One of the answers to the question why so many of us are reaching for take-aways and ready meals instead of cooking from scratch is undoubtedly time poverty. I am very time-poor. Weekdays, I am out of the house for around 12 hours, so when I eventually stagger home the last thing I want to do is stand in the kitchen for a further hour to prep and cook something from scratch.
I could reach for freezer meals – chicken nuggets, chips, can of beans – and have something on the table in half an hour with no effort whatsoever. Or I can spend some time at the weekends making my own.
I currently have tomorrow’s bolognaise on the hob. I have prepped a veg mix for Wednesday’s lemon chicken and will grate the lemon and chop the garlic for the chicken in a second.
Some broccoli and cauliflower are on the hob and pre-boiling to be portioned off and make cooking for Thursday’s vegetable bake easier.
Tuesday is pulled BBQ pork day, which will mean simply slow-cooking pork in BBQ sauce for the 12 hours I am away, but I can still chop the garlic-infused vegetables to go with this and bung them into the freezer, to only be boiled, ready on the day.
It means coming home, stuffing something into the oven/ microwave/ putting it on the hob and ignoring the food until it’s done. Just like any ready meal, but without the added sugar, salt and preservatives. It means that instead of adding fat to my food I can add more vegetables for extra flavour.
It also means less food waste – no vegetables will go off quickly enough, as everything will either go pre-cooked in the fridge or freezer.
There is a bit of planning involved. You won’t be able to make a choice of what you fancy at the time. There is no impulse-eating involved. But overall, home-made ready meals are a beautiful thing to try.