Finding our cooking mojo with Nadiya Hussain

Let’s begin by saying what an absolute privilege it was to recently spend an entire day learning how to save time cooking with Nadiya Hussain.  People have been asking me what was she like? And I’m soooo pleased to confirm that she is of course lovely. Super down to earth and exactly as you see her on TV.

The next question people have been asking me is how did you get this gig?

Well, it was a little bit of a fluke to be honest. I have a friend. (It always starts with a friend, right?) She works at a Think Tank and she put me in touch with the show who were looking for a busy entrepreneur in need of some serious help with their cooking. She gave me the heads up and I wasted no time in putting myself forward. To say that we needed help with our cooking was an understatement.

So, here’s the honest situation about our cooking.

Our food became joyless and expensive. I had been feeling constant anxiety about what the heck we were going to eat at mealtimes. Since I started working on Clementine it was one of those balls that I consciously decided to drop. We just didn’t have the time to be mucking around with cooking from scratch every night, which is what we did pre kids. With just the one child we still managed to eat relatively healthy meals. Add in two further ingredients – the birth of my second child and the birth of Clementine. Well, like I said, food became about survival, not pleasure.

The answer? Convenience meals. We tried the whole Hello Fresh thing for well over a year, which we love. But it’s not cheap and only covered three of the seven meals. Oh, and that was just for the two of us. We then also cooked separate meals for our boys and had to scramble around for half-decent, fast solutions for the remaining four nights. I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that these usually came in the form of frozen pizzas and lasagne (we did defrost them first).

But here’s the thing. We de-prioritised cooking properly because we thought it was saving us time and money. It wasn’t. It was in fact A LOT more expensive. Largely because I wasn’t planning our meals properly. I’d be up at the supermarket EVERY OTHER DAY. A total waste of time.  It’s fair to say that all this cooking malarky just added a lot of ‘food stress’ to our lives. Thank our lucky stars Nadiya helped us take a step back and reassess how we cooked as a family. (Plus, there’s nothing quite like being aired on the BBC to help you stick to your goals!)

If and when you watch our episode, you’ll see that before we only cooked one meal together. But just the act of Nadiya visiting us with her tips on how she feeds her family, well, this left such a mark on us. It was enough for Simon and I to make some changes we could stick to.

So, we went from seven days of Hello Fresh + Convenience foods to Hello Fresh + one night of pizza and two days of pre-planned cooking from scratch. This might seem small and inconsequential as a change but it’s been massive for us. We don’t go to the supermarket as much (saving time), we spend less, and most importantly, we’ve reignited our joy in cooking.

You can catch it again on BBC iPlayer – Time To Eat.

Here are a few tips that I picked up from Nadiya that might help with your cooking too:

  1. Seems so obvious but spending 5 minutes to sit down and write down the meals for the week ahead saves a huge amount of stress, time and money. We do this now before going to do our weekly shop.
  2. Do a weekly shop. We had stopped doing this and were doing lots and lots of small top-up shops. A total waste of time and money.
  3. Use the freezer. We were pretty good at this. Nadiya helped us take our freezing to a new level. So when you are chopping up onions for a dish, chop up a few extra and throw them in the freezer bag. That way when you need onions again you’ll save time having to chop them.
  4. Cook in massive batches. Again, we used to do this but stopped. So now when we cook our two fresh meals a week, like spag bol or chicken curry, we do a double batch and then freeze the rest for during the week.

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