meal planning with children

As part of my lifestyle overhaul and effort to be more organised. I’ve been looking at every aspect of my life and obviously that involves food and the amount of time I spend cooking it, shopping for it and persuading children to eat it. Which some weeks can be an enormous chunk of my time.

Being the mum of really quite picky children whose likes and dislikes change on an almost hourly basis it is really difficult to know what to cook. Trying to balance my ideas, their ideas of what food they like to eat and trying to incorporate good nutrition as well as cut down on then time I spend on preparation and cooking. And also bearing in mind that often meals need to be reheated later for Mr ReallyQuiteFickle, well it’s all just got a little out of hand.

Things need to change, they need to be less complicated and I need to accept that sometimes I need to cut corners and that this is okay!

So I’ve started by signing back up to Ocado so that I don’t have to do food shopping with 3 children and I can also keep a firm grasp of costs. I’ve also had everyone in the family write me a list of what foods they like both for lunches and dinners and I’ve gone through the lists to make a meal plan which should suit everyone… hopefully.

I’ve cut corners on the amount I cook from scratch and I’ve allowed them to choose some convenience style foods which they like, working on the **little of what you fancy does you good** principle.

The shopping was delivered this morning, the plan has been actioned and I’m really hoping it makes things easier and leaves me with more time.

routine me…

It is chaos living in my house, I forget things, I can never find things, I can never decide on anything and I change my mind constantly….

It wasn’t always like this… well okay then it probably was but as the number of children has risen and my number of hours asleep diminished the time has finally come (as pointed out by my health visitor*) that I could really do with a little bit of routine in my days.

*once I’d finished being annoyed with her and thought about what she said I can’t help but agree…

The only routine thing in this house is the routine fact that there is none. Everything is done on a whim, from bedtimes to mealtimes to well everything. I think of myself as far too creative and free-spirited to be able to do routine but consequently I have no time to be creative or free-spirited as lack of routine means every aspect of my home life is hard work and utterly muddled!

So over the next few weeks I’m going to make positive changes to make things better and to create time. It starts with a complete overhaul of the house, a massive clear-out, a move around and thorough organisation of belongings and time. Yes. Martha Stewart is my new best friend.

chicken thyme casserole

This is a basic, really easy to make and filling chicken casserole. It easily serves four with leftovers making a pie filling for four for another meal – it’s frugal!

what you need:

  • 4 chicken breasts – skinless (or use 6-8 thigh fillets – skinless)
  • 2 large onions
  • 6 big carrots
  • 2 leeks
  • glass of wine (if wish – otherwise make up difference with stock)
  • 1 pint chicken stock
  • handful of thyme leaves or couple of teaspoons of dried thyme
  • 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
  • for the dumplings – 4 tbs plain flour, 4 tbs self-raising flour, 1/4 pk butter, tsp dried oregano.

what you do:

  • preheat the oven to 180C
  • warm a splash of olive oil in a large oven proof pan – chop the chicken in to chunks and throw it in the pan to start cooking.
  • peel and chop the onions and garlic and add them to the pan.
  • slice the leeks and carrots add to the pan
  • pour in the wine if using
  • add the chicken stock and a hand full of thyme leaves – season with salt & pepper
  • transfer pan to the oven and cook for around 2 hours
  • when there is 45 minutes remaining add the dumplings

dumplings:

  • put the flours and butter into a mixing bowl and rub the butter into the flour with your fingers until it looks like breadcrumbs.
  • add the oregano and season with salt and pepper
  • tip in cold water and drop at a time and mix into a firm dough
  • take ping-pong sized chunks of dough and roll between floured hands into a ball shape.
  • add the dumplings to the stew when there is 45 minutes cooking time remaining – when adding them check liquid level and if necessary top up with boiling water.

to serve:

this casserole is lovely with parsnip & parmesan mash or simple mashed potatoes, chips or perhaps a roast potato or five….

leftover stew can be used as a pie filling making another meal – simply reheat filling – add pie crust & bake in the oven for 20 minutes.

meal plan Monday

This week I’ve gone with an Italian theme in order to boost energy levels and hopefully eat more healthily. The last week or so with poorly children eating habits have well… mainly been take away, nice at the time but afterwards blurgh! So this week it’s all Italian.

