, I decided it was not often enough to warrant counter space.  On top of the ice box is a glass pitcher, a flower arrangement my 10 year put together (she has a real knack for home decor), and a plate for fruit.  These things are all decorative and functional.

Working our way to the right, you’ll see a counter space that has a basket for bread with a butter dish next to it.  I could get a bread box, but that’s not something I’ve ever owned, so until I do, a basket works.  I also hung my hot pads on a 3M removable hook next to the stove.  (I LOVE these hooks!)

Above that counter space is my Baking Cupboard.  I have had a designated Baking Cabinet/Cupboard for years.  If you bake a lot, and you can spare the space, I highly recommend doing this.  This is also where our often-used seasonings go, so they are quick to grab when cooking up meat and other dishes.

Below that counter, are casserole dishes, cookie sheets, and other baking dishes.  Here is a list of exactly what I own:

I could rid of the items we don’t use often, but for now, I like to have them on hand for the few times I do want to make something that calls for one of those pans.

Next, is the stove.  I do not keep anything stored in the oven or in the drawer below (except the broiler pan that belongs with the stove…and never gets used).  On top of the stove, I have a tea pot.  This would not necessarily have to be there, but I like the way it makes the stove look all homey. ;)

Above the stove and microwave, is where I keep olive oil and olive oil spray, along with my knife sharpener.

Can a Large Family Have a Minimalist Kitchen? | RaisingArrows.net

The next counter space over has an upcycled utensil holder made by my friend Char at New Life Treasures.  It holds a few wooden spoons, an assortment of spatulas, whisks, tongs, a ladle, and a couple of other utensils.  I was brutal and got rid of any utensil that didn’t get used regularly.  If there was something that didn’t get used often, but I still thought ought to be kept, I moved it to a container in a cupboard – more on that in another post.  I will say this counter top space is also where clean dishes go to dry.  We hand wash any dishes that don’t fit in the dishwasher as well as any dishes or knives that are not supposed to be put in a dishwasher.  I use an XL Envision Dish Drying Mat to put the overflow dishes on to dry.

Above that counter is where our plates and bowls are kept.  I have 3 small plastic bowls and 3 small plastic plates for my little guys.  I have 6 more plastic bowls that work well for snacks and such, along with 8 pottery bowls that match the 8 dinner plates I have of October Franciscan pottery.  I also keep 3 deep bowls in that cupboard that work well to mix small batches of things.  Besides the 8 dinner plates, I also have 8 smaller Corelle-type plates.  Typically, when the table is set, Mommy, Daddy, and the two oldest children get large plates, and everyone else uses the Corelle or plastic smaller plates.  Sometimes, depending on the meal, we all use the smaller plates.

Can a Large Family Have a Minimalist Kitchen? Kitchen Tour!| RaisingArrows.net

Excuse the horrible photo.  I was taking it with my phone and there was no making it look pretty.  You can see below the sink there is a cupboard and another right next to it.  These hold cleaning supplies.

Next to those cupboards, you will see the only drawers in the kitchen.  They are small and shallow.  Very strange setup for such a large kitchen, but we’ve made it work.  The top drawer is silverware and extra DrinkBands for guests.  The next drawer contains kitchen towels.  The 3rd drawer contains Bosch attachments, gadgets we actually use on a regular basis (pastry cutter, apple corer, beaters, etc).  The bottom drawer used to hold plastic storage container lids, but I’ve decluttered enough of those that it currently stands empty! *gasp*  It will probably end up housing my drying mats (yes, I have more than one) or some of the less used kitchen gadgets that are put away on the opposite side of the kitchen (another topic in Part 2).

The counter top above those drawers is the dirty dish holding area.  That is where all the dirty dishes go until my Dishwasher Helper takes care of them after every meal.

And lastly, the cupboard above that counter is where glasses go.  We have two glasses for each person, colored coded with their DrinkBand.  There is also a place for sippy cups, and a box that holds plastic reusable cups that my husband takes with him on his daily commute.  I use a box for these because inevitably, someone would open the cupboard door and out would fall all the plastic cups!  I do have a few extra glasses for when company comes stored on the top shelf as well.

I will be sharing what is housed on the other side of the kitchen along with the island in a later post.  Feel free to ask any questions and offer ideas for other readers to create a more minimalist kitchen of their own!

Posts in this Series:
Can a Large Family Have a Minimalist Kitchen (with Kitchen Tour Part 1)
Minimalist Kitchen Tour Part 2

Want to read more about Homemaking?
Check out my Homemaking Basics!

