Ever say “There’s nothing to eat?”
End up visiting Tesco Express every day?
Go shopping but then can’t figure out how to make a meal out of what you’ve bought?
Eat the same thing every week?
Tired of pre-packed sandwiches for lunch?
Unable to sustain a meal plan for a week or so?
Got scores of cookbooks that look pretty on the shelf but never use them?
When someone asks you what you would like for dinner – you can only think of about 3 things you can feasibly cook.
Your go-to dish is Spaghetti Bolognese?
Yep me too!
I‘ve been trying to come up with a name for this, but it started to hurt my head like when I have to think about what’s for dinner! I suppose it would be called Food Decision Fatigue.
We have more food choices that ever before. Growing seasons are no longer important. If you want strawberries, you can get strawberries.
This thing called the interweb contains more recipes than we could ever eat. Food is now a thing. It’s got to be bright and lively and bursting off the plate! You can’t just have meat and two veg anymore. You can’t put that on Instagram!
Maybe that’s the problem. Choice. Did our grandparents have this issue? Most probably not. Maybe it was just a different time.
Trying to keep it healthy is even tougher. It’s hard to keep up with what is good for you this week and what is bad for you? Is it fats, sugar, eggs, dairy, gluten.
In an aim to sort my own conundrum, here are a few pointers to help Food Decision Fatigue. Even though we’re trying to avoid thinking (so much), this exercise will involve thinking but will make things easier in the end. You have to think beyond one evening!
You are going to need at least a 5 day (weekday) meal plan to start with. If you think of all the things you have eaten in your life and could possibly be made at home, you should be able to come up with 5.
I will start you off with some –
- Vegetable Casserole
- Prawn and Pea Risotto
- Salad – green salad with asparagus, mackerel and boiled egg and dressing
- Anchovy pasta
- Salmon, two veg and potatoes
- Sausage Casserole
- Omelette and Green Salad – It can include just about anything but here is a great recipe by Nigel Slater.
To do list
- Think of 5 evening dinners
- Create a shopping list listing out all the ingredients required.
- Include the things you buy every week (milk etc.) or have them saved in your internet Supermarket shopping favourites.
- Add breakfast items (see below)
- Add lunch items (see below)
- Don’t go shopping in a rush (i.e. in the evening). You’ll end up picking any old s*it up.
- Make notes through the week. If you think of a recipe or something to eat – add it to the list for next time.
Yep, it’s important. If you don’t eat it, you’ll be smashing the charity cakes by 10 am.
Find something you can eat every day and really like, and then eat it every day (not bacon and eggs). It sounds boring but you’ve probably done it at some point for a sustained period of your life.
Try Breakfast Oats with nuts/seeds and fruit. It’s great and you can change it up with different nuts and seed mixes (that can be bulk made), different fruit and even different milk. You can eat at home or take it with you in the morning.
Same as the evening meal plan, plan your lunches. I used to love a supermarket pre-packed sandwich but over time it dawned on me, they are full of crap and make me feel like s*it.
Here’s a week of ideas
- Mon – leftovers or a batch dish from the freezer
- Tues – Salad
- Wed – Sandwich (homemade and tasty)
- Thurs – Soup – super easy and a great way of using up leftover vegetables. It can be made as a batch and eaten as part of dinner, or go in the freezer for next week.
- Friday – Ploughman’s lunch – cheese, ham, pickle (or pickles), tomatoes, baguette (or save Friday to maybe head out for lunch).
I have to say, salad is not my favourite, but if you change your idea of what a salad is you can make it quite interesting.
Here is one my girlfriend sometimes makes for me –
- falafel or halloumi
- with a simple oil and lemon dressing
You can just about throw anything in, maybe some leftover green beans or asparagus.
If you are struggling with lunch ideas – try The Little Book of Lunch by Caroline Craig and Sophie Missing. Some of the recipes take some time and are almost like little dinners, but there are some good soups, salads, tips and ideas.
Store cupboard winners – find some meals that you can make with store cupboard items. The Anchovy pasta dish above is a good example. Garlic, anchovies, pine nuts, raisins, red wine, tomato puree, pasta and some old bread. All items you probably have in the house (unless the wine rack has been attacked). This means you don’t always have to have stuff in but can still have something good to eat.
Leftover/Combo meals – some leftovers with a few bits that are kicking around. You end up with some unexpected combinations that sometimes don’t really go together, but are rather nice. Bubble and squeak or potato cakes, green beans and a bit of frozen fish, that’s floating around the freezer.
Batch cooking – when you’re cooking, particularly a one pot dish such as the casseroles above – cook loads of it. You can freeze it in batches and pull it out the freezer in the morning, ready for the evening. Also, you can take it the next day for lunch. If there are 2 of you, think about making enough for 6 people.
Collect recipes – Free in supermarkets. Take a look at them and change them up if you want to. Replace items; make your own sauce instead of buying one.
Keep writing – those meal/lunch ideas down and adding to the list. This will build over time and soon you will have 40-50 items to choose from. Some will slip off the list. Some will be added.
Get recipes off friends – ask them what they eat and like to cook.
Raid your Mum’s classics – I love my Mums fish pie, but now make this one with added greens from an Innocent recipe book.
Think of the foods you like – and build/look for recipes based around them. You can do this on the BBC Food website.
Go and find that recipe – from Saturday Kitchen or Sunday Brunch straight away and save it. Create a bookmarks folder on your computer.
Read your stack of cookbooks – you may only pull one or two recipes from each but there will be some good ones and plenty you have forgotten about.
If you’re looking for healthy vegetarian recipes try the Green Kitchen Stories blog.
There are some great diet and nutrition information and recipes on the Positive Health Wellness site.
As with most things, start slow and build up. Maybe just focus on dinners to start and then work in breakfast and lunch.
If you have a great go-to recipe, why not share it in the comments below!