My top tips for pancake making

My top tips for pancake making

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My top tips for pancake making

I am a total pancake fiend! I eat them regularly all year round. I’ve experimented and tweaked my pancake recipes many times, and put together a fab little guide for you if you are interested (it’s at the bottom of this post). I’ve also managed to come up with ten top tips for perfect pancakes. I hope you like them.

  1. Perfect pancake batter: Add the eggs to a well in the centre of the flour first. Spoon upright (vertical) stir from the middle with little circular movements.
    Then add the milk a little at a time keeping the spoon vertical and stirring fro the middle allowing a little flour to be incorporated at a time.
  2. Hot pan. Make sure the pan is properly hot before pouring the batter in. The first pancake is always the worst pancake, and I think it’s because the frying pan is not usually hot enough – like really warmed through. So don’t worry if your first one is a flop … the next one will be so much better.
  3. Use butter or coconut oil for the nicest tasting results
  4. Get your jug out. Pour crepe batter or runnier batters into the frying pan from a jug or use a soup ladle. Thicker batters can be dolloped in straight from the bowl
  5. Hands off! Don’t use your flipper / fish slice until your pancake is cooked on one side. No patting, no shifting, no lifting the edges, no sliding it around. Understood? Your pancake will move by itself when it’s ready just with a little shake of the frying pan.
  6. Don’t be a show off. If you don’t know what I mean by this – you need to check out the Pancake episode of Pepper Pig. It is really not necessary to flip  pancakes up in the air. Use a fish slice for goodness sake. I’d rather have more pancakes to eat than a mushy mess that’s been on the floor!  
  7. Keep them warm. Store the pancakes that have been cooked on a warmed plate with either a large upside down bowl over the top or a clean warm tea towel until you are ready to sit down and eat them.
  8. Offer a selection of toppings . Here are some of my faves: Natural yogurt with fresh fruit and maple syrup, Cinnamon and sugar, lemon and sugar, maple syrup, sliced banana and cinnamon. Tinned fruit, fresh fruit or defrosted from frozen are all excellent accompaniments to pancakes.
  9. Be experimental. Once you have a fool proof recipe have a play…. try different types of flours, different milks, add a dollop of natural yogurt or butter milk to increase fluffiness of American pancakes. Try adding cocoa powder, or cinnamon to your batter. Let me know any winning combinations you come up with.
  10. Kids can help. Make sure you teach your children how to make pancakes. The best way to do thi is to get them involved every time you make them. Let them help with weighing, stirring, ladling and flipping. Here’s my pancake guide if you’d like it. It has my all time favourite go-to basic pancake recipes. Tried and tested hundreds of times by me and my girls.

    cookery craft school summer learn children creative cooking cook recipe healthy activities childcare kent ramsgate margate thanet east kent broadstiars  

Giveaway

Giveaway

competition win healthy children fussy eater safety knife personalised plate win winner cookery eating family food parents children kids

It’s giveaway time!

I’ve joined up with Jane from Created4U to giveaway the following to one lucky person:

  • Child safety knife
  • Vegetable holder (to keep little hands safe)
  • A hand painted plate personalised with your child’s own drawing

Read on to find out more about these fab products and find out how to enter!

Personalised plate – featuring your child’s drawing £25

Jane from Created4u will giveaway a hand painted plate personalised with your child’s drawing. Customers have told Jane in the past that their fussy eaters have been happy to try new foods when eating from a plate they have designed themselves. Could this work for you? Either way, this giveaway will bring pleasure to any child and is a lovely way to keep your child’s art work forever.

About the plate…

Jane will copy your child’s art work onto a 21cm diameter ceramic plate. The copied drawing and writing of your child’s name will then be hand painted onto the plate using underglaze paints best matched to the colours your child uses. The plate will be dipped in a clear glaze after drying for 24 hours. After another 24 hours the plate will be ready to fired in our kiln, the firing process takes another 24 hours ( 8/9 hours to fire up to 1010 degrees Celsius & 16 hours to cool down). We only fire our kiln with a full load in it to be as economical and eco-friendly as possible with our use of electric. Therefore the finished plate it can take 7-14 days to produce for you. Will then post the plate out to you and let you know when the plate is on its way too you.

personalised plate child drawing win competition fussy eater child family food eating mealtime win winner

Using your plate … Your child will be able to eat off this plate as normal and it can be washed by hand.  If you use a dishwasher please ensure you place it in the dishwasher without any other item touching it as this can cause chipping on the rims otherwise. Please do not put the plate in a microwave oven or a very hot oven as this can cause the plate to crack and break through high thermal shock. The plates are made from earthenware clay and this does not like sudden high intense heat. The plate can be warmed in an oven if desired but please put the plate into a cold oven and allow it to warm up as the oven does to a low heat.

