Overwhelmed With Cooking and Managing Family Food
I live and breathe food. It is my passion, my purpose, my life's work and a source of immense love and joy.
Feeding my tribe is an unrelenting, exhausting, expensive and often unrewarding part of parenting. I am ten years into this gig. That is 10 years of planning, buying, cooking, cleaning and repeating for breakfast, lunch and dinner plus the 50 million snacks that get asked for everyday, seven days of the week.
With many, many, many more years to go.
I know I am not the only one that feels this way and remember....this is actually something I largely still enjoy. It is ok if its not for you and (as I know you are acutely aware of) we still have to do it regardless.
Being honest and transparent about this reality is important as it will at the very least acknowledge the huge load it truly is.
I have learnt a thing or two in the last decade, with learning still ongoing! It never ends! If you are just at the start of your food journey you might find an earlier blog of mine helpful here and some of the tips below also echo this.
1) Meal Planning
I have written many a blog on meal planning. The short version is it saves money and time significantly. It also greatly eases the mental load especially on pear-shaped days. Let's face it too.....most days go sideways in some shape or form with kids.
Start with planning your weeks dinners. Anything else is a bonus and this is the heavy hitter in terms of time and load.
I have just updated my magnetic meal planner and (not so quietly) I think its bloody brilliant. It also has space for 'something to try' which is intentionally done to encourage toddlers without adding a lot of load for parents.
2) Bulk Cooking
When it comes to reducing the load of cooking, I encourage you to think of 'economies of scale'. The more you can cook in larger portions or in bulk the more time you save. In addition, it also reduces that never ending "what's for....insert meal" question. Moreover, it will save cost on food as you can purchase in bulk.
I my latest family cookbook, Feed the Tribe, I have two specific bulk meals along with options for cooking once, eating twice. As your tribe grows this will become essential and is certainly a draw back of food boxes as they do not allow for this (in all honestly no current food boxes are sufficient for my tribe either in terms of nutritional value or volume).
(Lentil lasagna on the double from Feed the Tribe)
3) Chest Freezer
This is one of my top recommend 'things' to get when having a baby! We spend so long looking at prams but children last in those like three years maximum. Read my first paragraph again on the load and length of cooking! I realise a chest freezer does not hold the 'cool' factor a pram does but hey you came here for advice right! I got a second chest freezer when pregnant with Ray and just a second hand pram for $150....he is three and a half now and almost never uses the pram but food....again first paragraph!
4) Essentials Stocked
In my cupboard at home (pictured below) I have an entire two shelves dedicated to what I call the 'essentials'. I have these well stocked at all times. These include:
When I say well stocked....I mean weeeeeeelll stocked! I can turn pretty much most ingredients into a meal with these on hand and it significantly reduces my stress and load knowing they are there.
5) Well Organised Pantry
I have shared this before but having a well organised pantry will not only make you feel really good and sorted but speed up your cooking time (no frantic searches in the depths of your cupboards) and help you to budget as well (no panic buying). This shelf you see is just from Kmart and the containers from The Warehouse which I slowly built up my collection with (they are expensive right!). My customised labels of course have been created with a lot of thought and love and match all the ingredients in my cookbooks.
6) Slow Cooked Meals
If you do not have a slow cooker...get one! Seriously I just use a cost effective one from the warehouse. I actually have three - two at home and one in my commercial kitchen due to the volume of cooking and testing of these. Sometimes I will cook the same slow cooker twice and freeze one - economies of scale! I will have a slow cooker at least once a week, often more and my new slow cooker mixes (with more coming) have been super popular as they make these even more time saving (let alone healthy!).
I may or may not be working on more slow cooker recipes...but in the meantime my slow cooker book is on special and will not be getting printed again in hard copy...in this form (wink, wink!).
7) Share the Load
It is important I say this - all too often I see mothers carrying all the load or the majority of the load of the cooking and managing of family food. This is not fair and it should not be this way. Regardless of if you are working or not working, if you are living in a home and eating in that home, then everyone contributes to this huge, unrelenting load. My older boys (aged 10 and 8) contribute. They make their own lunches the night before, unload the dishwasher in the morning and help do the dishes at night. They also actively take part in the meal planning....even my three year old does this. Do not get me started on grown adults who do absolutely nothing or very little in this regard - what kind of modeling is that setting for children?
Other Helpful Links
*Lockdown balls (great for lunch boxes)
*Grain-free mussle fritters (good for babies)
*Breakfast muffins (pictured above)
*Rolled rib roast (good for babies)
*Double Zucchini Loaf (super popular) is from my sugar guide.
It is so good to be back and doing events again in person! I will be covering this topic and so much more at my upcoming events check them out!
If you are reading this over Easter weekend I have free shipping on orders over $20 here in NZ so go grab yourself something you have been meaning to get or a slow cooker bundle (or two) to try!
I know that these tips are not glamourous or even the magic you are hoping for but they do really help.
All the products that I create through Dr Julie's Kitchen are designed to ease this huge load in mind while still preserving nutritional quality and being kind to our planet....together we can change the world and I will never stop believing that.
x Dr Julie