Whether we are feeding a busy household, cooking for someone else or just cooking for one, as carers anything that makes this easier is a bonus. Keeping it mostly healthy, quick and within budget is also important. We've come together as carers to share some meal planning wisdom.
A weekly meal plan is helpful - this can feel like an extra job but does save time and wasted food.
Think about what is going on each day. Not every day will be a day we can cook a homemade meal from scratch.
Keep past meal plans and recycle them for even quicker meal planning. Get the whole household involved with planning, perhaps others have a meal they can cook easily (Jacket potatoes is a good starting point).
"Keeping an up to date list of what is in my freezer saves me time and helps to inspire my weekly meals."
"Sometimes you need a whole easy week. Jacket potatoes with beans and cheese. Frozen pizza. Easy pasta (cheap stuffed pasta with passata). Something I batched cooked and just needs to go ping. Eggs on toast. Fish fingers, chips and peas. Roasted veg with chickpeas"
Not everything has to be cooked from scratch
Ready meals and other easy cook meals can make life easier. Tesco hot pots and casseroles are good (says Glyn). Fresh stuffed pasta topped with heated Passatta and grated cheese is quick and easy. Fresh hearty soup from supermarkets - the tubs can be reused for freezing you batch cooking too!
When a friend says - "how can I help?" ask them to cook you a meal.
Yes, this counts as a meal!
Eggs - boiled, fried, scrambled or a quick omelette. Beans or cheese on toast, fish finger sandwiches, bacon butties, tins of soup, cheese and biscuits all count. Don't forget toasted sandwiches too, dig out your sandwich toaster or try toaster pockets.
Batch cook and stock up our freezer
"I know I'm winning at life when I have at least five days of easy healthy meals for the family in the freezer - then I know I'm ready for anything"
Buying larger portions of meat or vegetables can be cheaper and cooking double the amount won't double the time it takes. Chilli, bolognese, tagine, stew, soup and curries are all favourites. Freezing things in single portions also means we can have something to hand for those that don't fit in with our household mealtimes or have different dietary needs.
If we are caring for someone who lives elsewhere this might be easier than cooking them a meal from scratch at their house.
"Buy yourself an enormous saucepan so you can cook loads!"
Slow cookers, pressure cookers and soup makers
These are popular with carers too. A big slow cooker can be used to batch cook meals. At the start of the day we might have more energy and motivation to get something healthy started in the slow cooker. So satisfying when we head to the kitchen at the end of a busy day and dinner is nearly ready.
Air fryers are also popular amongst carers:
"Best things that made my life easier, an electric pressure cooker and air fryer. I have cut cooking time by at least 1/3 and the results are better. It's been the best thing to ask family for Christmas"
Things to consider having in stock - suggested by carers
Pasta and pasta sauce
Microwave rice (some can be ready in under 10 minutes)
Cheese spread and crackers (for quick snack cravings)
Frozen pizza or garlic bread
Baked Beans and all varieties of tinned beans
Tinned fish - tuna, sardines and salmon
Tinned tomatoes and passata
Frozen peas or veggies
Chopped onions in the freezer (saving cooking time!)
All seasoning - great for southern fried chicken or sprinkled on potato wedges
"We always keep pizza and garlic bread in as well as chicken portions and croquets with steamed veg if mum wants them"
A few of our favourites recipes
1. Vanessa's Rice pudding in the slow cooker
180g pudding rice 20g granulated sweetener 1 litre semi skimmed milk 2 cap full of vanilla essence Sprinkle of cinnamon
Cook on low for 8 hours Cook on high for 4 hours Add water if needed during cook time Makes 6 potions
2. Christine's easy heathy supper for one
Bake in the oven and top with a tin of Sardines
3. Suzanne's vegetarian bolognese
No official quantities (but generally one of everything and keep adding to make the quantity you need)
Vegetable stock cube
Brown the onions in a little oil and sweat for a few minutes, add garlic and cook a minute. Then just add things as you chop them in the order above. Simmer for at least 30 minutes.
Food subscription services
Have you tried recipe boxes? Carers have recommended 'Gousto' which is a food subscription service where ingredients are delivered straight to our door!
Sometimes saving time also means less trips to the store. Some other brands that carers have enjoyed include:
Other places to find easy, quick and healthy recipes
Our 'Quick and Easy Recipe for Carers' blog
BBC - Eat Well for Less
Lots of Facebook Groups for Slimming world, batch cooking and slow cooker recipes
Want more content like this?
Feel free to sign-up for our weekly newsletter 💌 to receive more carers' top tips and hacks. We'll keep you in the loop, from discounts for carers, to the warning signs of carer burnout.