The kids and I did some blackberry picking at the weekend. It’s hard to believe that it’s that time of year again. And where there are blackberries there are new school bags, packed to gills with new books and virgin stationery waiting to fulfil their very purpose. In nature the schoolbag would be seen as one great big bag of potential seed. If the student uses the contents wisely and on purpose the results can be explosive or perhaps the contents will be wasted, rushed through, thrown aside at every opportunity – the potential within never fully realised. There’s something about blackberry time that, for me anyway, always heralds positive new beginnings. It’s like the start of a new year all over again, which it is in a way. It’s a chance to lay down new rules and have another fresh start.
There’s a different feel to the start of the new school year than there is to the start of the real New Year in January. On the first of January we are all about resolutions, rousing ourselves from the winter lethargy and shaking off the excess of Christmas. The beginning of the new school year however feels a little more supportive of change. Like the start of the year when we are surrounded by new stuff from Christmas, the start of the school year is also about new stuff – but the ‘new stuff’ is much more utilitarian. New lunchboxes, new schoolbags, new pencil cases and new uniforms speak silent motivating messages of work, routine, productiveness and learning.
With all of us on the cusp of this change it might be a good time to take stock of our eating patterns which also need to fall in line with our new routines. The kids’ systems need to adjust also. During the summer they have free access to the fridge all day. At any time during play they can stop and announce “I’m hungry” and food of some sort will be provided. School isn’t as relaxed and those little bodies will need enough fuel in them to take them from breakfast, through to lunch and on through the day.
While the kids face the routine of school we must also be a little more disciplined in our food preparation. Once again we are working with both the clock and the body clock, both equally demanding. My first bit of advice is to keep it simple and the second is to plan.
As students work out their timetables for school work and all the various extracurricular activity that seems to be the norm these days, it’s no harm for us to take a leaf out of their homework diaries and work out our own schedules. How about stocking the larder first and then the freezer with quick meal basics? What about sorting out a month’s worth of recipes and seeing where batch cooking, bulk buying and the clever use of leftovers for consecutive day cooking might just save you time and real money, not to mention stress.
While we are all well aware of the ills of long life foods, you should have a good supply of tinned tomatoes, beans, pasta, cous cous, quinoa, stock cubes, spices and the like to hand at all times. With a well stocked home larder and a few fresh items a delicious meal can be whipped up in minutes.
I also think that the internet is your friend. The inspiration and food education at your fingertips is immeasurable. Check out the James Whelan Butchers website for some great recipes, ‘how to’ videos and you can even order your meat there and have it delivered to your door. After a certain point in the order the delivery is free. By all means pop in store too where you will see our range of ready prepped meals that are family winners in quality and value every time.
A good kitchen clear out before the kids go back to school is another good idea. The work in the kitchen changes come school time. Lunches have to be prepared once more and so the supplies for that should be handy and plentiful. Setting up a proper lunch making station (a cupboard or even a shelf in a cupboard – just to mind the lunch stuff is really handy and stress relieving.)
I mentioned it briefly earlier but getting ahead is really the best way to save time and more importantly, money. You don’t even have to cook full meals, just prep the main ingredients and pop them in the freezer. You can also make all the freezer friendly winter favourites like stews, pies and homemade burgers for example. And it just seems so much easier making them at your leisure during time off rather than at the end of a busy day.
Finally where we prepare our food and eat is just as important as what we eat. Study after study has proven the cliché that families who eat together just do better! The why is unimportant, but in these crazy, madcap days of the technology centric 21st Century, human contact is more important than ever. At least a few times a week, if not once a day, sitting together to break bread and create some great food memories can be very nourishing. Talking through the day, sharing the good moments and the bad, is important for our mental health as much as food is for our physical well being. Sitting in a lovely space to eat with family together with natural and healthy home cooked food and it’s a great foundation for a very happy new school year.
We hope you enjoyed reading this post by Pat Whelan of James Whelan Butchers. Pat is a 5th generation butcher, cook book author and the director of James Whelan Butchers with shops in Clonmel, the Avoca Food Market Monkstown and Avoca Rathcoole. Sign up to our newsletter for more updates from James Whelan Butchers