Mealtimes are a focal point in most family lives and they can be a great time to sit down and catch up on how everyone’s day has gone. But, given that we all need to eat every day, preparing the food can become a bit tedious, especially if you’re the one who does all the cooking. Instead, try the ideas below for mixing things up a little and hopefully saving you some time in the kitchen.

Cook Large; Feed Twice

When you start every meal from scratch each evening, cooking can become a chore. By cooking larger meals, you can generate a couple of follow-on meals that take half the time in preparation. A classic example is having a roast dinner. Depending on how many are in your household, you could either buy a large chicken or even cook two smaller ones. Cook a tray of roasted veggies at the same time as your chicken. This way, you’ll have plenty of leftovers for a meal the next day. 

 

"Chicken Roasted with Turnips and Carrots" (CC BY 2.0) by naotakem

“Chicken Roasted with Turnips and Carrots” (CC BY 2.0) by naotakem

A great second meal from a roast chicken is to slice up the leftover meat, pick the bones of the carcass, and dice up the leftover veggies. Cook some rice and then fry the leftover meat and veg in with the rice, onions, and garlic, creating a quick and easy fried rice dinner. Adding soy and serving with some sweet chilli sauce transforms your leftover roast into a Chinese cuisine favourite and, once you’ve cooked your rice, it will only take you about ten minutes to make.

Alternatively, use the carcass and leftovers as a basis for a chicken soup or stew, adding some fresh veggies like peas or spinach in the final five minutes of cooking. Serve with fresh bread and butter. Again, you’ve got a whole new meal with very little effort involved. If neither of these suggestions inspires you, check out these BBC Good Food recipe ideas for using up chicken leftovers.

Tweak Family Favourites

Part of the problem with deciding what to eat for dinner is settling on something that the whole family likes. Instead of trying to please everyone, all the time, make eating something new an experience you can all try together.

For instance, if your kids are pizza fans, try tweaking the standard favourite into something they might not have tasted before. Lebanese man’ousha or manaqish are basically small pizzas so, even if you’ve got a child who’s resistant to trying something new, this isn’t too big a step.

A man’ousha is a flatbread dough that’s topped with herbs and spices, cheese and meat. In a similar way to Italian foccacia bread, the dough is dimpled with the fingertips to provide spots for the filling to settle in. If your kids like to help in the kitchen, this is a fun dish to help make and there are plenty of recipes online, including on the Deliveroo blog. Once you’ve got the basics of how to make the dough, there’s no need to stick to prescribed toppings. You can decorate each man’ousha with whatever you want.

The classic dish to have alongside man’ousha is houmous (maybe another taste challenge for the kids?), and a nice green salad would go well with it too.

Teatime Swaps

We all get tired of routine, kids included, so, if you’re finding mealtimes have that same-y feel to them, try pairing up with a friend and take turns cooking for the kids as a collective once a week. You could host on alternate weeks, straight after school pick-up time. That way, your kids get to taste someone else’s cooking (and vice versa) and they all get to have a playdate at the same time.

 

Cousins II" (CC BY 2.0) by Marina K Caprara

Cousins II” (CC BY 2.0) by Marina K Caprara

What you make depends on who’s eating, of course, but this would be a perfect opportunity for prepare-ahead food such as cottage pie or a big chilli that you can cook the night before and simply heat up when everyone’s ready to eat.

It also gives you a chance to catch up with a friend and the kids’ dinnertime will be done and dusted earlier than usual. You might eat with them or wait until you’ve got home, get the kids off to bed, and have a quiet dinner with your partner for once.

Cooking’s a necessity in life but that doesn’t mean that feeding the kids every night has to be difficult or take lots of time. Experiment with a few different dishes and shake up mealtimes a bit, and preparing dinner will feel less of a chore.

 

 

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