A Place to Eat

Weekly Meal Plan, Back in the Oven!

Guess what? We have our oven fixed…over two weeks without an oven and I can honestly say it’s not been good. I was so pleased when the technician turned up this morning and fixed it. I can finally start cooking things in my oven again.

Last week went okay. We didn’t get our toad-in-the-hole thanks to not having an oven. We did have our lamb roast but we had to cook the joint in the slow cooker.

This Weeks Meal Plan with an Oven

weekly meal plan

This is possibly the last week of doing the kids lunches for a while. I certainly won’t miss that. It’s not so bad when they are on holiday but when we are doing home school I have to get lunch done at a particular time.

  • chicken nuggets and fries
  • cheese or ham (or even cucumber) sandwiches
  • salad bar with soft tortillas
  • sausage rolls and cheese and crackers
  • toasted cheese sandwiches
  • fish cakes/ turkey dinosaurs and waffles
  • eggy bread cheese sandwiches
  • sausage sandwiches
  • sausage and beans and waffles
  • quesadillas
  • chicken burgers

Now we have the oven working again we can hopefully start thinking about some different foods. Possibly use up our load in the freezer. It’s amazing how much we’ve not been able to cook because it needs oven cooking.


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A Place to Eat

This Weeks Menu – Winter Blues

I feel like I’m winging it again this week. I logged on last week to find that there were no grocery slots until Wednesday so I don’t even have my weekly shop yet!! I’ve booked next weeks shop already, got to get in quick these days. Last week went well though, despite all the pork and tofu. The Winter blues are settling in here and I want to choose food that makes us feel comforted and happier.

We are also under a fair amount of stress with mock exams and worrying about COVID. According the the Mindful Chef cookbook we should be avoiding sugar, caffeine and processed fats and focusing more on fruit and vegetables, brown rice, buckwheat and vitamin C. I’m also taking magnesium supplements which help with leg pain.

I’m not sure my menu this week reflects this well, but I’ve added a fair bit of fruit into the shopping (we’ll pretend I didn’t add the doughnuts!) We have also swapped white rice for brown which has gone down well so far.

This Weeks Menu – Winter Blues

Image shows text Weekly Meal Plan and some bowls of healthy food.
  • Monday – Take Out (we had Chinese food)
  • Tuesday – Pizza for most, duck breasts for me and daughter
  • Wednesday – homemade turkey meatballs in tomato sauce
  • Thursday – Chicken and curly fries
  • Friday – veggie chilli with brown rice
  • Saturday – thai curry
  • Sunday – Toad-in-the-hole with mash

I hope everyone is well and staying happy and coping well in these difficult times. Let’s hope this winter passes as quickly as the summer seemed to go.

Joining in with Katy Kicker and her meal planning linky


A Place to Eat, health

Why Cooking Is Your Secret Relaxation Weapon

So much of what we do in life is all about mindset. For some people, jumping out of an aeroplane is fun – for others, it’s a nightmare. The same variations in attitude occur concerning cooking. For many people, getting out all the crockery to make a meal from scratch is a massive chore, especially after a long day at the office. For others, it’s a sacred ritual – something you feel like you have to do for the day to feel complete. 

chopping board full of healthy food such as broccoli, carrots strips, cucumber, peppers and tomatoes

Pexels – CC0 License

It’s a shame that cooking is seen as “just something you have to do,” like brushing your teeth. Because, in truth, it’s not like that at all. Rustling up a delicious meal is more like creating a work of art than sweeping the floor. You get a rare opportunity to do something original that other people can enjoy immediately. That’s a good thing, right? 

Cooking is, in many ways, your secret weapon for more relaxing evenings. There are all sorts of reasons for this – many of which you wouldn’t expect. What’s more, they can all have massive ramifications for your overall well being, changing how you feel daily. 

Cooking Brings The Family Together

image shows two parents and two children cooking together

Pexels – CC0 License

Do you sometimes feel disconnected from the other people in your household? If so, it could be because you’re not spending enough time eating together. 

Research shows that families that take the time to eat meals together are typically a lot happier with their setup than those who don’t. There’s something about combining good conversation and delicious food that allows people to connect and enjoy each others’ company. It seems like such a simple thing, but it works. Plus, people will be more willing to put down what they’re doing if they know that something special awaits them at the dinner table. 

