Making meal preparation easier for families
Simple strategies will have you feeding your family in style ... and help save your sanity
Laura Keogh and Ceri Marsh are the first to admit that meal planning is “wildly unsexy.” But it’s also the single most impactful thing you can do to ease the stress of feeding a family, the founders of Sweet Potato Chronicles say. It saves money and time, and engages everyone in the food that fills lunch boxes and hits the dinner table.
“It’s not only what we think people should do, it’s what we do to survive,” Marsh says. “You have your best shot at getting healthy food into you and your family if you approach it this way, rather than winging it.”
In their latest volume, The School Year Survival Cookbook, Keogh and Marsh break down not just what to cook during the school year, but the allimportant how.
“As parents, there’s a lot of prep that you can do to make your life easier. You send the kids off with all the tools; you need the tools too to get through the year,” Keogh says. “Without them, it can really swallow you up.”
While on tour with their first cookbook, How to Feed a Family, the authors encountered the same question from parents: “These are all great recipes and ideas but … how?” Keogh says.
From tips on preparing your pantry for the upcoming year — including mixes for pancakes, waffles and muffins — to illustrating meal planning, the book is a time-saving guide to fun and healthful food.
“For our own sanity and survival, we’ve realized: You have to think ahead. You have to plan. It’s lovely to walk in the kitchen and just think about what inspires you at that moment but that’s going to be another time of life,” Marsh says with a laugh.
There are 110 recipes in the book, including portable, vegetarian and quick options for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and treats. The authors also incorporated an extra layer of instruction into some of their recipes — Get Ahead — which draws out the steps that can be completed when you have a spare moment.
Lunch, a source of stress for many parents, is intentionally the briefest chapter in the book. Instead of relying on sandwich after sandwich to get you through the week, Keogh and Marsh designed each of the dinner recipes with leftovers in mind. (Many are reheatable or can be eaten cold.)
A highlight of the book is what Keogh and Marsh call Transformers: intentional leftovers that are played out over three distinct meal options. For example, spicy beef can become tacos with roasted sweet potatoes, easy beef and black bean enchiladas or couscous stuffed peppers.
“We wanted to show people, just because you have leftovers doesn’t mean you have to warm it up and serve it in the same way again. You can actually transform it into an entirely new dinner with just a little bit more cooking,” Marsh says.
“This is going to help you maximize your time in the kitchen. And it’s going to help you with meal planning because everyone struggles for extra ideas every week,” Keogh adds.
The authors stress that meal planning and preparation are tasks for the whole family: Kids can and should get involved.
“A lot of parenting information is targeted at women, at moms. Even though we happen to be mothers, we really push back against that. These are family chores,” Marsh says.
Recipes excerpted from The School Year Survival Cookbook: Healthy Recipes and Sanity-Saving Strategies for Every Family and Every Meal (Even Snacks) by Laura Keogh and Ceri Marsh. Published by Appetite by Random House.
With planning, leftovers can be transformed into delicious dinners.