Healthy family meal ideas
This post has been created in collaboration with AvaCare Multivitamins
Meal times are a big thing in our family and everyone loves their food! But coming up with healthy family meal ideas can be so tough, especially at the moment when we’re eating all of our meals at home and I’m the one making everything!
So today I’m sharing what my family eats in a day along with some healthy family meal ideas and some hacks to save time and money (and save your sanity if you’re feeling like all you do is prepare meals and snacks while the kids are off school!)
I’ve also got some great meal ideas to have healthy, homemade meals for people who don’t like cooking. I know, shock horror. It feels like a real taboo to say I don’t like cooking. Both Sam and I don’t like cooking but we both love food and I love mealtimes with my family, so keep reading to see how I deal with that!
I’m always starving in the morning and my kids are obviously the same so we usually have two breakfasts, especially at weekends and right now during lockdown!
If we don’t have two breakfasts then we all end up snacking and grazing all morning, something I try to avoid because it’s always me fetching and preparing snacks! Our snack choices can often be unhealthy too and snacks always seem to be more expensive than an actual meal so I’m happy to make two breakfasts instead.
Breakfast #1 – Porridge and smoothies
Our first breakfast is usually porridge as it’s quick, easy, healthy, filling and it’s something everyone will eat without any fuss!
It took me so long to get the hang of making porridge. It would either be so thick you could eat it with a knife and fork or it was so runny it was like gruel! I often just used instant sachets for a fail-safe way to make porridge, but this is expensive, takes forever when you’re making it for 5 people and is a lot of unnecessary packaging! But I’ve cracked it now and I’m very proud to say I can make a perfect bowl of porridge!
How to make perfect porridge
I use Quaker Oats rolled oats and make it on the hob rather than the microwave.
- 1 x cup of oats
- 1 x cup of water
- 2 x cups of milk
Slowly simmer it until it’s thick and starts to bubble and is a creamy texture.
If you’re using proper measuring cups, I find that 1 cup is just right for me and the kids.
I usually serve it with honey and frozen berries.
This sounds so simple but I know I’m not the only one who struggles to make porridge!
We also have a smoothie alongside our porridge and if we’re in a rush I’ll often skip the porridge and have an extra big smoothie.
I’m a big fan of a healthy green smoothie – something I didn’t think I’d ever say because the first time I made one I thought it was the most disgusting cup of sludge I’ve ever tasted! But I’ve perfected the recipe and have one every morning.
Here’s my recipe for a sweet green smoothie:
- 1 x banana
- 1 x small handful of frozen mango
- 1 x handful of dried pitted prunes or dates
- 1 x large handful of spinach
- ½ x cup of porridge oats (if I’m not having a bowl of porridge)
- 2-3 x cups of milk of your choice (I need more liquid if my ingredients are all frozen)
- 1 x dose of multivitamin
This is my go-to breakfast smoothie. We always have frozen banana, mango and spinach in the freezer and it’s great to make it with frozen fruit as it makes your smoothie nice and cold. A handful of porridge oats will help keep you fuller for longer and adding dried prunes or dates adds a lovely sweetness. But be warned that the dried fruit can give your smoothie a darker colour – it goes a bit of a muddy green! Yes, I’ll admit that this can look a bit gross but if you can see past the colour then you’ll love it.
Mama Hack tip: If you’ve got young kids who regularly eat half a banana and then leave the other half to go all brown and gross and then they refuse to finish it, you can pop it in the freezer and use it in a smoothie.
I’ve recently started adding a multivitamin to my smoothies to make sure we’re all getting everything we need. We have AvaCare vitamins which taste really nice but popping them into a smoothie is an easy way to make sure the kids drink it all up.The main supplement I want us all to have is vitamin D, particularly during this lockdown winter when we’re not getting nearly enough sunlight! Our health visitor is always checking I’m giving the kids vitamin D so it always makes me feel like a good mum when I can reassure her that I do!
If I’m putting it in a smoothie then I’ll use the AvaCare Baby Multivitamin Drops for Alba, the Child Multi-vitamin and Mineral + Omega 3 for the boys and Omega 3 Adult Super Plant Strength for Sam and I.
If we don’t have smoothies that day then we also have the AvaCare supplement sprays and you just spray it directly into your mouth. This is still a novelty for the kids so they love doing it! You can see the Adult Vitamin D3 and K2 spray here and the child’s version here.
This post has been created in collaboration with AvaCare, a brand I chose to work with because of the honesty and quality of the products. AvaCare was founded by three dads who combined their expertise as pharmacists and nutritionists and vowed to only make products they would give to their own families. Their products only contain vitamins and minerals you actually need and they have simple, clean labels that make it really easy to see what you’re getting. No poor ingredients are allowed and they have a list of banned ingredients such as polysorbate-80 and aspartame.
Breakfast #2 – 10.30am brunch
Brunch is my favourite meal of the day and I’m a firm believer that brunch shouldn’t just be for lazy Sundays and special occasions! At the weekend we’ll have bacon and eggs, fresh bread and pastries. Mid week it’s usually fresh bread and eggs.
I make a loaf of fresh bread most mornings using a breadmaker. I LOVE my breadmaker! It takes me five minutes to put all the ingredients in and I often do it at night time and schedule it to start in the morning so we have nice fresh bread for around 10am!
