5 Time & Sanity Saving Meals + Bonus Pantry Must-Haves List

Let’s have a gander at the Christmas break coming up in a couple of weeks: specifically the food.

First thing you want to understand is you DO NOT have to martyr yourself. It’s nice to have a special meal but no one who matters is going to judge you. Christmas is about family and getting together to give dads presents (and eating rum balls.)

With that in mind, I’m going to share four of the recipes from my recent Five Meals For Busy Families (the video above). The one where I announced I was going to attempt the impossible and have all five meals prepared in five minutes and – proving the word impossible to be fairly rigid in its meaning – the whole thing took me closer to twelve.

Right off the bat can I just say a big thank you to everyone?


Despite my time management issues, the response to the vid was awesome.

The reason I want to share these in the lead up to Christmas is they are quick. You want to spend time with family over the break, not breaking a sweat in the kitchen.

The omelette idea I’ve added is something Tracey and I do multiple times every week for breakfast, lunch or brunch, and only this past weekend we had both our families over and I cooked up made-to-order omelettes for everyone – sixteen people in total. Easy as skipping sports day when it’s raining.

The beauty of the omelettes is everyone can choose their fillings, so the token vegetarian in the family didn’t feel like we were put out by her coming along, and our GF and lactose intolerant family members were similarly easily catered for.

My mother-in-law sidled up to me after brunch and actually asked if we can have these omelettes for Christmas morning! I’ll even make sure I have lots of green and red capsicum chopped up so they’re Christmasy.

This isn’t a bunch of Christmas themed recipes. It’s quick and easy recipes. It’s spend more time with your family recipes.

Under the recipes here I’ve included a list of basics I like to keep in the house so I can pull a meal together, even if our shelves feel a bit empty. Despite shipping in enough food to feed all of Santa’s elves, it’s amazing how often this can happen over the Christmas rush. I swear our stomachs become as deceptively big as Santa’s sack.

I’ve also included a short Christmas specific list to give you a couple of ideas of festive items to have at the ready.

If you can think of anything I’ve forgotten or want to suggest something you like to keep handy I’d welcome everyone’s input.



– less work than you think –

You Will Need

3 eggs per adult?2 children

Cold water

Salt & pepper to taste

Butter, 1 tablespoon per omelette

Assorted fillings can include stuff like onion, bacon, capsicum, feta, grated cheese, shallots. Whatever you decide, chop them up finely before you begin cooking


  1. Beat three eggs, a couple of tablespoons of cold water and salt & pepper
  2. Heat your pan and melt 1 tablespoon of butter
  3. Add things like onion and bacon and give them a minute to swim in the butter and cook
  4. Add beaten eggs
  5. Give it thirty seconds before adding remainder of your selected toppings
  6. Flip half the omelette over onto the other half – I use a silicone spatula
  7. Slide onto a plate and let someone start eating while you make the next one

Note: Some of my family like their eggs dry and overcooked, but the best way to have this Omelette is ever so slightly gooey in the middle. Trust me.

Deconstructed Sushi

– GF if you check the soy label properly –

You Will Need

Sushi rice, 2 cups

Sushi seasoning, 2 tablespoons

Can of tuna, drained

Red Onion, chopped up fine

Kewpie mayonnaise, ¼ cup, + to taste

Frilly lettuce

Cherry Tomatoes, halved

Soy sauce, to taste

Pickled ginger, to taste


  1. Cook sushi rice (rice cooker works for us)
  2. Combine drained tuna, mayonnaise & red onion
  3. Add sushi seasoning to rice and stir in
  4. Serve in bowls the rice then some tuna mix, a lettuce leaf & 2 tomato halves
  5. Top with preferred amounts of mayonnaise, soy and pickled ginger

Note: allow half a cup of rice per person and adjust the rice and sushi seasoning to suit. One 425g tin does our family of 7 quite nicely.

