{Covid-19} Meals during lockdown

Let’s talk about lockdown and meals. I have been responsible for all but 4 – 5 meals during the last 83 days. The 4 – 5 meals were when we ordered in.

Part of that is a control issue (I do like to plan and cook the meals, and make sure than we don’t eat the same thing too much), part of that was a logistics issue (I am better at getting things done in the short time after work and when we want to eat) and part of that is a planning issue (at the start especially, there was so much that wasn’t available and food needed to be used up and combined to make sure nothing went to waste).

Very soon though, I realised that after more than 8 hours of sitting at a desk, I enjoyed the chopping and slicing, combining, and flavouring. Doing things with my hands enabled me to use other parts of my mind and body. Is it the same for you?

Breakfast

Everyone is on a different schedule so does their own thing. I have noticed that during winter, my husband’s been preparing enough oats for him and the kids (I don’t eat any mushy food – I like my oats toasted and hard, like in granola). Friends, if people take over tasks in the house, say nothing!

We have variations on cereals like all-bran flakes, muesli, yoghurt, toast, etc. Nothing fancy or cooked.

Lunch

I usually loosely plan lunches – sandwiches with tuna, eggs, cheese, ham (when it was warmer), sometimes leftovers, etc.

I usually make the kids’ lunches – they are quite capable but I am not a fan of cleaning up after them as they don’t see all the crumbs, etc.

Suppers

I definitely make a menu plan. The menu plan is loose so I often swop meals around within the week, or abandon something altogether if I’m not in the mood to cook that meal.

Of course, as always, I run a very tight freezer inventory because I hate forgotten food and I love using up things. I’m a finisher.

On the weekends, I prepare that evening’s meal plus at least one extra. E.g. while I’m cooking pasta, I’m assembling enchiladas for the freezer. Sometimes the extras even run to two extra meals, which really helps during the week when I don’t have much time. Long-time readers will know that I always advocate cooking a double batch. When I did those enchiladas, there was enough filling for two meals – yay!

Working during this pandemic has been relentless and I’m afraid I’m not very good at switching off (yet) without a hard deadline like a Zumba class, so it helps when there are healthy meals in the freezer.

I always love cooking during winter so it’s been fun to experiment with the occasional new meal and to try desserts.

One thing I will say – I have not once baked banana bread or even been tempted to make a sourdough bread 😉

What’s been your lockdown meals situation? Have you been eating out of your freezer and using up food? Would you say you’ve eaten better (healthier) or not so much?

{Covid-19} 5 things I love and 5 things I’ll miss about lockdown

As we close out this month, and there’s more talk of opening up, I thought I’d share my 3 lists of 5 things. Do join me. This is great for your own Covid-19 journalling 🙂 or your bullet journal.

5 things I miss (more here)

  1. Freedom
  2. Seeing friends face-to-face
  3. Going to the gym
  4. My dance classes
  5. Kids going to school

5 things I love

  1. No traffic going to work
  2. Not having to colour my hair
  3. Seeing the daily winter sunsets (I would usually still be at work or driving home)
  4. Everyone is doing their own laundry
  5. Seeing the kids relate to each other like they did when they were little

5 things I’m grateful for (more here)

  1. Zoom Zumba and our core group of workout buddies
  2. That my husband and kids love being at home (I think this family can take only one of me!)
  3. Audio books accompanying my cleaning
  4. Cooking healthy meals and using up everything so there’s no waste
  5. Excellent sleep (I’ve averaged 8 hours for the last two months)

What are some of the things you miss and love about lockdown?

PS if you want to do a monthly review, download your monthly review pack here

{Covid-19} It’s all flipped, hasn’t it?!

Our president made his first announcement about social distancing on Sunday 15 March, and then on Monday 23 March, he announced that lockdown would begin on Friday 27 March.

We were on holiday in a very remote area of the country at the time of the lockdown announcement so we drove back home and were safely inside when lockdown began.

Monday 30th was the first day of work during lockdown. It was crazy. Also I made this list of things I wanted to get done on a daily basis. I was so naive. I work in financial services, which is an essential service. I am honestly busier now than when i have normal busy periods at work. If I don’t set good work boundaries, I end up working late into the night.

