Sometimes our eating habits need an overhaul. This is when meal planning becomes your biggest ally.
These past few months we have had to change the way the family eats. I have always cooked fairly healthy, low GI meals but now we have had to introduce carbohydrate free dinners. This has meant that I have had to rethink our entire meal plan.
Meat free Mondays no longer contain pasta or challenge me to make gnocchi. Now it includes things like Frittata’s and salad.
Mincemeat Tuesdays can’t contain spaghetti bolognaise, sloppy Joe’s or even taco’s anymore. Shepard’s pie and cottage pie now either feature cauliflower mash or mashed turnips instead of potatoes.
Wednesday night fish has also become a new adventure, tuna lasagne made with zucchini slices instead of lasagne sheets.
Thursday there is no roast potato with the chicken and beef stew is now filled with patty pans, baby marrow, onions and carrots, there is no rice in sight, unless it’s cauliflower rice!
Friday night is a big night for dinner; we start with soup, then salad and main course and occasionally desert. With it being winter here in South Africa and my family really liking soup, I am having to look up new recipes, the family favourites of potato and leek soup, curried butternut soup are needing an overhaul too, so besides the standard chicken soup, we are now having baby marrow soup, carrot soup, leek soup and a bell pepper soup! I do admit to serving some carbs in the form of couscous or brown rice on a Friday night.
Saturday and Sunday night have always been about leftovers so the meal plan stands unchanged.
No matter who you are a meal plan is essential when changing your lifestyle, I had forgotten how important it is to have a template when planning for your new eating habits. I am not partial to the low carb high fat (banting) mostly because I like my carbs, my breads and pasta’s.
Now lunches include healthy carbs and spaghetti bolognaise is made with zucchini spaghetti. I at least enjoy the challenge of new recipes and cooking challenges.
Have you changed your eating habits recently? Gone on a new diet? How did you make the change?
An important aspect of successful meal planning is timing. When you draw up your meal plan one of the main components you need to keep in mind is your daily routine and how much time you have to make that particular meal.
A couple of weeks ago I made a new recipe for the first time, Beef Wellington. I planned it for a Wednesday night. This was not a well thought out idea. The reason I chose Wednesday is that I work half day, so I knew I would have the time to make this meal and there would be no rush. The only clever timing choice about the Wednesday was that it did take me 3 hours to make the Wellingtons. http://kasheringyourlife.co.za/my-month-with-gordon/
My timing was a little off. I needed liver pate, being strictly kosher, I can only get this from one or two sources and they only make this for Friday as a Sabbath treat! I was two days too early.
Timing for your menu makes your life easier. If you have a lot of extra murals, you don’t want to plan a meal that is going to take an hour if you will only be home at 7pm.
For moms with children doing extra murals (especially in winter) my suggestion is to use a slow cooker. I love the convenience of chucking everything into one pot in the morning, turning it on low and leaving the house. By 5pm the house smells wonderful and dinner is ready. The other convenience is everyone can help themselves (if they are old enough) according to their times.
Another consideration for timing is finger food. If you are going to be running around during the children’s dinner time, why not plan to make wraps? These can also be made ahead, wrapped and kept in the fridge, for everyone to eat later in the car. Wraps are a healthier alternative to take out and cheaper too.
Give meal planning a try and see how much easier it makes your life.
Gordon Ramsay is my chef hero! I think the reason for this is because his philosophy appears to be the fact that good, tasty, healthy food can be simple and doesn’t have to cost a fortune. In February I was gifted his Ultimate Cookery Course cook book.
Being kosher, recipes are often a problem when they are in a celebrity chef’s cook book. I have to substitute a lot of ingredients or the equivalent is unavailable and I have to try and make my own. Also these recipes tend to be long and complicated; it is easier to make up my own.
A client had told me about the TV show and that there was a cookery book out with the recipes shown on the show. I was so excited until I priced the book here. There was a special on Amazon, but they don’t deliver books to South Africa. A very kind soul heard my discussion on the books and how I had seen a few episodes and would love to try them.
Next thing you know I am in possession of the cookery book!
For the month of March I made one recipe a week from the book. I am not being paid to review the book or promote it. I will tell you now that I will be making more recipes from the book! Each one I tried was successful even with having to make the necessary changes for dietary requirements.