Puff Pizza

– the base is fluffy and cheap and, importantly, requires no effort –

You Will Need

Puff pastry sheets, frozen

Tomato paste for pizzas

Grated cheese (cheddar or mozzarella)

Toppings are up to you but we prefer things like ham, pepperoni, salami, feta, onion, capsicum and mushrooms


  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees
  2. Build your pizza on the frozen pastry sheet by adding paste and then a light sprinkling of cheese, then the toppings and then more glorious cheese
  3. Put in oven for however long it takes the cheese to melt and the pastry to puff (not long, about five minutes)
  4. Cut into squares and chow down

Note: We have one whole sheet each. Initially we would put the ‘pizza’ into the oven on a tray but we’ve had better success again by keeping the pastry sheet frozen and putting it into the oven straight onto the wire rack: the base is nicer.

Chicken Salad

– five minutes from reaching for the fridge until reaching for your fork –

You Will Need

Salad bag

Woolworths store roasted chicken, remove meat

Feta, roughly chopped

Apple, roughly chopped

Seasonal vegetables, eg cucumber, beans or tomatoes

Ranch dressing


  1. Into a large salad bowl dump the salad
  2. Add the feta, chicken, apple and whatever vegetables you’ve decided on
  3. Mix a good squeeze of ranch dressing in and toss it all about until there’s a lovely coating on the lot

Note: Chopped up roast pumpkin pieces (left over from a previous roast is perfect) take it to the next level. So do pecans, if you have them. I like to add an apple to the salad except when grapes are in season. We’re all about grapes in this family. I haven’t really specified how much of anything because it really depends on how many are eating. A big handful of salad for each person usually does the trick and we have leftover chicken from a whole chook with seven of us eating. Sometimes I just cook a couple of breast fillets in the oven for it if I don’t have a roast chook and we’ve decided we want it anyway.


-a family favourite –

You Will Need

Bread rolls, approx. 2 per person


BBQ sauce

Bag of salad

 Ham or chicken or salami

Cheese slices


  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees
  2. Keeping buns together, cut buns into two so as you can take the tops off as one huge ‘slice’
  3. On bottom ‘slice’ build your slider – spread of BBQ sauce, then meat, salad, cheese and finally mayonnaise – then return top ‘slice’ to the bun
  4. Cook in oven until cheese has melted
  5. Tear apart the buns and dig in

Note: I like to add Beerenberg Caramelised Onion (the one that Dean hates to share), and all of the meats because I’m a piggy.

The basics to being able to pull a meal together when you’re totes shagged & desperately don’t want to duck to the shops.

Catchy title, eh?

Started writing this up for us as a bit of a checklist and thought maybe someone else might get something from it. Not saying this is a definitive list by any means, and if you spot something I’ve left out please let me know and I’ll add it in. The key is to buy more than you need of the basics than enough to make it through to the next shop. By making sure you have a pantry stocked up – even a little bit – with non-perishable items, like tins or packets of pasta, you always have a base to start a meal. Include tins of tuna and you can still make a meal when your freezer is empty of meat. I will, before I get into the lists, say once again I think the biggest time and sanity saver for any family these days is shopping online at the Woolworths site. Not only can you have a cuppa (or something stronger) while you shop, you don’t need to apply makeup or put on pants. If you haven’t tried it yet I encourage you to give it a go. The only reasons I still head for the local supermarket is to escape the house or because someone ate the stuff I was saving for a meal later in the week. You can also use the service to send a Christmas present to distant loved ones. We’ll be sending another ‘grocery basket’ gift to our daughter in Perth this year. We’ll probably include a leg of ham from Woolworths again. Everyone should have a ham at Christmas.

