Cooking For Time-Strapped Parents

22 July 2010

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As parents we’re often guilty of eating any old thing during the day because we’re just too busy to stop and cook a healthy meal. There have been days I’ve gone without food until supper time and then hoovered down the entire contents of the fridge.

Obviously, this is not a good idea for children and so we whip up quick and instant meals to keep them fuelled and ready. Or rely on nursery hot meals. Well, thanks to some enterprising humans, some internet research, and some fantastic tips from mums, here are someways to beat the cooking blues and keep your family healthy.

1.  Little People’s Plates

lpp-logoI am terrible at vitamins, and at understanding nutritious food. I am. My husband is constantly rolling his eyes in despair.

Last night I insisted that the sour cream and blueberry cake counted as part of my five a day. There were blueberries on it! They’re a superfood!

Well, this site is perfect for people like me. They help you get your children the food they need. There is advice, guidance, expert assistance, tips from real mums and lots of lovely helpful tools. I’m particularly impressed with the Tot It Up Calculator that gives you a personalised analysis of your toddler’s diet.

2. Tropicana Kids

pack_apple-and-blackcurrantNo, this isn’t actually a tip. This is more of a deal. I uncovered these little gems recently and am smitten. They are stuck in my weekly shop and I drink them too. Tropicana kids are 75% juice, 25% water and one of your five-a-day.  They only cost a measly £1.99 for four and are in child-friendly flavours.

Another range that really does save you loads of time and still gets the vitamins going is the Planet Lunch range. They are wholesome foods designed to control fat, salt and added sugars and are made from 100% natural ingredients. You can get squeezable fruit, fruit and oat bites and bread bites. I like their simplicity and that they may just rock lunchboxes come September.

3. The Cook-a-thon

aarghThis particular idea makes a ton of sense and will make you very grateful to yourself as the week goes by. However, it does mean giving up most of a day to the task. This is the cook-a-thon. You go out, you get your shop with a set list of items, you cook them all. Fill your freezer with healthy, scrummy meals that can be defrosted and warmed up at the drop of a hat.

There are alternatives to this, of course.

Instead of spending my entire Sunday locked to the stove,” said Katharine, “I always cook double what the recipe calls for every second week of the month. I then freeze what’s left over into individual portions and on busy days everyone can choose what they want to eat. It adds very little extra time to my cooking and is so much better than instant meals or take out.”

Obviously Katharine is a total swot but her idea is genius, and one that I am going to try out over the next few weeks. I’m getting tired of emergency take-out because we’re too tired to cook for ourselves.

4. The Fun Recipe Hunt

pg12-cooking-mom-daughter-240-j-5254471The internet is your friend. You don’t even need a printer. Just go online and discover a world of clever cooking ideas. From tips on how to make food look magical and attract a child, to making things out of nothing, the internet can revolutionise your kitchen.

There are two ways that this can change your kitchen. The first is that many sites offer recipes that children can make with you. While this isn’t something you want to do every day, it can make that tedious patch a little more fun.  The second, is that a fun and outrageous recipe that challenges your creativity, or makes you laugh, is a sure fire way of relaxing and enjoying the experience instead of feeling bored and frustrated with the tedium of it all.

5.  Create A Miracle

Monkey-Cooking--10525RecipeChimp and SuperCook are two sites that will give you a recipe out of the ingredients you have left lying around your home. Today, for me, was one of the days when this came in handy. Husband and I have been working like loons and we both forgot the weekly shop, so you can imagine my horror when I opened the fridge and saw only a piece of mouldy parmesan and some chicken wings.

Enter RecipeChimp! I entered my ingredients (the scrapings from the veggie box included) and ended up with a rather tasty chicken dish that everybody enjoyed. Where RecipeChimp has failed me, SuperCook has saved the day. This discovery is all thanks to Sarah.

So, hopefully these simple steps will help you feel a little less bored, frazzled and under pressure in the kitchen. And your kids will be the healthiest and most nutritious on the block. Watch, I’m throwing away those vitamin supplements as I type – I have faith in my newfound nutritional genius!

What do you think?

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