Tag: Simplicity

How we do meals in my house (or, “Why Woolies is my best friend”)

I am always on the lookout for ways to simplify my life. Usually that means I identify the bottlenecks and try and…well, unblock them. Without a shadow of a doubt, one of the biggest “Ugh!” aspects of family life for me is the whole drama that accompanies the responsibility of making sure everyone is fed. Our house lacks a natural-born cook. In fact, it lacks anyone who even remotely enjoys being in the kitchen. But we all do love to eat. So we clearly need a system that makes this work for us.

Why do they want dinner every single night?
There are between four and six people in the house who need to be fed (two of the kids, StepDaughter and StepSon are with us for half the holidays and every second weekend etc). We have quite varied dietary requirements. The two stepkids follow a somewhat Jewish diet, which we try to honor. So obviously no pork for them, or milk and meat in the same dish. Craig is a bit of a health nut, and really only eats grilled chicken or fish, with side vegetables. Definitely no cream for him! And Zac, Micole and I share the same preferences and will eat pretty much anything that is not too spicy.

As such, it is an understatement to say that Woolies is our friend. It is more like our life support. I do 90% of my grocery shopping there, with the remaining food coming from greengrocers, and sometimes a butcher or a fishmonger.

My rules for food preparation are simple:

  1. Everyone takes care of their own breakfast (Craig or I will prepare Zac’s)
  2. Nothing we eat can take me more than 10 minute prep time (that’s from start to putting in the oven/on top of stove)
  3. I plan our menu meticulously for the week, buying everything for about seven days ahead and freezing as necessary
  4. We have very little junk food in the house and we eat balanced meals that are all healthy
  5. We eat out or order-in as necessary, or as wants arise. That’s usually two or three meals out per week, usually lunch.
  6. We do not waste food. I abhor that.

Because of Rule 2 of above, I am always on the lookout for quick fixes which in my language translates into “food that is bought frozen, and can be simply be popped in the oven for a ready meal” (food prep time: 0 minutes). Woolies offers a lot of such alternatives, but so do food markets and services like FitChef and GingerApple.co.za (which I haven’t yet tried but am eyeing). The one possible exception to Rule 2 are salads…I enjoy making them on the weekends, especially in the warm months, and then we have it with a rotisserie chicken or fish cakes. In fact, I made my first salad of the season today!

Despite my lack of cooking ability (or willingness) I need to emphasize that a)my methods do not cost a fortune and b)we eat very, very well. So, if you are the type to slave in the kitchen for hours on end, good for you. I seriously could not be bothered, even though I grew up in a house where there was a lot of emphasis on the importance of The Home Cooked Meal. Even today, whenever my mother cooks dinner for us (always a treat!), she invites us over for 5pm, but starts cooking at noon. I am not even kidding. I do not take after her! (I should say here in her defense that my kids love my mom’s cooking, and Zac always says that it is so much better than mine because she “makes everything from scratch“. I feel that this phrase sounds as if it is rehearsed, and wouldn’t put coaching-a-six-year-old past my mother!)

The point of all this is that I am never done looking for shortcuts when it comes to food prep. As I discover new ones (maybe other suppliers? or new dishes?) I will post them on the blog. If you have any tips or links, do share.

Sunday Lunch:

A summer salad. One of the few dishes I will actually spend time making!

A shopping day, all to myself. Didn’t buy a thing.

I have had the work version of cabin fever for the past week, so fooled myself into thinking I want to go to Brooklyn Mall and shop. Luckily, neither kid was interested in joining me, and Craig had errands to run so it was just me. Let’s just give you the TL;DR version: didn’t buy a thing.

I think my aversion to shopping was enhanced by the Kondo philosophy of only surrounding yourself with things that bring you joy. This manifested itself properly last December, when I got a bee in my bonnet and chucked out/donated half of all my (and the kids’) possessions. I am not exaggerating here…we got rid of tons and tons of things. And all I could think of was how much money I had wasted but how much “free-er” I feel by giving all the junk away.

