Gousto – recipes delivered to your door

I work full time, and my evenings are crazy. It’s usually a mad dash for me to get to the nursery through traffic at rush hour three evenings a week. It’s a big transition going back to work after maternity leave. I’d put so much effort into baby led weaning and making sure that Arlo developed a love of food.

Arlo normally runs right at me chattering about his day with some artwork to bring home, and once we get home it’s past 6pm. He does usually have a meal at nursery around 4pm and then snacks but this little child burns so much energy dashing around that he never stops eating. By the time I’ve usually cooked dinner it’s rapidly approaching bedtime.

Before Gousto I was in a little bit of a rut. I would serve my batch cooked portions of bolognese sauce or chilli, or resort to freezer food because I’m keen to spend as much time as possible in the evenings with Arlo, and it was easy. Everything was a bit “Samey” and I often found myself having to pop into the supermarket last minute because I hadn’t remembered to pick up pasta.

This is where Gousto came in. A friend recommended them and provided me with a Discount code so my first order was £15 for four meals to serve two people. Amazing!! Now it costs me around £35 for four meals which is very reasonable considering the quality of the ingredients.

The app is simple to use, you simply choose the date for delivery and the number of people to feed and then select your meals. The options change weekly – there’s a good selection and they’re split into categories – healthy, ten min meals, classics, meat, vegetarian, gluten free etc.

Each recipe has a prep time, a use by date guide and a list of equipment and basic ingredients you might need – usually things like butter, egg, milk and flour. There’s also a nutritional guideline, if you’re counting calories. You can click to expand the description and read the recipe in more detail before you order.

Then that’s it. Once you’ve placed the order you receive an email in advance of delivery with the recipe reminders and this is when I check to make sure I have everything I might need in the cupboards, but there’s nothing else you need to do.

The time slot on delivery day is broad however this doesn’t matter because the box is well insulated. I usually arrive home to a huge box in my “safe place” – and then get really excited to unpack everything.

The cold items are in a separate bag, with reusable ice packs (I freeze these to save for lunch packs and cold compresses). Meats, cheeses, fresh herbs etc

Then these are surrounded by a layer of insulating material which is Reusable. I’m saving mine up to use in the garden when we plant our sunflower seeds.

All the veggies are loose and then there’s a little paper bag with individually wrapped “dry store” ingredients in perfect portion sizes. This for me often includes spices, marinades, honey, pastas and similar.

I absolutely love this because I used to be terrible with food waste. I would find a jar of something I bought for an experimental dish at the back of the cupboard. I’ll use one or two tea spoons, and then it will never see the light of day again. In the past I’d also mess up the balance of flavours so not bother trying again – especially with Oriental dishes – it used to be easier to order a take away than guesstimate how much a “dash” or a “pinch” is.

The box also comes with recipe cards. These are idiot proof. It’s impossible to mess this up because everything is pre portioned to be the right amount. The little packets are clearly labelled and there’s pictures for each step to show you what things should look like as you prepare and cook.

As a side note in my first box I received a Little folder to keep all of my cards which is really useful – I have actually attempted a couple of the dishes again on my own.

Some foods have longer shelf lives than others so be sure to check these before deciding which meals to cook first, and then read the cards. I’ve made things like the Shepard’s pie in advance the day before so my evenings are even less stressful, just popping the tray in the oven takes a minute.

So here we have it. I try and order things I wouldn’t usually cook at home to introduce variety and learn new techniques. I usually order at least one “ten minute meal” which again gives us extra time together in the evenings without having to sacrifice the quality of our meal.

I order the box for two people and this is usually more than enough to share with Arlo, sometimes I might add in an extra potato or serve with more veggies but the portion sizes are not stingy, and we’ve loved every meal so far, and we’ve been doing this for over a month.

If you would like to try Gousto click Here to receive a 50% discount on your first order.

Frittatas

Here’s a really simple idea for finger foods which are ideal for baby led weaning – once you’re satisfied that babies are comfortable with the ingredients (mainly eggs you need to be confident with) it’s great to start combining things and making it more interesting.