So that little Project Life card was only partially completed for 5 days and then I hid it deep down in the papers on my desk. Out of sight means no guilt about not getting things done.

This was my daily list for the second day of work/ lockdown. By the way, that “write blog” entry is this very one I’m finally writing two weeks later. That’s exactly a metaphor for life. I’ve not felt like doing anything extra on the computer after spending so much time on it for my actual work.

So what’s the point of telling you how I’m not getting my list done? I wanted to…

share my real life with you (not that I don’t always do that)

show you my ideal day vs reality

tell you how I’ve adapted and how things are now going

My workdays are taken up with work, a Zumba class (which is saving my sanity!) twice a week, cooking daily suppers, keeping up with the laundry and basic daily cleaning. And occasionally checking on the kids to make sure they’re doing schoolwork.

The only time I actually have to do anything extra like extra reading, organising, deep cleaning, etc. is on the weekend, just like before. Except! I’m doing so much proper cleaning and cooking ahead that I don’t have much time for extra because I’m knackered.

It’s taken me a lot of time, and I still have to give myself a talking to because the truth is that my own standards for cleanliness are much higher than the rest of my family. Anyone relate? Everyone has jobs but I have the job of making sure the other jobs get done, and I do toilets because I’m the fussiest about toilets over just about anything else 😉

I’ll leave you with these two last thoughts:

  1. go easy on yourself during these strange times and remember, you’re doing the best you can

but also

2. figure out how you can have some small joys during your day (cleaning up while listening to a catchy song – I recommend Ricky Martin) amidst all the cleaning, dishes, work and schooling going on.

How are you doing…really? Are you in essential services? How are your days being filled during this time? What’s keeping you sane?

Weekend routines and rhythms

We are all different personalities and need different rhythms for our weekends to feel like they were good ones.

What is important and consistent across personality types is for all of us to decide for ourselves what the components are that will make a weekend feel successful, and then incorporate those elements into our days.

This will also differ according to different times and life stages, e.g. in winter I cook more because that feels more life-giving to me, but in summer I only want to be in the kitchen a very short time.

Let’s look at some components of a successful weekend, shall we?

church – anchor event

1. Anchor events and scheduled activities

In this section, extroverts will typically want to have more time spent with other people where introverts will be happier by themselves.

I have at least three anchor events on most weekends – a tea with a friend after work on Fridays, Saturday morning Zumba and Sunday morning church. Those things are scheduled and in my diary, and can move, but probably won’t.

2. Downtime

We all need downtime, but what downtime looks like for you may differ to the next person.

Some people relax by reading on the couch; others relax by going for a long run. You do you.

3. Chores

Let’s face it – we all look forward to getting some nagging things off the to-do list and I, as an enneagram 1, like nothing more than to potter and set things in order in my home. The week is often for keeping the house ticking over and weekends are when I (and you) can devote a longer period of time to a little deeper cleaning or organising, like swopping summer and winter clothes, decluttering your kitchen cupboards, etc.

4. Planning

This only has to take 20 – 30 minutes but is so useful if done consistently. I know some couples who take time on a Friday night to plan for the week ahead. I do my planning in two stages – quickly on a Friday night or Saturday morning I plan the menu for the week ahead and write out the shopping list, and then on a Sunday afternoon, I take 5 – 10 minutes to review and plan for the week ahead. On very busy weekends, I might push the planning to a Monday night but I like to still get it done.

I need to get out once a day at least or else I get cabin fever 😉 but other than that, I like to both relax and get things done around the house every weekend. This goes out the window if I have a heat headache but if I’m well, that sounds like the perfect weekend for me.

I’m flexible around my loose plan (typical upholder!) but I do need those first three components to be present, and I feel like I’m winning for the next week too if I get my planning done.

What are the components for you to feel like you’ve had a successful weekend?

{time} Let’s talk about morning routines… and a peek into my own

Let’s start by talking about my morning routine and then we’ll talk about what you might want in a morning routine.

Sunrise

Why should we even have a morning routine?

