{Covid-19} How we do 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 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?


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.


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.


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?

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)


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)


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.

This is how I make my house run smoothly

Life is such a whirlwind, isn’t it? If you’re anything like me, it often seems like the weeks go by in a blur of activity…and then it’s weekend again. Or the weekends go by so quickly and when Monday comes around, you feel like you’ve just started to relax and the week is upon you once again.

The problem with this is that we never have a sense of peace, calm and control. A feeling that we are directing the course of our own lives.

I’ve been going through a really hectic couple of months so I thought I’d share some of the systems I’ve set up to make our lives easier:

Household calendar
We have one household calendar in our kitchen where we mark off any commitments like church, school meetings, book club, socials, and so on. I also mark off the recycling pick-up days, when we buy electricity, and when the gardener needs to be paid.

I couple this with weekly planning. I look at my diary on a Sunday and put in my appointments for the week. I also add any tasks that I need or want to work on, like writing blogs, the newsletter and so on.

When you write down everything, and you see your calendar full of events, it’s easy to see where you need to cut back.

Menu planning
I love menu planning because it saves me time. When I say this to people, they think I’m crazy because “how can all that planning save you time?” It’s quite simple – it takes me about 10 to 15 minutes every Friday (if I’m on the ball) or Saturday and that planning saves me time from Monday to Friday, when I need it most. No more standing in front of the open fridge wondering what to make for supper.

The great thing is you can still be spontaneous within the plan. I plan meals for the working week but if I don’t feel like a particular meal that day, I change it around and cook another day’s meal. Like if it’s very hot and I planned to have baked potatoes with a topping, I may postpone that to another day and make a pasta salad instead.

Here’s a detailed look at why you should consider menu planning and  how I do menu planning

Regular decluttering and organising
I tackle 1 -2 areas in our home every weekend. Let’s face it – if we are constantly buying things and bringing them into our homes and lives, clutter is constantly building up unless we get rid of some of it. I agree with Konmari (here’s my take on the Konmari method) that you do a once-off thorough tidy, but if you’re buying things regularly, you need to declutter regularly. I’ve even taught the kids this principle with a glass of water and how it overflows if we keep pouring water in.

It doesn’t have to be a huge exercise. While you’re busy cooking or baking, you can sort out a cupboard or two. I have a tendency of burning rice and carrots so I stay in the kitchen whenever I cook these and use the time constructively to sort out a cupboard or drawer, plan my menus, write out my shopping list, etc.

When you factor in just 15 minutes’ decluttering and organising per space every weekend, you can easily maintain your home if it is already organised. Of course, if your house is nowhere near where you’d like it, I would suggest 15 minutes every day. Download 31 days of easy organising solutions for plenty of ideas.

See the little nook next to the door?

Launch pad
Do you know the place in your house where you dump your bags as you enter? Flylady calls this a launch pad. I like that term because it reminds me of action. We have a little nook just inside our front door that I use for our launch pad.

Mornings are one of the worst times in most families – you can’t find your keys, wallet, bag, etc. Frantic running around and screaming happens and that is just not fun.

The point is that we use our launch pads to ready ourselves for mornings. Every evening I pack my handbag and laptop, and they are left here. In the mornings all I do is grab and go. Literally once I leave the bedroom, I walk to the fridge to get my lunch bag, grab my keys on the way to the launch pad, get my bags and I’m out of there. Two minutes tops!

Over to you. Which systems can you implement to make your life easier this month?


How I do menu planning, and what I cook for my freezer

Have you read my post on why you should consider menu planning?


I do my menu planning weekly but if you’re more of an all or nothing person, you might want to just plan a month’s worth of meals and get it all over and done with at one time.

Weekly or monthly menu planning for you?

I feel like I’m doing that thing with my kids where I say “cucumber or tomatoes?”


A couple of ideas on ways to approach menu planning:

  • have a theme for each day: mince on Mondays/ chicken on Tuesdays/ vegetarian on Wednesdays/ fish on Thursday/ easy Friday (pizza/ eggs/ soup)
  • cook a certain number of nights and use freezer dishes for the rest
  • delegate certain nights to your spouse

How I do it

1. Generally, D does supper on Tuesdays and Sundays. The trick when you delegate is you are not allowed to say a single thing except “thank you for the lovely supper”. They will stop if you nag about anything. Tell yourself the kids will be fine without vegetables for 1 – 2 nights. I don’t write anything on my menu plan except “D”.

