Teatime: Before lockdown

For as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled with teatime on weekdays – what to eat and when to eat it. We have a number of issues – two of us are vegetarian, three of us aren’t; one of us is very fussy; and two of us have a wheat intolerance. And we have ballet classes exactly when we should be eating.

When my daughter was younger, her classes were at 4.30 or 5pm. So I would take her to ballet, then go home and cook. But as she’s got older, the classes have got later. So she’s starting any time between 5.30 and 6.30, depending on the day of the week. I tried cooking after her classes. But we were all so hungry it was making us hangry. And we often had later activities too – like Scouts, Explorers or athletics club.

So I started cooking earlier – as soon as my son and I got in from the school run. And by ‘cooking’, I mean getting food out of the freezer and putting it in the oven.

My younger son eats early at school and always eats a pretty small breakfast and lunch. Every day, he got in the car and said ‘What’s for tea?’. He got home, ate a packed of crisps and said ‘When’s tea?’. I gave him an estimate of teatime – usually around 4.45 – and at 4.43 he would appear and say ‘Is tea nearly ready?’. Every. Single. Day.

Because of our various food issues and the shortness of time, we were eating crap. I was aware of this and I felt bad about it, but I didn’t know how to change it. We didn’t have a meal plan as such, but we had a few regular days for things.

Monday was fish finger sandwiches (or veggie sausage sandwiches), which my husband introduced to the family, as he usually plays football on a Monday evening and needs something quick and light. Tuesday was pizza, not to mention potato waffles and baked beans. Wednesday was a grey area, because we usually had no food in the house, as it was Tesco day. (This was the good old days before I sacrificed my Tesco deliveries so that vulnerable people could have them. I really miss them and I hope I can get them back one day.) Thursday was often spaghetti bolognese, which was definitely the best weekday meal. I had to do a veggie version and a meat version, plus normal pasta and wheat free pasta.

fish fingers, potato waffles, baked beans, teatime, food, eating

Friday was the start of the weekend, which meant we either ate something more proper, or we had fish and chips from the chip shop.

I’m pleased to say that we did always eat better at weekend and actually made proper food. Weekend meals include curry, roast dinner, lasagne and enchiladas (always with a meat version and a veggie version for everything).

But I hated the food we were eating at teatime on weekdays. It wasn’t healthy or balanced. It wasn’t good enough for growing, active teenagers. I really wanted my kids to eat better, but with the time pressures I was under most days of the week, I couldn’t see an alternative.

And then lockdown happened, and everything changed

(Just for clarification, by ‘teatime’ I mean what some of you might 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 have inherited this trait, despite living in an area that eats ‘dinner’ and mixing with some kids who eat ‘supper’.)

Author: Sarah Mummy

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  1. You could maybe use this time to work on your teatime repertoire? I know you have different dietary requirements to think of but see it as a challenge! I don’t mind the odd “beige” tea and my kids certainly don’t but “real” food doesn’t always have to be complicated or even that time consuming. Jamie Oliver five ingredient book has good easy teatime recipes and Gordon Ramsey has a good book called Fast Food that I use a lot.

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    • We are using this time to increase our repertoire and have been eating properly all through lockdown (that’s on the blog next week), but I do worry about going back to ‘normal’ food once school and ballet are back on. So I will look out for those books, thanks. I literally need food I can make in 20 minutes (including the vegetarian and wheat-free versions!).

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  2. It sounds difficult catering for different dietary needs. I just have to cook one meal that we all eat. I hope things are better now.
    We say teatime too. hehehe

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    • It is a nightmare cooking for my family, but it’s always been like this and I literally don’t know any other way. I would love to be able to just cook one meal. It is so much better in lockdown. We still have to have different versions of things, but we do have time to make proper food.
      You’re supposed to say ‘teatime’ because you’re northern! We’re in the south where everyone says ‘dinner’.

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  3. Are there any meals you make at the weekend that you could make double of and freeze oe portion for the week nights? I used to do this quite often and then take the frozen one out before work to leave it ti defrost all day. Really worked for us and I know I need to get back in to tat habit.

    The amount of dance and sports activities you family do means you must be feeding them something right to have all that energy!

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    • That is a really good idea to make extra and freeze it, because I definitely don’t have time to cook decent food in the week. Our freezer is quite small, but if we’re buying less frozen food we should have room for it. Thank you!

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  4. I feel your pain. Usually Monday to Thursdays I don’t cook for the others as tea time here is 5pm, and I don’t leave work til then, so a post 6pm tea is way too late. But lockdown means 7 days a week cooking. Because I’m working from home I try and prep stuff at lunchtime, then just need to put it in the oven. Or finish at 4 and cook a lot of meals that take 30 mins to cook.

    Try a slow cooker if you’ve got time in the morning or even lunchtime to prep it. Or I like the Jamie Oliver 30 mins cook book. Otherwise, I try variations – so chicken breast variations (in orange juice, in garlic or lemon sauce, wrapped in parma ham, kievs, stir fry etc), salmon (en croute, pesto topped, ham or bacon wrapped), mince variations etc. You can build a repertoire quite easily and I can vary it for my keto in a lot of cases. Bit harder with meat vs veggie, although I’d do the veg base, then just add cooked bacon or chicken to the meat eaters.

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    • It must be a shock to your system having to cook seven days a week now. When I used to work in an office, my parents cooked for three kids two days a week, which was a massive help. I still had to cook for my husband and me though.
      I had no idea you could cook chicken in so many ways! Being both a vegetarian and a crap cook means my knowledge is quite limited. But lockdown means I’m definitely learning more and our eating habits will definitely improve in future.

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