A morning routine sets you up for the day ahead to ensure a successful day. Depending on your day, your morning routine might vary but I’d suggest that you’d need clothes, food and stuff for the day as the three components, no matter what you have on the agenda.

But let’s talk about my morning routine:

Work at office days

I wake up, shower, dress, grab my things and travel to work 🙂

Work from home day

This one is a little slower, by design.

I wake, play on my phone, read, and then shower, dress and go to work which is about 15 steps from my bedroom.

Work life

Weekend days

Saturdays – I roll out of bed, put on my gym clothes, brush my teeth and put on lipstick (always with the lipstick!), and go to gym.

Sundays – look exactly the same as the work at office days, except… I go to church

You’ll notice that there’s very little I do in the morning and that is very intentional; it’s because I’m not a morning person so I set up my life such that I don’t have to think very much in the morning.

If I had my way, no one would even talk to me much before 9 am.

I can do this because all my preparation happens in the evening.

work prep

What might you include in your morning routine?

  • Choosing clothes for yourself and your kids (your husband can choose his own clothes!)
  • Making lunch for yourself if you work outside the home (this might even be a good idea if you work from home so you eat a planned meal and don’t just grab something when you’re hungry)
  • Setting out anything that has to go with you (running errands on the way to or from work)
  • Setting out gym bag (if you exercise on the way to or from work)
  • Popping food in the slow cooker or defrosting meat

What is included in your morning routine that I haven’t even considered? Do you have a minimal routine like me because you’re also not a morning person?

How strong are your foundations?

Often when it feels like things are getting a bit out of control, I find that it’s useful to stop and take stock of my foundational basics:

1. Sleep
Are you sleeping enough? I’m constantly surprised by just how many people don’t sleep well and expect to function at top productivity. Our bodies weren’t designed to go on and on without enough rest. 

If you’re feeling sluggish or like your mind isn’t 100% sharp, try increasing your sleep by just 30 minutes a night. If you’re currently sleeping 5 hours a night, get to bed 30 minutes earlier. Don’t try to remember; use your phone and set a daily reminder. Once that new sleep number is your normal, increase it by another 30 minutes, until you get to at least 7 hours every night.

More tips: here and here

2. Food

If you follow me on Instagram, I’ve shared pictures when I pack my lunch bag at night. I might have mentioned this but I seriously hate packing my lunch. And no, I have no idea why! 

A few weeks ago, I said to Kendra (9) that I was dreading doing my lunch. She said, “but you don’t hate packing our lunches” and I said, “no, I don’t. I love doing yours“. You know what she said?

“Then just pretend you’re packing our lunches”.

Simple but profound. I’ve been pretending ever since and it is a game changer. It feels more fun and it’s getting done quicker 🙂

If you’re not yet sold on menu planning, have a read here. I love menu planning because I love knowing what I have available in the house, and when we *actually* do eat all those meals in the same week, I do the metaphorical happy dance 🙂

Thinking about food and what to cook/ eat/ prepare three times a day is exhausting (and mind-numbingly boring for me) so automate the process in order to free up your mental load.

3. Energy

Are you an introvert or an extrovert?

This might seem like a “nice to think about” but I think it’s essential. Often in the past when I’ve mentioned to Dion that I feel like I’m in a funk, it’s because I’m not getting as much people time that I need as an extrovert.

I’ve since found that I need 5 one-on-one friend dates besides my two book clubs every month for my tank to feel full. I spread out those friend dates, at least one every week, and that works beautifully.

My husband is an introvert and if I see his energy flagging, I’ll rescue him by taking the kids to do something so he has alone time at home, or let him go do grocery shopping by himself. Granted, there are still people at the shops but he doesn’t have to talk all the time to two very chatty nine-year-olds.

These are foundational issues that, if attended to on a consistent basis, will definitely increase your happiness levels.

Leave a comment and let me know which one of these three foundational basics you’re going to prioritise for the next 1 – 3 months.

If you’d like to work with me, I do currently have 4 time makeover coaching spots available every month. Send me an email and let’s get you started.