Cooking Provides Important Structure To Your Day

From the moment we wake up to the moment we have our evening meal, we’re in a high state of alert, constantly checking our emails and tapping away at our computers. But then when we eat dinner, we cross a threshold. Afterward, we relax, switch off our devices, and take some much-needed time out. 

However, when we just grab meals or quick snacks out of the refrigerator, we undermine this ritual. We’re not making a conscious decision to stop what we’re doing and relax. And that’s a problem. If your parasympathetic nervous system is continually active, it can’t recover from one day to the next. And that means that you ultimately wind up with burnout and chronic fatigue – not what you want. 

Cooking is something that provides structure to your day. Once you get the chopping board out and start arranging ingredients on your sideboard, you know that it’s “me time.” Everything after that point is about unwinding and preparing yourself for bed so that you can do it all again tomorrow.

Cooking Allows You To Eat Foods That Reduce Brain Inflammation

Brain inflammation sounds scary – and it can be. But it is also something that affects the vast majority of people. The reason has to do with the standard western diet.

The majority of the food that people eat at restaurants, take-outs, or pre-prepared contain factors that cause the body’s immune system to go into overdrive. Various toxins, chemicals, additives, and bacteria in the food all trick the body’s defenses into believing that they need to mount a response. Consequently, immune cells start churning out inflammatory factors that make their way to the brain. When this happens, it becomes inflamed, leading to problems like low mood, anxiety, fatigue, brain fog, and depression. 

When you cook, though, you invariably avoid artificial and highly processed products. Most of the time, recipes call for fresh fruits and veggies as they come out of the ground. No middlemen are spiking them with ingredients that will cause inflammation or take away fiber and nutrients that protect your body. 

Did you know that when you put people on a whole food diet, the inflammation level in their brains goes down? Invariably, they report feeling better and more relaxed. Over the course of a month or so, it can make a massive difference. 

Cooking Allows You To Include Pro-Relaxation Ingredients

Dietary styles, such as eating unprocessed foods, can help to combat exhaustion and stress. But some superstar ingredients can do the same thing. 

Take saffron, for instance. This simple herb is famous all over the world for its fragrant smell and yellow color. It’s a beautiful thing to include in your cooking, no matter what you’re making. But it is also extremely relaxing. The same goes for the spice cumin. It acts as a painkiller, calming the center of the brain responsible for anxiety and pain. 

Then there’s CBD oil – something that people are increasingly including when cooking baked goods. It attaches to particular receptors in the nervous system, creating a calming effect and bringing the body back into balance. You can add the stuff to things like brownies or cupcakes (made with healthy ingredients, of course). 

Not many people have heard of the Indian ayurvedic spice, ashwagandha, but there is robust evidence that it also helps people relax. Like some of the other herbs we’ve discussed, it contains chemicals that attach to receptors in the nervous system, shutting down pain and anxiety and balancing your mood. Again, people swear by it. 

Ashwagandha is a bit of a weird ingredient, but you can order it online. It smells a bit like “sweaty horse,” and has a kind of musty aroma. But you can add it to cereal, soups, and baked goods. 

Just be warned – it’s funky stuff!

Cooking Takes Your Mind Off Your Worries

We live in a troubled world. There are so many problems, both in our personal lives and society at large. Thus, sometimes you need a way to switch off and escape your thoughts. For many people, that means sitting down in front of the TV and watching your favorite shows. But for others, it means losing yourself in a recipe and mastering it. 

Cooking is great because it requires you to concentrate on it wholeheartedly. You can’t follow a recipe and think about emails from your boss at the same time. There are so many components involved in making a decent meal; you need to apply yourself fully. 

In that sense, it’s a bit like work. While you’re doing it, you do not have to deal with your own thoughts. You have a distraction. 

Cooking Allows You To Try Novel Flavors

We already talked about some strange flavors, but the range of ingredients and cuisines out there is truly remarkable. The amount of different sensations you can have dancing on your tongue is spectacular, from the tartness of freshly-chopped pineapple to the strange tingling sensation you get eating Sichuan peppercorns. 

Most people eat the same five meals on repeat throughout the month, never really trying anything different. That’s a shame because there are so many flavors out there with which you can experiment. There are also undiscovered cuisines that aren’t available for take-out. You have to make them yourself. 

Novel flavors are important for relaxation because they help increase your dopamine levels. When you find something exciting or new, it floods your brain with feel-good neurotransmitters, reducing stress levels almost immediately. 