Sundays is usually toast with peanut butter, cheese, etc. and this is (sadly) the kids’ favourite meal of the week.

2. According to my daughter, we always have rice on a Monday (I checked my menu plans and turns out, she’s right 🙂 I haven’t intentionally planned it like that, but I do like rice/ pasta/ rice/ potatoes/ bread-based within my 5 meals.

3. We very rarely go out for supper because 1) I can whip up a pasta quicker than us getting ourselves sorted and to the nearest place and waiting for our meal 2) we prefer lunches out

4. I cook a lot on the weekends. Not every weekend, but about one or two weekends in a 5-week period. That feels about right to me. I may make 3 meals but I cook double so that’s 6 nights’ suppers sorted.

5. Leftovers. Don’t discount the leftovers. Those meals I cook on the weekends last longer than I anticipate because often we don’t have to have the 5th meal of the week because there is enough leftovers. Sometimes I’ve had supper out, sometimes D only wants half of his supper because he’s home later, and so on.

Meals that freeze well

Some people think potato or pasta doesn’t freeze well. I have done both and the meals are still perfectly fine. I think the trick is to not let it thaw forever out on the counter because your food will get watery (yuck!). I put it in the microwave to defrost it a bit for about 6 minutes (that’s two presses of the quick defrost button on my microwave) and then straight into the oven to crisp up.

  1. Cottage pie
  2. Baked pasta dishes. When you cook one dish to have “fresh” on the night, do another dish for the freezer. Put it in the casserole dish, put some cling wrap (Saran wrap) on the top, and into the freezer.
  3. Rice
  4. Curries
  5. Bolognaise
  6. Chicken a la King
  7. Taco mince
  8. Chilli con carne
  9. Chicken and broccoli casserole
  10. Soup and the rolls 🙂

and so on (share your ideas in the comments please)


Do you menu plan? Weekly or monthly?

Do you cook freezer meals? Which ones are your favourites?

Why you should menu plan

I was chatting to a friend a few weeks ago and I told her that when things feel like they’re going off track, there’s one thing that I need to do: make a menu plan.

Today, let’s talk about why I do menu planning (I’ve been menu planning for 11 years now), and why you should consider doing so too.

Do you menu plan?

Good reasons to menu plan

  • it saves you daily decision time
  • saves you money when you use up all the food in the freezer and pantry, and stops you buying foods you don’t need
  • no stress about what to cook every night as even if you don’t feel like eating what you put on your menu, you know there’s at least 4 other options to choose from

I play a little game with myself and aim for sticking to the menu plan 4 out of 5 nights. Remember I’m not a perfectionist. Good enough is better than perfect.

How do you start menu planning

Note – please do this before you go to the shops to do your grocery shopping 😉

1. Go to your freezer and cupboards to see what food you have that you need to use up, and make a list.
2. Write out a menu plan for a week (if you do weekly shopping) or longer, using recipes to use up that food. Get creative.
3. Add any items that you need to your weekly shopping list and do your shopping. You may have some pasta and cans of tuna so in order to use them up, you might need a few cans of tomato.
4. Stick the menu plan to your fridge.

Now you don’t have to rack your brain every night wondering what to cook because you have a plan.

Another tip that will save you lots of time is to cook something on a Sunday afternoon. This meal is not for eating that day, but for freezing. I heard a podcast recently (I don’t know how she does it – an Aussie podcast) where the lady said she makes all the lunches for the week on a Sunday afternoon and while she’s doing that, she bakes muffins or bread. Brilliant!

When you have a busy day it’s easy to just defrost the meal and have a healthy supper on the table in minutes.

We went through a stage where we didn’t buy any meat for two months while we finished everything in the freezer and started on the cupboards. You see, we all get into a habit of buying the same groceries every week without checking if we really need it.

If you’re not already menu planning, I’d like to encourage you to at least start. Do so for at least a month, give it a good go and see if it doesn’t save you time and money.

And if you already do menu planning, then your challenge for this week is to only buy perishables and eat from your freezer and cupboards.

Are you menu planning?

Is there anything you’d like to change about your process? Do you have any special tips?