Let’s talk shopping lists

I run a home that’s mostly run like a well-oiled machine. All the people who live (and work) here know that when things run low, they have to write it on the list so that when we go shopping on the weekend, we can buy the item.

Oh, we only go shopping once a week because we both don’t like shopping. Life with two upholders 😉

I’m firmly in the “make do” camp so if we didn’t get something, we just have to get creative til we go shopping again.

Our shopping list is an actual paper list on a small clipboard with some regular items typed in permanently. I keep a toiletries list in my iPhone notes though.

So you can see I love a shopping list as much as the next person.

Which is precisely why I don’t understand these chalkboard shopping lists. Or the Letterboard ones.

  • Are these real live shopping lists? Or just set up for Instagram?
  • Do people take photos of their chalkboards and then go shopping?
  • And with the Letterboard ones, how long do those things take to assemble?

Seriously though, do you use a shopping list?

What do you use? Paper? App? Photos of your chalkboard wall?

I know friends who do a grocery run daily! Maybe you do too. I can barely even manage weekly!

How often do you shop? As and when? Daily? Weekly? Monthly?

{money and organising} Let’s talk about food spend and 3 tips to reduce wastage

I read an interesting statistic in Laura Vanderkam’s book, “All the money in the world”. 

The average household spends 7.6% of its budget on food consumed at home and 5.3% on food eaten out.

(of course, I do realise that this is an American book and that currencies and food prices are all different, but it’s still fascinating to me)

This kind of thing makes me super curious so I went looking at our budget.

We obviously don’t spend all the money we make, so I’m looking at our groceries and eating out line items as a percentage of total expenses.

Ours are much, much higher for groceries and much, much lower for eating out 🙂

This tells me one thing at least – that we cook a lot more at home than the average family (this I do know). It’s true – I have been known to say that I can cook something quicker than it would take me to buy something prepared (or get a takeaway) at the shops.

I’m curious – do you know what you spend on groceries and eating out every month? Is your % spend also higher than the quoted %?

There’s no right or wrong way to approach this food spend area but I would encourage as I always do to not imagine you will use more food than you actually do. Especially as we’re in South Africa, I just can’t stand the thought of food wastage with so many people starving on our literal doorsteps.

If you spend a significant of money on groceries but you actually use all of the stuff you’re buying, then good going for you.

I personally am uncomfortable with spending what is a house payment on food.

3 tips to reduce food wastage

  1. If you grow fruit and vegetables in your garden, and you know you can’t get through all of them, share with your work colleagues. A classmate of Kendra’s has been bringing her lemons which I think is so generous and thoughtful of him.
  2. If you don’t want to menu plan, at least plan the fruits and vegetables (and make actual pen on paper notes somewhere in your kitchen) so you know how long it takes for your family to use up a 1.5 kg bag of apples, or a small bag of bananas, or a small head of cauliflower. It’s very tempting when you’re in the store to see all the beautiful colours and think you’re going to cook 6 different vegetables before they go bad. You won’t. Err on the side of buying less and perhaps keep a bag of frozen peas in the freezer.
  3. Plan for a leftovers night every week. A pasta is always good to use up bits of cheese and a few odd vegetables. One of my skills is gathering up odds and ends from the fridge and using them all up in a stirfry or pasta, or on a pizza 🙂

Do you find it easier to cook something at home or pop by Woolworths/ Pick and Pay to get a convenience meal? What do you do to reduce food wastage?

More posts on groceries (and some good comments)

Let’s talk about groceries and spending

Feedback on my groceries experiment

No-fail menu planning

Last year I wrote two posts on menu planning that were two of the most popular posts on my blog the entire year.

If you didn’t see them, here’s post 1 and here’s post 2.

The reason I go on and on about this is because it is such a game-changer when you make it part of your weekly routine.

Today I want to give you two methods of menu planning that are truly very easy.

Base your meals on the protein. E.g.

