How to diversify and vary your family meals

Running out of meal ideas is a common problem in a busy household. Even looking at Pinterest and recipe books sometimes can feel a bit daunting because the choice is immense, you don’t always know where to start!

Now I’m definitely no nutritionist but as a busy household of five, I have gone through the tiring cycle of having to come up with new ideas, to avoid repeating meals over and over again… I’m the only person who cooks in this house, so the task of keeping our meals interesting falls on me and me alone.

Here are some of the things I do to diversify and vary our family meals:

Write down a menu OR ideas for meals

You may find this idea helpful if you like to plan ahead. Personally, I like to write down vague ideas as opposed to exact meals for the week. I use a to-do list on my phone (Google Keep), which my husband also has access too. I regularly add items to that shopping list, which are necessary to new dishes I want to try that week.

This is what works for us, as opposed to writing down entire menus for each day, something I actually used to do in the past. But if writing a clear menu is what would work for you, then by all means get on that. Some level of planning is definitely essential.

A variety of pantry staples

Don’t underestimate simple, freezable, quick and easy staple products which are different from rice and pasta, such as pitta bread, naan bread or wraps. These are an alternative ‘side’ to accompany meat and vegetables.

Also, don’t look down on canned products – whether it’s red kidney beans or sweetcorn, my pantry is filled with everyday canned staples to fall back on, whenever I’m running out of ideas for fresh meals.

Put those leftovers to work!

– Leftovers can be turned into completely new meals. I always say, if all else fails, there’s always the option of having a salad with some of those leftovers.

Leftover roast chicken can be turned into chicken fried rice or even chicken soup… Leftover fish can be turned into fishcakes… be creative!

Be inspired by international cuisines

How about picking one day in the week where you try dishes from a different country? Have a Mexican night, or try and French dish… We regularly have foods from other cultures – I make jollof rice a lot, these days we also enjoy making pizza from scratch. Anything to keep meals interesting and fun.

A lot of these foods are also great for batch cooking and freezs very well.

Use recipe resources wisely

I’m a Pinterest addict, but even I know it can fall under the category of “information overload”. You’re looking for a new recipe, you start to scroll endlessly, you find hundreds of recipes, all with different ingredients to purchase… it gets confusing, and before you know if, you’ve become overwhelmed, with feelings that your version won’t be as good as the Pinterest mum who made it look so easy…

You finally decide to close the app, discouraged and defeated. Does this scenario sound familiar? Trust me I’ve been there.

When I use Pinterest, I force myself to stick to just one image/recipe, then I head over to YouTube or Pinterest and watch a step-by-step video tutorial. I never follow recipe where lots of reading is involved. It just doesn’t work for me. Even with the amount of recipe books I have at home, I’d still turn to YouTube or Tik Tok to learn through video.

This is what works for me – find the right way to use these resources so that you don’t find them overwhelming and unhelpful.

So those are my tips! I hope you’ve found them helpful. Let me know some of the things you do to keep your family meals interesting. I’d love to know!

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