Meal tip Monday – Know yourself

One of the secrets to menu planning and meal success is to know yourself. But not only to know yourself, to accept yourself.

Let me give you a few examples:

  1. you might be a cook who likes leisurely weekend cooking sessions but hate the haste of weeknight cooking, or the opposite
  2. you might like the fact that you have to get a meal prepped and put on the table within 30 minutes because the torture is then done
  3. you might be a batch cook once a month and a heater-upper of food
  4. you might be an excellent assembler of random food (do you remember Cher in Mermaids?!)
  5. you might be an excellent orderer of food, or picker-up of convenience meals at the grocery store on the way home

Why is this important?

You know what works, you accept that this is who you are, and you remove decision fatigue thinking through options all the time.

I’ve shared before on the blog that my mother-in-law lives alone and hates cooking (although she’s good at it!) so she cooks four-portion meals for 5 nights every month, eats one and freezes the other three.

These meals change according to the seasons (soups and casseroles feature more in winter) but this system works really well for her.

She doesn’t concern herself with what other people are doing, or that others (like me) would be bored eating the same meal every Tuesday for a month. It works and that’s it.

I am a combination of a Saturday afternoon/ Monday evening leisure batch cook but I also like the competitiveness of getting a meal on the table in 30 minutes or less. I love variety (more on this later) so I like a combination of mixing up some freezer meals with one or two freshly cooked meals too.

The great thing is I know I’m never ever going to like cooking complicated meals so if I glance over a recipe, see that it’s complicated, I can swipe through with wild abandon. No, not for me.

What is your meal planning style? Have you accepted it yet?

I’m actually going through slight boredom with my meals at the moment. Any quick and easy winter meals that you recommend? I would love to hear because I’m tired of chilli con carne, curries and bolognaise. And if you have some tried and tested, easy chicken recipes, I would love those too.

Meal tip Monday – cook a double batch

While I enjoy cooking, I don’t like panicked cooking when my family is hungry and waiting and I have to produce a meal – and quickly.

I therefore strongly believe in cooking a double batch whenever I can.

It takes just a little bit longer than cooking a single batch of your meal – you already have the chopping board out for your vegetables so you might as well chop just a bit more onion or carrots. Instead of adding one can of tomatoes, add two, and so on. Double up on the meat portion.

The magic happens after the meal is cooked though. You have enough for tonight (or tomorrow, as I do it) and another meal for next week!

Which meals translate well to cooking a double batch?

  1. Baked pastas (surprisingly!) but the trick is to not leave it to thaw out on your counter the whole day unless you like soggy pasta. Defrost fast in the microwave and bake it in the oven.
  2. Curries
  3. Chilli con carne
  4. Bolognaise sauce
  5. Enchiladas

Do you cook double batches of meals? If you haven’t tried yet, this is your nudge to do so this month.

PS My mother-in-law has taken this up a notch. She lives alone and cooks 4-portion meals during one week a month. The next three weeks of the month she just pulls out what she feels like eating to defrost it. So clever!

Weekly planning – should you or shouldn’t you?

I started off with the question in the title because we are all different.

I can definitely say that weekly planning helps me in my life, but I recognise that we all prefer to do things in different ways.

If you’re very happy with your current non-weekly planning process, I’m delighted! However, if you feel like things could work a bit better here and there, then, as I always tell my coaching clients, test it and see. At the most, you’ve had two weeks that were more structured and a learning that the exact way you did it wasn’t optimal for you. But who knows? The opposite is also true – you might love something and never stop doing it (menu planning for me the last 15 years).

If you do decide you want to play with weekly planning, here are some ideas you can try planning:

  • meals (supper, or all meals) for 5 or 7 days – put down some ideas and pick from your list every day
  • exercise days – my gym requires that we book our classes to avoid capacity issues
  • connection time with family and friends
  • personal goals – like reading a book or working on your photos
  • house goals – organising your clothes
  • work/ side hustle projects

Please note all of these are just ideas – the thought of doing all of that might overwhelm you. Don’t let it. Pick what you want and leave the rest.

