Meal Planner (archive)

Week starting 22nd August


The only problem with having your main holiday at the start of the kids’ break is that by this time of year (when it’s grey and horrible outside) you’re already pining for another one. This is probably why I ended up booking flights to Berlin for the half term break over the weekend. Whoops. Also seriously wishing we were back in Croatia for another couple of weeks right now but I don’t think the budget is quite going to stretch to that.

Never mind, back to meal planning. This week there is a bit of a bias towards recipes from the BBC Good Food site. It’s something that I use pretty regularly because there’s just so much insp on there and I think it helps me keep things fresh, although I like to have a couple of classics every week too.

We’re starting today with salmon simply oven-roasted and served with cous cous. Max keeps informing me that he doesn’t like fish but he does like salmon so hopefully this one will be a hit although I’ve just had a bad flashback of the state of the kitchen last time we had cous cous. I use the regular cous cous, stick a bit of olive oil in there plus some finely chopped pepper and cucumber. I also mix a bit of parmesan through it which is a bit of an odd mix with fish but hey, I like it. Hopefully I can also have the leftovers tomorrow with a bit of feta mixed in.

Tomorrow is a BBC Good Food recipe, see below for the link, oven-baked ratatouille and sausages. I found this one whilst browsing the family friendly recipes and I bloody love ratatouille so I’m looking forward to it already.

On Wednesday we’re having another Good Food one, this time something that I’ve cooked again and again. I’m sure it’s not a hugely authentic laksa but it’s very easy to make and tastes fab. The recipe is for one person so you have to be aware of scaling up accordingly.

Thursday I’m off to London for work (which is something that happens pretty much every week once or twice a week). On London days I usually leave the husband with something simple. Not because he’s simple but just because looking after 2 tired kids and making dinner isn’t always (or ever) fun. So he’s just left with jackets and beans which, to be honest, is one of my favourite meals of all time so we’re all winners.

Friday I’m trying a recipe which sounds pretty similar to a Jamie one from 30 Minute Meals which I made so many times when the kids were babies but this is another Good Food recipe, cauliflower mac and cheese, although here it’s cauliflower & bacon pasta.

White pasta sauces are always a bit of a culinary challenge in our household but I like a challenge and I’m going to remind Max of the cauliflower clouds we saw when we were flying to Croatia as a bit of a cauliflower incentive.

Saturday is a day off to eat whatever we fancy and then we’re finishing the week up with a Sunday roast. I don’t even know what kind of Sunday roast yet, I’m going to go to the butcher’s on Saturday and see what takes my fancy. Stay tuned!

Have a great week!


Meal planner (archive)

Week starting 15th August



This week’s headline could refer to a couple of things – toilet training (oh god I don’t remember it being quite this painful) or the school holidays (3.5 weeks down, running out of favours to call in).  Either way, it’s a bit of a painful one but looking forward to a family get together at the weekend and to the start of Feed the Team’s very own Bake Off next week!

This week I’m keeping it relatively simple due to being covered in pee and also trying out a few recipes from Ocado.  I do all of our weekly shopping from our Ocado and the app includes a load of recipes split out by type so I’m trying a couple of the family-focused ones to see how they measure up.

Yesterday we had pasta pesto which is such a staple for us but still not enough for the kids’ liking, they would literally eat it every day.  It was such a lovely green colour yesterday, not sure if it’s the lovely basil this time of year.


Today was an extremely simple (well for me anyway because I didn’t make it) prawn and veg stir fry with an oyster and soy sauce served with noodles because I love picking them up off the floor afterwards.

Tomorrow is one of the Ocado recipes that I’m trying – Jollof Rice which I’m reliably informed is an African recipe.  If you’re interested you can see Jamie’s version here:

On Thursday we are having another Ocado recipe – braised sausages with tomatoes and basil which is a bit like a summer-style sausage casserole and a good way of using up sausages that didn’t make it to the barbecue, and on Friday fish and chips for which I’ve recently been using the following Good Food recipe which is a bit of a lighter version of the chip shop favourite.

Saturday is a day off for our family get together and then finishing the week with a recipe from Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals which I used to make all the time and forgot about – chicken pie.  I’ll replace the mushrooms with something else though or there’ll be mutiny.

Have a great week!


Extreme diets for kids


“Everything in moderation” my nan would say, about 300 times, every time she visited us.  Which, in the immoderate teenage years, could grate a little.  But now, when the necessary excesses of youth have given way to something less boozy and more mindful, as I think about how I want my own kids to pass through this world, this phrase comes back to me again and again packed with different layers of meaning.

