Meal Planning in Survival Mode

Medical Stuff

We juggled four doctors' appointments this week, which are always time-sucks from homeschooling. I'm grateful for skilled, educated doctors and for excellent health insurance. Next week, three doctors' appointments scheduled so far . . . .

It was rather a difficult week for Thomas's GI system. After one 30-minute episode, he outright asked me why his surgeon cannot perform his reconstruction surgery sooner than November 2nd in order to fix these problems. He is excited and eager! While I remain in fear much of the time, Thomas provides a good example for me of being grateful that these problems can be at least improved surgically, since they cannot be solved medically.


. . . is hard, so very hard! This life is not easy and challenges me nearly daily to my limits of knowing what on earth to do.

Like many moms, I think, I slip into thinking my homeschooling is "nothing," just a natural extension of motherhood, thus leaving me mystified about why I am drowning and don't have time for starting a foundation, fundraising, volunteering, writing books, training for a marathon, getting my hair and nails done, going out for massages, "meeting up with the girls," and so forth. When I remind myself that homeschooling is absolutely a full-time job equivalent to 40 hours or more, and then I'm parenting six kids and running a home on top of that, I feel better about how I'm managing.


Chris and I went on a longer date that stretched into the evening! For Thomas's four months of cancer treatment, we rarely (if ever?) left him with a babysitter. Then for his four and a half months in the hospital, the only "dates" that occurred were if we ate a meal in the cafeteria while he was under general anesthesia having some procedure. Then in the six months since discharge, Chris and I have only gone on lunch dates of one hour's duration. 

This week, we went to a late lunch at a fancy-dance restaurant where the food is positively art, and then a 4:30 movie, so we weren't home until the late hour of seven o'clock. Little boys were in pajamas and ready for bed, but the babysitter did not have to give tube feeding or medications.

Meal Planning

Since coming home from the hospital, I've established about six regular dinners that we eat every single week. On Sundays we eat at a restaurant. That may seem like survival mode, and maybe it is, but I've watched us go from being fed by others (through meals delivered and restaurant gift certificates) nightly for six months to my being able to cook for us . . . and that makes me pretty happy!

I don't shop at the grocery store, but use InstaCart instead. On some weeks, I've been overwhelmingly busy, or some medical urgency has come up on shopping day, in which case all I do is open last week's order of InstaCart and hit "REPEAT."

Daily Breakfast

I cook a hot breakfast for the family every day.

  • A bread product that rotates among: bagels, frozen waffles, leftover pancakes from Friday nights, or toast (I have found Arnold Keto bread that is such a good choice for Thomas!)
  • Sausages
  • Fried eggs
  • One type of fruit: rotates among strawberries, apples, grapes, oranges, pears, bananas
  • Sometimes I put out steel cut oatmeal, but only about half the kids like it.

Daily Lunch and Snack Foods

Lunch is catch-as-catch can and something each person makes for himself (except for the boys ages 4 and 6). People often eat leftovers. Sandwiches are usually based on peanut butter: we've switched to no-sugar added peanut butter. We've replaced Nutella with Peanut Butter Co.'s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter (a low-sugar PB with cocoa). We use lower sugar preserves (granulated sugar, but less of it) and a no-sugar jam (sugar alcohol). A few of the kids will eat deli meat sandwiches.

Thomas needs to have three snacks per day also (mid-morning, mid-afternoon, and right before bed). Some common choices are:

  • Salami, pepperoni, deli ham, deli turkey
  • Chicken nuggets, grilled chicken, shredded chicken (+ no sugar BBQ sauce)
  • Fried egg or hard boiled egg
  • All manner of crackers (just have to limit them for Thomas, and try to pick higher-protein ones)
  • Nuts and nut butters
  • Protein shake (current winner is lactose-free Core Power by Fairlife)
  • Higher protein cereals with lactose-free milk
  • Apple or applesauce (no sugar added)
  • Yogurt (typically Greek for higher protein)

Every carbohydrate Thomas eats must be paired with protein, so he is extremely accustomed to the question, "and what protein will you be having with that?"

Dinner This Week


  • New recipe to try . . . Slow Cooker Apple Butter Boneless Ribs (using no-sugar added apple butter)
  • Tater tots (+ no-sugar ketchup)
  • Peas


  • Restaurant


  • Pasta 
    • After trying numerous varieties of whole wheat, low carb, and high protein pastas, I now buy the Barilla protein pasta.
    • We went from serving pasta most nights of the week to only one night weekly. It's so many carbs for Thomas that I don't want to present such a temptation.
  • Jarred sauces available (marinara, alfredo)
  • Alternate between smoked sausages and meatballs (all store-bought!)
  • Roasted broccoli


  • Taco night
    • Chicken, beef, beans
    • Hard and soft shells,
    • Rice
    • Chips and all the condiments


  • Baked chicken tenderloins (Kirkland frozen)
  • Sweet potato casserole (recipe with little added sugar)
  • Bread rolls (frozen)


  • French bread pizza (made with frozen mini baguettes, Rao's low-sugar pizza sauce, shredded cheese, pepperoni)
  • Some weeks we order Jet's pizza, which offers a cauliflower crust pizza that is better for Thomas

Friday (meatless)

  • Pancakes 
    • After experimenting with many pancake mixes and recipes, trying to find ones that are lower carb and/or higher protein, I mostly use the Kodiak brand now. I prepare the mix with milk and egg, so each 4" pancake provides 11 grams of protein, which is as much as 2 oz of chicken!
    • I make a double batch, and then serve leftover pancakes during the week.
    • For pancakes and waffles, we've stopped serving maple syrup because it is just too much .sugar for Thomas. I offer canned whipped cream, date syrup, berry syrup, or cooked apples. We let the kids use barely a drizzle of sweeteners anymore.
  • Cooked apples (sliced, cooked in a pan with butter, a little shake of cinnamon sugar)


Desserts are a sore subject so it is good we have dessert only once or twice weekly.  Do I let the five kids have more delectable desserts and always make Thomas feel like the left-out kid eating his less-delicious dessert? I'm just not ready to put him through that, so I've really reduced the sugar available in the house. The older kids get other opportunities for sweets when out and about, but I want Thomas in his very own home not to feel envious and sad.

  • Ice cream: The best lower-sugar ice cream we've settled on is made by Blue Bell. We've tried many, many ice creams that are low sugar or no sugar or keto. Low-sugar ice creams are still all carbohydrate, so Thomas has to eat a protein simultaneously.
  • Ice cream bars: We like the Yasso Greek yogurt bars and I appreciate that they are high protein!
  • Baked goods: I've done much experimentation with homemade baked goods. There are so many flour products and sweeteners to combine! It makes one's head spin. I have just a handful of tried-and-true low sugar, high protein baked goods that Thomas enjoys and that work for his body. If I make a batch, I try to double it and freeze the leftovers.
  • Crustless cheesecake: We've discovered that a low-sugar cheesecake is actually a good choice for Thomas!
  • Candies: We have found some low- or no-sugar varieties of lollipops, chocolates (favorite brand is Lilly), and candies that work for us. We've tried many, many, and some work, some don't. Unfortunately, most are made of sugar alcohols, so eating more than a bite or two can wreak havoc on the GI system, especially for anyone who has had bariatric surgery.

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