Thus, next time you’re in the kitchen, take some time to experiment. Look for new flavor combinations and run with them. Becoming a great chef can be a way to improve your overall wellbeing and create delicious food at the same time. 

This is a collaborative post

A Place to Eat

Weekly Meal Plan – When Cooking Becomes a Chore

When Cooking Becomes a Chore

I didn’t write a menu last week. I was just so fed up of cooking. I winged it and we ended up having two take outs! The first was planned as it was Star’s birthday and she wanted a pizza from Dominoes. I always use Top Cash Back* (referral link) when ordering take outs, it earns me a little cash and over time it adds up. I’m currently just short of withdrawing £100 and I’ve withdrawn over £1000 over the years.

This Weeks Menu, it’s a Mindful Chef Week

I have my Mindful Chef delivery on Tuesday and we have a chicken recipe and a vegetarian recipe arriving. I’ve also chosen a pork recipe from their cookbook. I am really trying to get my love of cooking back.

Weekly meal plan banner with a healthy colourful bowl of food. This week we are trying something new
  • Monday – Quiche and pizza (Something quick and easy as I’ve a hospital appointment)
  • Tuesday – Chipotle Chicken, sweet potato and avocado
  • Wednesday – Lamb Burgers in pitta bread with salad and curly fries
  • Thursday – Sticky Tamarind and ginger Tofu with mangetout
  • Friday – Jerk Chicken and peas and rice
  • Saturday – Hot Dogs and/or burgers
  • Sunday – Roast Pork and pear with crispy sage, tenderstem and celeraic slaw (Mindful Chef cookbook)

You can check out some of my Mindful Chef recipes here

Lunches for the kids, they can choose what they want on each day. Kids are not going back to school for a couple more weeks!

  • chicken nuggets and fries
  • cheese or ham (or even cucumber) sandwiches
  • salad bar with soft tortillas
  • sausage rolls and cheese and crackers
  • toasted cheese sandwiches
  • fish cakes/ turkey dinosaurs and waffles
  • eggy bread cheese sandwiches
  • sausage sandwiches
  • sausage and beans and waffles
  • quesadillas
  • chicken burgers

If you have kids and would like to get them interested in cooking, I’ve just become an affiliate for a fabulous kids monthly recipe box called Little Cooks. You can read my post about it here.

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Weekly Meal Plan – Sweet and Sour

I think sweet and sour sums up last week too. I was so bored of the same meals that I wrote my meal plan with the idea what I already had in the cupboards, fridge and freezer. We did stick to most of it, and my shopping bill was only £130. Also, I didn’t spend much during the week either. So, I might have been bored of food but it was cheap. The only meal I swapped was on the Wednesday, I’d put fish or pork, and we ended up having toad-in-the-hole.

This weeks Meal Plan

I’m doing a sweet and sour this week as my son has been asking for months. I love it made in the slow cooker, it’s so easy, just through it all in and let it cook. Then make some rice to go with it. I’m thinking about making some battered quorn or tofu and straining off some of the sauce for my daughter. She likes the sauce but won’t eat chicken or most of the vegetables.

Let’s get on to this weeks meal plan

  • Saturday – Take out
  • Sunday – Stir Fry
  • Monday – Sweet and Sour Chicken
  • Tuesday – Sausage ragu (or sausage pasta bake)
  • Wednesday – pies and mash or chips
  • Thursday – quiche / salmon parcels.
  • Friday – pasta with spinich and stilton.

We are already on Sunday and we started with a Take Out because Graham went out and I didn’t feel like cooking, plus we had kind of ate everything we had.

Today, Sunday, we are having a stir fry because I really fancy it. I cook the chicken, noodles and vegetables and keep everything seperate. Then everyone can choose what they actually want in their stir fry and it takes a minute to fry it up with their chosen seasoning or sauce. Star doesn’t eat noodles so I’ll make her a little mash and she can have chicken and vegetables with mash instead.

I’m a bit worried about the sausage ragu, but we’ve had sausage pasta bake before so I’ll just make sure it’s got ingredients that will please everyone. I’ll add the pasta last, so Star can have mash again.

The sweet and sour can be served with rice, or noodles or even chips (star doesn’t eat rice either!)

