Whether you are employed as a carer or caring for a family member, we know that caring responsibilities often come with limited time, especially when getting creative at mealtimes.
This limited time or additional responsibilities can make it difficult to find time to make delicious and nutritious meals. Mealtimes don’t have to feel like a burden, and you can take shortcuts to reduce the time spent in the kitchen without having to sacrifice good nutrition for those you care for.
Smoothies are a great way to provide a quick breakfast or snack if you’re short on time. You can also prepare single smoothie packs in individual sandwich bags and keep them in the freezer for when you're really short on time. Our peanut butter smoothie is perfect if you don’t want to start measuring ingredients first thing in the morning! Try using flavoured yoghurts, different nut butters or tahini to create your own signature smoothie.
As a chef and home cook, I always advocate batch cooking. Cooking in batches, a few times a week, is a great time saver. Dishes such as curries, casseroles, stews, hearty soups and one-pot dishes are perfectly suited to this, and can be portioned off and stored in the freezer. My family favourite is chilli. I often make this and split into two, with half used for spaghetti Bolognese. You can buy ready-cooked rice and grains in pouches that can be microwaved to save time boiling accompaniments.
Creating a repertoire of quick, nutritious meals can be a great standby when you’re struggling with time or what to cook. Our Take V guide is a great starting point, particularly if you are new to catering for a veg*n. The recipes in Take V were specially created by Vegetarian for Life’s Roving Chefs. With only five ingredients they’re low-cost, quick, and easy-to-make, without lacking flavour or nutrition.
There’s nothing wrong with tinned or frozen foods, which can be really nutritious and essential time-savers. A well-stocked store cupboard is a must, and I’d recommend a range of items such as canned beans, coconut milk, chopped tomatoes, sweetcorn, and tinned fruit in juice such as mandarins, peaches, and prunes. Canned soups are ideal when you are really short on time.
Many vegetable soups can contribute to your 5-a-day; served with wholemeal bread they make a great lunch or light meal. Or why not accompany with a sandwich or baked potato? Baked potatoes can be made in advance – perfect if you have the oven on for something else. If you are short on time, you can pre-cook in the microwave, then crisp up in the oven. Here are some great vegetarian and vegan sandwich filling ideas.
When I asked carers that I work with for their top tips, so many said: “Create a list of weekly essentials”. Take some time to get familiar with the foods that you use on a weekly basis to create healthy meals. If you have the essentials in stock, then you will never get caught short. Our Shopping guide is a useful staring point, especially if you’re new to shopping for someone who is vegetarian or vegan.
If your role as a carer doesn’t allow time for cooking, there are plenty of healthy ready-meals available that can be microwaved in minutes. Foods such as 'fishless' pie, cottage pie, or chunky stew always go down well and can be paired with a serving or two of frozen vegetables such as carrots or peas to give a nutritionally balanced meal. Most supermarkets now stock vegan ready-meals. M&S has launched its Plant Kitchen range—including traditional dishes and flavours of the world. Tesco was named the best supermarket for vegans; its Plant Chef range offers a variety of dishes including the popular 'No Chicken' dishes. Waitrose's vegan selection include a vegan 'beet' wellington and a BBQ jackfruit pizza. Furthermore, the healthy ready-meal company BOL recently made all its products vegan.
Having ready-meals delivered directly to your home has become an increasingly popular choice for many people across the UK. Our Veggie Meals to your Door guide shows it’s possible to enjoy the convenience of these meals without having to compromise on vegetarian or vegan principles. The versatility and convenience of the meals featured in this guide will also appeal to individuals who don’t need support with meals. Available either chilled, frozen or even freeze-dried, they easily can match any lifestyle.
In some instances, the person you're caring for may have a sweet tooth, which can be common with certain medications or dementia. If something sweet is the only way to get someone to eat, then think of ways to add a little extra nutrition to the food you’re preparing. Fruit-based puddings made using fresh fruit such as pies and crumbles contain the benefits of the fruit, and switching traditional crumble for something oat-based is ideal.
Even something as simple as chopped fruit on yoghurt or custard makes a quick and tasty treat. Why not try our easy to make, no cook, rich and healthy dessert: Chocolate Avocado Pudding?
If you’re a carer looking after someone who is vegan or vegetarian and would like some extra support, get in touch to find out about VfL’s in-house and online introductory catering courses. We can also deliver bespoke training for your carer’s organisation. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0161 257 0887 to book or find out more.