Monday

  • B – chocolate twister bread (okay… it’s LIKE a pain-au-chocolate… France, near Italy)
  • L – pasta & bean soup
  • D – braised chicken & artichokes with rosemary roast potatoes and green beans

Tuesday

  • B – chocolate twister bread…. again
  • L – minestrone soup
  • D – sausage & borlotti casserole with couscous and wilted spinach

Wednesday

  • B – pancakes (I’ll call them crepes then that’s almost Italian)
  • L – minestrone soup
  • D – flatbreads with beetroot, walnut & lentil salad, goats cheese and hummus

Thursday

  • B – not sure it’s a long way off but it will involve coffee
  • L – hummus & sun-dried tomato twister bread
  • D – tomato & lentil sauce with short pasta

Friday

  • B – who knows
  • L – spanish omelette – tomatoes/olives/red onions/baby potatoes
  • D – pizza made with whatever veggies and cheese is left in the fridge

I’ll probably blog some of the recipes throughout the week.

Head over to Mrs M to see what everyone else is having this week….

the accidental attachment parent

This is me. I am the accidental one. I never intended to be a baby wearer, a co-sleeper an extended part of my baby but that is what has happened.

My first two children now seven and nine didn’t do any of these things, they slept in cots in their own rooms, they travelled about in a pram quite contentedly and in fact were quite independent from me – happy to go off and play, amuse themselves etc. Then we get to baby three. He’s an entirely different little personality, he is a complete attachment child. He can’t sleep unless he’s in our bed, he’s only content if he can see us, he detests being put into a pram, cot, play pen where he isn’t with us and so I’ve morphed into an attachment parent.

But thinking about things, is attachment parenting how it’s supposed to be? Is it right to put a tiny baby into a barred cot in a separate room from his mother or father? Is it right to put a baby into cots, playpens, prams etc so you can  get on with whatever it is you wanted to do? Is it right to send him to a nursery from a very young age to be cared for by a stranger.

If left to nature is attachment parenting not how things would be? Would the young sleep with the parents, travel around by being carried and held, observe the world from the arms of mum and dad?

Or… Is it because this is baby number three and our last baby that we’ve been so much more laid back and wanted the easy option? In the night when the baby has cried I honestly have not been able to be bothered sitting up in a chair rocking him back to sleep for what could be hours on end. I’ve wanted to sleep, I’ve wanted to be comfy in my bed and so have popped him in with me. I can’t be bothered listening to tantrums and unnecessary crying because he’s bored or wants to do something with me instead of on his own and so he is always kept happy by being with us and 99% of the time he is really happy and laid back in a way I don’t remember the other two being.

Also because we’ve had two other children we feel no pressure to be checking child development books to see if we are establishing all the “correct” behaviours and milestones at the correct times. Or is it simply that we’ve created a rod for our own back by being lazy and relaxed as many people like to tell me, daily.

chunky vegetable chilli

This is a very cheap dinner to make, it happily feeds six people. The recipe can be easily altered to suit what veggies you already have in and need to use up.

what you need:

  • large onion – red or brown
  • 2 big carrots
  • 2 peppers – any colour
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • tin of chopped tomatoes
  • tin of kidney beans
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • a grating of cacao or spoon of cocoa powder (optional)

what you do:

  • peel and chunkily chop all the veggies & garlic
  • add a splash of olive oil to the pan – add your veggies and cook gently for 10 minutes until softening
  • add the spices and continue to cook for 5 minutes
  • add the tomatoes and kidney beans and a can full of water
  • season with salt and pepper – add cocoa if using
  • transfer to oven on 180C for 2 hours or put in the slow cooker on low for 6-8 hours

to serve:

serve with boiled rice and a dollop of yogurt, also great just served with a chunk of bread, maybe a scattering of grated cheese.

tip: 

  • if you are needing this meal to go a lot further – mix it into the rice and serve it as spicy veggie rice.
  • any leftovers are nice in a wrap for lunch the next day or maybe as a jacket potato topping.
  • spices are often available at much lower costs if you buy them from the world foods sections in supermarkets rather than the spice aisle….

Autumn seaside – National Trust – Formby

This post doesn’t need all that many words. Formby is stunning, the autumn weather gorgeous and the children happy*

*well when I say happy, obviously that incorporates a wide range of sulking, arguing, fighting, tantruming and general Veruca Salt style behaviour in amongst the happy. But the happy was very happy – paddling, shell collecting and for a certain small boy the sitting in the sea fully clothed experience….

Formby is a brilliant place to visit and an absolute must if you are around the Southport area. It’s so easy to spend a day here – picnics, walks, beach, red squirrels, forests and obviously ice-cream.