Updated: Dec 3, 2019
In the UK last year we spent a whopping £1.9 billion in the ready meal market! It's a big number, and one that is set to rise as supermarkets increase the visibility of their £10 meal deals and entice us with high end packaging and seductive advertising. (It's not just a big financial number, but also a big amount of plastic waste created!)
I'd be lying if I said that I haven't occasionally had to lean on 'pop, pop ping' meals during particularly busy periods (and I won't 'beat myself up' about that), but they are few and far between at The Rainbow Rooms HQ now.
There are a few reasons for this, but mainly because I strongly believe that cooking from scratch is one of the most powerful tools for health and wellness that we have at our finger tips....and it's available to everyone.
'Everything in Moderation'
The Rainbow Rooms' food philosophy of 'everything in moderation' (yes, even cake and puddings!) is based on the premise that we cook from scratch, because in order to get the best nutrition from our food it should be made with 'real' ingredients and they should be as close to their 'raw' state as possible (not highly processed). It's only then that we really know what we are putting inside our body and once we are aware of this, it can help guide us to make healthier choices.
Why 'Real and Raw'?
Cooking in this way allows us to be master of the quality of the ingredients we use, and this should always be the absolute best we can afford. Real and raw ingredients allow for maximum nutritional value as vital vitamins and minerals are not processed or part cooked out. In addition, we are able to manage the fat, salt and sugar level of our food, having the option to omit salt or swap certain fats and refined sugar for healthier choices.
It is highly unlikely that when cooking in this way we would be adding synthetic flavour enhancers (unless you're an amateur chemist!), instead opting for natural flavourings from real ingredients that we can physically recognise, such as chillies, anchovies, or herbs and spices. We may also want to batch cook some recipes so we can have convenient extra meals at a later date, but these will go into the freezer rather than needing any artificial preservatives to improve shelf life. Home cooking doesn't have to be labour intensive....I love a bit of batch cooking.
A tool for holistic health...?
I mentioned that 'real and raw' cooking was a fabulous tool for holistic health, but most of the above seems to cover only the physical aspects of diet and nutrition. So, let's look at some other 'ingredients' that can be infused into home cooked food, that mass produced ready meals could never offer.
Cooking from scratch, real and raw, can help build confidence and I'm convinced that this stems (in part) from the mindful act of chopping, cutting, slicing and stirring the ingredients. If you've ever chopped an onion (!) and watched every movement of the knife so your fingers stay intact, then you have experienced an opportunity for mindful exercise (whether you where aware of it or not). Mindfulness is in itself a powerful tool for health and wellbeing and the opportunities to harness this power surround us in our daily life, we just need to tune in and notice them. It's due to this mindfulness that many people report that cooking helps them to relax, because they are able to bring themselves to a single moment in time as the knife cuts through the ingredients, or they stir, or season...and whatever has happened throughout the day simply falls away. It's this mindfulness that infuses the food with a nourishing ingredient that is as difficult to put a name to as it is to define, but once it's been experienced, there's no going back!
Confidence is also built in the organisation and planning stages of 'real and raw' home cooking. The impact on our mental and emotional health of nurturing the skill of meal planning, shopping (probably saving money because of the plan) and the ability to prep and execute nourishing vitamin and mineral packed meals should not be underestimated. If you've ever come home from work and had a mild panic about what was for dinner, before deciding that it's got to be a takeaway, then you may have an appreciation for the planning phase and the 'I've got this' feeling because the ingredients are in the fridge ready to transform into a quick, nutritious meal.
Real and raw cooking allows us to flex our nurturing muscle as we relish the creative side of providing nutritious food for our family....when that family chip in and help, it also flexes the social muscle too! Who doesn't love a catch up with friends and family over Sunday lunch or a weekday supper?
Want to upgrade your holistic health?
So, one of my suggestions for upping your game in terms of your health and wellbeing is to get a piece of paper and a pen and take 20 minutes to write down a weeks worth of simple meals (some that can be doubled up to provide another meal at a later date, and some that can provide left overs for lunches), then off to the shops to stock up. Sounds simple?....that's because it can be! Be sure to let me know how you get on, and remember I'm here if you need specific help with healthier choices and accountability.
If you are stuck for general inspiration, then follow us on social media for some of our tried and tested family favourites....or a go to website for me is https://www.simplyfoodbymandy.co.uk. Mandy is a busy mum/home cook too, with a husband and two children to feed, so her recipes are easy to follow, quick and often only use one pan! Win, win!!