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Value of home cooked meals

Dorothy - 13/05/2011

Recent interviews on television and radio have highlighted the problems families on low incomes are experiencing in managing their expenses. After paying for essentials such as rent, rates, or mortgage instalments, transport, school expenses and health costs there is little left for food. Cooking meals at home from basic ingredients is a way to serve nourishing and appetising food and save money.

Shortage of time an issue
Financial pressures have meant that many parents or carers are working long hours, sometimes employed in two jobs, and after a long day do not feel like spending time cooking.

Rise in the cost of milk
One of the most important basic food items to have increased markedly in price over the last year is milk which has risen 9%. This has forced many households to reduce the milk in the family's diet. It is tempting to give children Coca Cola which costs less than milk. Children's wards in hospitals can supply evidence of the results with increasing admissions of under-nourished children.

Sarah Moore reports on Food Week

Food Week 9-15 May

Food Week has aimed to get Kiwis cooking. 'Just get in the kitchen and cook' is the message behind the New Zealand Nutrition Foundation's (NZNF) inaugural Food Week. This new annual event aims to build confidence in the kitchen and teach Kiwis that cooking at home using seasonal produce and basic ingredients can be affordable and delicious.

"We want to see more New Zealanders cooking at home," says Sarah Hanrahan, NZNF Dietitian. "to break down these barriers and show Kiwis how to make affordable meals the whole family will enjoy. Kiwis can afford to eat properly at home if they know how."

Hanrahan says research suggests cooking at home is good for our health while home-cooked meals increase the likelihood of families eating together. Findings also show that New Zealand families are stuck for meal ideas and while they'd like to try new recipes, they'll only do it if they know their efforts won't be wasted.

As part of Food Week, the NZNF has released the Just Cook Food List, a list of basic pantry and fridge/freezer essentials that New Zealand households should always have on hand.

"The ingredients on this list are basic, affordable household ingredients," adds Hanrahan. "They also include a lot of fillers; we'll be showing Kiwis where to add a tin of beans or a cup of rolled oats to make your meal go that bit further."

Hanrahan believes the conflicting and often negative messages in the media on what we should and shouldn't be eating, alongside the regular reporting on the cost of what's in our trolley is misleading New Zealanders to believe that cooking a healthy meal at home is unaffordable.

"When you keep hearing that you have to use a minimum number of veges, cook without fat, reduce salt, increase fibre, reduce sugar and fit wholegrains into every meal, cooking a healthy and tasty meal at home just seems like mission impossible. We're also reminded on a daily basis how expensive it is to feed a family. Just Cook encourages cooking at home using basic household ingredients. The recipes are quick to make and the results are delicious now that's the message we need to embrace."

To get the message out, Food Week has developed The Interactive Kitchen, a Facebook app designed to assist New Zealanders find the perfect recipes to match their household ingredients. The Interactive Kitchen app allows users to select key ingredients from the Just Cook Food List which then suggests tasty recipes based on their selections.

"Facebook is fun and it's all about sharing info," says Hanrahan. "The Interactive Kitchen app allows both the cook and the kids to vote on the recipe. We know they're yummy - but if a recipe doesn't get enough positive votes, we'll simply take the recipe down and put a new one up!"

In another Food Week activity Celebrity chefs including Geoff Scott (Vinnies), Nadia Lim (current Masterchef contestant), Kelly Young (Masterchef Season One), Lana Garland (Food in a Minute) and Jinu Abraham (Heritage Hotel, Auckland) have been cooking in the Just Cook Kitchen, a week-long kitchen set up at Auckland's Britomart serving tasting meals from the Facebook app.

Food Week sponsors include eMark, Sanitarium, Watties, vegetables.co.nz, potatoes.co.nz, Eggs Inc, King Soup, Flora, Continental, Harraways, Kenwood, Sunbeam and Panasonic.

For more information visit www.justcook.co.nz
To access the app: www.facebook.com/justcooknz (please note: The Interactive Kitchen app can also be accessed from the Just Cook website for those without a Facebook account.)

Bread and Cereals Fruit
Pasta and Sauce mix
Canned fruit
Fresh seasonal selection
Meat/fish/chicken/dairy Condiments
Canned Tuna / Mackarel
Chicken drumsticks / pieces
Baked beans
Soup mix
Canned Beans (like kidney or butter beans)
250g cheese
Tomato sauce
Sweet chilli sauce
Jam / honey
Stock cubes
Tomato paste
Vegetables Fats and Oils
Frozen peas
Frozen mixed vegetables
Canned corn
Canned tomatoes
Fresh seasonal selection (cabbage, pumpkin, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kumara, leeks, parsnip, silverbeet, spinach, swede)
Cooking oil

The need for ideas for quick and easy meals is not new.
An NZine article published in 27/04/09 offers quick and nourishing recipes.

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