I know that Laura Vanderkam recommends one goal in three areas every week: work, personal, and relationships.

If you don’t like those three categories, choose your own 😉

Who’s ready to try weekly planning? Which categories are important to you?

Other posts on weekly planning:

It’s time to swop out your clothes

We have only 3 weeks left of autumn in Johannesburg (but who’s counting?!) and I’m only now thinking about changing around my clothes.

There are two reasons for that:

  1. the weather is still not consistently cold
  2. we’re still working from home so instead of wearing a short-sleeved t-shirt with my jeans, I now occasionally wear a long-sleeved one

If you’re lucky to have a big enough wardrobe, that’s great, and you probably don’t even need to swop your clothes around.

I don’t have a big wardrobe as you can see… and we do have a definite winter in South Africa even if it’s a short one, so I need to swop things around.

In one of our first houses, I used one of the wardrobes in the guest bedroom (this was before kids) for my out-of-season clothes.

Here’s how I do the seasonal swop:

  1. I put all the hanging clothes on the bed and bring the ones I want to wear into that space.
  2. I then pack away all my summer sweatshirts and replace with my polar fleece ones for winter.
  3. Same with scarves – the lighter ones get packed away and I get out all the woolen ones (I’m sure I love winter for the clothes and the trees!)
  4. I move all the bags I love to be more accessible (I have an olive green bag that I love wearing in these cooler seasons).

While I’m working through this entire process, I “joy check” (a delightful term I found following some Konmari consultants on Instagram) and set aside any items I don’t LOVE wearing or using. I will donate some, ask my mother if she wants some (bags and scarves mostly) and now that Kendra is so tall, I think she will want that striped green sweatshirt. Interestingly, I remember wearing it when they were newborns so it’s held up for 12 years.

In my chest of drawers I also swop around the two drawers with short – and long-sleeved t-shirts. Why would I not take 5 minutes to do it now instead of having to bend a bit lower on a daily basis? That’s a great example of tolerations I spoke about last week.

Is it time to swop your clothes around? Even if you don’t need to do a complete swop, look around and see if you can make a few small changes to bring more joy to your clothing storage and usage?

And tag me @OrganisingQueen if you post some pics. I love to see!

3 things about tolerations, and what to do about them

I’ve written many times about tolerations on this blog but not for many years. I was talking to a coaching client about this on the weekend and was reminded once again of how these creep into our lives so easily.

They are tiny annoyances

They are not glaringly obvious but annoy you just a little bit every time you see them or think about them. So not “I really want to repaint this ceiling” but “we need to knock another nail in the wall to hang that print”. The first is a whole day job while the second will take 5 – 10 minutes.

They drain your energy.

Every time you see that thing, you might feel guilty (I really should change that lightbulb/ clear off that end table/ take that donation bag to the library) because it’s a whole list of shoulds in your head.

Every time you see or think about the toleration, it saps your energy just a little bit. It’s the exact opposite of that frisson you feel when something sparks joy.

They usually don’t take a lot of time to fix

This is often why we don’t put them on our to-do lists as a task because it’s so small. Put it on the list.

Why don’t you keep a list of tolerations and either take an hour, go around your house and fix, change, move, put away what you can, or arrange for a handyman if you need someone else to do it for you (hanging photo frames, fixing a chair, etc.).

A power hour would be a great time to attend to these things.

Your tolerations will be different to mine because we are all different people with different personalities.

If something doesn’t bother you, go well, but I do know that we are all being drained of a little energy in a myriad of ways if we don’t attend to things.

What can we do about them?

  1. Grab your bullet journal or a notepad.
  2. Make a list of tolerations. It will help you to walk from room to room to make this list.
  3. Depending on how comprehensive your list, see if you can do them all yourself or otherwise hire a handyman (I have a regular handyman if anyone is local and needs a recommendation. He also reminds me of things like “it’s time to clear out the gutters” that I can honestly say never even occur to me)
  4. Bonus – schedule a regular slot every two weeks that works for you (maybe Saturday 11 am) and name it Power Hour.

