The planning that goes into feeding a family – particularly when there are six children, and even more so when everyone’s in lockdown. One mum, Sarah Chick, is a seasoned meal prepper for her big family and has been cooking from a young age, making the most of items in the fridge and cupboards to reduce waste. When her kids showed an interest in how she did it, though, the 32-year-old came up with the ‘Six Days, Six Dinners’ challenge. The mum of five and stepmum of one, who lives with her partner Justin and children in Dorset, decided to give her two oldest daughters a cooking challenge to teach them to budget and be creative during the coronavirus lockdown. Sarah, who is currently on maternity leave, told money-saving community LatestDeals.co.uk: ‘I wanted to use our time in lockdown wisely and make the most of the children while life has seemingly slowed down for everyone right now. ‘The two older children are 11 and 12. When I was doing dinner one evening they were really inquisitive and were asking me, “how do I manage to feed so many people and still have food left over? How do I know how much to cook for everyone?”‘
Putting all the food they had from their vegetable delivery box and weekly shop on the counter, Sarah asked her two eldest to try and plan and cook dinners for the week using what they already had. They were pretty excited and straight away started saying they could make all sorts of dishes. ‘I said I wouldn’t be helping them, only advising if they had a question, and obviously all the hot pots and pans were for me to sort out,’ said Sarah. ‘They picked out the obvious meal of a roast dinner and gammon, egg, chips and peas. They had lots of other ideas.
‘A curry was one of them but I advised them to take each day as it came and see what they were left with after each meal. ‘On day one, they made gammon, egg, chips, peas and pineapple. On day two, my 11-year-old wanted to make a macaroni cheese dish but added broccoli, onion, bacon, and mushrooms. I was skeptical but it was lovely!’ Other meals they made included homemade pizza and chips and ratatouille (with the idea coming from watching the film). ‘The girls have said that the challenge taught them to really think about the amount of food they were using and that if you are creative enough you can pretty much make a meal from anything,’ Sarah explained.
‘It also taught them just how much work actually goes into a meal in general but also for a large family. ‘Each of the children are taking it in turns to cook and bake – the younger ones aged five and seven are in charge of cakes and puddings! – or doing things with me like washing, folding and washing up.’ Sarah has also been using ‘snack bags’ to help keep costs down and stop the kids snacking unnecessarily. Each day she packs each child a bag with a biscuit, fruit, crisps, and veg, and once it’s gone it’s gone. Her top tips are to use as much as you can of everything, ‘only buy what’s necessary.’ The family are even home growing vegetables, too.
‘I’m planning on teaching the children how to make bread also so should the situation ever arise for them when they are older they can use the life skills they have been taught to be self-sufficient in a sad situation,’ said Sarah. She continued: ‘This challenge taught the girls that cooking doesn’t have to be a chore. It can be fun, it can be rewarding and gives a massive sense of achievement when the plates are cleared and people ask for more because they enjoy what has been made. ‘They are also aware now that nice meals don’t have to be expensive. ‘For us, it was great because it gave the girls a slice of independence but also brought us even closer as a family doing these activities together.’