Home Ec: Back to basics

By easyFood

09 August 2018

Food preparation and table gatherings can offer quality family time, as well as making a vital contribution to the overall health and wellbeing of the family.

There are many benefits of home-cooked family meals…

• Health

Many convenience foods are laden with sugar and salt, which can contribute to obesity, diabetes and heart disease. By using basic nutritional knowledge, the ingredients in home-cooked foods can be monitored and tailored to suit individual needs. In comparison, convenience foods often contain many alien ingredients such as additives, trans fats, and hidden sugars, which — if you struggle to pronounce — you may struggle to digest.

• Wealth

Eating “out” of home is no longer a treat but a daily ritual. Take, for example, cinema fuels, take-out coffees, dashboard-dining and restaurant visits. This habit may not only be enlarging our waistbands, but also burning a hole in our pockets. Stock up on reusable tubs and containers and batch cook or bake. Your piggy bank will thank you.

• Happiness

Family cooking can be a very rewarding activity, where children young and old can create and communicate.

Rules of thumb for cooking at home…

Good things come on small plates

There is a stark correlation between our ever-increasing obesity statistics and consumer demand for massive portions. Curb that trend by using the Food Safety Portion Size Reference Guide. Nourish but don’t overfill your loved ones.

What’s in a (name) label

There are often hidden ingredients in processed foods. To become label literate, keep a Food Shopping Card in your purse to make wiser decisions on what you purchase. Initially, this takes time but, with practice, you will become aware of the fables on labels.

Fail to plan, plan to fail

Plan out your week in meals and develop your shopping list from here. If you shop once a week, use up meats and fish in the order that they expire so as to reduce waste. If in doubt, freeze perishable proteins and, with the aid of a plan on the fridge, defrost whatever ingredient you need first thing in the morning. By planning your diet, those dreaded ‘snackcidents’ are also curbed.

Bar the jars

Batch cook and freeze your own stock and sauces. Ice cube trays are fantastic for stock as they can be added in controlled quantities. Perfect the art of a basic roux and a versatile tomato base. These can be modified to fit a myriad of uses. Bone broth is another effective and economical favourite, and soup is a freezer champion. Use whatever vegetables are on offer.

Fun factor

Why not encourage your friends and colleagues to cook by setting a budget and hosting a “Come Dine With Me” competition or holding a movie night where you fake your takeaway favorites.

Balancing act

Eating healthily is all about balance. Every now and then it’s perfectly okay to enjoy and savour an indulgent treat.

For Heather’s take on a basic tomato sauce that you can make at home and base a whole range of meals on, click here.