I think it was Agatha Christie who said that the best two days of a mother’s life were the first and last days of the School holidays – or maybe I made that up myself 😉
The long summer break, which in June seemed to stretch ahead forever, has finished and suddenly you’re back into the round of packed lunches, after-school activities and the need for a quick and tasty dinner which everyone, adults and children alike, can enjoy. A home-made dinner also gives you the opportunity to get extra healthy goodies into the family’s diet too.
I have been that person – the stressed, time-poor working parent with the tired and hungry family! Looking back, I’m amazed that I got through those difficult but happy years, and managed to feed the troops whilst keeping a load of balls in the air.
I have a good friend who knew exactly what she and her family were eating for dinner a week in advance. She had a list on the fridge, so that whoever got home first knew what to do. I’d love to be like that, but sadly I’m not. Perhaps you are, if so, it’s a great plan.
For the rather less organised amongst us, here’s my grand plan for getting through term time. Ok, it’s not exactly a grand plan, but it got me through what was no doubt the busiest time of my life. So let me offer you some suggestions for forward planning and school-night dinners which I hope, will make things a little easier..
THE BIG SHOP:
I still do a big shop about once a month. And a smaller, perishable (meat, fruit, veg, dairy) shop once a week, with the occasional spontaneous food purchase if the opportunity arises (specialist bakery, local markets etc.)
The monthly shop should have all your long-life items –
Food: Cereals, Flour, cooking ingredients, spices; tinned, dried (pasta, rice, grains) and frozen food; – these may well be the basis for many of your school-night dinners.
Household: – pet food, toilet rolls, washing powder, cleaning products, plus anything that may be required for school – extra pencils, copy-books etc.
If you get into the habit of making sure that you’re well stocked with the essentials, it takes a huge pressure off. It’s worth writing your own list, and sending it to your phone or whatever for easy access when your brain’s in a fog..
The working parent’s best friend.. if you have the space and can afford one, it’s well worth having. Even a small one at the top of a fridge can be invaluable.
If you have ever checked out any of my recipes, you’ll see that I quite often make reference to batch-cooking for future days. I call them my can’t cook/won’t cook days. Days when I have neither the time or the inclination to cook from scratch. Those are the days that I give a profound sigh of thanks to whoever invented domestic freezers!
In my freezer you’ll find:
- Frozen petit pois, ice-cream, ready-made Yorkshire puddings (God bless Aunt Bessie, eh?), flatbread, frozen puff pastry and stuff like that. Also frozen fruit, such as frozen mixed berries (so handy for dessert emergencies!) and of course my own blueberries, ready for Christmas morning pancakes!
- Then there are the labelled containers of previously-prepared dinners –
Beef chilli: https://eatingforireland.com/recipe/my-chilli-con-carne/,
Bolognaise sauce :https://eatingforireland.com/recipe/bolonaise-sauce/
Bacon-wrapped stuffed chicken breasts: https://eatingforireland.com/recipe/stuffed-chicken-and-bacon-parcels/
and many more.
- NB: Can I just emphasise the need for labelling? You won’t remember what was in that tub – trust me, I’ve done it a hundred times. It ends up with me defrosting and hoping that I’ll be able to make whatever it is into a dinner..
- There are also frozen meat portions – speciality sausages, joints of beef, chicken breast, minced beef, ready to be defrosted and turned quickly into something special.
WET SUNDAY AFTERNOONS:
A chance (if you can get the rest of the family entertained) to do a little prep for the week ahead. I usually just stick on the radio, check what I have in the fridge, and make a few dinners to ease me into the week. All well and good if I can add to my stash of frozen dinners too.
One of the things I also like to do on a wet Sunday (and there seem to be so many wet Sundays!) is make a cake for dessert – it’s a treat for everyone, not least yourself. My All-in-one Chocolate cake is the perfect recipe for this – quick, easy and delicious. https://eatingforireland.com/recipe/hilarys-all-in-one-chocolate-cake/
At the end of the day, a little planning goes a long way in term-time.
For convenience, I’ve put a list below of links to a few my easiest family dinners, so that you can give them a go – please do check through the rest of the recipes though, as you may find something there that you can adapt for your family.
One other thing you’ll need, and how could I forget? Wine. You’ll need lots of wine.. 😉