Mum hacks for snackers
Is anyone else fed up of hearing the words, ‘Mum, I’m hungry!!’
It’s all my kids say and it drives me mad!
So we now have a ‘snack drawer’ in our fridge and it’s filled with fruit and chopped veggie sticks. Sometimes I’ll put boiled eggs, houmous or yoghurts in there too.
If the kids moan that they’re hungry I tell them to help themselves to anything in the snack drawer. If I don’t want them having unhealthy snacks then I’ll make sure everything is out of their reach and I just let them take what they want. It makes my life easier, gives them some independence and makes them realise I’m not their waitress!
Despite the fact we don’t go anywhere at lunch time, I still make packed lunches for me and the kids. I got into the habit of doing it each morning for the boys to take to school and I didn’t stop during lockdown because it’s so handy having lunch ready and waiting in the fridge.
It’s also really handy having lunch prepared because this is usually when I can sneak off and do some work for an hour. Alba goes down for a nap and the boys will often watch a film during this time so I can go up to my office without any interruptions.
Lunch boxes aren’t very imaginative and pretty much always have a small ham sandwich, lots of chopped fruit and veggies, crackers or crisps and anything else that’s lurking around the fridge.
I have phases where I prep delicious lunches for myself for the week. I love making Buddha Bowls and use lots of Rachel Ama’s vegan recipes for gorgeous, colourful buddha bowls. I often make a huge, veggie-filled pasta bake and that keeps me going all week and sometimes I make a big batch of soup (I recently bought a soup maker and I love it!)
During lockdown we’ve been doing a lot of baking! Our current favourite is chocolate chip cookies and I’ll usually put half of the mixture in the fridge rather than baking them all at once. There is nothing better than cookies or cake fresh from the oven, and nothing worse than slightly stale cookies, so freezing or refrigerating the batter is a great way to have fresh biscuits and cakes without the mess of making more batter.
I also find that if we have loads of cakes and biscuits in the house we just eat them all! And the kids will constantly ask for them which drives me crazy. So it’s easier to bake them in small batches and just say, ‘No, we don’t have any!’ and they stop harassing me for them!
Mama Hack Tip: I have tiny cake tins and tiny muffin trays for when I’m baking things for the kids. I don’t mind them having sweet treats in moderation but it can be really easy to give little kids the same sized portions as adults and forget that they should be having much smaller portions! It helps me too because I can’t resist a cake whenever they have one!
The Batch Lady has been an absolute game changer when it comes to the kid’s dinners!
We did have a phase where we tried to eat as a family, but it means eating at 5pm and that’s just way too early for Sam and I. It’s also nice for Sam and I to eat together once the kids have gone to bed so we can relax without them.
But making two sets of dinners is just a pain – especially for someone who doesn’t even like cooking in the first place!
I now batch cook lots of meals for the kids so there’s always something in the freezer for them and I usually just need to prepare some veggies to go with it. I usually batch cook things twice a week and I don’t find it to be any more effort to make five portions of something rather than just one. It does take a bit of forward planning to make sure I’ve got all the ingredients but I’m getting better at making sure I’ve got everything in a weekly online shop.
The kinds of things I make will be:
- Shepherd’s Pie
- Meat balls
- Fish pie
- Chicken pie
- Veggie curry
- Veggie packed pasta sauce
- And then they have the classic kid’s favourites like fish fingers, chicken nuggets and sausages sometimes too.
The kids will normally have whatever we baked that afternoon for desert. But if we didn’t bake anything then they’ll often have something like tinned fruit with homemade ice cream. I love making homemade ice cream because it’s so much nicer than anything you’d get in a tub!
And I’m never sure about tinned fruit but my kids absolutely love it! So I buy the stuff in juice rather than syrup and try to convince myself there’s some goodness in there.
Dinner for Sam and I
Our dinners vary SO much! We do have some of the same batch cooked meals as the kids but often with a bit of extra spice and flavour. Some of our current faves are:
- Sunday roast (pretty much the only thing Sam can cook!)
- This slow cooker chicken tikka
- This slow cooker bolognese
- This sweet potato curry
- This easy chicken pie
- Halloumi burgers
- Spicy bean burgers with sweet potato fries
- Homemade pizzas
- This sausage casserole (but often without the bacon and vegetarian sausages instead of pork)
- This slow cooker garlicky chicken
All of these recipes (except for the halloumi burgers) are really easy to double up and make a portion or two for the freezer. Even pizza dough and pizza sauce can be made in bulk and frozen.
If I make 3 portions of a meal each time I cook, it means I can pretty much cook each night for a week and then have 2 weeks off! I find slow cooker meals are so easy and super simple to double up on everything for a huge batch.
In the summer we have a lot of BBQs and I’ll often make loads of salads that we’ll keep in the fridge for a few days and we’ll just throw some different fish, meat or veggies on the BBQ each evening. We have a covered and heated outdoor area so we’re often out there whatever the weather!
Dessert for Sam and I
Dessert for us is pretty much always chocolate, biscuits and lots of cups of tea!
If you have any more healthy family meal ideas that are easy to make and great to freeze (bonus points if they can be cooked in the slow cooker!)