Safety knife £6

Did you know that children who help to prepare food are more likely to taste what they cook. The parents of children who attend my cookery classes report back that their child is much more relaxed around food. They start to taste new foods that they have previously rejected. This knife and veg holder make food preparation safe and easy for children as they learn to handle a knife properly and safely. I’ll giveaway one knife and one vegetable holder to the lucky winner from our draw.

About the knife…

This fabulous knife allows children a feeling of independence and empowerment as they build their food preparation and knife skills safely.

The knife is easy to use in much the same way you would use a sharp knife. You do not need to use a sawing motion to cut through fruit and veg. It can be used on any fruit and veg even harder ones such as onions, small potatoes and apples.

The knife is so easy and efficient to use that I use it myself for most food preparation tasks at home

learn safe knife skills children friendly knife kids girls boys children young cooking preparation food onion vegetables safe learn quality buy

Vegetable holder £6

This looks like an extended comb. It’s a fab little tool which children find helpful to hold fruit and vegetables in place while they cut, keeping their fingers safely out of the way.

The extended prongs are inserted into the fruit or veg and the child holds the handle above to secure the fruit or veg into place and stop slipping. It allows for finer slicing, dicing and chopping as the knife can slide between the prongs. Excellent for teaching children to cut onions, apple, potatoes etc

learn safe knife skills children friendly knife kids girls boys children young cooking preparation food onion vegetables safe learn quality buy

Suitable for use by children aged 6 and upwards. (adults like using them too!)

Blunt slightly serrated stainless steel blade

Chunky blue sparkly plastic handle

Dishwasher safe

Would you like to enter to win?

Last entry for the giveaway will be on 7th February at Midnight. We will announce the lucky winner on 8th February.

All you need to to enter is click below.

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Good luck!

When your child wants to help in the kitchen…

When your child wants to help in the kitchen…
Mummy … can I help?

Sometimes help in the kitchen from your child feels like the last thing you want or need. Pictures of the mess, and images of dinner just not getting cooked. Or perhaps dinner burning whilst you assist your young children may float through your already busy mind. Meanwhile you’re desperately searching for an excuse for your child not to ‘help’, or for something easy/ non messy / non dangerous that they could do instead.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. There are so many wonderful benefits that it’s a shame to pass up this opportunity.

 

  • Your child will gain valuable life skills
  • You’ll have a team of helpers for preparing meals
  • You’ll get to spend time together whilst getting a chore done.
My kitchen helper checklist

I’ve put together a guide to age appropriate jobs that children can help with in the kitchen without causing you too much stress or angst at a busy time of day.

It’s free, downloadable and printable – a perfect addition to your fridge door, or maybe inside the larder cupboard door. You can quickly refer to to it and assign a task. 

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Use it like a checklist

You could also use it a bit like a checklist and cross off tasks that your child can now manage independently. The age guide is really just a suggestion as all children are completely different and will manage things at different ages, however it is helpful to give you a starting point.

cookery craft school summer learn children creative cooking cook recipe healthy activities childcare kent ramsgate margate thanet east kent broadstiars <<< Download here

The age bit is just a guide – we can all enjoy the toddler ones!

Don’t think that just because your child is now a tweenager they won’t enjoy playing with an off-cut of pastry – they will LOVE it. I’ve listed that job under toddlers and pre-schoolers because it is something they can do unassisted, but it is also something that everyone can enjoy doing.

It’s never too early to get your child involved with cooking.

In my opinion it is an essential part in having a healthy relationship with food for life.

Feel free to enjoy using the guide however it fits your family best.

As always I’d absolutely LOVE to see and hear from you how your family is getting on. I love to receive and (with your permission) share pictures of children cooking at home.

Here’s a pic of my lovely Mary bunny ‘helping’ with the washing up quite a few years ago now. I wish she’d still want to help me like this now!

help helping kitchen washing up children toddler preschooler cooking learn to cook mum dad family child children task age appropriate

How to make your own small piping bag

How to make your own small piping bag
Our favourite biscuits to make (and eat) are gingerbread and for these we fill our homemade piping bag with royal icing. However once you know how to make your own, you can fill the piping bag with melted chocolate, frosting, whatever you fancy. Read on to find out how to make your own piping bag.

So we’ve been making rather a lot of these biscuits lately. My eldest wanted to make them for a school project and event, I made some for the school cake stall at their Christmas concert and I ran a class making them. Unfortunately we ran out of time to ice them and I’d really like to share that part of the process today so that you can have a go at home.

