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Mum invents genius challenge to teach kids how to plan and cook during lockdown

DebsGC
20th April 2020, 12:00 PM
  • Sarah Chick, 32, came up with the “Six Days, Six Dinners” challenge
  • Her 11 and 12-year-old daughters planned and cooked six dinners over six days
  • The process taught them to budget for, plan and cook their meals

If you’re running out of ideas for how to entertain and homeschool your kids during the lockdown, take a leaf out of this creative mum’s book.

Sarah Chick, 32, a mum of five and stepmum of one, who lives with her partner Justin and children in Dorset, decided to give her two oldest daughters a cooking challenge to teach them to budget and be creative during the coronavirus lockdown.

Sarah, who is currently on maternity leave, told money-saving community LatestDeals.co.uk: "I wanted to use our time in lockdown wisely and make the most of the children while life has seemingly slowed down for everyone right now.

"The two older children are 11 and 12. When I was doing dinner one evening they were really inquisitive and were asking me, 'how do I manage to feed so many people and still have food left over? How do I know how much to cook for everyone?’

“My idea came to me when I was due a delivery of fruit and veg, as since we have been in lockdown I managed to source a company that started to do fruit and veg boxes with contactless delivery as finding it in the shops was a real struggle after the panic buying.

“The only way I could answer the questions they were asking was to show them. I was taught to cook from a young age so I thought we could use this time to educate them with essential skills for life.

"So I took everything I had out of the fridge, the freezer and cupboards, put it on the side and asked them if they wanted to try a challenge of making six dinners for six days to feed six of us, with minimal waste! Then it became the ‘Six Days, Six Dinners' challenge.”

Sarah was uncertain about how the challenge would go, but was sure her kids would learn a lot from the experiment.

"I didn’t know how it would pan out, if they’d get bored, or if they would have disagreements,” she adds. "They were pretty excited and straight away started saying they could make all sorts of dishes.

"I said I wouldn’t be helping them, only advising if they had a question, and obviously all the hot pots and pans were for me to sort out.

"They picked out the obvious meal of a roast dinner and gammon, egg, chips and peas. They had lots of other ideas. A curry was one of them but I advised them to take each day as it came and see what they were left with after each meal.

“On day one, they made gammon, egg, chips, peas and pineapple. On day two, my 11-year-old wanted to make a macaroni cheese dish but added broccoli, onion, bacon, and mushrooms. I was skeptical but it was lovely!

“On day three, it was a roast chicken dinner. On day four, they got stuck and they couldn’t see an obvious meal for what they had left, so I asked them to write some ideas down. They were watching Disney’s Ratatouille and my eldest came running out saying she had a meal idea in her head.

“For day five and six, they had only ingredients for pizzas so it was pizzas for the final two days with homemade chips, but it was lovely.”

Sarah’s daughters learnt a huge amount from the challenge and it taught them everything from how to budget to how to cook creatively.

"The girls have said that the challenge taught them to really think about the amount of food they were using and that if you are creative enough you can pretty much make a meal from anything,” Sarah explains.

"It also taught them just how much work actually goes in to a meal in general but also for a large family.

"Generally we are coping pretty well under lockdown, taking each day as it comes and keeping ourselves busy.

“Each of the children are taking it in turns to cook and bake - the younger ones aged five and seven are in charge of cakes and puddings! - or doing things with me like washing, folding and washing up.

“Of course we are missing our family and our friends and we will be so happy to see them all when this is over, but we video call or chat on the phone daily and keep in touch that way.”

Sarah has plenty of other tricks up her sleeve to save money and teach her kids valuable lessons during the lockdown.

"The children, like many others, constantly ask for food throughout the day, so they each have a daily basket with fruit, a chocolate biscuit, a water bottle, a pack of crisps, and some veg sticks in. Once it’s gone it’s gone and they don’t get anything else.

"This has helped us save money too as they have to think if they really want to eat or if they’re just bored. They often have big breakfasts like cereal and a slice of toast or fruit as I’d rather they ate more for breakfast keeping them fuller for longer.

"It has been difficult to source some of our usuals or complete a shop for our family due to restrictions in supermarkets but we’ve found ways around it.

"Having a lot of food made from scratch has really helped our budgeting as well as meal planning. To save time if we are having say a dish that requires chips, we will make the chips the night before and then leave them in water until we need to cook them.

"To save waste on things like vegetables we will often leave the skins on and if we have cauliflower we use the leaves too.

"My top tip would be to meal plan though and really only buy what’s necessary. We are home growing a lot of vegetables this year.

"I’m planning on teaching the children how to make bread also so should the situation ever arise for them when they are older they can use the life skills they have been taught to be self-sufficient in a sad situation.

"Another few tips for saving money would be to just be creative and not be afraid to try new things. For example, often if we have a casserole, if there’s leftovers, I’ll use it as a filling in a pie the next day.

"I tend not to throw things away. If it smells okay and isn’t soft or squidgy, we still use it! If we use too many of something, for example carrots, I’ll chop it down, wait for it to cool, freeze it and make a chunky soup out of it.

“There are lots of things you can do to save money and reduce waste.

“This challenge taught the girls that cooking doesn’t have to be a chore. It can be fun, it can be rewarding and gives a massive sense of achievement when the plates are cleared and people ask for more because they enjoy what has been made. They are also aware now that nice meals don’t have to be expensive.

"For us it was great because it gave the girls a slice of independence but also brought us even closer as a family doing these activities together. We are pretty close anyway, but it helped the older two to work together and work better with their younger siblings with puddings and realise that sometimes having help is better than trying to do things alone.

"I think it’s important for children to learn essential life skills, because they don’t often get the chance to do these kinds of things in school. I’d say that it encourages the children to be more involved and now we are having that slower pace of life which we probably won’t have the opportunity for again when lockdown is lifted, it gives us as parents the chance to teach essential skills and prepare them for life when they’re old enough to live alone.

"It also encourages them to work as a team, and encourages them to eat a variety of foods if they are picky eaters as they know what is going into the dish and they know how it’s been cooked."

Tom Church, co-founder of LatestDeals.co.uk, comments: “Parents are having a hard time of it during the lockdown, often juggling work, parenting and homeschooling, not to mention all the usual cooking and cleaning.

“The Six Days, Six Dinners challenge is a great idea for both kids and parents: it teaches children valuable lessons about planning and preparing meals, and means the whole family can chip in with helping when it comes to mealtimes.

“Rather than looking back with worry at this time, many children will remember learning valuable life lessons and spending time with their parents - so challenges like this can be a great focus point that will be remembered for the good in the future!"

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