All you need to do for this is beat eggs and then add in some ingredients of your own – I often find that I buy eggs all the time and end up wasting them, or baking a cake – so this is a great way to use those leftover eggs to make a healthier savoury option….and use up random ingredients leftover in the salad drawer too.

At this stage we had covered all of the basics and were starting to introduce stronger flavours – these might look a bit on the strange side but I can assure you they are extremely tasty – the flavour combinations were cheese/spring onion, red onion/pepper and pea/ asparagus.

I think we also added in some Parsley and Chives at this point too.

I whisk up all the eggs in a jug and then pour them straight into a normal muffin tin (well greased), before adding in the other ingredients to ensure they are distributed evenly. These frittatas are then baked for 10-12 mins -and left to cool- In the early days I would slice these up to serve, so that Arlo could hold them more easily. These days he will make these disappear in two seconds.

Top tips

  • You can batch cook and then freeze these.
  • These are also ideal for lunch time snacks

Frozen lollies

Here’s a quick one for you to try out.

These ice lolly moulds from Nuby are perfect for little hands to hold. Last summer broke temperate records and with a teething one year old it was a nightmare trying to keep him hydrated and happy.

I tried other lolly moulds – but they were quite often far too big and Arlo couldn’t manage to hold them, everything melted and made a huge mess before he was finished because portion sizes were too big.

It just so happens that one Mamia fruit pot from Aldi divides perfectly between the four portions of the Nuby moulds – and because Arlo loved the strawberry flavour I knew it would work and mean that he wouldn’t be left out when all the older cousins were enjoying their treats full of sugar.

They are so tiny they don’t take long to freeze either – an hour tops so it’s minimal prep and keeps them busy for a little while.

If you want to be a bit more adventurous then try adding in your own mixture of ingredients – yoghurt works wonders and I’ve shared one of our favourite flavour combinations in another of my posts. Let me know how it goes in the comments!

Chef Arlo

Did you know that daddy is a chef! At 21 months it’s about time that Arlo started learning a trade and so daddy picked up a packet of Pastry and set up an invitation to play on the kitchen table (apparently this is also called “mise en place” and is quite a professional set up.

Basically he chopped up lots of ingredients and set them up in little dishes ready for Arlo.

First of all they spread the included tomato sauce all over the dough base which they rolled out onto an oven tray.

Then they chucked on a mix of ingredients which work well together – leftover chicken, sliced red onion, peppers and cherry tomatoes along with chunks of mozzarella.

There’s no set way to do this – everything just got chucked on and then daddy sprinkled on some herbs and popped them in the oven for just shy of 15 mins.

These tasted delicious and the activity kept Arlo amused for quite a while. Lots of interaction with daddy and chatter about colours, vegetables and food items.

Have you tried cooking with your little one yet? Share some of your ideas in the comments – we would love to try them out!

The Cookie Monster

One blustery day in January cousin Paloma came over for the afternoon. I didn’t quite fancy heading out and about with two toddlers, so I set up an invitation to play with some gingerbread men.

Most supermarkets have a set like this, with some cookies, tubes of coloured icing and some decorative bits and pieces. I had some extra tubes of icing and toppings in the cupboard.

Here’s my “mum hack” – To set up the activity I used cupcake cases for each topping, and gave each of the kids a deep oven tray to try contain some of the mess – I set up on the Ikea Lack table so they had easy access.

Paloma is two and really got involved with the activity – squeezing her icing out carefully and choosing and placing her sweets nicely – before picking them off and eating them all.

Arlo on The other hand couldn’t wait to quality test the goods!

We had five cookies in our kit so we did save one for Paloma to give to mummy and Arlo for daddy. It was quite fun to see them both be so proud to gift their cookies and they certainly enjoyed the experience – learning to concentrate, talking about colours and textures and being creative.

I want to encourage Arlo to get involved with baking so this is the first step to building up trust and learning some basic kitchen rules with “real” food as opposed to his play kitchen.

Frozen fish teething remedy

These bad boys are lifesavers when you have a teething baby or when it’s unbearably hot outside. Last summer was crazy hot and these frozen fish were in constant supply.