We made a special effort with the icing and I made up a stiff batch of royal icing (egg white and icing sugar) and some homemade piping bags.

kids cook learn ramsgate kent lessons teach home baking icing piping bag royal icing gingerbread men fine motor skills children cook recipe  

I was blown away by the outcomes, they had really improved their technique from last time (probably about a year ago). I loved seeing the concentration on both girls faces, and listening to the unusual silence that accompanied the painstaking decoration process. This was a real feel good moment.

You can watch my “how to” video here

If you’d like my family friendly gingerbread recipe – you can receive it here by signing up for my newsletter

Why you should bake…

Here’s why I think making and decorating gingerbread men with your children is super good for everyone…

Family time
As well as being a sweet treat, gingerbread men must be praised because the process of making and decorating involves spending valuable time together.

Good quality ingredients
The ingredients that go into the biscuits are completely within your control. There are no added nasties to make the biscuits last longer, look better, hold together better, more crisp etc. You can include wholemeal flour, free range eggs etc according to your personal preferences / needs.

Nutritional education (you didn’t think I’d actually leave this out did you?
When you make treats yourself, your children can appreciate for themselves just how much sugar and fat goes into biscuits and later on they will be able to make informed decisions about how many they want to  / should eat.

Numeracy skills
M practiced weighing out the ingredients independently. There are loads of ways you can include numeracy in your baking time with your children, but that’s a whole other blog post.

Literacy skills
Following instructions. There are many technical words in recipes and these can be a challenge to children. So here’s a good opportunity for you to start to demystify the world of baking.

Scientific understanding
In my class we talked about the jobs that different ingredients do and why we were using them in this recipe. E.g. bicarbonate of soda. The more you cook, and talk and ask questions the more they will pick up, sometimes subconsciously.

Improves handwriting (fine motor) skills
Icing the biscuits is an excellent way of practicing fine motor control skills, especially for children who struggle with handwriting. We made our own mini piping bags from greaseproof paper and cut a tiny nozzle. The girls had to concentrate really hard to get the designs they wanted. Their outcomes were so much improved from last year, it was really exciting to see.   Find out how to make the piping bags here

Teach your child to use a knife safely in the kitchen

Teach your child to use a knife safely in the kitchen
“How do you teach them to use knives when cooking?”

This is one of the things I get asked most often. Along with “Do you use a special knife?”

I hope to answer some of your questions here, but look out for more knife articles and guides coming here soon.

Which knife do you use?

When using sharp knives, I demonstrate first, I teach safe knife handling techniques and I teach safe hold of vegetables.

Each child receives 1:1 attention until they are fully competent using a sharp knife, and even then they are never left alone, but watched closely.

If cutting soft fruit or veg, or with very young children, we sometimes just use normal cutlery knives – the children have to saw a bit, but I feel happier with them doing that a little more independently which builds their confidence.

However the sawing motion with cutlery knives has been irking me somewhat lately, it seems a bit unnatural to progress from that onto a very sharp knife that can slip through the veg so easily when they are used to the applying more pressure and a  sawing motion. I kind of wanted a happy medium to bridge the gap. (scroll down to the bottom to find the results of my search)

Parental nerves

I’ve also noticed that (as a parent) when I allowed my children to use sharp knives at home, my anxiety (even though I teach hundreds of children sometimes on a 1:26 basis at school to use knives safely) went through the roof and I felt like I wanted to grab the knife from my child and just stop the whole thing.

Kids do pick up on this – and it makes them nervous… which in turn can make things more dangerous. So really it is best to remain outwardly calm and confident, but so much easier said than done!

young person safe knife child family friendly cookery skills looked after children's home cookery lessons 1:1 food hygiene food safety independent living

Teach your child the basics first! 

It’s far more important to cover the following basics first regardless of which knife you use.

  • Start by showing your child around the knife. Teach them how to identify which is the sharp edge and which is the blunt edge.
  • Establish your household knife ground rules. Where are they stored? Who is allowed to get them out? Do they need to ask first? When are they allowed to use a knife in the kitchen?
  • Teach your child how to pass the knife safely to someone else.
  • Show your child how to carry a knife (if they are walking around with one)
  • Demonstrate the safe way to hold a knife.
    Children naturally start by holding kitchen implements at the very top end furthest away from the action. This gives them far less control and a clumsy motion – and we certainly do not want that when handling knives!
    So encourage them to hold the knife as close to where the handle meets the blade as possible with a firm grip using the whole hand and not just fingers.