Monday – legumes like lentils or kidney beans (chilli con carne using just kidney beans served over rice or baked potatoes)

Tuesday – chicken (chicken breasts, chicken a la King, chicken curry)

Wednesday – fish (grilled fist in the oven with chips or mashed potato)

Thursday – chicken again (add a second night of the protein your family likes the most, and if it’s chicken, choose from the list above)

Friday – cheese (pizza)

Saturday – eggs (breakfast for dinner, or quiche)

Sunday – beef (stir fry, steak, etc.)

(of course, I only plan for 5 nights and there’s usually enough in the fridge for the other two nights)

OR

you could do the same as above around the carbohydrate

Monday – rice

Tuesday – potatoes or chips

Wednesday – pasta

Thursday – wraps

Friday – pizza or bread-based

(this is mostly how I menu plan because I get bored eating the same carbs two nights in a row)

OR

you could plan meals around the type of dish

  • Oven bake
  • Casserole
  • Slow-cooker
  • Stir-fry

I hope I’ve given you some new ideas.

But even if you have a good system going, try planning using one of these 3 plans occasionally to jazz things up in the kitchen.

Will you let me know in the comments if you give it a bash? I’d love to hear.

But also, as we’re in summer in South Africa, please let me know your favourite meals to make in summer.

Feedback on my groceries experiment

Pictures taken before Easter, hence hot cross buns 🙂

I wrote last month about how I wanted to analyse our grocery spend as we hadn’t done this for at least four years.

Interestingly, my husband was far less concerned about the spend than I was and it turned out that his instincts were correct.

  1. We are well within what we budget for food which, I’m learning from these posts on the blog and on Instagram, is far below what many similar-sized families spend.
  2. We shop at Pick and Pay every week and about once every 2 – 3 weeks we do a Checkers run to top up on small fruits (for the kids’ lunchboxes) and buy chicken (I know, but there’s a certain chicken my local P&P doesn’t stock so we just go get that at Checkers).
  3. I still feel like we buy too many snacks (chips, nuts, chocolates, biltong) but as my husband reminded me, it’s really our only vice as we don’t drink alcohol or smoke or eat out a lot, and… we still keep well within the budget. Fair enough.
  4. Some things I found shocking from actually looking at the receipts is the price of cottage cheese (R30 a tub; 4 years ago R18,99), tissue refills (80 sheets for R15; 200 sheets for R22) and cereals (R40 a box!). A reminder to me that just because one option was better at one time doesn’t mean it’s still the better option – we will now be buying the full box of tissues.
  5. I used to shop the pantry and eat from the freezer in a fairly disciplined way but it slipped a bit over the years. Now I inventory the freezer before making my menu plan for the week and most meals are designed around using up bits of food so it won’t go to waste.  If you’re not intentional, you can keep buying without actually using the food already in your house.

I don’t purport to know your situation but if you’re looking for 3 quick takeaways, here you go:

Make a realistic menu plan. Don’t plan to cook 7 days if you’ve only cooked 3 meals a week for the last year. Maybe set a goal to cook those same 3 meals, but a double batch. And obviously don’t buy more food than you actually are going to cook. Maybe you’re being a fantasy cook?

Watch your food wastage. Be realistic about what you will, and not just intend, to use. I caught myself doing exactly this the other week when I thought about all the lovely winter veggies I wanted to buy. When I looked at the actual menu plan, we only needed two veggies and not four like I wanted to buy. I literally count the potatoes and buy exactly what we need (6 medium potatoes or 4 large potatoes). This goes without saying but shop with a list, on a full stomach.

Plan for easy nights. My goal is that we eat a cooked meal only 4 of the 7 nights. Fridays are eggs/ soup/ toasted sandwiches. One night is leftovers from everything before…. and the last night is usually beef burgers or fish fingers on a roll with lettuce/ tomato, and oven chips. Mondays are my longest days so that is always a freezer meal defrosted. When you only plan to buy what you realistically will cook and eat, you’ll automatically save money.

How has your grocery spending been in April? Is there a specific category (cleaning materials is usually a hot topic, or school lunches…) you’d like me to go into more detail on?

If you’d like individual help on managing your finances better, please contact me. Due to the personal nature of each person’s finances, I can’t hold a workshop where these things are discussed but I do individual or couples’ financial coaching.



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