I use the Ikea fish ice cube mould because they’re such a good shape to grip and these are a simple 2/3 ingredient task which you chuck in a bowl and mix.

Ingredients

  • Greek yoghurt
  • Honey ( not before one year old)
  • Fruit

You can make so many different variances with these – go for a flavoured yoghurt instead of Greek, omit the honey and switch the fruit around to experience new flavours.

Simple freeze for a few hours until solid and then pop them out of the moulds and serve – and here’s a “mum hack” – pop them all out at once and store in a ziplock bag in the freezer. You can then make more and have a range of flavours stashed.

These little fish are ice cold and taste delicious. Whenever Arlo is teething he really appreciates something cold and I think he finds it quite soothing.

I picked up a pomegranate from the super 6 deal in Aldi and so this was his first ever taste, I wasn’t sure about the flavour being too bitter but combined with yoghurt it seemed ok. I love that I captured this moment.

First foods – Week one

Arlo turned six months over the Christmas period so I set up a weaning advent calendar. Instead of opening a door to a chocolate every day, he had the opportunity to experience a new taste.

He had experienced a few tastes – baby porridge being one of the first textures and also banana…. I remember he also stole a chip from right under my nose whilst sitting on my lap but this was before I got myself organised.

Day one – finger sizes slices of avocado

As I mentioned in my previous post, we decided to start our journey with meal times at 5pm – it’s important to try and stick to a routine for the first month so choose a time which suits you, so you could go for breakfast or lunch instead of dinner, but eventually you’ll be adding them all in.

Day two – strawberries

My decisions on the first foods to try were based on a couple of things – I used the Ella’s kitchen stickers and weaning pack to give me lots of ideas, and then I also figured out that the Aldi “super six” deals change every Thursday which gave me the opportunity to try things I wouldn’t normally purchase for pennies.

The first week with baby led weaning involved lots of grasping of food – and awkward mouth missing attempts. So much went on the floor that it seemed like a ridiculous waste of both food prep and also money…..

They eat what you eat

This phrase is really important, and it’s the perfect time to adapt your lifestyle, we started cooking a lot more foods from scratch. Batch cooking and omitting salt etc.

By day three I decided to simply put aside a couple of slices of steamed carrots from my own dinner – no extra cost or prep involved.

Day four was melon – I’ve read lots of different theories about the order of foods to try first – veggies vs fruit / cooked vs raw etc…. I just went with a mixed approach.

Day five – broccoli

Now broccoli is admittedly not one of my favourites, but it’s really great for weaning so here’s a little bit of advice.

Get the frozen stuff.

It’s got pretty much all the nutrients as fresh and is a really cost effective approach. Broccoli is amazing for BLW – Arlo could hold the stems really nicely and as time progressed he loved dipping them into sauces too. I also kept frozen cauliflower, out of season frozen fruits which are great for porridge / yoghurt toppings and also for adult smoothies. Spinach pellets are also a fab one to pop into a pan of boiling pasta at the last minute.

Day six

Our first negative experience was with sweet potato. (At this stage I wasn’t sure if it was the texture or the taste which caused this reaction. I noted it down in my diary and then tried to offer it again every so often in different formats – baked/mashed/wedges etc – I know now he really doesn’t like the taste – he will eat it mashed with carrots or as a soup if the flavour is somewhat disguised.)

By now Arlo was used to having something to eat with us so we offered him some baby food from a pouch and he had about 1/3 of it so he was building up an appetite. It didn’t seem like he was consuming much at all over the first week but I did also notice bits of broccoli appeared in his nappies on this day.

Day 7 Tomatoes – I wasn’t planning on getting these on so soon, I’d heard lots of skin contact rash stories about acidic foods but as he seemed to be doing so well, and we wanted to offer something raw, we went for it and he loved them. The skin around his mouth did appear to go a little bit red but this faded during bath time and caused him no problems.

At this stage by the end of week one I had also been offering the “successful” foods repeatedly – banana at lunch time was going down particularly well. Arlo was used to the routine, and despite not liking the sweet potato, wasn’t put off from trying new flavours.

Weaning – Preparation

This is going to be a long one….. probably best to do this in a few stages!

