Whenever I get together with other mums one of the things that nearly always comes up in conversation is food, diet and how to best feed the family. Concerns vary from what type of food to be giving younger kids to older siblings who won’t eat healthy fresh fruit and vegetables to accommodating different meal times as hubby works late and the kids have to be fed earlier and the list goes on.
All of these are common concerns and whilst there are no definite answers I have learnt from my friends that there are some great tricks to help make feeding the family easier.
I could probably divide my friends into two groups of “love cooking” and “hate cooking” but between them they have given me so much help and advice since having my own daughter. Many of them have lived through the baby years and are now battling the teenage years (yikes!) and so know a thing or two about juggling jobs and making life as easy as possible. Now I happen to love cooking and willingly spend time in the kitchen to relax but even I have had a few meltdowns trying to get dinner on the table since having a baby. Don’t despair if you’re no domestic goddess as there are lots of shortcuts to preparing healthy meals that all the family can eat.
Below are just some of the things that friends have passed on to me and that have helped me stay sane in the past year.
“There is nothing wrong with raw food”
One of my friends is the biggest advocate of eating raw foods and keeps her fridge stocked with Tupperware dishes filled with chopped fruit and vegetables ready for easy kiddy snacks and lunches. Her motto is why stress about always serving a hot lunch or dinner when actually kids love finger food and a plate of celery sticks, carrot sticks, grapes, blueberries, strawberries etc is packed full of vitamins, is colourful and most of all is fun to eat.
“Cold is king”
Keeping things simple for another of my friends means eating a range of cold foods during the week that mean the kids can eat early and hubby just helps himself when he gets home later in the evening. She fills her fridge with things like quiches, potato salads, bean salads, cold meats, prawns, smoked salmon, cheeses and then pick and mixes with hot extras like jacket potatoes, meat (steak / grilled chicken etc) when time allows. Her trick is have 3 cold things ready in the fridge (that can be made earlier) and then when dinner rolls around you only ever have to do 1 thing; bake, griddle or grill.
“I’m a one-pot wonder”
I personally love this one as it is one of the easiest ways to cook. From soup to casseroles literally bung it all in one pot and walk away! You can make it healthy by including a wide range of vegetables. And better yet it can be re-heated later so that you can feed whoever whenever. If you play it right you can get two or three dinners out of it too by adding in small extras each day like potatoes or fresh bread.
“ I blitz everything so the kids have no idea what vegetables they’re really eating!”
This is a great trick for hiding those healthy green vegetables that kids love to pick out. Whenever my friend makes a pasta sauce she steams and blends some extra vegetables like spinach, broccoli, cabbage and then adds it in to her tomato sauce. I tried this trick at home to see if my vegetable-adverse husband would pick up on the different flavour but hey presto…nothing! It’s the food equivalent to juicing!
“Make it seem like a treat”
A mum at playgroup taught me this one. A bit like hiding the ingredients in pasta sauce above she hides a mixture of things in treats like flapjack and cupcakes so that then kids think they’re eating a sweet treat when secretly it has beetroot, carrots, broccoli and all number of unexpected things hidden inside.
Some of these are easier than others and some still require a degree of cooking but I have found it such a help to think outside of the classic “meat and veg” hot dinner that so many of us have grown up with. Often our family’s expectants are much less demanding than our own and I’ve found that both my husband and daughter seem to love whatever is actually put in front of them. So for me the new rule is not to beat myself up over getting dinner ready and instead to shop for fresh, colourful, varied and easy to prepare foods that make me look like the super-mum that I am! And that we all are!