Juggling working full-time, caring for a family and staying on top of housework and admin, can quickly lead to burnout. After a busy work day, preparing dinner can often feel like a chore.
On top of the pressure of preparing a wholesome meal that will feed the whole family, there’s the added stress of rising food prices and the fact that time is often limited during the week. Laager Rooibos’s partner dietician, Mbali Mapholi, share five practical tips and tricks to reduce stress when it comes to planning and cooking meals for the family.
1: Do a regular food inventory
Frequently check the fridge and freezer, as well as cupboards and pantries, noting the expiry dates on food and rotating food closest to expiry to the front of the cupboard so it is used first. A food inventory should be done before any grocery shop to prevent repeat buys and make sure items that are needed are purchased to prevent multiple trips to the store. A food inventory saves time, reduces waste and eliminates uncertainty.
2: Work with what you have
Don’t be scared of canned, boxed or frozen foods – things like frozen veg, boxed fish fillets and canned beans and legumes have a lot of nutritional value and are simple and easy to prepare. Check what you have available and try to mix it up a bit. Variety is key when preparing meals.
3: Plan your meals ahead of time
Half the stress of feeding the family is deciding what to actually cook. So, take this anxiety out of the equation by putting together a meal plan ahead of time. This could include writing out the meals for the week; bulk cooking and freezing for later use; chopping in advance and storing in containers in the fridge; and checking which ingredients you have available ahead of time.
Consider your budget, food preferences and available ingredients when preparing your meal plan so that you’re not pushing yourself unnecessarily. Take inspiration from generic, online meal plans but make it your own so that you’re reducing food costs, reducing frustration and encouraging your family to eat healthily.
4: Delegate and share responsibilities
While you might be the primary chef in the household, this doesn’t mean you have to do all of the work. Delegate tasks to your family members such as chopping, peeling and soaking. Get someone to take the food items out of the freezer to defrost them ahead of time so you’re not frantically defrosting food close to dinner time.
5: You don’t need a full, cooked meal every night!
There’s no shame in taking a break once or twice a week with simple meals like store-bought soups, egg on toast, or French toast! You can even delegate this duty and have a complete break from cooking for the family.
Laager Rooibos mince and frozen veg recipe
This simple, freezer-friendly recipe is a great one to add to the roster to minimise stress and avoid burnout! It can be cooked in bulk over the weekend and frozen into portions for quick, weekday dinners. This means less time in the kitchen, more time with the family, and a more cost-effective meal option.
You’ll need: 15ml canola oil; 1 onion, medium, peeled and diced; 15ml curry powder; 500g lean or extra lean beef mince; 15ml mixed herbs; 30ml flour; 30ml tomato puree (or tomato sauce); 2 teabags of Laager Rooibos tea – brewed in 500ml water; 1 cup frozen mixed vegetables; handful parsley, finely chopped; 5ml salt; 5ml black pepper, ground
- Heat the oil in a shallow casserole dish or sauté pan that has a tightly fitting lid. Add the onion and curry powder and cook or fry for a few minutes, or until starting to turn golden.
- Add the mince to the onion to cook. It’s best to do this in stages so that the mince has enough room in the pan to fry, rather than steam. Cook until all the meat is browned and there is no liquid left in the pan.
- Add the flour and stir in. Continue to cook, stirring all the time. Make sure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan and burns.
- Add herbs, tomato puree and brewed Laager Rooibos tea, together with seasoning. Stir briefly and bring to a gentle simmer.
- Turn the heat right down and cover with the lid. The dish should be on a very gentle simmer. Leave for 20 minutes.
- After 20 minutes, it should be dark and glossy, with a rich, thick gravy. Add the frozen vegetables and cook for a further 5 to 8 minutes.
- Enjoy as is or serve with mashed potatoes, rice, pasta or on toast as a sloppy joe. Or allow it to cool and freeze.
Dietitian tip: This mince & frozen vegetable recipe is suitable to freeze. Place in airtight containers, or Ziplock bags and freeze for up to 1 month. To serve, defrost portions overnight in the fridge. Reheat in the microwave or a saucepan on the stovetop.
Use your pre-cooked mince portions to create one of these three quick and easy meals:
- Spoon on top of spaghetti, and sprinkle with grated cheese for a yummy Spaghetti Bolognaise.
- Top with mashed potato or mashed sweet potato for a quick and delicious Cottage Pie. Sprinkle with grated cheese and pop it in the oven until the cheese melts and goes crispy to finish it off.
- Cut a freshly baked potato into quarters. Spoon mince on top of baked potato, and top with grated cheese.