Delicious, nutritious, filling, cheap, quick & child-friendly … what more do you want?

Menu designer, Caroline Seely, shares her tips for fast family meals that are deliciously different…

We all need food inspiration from time to time, and especially when working from home means that you don’t pass by the shops regularly. With so little time to plan, shop and cook we inevitably tend to stick to a safe food repertoire, producing the same meals every week in a rota that becomes bland and, frankly, just a little dull. And, in my case at least, although online supermarket shopping is my saviour, it’s also more than a little responsible for dumbing down my food inspiration when I can just hit the Favourites button and order last week’s shopping all over again.

But food should never be dull! By sharing our family favourites and quick-cook tips here within the iHubbub community, we can save money and open up a whole new cooking repertoire for ourselves and our families, making food more interesting again.

To start you off, here are a few of my own family’s favourites. They’re cheap, quick and easy and your children will love them too.

Spicy beans and meatballs

A couple of tins of baked beans and a packet of mince might not sound like an inspiring meal at the end of the day, but read on …

I can’t urge you strongly enough to try this; it’s right up there at No 1 in our list of Family Favourites, and I’m ashamed to admit how often it makes an appearance on my kitchen table. It’s a real crowd pleaser, for children as well as adults, and so delicious that you can serve this at parties without embarrassment. It’s cheap and filling, and works really well with just a crisp salad and garlic or warm bread on the side.

For 4 Hungries

Large casserole dish, with lid
Preheat oven to 180°C, 350°F, Gas Mark 4

3 tins of Heinz baked beans – low salt & sugar if you prefer
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 celery sticks, finely chopped
Teaspoon of fresh or dried thyme
Tabasco or hot pepper sauce – a few drops, to your taste
1 tablespoon of runny honey
1 tablespoon of soy sauce, light or dark
500g lean beef mince

1. To make the meatballs, simply mix the mince, honey and soy sauce together using your hands, then roll into meatballs – whatever size you like. I make them smaller to go further, but that’s up to you. You can do this the night before and leave them in the fridge.

2. In a large casserole dish with a lid – the sort that goes on the hob and in the oven – lightly brown the meatballs in a tablespoon of oil, then remove them from the casserole dish. Any little brown bits in the pan all add to the flavour, so don’t throw them out.

3. In the same pan, add the onion and celery and soften gently for a few minutes in a little extra oil or butter – don’t let them brown or burn.

4. Now, tip the meatballs back in and add the tins of baked beans, the fresh or dried thyme, and a good shake of Tabasco or hot pepper sauce. Stir gently so the meatballs are evenly distributed.

5. Put a lid on the casserole dish and cook in the centre of a preheated oven (180°C, 350°F, Gas Mark 4) for 30 minutes. Give it one quick stir after about 15 minutes if you remember.

Serve with plenty of crisp salad and chunks of crusty bread or garlic bread. For some reason it’s become a tradition in our house to have Thousand Island dressing with this salad, but that’s your call!

No time to make meatballs? Chunks of good quality meaty sausage, frankfurters, or even cubes of belly pork go really well in place of the meatballs. The frankfurters don’t need browning, just snip them with a pair of scissors straight into the beans at stage 4.

Smoky Potato Wedges

We’re not big fans of added salt and flavouring here at iHubbub, so we urge you to try these cheaper and better-for-you alternatives to the ready-cooked wedges you find in every supermarket freezer.

All you need is some good roasting potatoes – the UK’s Potato Council recommends King Edwards, Desiree and Maris Piper – a tablespoon of olive oil, and a tablespoon of smoked paprika, which you will find on the spice shelf in any supermarket.

To cook

Large baking sheet – or more - to fit all the potatoes in one layer
Preheat oven to 200°C, 400°F, Gas Mark 6

1 large potato per person, as a rough guide. More if you’re greedy, like me.
1 tablespoon of olive or sunflower oil
1 level tablespoon of smoked paprika
Sea salt (ordinary salt is fine too)

1. Leaving the skins on for flavour and fibre, cut the potatoes into wedges and sprinkle with the oil and smoked paprika.

2. Now, using your hands, mix this all together really well so all the potatoes are well coated; they’ll go a little orange from the paprika. (Add more paprika for a really smoky flavour).

3. Spread the wedges out in a single layer on a baking sheet and cook in a preheated oven - 200°C, 400°F, Gas Mark 6 - for 30 minutes, turning once about halfway through, so they brown all over. Add a little sprinkle of sea salt flakes and another shake of smoked paprika to serve.

Alternatives? These are delicious with chops, steaks, chicken, fish, and of course homemade burgers, and they also make a tasty snack to hand around before dinner with a few dips. Try sprinkling the wedges with lots of chopped fresh parsley, mint or chives too. Sweet potato works really well this way too, although the end result is not as crispy, it’s still simply yummy. What’s more, the humble butternut squash is transformed when cubed and cooked this way as a vegetable side dish; try drizzling a little maple syrup over before cooking.

Coming soon … One Pot Wonders - fabulous, delicious slow-cooked dishes to stick in the oven and forget about, plus lots more quick and easy meals to appeal to the whole family.

Plus … gorgeous, simple sauces and dressings. A quick and easy way to turn a midweek meal into something really special.