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Reducing your Mealtime Stress

Updated: Oct 12, 2023

What’s for dinner? Is this a question that makes you want to go and hide under a rock or one you can answer with ease?

So many of us are bored of eating and have lost all passion for being in the kitchen. Cooking takes time and effort. It requires some inspiration and motivation. And that’s just something we don’t always have when we’ve got a young family.

If you’d like thinking about, shopping for, preparing and serving meals to be quicker and easier, here are some simple ways that you can feed you and your family delicious and nutritious meals most nights (nobody’s perfect so let’s not set the expectation that we’ll be doing this every night!).

1. Have a routine

A meal and snack routine means that there’ll be a steady supply of food throughout the day.

You can use this as an opportunity to get a variety of foods into you and your family, including a balance of fruit, vegetables, protein or dairy and carbs in every meal and snack to help keep you and your children fuller for longer, reduce the nagging for food and prevent you from binging in the snack cupboard.

2. Planning

Meal planning is the answer to so many problems. Some of the reasons to invest a little time in your week to make it a priority are that:

  • There’ll be no more last-minute panicking about what to eat, keeping your stress levels down

  • You’ll eat a wider range of meals – no more being stuck in a rut eating the same meals week-in, week-out

  • You eat better/more healthily and your little one is exposed to a greater variety of foods, which is one of the best ways to both prevent and deal with fussy eating

  • You can plan meals everyone will enjoy that work with any dietary needs or fussiness

  • You’ll take fewer trips to the shops – saving you time and money

  • You’ll be able to spot where you can be more efficient with food, time and energy – for example, identifying what else you can prepare whilst cooking dinner to make another meal quicker and easier

  • It reduces food waste – you wouldn’t throw a fiver in the bin without thinking so why food?

You may find it tricky to get started, in which case you’ll find plenty of help over on this website, but it really is a game changer. Once you start, you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner!

3. Batch cooking

Including a regular batch cook in your meal plans means there is always something on hand in the freezer for a night off cooking, to get tea on the table quickly on a busy evening or to deal with changes of plans.

4. Make friends with your freezer

A freezer is so useful not only for storing food but also in helping you to reduce your food waste and cut back on shopping trips/deliveries, allowing you to bulk buy when it’s more economical to do so, it supports you in being organised and makes efficient use of your time and energy in the kitchen.

Bolognese, curry, chilli, soups and stews are all great to have in your freezer stash. But fish and other pies, lasagne, stir-fries and rice dishes can also be frozen. You only have to look in the freezer section of the supermarket to get an idea for what you could be freezing.

5. Batch preparation

When we think of batch cooking, we usually think about whole meals. But batch preparing can extend to components of a meal to make putting together lunch or dinner another night a whole lot quicker. So, whilst I advocate meal planning, if you don’t manage to make it work for you, this can help ensure you’re eating well throughout the week when you don’t have the headspace to be planning a meal.

You can schedule some time one day to do a whole load of batch preparation or you can include it in your normal cooking activities. If you’re doing some meal planning, you’ll be able to spot where you can be cooking extra vegetables, beans, lentils, grains, rice, meat, fish etc. to store in the fridge or freezer to use in other meals.

6. Break meal prep down into achievable chunks

What if, instead of cooking the whole meal just you’re ready to eat, you prepared bits and pieces throughout the day whenever you had a bit of time? Five minutes here to do some chopping, 10 minutes there to cook off the vegetables, 5 minutes to prep the fish for the oven. Come 5pm, dinner happens so much quicker and is a whole lot less stressful.

Bio and links

Sarah Alder of Kitchen Titbits is a meal planning and family mealtimes expert, transforming mealtimes from stressful to stress-free.

Sarah specialises in working with parents who are tearing their hair out at mealtimes. She helps them to support their fussy eaters to eat a wider variety of foods, put the fun back into food and enjoy mealtimes again.

She also teaches about meal planning as a way of saving time and energy in the kitchen, cutting food bills and reducing food waste, taking the stress away from mealtimes and getting away from the age-old question of what’s for dinner!

To find out more about Sarah, her courses, workshops and online courses, visit her website.

You can also follow her on social media:

And she shares her tips and advice in her two free Facebook groups:

If you’re a breastfeeding mum, with a baby like mine that always wanted to eat when I was, you might be needing some ideas for nourishing and tasty meals and snacks that you can eat one handed!

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