Name: Alia Glasgow (pictured left)
Location: Santa Barbara
Who eats together? We are a family of five. Chase, 14; Payton, 12; Bryce, 6; my husband, Matt; and myself.
Avoidances? No eating restrictions or major allergies in my family.
Name: Casey Geeb (pictured right)
Location: Santa Barbara
Who eats together? We are a family of four. Ellie, 6; Lucy, 3; my husband, Eric; and myself.
Avoidances? I eat pescatarian and my older daughter is gluten- and egg-free. I try to mainly eat organic and limit dairy.
Alia Glasgow and Casey Geeb are two sisters from Santa Barbara who are both obsessed with everything home design. In January 2018 they started their company, The Efficiency Project, to help people make the most of their space so that they can spend more time their families and get back to doing what they really love. Alia recently went full-time with The Efficiency Project after quitting the daycare she ran out of her home for 15 years, and Casey is full-time at a local deign firm, but still helps out when she can.
We got to talk to both of them about their smart design tricks for making their kids more self-sufficient in the kitchen and their biggest challenges in feeding their families.
The Efficiency Project is about helping people conquer their living spaces and giving people back time to do what they love. How does that play out in the kitchen?
Alia: Every kitchen is different, and every client is different and has different needs. I really ask a lot of questions as we’re starting the process. Where do you like to chop? Do you like to be closer to the stove or do you like to be closer to the trash can? It’s about figuring out how they use the space. There’s not a perfect formula.
Casey: Like Alia said, how do you actually function in your kitchen, where do you gravitate? If your plates are over here and you grab a plate to serve yourself it doesn’t make sense for you to have your forks and knives on the other side of the kitchen.
So having your kitchen flow is what saves you time ultimately?
Alia: That’s exactly right. The more you can stand in one spot and get one whole task done, the less you have to go back and forth, and the faster you’re going to accomplish something.
- Biggest challenge in eating? My 14-year-old son, Chase, has anxiety issues that really manifest with regards to food so that’s a huge challenge.
- Percentage of meals you cook at home every week? Five to seven dinners a week. Most of us are three meals a day, every day.
- 5 things on your grocery list every week? Milk, eggs, bread, cheese, fruit.
- Where do you shop, primarily? Albertsons, Trader Joe’s and Farm Cart.
- What’s the last food thing you splurged on? We were just in Boston, New York, and Washington, DC, so we had a ton of fun eating our way through the cities! Lobster rolls are probably the most expensive sandwiches I have ever purchased.
- Top 3 default dinners? Burritos, spaghetti, and meatloaf.
- Best underrated snack? Banana and peanut butter.
- Favorite kitchen tool? My old boss gave me a good set of knives as a wedding gift and taught me how to sharpen them! Best tip and tool.
- Cookbook you actually cook out of? I still use recipes from a cooking class I took years ago. My favorite cookbook is China Moon by Barbara Tropp — so many amazing “pantry” infusions.
- Biggest challenge in eating? That I have to make multiple meals sometimes and also not eating my kids’ cold leftovers.
- Percentage of meals you cook at home every week? About three dinners and all breakfasts.
- 5 things on your grocery list every week? Cucumbers, sweet potatoes, grass-fed beef, salmon, Califia creamer.
- Where do you shop, primarily? Trader Joe’s and Sprouts.
- What’s the last food thing you splurged on? My air fryer. Love it!
- Top 3 default dinners? Annie’s organic boxed mac and cheese for the kids, roasted veggie sweet potato “smash” bowls, taco salad, tacos.
- Best underrated snack? Roasted and seasoned garbanzo beans.
- Default kid snack? Apples and coconut peanut butter.
- Favorite kitchen tool? This garlic skin silicone thing. It works magic.
Casey, I heard that you have a system set up, where all the stuff for kids is at their eye level in the kitchen. What’s the thinking there?
Casey: I have two lower drawers that have all the little melamine dishes they use for snacks, all the cups they use, so that my kids can help themselves when they’re hungry.t’s important because as a mom you’re constantly being asked for something by someone. So if I can eliminate one thing, it makes things better. It’s about gaining back your own time. It’s not like I’m sitting back with my feet up and reading a book — I’m just dealing with the 500 other things I need to do.
Alia, do you have any tricks you use in the kitchen to help your kids?
Alia: Yes! One trick that I do with my kids is that they were using every single cup in the house for water, and by the end of the day there would be like 20 glasses everywhere for me to pick up. So now everyone has their own water bottle, and that’s what they use for water. No more glasses.
Tell me about your favorite organizational tools in the kitchen.
Casey: I live and die bylazy Susans. We use them in pantries, we use them in cabinets, we use them in refrigerators for jams, jellies, or anything with jars. We use a ton of them. And we also just use anything bin-related. We’re all about decanting. All my kids’ snacks go in glass jars with a bamboo lid.
Biggest mistakes you see in how people organize their kitchens?
Casey: Not having a designated junk drawer, because then there’s junk everywhere. You need a junk drawer where you throw the menus, pens, chip clips — all that random stuff.
Alia: Totally agree. Also, one of the things that has come up in the kitchens I’ve been working on is where you put the dish rack. I’m of the school of thought that if you have a double sink then you should have a dish drying rack in one of the sinks.
Alia: Counter space is too valuable to dry your dishes on.
Let’s get into how you both eat with your families. What do breakfast, lunch, and dinner look like for you on a typical day?
Casey: Breakfast generally I let my kids make. So that usually looks like cereal, or Ellie makes waffles with Nutella or yogurt. My girls also love smoothies, which usually consists of a ton of fruit, coconut water, and spinach. We have tons of fruit trees at my house — we have two different oranges, apricots, nectarines, tangerines, and passionfruit. So we use a lot of that. I tend not to eat a ton for breakfast because I work out and then go to work. So if I do, it’s some of the kids’ smoothie. I take a probiotic and have some coffee; my coffee is very important to me.
