Sarah Rossi thinks about dinner before she even gets out of bed in the morning. And it is that commitment to the joy of eating – as well as to planning and providing nutritious food for her family – that her huge Instagram
following delights in daily. Having started out as a blog in 2013 back when the titular twins were just one, it has grown and morphed and, at the time of writing, garnered some 322k followers – a number that is constantly growing – all eagerly awaiting her shopping lists and daily easy dinner ideas.
During a financial crisis, her tips for reducing waste and eating well on a budget have been invaluable. Meanwhile, the work she does to lessen the load by gifting ideas unto her followers is equally why she is so beloved. Now, a decade after she began, a book of her tried-and-tested is recipes out: What’s For Dinner: Fuss Free Family Food In 30 Minutes
answers the question that we are either asked, or indeed ask ourselves, daily. Sarah talks to us about the mental load, and shares her top tips for getting the most out of the food we buy.
Massive congratulations – your first book, What’s For Dinner, hit the shelves yesterday. Can you tell us a bit about it?
Yes! It has 100 new recipes with ten brand new weekly meal plans made up of those recipes. They are all affordable and all of them are ready in 30 minutes or less. You can order it here.
Let’s go back to where it all began: your brilliant Instagram feed. The way you’ve used that platform has been a godsend to anyone who has ever been stuck for family cooking inspiration (i.e. all of us). Tell us about how you got started in 2013?
I originally planned to write about having twins (hence the name!). I quickly ended up focusing on food though, as planning easy meals helped me through those early parenting years – as well as bringing plenty of enjoyment too.
In the midst of a cost of living crisis, you are doing sterling work in demonstrating how you can cook nutritious food for less than £40 a week. What’s the response to your shopping lists been like?
There’s been a huge response, but aside from the cost element I think helping to take some of the mental load of planning and shopping for dinner each week is key. That’s the untold cost. Needing or wanting to save money can be a huge drain on time and mental energy. The meal plans I share on my blog, in my newsletter and in my new book aim to take some of that strain.
What are the staple and versatile ingredients that you’d advise any household to get in if they’re struggling with keeping the cupboards full and nutritious food on the table?
Pasta and potatoes of course, but also don’t forget protein in your meals as that’s what will keep everyone full for longer. Lentils and pulses are a brilliant source of affordable protein and can be used to ‘bulk up’ so many meals. Also, frozen and tinned vegetables are often much better value than fresh.
Do you have top tips for making food last longer/ eking out meals for a couple of days?
Freeze leftovers wherever you can. Make sure you’re not throwing any veg away (make soup!), and plan, plan, plan!
What advice would you give to anyone who really struggles with feeding little ones?
Don’t be too hard on yourself – or them! Remember often it is a phase, even though it feels so stressful in the midst of it. I can only speak of my own experience, but I found that continuing to offer the food they’ve refused as part of a ‘help yourself’ meal was a positive. So meals like my Easy Chicken Fajitas
where they could pick and choose the bits they wanted to eat (or didn’t!) eventually encouraged them to try new things, even though for a long time they’d just be eating a plain wrap and a piece of chicken!
You were a business owner before you had twins and started your Insta feed (which in fact started as a blog). What did you in your previous life?
I ran a small cookery school teaching cake decorating. I loved the customers and it gave me a brilliant grounding in the early years of social media. I sold the business when I first had my children.
How did that feed into your new career as a blogger/ influencer?
I had learned to leverage social media as the ultimate shop window to your product and that was incredibly insightful in growing my blog following. I also learned the value to be found from listening to your audience and being as supremely helpful and informative as possible.
Did the popularity of your content take you by surprise? You now have a more than 320k followers!
I think when you look at success, it’s easy to see the end result. I’ve been working on my recipes and content being the best they can be for almost 10 years now. My site had 16.5 million page views in 2022, but that was only possible because of all of the earlier work (and mistakes!)
When did you first catch the foodie bug? Have you always loved cooking?
I’ve always loved eating, does that count? My mum cooked with me when I was a child which gave me a good start. I find the routine of a home cooked dinner each night, in a busy and sometimes fraught world, very comforting.
You’ve said that the blog opened up worlds for you that had felt closed as a mother of twins. Not only do you help people with food ideas, but you have given people confidence to travel with toddlers. That must have felt wonderful! What advice would you give to people travelling with small people?
Don’t try and be a hero or a super parent. Travelling with children is very different. Set your own expectations, they need downtime and they won’t always be impressed by the culture that we think they should be impressed by!
What have been your stand-out memories of having your Insta feed and blog?
Without a doubt the amazing messages I get from people every day saying how much my easy recipes have helped them produce dinners for their families, sometimes in very tough circumstances. It’s humbling and spurs me on to continue to do better.
And the hardest moments?
Producing so much content, including publishing a first book and writing a second, every recipe tested four or five times, as well as the blog
is A LOT! But I have a brilliant team working with me now and I am ridiculously organised to get it all done. Luckily I love it too which helps.
What supermarket ingredient could you not live without?
Salt. Maldon sea salt
Favourite spice to use?
Sweet smoked paprika. I think it’s such an easy shortcut to heaps of flavour quickly.
Best kitchen hack?
Not sure if it counts as a hack, but I think we could all use freezing food a lot more to make our life easier. Ingredients, leftovers, batch cooking: it’s so useful.
Favourite kitchen implement?
Meat thermometer or Microplane grater
. Both will change your cooking forever!
Your kids’ favourite-ever meal in your repertoire?
The One Pan Sausage Pasta – classic!
By Nancy Alsop