Do you ever have those moments when you think “I have no idea what I am going to cook tonight?” or “what am I going to pack in the lunchbox today?”.
Would you like to know how you can be organised for meals even when you’re not organised? Better still, would you like to know how you can be get meals onto the table in about 20 minutes even when you’re not organised or don’t know what you’re going to cook tonight?
Every.single.week, (usually on a Saturday or Sunday), without fail, I take these 3 Simple Actions To Be Real Food Ready Each Week. This means even when I am feeling frazzled, or when I have no idea of what I am going to cook, or I am running late, I am always organised enough to pull out a real food meal in about 20 minutes.
The 3 simple actions I do are:
- Buy my staple fruits and vegetables
- Roast a chook or make a big pot of beans
- Roast a heap of mixed vegetables
1. Buy Staple Fruits and Vegetables
By far the single most important step I take each week is to ask the kids what fruits and vegetables they want in their lunchbox this week. I then shop for these items plus at least carrots and lots of in season greens. I call these my Staple Fruits and Vegetables. These are non-negotiable. We must have these in our bus for the start of the week.
Whilst shopping for these items, I also buy other vegetables that are in season and locally sourced from where-ever we are. These other items aren’t staples, meaning we can live without them but that rarely happens. About 60% of our weekly food budget is on fruits and vegetables, 20% on pantry and fridge items such as flours, cheese and yoghurt, and the balance on good quality meat, poultry and fish.
Fruits and Vegetables are so versatile: use them at breakfast, lunch, snacks, dinner or dessert.
Ways To Use Staple Fruits and Vegetables
- Always include in the lunchbox
- Use fruit to top breakfast dishes
- Make smoothies or juices – try at least one veg with a fruit or 2
- Serve with dips for snacks
- Make boil eggs and serve vegetables as extra dippers – carrots are especially good for this
- Make a platter of cheese, crackers, vegetables, olives and dips
- Bake, steam, mash, saute or eat them raw
- Use a potato peeler or spiraliser to turn them into noodles
- Make delicious soups or stews
- Serve some veg up with some bacon and eggs for a hearty breakfast
Make fruits and vegetables a way of life as early as you can. If you’re kids don’t really appear to like vegetables, find at least one they will eat and feed them that. Then expand their tastes over time. Do not give up.
The required serves of vegetables a day is easy to achieve if you have some for breakfast, some for lunch, some for snacks, and then some for dinner.
For our family, our health is our priority, so this means fruits and vegetables are always a priority in our house. This happen before anything else and if budget is tight, we forego other things including activities.
2. Roast a Chook or Make A Big Pot Beans
This step of roasting a chook or making a big pot of beans really sets you up for being able to make several lunches or evening meals at short notice. The beans are also a great option for breakfast.
Simple Steps To Roasting A Chook
- Preheat your oven to 180 degrees
- Wash and pat dry
- Throw the chook in a roasting pan
- Stuff the chook (the quickest way is to prick a lemon and pop that in the cavity of the chook. If you have more time, make seasoning out of nuts, rice or crumbled bread, butter, apricots, herbs – whatever takes your fancy really)
- Drizzle some olive oil or coconut oil over the chicken
- Seat with salt and pepper and then massage the oil and seasoning all over the chicken
- Pour about 3/4 cup of water around the base of the chicken
- Turn dial up to 200 degrees and roast for 20 minutes
- Reduce back to 180, and roast for about 1.5 hours in total (depending on size – as a guage, for every 500 grams, roast for 30 mins).
- Remove and cover to allow to cool for about 15 minutes to 20 mins before carving. I cut the drum sticks, then the wings, then the breast, then pull the rest apart with tongs.