Twice this week I’ve found myself ruminating on the idea of moderation in reaction to some pretty punchy headline news.

First, the revelation of a proposed law in Italy which could see parents jailed for up to 4 years for the imposition of a vegan diet on their offspring.  And, shock headlines aside, the tales behind the story certainly have an uncomfortable tinge of child abuse.

A 14 month old hospitalised with severe calcium deficiency weighing the same as the average 3 month old, a girl removed from her parents after a “poorly implemented” vegan diet led to severe malnourishment.

Although I live with a hearty live and let live approach to life it’s hard not to get more than a bit judgy on cases like this and hard, in all honesty, not to wince a little on hearing about any kids on restrictive [insert food stuff]-free diets when there is no medical reason to do so.  (And to be clear there are many cases where a specific diet is necessary and this is unequivocally wholly different territory).

Recently, it has felt like there has been a bit of a welcome backlash building against the obsessive clean eating mantra that seems to have taken over our lives (or our Instagrams at least).  Several prominent proponents have admitted that the clean diet saw them developing an unhealthy obsession with their eating habits verging on disorders, whilst other foodies have spoken out publicly against clean eating having too much emphasis in a world where young girls are very vulnerable to developing issues with food.

I’ve also seen poster girls like Deliciously Ella be more carefully in admitting that they do eat regular food too, lest we start to feel anxious and inadequate in the face of another beautifully photographed smoothie bowl.

And I think this is a positive thing.  Man cannot live on chia pudding alone.

But, on the day when the news comes of our government’s “weak” approach to Britain’s frankly scary childhood obesity problem, it strikes me that these extreme examples of unhealthy vegan or clean diets pale in comparison to the number of fat and sugar filled diets causing a much greater problem.

So Italy, are you going to prosecute parents whose kids are battling obesity before they’ve even made it to the school gates because, whilst some vegan diets could leave children lacking in important vitamins for growth, the odds of you being a healthy adult after being an overweight child are also really really stacked against you.

Today it was revealed that Theresa May has issued a watered down manifesto on childhood obesity which does include the levy on sugary drinks (thanks Jamie) but doesn’t place any curbs on the advertising of junk food (like the use of cartoon characters) or prevent cheap BOGOF deals on food devoid of any nutritional value.  It asks that manufacturers reduce the sugar in food and drink by 20% over the next 4 years but only as a voluntary measure.

It feels like a plan for the sake of a plan and one that is lacking in the teeth needed to address the issue.

I’ve also just seen Jamie’s statement on the whole thing and to quote, “This strategy was Britain’s opportunity to lead the way and to implement real, meaningful environmental change, to start removing the crippling financial burden from our NHS and reversing the tide of diet-related disease.  With this disappointing, and frankly, underwhelming strategy the health of our future generations remains at stake.”

Today I’m going to be proud to say that my mantra is moderation.  We eat meat twice a week and love sausages but we also eat Deliciously Ella vegan recipes.  We put whole cow’s milk in our porridge and relish the creaminess (and the calcium) and we eat cake containing proper sugar because life without cake feels a bit sad (and agave syrup is just an expensive substitution that I’m not convinced is any better).  We avoid sugary drinks 99% of the time but let them have a Fanta on holiday and we take them out on walks even when the whinging renders the whole thing less than pleasant.

It’s imperfect I’m sure, but I’m also pretty sure I wouldn’t want it to be perfect.  I’m trying to instil a healthy approach to food rather than impose a lifestyle that makes them fearful of biscuits.  And yes, it may well all blow up in my face when they hit the teenage years and I have less control over what they eat, but I’ll still be telling them, “everything in moderation.”




Meal planner (archive)

Week starting 8th August

It’s a funny old week. Hubby has taken the kids to his parents for a few days so I’m in the house by myself for the first time since we had kids. It feels both wrong and very right all at the some time, the silence is unnerving…

Because of this fact the meal planner this week is a bit lacking in anything nourishing until they return tomorrow as I can never really be bothered to cook when it’s just me. It’s beans and toast or just toast if I’m feeling really adventurous.

On Monday we had a chicken caesar salad which uses a caesar dressing based on a Jamie Oliver recipe, see below for details. This is quite an easy one for kids as you can give them whatever salad doings it is that you think they might eat and I also added some baby potatoes as they aren’t on a post holiday diet like me 🙂

Both initially turned their noses up at this but I think this was largely to do with post-holiday come down as they eventually tucked in and did pretty well.