Homemaking Basics | RaisingArrows

How We Feed Our Family of 9 with 2 pounds of Hamburger

How We Feed Our Family of 9 with 2 pounds of Hamburger + Unstuffed Cabbage Roll recipe | RaisingArrows.netWhen I wrote about my bulk taco seasoning recipe, I mentioned we only use 2 pounds of ground beef for our family of 9, and that I only started using the second pound about 2 children ago.  Several of you were shocked and wanted to know how this was possible, so I thought I’d write a little bit more about how we manage this.

First of all, THIS is what 2 pounds of ground beef/hamburger looks like (plus some onions from our garden…more on that in a moment):

How We Feed Our Family of 9 with 2 Pounds of Hamburger + Unstuffed Cabbage Roll recipe | RaisingArrows.net

The skillet is a 15″ cast iron skillet from Lodge.  As the meat cooks, we season it and often throw in onions and/or peppers to add flavor.  From here, the possibilities are endless!

Let’s say you are doing something with a Mexican flair…
Add tomatoes, beans, rice, and some type of sauce (tomato sauce is the most often used one here).

Italian?
More garden veggies, noodles, and sauce.

Sandwich meat?
Oatmeal, veggies, beans, lentils, and yes…sauce!

And don’t forget CHEESE!  We use a lot of cheese, sour cream, and veggies to add to our meat to create a heartier meal.

You can easily double the amount of pasta or rice you put into a dish and still keep the ground beef amounts the same.  Casseroles and stove-top meals (like the Unstuffed Cabbage Roll recipe below) are the easiest to stretch.  We rarely do something like meatloaf or a meat by itself (unless we are cooking up steaks, pork chops, or homemade brats).  Meatloaf can be bulked up with oats or rice, but not many in my family are fans of meatloaf, so I don’t even bother.

We often make quesadillas for a quick lunch (<—take a look at that post – it’s from when I was pregnant with Baby #7 and there’s a sonogram picture!)  We will start with the 2 pounds of hamburger meat, but when that runs out, we finish off with cheese-only quesadillas.  And again, we encourage the kids to add sour cream, lettuce, and salsa to bulk up calories.

Another thing we do is set out bowls of “sides” that add an element of fun to the meal.  It is not uncommon for there to be pickles, black olives, or a bowl of cut up cucumbers on the table to serve as finger foods to supplement the meal.  Sometimes I serve a traditional side (mainly for the evening meal when Daddy is home), but usually for lunch, the main dish is supplemented only by the extra finger foods.

And in case you are wondering, yes, I do serve snacks.  Around 3 o’clock is snack time and it helps to carry everyone through to suppertime.

Now let me give you a real life example from a meal we had a couple of nights ago…

Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls | RaisingArrows.net

I set out to make the Trim Healthy Mama Stuffed Cabbage Rolls from the book, but realized too late they were supposed to be in the crock pot for 7-9 hours!  (Please tell me I’m not the only one who does stuff like this!)  So, I went with an unstuffed version from a recipe online.  Of course, there’s no way an online recipe is going to contain the right amounts for our family (unless of course, it’s from my own stash of Large Family Recipes), so I set out to tweak it.

The first thing I noticed was that it had 1.5 – 2 pounds of meat listed to serve 5-6 people; however, the cabbage was supposed to be a small head with the addition of only one small can of tomato sauce.  That’s where I grabbed my bulk.  The cabbage I used was large, and I used 2 cans of sauce, but could have used more if I wanted a soupier mixture (which works really well when putting it over something like rice or noodles!).  I could have added other veggies too like zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant or peppers.

Because this was going to be a THM-friendly dish, I had my son cook a large pot of rice as a side for the children.  If you aren’t watching your carb intake, then cook the rice and add it right into the dish itself.  You could even turn this into a soup by adding more tomato sauce and some water or broth.

And that was our meal.  Everyone tanked up and there was only a tiny bit of leftovers that Baby Creed will eat for lunch tomorrow.

Here’s my large family (with only 2# of ground beef) version of Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls:

Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls Recipe (stove top using a 15" skillet) | RaisingArrows.net

Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls

2 pounds ground beef
1 large onion, diced
2 cans diced tomatoes (or fresh)
2 cans (8 oz each) tomato sauce
1 cabbage, coarsely chopped
seasonings to taste

In a large skillet, brown ground beef with onion and season to taste with salt, pepper, garlic, or other favorite seasonings.  Add in the diced tomatoes and the tomato sauce and mix.  Next, add the chopped cabbage and rest a lid on top of the pile of cabbage to encourage it to steam and cook down.  (I promise, it WILL cook down and fit in your 15″ skillet.  If you don’t have a large skillet, transfer the meat to a large pot before adding the cabbage.)  Once the cabbage cooks down a bit, stir to mix the meat and sauce in with the cabbage.  Continue to cook down until cabbage is tender.

Now, it’s your turn!  How do you stretch your meat?  What sorts of things do you add for bulk and calories?  And don’t forget to mention how many you are feeding!