So you’re probably approaching the six months mark and now you’ve settled into a routine, it’s almost time to turn everything up side down (quite literally).

I would always advocate the guidelines which at this point in time state that it’s best to wait until your baby is six months old. It’s also really important to look for “the signs” – things which show your baby is physically ready to begin weaning.

In the meantime I decided that I wanted to fully embrace baby led weaning. I read as much as I possibly could and bought/ borrowed quite a few books. I also signed up to all of the different baby brand websites for free resources. The Ella’s kitchen Pack was amazing.

I decided to attend the weaning course with some of my NCT group which was a very balanced session, informative without being pushy.

I also attended a free first aid course at my local children’s centre – this was really beneficial as one of the primary concerns with BLW is the risk of choking – so being prepared for any kind of emergency is always useful.

I started purchasing things from my amazon wish list – and also digging out items I’d bought at the baby show whilst pregnant. Looking back I really wish I hadn’t spent quite so much money on these items – so I’m going to share a list of what I had, and be honest about how necessary it all was.

1. Get a diary – note down what you try and at what time. Record skin reactions and any side effects which appear in nappies. For the first week you will memorise every single spoonful, but eventually the novelty wears off and you can get a contact rash from satsuma’s or the after effects of mango in a nappy and spend a while trying to figure it all out.

2. The high chair.

This is very important advice – don’t waste money!!

Whilst it’s lovely to have something which looks nice, looking back I really wish I had bought one of the basic ones from Asda, Aldi or IKEA instead of my Cosatto thing. Very quickly I discarded the straps and the soft insert because cleaning them was a nightmare. Quite often I took the whole thing outside to wash with a hosepipe because I couldn’t get into the nooks and crannies to get rid of mush. It was also quite a heavy bit of kit and I had to buy a second portable thing to take out and about.

As a side note if you’re almost ready for weaning then spend some quality time with the high chair – do messy play and sit your baby in the high chair during meal times so they know it’s a fun place to be. If they’re used to it by six months you’ll be off to a flying start.

3. Utensils

I’ll be honest – I bought about six different brands of baby spoons, Annabelle Karmel ice cube trays, a steamer/blender, a stick blender, plastic bowls, portable Tupperware, sticky plates, bamboo portion plates and all sorts. One phrase springs to mind “all the gear and no idea” – I don’t know why I bothered with the blending stuff but maybe I needed a back up in case BLW didn’t go to plan?

Quite honestly I tried everything once and most of it got shoved to the back of the kitchen cupboard. The things we used the most were the little munchkin spoons and bowls – they had lids so were used as Tupperware for out and about. My tactic was to always give Arlo a spoon to hold – even when I was feeding him, we’d swap spoons and he would happily bang and tap and get mush in his eyes and ears and up my walls – all part of the learning process.

4. Beakers

As soon as you start offering food, also offer water. Again, I bought quite a few different beakers to try out and never stuck to anything specific – this worked well for us because Arlo hasn’t ever been particularly fussy about colours or styles of beakers. The Nuby 360 took a while to figure out, but became a firm favourite until he got a bottle with straw.

Once you’ve got these basics you’re pretty much all set to begin. You can get different floor mats, or maybe a tarpaulin, and there’s a huge variety of bibs around too. Our strategy was to conduct meal times stripped down to the nappy – after quickly realising Arlo was a messy baby, to save ourselves an extra load of laundry we decided to start our weaning adventure at 5pm every day for our evening meal – and then swiftly follow this up with bath time.

6. Don’t forget the toothbrush

You can pick up a little one for less than a pound at home bargains. I gave Arlo his to gum at bath time when we began weaning and he would use it as a teething aid. Setting the association between bath time and brushing teeth early on worked well for us. I can’t quite remember when we introduced toothpaste but it wasn’t straight away.

So now hopefully you’re all set with the equipment and you just need to decide which foods to try first.

We went with banana – I think it was a success. I was quite alarmed when he decided to shove the whole piece into his mouth but tried not to react, I think I managed to keep the same tone, stopped myself from getting up or stopping and just let him lead the way.