This week I am joined by Alice who is going to tell you all about how she feeds her family. I’d love to hear what you think of this post and the in my kitchen series in general.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your family.
Hi! My name is Alice, I’m 37, wife to Oliver and mum to Mary (7), Charlie (4) and Martha (11 months). I’m a doula, breastfeeding peer supporter and massage therapist and volunteer on my local maternity ward, time and energy permitting!! We’ve finally settled in our family home in Wiltshire after spending quite a few years moving cities, countries and towns, and spend our time as a family going for walks, visiting National Trust places, drinking tea and tidying up 😉
Who does most of the cooking in your house? Do you enjoy cooking?
I would say my husband and I share it 50/50, with me cooking during the week and him cooking at weekends. He’s a much MUCH better cook than me, and one who can just open a cupboard door, look inside and make a great meal out of whatever he finds. I’m at a loss without a recipe (or I revert to the 3 dishes I know off by heart if I can’t find one I like)! I like cooking more now than I used to, but it took me a while to get into it, and make that transition into that particular aspect of being a mum and wife!
Do you meal plan?
Yes! I absolutely have to! If I don’t, we eat pasta and pesto or baked potatoes every night. My husband is a vegan (well, 80% vegan, 20% vegetarian on average), our almost one-year-old is still weaning, and our other two children are quite “particular” (!) so we need to plan to make sure we’re all eating the right things.
To be honest, meal planning has only been a recent thing for me, but since I started it, I’ve been a lot less stressed in the kitchen and we’ve eaten a lot more variety of food. It’s not a rigid plan though, so as long as we have the ingredients in for whatever meals we plan to make that week, we decide on the day/night before which one we’ll do.
What are mealtimes like in your house? Do you eat together as a family?
We unfortunately only eat together at weekends, as my husband doesn’t get home from work until around 7 pm, and I like to wait and eat with him. We also eat different meals to the children, because of their current limited tastes! It’s a bit frustrating having to cook two meals a night, but I prep mine and my husbands at the same time as cooking the children’s so I don’t feel like I’m doing much more work. Plus, the children’s meals are so simple that they hardly take any time at all (think pasta, peas, sweetcorn, fish fingers etc..!)
I make sure I sit with the children whilst they eat their dinner and chat to them about their day, and at the weekend we always sit at the dining table, often for all three meals (pancakes and eggs feature quite heavily on our weekend breakfast menus) so we still get that precious time as a family then. They’re always quite noisy affairs, peppered with “Charlie! Sit on your chair!” or “Mary! Close your mouth when you’re chewing!”, with Oliver and I trying to cram in some adult conversation amongst all the bottom jokes and requests for attention!
What are your favourite family meals to cook?
My husband and I eat a lot of curries, the children eat a lot of pasta…but family meals wise, we make fajitas, chickpea curry, macaroni cheese and roasts most often. The chickpea curry is perhaps the most exotic my children will go, so we have it a lot (we even have a special serving dish we put it in !) and whilst we dial down the spice for the children, Oliver and I crank it back up again by adding lots of Encona Hot Sauce to ours!
Do you cook the same meals frequently or are you always trying new recipes?
There are some firm favourites we consistently cook, like the chickpea curry, and I tend to cook the same 8 or 9 recipes I know fairly often. Oliver is more ambitious, although less now as we don’t have as many hours in the day as we’d like to spend pottering about cooking in the kitchen. I’ll make a Paneer Jalfrezi, Mushroom Strogonoff and Roasted Veg Pasta Bake at least twice a month, and the children tend to eat various combinations of the same foods on rotation. We’re always encouraging them to try new things, and offer them what we eat, and in fairness Mary is always quite willing to give things a go, but we’re confident that our children will develop and grow into their appetites for new foods if we take it slowly, and allow them to discover their food independence, rather than forcing it on them if that makes sense!
Do you have any tips for dealing with fussy eaters?
Try not to give them a hard time – I read an article a while ago about a school of thought that suggests that children, certainly in their preschool years, have an evolutionary bias towards NOT trying new foods, as a mechanism to stay safe and avoid being poisoned, something that would have helped our early ancestors survive and that has been passed down through our primal brain. That premise has stayed with me, so I’ve never forced anything onto my children, or punished them for not trying something new as it’s likely not their fault or stubbornness or whatever made them do it!
Sorry, that’s probably not very helpful to desperate parents!! I noticed that when Mary started school and ate school dinners, her interest in new foods picked up, so whether it was an age thing or because she had little choice but to eat what was given to her (!) I don’t know…so perhaps this might reassure parents of younger fussy eaters!
Do you have a favourite cookbook?
I have a couple – The Hummingbird Bakery cookbook is fantastic; the cakes and cupcakes you can make from that are epic, and surprisingly easy…and I use my Good Housekeeping “bible” which my parents bought for me when I was 18 and leaving home. I remember at the time being gutted to receive it because it wasn’t make-up or cheap knee length boots (!!) but now I’m so pleased I have it as it’s a foolproof go-to for the classic dishes. I use a lot of recipe cards too that I pick up from supermarkets – in fact, my signature mushroom stroganoff and paneer jalfrezi are both from recipe cards I grabbed somewhere whilst standing in a queue!
Do you enjoy baking?
I think I actually prefer baking to cooking, but I’ve never worked out why…baking always seems like less of a faff than cooking, and I like that you have to be fairly structured and precise with baking and the quantity and type of ingredients you use whereas with cooking you can freestyle a bit more and I’m no good at that! And of course, I love cake! I always feel like more of a “wholesome” mummy when I’ve baked something and it’s sitting in a tin waiting for the children to get in from school!
Do you have any tips for making feeding the family easier?
I’d love to be so organised and motivated to batch cook, but I’m not and I don’t, and I’m a sporadic online grocery shopper. I think the one thing that has made my life easier is sticking to a fairly set mealtime for the children so that I know when I need to start cooking and what can be made in that time. And prepping mine and Oliver’s meals as much as possible in that time too has helped. Meal planning is definitely helpful, and as far as possible, keeping the dining room table as clear as it can be so that you can just shove stuff to one side and not spend five minutes before dinner is ready frantically stuffing dried up play-dough into pots to make room to eat!
Do you get your kids involved in the kitchen?
Sometimes. Mary’s interested seems to depend on whether Junior Bakeoff is currently on CBBC! Charlie doesn’t have much patience and gets frustrated easily, so if he gets involved it tends to be mashing stuff up or “chopping” cucumber with a plastic knife. I hope they grow up to enjoy cooking and baking, and hopefully, Oliver has inspired them rather than me and may get it cooked as quickly as possible so you can do something else instead attitude!
Where can we find you?
I blog over at www.happybirthdoula.co.uk where I write about lots of subjects around pregnancy, birth and early motherhood to help support families during this wonderful stage of their lives! I’m also soon to be launching some on-line and virtual childbirth and post-natal classes which I’m very excited about!