Homemade Taco Seasoning {in bulk}

Homemade Taco Seasoning {in bulk} | RaisingArrows.net

We eat a lot of Mexican food here.  It’s often an easy meal that requires few ingredients.  I’ve never been one for using those little packets of Taco Seasoning you buy in the store, but I do like to add some sort of seasoning to the ground beef we use to make our Mexican dishes.  This usually consists of chili powder and cumin, salt and pepper, but I was never satisfied with the taste (especially when the kids did the cooking/seasoning!).

I ran across a taco seasoning recipe on Pinterest that was just about right, but as always the portions were WAY too small.  I don’t want to mix up seasoning EVERY time I cook!

After a few tweaks, Ty has declared this DELICIOUS – so, here’s our adapted recipe in bulk form!

Homemade Taco Seasoning {in bulk} | RaisingArrows.net

Bulk Taco Seasoning
4 Tablespoons chili powder 

9 Tablespoons paprika 
3 Tablespoons cumin 
2 tablespoon onion powder 
2 tablespoon salt (we REALLY like RealSalt)
5 teaspoons garlic powder 
1/2 teaspoon cayenne or ground red pepper

Mix well and store in a sealed container.  I just use an old seasoning container with a “new” handwritten label.

I like to just shake it on the meat and eyeball it, but if you want to be super scientific, use about 4 tsp per 1 pound of ground beef.

Quick Note:  I try to only use 2 lbs of hamburger for our family of 9 no matter what the dish is, and I only made the transition from 1 lb to 2 lbs a couple of children ago.  This is just one way to save money when you are cooking for a large family.


Speaking of large families…

My ebook Large Family Homeschooling is part of the Build Your Bundle Sale coming NEXT WEEK!  There is still time to enter to win $100 toward building your own homeschool bundle!
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Stop Opening Every Jar of Peanut Butter We Own!

You may be a large family if every time you turn around someone has opened a new container of peanut butter…

or mayonnaise…

or [insert name of food that already has a full container sitting open in the refrigerator or pantry].

It’s maddening!

So, I got proactive and did this:

How to stop the kids (and dad) from opening brand new food containers when there is one already open | RaisingArrows.net

X marks the spot!

This is the ONLY peanut butter jar that is allowed to be opened.  And if you can’t find the one with the X, you find mom and together the two of you will look for it before determining it is a good idea to open a new one (which will be promptly marked with an X by the way!).

This works for anything that tends to get opened without thinking.  Maple syrup, boxes of cereal, and yes, mayonnaise!

Sharpie marker saves the day!


Want to win $100 toward homeschool resources
so you can buy more peanut butter?

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Large Family Moving – Starting Over

Large Family Moving Series {starting over in a new place} | RaisingArrows.net

Over 3 years and 2 moves ago, I wrote a series on Large Family Moving.  I recently had a reader ask me to write about how we start over in each new place because that was the part that was worrying her.

I actually think I had intentions of writing such a post, but never did.  Why?  Because that part always worries me too!

I must admit, I’m not good at starting over.

I’m an introvert, so interacting with new people is always a little tenuous for me.  I am terrible at small talk and new situations.  Starting over in a new place is very much all about small talk and new situations for a good long while.

But, I have learned a few things along the way.  That said, once I finish this post, please feel free to comment away on things I didn’t think of, because like I said, I’m just not good at this starting over thing and my readers always have the best tips!

1.  Find a way to ask your questions.

You need a way to ask about doctors, churches, hair stylists, homeschool groups, and everything in between.  This can be accomplished in several different ways.  Here are a few ideas to get you started:

*Find a local homeschool group and get on their Facebook page or email list.  Even if you never participate with the group, you can get invaluable information from them.  This is where I found my kombucha scoby after I killed my old one in the move!

*Find a Facebook page or Twitter hashtag for your city where you can ask questions and learn about the community.

*Have your husband ask co-workers for ideas.  More than likely, they have been here longer than you have, so they have a better lay of the land.

*Ask people who have lived there before (if you know any).  For us, this proved to be the perfect way to get the answers we needed!  First of all, I touched base with the wife of the man who held my husband’s position here previously.  My husband’s company is very well connected, so they are always willing to share information about where they have been previously.  We also had friends who had lived in the area who were able to clue us in on homeschooling things.

*If you’re an extrovert, just ask anyone on the street!  Yeah, so not my style, but not everyone is me!

2.  Do your exploring sans children (or as few as you can manage).  I know this isn’t feasible for everyone, but as an introvert (and I’m going to guess if you really NEED this post, you are too), new situations are only compounded by lots of little people.  When our new Natural Grocers store came in, I went alone so I could get a lay of the store before doing it will all the kids in tow.  It made for a much nicer experience when I did take everyone.