On having things that spark joy

I received a voucher from a stationery shop I frequent 😉 and so one day after gym, I stopped by to choose something to buy.

I have enough notebooks and pencil cases (although can one have enough?!) so I thought I’d get another laptop sleeve because I do pack my laptop away every Friday night.

One immediately caught my eye but I put it back because it wasn’t on sale. I then went looking through the laptop sleeves that were on sale because then I’d only have to spend a very small amount of my own money.

While dithering looking through them, it suddenly occurred to me – why am I doing this? These other things do not spark joy and the one that first caught my eye most definitely does.

Yes, friends, I bought a gorgeous raspberry pink laptop sleeve and I love it!

Just a reminder to always choose what sparks joy 🙂

{Mindset} Establish your personal policies, or decide once

A few months ago on the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast (episode 296 – 21 October 2020), one of the topics was about establishing a personal policy. I loved this podcast episode because it was a reminder to me that

  • I have personal policies
  • I’m happier when I heed them
  • We all have some things we do that make sense to us

It reminded me of the Lazy Genius, Kendra Adachi’s book, The Lazy Genius Way, which I read and loved last year.

One of her principles is to Decide Once.

Decide once is setting a personal policy.

In Lazy Genius language, I decided once that I don’t attend baby showers so it’s an easy decision when I receive an invite to politely decline the invite.

About a month ago, Kendra put up a post inviting people to post how they decide once. The 1744 comments are GOLD. A couple that I love are:

one lady does all phone calls on Thursday mornings only. Genius – you don’t have to have phone dread because you know you’ll take care of things on Thursdays.

another lady changes her contact lenses every time she gets her monthlies so she doesn’t have to remember.

some people have the same gift they give to teachers or for new baby gifts.

The reason I like personal policies is because I love boundaries.

I like people boundaries and I like things boundaries.

Some people boundaries:

  • I don’t attend baby showers. I buy a gift but I hate all the ladies playing silly games (at least that’s how it goes around here).
  • During Covid, I will only meet up with people outside. All book clubs are outside or on Zoom, and when people have come over, we’re outside too.
  • My kids can only have playdates on Friday afternoons. It’s a set time for them so they don’t have to ask continually “can X come over?” They know Friday is the day and arrange their schedules accordingly.

Some things boundaries:

  • If something doesn’t fit in the space, it’s time to declutter until the things fit comfortably again.
  • I decided once what I wanted to save every month, set up an automatic payment and I don’t have to think about it again. When my salary increases, I increase the payment a bit, but that’s the extent of my thinking about money.
  • I have a standard bring-along to a meal if we are invited over to friends. I say, “I’ll bring a chicken” and I bring a rotisserie chicken from a nearby bakery. I also get them to cut it up for me so it’s easy to just arrange on a platter.

Over to you:

Can you name some of your personal policies?

If you honestly don’t have any, where could you incorporate a couple to make your life run more smoothly?

{planning} Let’s do our quarterly planning together

Here we stand at the start of a new, fresh, shiny quarter. If 2021 didn’t start as you wanted, you can let the first quarter go with all the expectations you had for it and just dive into this new quarter.

I spoke before about how and why I love quarterly planning.

Last quarter (Jan – March) I did my quarterly planning but I kept it in my bullet journal. That was…okay, but more inconvenient as I kept having to flip back and forth in the bullet journal to find my list.

This time I decided to write out my list as I did last year but I would then stick it up on the cupboard door in my study (where I now spend 90% of my time!) so I can see it all the time and take action.

And that’s exactly what I did.

Some things I want to do this quarter:

  1. play more (I’m doing Superhero Photo again – it’s a photo course I did about 8 years ago – I saved the emails and am working through them again)
  2. plan next quarter’s holiday and hopefully a mini-break at the end of the month as it’s our anniversary
  3. get some inexpensive but effective stuff done in the house (paint my downstairs)
  4. do some once-off coaching sessions (see more below)
  5. see more friends than I did last quarter

Now over to you.

