10 Great Emergency Meal Ideas
A huge part of my Feed the Brood philosophy is the importance of meal planning in a situation like this. If there’s a list on the fridge of what’s for dinner each night and a fridge all stocked with the appropriate ingredients, you’re on to a good thing. But, I am busy working parent just like you and we’re so often caught in a ‘Survival Mode’ loop. I haven’t had a minute’s peace at home to even wee in private, let alone think ahead to the provisions needed for next week! Instead of panicking and grabbing another pizza out of the freezer, I need to think on my feet, and fast!
Here’s a quick list of fab emergency meal ideas I keep up my sleeve so that I can provide my whole family with a nutritious meal without delay:
- Tortellini – only takes 1 minute to cook and has a relatively long shelf life, so you can keep it the back of the fridge for an emergency situation like this. Either dress it up with a jar of tomato pasta sauce (Lloyd Grossman keeps the sugar content low) or some butter with fresh sage leaves.
- Sausage pasta – if you empty a sausage out and fry it off like mince or make tiny meatballs in a wide, flat pan, it will cook ever so quickly. You can make use of frozen onion and garlic to make a sauce and if you use a wide flat pan, they’ll all cook really quickly. Angel hair pasta is super skinny spaghetti that cooks in just 3 mins! You can either add cream cheese to make a creamy sauce or chopped tomatoes to make a tomato sauce. Bang in some frozen spinach or fresh kale at the end and you’ve got a nutritious offering for all the gang. I personally couldn’t eat this without a cheeky bit of spicy chilli oil ;)
- Gnocchi – this is another item that cooks in only 3 mins and has a fairly long shelf life. Create an instant sauce with a tub of mascarpone or cream cheese and you have an super quick tea. I like to fry some onions and garlic to add in too for an air of elegant sophistication which provides a sharp contrast to the plebby chopped up ham you could also bung in at the end!
- Spanish tortilla – or frittata if you’re inclined to the Italian way of doing things. You can add any concoction into this giant family-sized omelette. The best way to get it cooked through in the middle is to use the widest flattest pan you have and pre-heat the grill as you’re cooking it on the top. Once again, I am the classiest lady in town and I use frozen onions and garlic first and adopt the usual frozen peas and sweetcorn as an addition. If you have some tinned spuds in the cupboard, you can also use these to bulk out the omelette, which will drastically cut the amount of egg you use and therefore cut down the cooking time.
- Salmon egg fried rice – although I am averse to this, buying packets of cooked rice is a great way to cut down the time needed to produce a meal. Fry off some salmon in one pan with a sweet chilli sauce coating, cook up a pan of rice with (you guessed it) frozen onions and garlic, you can throw a bag of stir fry veg and mix it in, flake in the the cooked salmon, then stir in a couple of eggs. You’ve got a very classy meal there, no messing!
- Couscous paella – couscous is so quick and easy to make! This is taken from a Miguel Barclay £1 Meal. If you’ve got a pack of cooked prawns in the fridge, you’ve got an instant meal. Cook the couscous by adding hot water to dry grains and covering with a plate. In a pan, fry frozen onions and garlic, add turmeric and frozen peas, mix in with the cooked couscous and add prawns at the last minute. No-one will guess you made it in under 10 minutes!
- Peanut noodles – it’s so easy to cook rice noodles much like the couscous above – in a bowl covered in boiling water. You can avoid using packet sauces by making your own peanut butter and sweet chilli sauce combo to add to the cooked, drained noodles, some fried off frozen ginger and a bag of stir fry veg. If you have some cooked chicken leftover from another meal, you could also add this to up the protein and bulk out the meal for the hungrier members of the family.
- Jacket potato with a twist – sweet potatoes cook super-quick in the microwave. Add mango chutney, curry powder and yoghurt to a tin of chickpeas for an interesting coronation-style chickpea topping. Jazz up the presentation with fresh spinach leaves and a cherry tomato salad on the side.
- Speedy puff pastry pizza – grab a ready rolled puff pastry sheet (not frozen, that would need time to defrost) out of the fridge, spread with pesto, you can add a series of toppings like you would do to a normal pizza top e.g. salami, mozzarella, grated cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, sweetcorn or pepper sticks. Bake for 20 mins whilst you stick some laundry on and you have a simple twist on the pizza staple.
- Fruity quesadillas – fill two wraps with grated cheese, apples, raisins and chopped up ham. Fry with a tiny spray of oil or butter in a large wide pan until the cheese inside melts thoroughly.
SHOPPING LIST AND TOP TIPS FOR EMERGENCY MEALS
You can probably tell that my freezer is my best friend when it comes to providing quick family meals. The most regularly used are the frozen onion, garlic, ginger and spinach whilst the frozen peas and sweetcorn have to be replaced weekly! With frozen onion and garlic, it’s great to walk through the door and get a meal started in a matter of seconds And I’ve spoken to proper chefs about this, and it really is hardly different from real onion or garlic!
Salmon, sausages, tortellini, cream cheese, cheese, puff pastry and gnocchi are such great staples to keep in the fridge for weeknight meals.
Pasta, noodles, couscous, sweet potatoes, eggs
And my favourite pan is my wide flat frying pan – everything will brown so much quicker if spread out over the surface of a hot pan!
A NOTE ON FUSSY EATING
I’ve been doing Feed the Brood long enough to hear the echo of voices saying ‘But my kids won’t eat that’ and ‘I don’t eat with the children’ when I list family meals like this. It would be impossible to cover all the aspects of fussy eating at play here, and I’m not a feeding therapist, but just to say that it’s commonly agreed by professionals that children will ALWAYS benefit from an adult joining them at the table; whether that be to eat or simply to converse. All too often fussy eating behaviours creep in as an attention seeking mechanism that simply turn negative over the course of time. If you’d prefer to eat later, that’s absolutely fine, but the best way to improve fussy eating behaviour is to stop what you’re doing and sit with the children whilst they eat. Make it positive and find ways to connect: ask them about their day, talk about something silly, try to have a laugh and share a moment in your hectic day to connect with them.
And if you’re prepared to go the whole hog, eating the same meal together will significantly help improve your fussy eater’s attitude to the food you put down on the table if they see you eating it.
I’m hosting a Fussy Eaters S.O.S. Evening at the Royal Wells Hotel in Tunbridge Wells on Friday 9th November at 7.30pm. I’ll be co-hosting with expert dietitian and feeding therapist Sarah Almond-Bushell who has been working most recently with Annabel Karmel. We’ll be covering fussy eating issues in detail and what you can do to press the reset button. There’ll be prosecco too! Woop woop!
Alex Thurman is the founder of Feed the Brood a business that provides courses, classes and events inspiring busy parents to feed their families in a fun and manageable way. She is launching her Pimp my Menu Cookery Classes local to Tunbridge Wells in the new year.
If you’d like to find out more, visit www.feedthebrood.com/events
Alex Thurman 07779 163876