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Mastering the Kitchen

25 Sep 2017 23:03:13

I remember when I was a little girl, standing in the kitchen and looking up at my mum, wondering how she did it. I admired how well she balanced cooking, cleaning, work and shopping all so effortlessly. Of course my dad helped too, but she was definitely the boss in our house - and my heroine.

 

Now I’m a working mum too and, although my husband takes on half the responsibility, I still look up to her and wonder how she managed a young family so well. We working mums and housewives have rewarding lifestyles, but there is an awful lot to do. Over the years I’ve compiled the following tips that help me manage my time, save money on shopping, and keep my family eating well and healthily.

 

Shopping that saves time and money 

First of all, it’s important to write your shopping list with meals in mind - don’t just scan the cupboards and see what’s missing before you leave the house. Try to plan seven days ahead for your evening meals and buy ingredients and items that will do for more than one meal. If you make a bolognese on Monday, for example, make enough to have leftovers, store them in Flat Stacks, freeze them and then use them in a lasagne at the end of the week. This will be a lot cheaper AND it will save you time later on.

 

Secondly, my mum always says to go shopping after a meal. Sounds odd, right? But she had a point - heading to the supermarket hungry is a recipe for disaster. If your stomach is rumbling, you’re more likely to make bad decisions and buy fatty or high sugar content foods that can be eaten quickly and relieve our hunger. That will not only hike up the price of your shop, but you probably won’t be eating healthily either. So eat something filling beforehand and avoid buying too many prepared foods and ready meals.

 

Thirdly, when it comes to what you buy, go for fresh, rather than tinned or preserved, food. Generally, it will taste better and be healthier. Fresh food is also more versatile and can often be frozen for future use anyway. When picking out items like yoghurts, milk and fresh cheese, look at the back of supermarket shelf. Items are always rotated so that the nearest expiry dates are at the front - there could be up to a month’s extra use in it for you.

 

Finally, we all know that buying in bulk saves money, but so does only going to the shop once a week. The more often you go, the more snacks and extras you’ll buy - and that will add up at the end of the month.

 

Organising your kitchen 

Train your kids (and partner) to keep the cupboards and refrigerator organised. Meat should go at the bottom, (so that it doesn’t drip onto other food), vegetables in the middle, and milk and other products at the top, or in the door.

By keeping things tidy it is much easier to see what needs to be eaten soon and what’s missing, saving you a lot of time (and money because you won’t buy unnecessary items so often). The same goes for your cupboards, keep them tidy and organised and you’ll save yourself a headache when you are writing your shopping list later on.

 

When it comes to preparing food, my mum is the expert. Her number one tip was to peel and chop all the vegetables for the week in advance, at the beginning of the week. It takes a bit of getting used to, but you’ll thank yourself (or your partner) after a long day of work. It’s sometimes a good idea to sprinkle them with lemon juice to stop things going brown, but if you store them in Flat Stacks and freeze, you’ll have no problems at all. Make sure to label and date your prepared food clearly, so that it doesn’t languish at the back of the freezer for months.

If you do opt for frozen veggies, however, you shouldn’t feel too guilty. They are extremely fast to whip up, fairly inexpensive, and generally keep their nutrients (do avoid canned foods, though, as they are often full of salt, sugar and other unhealthy preservatives). 

 

Healthier ways to eat     

 

When you’re cooking those vegetables, steam them, don’t boil them. This is a good way of avoiding the loss of vital vitamins and minerals, and prevents over cooking. As a rule of thumb, different vegetables take about this amount of time to steam:

 

  • Carrots: 10 mins
  • Broccoli: 4-5 mins
  • Peas: 1- 3 mins
  • Potatoes: 20-25 mins (or around 15 mins for new potatoes)

Save yourself some extra time by packing the steamer according to the cooking time; veggies like carrots should go in first, and the veggies that take less time can go on top.

 

And if you’re bored of rice, potatoes and pasta, and looking for alternative sources of carbohydrates, quinoa could be the answer. It’s high in fibre and protein, healthy and cooks in about 15 minutes. Although it might be a little expensive, as it gets more and more popular the price is falling steadily! 

 

Cooking couscous is even faster -  it takes about 5 minutes, it’s fat free and is a source of fibre and protein. Just make sure to add some flavouring to make it more interesting to eat. Add some chicken stock to give it depth, or add lemon, and herbs like coriander, cumin, turmeric, even curry (but not all together, of course!). 

 

The key to a well balanced diet is variety, making sure that you’re getting enough protein, carbohydrates, fibre, good fats and vitamins/minerals. If you take a little time to plan ahead, organise your kitchen, and prepare food ahead of time, you can avoid bad last minute food decisions and save time and money in the long run. 

 

Tell us: What are your shopping and cooking tips? And how do you make sure your family is eating healthily?

Posted in Bright Ideas News By

Sam Cox