How we do meals in my house (or, “Why Woolies is my best friend”)

by Eve D.

I am always on the lookout for ways to simplify my life. Usually that means I identify the bottlenecks and try and…well, unblock them. Without a shadow of a doubt, one of the biggest “Ugh!” aspects of family life for me is the whole drama that accompanies the responsibility of making sure everyone is fed. Our house lacks a natural-born cook. In fact, it lacks anyone who even remotely enjoys being in the kitchen. But we all do love to eat. So we clearly need a system that makes this work for us.

Why do they want dinner every single night?

There are between four and six people in the house who need to be fed (two of the kids, StepDaughter and StepSon are with us for half the holidays and every second weekend etc). We have quite varied dietary requirements. The two stepkids follow a somewhat Jewish diet, which we try to honor. So obviously no pork for them, or milk and meat in the same dish. Craig is a bit of a health nut, and really only eats grilled chicken or fish, with side vegetables. Definitely no cream for him! And Zac, Micole and I share the same preferences and will eat pretty much anything that is not too spicy.

As such, it is an understatement to say that Woolies is our friend. It is more like our life support. I do 90% of my grocery shopping there, with the remaining food coming from greengrocers, and sometimes a butcher or a fishmonger.

My rules for food preparation are simple:

  1. Everyone takes care of their own breakfast (Craig or I will prepare Zac’s)
  2. Nothing we eat can take me more than 10 minute prep time (that’s from start to putting in the oven/on top of stove)
  3. I plan our menu meticulously for the week, buying everything for about seven days ahead and freezing as necessary
  4. We have very little junk food in the house and we eat balanced meals that are all healthy
  5. We eat out or order-in as necessary, or as wants arise. That’s usually two or three meals out per week, usually lunch.
  6. We do not waste food. I abhor that.

Because of Rule 2 of above, I am always on the lookout for quick fixes which in my language translates into “food that is bought frozen, and can be simply be popped in the oven for a ready meal” (food prep time: 0 minutes). Woolies offers a lot of such alternatives, but so do food markets and services like FitChef and (which I haven’t yet tried but am eyeing). The one possible exception to Rule 2 are salads…I enjoy making them on the weekends, especially in the warm months, and then we have it with a rotisserie chicken or fish cakes. In fact, I made my first salad of the season today!

Despite my lack of cooking ability (or willingness) I need to emphasize that a)my methods do not cost a fortune and b)we eat very, very well. So, if you are the type to slave in the kitchen for hours on end, good for you. I seriously could not be bothered, even though I grew up in a house where there was a lot of emphasis on the importance of The Home Cooked Meal. Even today, whenever my mother cooks dinner for us (always a treat!), she invites us over for 5pm, but starts cooking at noon. I am not even kidding. I do not take after her! (I should say here in her defense that my kids love my mom’s cooking, and Zac always says that it is so much better than mine because she “makes everything from scratch“. I feel that this phrase sounds as if it is rehearsed, and wouldn’t put coaching-a-six-year-old past my mother!)

The point of all this is that I am never done looking for shortcuts when it comes to food prep. As I discover new ones (maybe other suppliers? or new dishes?) I will post them on the blog. If you have any tips or links, do share.

Sunday Lunch:

A summer salad. One of the few dishes I will actually spend time making!

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