Get your own dinner

Last updated 11:14 18/09/2012
Jo Davis

BOILING POINT: Jo Davis is sick of being the food slave.

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Some people love cooking and some of us do it because we have to eat.

I have no interest in grinding my own dukkah or rolling my own pasta. I don't want to bottle tomatoes, pears, pickles or . . . anything other than my own rage.

And that's rage at having to prepare a meal every night, about 300 nights a year (allowing for a few dinners out and take-aways).

Some of my friends practically have to extend their kitchens to allow for all the cookbooks they've collected, but  I seem to lack the gene to get any enjoyment out of preparing food. It's just a chore.

I have three children and work about 20 hours a week less than my husband - so fair enough that it falls to me to face the nightly terror of what to make.

My husband does cook a little, but we are also in the in-between generation when, to be honest, he really doesn't know how. He's at the level where he can boil rice and make a decent omelette but he needs instructions to make even simple meatballs.

I'm not much above that level myself, to be fair. I've never learnt how to roast anything other than chicken, I can't make a decent pie crust, and I don't know a puy lentil from a regular one.

Other limitations we have are that I don't want to eat out of packets, I don't want food that's totally unhealthy and I don't want to spend more than $300 a week on groceries (that's you out fresh coriander, most types of fish and meat, and any fiddly ingredients that I'll never use again).

The matter has come to a head lately because my family has stopped eating my old faithful standby, something I lovingly call chicken slops - although it had a fancier name when I tore the recipe out of a parenting magazine.

It was a delightfully simple matter of bone-in-chicken slow cooked with chopped-up onion and apple, tomato from a can and a dash of some kind of relish or chutney.

Ten minutes preparation, ages to cook, throw some broccoli in at the end, get the five-year-old to help you pick the bones out later (or don't bother), serve with rice, done. But they turn their noses up now. Sigh.

I thought a Facebook post could save me so I asked my 188 friends for suggestions. Apart from a few sensible ones (easy satay chicken, beef stroganoff, dumplings bought at the supermarket) the reply that got the most 'likes' was this: "This idea worked for me. It's called 'get your own tea night'. Important to announce it in excited tones then throw open the pantry doors - and go out."

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Alas, my children are too young. The three-year-old would just cry. And the other guys eat enough cheese toasties as it is.

So, I guess I'm destined to stand nightly before the open fridge, to once again rummage wildly through its contents hoping for inspiration and to hope against hope for an answer to the inevitable dastardly question: ''What's for dinner?''

What do other slummy mummies do? Are there any secret shortcuts I don't know about? What are your best - and simplest - family-friendly recipes?

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