Hi, I’m Natalie, and welcome to the second week of the Summer Dinner challenge. If you are just joining us, let me start with some background….
When it was announced that the Welsh Government decided to extend the £19.50 school meal scheme for the duration of the summer holidays I was delighted as I am sure this comes as a relief to many parents.
But as a nutritionist, and also a mother, two questions came to my mind…
1) How far could you stretch the £19.50 over a week?
2) Is it possible to reach the recommended nutritional guidance on that budget?
I therefore decided to try and put my knowledge as a nutritionist to good use and also decided that there was only one way to find out the answers to my questions. So…I put this to the test and to share my journey with you in the hope that this will also help to relieve some of the pressure of planning nutritious meals for your families on a budget. Here goes:
What I learnt this week...The freezer is your friend!
It is more time effective (and, in some cases, cost effective) to make excess portions of food and store into a airtight containers for chilling or freezing. This makes nutritious and convenient ready meals.
Chilling food properly helps stop harmful bacteria from growing. Cool cooked food quickly at room temperature and then place in the fridge or freezer within one to two hours.
To keep your food safe:
store any food with a 'use by' date, along with cooked dishes, salads and dairy products, in your fridge
keep chilled food out of the fridge for the shortest time possible during preparation
cool cooked food quickly at room temperature and then place in the fridge within one to two hours
please follow the storage instructions on packaging, including the best before and use-by dates (https://www.food.gov.uk/safety-hygiene/chilling)
A freezer acts as a pause button - food in a freezer won't deteriorate and most bacteria cannot grow in it. You can freeze pre-packaged food right up to the 'use by' date. Leftovers and homemade goods should be frozen as soon as possible. Make sure any warm dishes are cooled before putting them in your freezer.
To stop the cold air in your freezer from drying out your food you can:
place food in an air-tight container
wrap it well in freezer bags or freezer wrap
Love Food Hate Waste have more information on freezing leftovers, including recipe ideas.
When you take your food out of the freezer, it's important to defrost it safely before cooking or eating it. Don't defrost food at room temperature. Ideally, food should be defrosted fully in the fridge. If this isn't possible, use a microwave on the defrost setting directly before cooking.
Make sure your food is fully defrosted before cooking. Partially defrosted food may not cook evenly, meaning that harmful bacteria could survive the cooking process. Once food has been defrosted, eat it within 24 hours. Ensure you fully defrost the meal and cook it until it is piping hot.
Ensure that you follow Food Safety guidelines when storing and re-heating food: https://www.food.gov.uk/safety-hygiene/chilling
For my meal plan this week, I decided to save myself some time by incorporating some leftovers into my week meal plan. For example, I cooked up a batch of Veggie Chilli on Thursday and saved half for Saturday…but I mixed it up a bit by changing the side dish. Here is the meal plan:
And here is the shopping list. Just to add a disclaimer, prices vary by supermarket so may fluctuate from the prices we have found. The shopping list includes the ingredients needed for this meal plan for 2 primary school children. Double the portion sizes and ingredients for adults.
Download the Week Two Pack which contains the meal plan, shopping list and recipes here:
There's only one thing left for you to do! Have a go, get creative, and get sharing your ideas, recipes and meals with us by using #HealthyKidsfor£20 on social media!
Until next week, happy cooking , and happy eating!