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Getting the most from your meals

With the current COVID-19 situation, most of us are at home much more and cooking much more. For those of us socially distancing with our families, one of the biggest challenges is ensuring you get the most from meals, cost wise and nutrition wise, while ensuring everyone in the household is happy at meal times.

1. Be prepared with a list and meal plan.

As far as I'm concerned, social distancing means avoiding unnecessary interactions with anyone outside your family unit (or whomever you cohabit), and that includes trips to the shop or supermarket outside the weekly shop and maybe a top up shop.

BUT, in order to survive on one big weekly shop, you have to prepare. Make a meal plan for the week, remembering to include breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, and use this as the basis for your shopping list. If you can, involve everyone in the house in the meal planning, to limit the arguments at the dinner table!

[note: it is also helpful to have a list to help keep trips to the supermarket shorter!].

2. Use the freezer.

Frozen fruit and vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh. There is a big range available in the supermarkets, so pick up some options that your family enjoy. They are ideal for adding extra nutrition to meals, while keeping the costs down and there is virtually no food wasted from frozen packages.

With frozen vegetables, many are perfect to add to stews, curries and casseroles, E.G. sliced peppers, sliced mushrooms, peas and green beans, and to serve alongside meals E.G. corn on the cob.

Frozen fruits are ideal for making smoothies, using in baking (E.G. muffins) and adding to porridge.

3. Avoid waste.

Now is a brilliant chance to assess how much food we waste. It is thought that every Irish household throws away 1 tonne of food every year, and lots of the food we waste still contains nutrients, so if we can use even a fraction more of it, its a win-win!

Look at what food is being wasted in your home and think about ways you can reduce the waste.

-> Save vegetable scraps in a large freezer bag. Once the bag is full, use the scraps to make vegetable stock for soups.

-> If bread is getting mouldy before it is eaten, consider freezing your as 1/2 loaves, or freezing the entire loaf and defrosting a few slices when needed.

-> If bread starts to get hard, make breadcrumbs and freeze them to use later (E.G. homemade chicken tenders or stuffing).

-> Instead of throwing out older vegetables, peel & cut away any bad bits, and use them to make a soup.

-> If there are leftovers from a meal, freeze them instead of wasting. Freeze in a lunch box or freezer bag, making sure to write on what it is and when it was frozen.

-> Use over-ripe bananas to make banana bread, and other over-ripe fruits to make fruit crumble.

4. Bulk out meals with beans & lentils.

Beans and lentils are great sources of protein and fibre. They are also very cheap, and so are perfect for adding to meals for extra nutrients and for bulking out dishes.

By adding beans or lentils you can make mince-based dishes, such as shepherds pie, chili con carne and spaghetti bolognese go further.

->Add red lentils to bolognese and to tomato pasta sauce.

->Add green/brown lentils to shepherds pie.

->Add chickpeas to curries.

->Add kidney beans to chilies.

5. Have snacks ready.

It is so important at this time that we don't fear food- our bodies need energy to fight off infection and illness. So, please don't be afraid of snacking!

Keep the kitchen stocked with snacks that you and your family enjoy, and aim to have snacks that provide a range of nutrients available:

-fruit (have it washed & ready to eat)

-veggie sticks (chop and cover in water, and they will stay fresh in the fridge for a few days)

-yogurt (either pots, or have a big pot of plain yogurt with granola & fruit to add to it)

-cheese and crackers

-breadsticks with hummus

-muffins (2x recipes in my e-book here)

- energyballs (recipes on the blog here)


-other homemade cakes/muffins/biscuits- surely counts as a home ec class too?!

Hopefully these tips will be of some help during this difficult time.

If you have any questions or recipe requests, drop me a message and I'd be happy to help!

Lots of love,

Little O x

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