We found ways to save money by cooking in hospital. It’s not something that many would consider but it had so many benefits for our family.
As the parent of a child who often had long stays in hospital, the cost of things like take away meals and coffee, parking, even the essentials added up quickly.
We had two other children, and we had dreams of travel, and freedom from stress. The money draining out of our account every admission wasn’t part of the plan.
We could have sat back and said, ‘what can we do?
It’s part of the crappy situation we’ve found ourselves in. Grabbing 5 minutes to get coffee, 30 minutes to grab lunch and have time to ourselves, we deserved it. Needed it even.’
We could have justified continuing to do it all the time, and often did.
But we took a deep breath and looked at what we really wanted. What we COULD control.
One thing was meals, especially meals together as a family.
The cheapest, stress free way to get meals in the hospital, is if family, the local church, or friends take turns making meals and sending them in.
That’s not something you can rely on, the novelty and practicality wears off for many well meaning family and friends overtime.
We also found the kids especially, missed our family favourite foods or meals that were typical in our household, they also missed the routine of getting dinner ready together.
Preparing, cooking and then eating together. It’s a super normal family activity and really brought us together.
So we learned to save money by cooking in hospital. Started planning meals we could put together in the parent’s kitchen at the hospital.
The guidelines for hospital cooking
Now anyone who had spent time at the hospital knows there are lots of rules. No appliances, you’re lucky they allow you to plug in your phone and other electronics to charge them.
So slow cookers, or rice cookers were off the table. There were no stoves or ovens.
What did we have?
Microwave and BBQ.
The BBQ’s were in the playground outside.
Cooking utensils, like knives, egg flips etc were non-existant.
It takes planning.
There are all kinds of variations on the conditions that each family faces to make this happen. So I can only share what worked for us.
We save money by cooking in hospital, or we did. Creative license and family preferences are definitely a key part of this process.
Our Top Hospital Meals List
Baked Potatoes (or in this case, microwave potatoes.)
Baked potatoes are so easy to personalise to what you’re family likes best.
Staples which you can possibly access for free – butter & salt are the beginning of any great baked potato.
Some families love bacon – you could do that on the BBQ. Bacon and cheese and sour cream. HOT TIP: hospitals do not have graters. So pack that in your essential kitchen supplies or buy it already grated.
We had a family member who often brought meals and if it included grated cheese she would bring the whole packet, so I was able to use that for several meals.
Growing up my family preferred less meat in their meals, so our baked potatoes would have consisted of traditional coleslaw, butter, cheese and/or sour cream.
When cooking potatoes in the microwave:
- We score them twice, in opposite places. If you had cut them all the way through they would now be quarters.
- Pop them on a dinner plate and cover with paper towel – to help keep the moisture in.
- Set them to cook for 5 minutes on high.
- Check after 5 minutes, with a fork or sharp knife. They won’t be cooked but you will get a feel if they’re going to need 10 more minutes or 5. Potatoes come in so many different shapes, sizes and types, I found it easy to check at 5 minutes and go from there.
- After you put them on to cook again (make sure the paper towel is always in place), prepare your toppings.
- Once you’re happy with how soft they are, you can cut along the score markings to open up the potatoes.
- Put butter on straight away and possibly salt so they are really hot still.
- Serve and let the family add toppings or do this yourself.
At home we love toasted sandwiches, excellent easy comfort food!
We don’t have access to a toasted sandwich maker at the hospital, so we adapted.
We used the BBQ, like my parents did when I was a kid.
The only staple for toasties is cheese, as it holds it together! Most people like butter on the outside, which helps with the golden crunch, but it is optional.
My families favoured it always ham and cheese. But tomato is a great option. You could do bacon and eggs too I suppose, those are easy to do on the BBQ.
Cooking sandwiches on the BBQ:
- Butter your sliced bread
- Slice your cheese
- Heat BBQ first
- Butter side down, put bread on BBQ add fillings, cheese on top and then second slice of bread (again butter side out.)
- Toast until golden and flip. Make sure the cheese is nicely melted!
My kids love burritos. I loved them because it was surprisingly easy to get a few veggies into them!
The only caveat I would give for this is preparing the meat. I have never done this at the hospital. Sometimes a friend or I would prepare that at home, but since nothing else needs cooking, it was an excellent choice.
I would suggest if you were going to do chicken perhaps you could cook that on the BBQ and add spices later.
Cooking Burritos at the hospital:
- Wash and tear up lettuce leaves – even better skip the lettuce, use baby spinach leaves. Use bowl to serve
- Cut the tomatoes. Use bowl to serve
- Prepare the cheese. Use bowl or packet to serve
- Re-heat the mince – or cook chicken on the BBQ.
- Warm up burritos in the microwave according to the packet instructions.
- Put everything on the table for the family to put together their own burritos.
BBQ with Rice
We discovered this awesome rice cooker dish from Kmart that I highly recommend.
In the previous blog I shared that I used it to cook potatoes – so more steamed or boiled potatoes, then cooked the steamed veggies in it too. Worked really well.
But clearly it is designed to cook rice.
- Cook rice as per rice cooker instructions
- Steam veggies (buy them in the individual serve packets or cook in the rice cooker container.)
- Cook meat on the BBQ.
Keep the Meals Simple
These meals aren’t fancy, but more basic ideas to add your family preferences too.
They are also simple, as much as the time spent preparing them as a family is excellent quantity time doing something ‘normal’ I know sometimes you’d rather be by your child’s bedside. So keep the preparation time to a minimum.
Also on top of creating normalcy for the rest of the family, bonus is it will save your bank account. You can put that money into things that are really important for your family. Giving you the freedom to choose.
Not being held hostage by the prices of the hospital food vendors.
If you’ve got any ideas to save money by cooking in hospital, I’d love to hear them! Please drop them in the comments here or jump over to our Facebook page to share.