There are many challenges associated with a family as large as mine, but the most constant difficulty Mom has encountered is feeding 13 people three times a day. This task is nearly impossible to accomplish, but Mom manages it largely by incorporating “volume” foods into most of our meals.

“Volume” foods are those inexpensive, stick-to-your-ribs kinds of foods that Mom can produce in large quantities on a regular basis. They bulk up meals easily and help stretch food options to fit 13.

One of Mom’s favorite ways to incorporate volume foods is to add a veggie to our meals. Sometimes this means she opens six quarts of carrots as a side to meatloaf and mashed potatoes. Other times she puts two quarts of diced zucchini in our spaghetti. On the rare occasions when we have pizza for supper, Mom always adds an obligatory green side dish (usually salad) to help stretch seven large pizzas far enough for the whole family.

Still, stretching main meals isn’t usually something Mom has to worry about. It’s at our afternoon snacks (we skip lunch and have a late breakfast and afternoon snack instead) where feeding the starving masses is most challenging. After all, just because it’s called “snack” doesn’t mean we’re going to settle for a couple crackers and a banana.

To make snacks satisfying and substantial enough to last until suppertime, Mom has a few tricks up her sleeve. Trick #1? Peanut butter.

Peanut butter on saltines, for instance, appear regularly at snack time. As many peanut butter crackers as you can eat, accompanied by an apple or orange, fits the bill at snack time very well. Alternatively, celery can be substituted for crackers, and we can have as many peanut butter celery logs as we want. 

The introduction of a green veggie does wonders to our snack time consumption rates, by the way. We’ll either decide we’re not hungry, in which case we know better than to complain about being hungry later in the afternoon, or we slather on lots of extra peanut butter which holds us longer. It’s a two-edged sword.

I tell you, Mom’s got this stuff figured out.

Of course, this means we go through lots of peanut butter — about two pints a week — but phenomenal peanut butter consumption is just part and parcel of the Clan’s eating habits. And honestly, it’s not the craziest thing about our family by a long shot.

Mom’s other way to make snack foods filling is to serve dried fruit. Over the winter and fall, we slice and dehydrate all our old bananas and tired, bruised apples, and then throughout the year Mom can grab a gallon or two whenever she needs them. 

We like to bring dried fruit camping because it’s an easy snack to carry on the trail and has a secret side effect that’s good for filling kids on a hike. At snack time, Mom passes the fruit — and then the water bottles. When those bananas rehydrate in your stomach, they’ll last you a couple of hours.