What went well last quarter? Can you replicate it again this quarter? What did you specifically do or which things were in place helping you have that success?

What do you want to do differently this quarter? Are you using your tendency to help you get those things done? If you’re not sure how, book your 75-minute Four Tendencies coaching session with me for $75. If you’ve come on one of my workshops, you get $20 off. Paypal me and let’s get your session scheduled. I can’t wait to coach you.

{time} 3 different ways to think about time

Time is so precious. We’ve also all been at different points of the time continuum during the pandemic. Some of us have felt like we have plenty of time to indulge in hobbies; others (me!) are working all the hours just to keep up.

This is not an article on how to create more time but it is meant to provide some food for thought on how you currently are spending your time:

1. What are your top time priorities?

Yes, the answer to this question changes from life stage to life stage and most definitely during the pandemic. My top three priorities have been my own and my family’s health (both physical and mental), managing my work responsibilities and retaining a semblance of myself with things that are fun for me. Included are eating, sleeping, managing stress, and exercising well. I don’t sleep well if I worry too much about work and I’m not in a great space mentally if I don’t also do fun things for me, so they all tie together.

Can you identify your top time priorities?

If we’re not intentional about our time and how we spend it, I promise you others will fill it up with their priorities. Interestingly, these two things are almost never the same. See full caption from Instagram here.


2. Is your time spent in alignment with those priorities?

If you look over your week or month, does your time spent look like you’re prioritising the correct things? It’s okay if it doesn’t currently align, but at least you now have the awareness.

How will you know that things are not aligned? You can’t find anything in your schedule that aligns with your priorities. Maybe you do find your priorities on your schedule but there’s not enough time allocated, e.g. exercise or hobbies or fun? What are you dreaming about at night? That’s also a signal you’re not dealing with things during your waking hours.

Where do you feel out of alignment?


3. Which time statement do you find yourself saying to yourself or others? Consider these two sentence pairs.

a) I have to
…. feels like you have no choice while I get to…. feels like you have made the choice to do it. The second statement is more empowering.

Example: I have to make the kids’ lunches (sounds like a chore) vs I get to make the kids’ lunches (feels to me like an act of service/ love). Another very relevant one during Covid: I have to work late (you have no choice in the matter)  vs I get to work late (I have the luxury of no commute so I can put in an extra hour or two occasionally).

b) I don’t have time feels disempowering while it’s not a priority for me right now feels like a carefully-considered time choice.

I get how the second statement can feel awkward sometimes but it’s kinder than not being honest with yourself and others. Brene Brown says “clear is kind” and it feels very kind to me to say honestly if something isn’t a priority in your life at this time.

How has your thinking changed?

{goals} My quarterly goals update

Gosh, we’re one week out from the end of March which means it’s time to review our quarterly goals and set some new ones.

First , a review in case you missed it earlier on the blog:

Quarterly planning
Monthly planning

What went well for me this quarter?

  1. Exercise – regularly doing Zumba twice weekly and my Barre class started up again mid-Feb
  2. My #read21in2021 is going so well. I just set the timer, pick up my non-fiction book and read. I’ve finished nearly 8 books already this quarter (my goal was 6)
  3. House projects – the bathroom reno, fumigator has been, window cleaners are booked for Monday (this is one of those things that people don’t mention when you buy a house on a hill) and we’ve ordered a canvas for our stairwell. 

What could be improved?

  1. I’m still working on setting better boundaries around work
  2. Need to book next holiday so we have something to look forward to
  3. Friend stuff – I can’t build connections via text or whatsapp. I’m phone burnt out 😮 and need to speak on a real phone or look people in the eyes and not via a screen.

How are your quarterly goals looking?

Why don’t you join me and set aside some time in the next week to jot down some goals for the next quarter?

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