I wrote last week about my struggles with teatime and being unable to cook healthy, balanced meals in very limited time. Lockdown has changed that for all of us. I work, but not full-time, and I’m not home schooling (I have only one child who does schoolwork and she is totally independent). We have time to cook.
I’ll be honest, I don’t like cooking and doubt I ever will. But when I can’t go out and I’ve got no time pressures from school runs, ballet classes and athletics, I do enjoy it a bit more. And I do like the fact that we are eating proper food which has been cooked from scratch – or with jars of sauce at least, rather than going straight from the freezer to the oven. We’ve even embraced eating broccoli, rather than just peas and sweetcorn.
My husband is working from home, so most of the time he is around to help. And, best of all, my younger son has developed a love of cooking and of good food. My son was starting to notice that the food we ate for tea wasn’t as good as what his friends ate. As an athlete, and also due to his GCSEs in PE and biology, he was getting very interested in nutrition and eating a balanced diet. And as a year 11 with no GCSE exams to take, he had more time on his hands than any of us.
So he started looking at recipe books. And he started helping us to cook every day.
Another factor for us in improving our diet has been meal planning. The pressures of going to the supermarket during lockdown mean we can’t shop like we used to. We’d had a Tesco order once a week since 2006, but we haven’t had it since before lockdown started. (I really, really miss it and desperately hope I can get it back when all of this is over). We did top-up shops at least every other day, and sometimes every day. There’s five of us, including three teenagers, and our freezer is small. We’ve accepted that shopping once a week is impossible, but we are now doing two big shops twice a week. And we are meal planning.
We haven’t eaten fish fingers for weeks. Pizza has gone from every week to once a fortnight at most. We have added some new meals to our ‘weekend’ list of meals, including chilli, a noodle dish from the Wagamama cook book and shepherd’s pie (which I personally find a massive waste of time, but that’s just my view). We’ve even tried handmade fish, chips and mushy peas. That was absolutely delicious, but took forever to make!
I am happy that we are now eating ‘proper’ food at teatime and getting a more balanced diet. It’s really good to see my younger son taking so much interest in food and cooking (his siblings still aren’t bothered though). But I do worry about what will happen when life gets back to ‘normal’. My husband will be at work and my son will be at school. I can’t make this sort of food singlehandedly when I have a school run to do and ballet classes to get to.
But I also know I don’t want to go back to eating food from the freezer and that my husband and sons won’t either (my daughter really misses her freezer food). I know that in theory we could batch cook or invest in a slow cooker, but I also know that our freezer isn’t big enough for batch cooking. The reality is that we will probably need to find some sort of halfway, but I don’t know what that is right now.
I guess we will cross that bridge when we come to it.
(For clarification, by ‘teatime’ I mean what many of you will call ‘dinner time’ or even ‘supper time’, although I very much doubt ‘supper’ is ever eaten at 4.45pm. My husband is northern and my parents are from the Midlands. We have always called the last meal of the day ‘tea’ rather than ‘dinner’. My kids say ‘teatime’ too, despite living in an area that eats ‘dinner’ and even mixing with some kids who eat ‘supper’.)