A quick break from cooking as I gratefully pass the reins over to my mother in law and then back to noise and reality on Thursday with a beef stir fry, another Jamie recipe from his app although there’s a similar recipe here. I’m using minute steak rather than “good quality steak” because that’s going to take me right over my Ocado budget.

Friday is a Deliciously Ella recipe which I took from her app which I think is free but can’t quite remember. She has this down as a sweet potato, lentil and coconut curry but I’m going to sub carrots for the sweet potato because I’ve got loads and they like carrots better. Not quite sure how this one is going to go down if I’m honest but I’m building up to giving them dahl again so this is a good starting point.

We’re not having our usual break on Saturday, instead we’ll have pasta with some homemade tomato sauce. I’ll cook down the tomatoes for 20 minutes or so with some onion and garlic, a touch of sugar and a tbsp of tomato puree then we’ll whizz up and serve with loads of parmesan and garlic bread.

By the by I’m still using spelt pasta for pretty much every pasta meal at the moment. I’m not sure if I’m convinced that it’s truly better for you but I’m sort of used to it at this point and it actually feels a bit weird to eat the normal kind now.

In effort to be healthy this week I also decided I was going to try to make myself like yoghurt so I bought a really expensive one and then retched trying to eat it. In the spirit of telling my kids they have to try stuff I thought I should put my money where my mouth is but it turns out I just do not like yoghurt.

And finally, Sunday is another Deliciously Ella recipe – fajita bowls. Ella uses brown rice (I use the microwave in the bag brown basmati version for ease and because it’s really tasty) and veg in a homemade sauce made from chipotle powder, paprika, tamari, apple cider vinegar and olive oil. She uses mushrooms but if I asked them to eat mushrooms they’d cry in my face so we’ll probably do broccoli and other veg which is more acceptable to them in their place. She also serves with coconut cream but I’m just using sour cream because there’s nowt wrong with a bit of real cream!

Meal planner (archive)

Week starting 17th July


This is going to be my last meal planner for a few weeks, Max finishes school for Summer on Thursday and then next week we are off to Dubrovnik in Croatia for a couple of weeks, meanwhile the sun is shining and all is good with the world. Woo too!

And to top it all off I’m actually posting a meal planner on a Monday which is the best that I’ve done for some time now. So here goes…

Today we had a particularly easy meal of fish cakes that I didn’t make (thank you Waitrose) and mixed veg (which I also didn’t make because my husband cooked it). It was just what the doctor ordered after about 5 days of feeling decidedly ropey.

Tomorrow is going to be chilli and rice. I’m not quite sure I can even call what we have chilli anymore since it pretty much involves little or no chilli these days but the basics remain the same. Soften an onion with a clove of garlic and a little chilli powder (if they’ll stand for it) then brown some lean mince, about 400g for 2 adults and 2 kids approx (with enough left over for some leftovers too usually). Cook in a tin of chopped tomatoes and a tbsp of tomato puree for 10 mins then add some kidney beans and cook for another 10 mins. Serve with rice (and sour cream and cheese if you’re feeling bad).

This week I’m feeling a bit re-inspired by Jamie Oliver and his tremendous 30 minute meals after catching an episode whilst “working from home” last week. First up on Wednesday is wonky summer pasta which you can find the recipe for on various knock off sites (or you could invest in the book which is probably quite cheap at this point and well worth it). It’s a bit of a carbonara in which Jamie for some reason chops up fresh lasagne sheets to make tagliatelle instead of just buying fresh tagliatelle (no clue) and mixes with a sauce of egg, cheese, lemon and basil. It’s also served with a salad of leaves and pancetta which I’m also going to attempt. (But not the pear tartlets which are the third wheel because everyone knows you can’t actually make all of these things in 30 minutes unless you want to spend the evening feeling drained and like a shadow of your former self.

On Thursday it’s another simple meal of hot smoked salmon (thanks again Waitrose) with jackets and salad which at this point feels like a bit of a winner for a nice summer evening and on Friday it’s another Jamie recipe, tray-baked chicken. Jamie cooks the chicken with some cherry tomatoes, pancetta, lemons, paprika and butter in the oven for 15-20 minutes (although I think it really needs a bit longer than this). He serves with squashed potatoes (obviously). Mine shall be unsquashed.