PS Look out on Thursday for how I do my menu planning and some freezer meal ideas

What kind of food planning do you need?

I figured something out ages ago.

When life feels too busy, the one way I can restore some order quickly is to menu plan.

I’ve been menu planning about 9 years now and it’s the best! It saves time because you’re not thinking about what to cook every night, and money because you buy exactly what you need.

Grocery prices in South Africa (and I’m sure over the world too) have skyrocketed, so if you can save money, that’s always a bonus.


I usually only plan menus a week at a time, but I really want to get all the “old food” cooked and eaten, so this weekend past, I menu planned for two weeks.

My menu planner hangs on the side of our microwave, and is one I get from CNA. I buy whichever ones are in stock at the time, but I really love the current one I’m using because it has notes down the right, so I can note down which meals are in the freezer, or which I have to cook from scratch. I also use that section to plan my lunches for the week.

I’ve said this before but it’s worth repeating – as long as you have your 5 meals “ready” on the list, you can mix them up. If you don’t feel like pasta but it’s on the plan for Monday, do the meal for Wednesday instead.

Menu planning helps you use up food too and I can tell you my kids are so glad the broccoli is all used up now because we had that twice this week 😉

IMG_0930 Do you menu plan?

If yes, do you plan weekly, two weeks at a time or a month at a time?

If no, what’s stopping you? Why don’t you give it a bash, just for a week?

PS Friday evening/ Saturday morning is when I menu plan for the following week because Dion goes shopping on Saturdays. I have strict rules for myself – we never just “pop” out to the shops; we make do if we don’t have what we wanted. As I always say, no-one’s going hungry; it’s just that your first preference might not be available 😉

Let’s talk about menu-planning – part 2

We’ve spoken about menu planning before; this time let’s talk about the how.

I like to keep things reaaaaaally simple.

So we have a very easy plan.

Menu planning | www.OrganisingQueen.com

1. Use a printable or meal planner pad and keep it visible

For years I used the printable in the Household Organising Kit (part of the Organise your Home printables). These days I buy a menu planner pad from CNA and stick it to the side of the microwave so it’s visible to me, D (if he’s interested) and our nanny.

2. Mark off challenging days

On Wednesdays I go to Spanish dancing so supper is always a freezer-ready meal. I start cooking the pasta and Dion finishes it so that he and the kids can eat. I eat once I’m home just after 8.

If you have after-work activities, those are the nights to keep things easy. No-one died from having a sandwich and salad/ soup for supper.

When one of us has a work or other function where we’re going to be eating, that’s the night to eat the meal the other isn’t wild about 🙂 When I’m at home with the kids, we’ll have leftovers.

3. Have loose themes

Some people like to have Meatless Mondays, Beef on a Tuesday, Chicken on a Wed, etc. I like pasta on Mondays and Wednesdays, rice on Tuesdays and Thursdays, potatoes on a Wed and easy meals on Fridays. I almost never plan the weekend meals as we eat whatever I feel like doing…

Decide on your themes and write them down.

Menu planning | www.OrganisingQueen.com

4. Add meals from your freezer or pantry

I decide what we feel like eating from the freezer and what we (I) feel like cooking. If you don’t look in your freezer regularly, you’ll forget what’s in there. Which reminds me, I have some waffles we need to eat 🙂

5. Get creative

I aim for once a month but in truth it probably only happens once every 6 weeks. That’s the week I get creative and use up any odd bits of meals/ veg/ pantry items to create meals.

That’s how my sausage chicken and sweetcorn pasta originated… which is now a regular occurrence.

Sometimes the combinations are a bit strange so I’ll need an ingredient to create a decent meal, and that’s fine.

The point is to use up things you’re mostly likely to ignore.

Annnnnd that’s it. That’s how I do my menu planning.

How do you do your menu planning?

Let’s talk about menu-planning – part 1

Menu planning | www.OrganisingQueen.com

I always get a lot of questions about how I do meal planning, my thoughts, preferences and so on.

That’s not a surprise since I’m also a very curious person and if I were sitting down with you, I’d ask you for your details too!

I meal plan because it saves me TONS of time, I don’t like to wait for food when I’m hungry (and it seems my kids are the same) and it saves us money too since we “eat from the freezer and pantry” once a month.