Two carcasses picked clean! I double the recipe for stuffed chicken as there were 7 for dinner. I made two large chickens with stuffing. The stuffing recipe was easy to make. Even with the two adaptions I needed to make, the chicken was amazing. Everyone cleared their plates and went back for more.
I messed that recipe up quite well and it was still a hit! Firstly I defrosted the wrong meat and ended up with 10 pieces of rib eye steak. I planned the meal for a Wednesday. I needed liver pate (we call it chopped liver) and the kosher butchers’ only have this available on Thursday night. Then I made the mushroom duxelle with ordinary button mushrooms as I couldn’t find wild mushrooms. For pancetta I used lamb maken. I called the new recipe Beef Waterloo.
The recipe made 10 huge Wellingtons. We ate for 2 days and even with the meat being slightly over cooked on the second day, it was still delicious.
While the maken didn’t have the same flavor of pancetta, the fat kept the beef moist. The duxelle worked out well and was very tasty too.
I do admit I will probably only do this again next year as it took me 3 hours to make.
Sea Bream with Tomato and Herb Salsa
I substituted the Bream with Silverfish and I trusted the fishmonger when he said they were the same. My family are not big fish eaters. This dish was amazing and the family has agreed that I can make it again.
I have since started cooking all fish the way Gordon teaches in his show and the improvement is amazing. Fish is still not the most popular protein in my house, unless it is tinned tuna.
I doubled the recipe and it wasn’t enough! I do think I need to invest in a ricer for this one. Gnocchi is quick and relatively easy to make.
I have made gnocchi before and even though it was nice, it was quite stodgy. This time the gnocchi were almost perfect, light and flavourful, and the one or two lumps didn’t deter anyone and I had to go back and make a second batch.
I now have new recipes to add to my recipe bank and a whole lot more to try.
Who is your favourite celebrity chef and why? What recipes have you made of theirs? Continue reading My month with Gordon
Here are 10 reasons to grocery shop on line. In June 2015 I started this blog and in the first article I spoke about how much I saved with online shopping. Nearly 2 years later, I can still say it is worth the hassle.
Yes it was a huge learning curve on how to do the online shopping and still get everything I ordered. I have learned the best days to order, what I can’t order and what I must specify as ‘no substitutions’. The first time was really painful!
1. You can shop anytime
Our country is held hostage by the taxi drivers, staff at the end of the day are in a rush to get off work so they can catch the last taxi of the day. If you are late finishing work you don’t have to rush to make it before the store closes, because there is no closing time.
2. No rude staff
I have to laugh when I see the signs on the tills that remind staff to greet the customer with a smile. I have seen this very rarely. Customer service seems to be a vague concept that they are taught and then promptly forget. The staff is quite content to carry on their conversation about the evening before, what’s happening in their favourite soapy or how the new ‘protocol’ is unfair or the boss is rude. This is whether the client speaks their language or not.
3. You can wear your pajamas
There is no dress code. Now I have seen people (mostly women) at the shops in their slippers, hair in curlers and once at my local store a lady in her nightie! I am not saying you must get dressed up and made up to go to the shops. I know some would disagree, you never know who you might meet! At least in your own home you can happily do your shopping in your skivvies if you want, no one will judge you.
4. Your stuff is safe!
Shopping from the comfort of your own home, means your wallet, cellphone and children are safe. There are no pick pockets or child snatchers around! No worries about keeping your handbag close or people distracting you so their sticky fingers can lift your property. You don’t have to worry about someone jamming your locking signal and then making off with the contents of your car or even your car itself.
5. Guilt free parking
Since you won’t need your car, you don’t need change for the ‘car guard’ to help you unpack your trolley or help you reverse out the parking that you got into quite easily on your own. I don’t always have change as I use my card for most things and then I put that in my phone cover and leave my bag at home. I have a savings option on my card, where the total purchase is rounded up and the difference is put into a little savings account. Sometimes when I do have some change with me it is only 50c or so and I feel guilty that with my huge shopping trolley all I can give is some tiny change. I did try once to give a guy a can of food and he handed it back to me with a disgusted look.
6. You save money
One thing about online grocery shopping is that impulse buying is reduced to a minimum. You have your list and you search for those items only. There are no checkout counters, so no sweets or chocolates to tempt you. You aren’t wandering up and down aisles and taking things off the shelf, because they caught your eye.
