Last Saturday hubby and I went into a cooking frenzy during the babe’s (much adored) post-lunch sleep. The reason for this flurry of culinary activity was down to a rather random online food shop by hubby. I had been really poorly and in bed with a stomach bug, so he had been put in charge of the shopping. Rather than think about what meals the three of us could have (gone are the days of just opening the fridge to see what it contains) then ordering accordingly, he bought an indiscriminate selection of “things we like”.
To avert almost certain ‘disaster’, once the food arrived we took the accompanying food list/receipt and created various dishes that we could either eat over the weekend or freeze for future consumption, ticking food items off as we went. We had two hours (max) in which to do it! We did it. Masterchef eat your heart out. The results included a fab prawn and fennel risotto for Sunday (one of my current faves); some beetroot, spinach and feta pasties; fish pie and butternut squash soup – yum! The whole experience got me thinking how my approach to meals has changed over the years.
ONE: Sixth-Form aka The Pot Noodle Years. Going to an all girls school meant that in the sixth-form, lunch-times were best spent walking the one mile to the local boys school to meet the boys, perhaps snacking on a pack of Bourbon biscuits on the way back, then shovelling down a boiling water based food in the five minutes before classes started in the afternoon. Many a time the answer to hearing your name called for afternoon register was “just making a Pot Noodle Mr Parker!!” from a nearby Common Room.
TWO: Uni – Cheap, cheerful and often substituted for a ‘liquid diet’. One thing that really sticks in my memory is that instead of buying real mince (FAR too expensive) I would buy quorn chunks and stock cubes, to make fake mince. Money was far better saved up for the bar. As were weight-watchers ‘points’ when any of us were on a diet – if you take 2 points of food off each day’s allowance, then you’ve got 14 worth of booze points!! (Though I’mnot sure it was meant to work like that.) Hubby once got to the end of term and had run out of everything, except a massive jar of beetroot and a £20 note. Safe to say the decision was made to spend the £20 in the bar, eat nothing but beetroot and get a bit of a scare when peeing in the gents!!
THREE: The post-uni flat “Club 36”. An absolute tomb could be written about this flat, but that is for another time or blog. Safe to say, we lived at number 36 and it earned status as a ‘club’ due to our many parties and glitter ball in the living room. Fresh out of uni and often going out for a few (too many) after work, not too much was actually cooked. Far too often we would open the fridge to find it was empty, save for a bottle of bubbly and some leftover seaweed from the local Chinese. We obviously ordered from them so often, BT actually suggested their number should become one of our “friends and family” in our telephone call plan! The only time we did seem to buy fresh food was after a night out around 2-3am. The night bus would stop outside the all-night mini Tesco’s and probably due to our alcohol ridden bodies screaming “vitamins!!!!!” we’d all totter/stagger in and stock up on healthy food.
FOUR: Moving in and online – around the time hubby and I moved in together, we started shopping online and this revolutionised food shopping. Now I don’t have to only visit supermarkets at evenings or weekends, I don’t find them quite so hellish. In fact, they are often a great trip out for the babe. That said, sitting on the sofa, watching rubbish on TV with your laptop, hitting ‘add to basket’ and having your food arrive the next day is just bliss! Meals were never really planned, but lots of fresh veg, salad, meat, fish and delish healthy stuff was generally ordered (by me at least), so we by and large ended up with something tasty and nutritious.
FIVE: The Organic Veg Box. At some point I decided that we should get an organic veg box, and so I signed us up. In theory, it’s great. All the vegetables are organic, most are grown in the UK so less evil food miles, they’re seasonal, you start to find new recipes to include the weekly veg, etc, etc. Then the pressure starts. What can you do with curly kale for the eighth week in a row?? How do you cook Jerusalem artichokes? Will you finish all the veg in time for the next delivery? If you down-size the box you run out, if not you could face the possibility of “Veg Box Juice! Anyway, once I got pregnant, I realised that I would never be able to deal with the Veg Box as well as a small baby, so it was cancelled a month or so before the little lady made an appearance – very wise choice.
SIX: The “FMC” – I think (know?) both hubby and I have a bit of a problem with planning and organisation – we love it! And so we took the suggestion in our NCT class, to cook a few meals ahead of the baby’s arrival and stick them in the freezer for when you don’t want to cook, as a gastronomic gauntlet. And we indeed rose to the challenge. I think by the end we had nearly 60 meals in our freezer, all carefully recorded on the piece of scrap paper, headed “Frozen Meal Chart” (FMC), on the freezer door – one each, every day, for a month!!! We had lasagne, shepherd’s pie, risottos, macaroni cheese, fish pie, curries, all sorts. It actually lasted us well over two months as in a hot, sunny August, you often fancy a fresh cold salad, not a hearty meat stew.
SEVEN: Weekly Meal Plans – now the bairn eats with us, I want to make sure that she gets a healthy, balanced diet. And we should of course be leading by example. So each week I sit down and plan out what we’re going to eat. (Well, what I mean is for the four days she’s at home; the other three she’s at nursery, it’s still a bit of a lottery as to what I’ll scavenge from the kitchen.) Then based on the plan, I do the shop – either online or do it with her. This news will make some people laugh, but won’t surprise you to hear that I’ve just this week, created “MealPlanner.xls” so that we can keep track of what we have and not just resort to macaroni cheese or sausages everyday – not that I think any of the three of us would complain at that. Maybe I should see what the little lady makes of a Pot Noodle or seaweed….???