1. Main meal

I like to cook the main part of the meal and have that portion in the freezer. This includes things like bolognaise sauce, chicken and broccoli, chicken a la King, kidney bean and tomato sauce, curries, etc.

How do I decide which meals to cook for the freezer?

I have a list of our family favourites so I can always refer to a list. But I do have it on my goals list to try 2 – 3 new recipes every month. My Pinterest board has to count for something. My only rule is that it has to be a quick meal. I can’t abide meals with too many steps or ingredients – I get tired before I’ve begun!

2. The carbs

Mine is a carb-eating home. If you’re on a different diet, ignore this point.

I generally cook carbs on the night, but we do freeze any leftovers in the correct portion sizes so that it’s easier on a leftovers night. We eat pasta, rice and potatoes. Sometimes we also have wraps – I used to buy them but I discovered these wraps and I’ve been hooked ever since.

3. Veggies

We cook veggies on the night only. I do keep some frozen vegetables like peas, corn and pumpkin (South Africans, I love the McCain pumpkin chunks) but most are cooked “fresh”.

Menu planning | www.OrganisingQueen.com

4. Pizzas

We make our own pizza bases from a super easy recipe I picked up somewhere years ago. I also mix in spinach and now the kids only know spinach bases as pizza 🙂

I always have a couple of bases ready in the freezer so we can whip up a healthy, homemade pizza whenever we want.

5. Friday night easy meals

On Fridays we like easy meals. I know this is traditionally a take-away night in many households but I’m … fussy and I honestly prefer to whip up something quickly than to drive somewhere and get it.

We have pizza, burgers, omelettes, etc. and in winter, soup and a toasted sandwich.

6. Leftovers

I never throw leftovers away. Ever.

Even if there’s just one portion, I save it. That could be a lunch for me or if a bit more substantial, we could add a big salad and garlic rolls to make it another meal.

That’s my system.

What are the components of your menu planning system?

PS even if you think you don’t have a system, you probably do 🙂

You ask, I’ll answer – easy menu planning

Nta asks…

I would love to menu plan but haven’t had much success with my current method.

Can you suggest a structure that’s easy so that I can maintain it long term?


Self-portrait while on holiday in Ballito

I believe in very loose menu planning.

What that means is that I plan to have meals for about 5 days but I move the days around as things take my fancy or according to the weather.

I do aim to cook 1 – 2 new recipes (from my Pinterest boards) every month but for the most part, my family has about 15 – 20 meals we all LOVE and we rotate these every month or so.

I might have these 5 meals planned:

  • M – chicken stir fry
  • T – pasta bolognaise
  • W – tuna rice bake
  • T – sausage and tomato casserole
  • F – lentil and vegetable soup with garlic rolls

If Tuesday is particularly cold, I may do the soup then instead of on Friday.  If I’ve had to work late on Monday, instead of all the chopping that stir-frying involves, I may do the pasta instead.

The point is to have the freedom within a bit of structure.

This might or might not work for you.

I also like the following idea in theory. I say in theory because I get bored with food very quickly so I need lots of flexibility.

However, you could have a system like this where every week you have a dish from a category:

  • M – chicken (plan any of your repertoire of chicken dishes)
  • T – fish
  • W – vegetarian, maybe with kidney beans/ lentils, etc
  • T – pasta
  • F – pizza

Readers, do you have any tips or tricks to help Nta?

Have you made your menu plan for this week yet? It’s not too late!

{31 days of easy organising solutions} – shop with a list

Today’s tip goes hand in hand with menu planning.

I’d like to suggest that every menu planning family does things in this order to save some money:

  1. check the pantry and freezer to see what you need/ want to use up, which foods are approaching sell-by dates
  2. make your menu for the week ahead using a lot of those ingredients
  3. then add to your grocery shopping list


We often get into the habit of buying things on a weekly basis without first checking if we actually need all those items.

I don’t do things as diligently as this suggests every week but at least once a month, I have a week where I force myself to get creative and use up everything. There is nothing that thrills me like an empty fridge and freezer.

It just so happens that this is that week.

Let’s see – we’ve had leftovers from a friend, other leftovers from hosting friends (I made fresh sides), a meatless pasta dish to use up lentils and tomatoes, etc. It’s huge fun to stretch your creativity!

Do you have a creative food week too? How do you make sure you get through all the food in your house?

Have you checked out my book, Live Organised, yet?


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