  1. Suggested pantry-fillers
  • Rice (long grain, Jasmine, sushi)
  • Spaghetti & other pastas
  • Tins of diced tomatoes, corn, tuna, tomato soup
  • Jars of tomato paste
  • Stock powder
  • Flours (plain, SR, cornflour)
  • Sugars (white, brown)
  • Salt, pepper, curry powder & other dried spices and herbs
  • Eggs
  • Long-life milk
  • Oils (vegetable, olive, peanut, sesame)
  • Coffee and tea (for energy)
  • Chocolate (in all its glorious forms, hidden) (for sanity)

2. Keep a Stock of Longer Shelf Life Vegetables

If I’m feeling extra lazy, I go for rice. If there’s a little more care there, pasta might make its way to the table. Kids know I’ve had a good day if I’ve the paternal enough to whip up something with a root vegetable, be it mash, roasted or any of the other eight hundred and forty-two things you can do with any assortment of these versatile nom-noms.

  • Potatoes
  • Pumpkin & sweet potato
  • Onions
  • Carrots

3. Fridge & Freezer Must Haves

Our freezer space is heavily guarded. Every shelf has the potential to save us from ordering takeaway when we’re completely shagged at the end of a big day. Frozen pizzas, or even meals we’ve prepared ourselves and frozen, are godsends some days.

  • Bacon

But also, if you’ve room:

  • Loaf of bread (at least one)
  • Meat (sausages, mince, rump, whatever you like)
  • Butter/margarine
  • Frozen peas
  • Puff pantry
  • Jars of garlic, ginger, jams and chutney
  • Butter/margarine
  • Sauces (tomato, bbq, soy, worcestershire, oyster, etc)
  • Mayonnaise
  • Salad dressing (we always have a French dressing handy)
  • Cheeses (grated, sliced) (also Brie)

4. Suggested Weekly Shopping Staples

Unfortunately, unlike my affections, not everything can be bought and kept fresh for months, but if you grab a small selection of things each week you can guarantee a meal at a moments notice which won’t make you feel .

  • Salad bags
  • Cucumbers, zucchinis, shallots, tomatoes or any in-season vegetables
  • Cream
  • Milk
  • Bacon
  • Bacon
  • Ham
  • Bacon

5. Grow Your Own

You don’t need an acre and a half of tilled earth and a horse harnessed to a plough to contribute to your own table. Plant a little herb and vegetable garden. Just find a spot and give it a go. Even if you only have parsley and mint you’ll feel a rush of pride every time you use them in something. Suddenly your meals will feel fresher and it’s surprising how a sprig of dill, for example, can fancy up a poached egg, or chopped parsley tossed over a bowl of spaghetti bog can make a weekly staple suddenly less glum.

  • Parsley
  • Mint
  • Dill
  • Basil
  • Rosemary
  • Coriander


This is the time of the year you do NOT want to run out of something. No one will care, of course, because there will be so much food, but you will know and it’ll bug the hell out of you. So take the angst out of your day by making sure you have these couple of things in the fridge or freezer or pantry including:

Master26 getting credit for MY omelette from Grandma. I know we look a bit alike, but seriously…

Raising a family on little more than laughs

Thank you to Woolworths for inviting us to accept this challenge and for sponsoring this post



  • I think this may be very American but jambalaya for 5-50 people in about an hour. Pre-cooked meat such as leftovers stashed in the freezer or meat from a deli chicken, leftover sausage of any type, scraps of ham, other meats or any combination of meat, works perfectly. In a pinch frozen chopped onions and peppers or ones I have prepped and frozen, save time too. When I make it, I make intentional leftovers for the following day or two. Since it is basically heavily flavored rice it is also very budget friendly.

    Chili using can (tinned) beans instead of dry beans feeds a large group of people in no time. I can’t eat it but I’m told the leftovers are even better. I bake cornbread to go with it. Cook dry beans ahead and stash in the freezer and this is so cheap and filling to serve. This was my grandmother’s staple around the holidays. When we knew there would be many extra people in and out, she would make it up and leave it on a back burner for folks to help themselves. She made it during the year for just her large family but it was so easy for even larger groups.

    We don’t eat out so a very well stocked pantry and freezer is a must for us.

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