Nutritionist Sarah Roberts from Feed the Family shares her top tips to make life simpler…
“During my cookery classes for parents, I spend a lot of time talking to parents about the challenges they face when cooking for their family. Below I list the top five issues they face and my tips for overcoming them.
1. I don’t have time to cook proper meals
Time to get organised! Set aside half an hour each week to plan the family’s meals for the next seven days, and use this to do your food shopping.
In this way, you can plan to cook double portions of proper meals when you have time, say at the weekend, and then reheat them on evenings when things are busy.
Similarly, make use of your freezer by batch-cooking and freezing portions. The delay timer on your oven can also be really helpful – just pop in some jacket potatoes in the morning and they’ll be ready when you get home for you to add quick toppings such as baked beans, tuna or cheese.
2. My children are fussy eaters, how can I get them to eat more healthily?
Be patient – most children go through a fussy phase when they only want to eat ‘safe’ foods. Be reassured that this is a phase that will pass eventually, but it can be a frustrating time!
There are two approaches I like to use together: firstly keep encouraging your child to try new foods but don’t turn meals into a battleground. If they genuinely don’t like a food then let them have something else.
Secondly, take a stealth approach and sneak vegetables into their diet whenever you can. My ‘magic veg sauce’ recipe is perfect for this – it has eight vegetables hidden in it but tastes like a standard tomato pasta sauce.
My baby is starting solids and I don’t know where to start
This stage can be very daunting but try not to worry too much. Be led by your baby and take your time.
Seek out as much information as possible – there are some great cookbooks available. It can also be useful to attend a workshop such as those run by health visitors or my ‘Feeding babies their first solid food’ class.
The children eat earlier than us so I end up cooking two meals a day
This is really frustrating, as you don’t want to spend your whole evening in the kitchen. Try to find meals that you can cook for the kids and then reheat for the adults, perhaps with some added spice or flavours.
Pasta sauces are good for this. Also make use of the freezer for child-sized portions you can reheat, leaving you free to cook a grown-up meal once they’re in bed. Try to eat together when practical, even if it’s just once a week.
I’ve lost the motivation to cook for my family
Cooking for children when you’re tired and busy can be a real chore, as well as dull. If you need to re-ignite your enthusiasm for cooking try investing in a new cookbook – there are lots of family-friendly ones that feature quick and simple recipes.
Try swapping recipes with friends – we all have a few tried and tested ones that work well so sharing them can add to your stock of regular meals.
My ‘Feeding a young family’ class for parents offers an evening to share your challenges with other parents and taste some simple new recipes, all for the price of a meal out.”