Where’s my dinner? A survival guide for feeding hungry children fast

When’s your most stressful time of the day? Mine used to be at about 4:45pm when my two boys were “starving” (despite having had a snack less than an hour beforehand). I’d be trying to cut up vegetables to make a wholesome dinner with pans bubbling away whilst my toddler was sobbing and trying to climb up my leg, and my 3yo was shouting that he wanted a biscuit next to me. Then sobbing as “dinner is nearly ready” wasn’t fast enough. So the wholesome dinner usually turned into pasta pesto and the focus was not accidentally stabbing or scolding either of my children whilst trying to breathe and not have a nervous breakdown.

Well, that clearly wasn’t working was it?!

So, I had to have a think. We all want to do fun and interesting things with our lives, cooking all the time is not a solution. And we don’t want to live on quick processed food. I therefore had to look at the whole week. Some days are easy and I had more time, I had to identify the days where spending time on cooking was not an option.  Here are the ways I solved it:

Plan ahead

On days that I have time I cook things early in the day to be heated up later. For example, on Sunday afternoon I made some bolognese sauce whilst my youngest had a nap and my eldest had some quiet time (aka watching Power Rangers 😂). I also use my slow cooker at least once a week as it provides a meal at the right time and there’s usually enough for another day.

Get ahead of the game aka “offence is the best defense”

I take packed lunches and snacks out wherever we go. My two are often hungry before we make it home (they take after me!). Having a sandwich or a piece of fruit ready is always very useful to ensure they’re having nutritious snacks when they need them. It’s cheaper and healthier than buying something. I got into this habit due to my youngest having a milk allergy as it was often tricky to get something to eat that was “safe” when we were out and about. Also if they fall asleep on the way home, you don’t have to worry about their schedule getting out of kilter and they hopefully won’t be as hungry by 4:45pm!

Use your freezer effectively

Some days weren’t so simple so I had to make sure that I always had suitable leftovers in the fridge or freezer. This had to be factored in on my meal plan. When I make things at the weekend I save little portions for the boys either in the freezer or the fridge. It’s all about planning. If you look at the whole month you can minimise repetition in the week.

Tip: if you are baking potatoes, put more than you need in the oven and freeze the ones you don’t use. They only take a few minutes to warm up in the microwave and make a quick meal with your filling of choice, tuna mayonaise is a fab store cupboard standby.

Have some super-quick healthy meals up your sleeve

Pasta, cous cous, baked potatoes, tortilla wraps and noodles are great bases, combine with frozen vegetables, cheese, tuna or sauces you have left over in your freezer. And don’t forget to have a can of baked beans in the cupboard, they’re surprisingly nutritious.

Quick tortilla pizza

This is not the healthiest pizza in the world but it’s a brilliant quick meal for a child if you combine it with a few bits of salad. It’s high in lycopene, protein, calcium and you can use high fibre tortillas for added goodnes. Tortillas can be kept in the freezer and pulled out when needed. It’s also good for picky eaters.

Prep: 3 mins       Cook: 5 minutes       Serves 1

Ingredients 

  • splash of vegetable oil
  • 1 wheat/corn tortilla
  • 1 squirt (approx 1 dessert spoon) tomato puree
  • 1 squirt tomato ketchup
  • a sprinkling of oregano (optional)
  • 1 handful grated cheese

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 220°C. Pour the oil into a frying pan and put it on a medium heat.
  2. Place the tortilla into the pan for approx one minute until starting to get a bit of colour on the bottom, then flip over for the same amount of time. (I tried missing this step out originally but you don’t get a crispy pizza.)
  3. When both sides are a bit crispy, take out of the pan.
  4. Squirt the tomato paste and ketchup onto the tortilla, combine with a spoon and spread around the surface, sprinkle over the oregano if using and the cheese.
  5. Place the pizza onto a baking sheet (I usually cover with baking parchment to reduce the washing up) and cook in your hot oven for approximately 4-5 minutes, keep an eye on it, when the cheese is bubbling it’s ready.

In summary: have a plan, or at least a plan B! Don’t leave it until the last minute to try and make a healthy feast as it’ll do your blood pressure no good at all!

If you want some help with meal planning, see my previous blog post or get me to write one for you! More information here.

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