Fitting healthy dinners into your busy working week
4 minute read
For families who base their day around their professional career, taking the time to think about what to have for dinner and cook is becoming increasingly difficult – let alone planning out healthy and well-balanced meals.
Particularly during busy work periods, more and more families are turning to takeaway to facilitate time. Mounting deadlines and increasing overtime is leaving less fuel in the tank to think about food.
While the convenience of fast food or restaurant takeaway is appealing to the working family, it is often an unhealthy and expensive alternative, especially when the home has a fridge filled with groceries – opening another can of worms on food wastage, as well as compounding the total costs of takeout meals.
This common phenomenon of being too tired or busy to cook dinner despite a fridge filled with groceries is known as 'cooking fatigue'.
Nutrition Force Managing Director Lisa Warman has seen this dilemma all too often, no matter the circumstances or financial position.
“It really doesn't matter what background – whether low, mid or high-socioeconomic class, or whether unemployed or a CEO of a big mining company – we find that people are short on time,” she said.
“It's something that is common within society, people want to eat well but don't know how and have many other priorities.
“Even though they would like to eat well and maintain good health, there's lots of other things that come before that, so takeout is just an easy option.”
While cooking fatigue often comes down to a lack of time, Ms Warman said it was also a lack of inspiration that was further fuelling this.
“People are putting a lot of energy into work and even getting to work with the traffic, as well as getting the kids to school – they've got so many other priorities.”
“Cooking at home tends to become another job to do, rather than thinking of it as a way to wind down, enjoy family time and enjoy what you're actually eating.”
Meal preparation made easy
Ms Warman pointed to other simple alternatives to takeaways, highlighting the rise in popularity of meal preparation companies as a good alternative for some people who lacked some of the inspiration to plan balanced meals for the week.
Australian meal kit company Dinnerly, like many other similar companies, have grown exponentially because of the convenience in having pre-portioned ingredients delivered to your door each week.
Flexible subscription plans, choice of recipes and well-thought out and balanced meals have helped grow the popularity of this service for busy homes.
Marley Spoon and Dinnerly Australia Head of Culinary Innovation and Experience Yasmin Newman said the starting price ranged from $4.85 per portion, which made the service an attainable option for most households.
“We recognised that there was a need to offer customers affordable options and we’ve been able to do this using six ingredient recipes across five steps that are not only easy to follow but ready in 20-30 minutes or less,” she said.
“Through pre-portioned meals we’re also able to cut down on food waste, which is at the heart of our business.”
Ms Newman said with the stresses of COVID-19, work and family life, Dinnerly’s main focus was to relieve some of the stress around dinner time.
“We know our customers have different levels of cooking skills and interest,” she said. “Our meal kits aim to give our customers inspiration and variety, as well as empower them to learn new dishes and techniques every week.”
“Dinnerly customers can choose from over 40 recipes every week, created by our talented culinary team and in-house dietitian.”
Stop the wastage
The 2021 National Food Waste Strategy Feasibility Study by Food Innovation Australia reported that each year Australians waste around $7.6 million tonnes of food across the supply and consumption chain. Equating between $2000 and $2500 per household per year.
Ms Newman said the service meant less groceries being wasted as customers would use what they needed with each pre-portioned meal.
“This ensures we are all doing our part to help combat food waste and customers know the meal they’ve made is nutritious and made with fresh, quality ingredients and produce,” she said.
Planning is key
Whether opting for the meal-kit option or sourcing ingredients and recipes yourself, Ms Warman said the best way to overcome cooking fatigue was to sit down with everyone in the house and plan out meals for the week, using those same organisation principles from the office into the kitchen.
“We recommend sitting down and writing out a family menu,” she said.
“Then the second step is to write out a weekly menu, so you know what you're going to be cooking each night of the week so it just becomes routine.”
Ms Warman said creating a menu was also a useful routine to work out the meals the family loved and the ones they disliked.
She also recommended following food pages on social media to keep inspiration high for new ideas and recipes.
“On average, people only have about nine meals that they cook on rotation,” Ms Warman said.
“I personally follow the New York Times cooking pages and that has some wonderful recipe ideas, because even I need inspiration and I'm a big cook at home.
“It gives me inspiration to try new food and see what the rest of the world is cooking.”