BUT I FED YOU YESTERDAY
(please don’t make me cook again)
I’m sure there are thousands of parents out there who can relate to this. Otherwise, no-one would have created a meme about it, right? You know the one, it says “Who knew that the hardest part of being an adult is figuring what to cook, every single night, for the rest of your life?”. Oh my, so despairingly true!!
I used to quite enjoy cooking, before I had kids. My evening would go like this: “Hmmm, what delicious, nutritious food do I feel like?” – then I’d prepare some food and eat it! No fighting with myself over getting just one mouthful in, no need to bribe myself to try something new, no sticker charts necessary for finishing my meal, no crawling around on the floor retrieving schmooshed-up, discarded foods and wishing I had a dog. I even cleaned up after myself!
Now, I need to consider whether the evening meal ticks all the boxes:
- Is it nutritious?
- is it expanding their tastebuds?
- is it exposing them to new foods?
- is it providing variety?
- WILL THEY EAT IT??!
- Not to mention: how fast can I make it, ‘cause the toddler is starving NOW!
So, a few years have gone by (my kids are now 8 & 10), and I like to think I’ve worked out some ways to make dinnertime less dramatic:
1. Recipe repertoire
Sometimes I just can’t think of what I can cook and what we all like to eat, those meals that tick most of the boxes above and are also easy to prepare. Surely, I’m not the only one? So, I have a list printed out for those times (like, every day) when I am tired and uninspired. It’s just a simple list grouped by seafood / red meat / poultry / vegetarian dishes. I keep it in my pantry for easy access & referral. See below for “my” salmon pie recipe – a quick & easy crowd-pleaser.
2. Menu plan
You know this, I know this, why don’t we do it? Because we are busy parents with about 1000 other things on our minds. I have heard many people say that just trying to think of what to cook contributes most of the stress to preparing the evening meal. So make a meal plan. You could get fancy with a whiteboard or a pretty meal-planning template if that’s your thing, but it’s not necessary. Just get a scrap of paper & take 5min to scribble down a few meal ideas for the week (referring to your recipe repertoire from point 1 above!) before you go shopping. It takes away a lot of stress, it’s time efficient, and also saves food waste that commonly happens when we buy foods without a plan of how or when to use it.
3. Batch cooking and cook-ups
From what I hear, the people who do this are more organised and thus much happier. When you have time & inclination to cook, make double or triple the recipe and freeze the excess. Sometimes I just do this with the sauce (eg of curry), so I have the tasty, time-consuming part done and just add fresh vegies and protein on the day. Or set aside a few hours a week to pre-prepare meals or lunchbox snacks. How great are leftovers or a freezer full of meals? Freaking awesome, they make my day! Sometimes I freeze them, sometimes we just eat them the next day – there’s no law that states we have to provide a different meal every day.
4. Share the pain
Perhaps like our family you have one working partner and one part-time or stay-at-home-parent. The onus of meal prep usually falls on the one who is at home more, but there’s no reason the other can’t provide a meal or two each week, or help with a cook-up on the weekend to make life easier. My husband recently got a new BBQ – by golly, I love his enthusiasm for that thing! We now enjoy a couple of great BBQ meals a week, plus the leftovers for lunchboxes. Kids can help too – even young kids can help by washing vegies to prep a meal, they can whisk and scramble eggs, and supervised knife skills can be taught very early. You may be surprised, as I was, at how many more vegies kids eat when they have prepared them themselves.
Another way to share the pain is with friends or neighbours. I’ve been very lucky to have lived near good friends with similar-aged kids, in absence of having family in the same city. Especially when kids are younger, eating earlier and eating less interesting food than adults, alternating houses for kids meals is a lifesaver for your mental health. It’s also a great way to expand kids’ tastebuds by exposing them to foods you may not normally prepare. And sharing the meal prep with friends or extended family can make this potentially very stressful part of the day a lot of fun instead!
5. Don’t stress!
This is, of course, the most important point. Stress and guilt don’t help the situation. So the kids are eating vegemite toast for tea? No worries, today was tough. There’s always tomorrow to do better.
Unfortunately, making dinner pretty much every night for the rest of your parenting life is an inescapable reality, but there are ways to lighten the load and I hope some of these tips are helpful.
Do you do any of these regularly? Do you have other tips to share? I’d love to hear them!
If you’re still struggling with easy, nutritious and creative ways to nourish yourself and your family, call or make an online booking for individualised guidance from an experienced mum and nutritionist!
Simple Salmon Pie
Prep time 10min, cook 30-45min, serves 4-6
This is a recipe my sister gave me when we were bemoaning the daily stress of meal prep. She had joined a kind of club where people shared all their best, easiest and most family friendly recipes – such a great idea! It’s a very versatile recipe, you can keep most things on hand in your fridge/pantry for an emergency meal when you haven’t prepared anything. The salmon is a great source of calcium & omega-3 fatty acids, the eggs of protein, the greens of many essential phytonutrients, and everyone in our families love it!
|1 tin salmon (approx. 400g),
(Preferably sustainably caught)
|Any vegies you like, e.g. broccoli, spinach, kale, eggplant, zucchini, green beans. Fresh or leftover both work well|
|1 bunch/handful chives, chopped||Basil, parsley, coriander, any herbs|
|200g sour cream||Cream, milk, nut milk, coconut milk, cream cheese|
|200g milk||As above|
|Lemon juice, to taste (1-3Tbsp)||optional|
|2-4 eggs (free-range/organic)||Use more eggs if you’re using thinner milk versions
I’m not sure if an egg substitute would work, let me know!
|2 sheets ready-rolled puff pastry||Shortcrust pastry, home-made pastry (which only takes about 5min if you have it, and a food processor). Look for better-quality store-bought pastry if you can, such as the brand “Careme” which isn’t full of nasties and E-numbers.|
|½-1 cup grated cheese||Cheddar, mozzarella, or use feta/goat cheese instead. Leave it off if you are intolerant.|
- Preheat oven to 175-180
- Line/grease a pie tin, cake tin or (smallish) baking dish.
- Lay the pastry sheets criss-cross over the tin you are using. When they have defrosted, press them down to line the tine/tray. If you are using shortcrust pastry, you may like to blind-bake it for 5-10min
- Whisk together the milk/cream, herbs, lemon & eggs
- Arrange salmon (&/or vegies) at the base of the tin, on top of the pastry. You will probably want to break up the chunks and crush any bones a little
- Pour the egg mixture over the top and push the salmon/vegies under the liquid a bit (not essential)
- Sprinkle cheese, if using, over the top. If you can rely on your timing, this is better to do half-way through cooking so as not to burn the cheese.
- Bake 35-45min until golden
- While it’s cooking, whip up a salad or steamed vegies to serve alongside it.
Enjoy! Let me know if you try this recipe, and if you like it (or not!)