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8 ways to shake up a boring food repertoire

Ever felt that your stomach as well as your mind can experience déjà vu?
In the last few months, I’ve been having this sensation regularly.

I’m stuck in a meal rut: I’ve been eating the same breakfast (porridge) and the same lunch (a wholegrain bagel), give or take a filling here or there, for about two years. Week in, week out.Healthier Mummy food challenge

And while dinner is the one meal that’s different each evening, my husband and I seem to have a rotation of only 10 dishes.

It means that with amazing regularity, I’m faced with a plate of food that looks exactly the same as the meal we enjoyed perhaps last week – and the week before, and the week before that.

Before you say anything, let me explain. I started falling into this rut about six months after my youngest child was born. He’s now two and a half.

At first, I really enjoyed these meals. But then they became a habit that I haven’t managed to break.

Fridge to dish within 30 minutes

At the weekends, our family lunches and dinners are sacrosanct. But during the week, I’m not back from work in time to eat with the kids.

So by the time all three are tucked up in bed, it’s 8pm and I’m starving and tired. Unless my husband or I have pre-cooked something like a casserole or fish pie at the weekend, chances are the meal has to be prepared from scratch.

My aim is to get meal on the plate within 30 minutes flat.

And so that’s meant reaching for the same old fail-safe options – they’re fast to make, healthy to eat and I can prepare them almost without thinking.

porridge with berries and seeds for breakfast

My usual breakfast: porridge with berries and seeds

 

The same goes for breakfast and lunch too.

Plus, crucially, the ingredients are safely logged into my online supermarket order, meaning I can shop using only half a brain, while changing a nappy at the same time.

 But it’s boring food because it’s so familiar.

 

 

 

Eating a rainbow of foods is healthy

OK, so I know that it’s not good for us to eat a rollcall of the same food every day.

‘It’s important to eat a varied diet to ensure we have all the essential nutrients our bodies demand,’ says lead specialist dietitian Sioned Quirke. ‘In terms of fruit and veg, you should eat a rainbow – fruit and veg are different colours owing to their different vitamin and mineral content.’

Eating a monotonous diet can also be bad for you in other ways. I’ve recently started snacking more after dinner, and Sioned thinks it might be because of my repeat meal rut.

‘It’s great to have a few go-to meals, but if they leave you uninspired, you may be tempted to have a sweet treat later for a bit of food pleasure,’ she says.

 

Here’s how I’ve decided to shake up my unsatisfying diet:

1. Try two new 30-minute recipes a week – once at the weekend and once mid-week

 This sounds doable – I really don’t think I could manage a new recipe every day. Ideally, I’ll find dishes that all three children will eat, and which can be frozen and eaten mid-week too. I’ve bought myself a new cookery book for ideas.

2. Source inspiration from a food mag subscription

 I asked for a food mag subscription for one of my Christmas presents, and hope that it will be a monthly reminder (okay, nag) to soak up different recipes and ideas, and learn about new ingredients.

3. Find new ways to tweak breakfast

 I need to swap in another easy breakfast and try different toppings for my porridge, so I don’t feel quite so controlled by the first meal of the day.

Wholegrain bagel for lunch

My usual wholegrain bagel for lunch

 

4. Shake up lunch

My bagel is fine occasionally, but not every day. I work part-time so I’m looking for speedy dishes that I can make at home to save money, but that will give me enough energy to keep going all day.

 

 

 

5. Eat different veg

 I love all types of vegetables but it’s amazing how many times mid-week I end up with frozen broad beans and peas, just because I like them, they take zero preparation and, oh look, there they are in my freezer. I’ve been stocking up on other easy-to-prepare veg for the children since writing 10 ways to get your child to eat vegetables so I need to make sure I tuck in to a range of veg, even when the kids aren’t looking.

6. Sign up for a cooking class

 I think I’ve lost some confidence in my cooking since my youngest was born. I’m hoping a class or two will expand my skills and give me new ideas to transfer to my kitchen at home.

7.  Hit the supermarket

‘Ditch online food shopping and visit the supermarkets for inspiration,’ says Sioned. ‘You may be tempted by an ingredient that you’ve not tried before. Try walking down different aisles for new ideas.’

8. Splash out on a new kitchen tool

A slow cooker, mini chopper or other cooking machine that could make dinner preparation easier could be another way to inject some magic into the kitchen again.

I’ll let you know how I get on next week. In the meantime, please do send me your tips – I need as much inspiration as possible.

I’d also be interested in hearing if any of you has stuck in a meal rut since having children too.

 


Comments (44)

  • Avatar

    Karen Fitzpatrick

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    I can’t recommend a slow cooker enough. Some recipes require a bit of prep, but it’s brilliant when everyone can be fed from the same pot, no matter what time (it has a stay-warm function). I’m a big fan of one-pot family meals, especially in wintertime. x

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      Thanks for your tip. You’re right – it’s a no-brainer. I just need to buy one now.

  • Avatar

    Emmys Mummy

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    I’m also a huge fan of the slow cooker. While it does take thought as you really need to know the night before what you want to cook (if your working that is) it’s fantastic to come home to a wonderfully smelling house.

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      That sounds lovely. It’s definitely on my shopping list.

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    Jenny

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    I like the challenge of trying two new 30 minute recipes a week. I’m with you on that!

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      Good luck! Let me know how you get on.

  • Avatar

    Emily (@amummytoo)

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    Great tips :) I love my slow cooker and Kitchen Aid – we eat much better now we have them. And I always have plenty of dried fruit, nuts and seeds in the cupboards.

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      I have nuts and seeds in the house too – they’re a lifesaver when you’re hungry. Must get myself a slow cooker. I think that’s the key!

