While I was working I usually got in the door at about 5.30 and had dinner on the table for 6.10. Any later than that and it wouldn’t have been fair on the girls eating so close to bedtime. We did go through a phase of making dinner the evening before but to be honest it felt like there was no break from cooking, heating etc that we stopped bothering with that. And I know lots of people stock pile dinners at the weekends but I found time so precious at the weekends that I wasn’t interested in spending the weekend slaving over the cooker. So it came down to speed cooking in the evenings and it actually worked quite well. So here are some of the tips that worked for us.1) As a loose rule we don’t use any jars in our house. We’ve both perfected the ability to do a white/cheese sauce pretty quickly or a tomato based sauce using the nutribullet and I found both or these great for making the base of a pasta dish. Mix it up then with different meat, veg, spices and types of pasta and it doesn’t get repetitive.
2) We also try to have a different starch each day like noodles, pasta, rice, potatoes or spaghetti. Noodles is generally a stir fry with pork, pasta could be anything, rice usually chilli con carne or , potatoes with meat and steamed veg and spaghetti with bolognase.
3) Get your cupboard well stocked. We always have lots of tins of tomatoes, pastata, kidney beans and tomato paste. Spices and stock cubes are great to add flavour to any dish – add spices like garam masala, smoked paprika, tarragon, chilli powder, basil, oregano and mild curry powder to create a tasty meal when you’re in a rush. Get some dairy basics like creme fraiche, natural yoghurt, cheese, cream and milk to make pastas and sauces.
4) Do a proper shop – I can’t take credit for this really up until now as my husband was usually the one who took charge of this but I’ve learned from him. Sit down and do a proper shopping list and loosely plan out the meals you think you’d like during the week. This was really important for us as we don’t live that close to the nearest shop and lets face it with two small ladies in tow even popping in to get milk is a ten minute and rather sweaty adventure with two energetic toddlers.
5) A good roast on a Sunday – my favourite is chicken, so handy for Monday curries which the girls loved too. Ham can go into a quiche (make the dough in bulk and freeze).
6) Boil the kettle the minute you get in the door – fill it to the brim and then its ready for cooking your starch, for using as the basis of a stock and a cup of coffee as a treat!.
7) Steam veg and potatoes – so much quicker and no soggy potatoes which I always end up creating. We have a steamer that has two layers – potatoes and carrots on one layer and then you can throw in the rest of your veg that takes less time like courgette, broccolli, cauliflower and put peas in the boiling water at the bottom last minute. Plus there’s so little washing up with steaming it’s great.
8) Get a range of meat – chicken fillets and minced beef are so handy but minute steaks, pork chops, bacon help to create different meals during the week.
9) Google it – sometimes if I’m feeling really uninspired I’ll open the fridge and google the ingredients I see. Try chicken and creme fraiche and you’ll see so many ideas pop up – from mushrooms to honey and mustard you’ll find lots of ideas to get the creative (and the salivary!) juices going.
10) Perfect about 10 dishes using a mix of ingredients and once you have a good shop done at the start of the week you’ll be able to pull something tried and tested together quickly but a mixture of about 10 means you’re only repeating a meal once every two weeks so no one gets bored but more importantly, especially when kids are involved, then you’re opening them up to all ranges of meat, veg and starches.
So there you are ten tips that served us well over the past couple of years while trying to juggle working fulltime with creating a range of nutritious meals. If anyone has any other tips please feed free to comment below, I’d love to hear and so would everyone else!