 

Teach by showing
  • The best way to teach is by showing / demonstrating.
  • Show your child how to cut by placing the point of the knife on the board first and then levering the knife downwards from there.
  • Demonstrate how to hold the fruit or veg safely. I’ll show the main grips I use in more detail in another blog – coming soon in video format.
  • Encourage them to work slowly and methodically and to keep their eye on the job at all times. No talking whilst chopping!
Make it age / ability appropriate
  • Use soft fruit and veg for little children such as banana, cucumber, mushroom etc
  • Do not use very small fruit and veg (e.g. grapes) for young children or beginners – there is not enough for them to hold onto
  • Don’t worry about the pieces being too big, too small or uneven. It’s the technique, not the end result that is important to begin with.
  • Make sure that little children are working at the appropriate height so that the work surface is about waist height – I often use the kitchen table as it is lower and kneeling on a chair is often a good way to start at the right height.
  • Make it fun! If it’s tedious, or you are striving for perfection, your little one will tire of it and possibly not want to do it again. Celebrate successes and reward them for their achievements.

Here is a video my nephew Sam and I made together to show off his culinary skills.

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There is so much more I can talk about on this topic, so watch this space for further articles.

If you’d like to make sure you see new articles as they are published, why not join my mailing list here: cookery craft school summer learn children creative cooking cook recipe healthy activities childcare kent ramsgate margate thanet east kent broadstiars

 

About my favourite Child friendly knife

Although it’s not essential to buy and use a child safety knife, the confidence that owning a good one can bring very quickly is wonderful. ]

If things are a little tense for you when your child ‘helps’ in the kitchen, this could bring you a bit of  reprieve whilst still allowing your child to help and teaching them all the good tips, skills and advice above.

The knife that I recommend is my favourite because it cuts anything and everything that you could possibly wish to cut in the kitchen (but not fingers) easily and effortlessly. Yet it is blunt and cannot easily cut your child’s fingers. In fact, it is so easy to use (even for onions!) I use it more often than not now at home… and my mum (who helps at my cookery classes) has asked to buy one too!

child safety knife knives kitchen cooking learn to teach child children kids kid safe safety

 

Here it is.

If you’d like to see this fab knife in action – take a look at this video of me trying it out. You can watch the video by clicking on the photo.

If you’d like to buy your own, I am selling them for £6 each or you can buy a knife and vegetable holder together for £10

cookery craft school summer learn children creative cooking cook recipe healthy activities childcare kent ramsgate margate thanet east kent broadstiars

 

Christmas gift and present ideas for kids and teens

Christmas gift and present ideas for kids and teens

This year I faced a dilemma; for the first time in the history of having children, mine don’t know what they want for Christmas!

…. and Christmas gift ideas for my kids are just not coming readily.

Imagine that! Does anyone else have a similar problem?

 

christmas-1711545_640In terms of ‘things’ there isn’t anything they really want or need! So this year I’ve really had to put my Christmas Elf thinking cap on and get a bit resourceful. So I thought I’d share my ideas with you.

So now we’ve established that it’s not necessarily ‘THINGS’ we want this year, I’ve decided to think a bit out of the box.

Some of the things I’ve mentioned below are local to me, but I’m sure if you’re further afield there will be a range of similar options nearer to where you live.

 

 

Experiences:

For me, as a parent, it’s become more and more important to me to be spending time with my kids before they grow up and decide that I’m not cool enough anymore or I’m too old to do stuff with.

So I’ve come up with a lovely list of experiences that can be shared together.

Last year I bought membership to our new local theme park Dreamland and wanted this to be a stocking surprise, so I bought some gorgeous items from their gift shop and packed the membership cards up in a shoe box with the branded paraphernalia.

Here’s a link to Dreamland

 

Other fab tickets and membership ideas include:

Go ape,     Laser quest, paintball,     Zoo membership

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theatre tickets, a day trip to France, a weekend city break and theme park day tickets. 

The positives of this type of gift are that they are something to look forward to once the Christmas glitter has gone, and they can be bonding experiences for families.

Photos can be taken during the experience and a montage created afterwards and framed as a memory.

Materials / tools to enable or encourage a hobby:

I’m all for encouraging my children away from their tablets and the TV. So any glimmer of an interest or hobby and I’m all over it. What better way to encourage this than by investing in their hobby.

I think Christmas is an excellent opportunity to buy really good quality materials and equipment that you wouldn’t normally consider spending out on during the year such as canvases, quality watercolour paints, a camera, football boots, specialist crafting equipment, roller skates, bike and sewing machine.