I try to make my kids’ lunches as colorful as possible, so those are always a combination of fruit, veggies, and then usually they’ll have a sandwich — like a peanut butter and jelly. They won’t eat any meat. For myself I usually go out for lunch with the lady I work with every day, just because we’re usually out and about. Lots of salads.
And what about dinner?
Casey: I try to be healthy, and I don’t eat meat, I only eat fish. Dinner is usually a taco situation, ora “sweet potato smash bowl.” I’ll roast some sweet potatoes, and top it with ground turkey for my husband, a bunch of vegetables for me and the kids, plus roasted garbanzo beans. I drizzle the smash bowls with a balsamic glaze.
That sounds delicious. What about you, Alia? What does your day look like?
Alia: My background is in early childhood education, so I’ve always known that giving your children responsibilities and chores is a good thing — and for my family that includes breakfast duties. So for breakfast my kids honestly get up before I do and they’re normally done eating breakfast before I’m even awake. And my husband brings me coffee in bed, so I have an excuse to stay in bed for a long time.
Wow, so you have this whole situation figured out, don’t you?
Alia: Ha, yeah. I used to get up really early in the morning and go for a hike or go to the gym before everyone was even awake, but I realized it was just making my long days even longer and I was starting to feel really fatigued and really sore, so I decided I needed to make sleep a priority. This schedule kind of just evolved in the last year.
So anyway, my kids also make smoothies and birds in a nest for breakfast. Cereal is a really big thing in my house. The rule is that if it has a cartoon character on it, it’s not good for you. I typically have a smoothie, juice, or a protein shake in the morning. If I need to chew food, I do like cottage cheese with fruit it in, or I do a savory thing with tomato and cucumber.
What about lunch and dinner?
And for lunch — my kids discovered they like the cafeteria food. So that has been a total game-changer for me because I don’t have to pack them lunches. I usually pack some type of salad to take with me for lunch that I eatwith my team.
And for dinner I cook every night, really. I try to make a double batch of whatever I’m making so that there are leftovers. Taco salad is a staple. What I like is that I can make the ground meat, and I can make the beans, and my family can pick and choose what they want. They can make tacos or burritos, or eat it as a salad. But we’re all eating the same thing, basically.
Let’s talk a little bit about where you struggle in feeding your family. Casey, you saidyou have a bunch of picky eaters?
Casey: My husband comes from a line of picky eaters. He will order a sandwich that will just have lettuce, turkey, and cheese. That’s it. No spread, no tomatoes, no goodness. He would be fine eating plain grilled chicken and broccoli every night. It’s so boring. And my older daughter, Ellie, is gluten- and egg-free, so I have to navigate that. It’s just a lot.
What’s one thing you make that your whole family will eat?
Casey: I mean, a variation of pizza or pasta, but I try not to eat pasta? And pizza I have to make a special dough for Ellie. So I guess nothing. Sometimes it’s just easier to go to a restaurant.
Alia, you said your son Chase has a lot of anxiety around food. Can you tell me a little bit more about that?
Alia: As my son has gotten older, his anxiety has gotten more pronounced, and a lot of his issues revolve around food. He does not like eating in restaurants, he doesn’t like stews or things that are touching. Like, he used to cry when I made things in the Crock-Pot because he knew that that meant the food was touching.
I used to push him on certain things and foods to try to make him more independent and adventurous, but then he started having panic attacks. So I met with a dietician and nutritionist who also studied psychology. She was like, you’ve done a really good job and I understand the choices you’ve made with him, but he associates nurturing and love with what you provide him to eat, and if you’re not making food that he can eat, he is internalizing that as neglect.
So I immediately I thought I f*cked up my kid because I tried to expand what he could eat. But my therapist told me that I did the right thing, and that strategy would work for 99% of children, just not my son. To help Chase manage his anxiety, my therapist told me I needed to invest in him and nurture him even more. So one of the things we decided was that I would make him dinner every day, even if that meant I had to make him a second meal. And I’ve been really good about that and he’s been doing better.
I’m so glad to hear that! How have meals changed since you worked with the therapist?
Alia: It’s just one of those things that if I’m making salmon and veggies and a salad for me and my husband and my girls — because we’ll all eat that — then I will make him a small steak instead of the fish, because he won’t usually eat fish. What he does like he can eat a ton of. He plays water polo and is hungry all the time. Just the other day he came home from practice and made himself a triple-patty cheeseburger. It was bigger than his head and he ate the whole thing.
Sounds like he likes a lot of meat?
Alia: He’s a meat-and-potato kind of kid. He also likes bean and cheese burritos, he likes pepperoni pizza. He likes all the stuff you think a teenage boy would like, and really none of the stuff that they wouldn’t.
We’re heading into back-to-school season shortly. What does that look like for you?
Alia: Oh God. Summer feeding children and school-time feedingchildren are two completely different things. Now that I’m full-time at The Efficiency Project my life is changing. So I am feeling what every other working mom feels like outside of the home — the scrambleat the end of the day to put some type of food out for everybody.
I have become meticulous about meal planning. And in the school year this is all just going to be even more important — because I have one kid doing cheerleading, and one kid doing band, and another kid doing water polo, and I’m not even home to cook during the day. Will be interesting!
Thanks so much, Alia and Casey! Make sure to follow The Efficiency Project on Instagram and learn more about what they do on their gorgeous website.
Editorial Advisor: Leela Cyd
The Way We Eat is a series of profiles and conversations with people like you about how they feed themselves and their families.
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