  • Avatar

    anna

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    This is exactly the type of challenge and aims I need to set myself, I do feel that when i need to get things made quickly i do tend to go for the very familiar things and it does get a bit boring!

  • Avatar

    Keri-Anne

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    I love all of these tips. It is exactly the same here but this week, my husband and i have started the insanity workouts and have the meal planner guide. We are going to make sure we try and cook new things and not get stuck with out usual meals x

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      Good luck with it. We’ve just got to try not to relapse…

  • Avatar

    Kate Williams

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    I’m awful for eating the same meals again and again, a cooking course sounds like a great idea, or even just a new cookery book from the library for some quick meal ideas.

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      Yes, the new cookery book is a really good idea. (That was one of my Christmas presents too.)

  • Avatar

    Kirsty

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    I am guilty of the ‘meal rutt’ as I have the same thing for breakfast every day but I have challenged myself with dinners this month and have been trying out lots of new and different foods with varying degrees of success (don’t mention the Corn Chowder disaster)!

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      The corn chowder disaster sounds fascinating. Well done with trying out new foods. Putting it into practice is hard, isn’t it?

  • Avatar

    Mummy of Two

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    Some great advice there. I get sick of having the same things all of the time but it is so difficult to get out of!

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      I know. Let me know whether you manage to shake it up a bit too.

  • Avatar

    Jen aka The Mad House

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    I tend to always look through the cook books before menu planning to make changes.

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      I need to do that much more often. Good tip, thanks.

  • Avatar

    Nell@PigeonPairandMe

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    Couscous is always a quick, healthy meal in our house – although I have to admit it’s my partner who specialises in making it interesting. He adds things like coriander, peppers, feta or goats cheese….it always ends up delicious!

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      Couscous is great, I agree. But the bits go everywhere if the kids eat it! Your couscous does sound very delicious, thanks for the tip.

  • Avatar

    Vicky

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    This challenge is completely up my street, so am following you here and on twitter for continued inspiration.

    One of my unofficial NYR’s is to eat better and more often. I am disabled, so maintaining energy is a big thing for me, but I get stuck in a catch 22. I am to tired to prepare something fresh, so I choose junk, and have no energy as a result.

    I am trying to take things in hand though – and have some new labour saving kitchen tech requested from Xmas :-) I’m also been experimenting with overnight oats and such, so I have the right idea – I just need more motivation to change my habits. Your suggestions here are a great place to start :-)

    Love Vicky
    Around and Upside Down

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      The energy thing is so important, isn’t it? I’m also all about foods that keep me fuller longer. I love the idea of your overnight oats. I’m going to try that too.

  • Avatar

    Lori

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    What great inspiration! I think i’ll try stopping the online shopping as I do always end up getting the same stuff, also I think I might pimp up my porridge like yours. Look yum! x

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      Phew, glad I’m not the only one ending up with the same stuff from my online shop every time. Let me know how your porridge goes.

  • Avatar

    Ninjacat

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    It’s good to mix things up !

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      Absolutely. My stomach won’t know what’s hit it.

  • Avatar

    Hellie's Corner

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    Sound exciting for your, I would never do online shopping, I like going to the supermarket.

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      And I think that could be the key.

  • Avatar

    Fritha Strickland

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    I’m so stuck in a food rut! Although vegan Jan has really made me shake it up a little! thanks for the tips! x

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      Glad it’s not just me. Vegan Jan? I’ll look that up. Sounds interesting.

  • Avatar

    Orli D

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    I totally emphasise. I get into a food rut so quickly, and I so rarely try to break it. And now when I am on a post-Christmas diet it’s even worse… Good luck with trying to break yours! Waiting to hear how you did :)

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      Let me know how you get on too, please

  • Avatar

    Cass@frugalfamily

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    Good luck – it sounds like you mean business x x

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      Thank you. Yes, I’m so fed up with my food – something’s got to change!

  • Avatar

    Actually Mummy...

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    I do like the 30 minute challenge idea. I’ve been experimenting by looking at what’s in my cupboard and putting together recipes using that, rather than shopping for new ingredients

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      Yes, that’s another idea too. Good thinking.

  • Avatar

    mammasaurus

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    Subscribing to the Jamie Oliver magazine has really transformed the way I cook – each week we try at least one new dish – as you say so easy to get in a rut x

  • Avatar

    Catherine Salter

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    It seems most of us are in this rut with food, I started a group on Facebook called feeding time at the zoo, the idea is people post easy yet healthy meals the whole family can enjoy, having a good response but I think it needs to be more user friendly…I am thinking how to make it work better…

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      Good luck with your Facebook site – it sounds really interesting. There does seem to be quite a few of us struggling with ideas for fast but healthy meals.

  • Avatar

    Meg Pritchard

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    I need to do this too, I always rely on the same few meals. I do love my slow cooker, but need to experiment more as at the moment I tend to use it mostly for batch cooking ragu and tomato/vegetable sauce which I freeze in portions. That’s so useful and I love it just for that, but I know I could do more. My resolution however would be to actually try new recipes – I love reading them and looking at the pictures, but getting from there to actually buying the ingredients and trying them rarely happens – and if it does then it’s usually a new cake or biscuit recipe, which isn’t really the point… Might try and do one new thing a week and build from there.

  • Avatar

    Holly

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    If olive wasn’t the magazine you received as a subscription you can borrow mine as we get it monthly and have lots of back catalogs along with tons of recipe books you can borrow come and have a look when you are passing next but the best I think is sainsburys magazine which I get on my iPad it’s brilliant xxx

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      Thanks, Holly. Will take you up on your offer and will try Sainsburys mag too. Be good to keep me inspired!

  • Avatar

    short prom dresses

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    You really make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this topic to be actually something which I think I would never understand. It seems too complicated and extremely broad for me. I am looking forward for your next post, I’ll try to get the hang of it!

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