Ways To Use The Roast Chook
- Drumstick and wing in the lunchbox
- Shred / slice the breast for sandwiches, wraps or rolls
- Keep the pan juices from the chicken to make a gravy/sauce, and make chicken pies
- Thick succulent chicken and salad rice paper rolls for lunch or dinner
- Make Sushi
- Throw some veg in a wok/pan and stir fry, then add the chicken to warm through
- Make a big salad bowl, and add the chicken to the top. Use your favourite dressing
- Stir through brown rice and add some fresh veg to make a chicken fried rice
- Create a white sauce, add chicken, peas, corn, (whatever veg really) and throw over pasta
- Dice up the chicken, tomatoes, grated carrot, other salad veg and serve in cos lettuce cups
Simple Steps To Make A Big Pot Of Beans
- Saute garlic, onion, ginger with coconut oil – until onion is soft
- Add in some fresh herbs – rosemary, thyme work well or basil, oregano
- Add 4-6 cans of beans – I use a mix of chickpeas, red kidney beans, cannellini, butter, 4 bean mix – stir
- Add 2 cans of diced tomatoes and 750 ml of vegetable stock (if you’re not vegetarian, using homemade chicken broth adds extra flavour)
- Simmer for about 30 minutes until the liquid has reduced and it’s quite thick
Ways To Use The Beans
- On toast for breakfast
- On a sandwich, wrap or roll for lunch
- Heat the beans, shred some kale and stir through and serve with rice for a hearty dinner
- Serve alongside corn chips, salsa for a nachos kind of meal
- Make a shepherds pie or pot pies by adding mash potato/sweet potato topping
- Serve the beans in lettuce cups with grated carrot, cucumber, sliced cherry tomato, grated cheese
- Stir beans through a pot of cooked quinoa, added some shredded greens (kale, spinach, collard)
- Place beans on a thick slice of sourdough, add some cheese and pop under the griller
- Make a big breakfast – serve beans with wilted spinach, roasted tomato and poached egg
- Mash beans, stir through some thick sour cream and serve as a dip
3. Roast A Big Batch of Mixed Vegetables
I actually usually do this once on the weekend, then again in the middle of the week. Throw as many different vegetables as you have in baking pan, roast them and then use them for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
My family love this. It’s not uncommon for them to start sneaking the vegetables out of the pan whilst I have it on the bench cooling down and waiting to pop into my container.
Simple Steps To Roast Mixed Vegetables
- Cut your hard vegetables first – pumpkin, sweet potato, potato and throw these in the bottom of your pan
- Cut up 1 – 2 red onions into wedges, throw them in the pan
- Grab as much garlic as you like, cut them in half (I usually use about half a knob of garlic, then cut them in half)
- Cut up as many other vegetables as you like, and throw on top a host of other vegetables. I usually have zucchini, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots
- Drizzle liberally with olive oil
- Season with salt and pepper
- Throw on a few sprigs of rosemary
- Shake the pan to coat the veg in the oil and seasoning
- Roast for 1-2 hours until golden and the potatoes are crunchy. The timing will depend on how much you have in your pan
Ways To Use The Roast Vegetables
- Take some of the vegetables, stir through some cooked quinoa, you can even add some of your roast chook. Add a squeeze a bit of lemon juice, a splash of olive oil and season. Stir through for a main meal or serve as a side salad
- Throw a handful of the vegetables in the lunchbox
- Grab out some of your roast chook, add some mixed vegetables – reheat and serve with steamed greens
- Serve the roast vegetables on top of sourdough, add some wilted spinach and top with poached egg
- Cook some brown rice, stir through the roast vegetables, add a splash of tamari, and add a protein source for a hearty dinner
- Dice the roast vegetables, add some shredded chicken for a great sandwich filling
- Make a delicious pie. Layer a square pirex dish with quinoa on the bottom, throw on some roast vegetables, add some beans or chicken to the top, pour a white sauce over the top, add grated cheese and bake.
- Place roast vegetables in a salad bowl, add some baby spinach, a drained can of chickpeas – stir. Plate this up, then add a big dollop of basil pesto to the top
- Make a batch of hummus, spread a big dollop on the bottom of the plate, add some salad greens, then pile high with roast vegetables and some cannelini beans.
- Make a frittata or pie by mixing some ricotta with eggs and grated cheese, then pouring this mixture over your vegetables. Bake until the egg mixture is cooked through. Serve with salad, or slice into fingers for the lunchbox
So there you have it. That’s the 3 simple actions I take each week to make sure I am real food ready. So even on those days when the wheels fall off, I still serve up a real food breakfast, lunch, snack or dinner without it doing my head in.