Tired of deciding what to cook?

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“I’m just buying loads of food and hoping it might arrange itself into a meal like monkeys writing Shakespeare.”

That’s my creative caption for the featured photo. Are you tired of deciding what to cook for your family week after week? Are you stuck in a rut, cooking the same things every week? Are you tired of buying expensive ingredients to try something new, only to have your kids reject it?

I know I am. In my house, I’m responsible for cooking 3 days a week: Monday, Wednesday and Friday. My husband does the other days, and he is a much more creative and resourceful cook. Moreover, he doesn’t get quite so cross about the soul-destroying experience of slaving over a hot stove to produce something the kids won’t even eat.

So from a combination of being busy with work and a general sense of ennui, I rely on the same old failsafes every week. And even I’m getting tired of it.

I do “Freezer Food Monday”, which is fish fingers or previously frozen Richmond sausages, accompanied by potato waffles and frozen peas (I do cook the peas; I don’t serve them frozen. I’m not that bad). Come on, don’t judge me … it’s Monday and I can’t be bothered. If we’re all very lucky, we had a roast chicken on Sunday and instead of freezer food I mix the leftover chicken with a jar of Korma curry sauce.

We then have “Mince Wednesday”. My kids are mad for mince, so I might as well be the one to cook it for them. I usually do a mild chilli con carne (the Hairy Bikers one is best) or a spag bol. But I get so bored and think there must be some more ways to serve the mince.

The week is rounded off by Pizza Friday. Usually it’s one of those ones they make for you in Morrisons. Sometimes we get one delivered or even occasionally go out for one. When the day is very special, I buy the pizza bases and other ingredients and we build our own. I’m quite happy with Pizza Friday, actually. I’m sure I read somewhere that a pizza each week keeps you on fleek. Although I am over the age of 30 so I don’t actually know what that means.

In any case, I really would like – for my own sanity if not for the sake of expanding my children’s tastebud horizons – to try some other stuff. But the problem for me is that the stakes (and the price of the steaks) are too high. I don’t want to make things that require a lot of effort and expensive ingredients, only to have my kids reject it.

This very website actually has some great family-friendly recipes to try out if you’re in a rut (written by a mate of mine, not me, in case you didn’t realise I had a reclusive guest poster). But another cool idea is to try out new recipe subscription service, Mum’s Meal Planner. This is a small business venture by a normal mum named Becky, who felt just the same about the difficulty of getting meal inspiration.

The way her service works is you pay £2.50 per month, and she sends you a weekly email with a whole week worth of meals (and 2 substitutes on the list if you really don’t like some of the main options). This is accompanied by a full shopping list that will cover everything for the week and use all of the ingredients without excess waste.

I’ve been getting her emails for a while now and I’m really impressed by the variety of easy recipes that keep things a bit fresh, along with the convenient shopping list. As I don’t cook every day of the week, I don’t use all of the recipes, but I enjoy getting some options each week to choose from. It’s fantastic that they’re all easy to follow even for those among us (like me) who have the bare minimum of culinary skills.

For this “Mince Wednesday”, I tried doing her cottage pie and beans recipe. There is minimal chopping and throwing the can of beans in adds loads of flavour and bulk with a minimum of effort. It tasted just as good as the much more labour-intensive cottage pie we usually make. It had a bit less depth of flavour (because our usual one has wine and worcestershire sauce in it), but that’s all well and good when you’re feeding children (the culinary cretins). My husband and I both really enjoyed it.

Sadly, my kids basically still didn’t eat it. But I didn’t mind so much because the expense and effort was low. Normally, when I worked so hard on a meal and my kids don’t eat it, I’m all like:

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But I didn’t feel that way today because the meal was low effort. I just shrugged and cracked open a beer. I’m looking forward to trying more of Becky’s meals. I’m sure my kids will find one or two they might deign to eat.

Becky subscribed me to her service for free for a short time so I could evaluate the service, but this is my honest opinion. I just like helping out small businesses. 

Mission Mindfulness

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Blog Toast Tuesday: 13 September 2016

It’s time for my weekly feature, #blogtoast Tuesday, where I toast other blogs I’ve discovered and enjoyed in the previous week. I’m actually running a little late today. I like to queue up my #blogtoast post on Monday night and publish on my Tuesday morning commute. But last night I got my nails done instead. You gotta’ live a little, right?

So here I am blogging on my lunch break. I’m going to have to make it fast!

The Adventures of Beta Mummy: Doodlings and ramblings on what a f*cking disaster parenthood can be

Her blog’s subtitle just makes me feel safe. Yes, parenting can be a f*cking disaster. I’m so glad I’m not the only one who thinks so!

I’m also glad I’m not the only one who thinks an asterisk is the perfect way to write the f-word online. It’s like a swear, but not a swear. Nobody’s sure if it really counts as swearing. It’s Schrodinger’s swear.

Anyway, I love the concept of Beta Mummy, who just doesn’t look as polished and sorted as Alpha Mummy. Alpha Mummy attends all the playgroups perfectly coiffed and dressed, with no sick on her shoulder, and engages in sparklingly witty conversation with other Alpha Mummies. Beta Mummy comes rolling in late, with no money for the playgroup “fee” and some cheerios stuck in her hair. Beta Mummy illustrates these sorts of scenes with hilarious drawings.

But Beta Mummy knows that not all is as it appears – I love her post, ‘Even Alpha Mummies Struggle’.

She is also one of the hosts of the fab Chucklemums linky, where you can link up your funny posts. I’ve only linked up one that I thought was worthy, but someday I might write something vaguely funny again!

Little Paper Swans: A food + mama blog

A very different sort of blog – Little Paper Swans has beautiful photography and great lifestyle posts.

My favourite feature on her blog is her Weekly Meal Plans for under £30. I’m always struggling to come up with new ideas of things to cook without buying loads of ingredients or making loads of effort! She packages it up for you nicely so you can pick and choose what you might like to cook. You can get further inspiration from her great selection of recipes.

She also has a great series featuring other people’s birth stories. I really enjoy hearing about other people’s experiences.

Please do join me in toasting the best blogs by tweeting your favourite this week with the hashtag: #blogtoast (and if you @themumreviews I will retweet you – it’s win/win!) – or let me know just what you think of me in the comments!