Not surprisingly it seems many of you can relate to the plight of the burnt-out cook. It’s not that we don’t love our jobs as nurturers and nourishers, it’s just that sometimes things get a little out of control.

But many of us also have a hard time just throwing in the towel, buying some convenience foods or take-out, and taking a few meals off. We still need to nourish our families after all, and frankly spending money on food that does more harm than good just seems like a lose-lose situation.

I have found over the years that making my own versions of store-bought convenience foods helps me to throw a few of these things together to form a very quick and simple meal that doesn’t create a lot of dishes. I’m not talking about homemade mayonnaise or hand-rolled pasta, those things are “fun” foods that we can make when we’re not drowning in dirty dish piles and laundry.

I’m talking about the basic foods we need to create a balanced meal – proteins, carbs, fats, and something raw or enzymatic. There’s nothing fancy about these foods – it’s just pure nourishment. Which is all you need when feeding your family has to be kept simple.

Bone Broth. I stand by the principle that you could make soup out of the bumper of a car and it would still taste good if you made it with homemade broth. This stuff makes everything taste better and is deeply nourishing to boot. Make it in your crock pot to keep it extra simple and then just throw in meat, beans, grains, or vegetables to create easy soups.

Lacto-Fermented Vegetables. These are my go-to enzymatic addition to any savory meal. Just a small 1/4 cup or so added to any plate is going to add loads of enzymes, probiotics, and nutrition. This allows me to forgo the chopping of a salad and making of a homemade dressing. Our favorites include salsa, pickles, sauerkraut, and kimchi. I’ve always done large batches because it is how we preserve foods, which means that I’ve almost always got some on hand. Make a huge batch, if you have the room to store it, and you’ll only need to make it every few months.

Yogurt or Kefir. This is another fermented food that can become the base of a meal. It already includes protein, fat, carbs, and enzymes. All it needs is a little beefing up with fruits, nuts, etc. to become a one-bowl meal for breakfast or any time of day.

Bread, Biscuits, or Baked Goods. If you can make a large batch of something in the bread category then you can sail for days on sandwiches, peanut butter toast, bread with butter and yogurt, etc. I like sourdough bread because you can make a batch once a week and it keeps longer than breads made with commercial yeast, plus it’s just better for you. Also consider making a big pan of baked oatmeal or granola which can be served with that yogurt or kefir with leftovers lasting for days.

Huge Pot of Beans. We love beans, not only because they are economical but because they are tasty and versatile as well. Make a huge pot, eat it in bowls with your favorite toppings, then use it the next day for a soup, then the next day for chili, then the next day to top baked potatoes or toast. A gallon of leftover beans can go a long way.

Baked Potatoes. When I bake potatoes, whether sweet or white, I almost always bake twice as many as we need. The leftovers almost always become potatoes fried in tallow or lard to go with eggs or meat. Add some sauerkraut and you’ve got a meal. Also use them to make a quick potato salad or mash them with cabbage, milk, and cooked bacon for an Irish colcannon one-pot meal.

All of these things could be done in one day or split up over the course of a week. None of them take as much time as you might think and will allow you to serve meals with very little effort while still holding fast to your desire to feed your family well.

As our family struggles to balance the care of small children with gardens, chickens, an off-grid lifestyle, and our various freelance jobs I am learning to appreciate the wholesome and very simple foods our ancestors thrived on. Because fancier meals can wait for special occasions, all we need for the everyday is nourishment.

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