In the not too distant future (ideally it was supposed to be yesterday but we are having some, ahem, issues with the structural engineer,) our kitchen is being ripped out. Because of the nature of the building work that needs to go on in the kitchen – we’re not just putting a lot of glass in to the external walls but taking a chimney breast out too that the current kitchen is in front of, the kitchen isn’t a simple in-out job and we will be kitchen-less for probably 6 weeks. To say I’m dreading it is an understatement.
Baked Ziti by Damn Delicious
In fact we won’t be fully kitchen-less and we are very lucky, because we are going to try and essentially rig up a lot of the appliances downstairs in the cellar. There is plumbing down there so fingers crossed we will have a sink, and the fridge, freezer and oven will all just plug in. We have a camping gas stove we can use but it won’t be ideal so I don’t want to cook much on it and we won’t have much in the way of worktop prep space at all. As a result meals will be makeshift. Of course I’m sure there will be a few takeaways and meals out locally but because I’m pregnant I don’t ideally want to be eating processed food every night, I do enough of that as it is! Given that this is all emptying the coffers, keeping costs down will be better too.
BLT bowl by The Londoner
So I need your help readers. I have already been cooking ahead to put meals in the freezer and we have portions of chilli, spaghetti bolognese, lasagne and fish pie stacked up. What I now need are ideas for quick simple fresh food that I can make with the minimum of washing up (the dishwasher won’t be re-installed downstairs,) fuss or prep space. Healthy recipes would be a bonus too to balance out anything we eat out. I was thinking of things like a chicken salad with a pre-cooked supermarket chicken and I’m really hoping you guys can suggest some recipes or meals that will help me out over the next couple of months.
I’ve said it before I’m a planner at heart and the one element this has had the greatest impact on our home life is with meal planning.
We make all our meals from scratch at home as we’re both keen cooks and like to stay relatively healthy but time is always against us. We’ve often had those occasions of arriving home from work starving hungry, looking in the fridge and realising we had no food in or worse still, having food but not being able to come up with a single recipe that would work with the ingredients we had. Resulting in much tetchiness and stomping around the kitchen until our growling stomachs were relieved.
To bring a little more harmony to the home I decided to take matters in hand and took this meal planning task by the balls. I spent a few evenings trawling the net for recipe ideas that met a few criteria:
- Quick to prepare and cook, no-one wants to spend 3 hours marinading meat or stirring a pot when they get home from work
- Uses seasonal ingredients
- Is relatively healthy, clean food with plenty of veg
- Not too much stodge
- A combination of accompaniments- so rice, potatoes, pasta and noodles being our main go-to’s – I often forgo these but cook some up for the other half or he feels he’s being starved to death
- A combination of meats and fish dishes to give us some variation in our diet
We narrowed down a hitlist of meal ideas testing out a few new recipes to see if we liked them and if not adapted them to our own tastes. We now keep our hitlist written down in the kitchen and it includes around 30-40 different meal ideas to supplement our standard go-to’s of stir fry’s and pasta with something!. We settle on a two-week meal plan and buy groceries according to what’s on the plan. Refreshing it again at the end of the two weeks and doing another shop – we’ve recently been doing this online and now we have a favourites file on there it’s making the shop much quicker and simpler too.
Doing things this way does mean we know in advance what we’re going to be eating each day which can sometimes take the joy out of cooking and sometimes we’ll get home and really not fancy what’s on tonights plan so we’ll swop things around. But in the main we try and stick to it.
It also means we throw far less food away as every item we buy has been designated to a meal. Of course this is the goal, in reality it doesn’t always go to plan but I can hand on heart say I throw away probably 1/10th of the food I used to.
As the seasons change I review my meal ideas hitlist and look for new ones that fit better seasonally and then I simply bookmark the recipes on my phone or iPad so I can really quickly find them when I get home, or I email them to the other half to let him know he’s ‘cooking tonight’. It may seem a little like military planning but seriously it has made such a difference to our daily routine that I hardly even think about it now, meaning I have more time for the good stuff in life, like long lazy bubble baths, cuddling under a blanket with the latest edition of Red mag, or scoffing chocolates as we work our way through the Netflix library.
In the interests of sharing here’s my current list and associated recipes in case you’re in need of a little inspiration yourself:
Some of these are not so speedy but as they tend to be more oven/casserole based I will either make a few up at weekends and freeze so it’s just a case of reheating or sticking them in the oven in the morning (with a timer set to switch it off of course!) so they are ready when I get home.
If you have any seasonal meal ideas to share please do pop us some links in the comments box, always room for adding new ideas.