Jenny’s death occurred while we were living in West Germany. My military commander gave me the option to remain in Germany or return to our home in Utah. I considered staying, but ultimately realized I needed the support of our family, so we decided to relocate to Utah. My father (Melvin Timpson Edgar) offered to allow us to stay with him in Bountiful. He had a three-bedroom apartment in the downstairs basement of his home.
As a single parent with seven (7) young children, I experienced many challenges. Feeding my family was one of them. The first month or two, our Ward Relief Society sister (Bountiful 9th Ward) took care of all our food needs. I did not have to think about any food issues (except clean-up and dishwashing). Lovingly, the sisters provided us with complete meals three (or even four) times a day … every day! The sisters were wonderful and generous. Each meal usually came with a four or five course serving and desert …even our breakfast meals. This loving ministering by these angel sisters continued for more than a month.
However, over time it became a growing challenge for me to scrape, scrub, clean and put aside every plate, utensil, pot, pan, casserole dish, etc. Then, these cleaned kitchen items began to pile up and fill the empty spaces of our kitchen. I noticed most of the dishes had a strip of masking tape stuck on the bottoms with the owners’ names clearly written with a Sharpie marking pen. (Sadly, I was new in the ward and did not recognize any of the names.) Occasionally, a sweet sister would stop by to pickup her dishes, but not often enough.
We were a family of mostly young children with quite simple tastes and expectations, all the while feasting daily at a Royal Feast provided by the Relief Society. At length, I eventually had to go to our Bishop and sheepishly ask him to “Please, call off the sisters.” Their wonderfully prepared and delicious meals were much more than our little family was accustom to, and included much more food than we could actually eat.
As a single parent with seven (7) young children, I experienced many challenges. And, by stopping the generous Relief Society meal service, I soon realized that grocery shopping, food management, storage, and meal preparations were some of my greatest challenges. But, I knew I had to find a solution. Once again, I relied on my problem-solving skills learned in the military.
WARNING NOTICE: You may want to stop reading at this point. I’m about to reveal my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). READ ON ONLY IF YOU DARE!
Before learning how to properly prepare and provide the right foods, I asked myself four simple questions:
1. What foods should I buy?
We began with another family council meeting. Together, we made a list of our favorite meals. Yes, pizza was on the list, but we had many others. We selected breakfast, lunch, and dinner meals. I remember a list of about 35 simple meals. Each included a main course, plus a vegetable, a fruit, bread, and sometimes a salad.
Breakfast was the easiest: scrambled eggs; or cereal (hot or cold); or pancakes (Edgar Family Famous Pancakes); and milk or orange juice.
Lunch was usually a brown bag carried to school with a sandwich, chips, a drink, and a treat/desert (a cup cake or something like that).
The evening meal was usually: fish sticks, hamburgers, hot dogs/corn dogs, chicken, spaghetti, Macaroni & Cheese, or sometimes pizza. Of course, I tried to include vegetables (peas or corn), bread or biscuits, chips, and a salad. I was not always successful. Normally, we drank milk, Kool-aide, or water.
Once we settled on “the 35 simple meals,” I printed out the list of menu items and stuck it on the refrigerator. I tried to assign the evening meals by a date. The meals were simple enough for just about anyone to prepare. If I got home late, I would usually find the children were finished with the meal.
2. How do I know what foods to replenish?
Looking at our list of meals, I created another list, a shopping list of all the necessary food ingredients. This list became the foundation for all my grocery shopping. Plus, I organized our kitchen cabinets with places for each food item (for example, tomato soup cans were four cans deep and two cans high, etc., etc.). Once I organized the cabinets to reflect our common foods and stuff, I labeled each spot with the name of the product that belongs there. When the day came to do my shopping, I simply opened the cabinet doors and recorded (on my spreadsheet) the products and quantities I would need to refill the cabinets. (Now, if you think that is crazy, read on to learn more.)
3. Where should I buy the foods?
I selected the local Smith’s Food King as my primary grocery market. Carefully, I first mapped out the floorplan of the store. In that floorplan, I made notes of the location of all the food products I would need on a normal day’s shopping visit. Then, I arranged my shopping list in order according to the location of my desired products in the store. That way, I didn’t have to spend too much time searching. I just went down each isle and pulled the products off the shelves, in order!
Wednesdays were my designated shopping days. I had to get the shopping done and be home not later than 5 or 6 PM. So, I arranged to get off work about an hour early each Wednesday. With my floorplan and shopping list in hand, I drove straight to Smith’s Food King. As I walked in, I started on the far right side of the store. Pushing the basket with one hand, I just pulled my desired product straight off the shelf and into the basket.
I swept through the store quickly and filled the basket as I walked. The store manager allowed me to park the first full basket at the end of an isle near a cashier. Then, I grabbed another empty basket and continued my sweep through the store.
When I was finished, I grabbed both baskets and headed for the cashier. I checked out, loaded my car, and drove home (picking up Marie and Samuel from the babysitter’s house on the way). And finally,
4. Where do I store the foods?
At home, the kids would help me unload the vehicle and haul our food and stuff into the kitchen. Then, it was just a matter of opening the kitchen cabinets (and the refrigerator) and placing the foods into their labeled empty spots waiting to be filled. At that moment, those full cabinets were “Our Food Storage!”
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