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Here are some roller skates that I totally recommend as they are size adjustable and an excellent price.

Thinking even further out of the box, why not put together something or somewhere that makes you child’s hobby even easier to access.

A pop up dark room?

A crafting desk or storage facility?

Personal space:

Ooh, how about creating a secret kid’s cave only to be revealed on Christmas morning? A treasure hunt leading your child to the scene of their new hideout?

post-37284_640It could be a shed in the garden that you secretly decorate inside and kit out with kid’s stuff like beanbags, bunting, battery operated lanterns and a do not enter sign on the door.  

Or maybe you could cosy up the basement or cellar (if it’s in usable condition) with beanbags, TV and a mini fridge.  

For younger children, what about an under the stairs hidey hole, or teepee? Children and teens love to feel independent and they love to have something to call their own.  

 

 

Learn a skill:

Here’s a present that can last well beyond Christmas.

Christmas gift ideas kids Why not book your child onto a slightly more unusual course in something they’ve not tried before.

I attended some wonderful bushcraft courses at Jack Raven Bushcraft in Ashford last year –  here. They do organised group courses, family courses and also private bookings ranging from wood craft to cooking, to survival. 

 

Talking of cooking…. I couldn’t write a post without including my own hobby.

Every child needs to learn to cook at some point, some are desperate to get cooking and sometimes parents just can’t face it happening in their own kitchen, or maybe don’t have the time?

I’m offering a six week cookery course on Saturday mornings Christmas wish list gifts children children's kid kids child present gift presents experience unusual lessons cookery baking learn to ramsgate thanet broadstairs westwood cross kent east kent learn healthy balanced gift box cheap value quality teach learn cook cookery food meals utensils equipment kitchenin Ramsgate. A perfect pressie for grandparents, Aunties, Uncles, and parents to consider.   I’ve thought about this quite a lot and whilst I’d love to receive something like this…

…It just wouldn’t feel the same without something to unwrap. So I’ve prepared a gift box. It’s basically a pizza style box with a personalised letter explaining the gift, and inside are some totally funky, tactile and smaller (for small hands) kitchen utensils along with some recipes to get started with. Find out more here… http://makewithkate.co.uk/gift/

Do you think your child would like to receive this gift at Christmas?

 

 

Other courses you could buy into include climbing, horseriding, and cycling, skateboarding, dressmaking.

We have a lovely sewing shop here in Canterbury near to us that offers a wide range of courses, many for beginners and some especially for children.

I hope I’ve given you some inspiration for the child that thinks they have it all!

Please let me know of anything I’ve missed but could include.

I’m always on the lookout for a present that’s a bit different.

Shake up your shopping!

“Sigh! Another week  – another weekly food shop!”
“Food shopping – what a drag”

Is this how you feel?

It’s how I was feeling last week when I approached the supermarket.

So I tried something a little bit different instead. I challenge you to do the same too!

* SHOPPING CHALLENGE *

shopping supermarket trolley food family balanced chores household ramsgate kent cookery learn to cook mum dad kids shopping list products chore shake up challenge

Try starting at the far side of the supermarket and working your way back around to the fruit and veg isle. I tried this today and observed the following benefits:

1) Working against the traffic meant that I did not get caught waiting behind people. – other customers could see me coming and so moved out of my way.

2) My fruit, veg and bread did not get squashed.

3) I noticed new products that I do not normally see.

4) I took more notice of my shopping list as it did not feel as though I could do this shop on auto pilot -therefore I did not put things in my trolley just because I normally do, only if I needed them!

5) I ended up near to the less busy tills

6) I ended up nearer to the exit doors.

7) It made my shop a little less boring!

I know not all supermarkets are laid out the same, so I’d be interested to know if you try this what your findings are and which Supermarket you used.

*HAPPY SHOPPING!*

change cash shopping supermarket family food cook list spend trolley shop local english pound euro

Oh, and one more little tip – I also found out (having no suitable change in my purse and just a Euro in my car) that a 1 Euro coin will fit in the trolley at my local supermarket. It’s now going to be kept in the car for the weekly shop!

Pear crisp – autumnal baking

Pear crisp – autumnal baking

It’s that time of year when the leaves turn golden and hasn’t it happened quickly this year! I’ve started getting Hygge (Danish for cosy and snuggly for the winter months with blankets, candles, slippers and comfort food). The apples and pears are hanging off the trees and many have already fallen-  they are begging to be picked right now! I want to share my new pear crisp recipe with you.

Here’s a lovely recipe I made with my Saturday class this week and it’s too easy / good / satisfyingly “hygge” not to share with you.

