Meal tip Monday – how to plan for busy nights

Are you enjoying this focussed series? I didn’t want to announce it as such in case it brought up my inner rebel (!) but really, that’s what it is.

If you’ve missed the previous posts, here you go:

cook a double batch

know your style

Let’s talk about planning for busy nights. This might seem obvious but sometimes, and I know this is true for me, I’m planning the menu for the week without looking at my calendar. In South Africa, we have plenty of loadshedding at the moment. These tips work well for those nights too.

Here are a few things to consider:

  1. Check your calendar!
  2. Write in the nature of the busyness on your actual menu plan. For example, “late meeting/ 7pm Zumba/ school meeting, etc.”
  3. Think through if you have any freezer meals that will work and defrost them early.
  4. Alternatively, buy a rotisserie chicken on the weekend, heat it quickly and serve with rolls or crusty bread, and a salad. Chicken has the advantage of being good whether eaten hot or cold.
  • My Zumba nights are our standard “busy nights” on the menu as I arrive home at about 7:30.
  • For these nights I plan a “make your own ________ ” night. Burrito bowls work well because everyone helps themselves and the toppings can be prepared and set out beforehand.
  • Alternatively, I pop a complete meal in the oven and my family retrieves it via a timer and serves themselves. Any baked pasta or enchiladas is a good idea.

Which are your favourite tips for busy nights?

Finding the good part of obstacles (aka loadshedding)

Some of my American friends find the concept of loadshedding crazy. In a nutshell, the power utility doesn’t have enough power to supply South Africa with electricity, so we have loadshedding. Depending on the severity on a particular day of the week, we might have no loadshedding (happiness!), or anything from stages 1 – 3/4.

Many of the municipalities are very organised and if an area is due to be hit say from 6 – 8 pm, then on the dot of 6 the power goes out and exactly at 8 pm, it comes back on.

In Johannesburg, they don’t stick to schedules very well so some days I rush home from work, forgo a lovely winter evening walk because I’m frantically heating food, boiling water, etc. and … nothing. Or we’re not scheduled and we have loadshedding.

Very, very frustrating for all, but definitely for the structured people out there.

You could obviously buy a generator – I still am not convinced…. – and these run anything from R4500 to R30 000 (these are figures two friends have paid). I can think of better things to do with that money 😉


In the meanwhile, there are a few positive things I can think of about loadshedding.

This is not just a post about loadshedding, but about how to use a negative situation to find some good in it:

  1. Traffic is awful with the traffic lights out. I make sure my phone and my power bank are fully charged when I leave the office and listen to audio books and podcasts while driving home. I have never been this up to date with my audios 🙂
  2. We all go to bed earlier. I am a firm sleep advocate and believe 90% of people sleep less than they should (me included), so when there’s loadshedding, we all get to bed earlier and catch up on sleep. I have yet to tally up my sleep for June but loadshedding has definitely increased my average.
  3. I have a mental list of things to do when there’s no power. One of them is editing photos. There is usually enough power on my laptop to work for a good few hours on photos. It is nice to not be that behind anymore.
  4. I can’t go on the internet because the wifi doesn’t work, so I’m finding that I tidy up a few areas of the house that normally I would leave.
  5. Because I know there may be loadshedding at a particular hour, I’m extremely efficient getting going with things like supper, writing a blog post, getting lunches made, etc. while we still have power.
  6. It’s winter so very cold, and so we snuggle and read bedtime stories with the kids in my bed. I ADORE this part of loadshedding.
  7. …and on a lighter note, I’m finally burning all those candles 🙂 Very satisfying for me, as I’m a finisher.

Tell me your stories about loadshedding, and how you’re making the best of it, or other obstacles in your life.

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