Sara: Learning to Plan the Best Family Dinners
From budget grocery shopping to high success rates at family meals, Sara loves how a good meal plan can make every week organized and low-stress. Find out how Sara learned to cook healthy during her husband’s battle with cancer and how they now bring dinner variety to their 3 young kids!
10 years ago, Sara’s husband was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, and Sara had to discover new and healthy ways to enjoy old favorite recipes with her family. These difficult experiences helped Sara broaden her kitchen skills to include healthy cooking, quick grocery trips, and navigating picky eaters.
As of today, Sara and her family have celebrated nearly 10 years of her husband being cancer-free. To commemorate, every year they have a No More Cancer Ice Cream Party (as pictured below)! Keep reading to learn how this incredible Kitchen Hero has faced all of these challenges head on.
Name: Sara Kruhmin
City, State: Frederick, Colorado
I cook for: my husband and my 3 boys (and any family / friends that find their way to my kitchen).
Outside of the kitchen: At home, I am a chaos coordinator running primarily on coffee, noise, and super heroes (aka mom of boys). Professionally, I am a User Experience Designer / Developer – basically I make web / mobile applications that are pretty and usable.
My specialty dish that everyone always asks me to make is: cheesecake or pie (although my morning cereal game is pretty top notch).
I cook because: I love food and I love to be able to create what I love for the people I love.
Favorite Cook Smarts meal so far: A 3-way tie between Steak with Miso-Lime Butter, Pork Potstickers, and Chicken Stir-Fry Lettuce Wraps.
How did you learn to cook?
Probably by watching Food Network during Jr High and High School – Good Eats, Emeril Live, and 30 Minute Meals were my jam. I don’t remember not cooking, I’ve always loved it.
What’s been your biggest cooking challenge?
A decade ago my husband was diagnosed with Thyroid Cancer. We decided to attack it at every angle – nutrition included. That meant cutting out all of the good stuff I had known all my life and bringing in gluten-free, processed-food-free, vegetarian, vegan, raw – all of the foods that I didn’t understand but were now required to be in my husband’s life. Those food and recipe options a decade ago were pretty terrible – I actually went through depression while figuring out how to change our diet.
To help pull myself out of that hole, I vowed to learn how to cook all over again. I vowed to not let my husband suffer just because he had to eat healthy. I vowed to figure out all of our favorite recipes in new and healthy ways. I actually started a healthy cooking blog that documented this journey (I gave it up once my first son came along because who has time to cook / blog as a parent?!?). Since then, my husband was officially declared cancer free (we will celebrate a decade of no cancer on December 29, 2019!!).
While we no longer do gluten-free / vegan / vegetarian / raw, I still have the goal of healthy cooking with no processed foods for my family. In 2016 just after my third son was born, I found myself in chaos mode again. I wanted to keep going with healthy but I found myself in the same rut most people do – rotating the same 5 meals and eating out all the time. Some friends told me about Cook Smarts and it has been life changing ever since! I am now organized – I have a plan going most weeks. I consider it a major success when 4/5 of my family love a meal – and that is the case 75% of the time with Cook Smarts (anyone with kids will tell you that success rate is HUGE). The best part is that it has allowed us to keep up with eating healthy, delicious food on a budget – a must for a family of 5.
“I went from boring chaos without a meal plan to 3 or 4 inexpensive restaurant quality meals every week (with leftovers I actually look forward to).”
What are your favorite strategies or best tips to deal with picky eating?
Taking the recipe in hand and finding different ways of plating it. Recently I made Carnitas Tacos from the [Cook Smarts] Archives and two of my kids said “ewww” to a taco, but I used the same ingredients and made them a carnitas quesadilla. They LOVED it! Also always having something they will eat on the table – put a tiny bit of everything on their plate and they just might “accidentally” try something new while enjoying what they already know. (Keeping fresh fruit on the table is a must for this family.)
What’s been the biggest change in your family’s cooking / eating routine since starting Cook Smarts?
I went from boring chaos without a meal plan to 3 or 4 inexpensive restaurant quality meals every week (with leftovers I actually look forward to).
What have you learned since starting Cook Smarts’ meal plans?
To laugh at myself when I mess up (and to always have a backup plan just in case I forget steps 2, 5, and 9 on a recipe). I’ve also learned how to navigate the grocery store for a full week’s worth of groceries in less than 30 minutes because of the shopping list organization AND I can often feed a family of 5 for $125-$175 a week. (I’ve even squeezed out a $100 week when I had lots of pantry items on hand.)
Tell us about your proudest kitchen moment.
Cooking a perfect medium steak on the stove!
What are your tips for health and success in the kitchen?
Never be afraid of failure in the kitchen – only use those failures as lessons. Challenge yourself – you never know, you might start a blog out of your challenges. Try new or “odd looking” recipes – you never know when you will find your new favorite.
Thank you so much for sharing your inspiring family story with us, Sara! We are so glad that our meal plans help you save time and money, keep dinnertime exciting, and allow you to enjoy sitting down for great family meals every night. And congrats to your husband for his 10-year anniversary of being cancer-free! We’re celebrating with you all!