The same goes for doctors appointments and such.  Take one or two children, not everyone.  Get a feel for the office, the doctor’s bedside manner, the way things operate before hauling everyone in.  This also gives you a chance to make sure the office is a good fit for you before you feel too committed to walk away.

3.  Get plugged in to a church as soon as you can.  This is one of the most difficult aspects of moving for me.  It can be super confusing for the children too with all the “trying out” new churches.  We were blessed to find a home church very quickly this time, but other moves have not been so successful.  And some churches we visited were downright scary!  However, once you find a church home, you will find that you will learn so much more about your community via your new church family.

One place we moved to we actually found our church via a woman I met when I took my kids to AWANA.  She and I became friends when we realized we had a lot in common.  When she found out we were still looking for a church (we were looking for a smaller church atmosphere than the one where AWANA was being held), she asked an old friend of hers where she went to church and that’s how we found a church family that continues to be very dear to us.

4.  Take in new things with new friends.  Once you start making friends, ask them to join you in a new excursion.  This past year, I really wanted to go to the Christmas Expo, but I needed the push to actually do it.  Inviting my pastor’s wife and her girls to come with us forced me to do something I probably would not have done otherwise.

You can also ask new friends to give you ideas for places to go and things to do in the city and then ask if you can tag along.  This is a great way to get a feel for the area.

5.  Don’t be afraid to move on.  All the advice and suggestions in the world won’t make up for personal experience.  If a doctor or dentist aren’t a good fit, move on.  If you feel uneasy at the church you’ve been attending for a few Sundays, it’s ok to check out a different church.  Don’t buy memberships to museums until you’ve gone once and made sure you really want to continue going.  (Often, it is a really good deal to buy a membership for a large family, because it typically pays for itself within a couple of visits.  This can often be done at the END of your visit without any penalty, especially if you tell the docent what you would like to do.)

Large Family Moving Series:
The Logistics
Saying Goodbye
Making an Abnormal Schedule
Unpacking
Starting Over – this post

When Your Meal Plan Falls Apart

When Your Meal Plan Falls Apart {how to get back on track} | RaisingArrows.net

My menu plan pretty much crashed and burned the past few months.  We moved, and I lost my groove.

I told you several months ago how a solid menu plan is the backbone of your day. Well, let me tell you, having mine fall apart made this beyond clear! Without this “backbone”, I had one seriously loosey-goosey day, that turned into a week, that turned into a month plus!  It was a mess!

Sadly, this isn’t the first time my menu plan has fallen apart.  Every time we have some major life event, it seems my menu plan is the first thing to take a nosedive.  However, I’ve learned a few tricks for getting things back on track quickly, and today, I’d like to share those with you (cuz I’m guessing I’m not the only one with a messy meal plan. ;) )

The first thing I did was go back to a pantry list.  I already had an old one on hand from my Once a Month Shopping series.  I had to do some revamping to make it fit our current eating habits, but that didn’t take much.

Simplified DinnersSimplified Dinners is an ebook that operates off this same principle, only it takes it a step further and gives you a pantry full of foods that will make many different meals all from the same list.  All the recipes and instructions and lists are included in the book, making it a no-brainer (precisely what you need when your meal plan has fallen through, eh?)  Working from a pantry list is one of the quickest ways to get back on track without needing to think too much.  It bought me time I needed to keep working on unpacking the house and getting back in a routine.

A couple of weeks later, I had more time to think through meals, so I pulled out my planner pages and my little red index box full of tried and true recipes.  Everyone needs the equivalent of my red index box.  You should KNOW what meals are family favorites.  You should KNOW what your family will and will not eat and how often they will eat it.  These are your GO-TO meals.  Pulling from tried and true meals to create a meal plan takes a little more energy than a static pantry list where you just cook from whatever you have on hand, but it would be beneficial to eventually create a pantry list around your tried and true meals.  (When your meal plan has fallen apart may not be that time, though.)

I’ll be honest, during this time, Pinterest was calling my name.  It wanted me to come and try NEW recipes, but when you’ve fallen off track as badly as I had, experimenting from Pinterest is NOT the answer.  I needed to get back to business first…then, get creative.

It wasn’t too long before I was back to my regular menu planning, pulling from several different resources and being much more creative!  I have found that one of the fastest ways to get me back in the meal planning mood (because let’s face it, you HAVE to be in the mood), is to find inspiration from others.  Looking through websites, cookbooks, and ebooks are a great way to find your inspiration to jump back into meal planning.

 

This past week, I decided to start being even more proactive with my meal plan.  I decided to make a 4 week rotating schedule with grocery lists on the back to keep on hand for times when my menu plan falls apart.  This coupled with a solid pantry list should help to keep everyone in the house on track and eating well!