Some of the crap that hit the bins

And now, it takes a LOT to convince me to add anything to the contents of my house, or my wardrobe or even my bookshelf. I’m still a sucker for stationery and magazines (but not women’s magazines!). Usually I take the approach of …if I love it, I put it back and see if I love it enough to make a conscious effort to come and buy it the next day. So there were a coupe of things like that today:

  • A round cutting board from Boardman’s, marked down to R100 which is basically free. I jumped at it, but then after spending five minutes in the store I wasn’t sure if I was buying it because of the price, or because I really needed it. So I left it, and …we’ll see tomorrow.
  • A summer scarf at Poetry. I love scarves, because I like the option of covering my neck because that is where I usually feel the cold, even on a summery day. And this scarf had gorgeous colours, and I really loved it. So I will probably go back to buy it.
  • Apple Watch casings. I didn’t know these existed! Basically, they change the color of the case, which really appeals to me because mine is black, which is just too harsh sometimes. I would definitely have bought these on the spot, but today was the one day I did NOT wear my watch, and I wasn’t sure if I had the 38mm or the 42mm one. (Later, I realised I could have just checked on my iPhone Watch app). So I asked the salesguy to keep it for me, and I will def be back tomorrow to buy them! (Cheap too! R350 for 3 covers).

I didn’t want to waste the opportunity of me-time, so I went to Tashas and had their divine custard slice (available only on weekends at Brooklyn) and a coffee shake. Yum yum!!!

Custard Slice from Tasha’s

Starbucks opened in Brooklyn! This looks like a seriously awesome place to work when I don’t want to be at home or in the office. I suspect I am going to make it a daily “coffee-after-school-drop-off” thing. I will take 90 minutes to drink a coffee and catch up on emails and stuff. Maybe have some coffee meets too.

I didn’t actually go to the Starbucks today (Tashas, above!) so will probably take Micole there this evening. She loves it.

Since Craig dropped me off at the mall, I decided to Uber back (I could just walk, it’s about 1.5km! But I had some Woolies groceries). To cut a long story short: I really struggled with pick-up because a)the app does not allow you to determine where in the Mall you want to be picked up and b)their designated pick up point is just opposite the metered taxis, so the driver refused to even consider stopping! It was a royal pain in the butt, and once again raises the issue of …WHERE IS THE POLICE???? Or the Uber intelligence, for that matter. Sigh.

A stolen day, spent in pyjamas

Photo by Aziz Acharki on Unsplash

Craig took the kids to school today, which is a secret pleasure for me, because it means that – unless I have early meetings – I can start the day on my terms. This is always wonderful. Today, for example, I had a arm-long list of things I needed to do, but no need to leave the house to do them. And since my sister dropped off my kids after school, I had no reasons to get out of my pyjamas today. I call that a win, and a pretty damn good start to the weekend.

I washed every single item of dirty clothing in this house, and my housekeeper ironed it all. I feel so settled knowing that that is sorted. Dirty or un-ironed laundry is my pet peeve.

Watched an episode of Grand Tour with Zac. We watched the first episode (the one filmed in Johannesburg), and I thought it was very disappointing. It seemed so forced and scripted. I realise my opinion does not count for much, since I am hardly a petrol head, but still. Hopefully they loosened up later in the season. But Zac seemed to love it, although he was not impressed with the Aston Martin they took for a joy ride. My kid is picky.

Spent 30 minutes calling all the local bookstores to find a specific industry journal, with no success. (I bought last year’s edition from Exclusive Books). Gave up, went onto the publisher’s website, ordered it online and was promised delivery on Monday. I am a sucker for instant gratification, but imagine I had found the book in a shop…I would have had to get out of my pyjamas to go buy it! And then I would have spent the weekend reading it! Instead, I got to stay out of the retail jungle and have a guilt free weekend ahead. I don’t know why I don’t shop online more than I do.

I am feeling a little bit overwhelmed by all the work my team and I have to get through in the next four weeks. End -of-year is always hectic in the health cover industry, but when you try to cover the ins and out of 85 companies who all release plans in the same four week period, then it can get a bit hairy. And, true to my character, the more busy I get the more diversions I find. I shower-stumbled on an idea for a side start-up that could be a)just fun or b)the next big thing. And I so want to do it! And I want to code it myself. But I am going to focus on the real stuff. For now.

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