Big change starts small
Take a typical week in our home...
On top of the usual rounds of work, school, homework, chores and social engagements, there's sports training for the boys (big and small) – in three different places, up to five sessions a week. Then there's the cricket matches which, being a “Saturday solo parent” means chauffeur and team manager duties for mum – and we all know how long cricket matches last!
Throw in a good dose of housework, committee meetings, school activities, errands, shopping and paperwork and I'm pretty much done!
Oh … except I haven't mentioned meals. Which is my dilemma. I hate cooking. I'm not 100% sure if it's because I just don't like doing it or if I am so severely over it. I actually estimated how many dinners I've cooked in my lifetime once and the answer just added fuel to the fire. Being a busy family, I have so many opportunities to take the easy (and invariably unhealthy) route when it comes to family meals that it has become a terrible habit to break.
But break it I must. Big Change Starts Small – that's the idea behind the eatmovelive.govt.nz website. Make small changes, keep the momentum going and look forward to a healthier future.
"It's all in the planning." That's what these do-it-all-with-a-smile-on-their-face super mums will tell you. Except it really isn't. Sure, meal plans definitely help and I've got myself into a good routine of doing a week's worth of meal plans on a Sunday afternoon when the house is not such a chaotic hub. But what I really need is shortcuts! Ways to get the good, healthy meals without the fuss.
So, here's my plan of attack.
Set up a weekly meal plan for lunches and dinners
OK, I already do this but this is just to clarify why. Meal plans help to keep the budget under control because I can review what we already have and only buy the things we need. It also saves most of the vacant staring into the fridge/pantry at 5pm, or the last minute “I forgot to get meat out of the freezer therefore I can cook something less nutritious” excuse.
Use frozen and canned foods
Frozen and canned fruit and vegetables keep a lot of their nutritional value because they're packaged so soon after picking. They tend to be a cheap option and are super convenient with a lot of the chopping and peeling already done. They can be easily added to pasta dishes and stews for a low-cost way to increase the veg component. Choose vegetables with 'no added salt'. I've recently discovered that my kids will eat chickpeas and beans. Next step is lentils!
Kids cooking nights
This is something we are already working on – getting the kids in the kitchen and cooking proper meals once a week. They're more involved in their meal choices and, fingers crossed, they will eventually require little supervision (did I mention I hate cooking?).
I need to master the art of batch cooking. Next time I whip up a bolognese, stew, curry or meatballs, making double and freezing half gives me an instant dinner with no fuss.
Employing my slow cooker more often will also work wonders. I can use cheaper cuts of meat, pop everything into the pot in the morning (when I am less tired) and look forward to a tasty meal, ready and waiting at dinner time.
Now, because I can not totally give up my weekly takeaway (or risk losing my sanity), I can definitely go for healthier options. I'm not really bothered what we eat as long as someone else is cooking it for me! Sushi, wraps, kebabs and non-fried dishes are a good choice. And splitting the takeaway portions to make two meals is definitely a possibility with the portion sizes.
Check out www.eatmovelive.govt.nz for affordable meal and activity ideas.
This blog was written by Julie Scanlon.
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