The Real Food Campaign defines real food as this:
- nutrient-dense and delicious (cooked from scratch if possible)
- should be grown and produced in ways that support health
- can nurture community
- supports and restores our soils, our oceans and our natural environment
- is about respect for plants, for animals, for nature and for the farmers, growers and cooks that feed us
- can heal (body, mind, society)
- is our birth-right and should be affordable and accessible to ALL
These are all things I am passionate about.
I eat real food, I cook real food and I promote real food to my family, my friends and my patients. … and whilst sometimes I do choose to spend a quite a lot on food, I can also do real food on a budget.
Due to packaging issues, and a desire to eat organic veg, I have recently switched to a box scheme. I have found an added benefit of this is that when thinking about a meal I start with the vegetables I am delivered and work from that. .. the end result is that we eat more veg.
Real food on a budget requires planning. It requires eating up the left-overs. It requires some inventiveness. It means probably eating less meat, maybe growing some of your own vegetables, and trying (if they are not yet a staple) nuts, lentils and other pulses. It also means having less food wastage, and enjoying loads more exciting combinations of flavour and texture.
The weekly main-meal plan
I start my weekly plan with a very traditional Roast Dinner which we do, most weeks, eat as the traditional Sunday Lunch. I always and on purpose do too many vegetables and potatoes. I often chop off a portion of the joint before taking it to the table, to be eaten another day. From this I have worked out a dinner plan through the week that works for us. This is it below, in its general form, and below that a specific example. I hope you find them useful. I will discuss ‘lunch-type food’ and breakfasts in other posts.
Sunday – Roast Beef (approx 600g, organic, British) or Roast Chicken (approx 2.5kg, organic, free range, British) and / or homemade nut roast (loads of good recipes online, but my favourite is actually just a mixture of chopped mixed nuts, grated parsnip, herbs, an egg and if possible a packet of ready cooked chestnuts) with roast potatoes and other seasonal route veg, steamed seasonal greens, carrots. Home-made yorkshire puddings if eating beef or if going meat-free (made with eggs from our chickens and we use non-grain flour). In all I aim to have 5 or 6 different veg on the plate, not including the potatoes.
Monday – left overs – veg, potatoes, yorkshires, maybe meat, any stuffing – all chopped up into bite size pieces and fried up in a little butter. Added extra greens to make it go further and increase the veg content, maybe some peas or beans or even a side of green lentils if not using the meat.
Tuesday – Usually a simple or rice dish using further fresh veg and the left over meat and gravy if not used on Monday. Just cut things into bite sized pieces and stir into the pasta or rice with extra seasoning. If all Sunday dinner food is used up then I might do a noodle broth using soy sauce, rice vinegar, mirin (or cooking sherry), stock, fresh ginger and chillis (which I keep permenently in the freezer), noodles, tinned bean sprouts, peas, more greens if I have any left, and either some MSC certified prawns or some roasted cashew nuts sprinkled on top.
Wednesday – I call this ‘Paleo day’ … I would personally like to eat paleo all the time, but it doesn’t suit my husband (vegetarian), children (growing fast), budget, or the planet so I make do with just reducing my carbohydrates (especially from grain) the rest of the week and have wednesdays to do what I really like with. This might be a paleo soup, stew, slow cooked meat and veg dish or our staple favourite – steamed brocolli florets and chicken pieces to dip into a nut butter dip (I add tahini, a splash of vingear, some soy sauce and some chilli to spice it up a bit).
Thursday – stew / pie day … my son’s favourite. Making stews or pies allows small amounts of the cheaper cuts of meat to go a long way… or for many vegetarian options to be happily eaten by the whole family. You don’t feel you are scrimping, but for budget and the planet it is good. Some of my go to’s are:
- Hungarian Goulash – made with lots of peppers, onions, whatever cuts of organic beef I can get (about 300g) and added mushrooms … served with salad and small jacket potatoes as cheaper and cleaner than pasta / rice.
- Spinach and feta layered with sliced potatoes and pine nuts, with a bit of (organic) cream poured over
- mixed vegetable and lentil stew .. or soup … depending on the thickness. – any remaining root veg from my box, lentils, a tin of tomatoes, some seasonal greens and a load of herbs.
- bacon and bean casserole (cassoulet) – 2 tins of different types of beans, a tin of tomatoes, a few rashers of fried streaky bacon all chopped up. bubble together until thick and eat with salad and / bread.
Friday – Vegetable box delight. This is the day my veg box is delivered, so it is also the day I know least what I will have in my fridge. We will eat up anything left over from Tues-Thurs meals and add in a load of fresh veg to make a medley of a meal.
Saturday – is my day off … I might cook if I feel like it, I might get potato waffles and MSC fish fingers out of the freezer. I might just tell the family to get themselves a sandwich (peanut butter (no palm oil), marmite or organic honey) and put together a big salad and some ‘finger fruit salad’.
Most days, despite my husband being vegetarian, me wanting to eat paleo and the kids being typical slightly fussy children, we manage to eat the same thing … or at least from the same pot. (My husband kindly eats just the mushrooms and sauce from the goulash as long as I haven’t mashed / stirred the meat too much). We eat together as much as possible, we cook Sunday lunch as a family, (my favourite time of the whole week!), we take on board some of the culture seen more in France – food is to be savoured and is to sustain body, mind, spirit and family. We also discuss the food we eat and the ethic behind it, the reason we eat left-overs, the pros and cons of our choices. In our family food is: