{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”.ย 

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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

Your favourite posts of 2018

This is one of my favourite posts to do every year. I love having the statistics; I just dread the process of drudging through and compiling it all ๐Ÿ™‚

Some fun facts:

Over the last 365 days, we’ve had nearly 900 000 visits from 150 000 people.

Jan

Word of the year recap and my 2018 word

Organising Queen’s best books of 2017

How I read 120 books last yearย  (this post is my most popular post of the entire year – yes, I’m shocked)

Feb

3 ways to Konmari your digital life

What I want less of this year

On being moderate with fitness

March

What went well in February?

The book that changed how I view nature

Quarterly recap of my word of the year

April

Let’s talk about groceries and spending

How is your phone changing you?

What freedom means to me

May

You have more than enough time

Groceries experiment – feedback

What I’m bullet journaling these days

At this point in the year, I decided to do a little experiment. You see, I took the Deep Dive into the Four Tendencies course and the concept of Upholder Tightening really hit home.

Blogging twice a week was me being in the same spiral without considering if it was still what I wanted to do or if it was good for me.

I didn’t make any big announcement; I just quietly went from a Mon and Thurs posting schedule to Wednesdays. To date, not one person has said anything about this.

Because of the reduction in posts, these are the favourite post of the month from June.

June

What are your nos with books?

July

Are you a time pessimist?

Aug

My annual birthday review

Sept

Lovely limitations (if you’ve heard The Nester on podcasts lately, she has mentioned it a few times too)

Oct

On setting reading goals

November

Introducing my 2019 diary

Decemberย 

What I learned by writing every day in November

Were there any posts that surprised you? (there were for me – the book ones!) I’m also always surprised that the ones I like writing the most are not the most popular ones, but that’s par for the course.

Which was your favourite? What is your favourite type of post to read?

{living intentionally} 3 ways to experience the “selfish” joy of giving this year

I picked up the phrase “the selfish joy of giving” from reading Laura Vanderkam’s “All the money in the world” book a few months ago.

It immediately resonated with me. I have often said that I sign up for Santa Shoebox because there is nothing better than shopping for other kids because I don’t have to find a place for all that stuff.

Jokes aside, it’s so true. There is something that warms my own heart even more than the recipients’ hearts when I fill a Santa Shoebox.

She also mentioned some research thatย people are more happy from philanthropic endeavours than from spending on themselves.

This was my favourite chapter in the entire book and has stuck with me since.

I also want to highlight 3 ways for each of us to experience this selfish joy of giving the entire year, not just around Christmas.

  1. shopping for individual families rather than giving money
  • She mentions that this is probably not as effective a way to use the money, but it is always a popular way to give. I completely resonated with this. Years ago at my church, there was an appeal to buy a gift for a certain amount of money, wrap it and bring it in. We always enthusiastically participated. Then it changed to just donate the money and suddenly we stopped. It just wasn’t as fun anymore. People (me!) want to feel warm and fuzzy inside while they give.
  • 2. lots of little gifts of a small amount of money
  • She suggests that if you have the mindset of looking for ways to make the world better for $5 – $20 (for South Africans, I just thought R20 – R100), it’ll be a lot of fun for you. One year I put on my list to pay for the person’s stuff behind me. It was so fun and let’s be honest – I didn’t even miss the money (just think of it as tossing a few extra things in your basket at the till, only healthier!)
  • 3. something larger that you won’t feel
  • This is the most exciting part for me. I have visions of paying for science/ maths camps for 5 kids a year. I have a bias because I studied science. If you know of any in the Joburg area, tell me!
  • But how about starting small and sponsoring a prize for the 3 kids who read the most books in the foundation phase at school? I’m going to do this next year – I just need to chat to the principal and the librarian to get the okays, and really, it’s a couple of thousand rands for me but will make me (and the kids) so happy. When I mentioned this idea to my kids, they were really upset that they’ll not be eligible ๐Ÿ™‚
  • I’ve also thought about sponsoring a Bible college year for one person. These gifts, while larger, will not break my bank of Marcia (I know how to save and manage my money), but it might be just the thing to truly influence another person’s life, and I really want to be part of something bigger than just me.


Some other ideas I’ve heard from friends:

  1. One friend stopped doing Santa Shoebox and decided to buy something (I can’t remember if it was nappies or formula) on a monthly basis for a whole year. She’s not trying to solely fund the children’s home but she knows that every tin of Nan counts or Pampers. Whatever it was.
  2. Another friend buys hot dog rolls and sausages, prepares them and then drives around her suburb and surrounds handing out food to the beggars on the corner.
  3. Another friend makes cupcakes for all the old people at her nearest old aged home.
  4. I used to read a blog where the blogger ran amazon ads and used all that money (it’s really not a lot) to buy diapers for kids. What a great idea!

I support two World Vision kids from the Eastern Cape (I’m from the EC) but this kind of practical thing sounds like a lot of fun that I can do in addition to my monthly subscription. In fact, 2018 marks 20 years of me supporting a World Vision child.

If you’re looking for something meaningful to do, why don’t you purpose now to set aside a certain amount of money every month this year, and make a practical difference. And if you can’t give financially, there is always your time.

Can you think of some easy ideas to experience the joy of selfish giving?

{2018 Annual review} What went well this year?

This is part one of my annual review, where I start with the question I always use:

What went well this year?

  • I read a lot of books (the year is not over and I think I’ll end on around 110). In fact, I read more than I thought I would read, especially since my Goodreads goal was only 80. Many of them were great books, but that’s another post.
  • Book club was so much fun this year. This is year two for us and I think we’ve ironed out almost all of the logistical issues around choosing books, deciding on hosting, bringing eats, and so forth.
  • I had great work rhythms. I should write a post about my end-of-week work routines, but it’s in my Instagram Story highlights if you want to take a look. I’d venture to say if I didn’t have good work habits, things could have been even more overwhelming.

  • The kids were happy at school and with their teachers, and they both still love being active and reading. I also started a kids book club which has been one of the most fun things I’ve done this year.
  • We had 3 family holidays which is perfect. Dion and I would obviously prefer 4; – in 2014, we managed to go on 4 holidays and that was the absolute perfect rhythm…. and was also the last year we didn’t have kids in Big School.
  • ย I did awesome with my sleep. This is a strange thing to put down but it’s something to celebrate for a night owl like me. I’ve been tracking my sleep since 2015 and it’s now a reliable 7 hrs 40 ish with good, uninterrupted, restful slumber.
  • I had a great week of prayer in October. Prayers that were answered (that I know about) – jobs!
  • I did all my 18 in 2018 goals. I did scrape in those last two but there you go.

  • I’m up to date with my photos. I also devised a system for school (see Instagram Story highlights) and holiday photos. A project for holiday photos will go onto my 19 in 2019 list because I’m only up to 2017 with regard to holiday photo printing.
  • I took an Enneagram coaching course which was amazingly insightful and best of all, I think it brought me closer to God.
  • I also took the Four Tendencies deep dive course which was so much fun I will be taking my accreditation early next year to run live, in-person workshops. Isn’t that fun? If you’re local I’d love to have you.
  • As far as the house is concerned, we painted three of our rooms upstairs, one of them navy. We also bought two new couches and a new armchair (these were so overdue – we replaced furniture we’d had for 15 years, and we received those as hand-me-downs from an uncle who was upgrading). And we put in a shower in the kids’ bathroom which was probably the best money decision since we now have our own bathroom completely to ourselves again.ย It’s hard to believe we’ve already been in this house 2.5 years.
  • I exceeded my personal savings goal (I just throw a stretch number out at the beginning of the year and see if I can hit it).

  • My system for tending close friendships is also working great. This is also for another post.
  • I took more than 60 photowalks this year and many drives to look at autumn leaves, winter branches or jacaranda trees.
  • I also decluttered another big stash of books I don’t plan to read and donated those to our local library, I decluttered bags, shoes and scarves (but I know this is ongoing) and gave away more than 60 notebooks. I was not allowed to buy more than 10 – readers, I confess I failed!
  • I put myself out there and ran two blog projects – Spring into Organising and this current project, to write for 15 minutes every day in November.
  • My core is stronger because I’ve now been doing my barre180 class for 16 months.

Over to you.

What went well in your life this year?

Why I no longer have a gift shelf

We’ve all seen the tip to keep some spare gifts on a shelf in case of emergencies.

This is a great idea if you often need a generic gift, and perhaps don’t know the recipient very well at all.

I kept a gift shelf for many years and I was very glad when my kids were in pre-school and attending 10 parties a year for various little classmates.

We used to do a gift on a theme every year so it made good sense to buy 10 colouring books, 10 packs of my favourite colouring pencils and 10 pencil bags, for example.

But very quickly, once the kids started school, I realised that they’re not getting invited to as many parties anymore as the parties become smaller (in most cases) and “close friends only” invites.

In fact, Kendra (9-year-old twin girl) reminded me the other day that she has only been invited to three parties this year and it’s already November.

So there is no longer a need for a gift shelf.

When I realised this fact, I decided to clear my gift shelf by gifting what I’d been keeping to all my Santa Shoebox kids that year. It’s actually really fun for me to stuff those shoeboxes as much as I can. And I love having the extra space at home!

These days I do have a few things I might buy in advance for our own kids’ birthday or Christmas presents (usually books found at a sale, activity books for holidays, or a cute T-shirt).

The great thing is I decided on my limiting container – a clear plastic box the size of a photocopy paper box – and my self-imposed rule (I’m an upholder) is that I’m not allowed to exceed the container.

And for actual friend gifts? I ask the child what their friend would like, we discuss where to get it and then we go buy it. Easy.

This year (my kids turned 9 in July) one of the gifts for a boy was two Horrid Henry books, and some gifts for girls were 1) a beautiful hardcover prompted crafting/ doodling/ sketch book in a nice carry bag and 2) unicorn pyjamas with a set of unicorn notebooks.

If you keep a gift shelf, perhaps ask yourself if the gifts have passed their sell-by date (your kids are older and the gifts are for a younger audience) and you need to move on, or if the convenience of having the gifts on a shelf are not an issue anymore. There may be things on your shelf you’ve had for years.

One thing I’ve done this year for my own friends is if I’m out and about and I see something that is perfect for a specific friend, I buy it whether it’s their birthday or not, and gift it next time I see them. No waiting for birthdays or forgetting where I’ve hidden it! And the best is that people are usually surprised which is super fun!

Do you keep a gift shelf? Why or why not?

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.

How to have the best Christmas ever


I started reading all my old posts about Christmas and realised that I have actually said everything I want to say, so let me link to those posts.

Easy Christmas decorating

Lower your Christmas expectations especially with social media

The Christmas Card controversy

Keep Christmas simple but meaningful

Clever gift ideas for Christmas and throughout the year

and last but definitely not least, my favourite Christmas post ever!

Create the perfect Christmas… for you

What does the “best Christmas” look like for you?

Tell me all your questions and I’ll answer in the comments.

Word of the year and 18 in 2018 update, 3/4 in

Here’s where I talked about my word of the year, fun.

Here’s my quarterly recap at the end of March.

At the end of June, I didn’t recap here on the blog but I did a little recap as part of my half-year review in my bullet journal.

This may speak to some of you but a key mindshift change for me was that I really don’t have to do what I don’t want to do. I’m in charge of my own life.

So I’ve declined invites, changed how I do things here on the blog (have you noticed?), changed other things about how I do my full-time work, and so on.

Here’s a quick list of fun things I’ve done this year:

  1. Enneagram coaching course
  2. Four Tendencies deep dive course
  3. read good, discussable books in book club
  4. started a kids’ book club
  5. tending my friendships
  6. giving lots of gifts, many for no reason at all
  7. I gave a talk to a moms and daughters group
  8. reading only fun books during my birthday month
  9. listening to books on audio that I’ve already read, but knew I would enjoy again (The Happiness Project, Truly Madly Guilty, The Four Hour Workweek)
  10. changing the way I did Santa Shoebox this year (click to Instagram and then click on the red circle under my bio where I talked about this)
  11. danced in Zumbathons
  12. did seasonal photodrives
  13. used fun notebooks and stationery at work
  14. went to watch Crazy Rick Asians with some friends (I never go out at night and definitely not to the movies, so this was enormous fun)
  15. I did a Handyman Course – this was the MOST fun thing ever, possibly because I’ve always wanted to go on a course like this

And now for a brief 18 in 2018 update…

I’ve done 16 of my 18 in 2018 items, and I’ve just scheduled number 17. For some reason I’m getting stuck on number 18…. but there are still 3 months left ๐Ÿ™‚

Over to you!

How are you doing with your word of the year?

You can always change your word if it’s not working for you. To be honest, I briefly entertained the idea of changing my word because I feel like my world’s getting smaller….. but then I realised that is precisely the right reason to have FUN as a word. Hopefully there’ll be a few more fun things to say YES to in the next 3 months.

And if you’re doing 18 in 2018 (there’s a free form you can get here), let me know how it’s going. I do hope Gretchen Rubin does this challenge again next year – it’s been such a fun way of doing goals.

 

My monthly recap for July

I’m smack-bang in the middle of birthday season at the moment, so I’m not going to wait for the actual end-of-the-month before doing my monthly recap.