It’s a warm, spiced crunchy crispy and sticky comforting dish. It can be eaten with fingers or served with ice cream, cream or custard for a dessert. The children in my class were eating it as soon as they walked out of the door. I try to get them to save the food they make so that their parents can at least see what they’ve been doing. I wonder how often the food actually makes it to their homes!

So here’s the recipe

pear crisp crumble apple kids cook children cook cookery lesson autumn autumnal tasty delicious easy aromatic wholesome healthy spiced cinnamon oats pears apples brown sugar lemon juice

 

All you need to do is complete a quick sign up form with your name and email which will allow you to automatically receive free recipes , tips, newsletters and articles in future (no need to sign up again for anything from my website.  If you just want the recipe, but not the newsletter, it’s easy to unsubscribe as soon as you’ve received the recipe.

A bit more about the recipe:

Pear crisp is a baked pear dish with a spiced oaty crumble sprinkled over the pears and then baked. It’s great as a dessert or finger food. It would be a super tasty fireside snack or even camp food. It could be made in a foil parcel – yummy!

In our lesson:
Knife skills

This was a good opportunity for us to learn about using knives safely. My classes are mixed ages and so younger children have more assistance. I only allow usage of knives with 1:1 supervision and children are taught correct knife handling techniques for cooking.  I was so proud to see the progress and confidence of some of the children who had been attending my classes for some time.

Food science

We used lemon juice on the sliced pears while we prepared our oaty topping. The children learned about the use of an acid (lemon juice) to prevent the enzymic browning that happens once fruit has been cut and exposed to the air.

Nutrition

We also discussed fibre and it’s importance in our diet along with the multitude of vitamins that we get from eating fruit.

Working as a team to clear up afterwards!

Most lessons end with a quick washing up session. Roles are divided between the children (and me) and we work as a team to get the job done. Children covet certain roles – Equipment organiser is a popular one! It’s also a great opportunity for a chat and we have fun getting the job done together. I just wish that washing up was as fun at home!

If you’d like to know more about my cookery classes, please have a look here:

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3 new packed lunch habits you should get into

3 new packed lunch habits you should get into
Some new habits

Packed lunches can be such a drag! Sigh! As a Mum, it’s one of the things I didn’t look forward to about the return to school in September. Packed lunch making can be monotonous, lonely and de-moralising, yet as a parent we want to give our child the best, and we are prepared to make the effort so that they can have a nutritious and tasty lunch.

So why not start as we mean to go on and get into some new habits this September. It is my personal goal to have an empty lunch box every day this term. What is your goal?

emptylunch box packed lunch family kids children back to school backtoschool sandwiches wraps planning easy quick habits healthy nutritious lunch

Make it a family thing

Firstly, no wonder we hate packed lunches so… we slave away every evening / morning packing, unpacking, washing and packing again. We rack our brains to send in new but nutritious products in our child’s lunch box, only to get half of it back again at the end of the day in a soggy, mushy mess in the bottom of the box. Seriously, if your children had to help would they be so nonchalent about it all? If you get your children involved, they become invested in the idea and want to make it work too. They might even have some cool suggestions of their own.

Here are some quick and easy ways you can get them involved:

  • Sit down with them and brainstorm some new ideas for sandwich fillings, yogurt flavours, non-sandwich products. (see planning tip below)
  • Ask them about what works/doesn’t work with their packed lunch
  • Do a tasting session – get them to try out some new ideas
  • Train them to empty their box and clean it out as soon as they get in from school
  • Get them involved in some baking sessions (see freezer tips below)
  • Teach them how to make a sandwich / wrap / salad pot
Planning makes packed lunches easier and more varied

You might already plan meals for dinner time and if you do, you’l know it takes the headache out of cooking dinner for the family, and it makes writing a shopping list easier and more efficient. Well, why not try out planning for your packed lunches. Here’s how I do my packed lunch planning:

My personal preference is for my children not to have the same sandwich filling, or even a sandwich every day. So I plan for them a sandwich / wrap only one day a week, then the other days could be; a salad pot, hot packed lunch, a picky picky lunch and a baked product lunch. This immediately brings variation to my children’s packed lunch diet and takes away the endless monotony of sandwich making. It also means that you can prepare ahead, so, for example if you ever have left overs from a family meal they can be frozen into packed lunch portion sizes for future use. You could make Mondays the Sandwich / wrap day and teach your children to make their own Sandwiches on a Sunday night.

hot packed lunch lunch box packed lunch family kids children back to school backtoschool sandwiches wraps planning easy quick habits healthy nutritious lunch soup

To help you with this I’ve created a packed lunch planner sheet. It includes tick boxes on each day for each section of the Eatwell guide so that you can keep on top of nutrition as well. It also includes a shopping list at the bottom so that you can write your shopping list as you plan.

