Tuesday, 30 September 2014

After School Chefs

Summer is over, school is back.
No more lazy picnics on the beach that last longer than they should.  No more impromptu garden lunches while the kids dig for worms.  The days are shortening, routine is back and life resumes a steady pace once again as we count down until the next set of holidays.

Our home life is especially chaotic at the moment.  Both of us adults work shifts, so there's no straightforward routine when it comes to teatime.  Ours are very much a hurried and usually quite erratic affair.  It's something that really makes me sad - something I have always loved is the idea of sitting around the table at night, catching up with each other's days.

Modern life has a lot to answer for.

The nights that we do manage a well-thought out and properly balanced meal are the ones that keep me happy as a parent - there's something intrinsically maternal about making sure your family has a nicely balanced and nutritious meal that they enjoy.

As we have no real set routine, it's hard to plan.  But we try.

Here are our top tips for keeping to some semblance of a routine at teatime - especially if yours are as hectic as ours can be.

1. Keep it easy

There's nothing worse than coming home later than you planned, with two hungry, grumpy children while also feeling like you are running on empty.  Everything feels much bigger than it actually is when there's nothing left in your tank.  Think simple.  Think whipping out some Birdseye potato waffles and toasting them in the toaster rather than grilling them.  Toast them a couple of times on a medium toasting setting and not only will you have a delicious base for a meal, but you'll also have saved yourself some extra minutes and a bit less time listening to grouchy children. Pair with beans or cheese and microwave some peas at the same time and voilà! One meal, literally in minutes. They're waffley versatile!

2. Plan Ahead

I know, I know.  I hate planning ahead.

Plus, when it comes to food, I find it quite difficult.  I can guarantee that if I really fancied Enchiladas the night before, the next night I'm going to want a big bowl of soup.  You can never really tell what your taste is going to be leaning towards on the night, so why not make it easy on yourself by keeping your freezer stocked with wee bits and pieces that can provide a springboard for a variety of meals?

Fish fingers, peas, frozen vegetables, chips and onion rings all make good stand-by accompaniments for bigger dishes.  A toastie always looks more wholesome when sat beside some fluffy potato chips and there's always the good old fish finger sandwich for a quick savoury meal.

3. Make it Fun Time

Meal times can be very stressful. Try to bear in mind that it might be the only time you spend together as a family mid-week, and that no matter how tired you are, you should try and use it as a bit of a chill-out time too.

Life is tough enough without the added stress.  We always try to go with the flow.  We are all very tired and some of us are starving, some of us are not.  Some of us are dying to get into the bath, some of us just want to relax with a book.  This is down time.

Be a bit silly, make faces out of food, have a laugh with each other.

Life's too short for grumpy faces!


This post is an entry for #Afterschoolchefs Challenge, sponsored by Birds Eye.  Learn more on the Birds Eye Facebook page.

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