Somewhere along the line recently we lost our way with food. Tiredness is my main excuse but, if I’m honest, it was more a mixture of laziness and feeling overwhelmed with life in general. By the time 5pm rolled around each day I was so over the relentless job of mothering that it was all I could do to rustle up some pasta and pesto, let alone cook anything mildly exciting. However, that’s all changed over the past couple of months. Let me tell you why.
Back at the end of January I shared some shocking findings from the Organix Taste Report which really made me stop and question some of the food choices we were making as a family. Convenience foods that I would often buy as a solution to getting tea on the table while two “hangry” kids shouted at me were, I realised, not doing any of us any favours. Although I’d always go for the foods that claimed to be “nutritious” or “100% chicken” or “full of goodness”, a quick look at the labels revealed that much of these products contained engineered ingredients which weren’t as glowingly healthy as they claimed to be.
I’m not going to lie and pretend that I never feed my kids fishfingers. But what I will do is tell you how I’ve managed to cut back on some of the artificial flavours, refined sugar and general junk that we’ve all been eating as a family, to make way for more fruit and veg, good quality meat and properly nutritious meals. And all of this has been with two kids who are sometimes prone to pickiness, an awareness that we don’t want our shopping bill to rocket through the roof, and a large dose of creativity to work out quick ways to get food on the table without cutting corners on the health front.
We found we were spending quite a bit on multiple trips to the supermarket each week. We’d do a big shop, but then run out of stuff halfway through the week, so the NLM would “pop in” on his way home from work. And then, when he was at his weakest (i.e. most tired and hungry) he’d pick up a family sized bag of crisps, some chocolate and a couple of beers, to go with the (non juicy) tomatoes and loaf of bread that we actually needed.
We’ve made a concerted effort to cut out these mid-week supermarket trips recently. Instead of buying all our meat and veg from the supermarket, I do a weekly trip to our local butchers and grocers to buy free range, locally-reared meat and seasonal, locally grown veg. We’ve noticed that shopping this way can save us money AND mean we eat more healthily.
Eat in season
Have you ever noticed that half the fruit and veg you buy from the supermarket goes off really quickly? Or it doesn’t have that flavour and texture that you know and love? For example, tomatoes are like little hard bullets of mushy rubber, rather than the juicy, soft and sweet things that they should be. This is often because, as a nation, we no longer eat in season. We’ve become so used to convenience culture and detached from eating fruit and veg when it’s meant to be eaten, that we often end up compromising on taste.
My parents both have a large fruit and vegetable garden and are keen gardeners, so we’re lucky in that we get a lot of really great, homegrown produce for free. But we also have a little veg patch of our own that the girls love to help tend. It means they get to learn about where food comes from, we save money, we eat produce that’s in season AND we maximise on taste. Eating this way is a win win for everyone.
Monday through to Thursday, we eat all our evening meals together. And on a Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday (when Baby Girl is at home with me) I eat my lunch with my 17 month old. This means that we always eat the same meals and we get to chat about our day too. On a Friday and Saturday evening, the NLM and I have our “treat nights”, when we’ll cook something the kids are bound not to like (washed down with wine or beer, inevitably). A spicy curry, for example, or a takeaway on pay day. Enjoying this type of stuff in moderation makes it all the better when we do splash out. And it also means I don’t resent eating at 5pm every day in the week.
Granted, eating healthily can sometimes take a bit of extra planning, but with the right organisation it doesn’t have to be a total bore. I’ve dusted off the slow cooker again recently and made some really tasty meals in record time. We either prep the food the night before and chuck it in the slow cooker, or I throw a few things in the slow cooker first thing in the morning or when Baby Girl goes down for her afternoon nap. Things we’ve been loving recently from the slow cooker are a variation on the Italian Hunter’s Chicken (Pollo Alla Cacciatora) served with pasta, and pulled pork with homemade coleslaw and roasted corn on the cob. With the chicken, the trick is to roll the pieces in flour and quickly fry it in a little olive oil before you put it in the cooker (I use fresh tomatoes and add celery and carrots to my recipe, along with a glug of balsamic vinegar and a healthy sprinkle of basil).
Tell me, what are you go-to healthy family meal ideas? I’d love to find some more for our growing repertoire!
Throughout this year I’ll be working with Organix and sharing how we’re getting on with our #NoJunkJourney. If you’re looking for ways to cut the junk and improve your diet as a family there’s a whole load of support, advice and inspiration on the Organix website here. To find out more about the way I work with brands, check out my Work With Me page.
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