On Saturday it’s another well-deserved day off and then I’m finishing the week with another Jamie recipe which I really enjoyed in the past but forgot all about. It’s curry rogan josh which involves cooking an onion in a large pan with a glug of olive oil and some water, adding cauliflower chunks and butternut squash (I’m using carrot instead as it’s a more accepted vegetable), garlic, and half a 283g jar of curry paste. Cook for 20 minutes or so adding more water if it gets a bit dry.

I like this one because he also recommends serving with a carrot salad which I think offsets the curry really well. You need to grate 4-5 carrots, toast a few flaked almonds in a dry pan and add to the carrot along with some chilli, coriander, ginger and a glug of extra virgin olive oil. I also obviously serve rice and naan because when you say curry to kids they mostly think rice and naan.

Have a great week!


How we tackled (archive)

…Meal Planning

Five years ago if you’d have told me that I’d be sitting here writing a blog about my meal planner I would have laughed in your face. I was newly married, child free (excepting the one in my belly) with a fly by the seat of my pants approach to meals. We’d go to the supermarket and buy a load of random ingredients that looked interesting and then worry about what we would turn them into when we got home from work that evening. Sometimes we had pizza, sometimes we ate like kings. If only I’d known then how easy I had it…

And then, of course, children came along. First Max in the summer of 2011 followed by our little Edie in early 2014. The first six months were pretty straightforward, food-wise at least, our lives didn’t change an awful lot – it was just a bit harder to actually get round to actually eating the meals.

Then sometime around Christmas that year it dawned on me that I was actually expected to feed this person food, like at least 3 times a day, like every day. And he wasn’t going to sit there while I figured out what we might fancy either. He was going to cry, incessantly, until he was reassured that he would indeed see food again at some point.

And, of course, it also dawned on me at the same time that not only did I have to feed this person, but that I wanted to feed him, feed them, good food, healthy food, with lots of variation, in the hope that they would grow up to have a good approach to eating and a taste for lots of different kinds of food.

And so was born the meal planner, a weekly plan of dinners that we would shop for in advance (on Ocado incidentally). A week in which we’d have meat twice, fish twice, veggie meals twice plus a day off to get in plenty of practice of destroying restaurants.

It hasn’t been easy and pretty frequently I’ll admit that it doesn’t work, some day nobody eats anything and I wonder what I’m doing but in the main I persevere because so far neither of them are particularly fussy and, so far again, both of them enjoy food without being obsessed by anything in any particular way.

Having been through several years of the ups and downs now I thought it might be helpful summarise some of the best tricks I’ve learned about meal planning.

Plan around your diary. My meal planner starts every week with a look at my diary to see which days one of us will be cooking alone and on which we have a little more time. On the difficult days we have a bank of quicker meals like quesadillas or pasta pesto to fall back on. The easier days are the times we try out something new.

Start the week with a make ahead. For some reason dinner just feels harder on Mondays. To avoid resorting to beans too often it’s good to start the week with something you knocked up on Sunday. I often make a pasta sauce on Sunday evening while I’m making Sunday’s dinner and I thank myself for it at 5.30pm on Monday.

Spread the pain. Mix up the planner so that you have a “banker” dinner followed by something riskier the next day and then back to a banker. It’s highly demoralising for everyone involved to have two or more days in a row of everything ending up in the bin but equally it’s a bit restricting to always stick to something you know they like.
Try out higher risk recipes on lower risk days. Back when they were both in nursery, they were eating about 17 meals a day so if I wanted to try something I wasn’t sure if they’d like at dinnertime, I’d pick a nursery day to do it. That way they’d be unlikely to be going to bed hungry if everything went pear-shaped. Which it frequently did. Weekends are for an easier life and also we’re solely responsible for feeding them so I tend to make things I know they like (or go out!)
Mix it up. Stick in a few straightforward meals on the difficult days and then hunt around for new things to try to fill in the gaps. I subscribe to BBC Good Food magazine and their site is also good (although for some reason the app is rubbish). The BBC Food site is also a good source and I did somehow end up paying for the Jamie Oliver app – it always seems to be a good sauce of inspiration as well as recipes with the word “awesome” in the title.
Don’t get disheartened. Kids are a pain in the ass. They aren’t going to like everything you make and sometimes they’re going to add an extra level of pain by pretending they don’t like the stuff they happily ate last week. But don’t get disheartened, it really doesn’t matter if you have a day where nobody appears to have eaten anything at all, tomorrow they’ll amaze you by wolfing down something completely random like daal.