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Small Cheats For Big Family Meals

28/01/2014 14:04 | Updated 22 May 2015

Small cheats for big family meals: Make one, freeze one shepherds pieKatie Bryson

Feeding a family day-in day-out can often feel like a chore, so we've come up with some helpful tips to make your life a little easier.

Plan ahead

Take an hour out of your week to leaf through recipe cuttings, magazines and books and do some meal planning.

Coming up with five meal options for the week ahead might seem like a gargantuan effort, but once you've got your list stuck to the fridge you won't need to make any meal decisions for the rest of the week. It's quite liberating!

If you're stuck in a cooking rut this will help inspire you out. It will also help you shop more efficiently at the supermarket and cut down on food waste as everything is accounted for.

Make one, freeze one

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If you're spending the time to cook a lasagne or shepherds pie, then you may as well double the quantities and make two.

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Eat one now and freeze the other for those times when you just haven't got a second but need a hearty meal on the table like when you've got a baby on the way, the never-ending entertaining over Christmas, or when you're just back from holiday and are sick of eating out and want some comforting home-cooked grub.

Small cheats for big family mealsKate Bryson One pot wonder sausage casserole

One pot wonders

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Cooking up an entire meal in one dish that requires no other faffing about is highly rewarding and frees you up to keep the kids amused. It's not ready in minutes, but as long as you've planned it in advance this is family cooking at its finest.

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The crucial factor here is the lack of involvement. All you're doing is putting everything in a casserole dish, then cooking in a low oven. Bring it out, stick it in the middle of the table with a big loaf of crusty bread and soak up the praise and the gravy!

Multiple roasts

If you've got room in the oven, why not roast two chickens instead of one? Shred up the leftovers and use in risottos, soups, sandwiches, salads.

Don't forget to make stock with the bones to really get the most out of those birds.

Bulk it out

Use less meat in your cooking and try adding things like grated carrot and tins of pulses to beef up a bolognese or sausage casserole. It's a great way of getting more vegetables into your family and makes a meal go further for less money.

And finally, the friends in your freezer

A few key items in your freezer can really help you out:

• Meat and fish is great bought in bulk when it's on offer and then portion it off, wrap in cling film, label and then freeze. You'll then only be defrosting exactly what you need.

• Bread freezes beautifully. Stock up on loaves, rolls and pittas. You can even make a batch of sandwiches and freeze them for speedy packed lunch fillers.

• Softened butter mixed with chopped herbs then chilled, sliced and frozen in small portions - perfect for topping a piece of grilled fish, steak or jacket potato.

• Frozen berries can be blitzed into milk and yoghurt for a healthy breakfast smoothie, or cooked with a touch of sugar then topped with instant crumble mix in individual ramekins for a warming winter pudding.

• Vegetables in the freezer aisle are often flash frozen just a few hours after they've been picked, so don't overlook them as you're getting all those nutrients locked in and they won't be wilting in your fridge making you feel guilty for poor meal planning.

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