I’m actually beginning to look forward to food again and I love all the inspiration I get from reading the other weekly meal plans in Katy’s meal planning linky.

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My Weekly Meal Plan

I didn’t write a meal plan for the last week because I was away and since getting back I’ve been really overwhelmed with things to do, never mind writing down our menu.

Good news is, we managed our BBQ (which was on my last published meal plan) and got to use my new garden table. I’m a bit fed up of regular BBQ food though, I may have to look for some alternatives.

I’m in hospital this Tuesday for treatment so I’ve opted for something quick and easy to add to the menu, pizza!

A dish of colourful food to illustrate our weekly meal plan menu

This Weeks Meal Plan Menu

  • Monday – pasta bake
  • Tuesday – pizza
  • Wednesday – Hot Dog sausage rolls
  • Thursday – Lasagne
  • Friday – Fish and chips
  • Saturday – Curry
  • Sunday – pie and mash

I spent a total of £160 on this weeks shopping which I think is really good, so I’m hoping I can stick to that in the future. Next payday, I’m thinking of a little trip to a cheaper store to stock up on things like washing liquid and other cleaning products as well as cat food and maybe even a few freezer things for back up. It’s always good to have a well stocked freezer just in case no-one fancies what’s on the menu. I like a good stack of tins and packets too.

If I’m honest, we could probably manage a week or two on buying nothing but perishables (milk, bread etc.) I know my Mum used to have to do this sometimes. We do get lazy with cooking though. I also have a store cupboard of herbs and spices and it’s just a case of adding fresh meat, fish or quorn for a delicious meal. I really need to cut down on take outs because we can’t be bothered to cook. It makes such a huge difference to my meal budgeting. A take out for 7 people is very expensive.

Linking up to Katy and her Meal Planning linky

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Meal Planning Monday

Meal plaaning monday image with a plate of food in the middle

This week I am joining in with Katy Kicker and her Meal Planning Linky. I’m hoping to make this a regular thing as I’m hopeless at sticking to making meal plans ot only that but my shopping habits have become a mess. I’m spending more than £200 a week on food and we are still turning to take outs at least once a week. I NEED HELP!

So, I’m giving this a lot of thought and writing down my plan before I do my online shop. Then I’ll revisit next week and see if it has helped. I’m not expecting miracles straight away, but hopefully I’ll get there eventually.

  • Monday: fajita pasta bake
  • Tuesday: lasagne for boys, scallop tagliatelle for girls
  • Wednesday: Chicken and Chorizo Paella
  • Thursday: quiche
  • Friday: fish and chips (chicken)
  • Saturday: Curry
  • Sunday: roast dinner

The fajita pasta bake is a fairly new discovery that we love. I can’t remember where I first saw it now. It’s just like making fajitas but instead of putting the filling into wraps you put them into cooked pasta.

The Chicken and chorizo paella is a big favourite too. My husband is allergic to fish and sea food so it’s a paella he can enjoy. It’s my husband who will have chicken instead of fish on Friday too.

chicken and chorizo paella on a plate
Chicken and Chorizo Paella

We haven’t had quiche for a while, the boys are easy and will share any shop bought one. I generally make one from scratch for the girls, but I’ve found a ‘free from’ one that we like.

I may change the curry on Saturday as we seem to have it a lot and we’re getting a bit bored. But hopefully the rest of the week will go to plan.

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Cottage Loaf recipe

I love baking bread, nothing tastes better than a fresh loaf of bread, and nothing smells better than the taste of one baking.

I do have a bread maker which makes things easy, but sometimes you can’t beat a good old knead. And when you are making something like a cottage loaf, then you will need to assemble it before baking.

It can be a family affair making a fresh loaf of bread as the kids love to help with the kneading too

The recipe I used was a basic white loaf recipe.


500g bread flour
25g butter
1tbs sugar
1 1/2 tsp of salt
1tsp dried yeast
320 ml of warm water


rub the butter into the flour
add the sugar, salt and yeast,
mix in the water a little at a time until you have a firm dough
knead the dough for 10 mins and leave in a bowl covered with cling film, or a tea towel for about 1 hour
knead the dough again and shape into two rounds, one slightly bigger than the other
Put the smaller mound on top of the larger one and push two fingers all the way through both rounds from the middle of the top round.
leave to prove, covered lightly, for a further 30 mins.
Bake at 180 C for 40 mins, or until it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

cottage loaf