You can click here to download it

meal plan family food packed lunch lunchbox lunch box cooking children drag back to school

Oh, and one last thing on planning…

  • Don’t throw away your planning sheets, keep them and reuse them in a few weeks time! So you’ll only need to do the planning once.
Make the freezer your new best friend

Many of us seriously under / mis-use our freezers. They are stuffed full of stuff we possibly may never eat and left overs we’ve forgotten about. Sometimes I could barely open the drawers of mine to get to the frozen peas (the main thing I use from the freezer!). A few months ago I had a really good clean out and dedicated drawers to certain things. For example, I made a drawer for left overs, a drawer for meats, a drawer for convenience foods and a drawer for packed lunch products.

Here are some ways you can use the freezer for your packed lunches:

  • Bulk bake and freeze in individual portions for packed lunches – muffins, sausage rolls, soups, stews, chilli, pancakes, biscuits

muffins bake baking biscuits home cook homemade lunch box packed lunch family kids children back to school backtoschool sandwiches wraps planning easy quick habits healthy nutritious lunch

  • Freeze drinks to defrost in the lunch box helping to keep the box  and your child cool
  • Clean out your freezer and get organised – label things really well – set up a system to help you with this. e.g labels attached to the fridge with a magnet?

freezer freezing freeze food organise organiser label freezer drawer lunch box packed lunch family kids children back to school backtoschool sandwiches wraps planning easy quick habits healthy nutritious lunch

  • Many things (more than you realise) even Sandwiches can be made ahead and frozen. They can then be left to defrost in your child’s lunch box during the day and will be ready by lunch. This means that you could actually make the whole weeks lunches on a Sunday night! Wow!
Lastly…

I hope these tips have helped you,

So, for the last year, I’ve been beavering away on a super package of packed lunch inspirations. It’s a bundle of ideas, recipes, worksheets and downloadable tools. It’s not quite finished yet, in fact I’m struggling to finish as I’m not quite sure HOW to package it. I need your help to get this thing finished… it’s too good to keep it hidden away on my computer.   Please let me know in the comments below if you’d like to access such a thing online in a hub of some sort, or receive it through the post in a little booklet, or even attend a course with a take away pack of inspirations, worksheets and recipes. What would you like?

Sign up here for the FREE planning sheet

meal plan family food packed lunch lunchbox lunch box cooking children drag back to school

If you found this useful, you could also check out my Three step guide to rebalancing your lunch box. It also includes a free downloadable packed lunch pick n mix sheet

Save money, time and feed your family better meals

A few months ago (it was the school holidays) I let things slip. In the relaxed and unstructured format of our holidays I broke away from my normal way of doing things. I forgot about family meal planning and just made it up as I went along. Which kind of made me feel liberated to start with but soon became a drag.

When I look back now, I can see from my bank statement that I was spending nearly double on my groceries, I was shopping several times a week for things I’d not bought in my weekly shop, and I had no idea from day to day what I was going to feed my family! Looking back, it felt like I’d fallen off the wagon. Things were out of control.

The meals I was cooking took forever as I faffed around not really sure what I was really making. If I’m really honest, those meals weren’t that great. I was making it up as I went along. It wasn’t until we got back to school and into our routines again that I was able to rationalise what had happened.

So, I thought I’d share with you what I’ve learnt from this sorry scenario. I’ve realised that in my normal way of doing things, I wasn’t doing that badly. If you’d like to know some of the routines, tips and planning I use in my rountine day to day life then read on.

Meal planning makes everything easier

Yes it’s a bit of a drag to sit down and do, but it doesn’t take long, and it doesn’t have to be done endlessly, forevermore … once you have a blueprint of meals that work, keep the meal plans from successful weeks and repeat them a month or so later. Life is so much easier when you don’t have to think too hard about what you are going to make for dinner that evening! Here’s an example one:

family meal planning budget meals cooking frugal list shopping list balanced diet meals dinner

I plan it according the the activites in our family during the week. So for example I never plan a meal for Wednesday evening because my mum feeds my children then as she collects them from school on that day. On Thursdays I pay for school dinners because we rush around to clubs after school, so I either cook a quick and easy dish or we have a packed dinner, wraps, stuffed pitta or left overs of some sort.

