Tuesday, 30 July 2013

5 Minute Meals for New Mums

With a newborn baby I found it incredibly hard to find the time to cook anything! In those early days Celeste would not sleep anywhere but in my arms and the odd 5 minutes I might have my hands free was not enough to prepare a decent meal.  If I was hungry, i found it all too easy to reach for that pack of biscuits rather than preparing anything decent. Hubby was all to eager to reach for the takeaway menu rather than offer to cook anything himself.  Both of these had a huge effect of my wasteline - a mistake I am determined not to make this time around!

Originally I took the rather over ambitious attitude that as I was breastfeeding I only wanted to eat fresh, highly nutricious foods to provide the best milk for my baby.  However as I did not have time for this I ended up eating complete rubbish and passing that on to my baby instead.  A far from ideal situation and a more realistic middle ground would have been much more sensible.

A well documented suggestion for quick meal preparation is to make up and freeze batches of meals before the birth that can simply be reheated to get you through the first few weeks.  I definately intend to do this again but my freezer is not huge and is mostly full of meaks made up for Celeste therefore I cannot rely solely on this.

I have read many a well-meaning guides on how to produce a meal in under 30 minutes but that would not have been quick enough for me last time, and I am under no illusion it will be any better this time.  I needed ideas that were much quicker than that.  Even 10 minutes is 5 minutes more than I realistically had.

Below I have compiled a list of meal and snack suggestions with a combined preparation and cooking time of 5 minutes or less.  They may not be the most nutritional meals out there but the majority of them have at least 1 of your 5 a day and all are better for you than a pack of biscuits and cheaper than a takeaway.

  • Fresh pasta - takes less time to cook than dried pasta and most can be ready in 5 minutes or under
  • Microwave rice - Ready in 2 minutes!
  • Jacket Potatoes in the microwave - The time this takes depends on the size of the potato but a small - medium size potato can be ready in 5 minutes.
  • Problematic as cannot be cooked from fresh in 5 minutes and under (unless you like your steak especially rare - personally I don't eat any beef).
  • Tinned meat in sauce an excellent option occasionally.
  • Most pre-chopped vegetables can be cooked either on the hob or in the microwave in less than 5 minutes.
  • Tinned vegetables also an option especially if are no be stirred into a sauce.   A personal favourite of mine is sliced mushrooms.
  • Salad - an accompiment to any meal that does not require any cooking.
  • Philadelphia - Not to be underestimated!  Variety of flavours and just stir into pasta.  My current personal favourite in Salmon & Dill.
  • Other stir in pasta sauces - some require a couple of minutes in the microwave before adding, some are literally just stir in
Microwave Meals 
  • See iindividual cooking instructions but many can be ready in under 5 minutes

The limitation that many 5 minute meals have, is often the lack of meat.  It is therefore important to get protein from other sources e.g. cheese and egga.

I've put together a fortnight menu of cooked meals incorporating many of the foods i've listed above.  Not everything will be everyone's cup of tea but it shows you that you can live for 2 weeks without repeating any meal and with nothing taking more than 5 minutes from start to finish.  For lunch, of course, there are other options like salads and a simple sandwich however I know that my appitite went through the roof when I was breastfeeding last time therefore for me personally, neither would have been sufficient.

Week 1

LunchScrambled Egg on ToastMicrowave Jacket Potato & Coronation Chicken sandwich fillingMinistrone SoupSardines on ToastMushroom SoapMicrowave Jacket Potato, Cheese & BeansSpagetti hoops on Toast
DinnerTinned Chilli & Microwave RiceFresh Tortelloni  and Mascapone sauceTinned Chunky Chicken, Fresh veg & microwave jacket potatoStir Fry Vegetables with fresh noodles or microwave riceMicro Sausages, Micro Chips & Baked BeansDefrosted premade Bolognaise sause & fresh pastaTinned Chicken Curry and Microwave Rice

Week 2

LunchMicrowave Jacket Potato & cottage cheeseTomato & Basil SoupCroque Monseir with TomatoMicrowave Jacket Potato with tinned chilliChicken & Vegetable SoupJacket Potato, Tuna & SweetcornBeans on Toast
DinnerFresh Tagliatalle and tinned meatballs in tomato sauceDefrosted premade Chicken in Sauce and microwave riceFresh gnocchi and creamy mushroom sauceTinned Thai Green Curry & Microwave Egg Fried RiceDefrosted premade shepherds pie and peasDefrosted frozen lasagneFresh Ravioli and carbonara sauce 

Over the next few weeks, I intend to test out many of these options and how workable they really are.  I will be paying close attention to the salt contents of each meal as this is a known hazard with any kind of "ready meal".  The recommended daily salt intake in the UK is just 6g.

I would also be very interested in hearing your own 5 minute or less meal ideas.

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