Two pieces of advice I’ve received a lot during this latter stage of my pregnancy are;
‘make you sure spend some quality time with your husband, just the two of you, before baby comes along’ and ‘try and prepare meals and have food in the freezer ready for those first few weeks because you will have NO time to cook’.
I’ve nodded along in agreement to both of these as they’ve repeatedly been thrown my way, while secretly panicking on the inside about how on earth we’re actually supposed to do that? Because, let’s face it, both of those tasks are easier said than done right? We all have busy lives, we all rush about filling our days with things that seem overly important at the time yet when looking back probably weren’t all that important at all, we all have long to-do lists and full work schedules and for the most part take things like time, and the people in our lives, for granted.
The truly important things often get relegated to the very bottom of our lists, as if there will be unlimited pockets of time at another date to focus on that, while this deadline is due today. It’s very easy to prioritise finishing up this one last blog post ahead of eating a meal together for example, or spending a weekend getting a head start on next week’s work ahead of taking time out for a cinema date.
Food, is usually an act that brings GB and I together in those times of chaos and busy-ness. In a ‘gosh we haven’t been out together for ages, let’s book a table at that new restaurant this weekend’ kind of way. Or even with a ‘How was your day?’ chat over dinner in the evening. But I admit, that lately even that has fallen by the wayside. Now that we are both working for ourselves, our schedules are unpredictable, and very rarely on the same time zone. And with that small matter of expecting a baby very soon, the time we do have together has taken on a new purpose. Instead of putting money towards a meal out every so often, we’re putting it towards buying prams and nappies and making sure we’re as organised as we can be. Most of our time together, is usually spent getting through tasks such as writing birth plans and researching slings, talking about what we still need to buy or when we can get the nursery organised.
Meals that we do manage to eat together, have become hurried and sloggish. A quick dinner thrown together, and eaten flopped on the sofa after a long day, an episode of our latest Netflix binge buzzing in the background. Me – tired, cranky and uncomfortable, moaning about my latest pregnancy ailment. GB fussing over me to make sure I’m in the right position and passing me my glass of water which I can no longer stretch to the coffee table to reach. Hardly the height of romance, and hardly what I’d describe as quality time (but probably a recognisable scenario – minus the pregnancy – for a lot of us). I’m very aware that before we know it, the baby will be here and our lives will be flipped upside down, our relationship taking on new meaning and we’ll look back fondly on those occasions when we could sit and eat a meal together or hit that latest restaurant at the weekend.
So, with that in mind when HelloFresh challenged us to take part in their #DinnerTimeChallenge and attempt to spend 30 days sitting down to a meal together, it seemed like it came at the perfect time for us, and we gratefully accepted. HelloFresh recently carried out a survey that suggested that over half of British families don’t sit down to eat a meal together anymore with 4 in 10 couples admitting they rarely eat at the same time, which seems awfully sad yet frightfully easy to understand. They’re on a mission to bring back the family dinner, and having been making a conscious effort to set the table, cook and eat together any night that we can over the last few weeks, I’m with them!
Meal boxes are nothing new these days of course, and there are unlimited subscription services to help make tea time easier, everything from a weekly veg box to special diet plans and takeaway on demand. But HelloFresh is slightly different, in that they aim to keep that idea of a good quality home cooked meal alive, but just make the whole process much less time consuming and far more manageable. You can choose from various box sizes and styles – whether classic, family or vegetarian – and you can opt for either a 3 meal or 5 meal box depending on what suits you and what your weekly schedule is like. The food included is locally sourced and organic – meat from top quality butchers and fresh vegetables. Each week a box of ingredients is delivered, all divided up handily into individual paper bags to correspond with each recipe. It takes the hassle out of weekly meals, let’s you think about other things than ‘what shall we eat tonight?’ and ‘Do I need to pick up anything from the supermarket on my way home?’. Everything you need is included – right down to the spices, stock cubes and condiments – all in the correct quantities you need to make a meal for two (or for four depending on your plan). Each meal comes with an easy to follow recipe card and an estimate of how much time is needed to prepare and cook it (usually no more than 45 mins) so you can plan which recipe will suit which day, and the recipes change weekly so you can guarantee you’re always trying new things, while staying healthy at the same time.
As well as the ease of it all, one of the things we’ve found most beneficial is that having everything bagged up ready for us each night is encouraging us to cook together as well as eat together. I’ll admit that for the majority of this pregnancy I’ve let GB take on the lions share of the cooking, usually too tired to think about chopping veg and putting a meal together. But with our HelloFresh meals waiting for us each night, I’ve found I’m actually excited to get in the kitchen and prepare them as a team and usually by lunchtime we’re already discussing which one we’ll opt for that night. A lot of the recipes so far have been new to us, or using ingredients we might not otherwise cook with so it’s been like dining at a new restaurant every night, except in the comfort of our own home where you’re able to keep your pyjamas on.
A few weeks in and we’ve eaten everything from Thai red prawn curry, to crispy beef noodles, to sausage cassoulet to grilled chicken and lentils. The portion sizes are always spot on, the meals flavoursome and we’ve never been left hungry. We’re saving all the recipe cards so that we can attempt the meals we love again in the future and encourage ourselves to step outside of our usual evening meal comfort zone.
We haven’t managed it every night of course, as GB’s work often sees him travelling or away for a few days at a time, but just knowing that on those nights we are both at home together, we’ll take a couple of hours away from the laptop/TV/to-do list to cook a meal and sit at the table to enjoy it, has made a huge difference. Food has once again become the thing that brings us together, steering us away from our separate schedules to chat, eat and laugh, and discuss what we thought of tonight’s culinary skills. We’ve still got a few more weeks to go, and I get genuinely excited on a Sunday evening wondering what our box will hold when it arrives on the Monday. For now, in this limbo period while we wait excitedly for baby to arrive, it’s proving the perfect solution for us. With our evening food taken care of during the week it’s one less thing to occupy our minds leaving more room for everything else we have to organise and sort out. We’re also hoping that in those early days of parenthood, having the means to make a meal sitting waiting for us in the fridge will take a lot of hassle out of that part of our lives, even if our sleep pattern means the only time we get a chance to eat dinner is at 4am!
If you’d like to give HelloFresh a go, you can view their plans and sign up for a trial on the website, and although it can feel pricey, we worked out that compared to our usual nightly dash to the supermarket to pick up ‘a few extras’ it’s actually far more cost effective. We’re definitely considering keeping it up for a few months to get us through the newborn baby phase and make sure we’re at least attempting to eat healthily.
Have you tried a subscription service like HelloFresh before? How often do you manage to sit down as a family/couple/household to eat together?
*Please note – We were given a free trial of the HelloFresh service to review but we’ve since signed up for a further few months.*