Fast food and processed food are not the same
With all the controversy over processed food, and whether the label really reflects what we are actually eating, many of us are looking a little more closely at what we are buying and where it has actually come from. For many of us we equate fast food with processed food. That can present another challenge in busy family life. And yet fast food is not processed food – or at least it does not have to be.
Time cooking and clearing up
The problem if you are a busy mum or dad is that getting dinner on the table can be quite a complicated procedure. It is the shopping, planning and energy involved. There is also often the challenge of dealing with people arriving home at different times. Then you may have to consider your children’s evening activities and trying to fit this in along with everything else that needs doing.
And all that does not start to take into account, the energy, organisation, cooking skills, let alone time which is needed to put a decent meal on the table and clear it up afterwards.
Do you compare yourself to TV chefs?
On top of that, as great as it is to see TV chefs throw something delicious together in the space of a few minutes – our own attempts even if they are edible do not look anything like they are meant to.
This then leads us to feeling that actually we are rubbish at cooking, so why bother. The thing to remember, a professional cook has received cookery training. They also will have practised and cooked recipes over and over again. When they fail – a professional cook will just throw the food in the bin and start over.
Whereas the average family cook has neither the time, ingredients or can spare the additional expense to start cooking supper from scratch again. The end result is that for ease and convenience we often end up buying processed or ready meals because they are so quick and easy and reliable to cook and eat.
You don’t need to be an expert cook
Fast food is not processed food. The thing which they have in common is that they are simple to prepare and quick to cook. It also more importantly does not mean you need to be a fabulous cook, or have loads of time to cook, shop and clear up the chaos the kitchen is left in.
Try the following tips – you will find not only are you cooking quick and easy nutritional meals from scratch but you will also know exactly what goes in them.
Think and plan what you are cooking ahead. Try doing a menu plan. If this sounds too regimented or complicated then just plan what you are going to cook for dinner three or four days during the week.
Ensure you have a well stocked larder and freezer
This will ensure that you have the basis to throw together a meal without either having to dash to the shops or get a take away. Pasta, tinned tomatoes, eggs, cheese, frozen vegetables along with stock cubes and condiments can make up the basis of any larder.
Keep it simple
Keep it simple mid-week. Fiddly menus with lots of ingredients for cooking supper on a school night – are not ideal if you are short on energy and time.
Plan your menus around your evening schedule
Plan your menus around your evening schedule. For example if you need to provide a “staggered” supper to fit around the evening’s activities. Have a dinner which will work around that. For example a stew or shepherds pie that can stay warm in the oven. Take a look here for some easy recipes.
Cook and prep ahead whenever possible
Evenings are busy for most people with families. If you can prep meals in advance. Try doing this a couple of days before, or earlier in the day when you have a spare hour. Think of cooking as something you don’t need to do all in one go. Break the cooking, prepping and table laying into different things you can do when you have a few minutes, or get other family members to help.
Invest in a slow cooker.
Slow cooking is a great way to cook tasty, healthy food. Invest in a slow cooker or use the slow cooking setting in your oven. A one pot supper prepared before you leave the house in the morning can be the perfect convenient supper to tuck into at the end of the day as this recipe for slow cooked ragu demonstrates.
Stews need little attention while they are cooking and yet they can be some of the most tasty, healthy and economic meals you can give the family.
Jacket potatoes have gone a little out of fashion. Although not be the fastest thing to cook, but they are certainly convenient, full of vitamins – and can make a great basis for many a meal. The thing about jacket potatoes is that you don’t need to stand over them while they are cooking.
(And by cooking them partially in the microwave and then finishing them in the oven – they won’t take along – if time is the issue.)
Egg are full of protein and vitamins and are very versatile great for breakfast, lunch or a fast food supper. Whether they are scrambled, poached, as an omelette, a fritata – or even baked in a ramekin dish.
There are many types of pasta and endless dishes that you can create a variety of very quick and easy meals by adding just vegetables and cooked meat if you wish.
Tray bakes with chicken or fish along with vegetables can make a very simple one dish tasty supper.
Stir fries just take minutes. If you want something fast and you don’t need to leave the kitchen then throwing pre-prepared vegetables and cooked meat into a frying pan and adding a little soy sauce can make a simple tasty supper the kids will enjoy. No need for expensive cook in sauces required.
Remember practise makes perfect
Don’t beat yourself up and give up if it all goes horribly wrong.
Disasters happen to everyone who cooks .Quite often we learn more when we make mistakes than when we get it right first time. (As my family and I know very well).
You will need to cook the same type of meal quite a few times before it becomes second nature, and then guess what whether it is a quick pasta dish you are whipping up – or a tray bake with chicken and lots of fresh vegetables you will find that cooking dinner won’t be any more exhausting than the average ready meal.
For more cooking ideas and recipe tips take a look at more recipes and cooking tips here.