I stick to a format when planning 

This really helps to make the planning easy. I either plan my family meals based around the protein or the carbohydrate content of the meal. I try to use a different source of which ever one I’ve chosen as my focus each day. This ensures that we are eating a variation of nutrients and our meals do not become repetitive. The main reason I do it though is because it stops my mind going blank when I’m trying to meal plan. You could focus on protein planning one week and carohydrates the next. Of course each meal should have a combination of protein, vegetables and carbohydrates, it’s just a way of keeping things fresh, balanced and varied.

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So, for example if I was focussing on protein, I might on day one have a fish pie, or oven baked fish, or a fish pasta dish, or fish fingers, or a tuna pasta bake. On the next day I might make a quorn based meal, or a lentil stew, or bean burgers as my focus accompanied by potato wedges maybe. On the Wednesday I might make a spaghetti bolognese or a chilli. Does this make sense?

Give it a go!

 

 

I write a shopping list

While I am writing my meal plan I write a shopping list. It helps to make sure I have everything I need for the meals I’ve planned. It also helps to write the list in my kitchen near to my cupboards so that I can check that I don’t buy what I don’t need! I use a notepad which has meal plan on one side and shopping list on the other. Soemtimes I set up a note on my mobile phone or tablet – this is particularly useful as it won’t get lost or left at home. Whatever suits you as the best way to work. Why not try out some different ways of writing your list until you find one that works for you.

My shopping list is organised and ordered 

Whilst I’m writing the list, I organise it into the sections that my favourite supermarket has. I even put the sections in the order of the aisles in my supermarket so that when I’m shopping, I can see what I need when I need it rather than having to search through the list repetitively and risk missing things from it. It really helps! It also speeds things up in the supermarket.

family meal planning budget meals cooking frugal list shopping list balanced diet meals dinner money saving organiser supermarket

I shop in a small supermarket

Yep! I shop in the smallest supermarket in my town… not an express or micro store, but a normal everday supermarket. It doesn’t sell a huge range of diverse foods, but it sells mostly what I need. It’s of a size that I know what they do and don’t sell, so if I do need something fancy, I occasionally need to make a trip to another supermarket. This really does not happen very often though. Would you believe me if I told you that I do my  shopping on a friday morning between dropping my girls at school, and my pilates class which starts at 9.30? I also shop for my business  and buy ingredients needed for the classes I teach. It is absolutely true! This is down to the fact that my supermakret is small and managable. I know where everything is, and I know exactly what I need. I’ve saved time, money and effort by planning using the above three tips. Yay!

What’s in the cupboards already helps to kickstart my planning

Before I start my planning I have a quick look into my fridge and cupboards to see if there is anything lingering that could be used up, or could inspire a meal for my planner. It’s worth doing. Sometimes it inspires a new meal, sometimes it saves money and waste. It’s worth a try.

The freezer is my friend

This has become true over the last year. No more does my freezer house ready meals and convenience foods which never get eaten and lie forgotten about. I have organised my freezer into sections. The sections are as follows – packed lunch bits such as frozen yogurts, bread, muffins, drinks etc. Frozen fruit and veggies – this means I can eat fruit and veg that are out of season and they don’t go off as quickly so I have a wider variety of fruit and veg in my house at all times. Convenience foods – because we all need a little stock for when things don’t go as planned or we are having a “meh” day.  Pre-prepared batch cooked foods – you know – left overs, or family sized portions of soup, chilli, fish pie, shepherds pie, lasagne – a great way of saving time – cook once, eat twice!  Your freezer sections might differ depending on what you use your freezer for… but that’s a whole other blog. Keep an eye out – I am planning that for later this year.

Vegetarian meals are healthy and cheap!

Why not have a vegetarian day of the week. Generally vegetarian meals are healthier (lower in fat and usually contain more vegetables), cheaper, easy to cook and someting different if your family is not accustomed to eating vegetarian cuisine.

Buying in bulk is a brilliant way of minimising spending.

I’ve started buying washing powder, cooing oil and washing up liquid in bulk. I rarely have to buy those items. I decant the washing up liquid into smaller bottles and keep the large ones tucked away out of sight.  Things like meat can be portioned and frozen, flour, sugar, oats, rice, pasta and cereals can be decanted into jars and tubs and stored much more eaisly in a store cupboard. They’ll last longer in these containers too. I’d love to hear if you buy anything else in bulk. Using this tip will not only save you money in the long run, but it will save you time and effort when shopping and meal planning.

I hope these tips help. You might want to use one, or two of them, or all. Make changes slowly and satep by step at a pace to suit you. remember, no one is perfect, but we can keep trying to improve things for ourselves and our families. Let me know if there are any tips that you use that could be useful to others.

Happly planning!

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