As an aside, can you see how this Upholder is breaking loose?! The Four Tendencies deep dive course really helped me to clarify why I do things and question whether I want to continue doing them. When I figure out Instagram TV, I’m going to do a little video on my learnings from the course.

Moving along.

Let’s talk about my highlights for July

1. Our family beach holiday. We were in Ballito for a week and I read 5 books, got to nap on the couch one afternoon, watched Wimbledon, and took many many walks on the boardwalk. Also, something weird happens to my body at the coast – I wake at 6.20 every day (I would wake at 9.00 if left to my own devices in Johannesburg)ย  – so I got to watch so many sunrises.

2. I’ve read 10 books thus far. I should finish on 12 for the month.

3. I crossed off something from the house to-do list which was to put in a shower in the kids’ bathroom. It came about in a really standard way for me which is I became irritated with having a messy bathroom every day when I got home from work as the kids used to use my shower. Dion and I are both very neat in our bedroom/ bathroom so I asked for a quote, changed the hardware out once and then paid the deposit and the shower was done.

4. I’ve done all the birthday planning. Two parties down, Dion’s birthday on Friday and mine on the 6th with a lunch on Sat 4th. Last year we had both the twins’ parties on the same weekend – mayhem – so this year we had 1 per weekend. Of course it feels like I’m entertaining for 4 straight weeks (which I am) but it’s been a whole lot more manageable. I’m only two parties in, but so far so good.

5. And for work, I survived the year-end madness ๐Ÿ™‚ I was also up to date two days after returning from leave which is a feat that I’m particularly excited about.

Noteworthy mentions of the organising kind

  • I made updated travel lists and have put them in an A5 flipfile right down to which little travel pouch to use for my bedside table stuff. I’m super thrilled about this tiny little task that took about 10 minutes because now I don’t need to THINK every time I travel. I will just whip out my little flipfile and follow my lists.
  • We used Uber for our holiday again and it was great.
  • I ran a little giveaway on Instagram for Mandela Day and while I thought there’d be a lot more people putting up their hands for a free coaching session, I only had 4 takers, which means those 4 get 17 minutes each ๐Ÿ™‚

Tell me about your highlights and organising mentions this month.

This is how we feel about beach holidays ๐Ÿ˜‰

 

What painting my walls navy taught me



I’ve shared before about my house to-do list. This is a list that has all the things I want to get done in the house – not weekly jobs, but more cosmetic changes.

Some of the items on my list involved painting various areas upstairs, so I finally felt able to deal with the mess and I got some painters in.

They painted my study, Connor’s bedroom and the ceiling in our pyjama lounge.

At one point, Connor mentioned to me that he wanted his room blue. I’m not a fan of any “boring blues” as I call it so I told Connor that we’d have to have the perfect shade if his room were to go blue.

We settled on this very dark navy blue. I was a bit nervous because it was very dark but I felt like the room could take it because all our bedrooms are very light-filled the entire day.

To summarise, we painted Connor’s entire room navy blue (ceiling was white) and one wall in my study.

This is what I learned from painting the walls navy:

1. Trust my instincts

I wasn’t sure about the bold colour but I relied on past experience where I’d used bold colours and they all turned out fine. Most even turned out great ๐Ÿ™‚

2. Nothing is irreversible

At least not with paint colour. I tell myself if I hate it, I can just paint it again. I had a situation perhaps 12 years ago where the paint colour did not look as good on my walls as it did on the paint swatch. I tried to love it for two weeks and then called the painter to come redo it. The good news is that I loved that new colour (Parsley) for 10 years ๐Ÿ™‚

3. Take risks and be brave

I learnt a lot from The Nester about taking risks. She basically says things like “if you hate something anyway, try something new”. I’m all over this advice. Not that I hate white walls, but the point is to take chances. Our houses should be places where we feel safe…. safe to try new things and experiment.

4. You may actually love change

I am not a huge lover of change. But when I decide to change, I usually love it. I realise I have control issues but go with me here. I didn’t think I’d love Connor’s navy room that much but I SUPER-DUPER love it! I also love my navy kitchen so much. It makes me smile daily, especially when it’s clean. If I didn’t take a chance on it (and it should have been green!), I would have had a boring beige kitchen (I can’t even imagine!).

What I want to do with this post is encourage you to take a risk in your home – paint something, move some furniture around, upcycle/ recycle something or buy something.

What will you do? And more importantly, what are you hoping it will show you?

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