Quick and delicious meal planning …..without repeats or apocalyptic stockpiling

Quick and delicious meals are imperative but how do I  plan as a busy mother/carer? Wherever you are in the world when the clock hits 4pm there is a collective intake of breath, eyes roll skyward, as everyone considers “What’s for dinner?”

I have in the past written out the weeks menus. It backfired as by Friday I didn’t fancy what I’d planned and there lies the issue……food choice is spontaneous and becomes about what we feel like – difficult to plan our moods in advance.

I had a busy friend who let me into her secret. The Monday to Friday meals were established, they were the same every week, repeated each week of each month, repeated each month of the year. However, I would have had to initiate this prior to my children having the power of speech. There is too much discussion about meals in our house to stick to anything day-by-day, let alone weekly repeats.

Instead I have gone down the path of buying basics and trying to manage from a well stocked freezer and pantry. I still need fresh ingredients, so lunch time pops to the shops are required. But I know the family favourites so can always pull one of these together if everyone is fractious.

I admit I shop for fresh ingredients daily but because I have a pantry full of dry staples I don’t need anything more than a hand basket. I can go quickly through the self-service check out and be back at the kitchen sink in a jiffy! SO the key to this approach is the choice of basics held in the larder!

I watched in alarm recently when there was a TV program about people preparing for Doomsday or the arrival of aliens. They had stockpiled groceries to ensure their survival for months if not years. I squirmed on the sofa as I realised I’d be their friend in the post apocalypse universe as I could also survive for years on my dry stores!

The issue with Doomsday preparations in my sunny Sydney suburb is, I have to remember to look at use by dates. I have produced wonderful meals with tins past their use by dates, that Health and Safety Officers would destroy in explosions in controlled conditions on Army ranges. Does the expiry date matter – in a word yes!

I have also been known to succumb to the well know phenomena where Mothers cook for the freezer, not the family. The freezer becomes a persona and it hogs the good stuff. I have fallen into that trap and had to undergo a stiff talking to by my children who wanted me to defrost a frozen meal. It’s a point worth making, food in the freezer is for my convenience and the family’s enjoyment, not for the greedy freezer to amass.

So “What is for dinner tonight?” I’m inspired by a friend’s Facebook post  – roasted beets with walnuts, zucchini, spinach and goats cheese salad!  Could I have planned for that?

Roasted beets with walnuts, zucchini, spinach and goats cheese salad

  • Roast / bake  beetroot in the oven. Preheat oven to 180°C/160°C fan-forced. Wash beetroot. Pat dry. Wrap in foil. Place on a baking tray. Roast for 1 hour or until tender. Cool for 15 minutes. Peel and discard skin from beetroot. Cut beetroot into 2cm pieces. Meanwhile prepare remaining ingredients.
  • Prepare thin strips of zucchini using a peeler, toss into boiling water to blanch.
  • Mix roasted beets, blanched zucchini strips, chopped roasted walnuts, finely diced red onion, spinach leaves with feta or any soft cheese.
  • Drizzle salad with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
  • Eat with crusty fresh bread.

I think eating well revolves around fresh ingredients, menu variety, backed up by a well managed pantry and simple recipes. When life is simplified, it’s uncomplicated which reduces my stress, letting me simply enjoy!

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