Another thing I learned to do is to open the profiles of the stores that offer online shopping and compare prices. You can shop at 3 stores at once (maybe soon other grocery stores will offer online shopping). You get to choose your products and make use of any specials that are offered.
7. It’s environmentally friendly
When you shop online you have the option of saying no to plastic bags! This not only helps the environment, it helps your pocket too. The delivery arrives in plastic containers, which are then unpacked in your home, no having to worry about carrying heavy stuff or plastic bags breaking.
8. You can shop in stages
One thing that I am sure has happened to you, I know it has happened to me more than once. In fact it happened just last week. You are in the store and shopping is taking longer than planned. Suddenly you realise the time and you have to be at a meeting or fetch the kids from school, an extra mural or a friend. This means you are either going to be late, not going to be able to complete your shopping or have to abandon your trolley all together and come back another day. You land up with your shopping
Shopping online means when you can come back all your groceries are still in your trolley where you parked it. You don’t have to start again; nothing is going to go off, because it sat in the car while you did lift schemes.
9. You can take as long as you want
This goes a long with the last point. You can shop in stages. It can be days or weeks. You can add to your trolley anytime you want. If you log on and add to your trolley as soon as something is finished in your cupboard, you will not leave anything off of your shopping list.
10. No children
Shopping with babies and small children can be difficult. Having to push your trolley and control an over tired toddler can cause any mom to have a meltdown. Shopping online means you avoid, cranky, tired children, your own children and other people’s children too. It also means that if it is nap time, you can stop shopping, put your child down for a nap and go back to shopping. There is no nagging for this toy or that sweet. This applies to children of all ages.
For breast feeding mom’s it means you can feed in comfort while still doing the shopping. No one complaining about you feeding in public, no having to go feed your baby in the public bathrooms either or going to sit in your hot car for privacy and then having people look in your window.
Some smaller stores allow you to phone in your order and they deliver, this is usually the butcher and specialty stores and has the same benefits of online shopping.
Do you online shop and if not, I would love to hear why not?
Going on a picnic can be both fun and exhausting. Fun as it is great way for family to spend time together. It is exhausting, as you need to organize the food and cold drinks, cutlery and crockery to take with you.
Planning a picnic is quite an undertaking, especially if you have small children.
Venues are important as you want somewhere where the children are safe can have fun running around, riding bikes and enjoying themselves, where you can relax and not worry too much. So avoiding places with large bodies of water might be a consideration.
A great venue with little children and babies, is your back/front yard. Very little traveling is required, you know it’s safe and if you forget anything it is not far to go to fetch it!
Then there is your comfort, beach chairs for those who prefer not to sit on the ground. Ground cover that is large enough for the rest of the picnickers.
Plates, cups and cutlery are also a consideration. Do you have a stock of disposable items to use at the picnic or are you going to use your normal everyday cutlery and crockery?
If you are using disposables, don’t forget the trash bag for your rubbish.
What to eat?
Now for the most important part of picnic, the food. What are you going to be serving at the picnic and how many people are joining you?
Salads are usually standard potato salad but what if you want a bean salad or a green salad with dressing? Containers need to suit your salad. Potato salad doesn’t need to be in an airtight container but a salad with a dressing or sauce will need to be properly sealed.
Are you taking cold meats or cold meat sandwiches? Cold meats are easy, you take them as they come packaged. If you prefer sandwiches are you going to prepare them at home or are you taking bread and spread with to make the sandwiches at the picnic?
The bee issue
Sugary drinks attract bees, so if you have anyone with an allergies then cups with lids and bottles that close are better than cans, water is better than either. If you are me though then water is not going to cut it on a picnic.
Serviettes (napkins), I always forget the serviettes! Hand wipes are a good idea for sticky fingers as ablution facilities are not always nearby.
If you plan for your picnic beforehand, not only will it be less stressful on you but you are able to plan a healthier picnic than you would in a last minute dash for the picnic basket.
When was your last picnic? I don’t think my family has been on one in at least 5 years, teenagers with a social life don’t seem to keen!
What’s in the pantry?
Your pantry cupboard is an important part of your kitchen. If this is in a mess and dis-organised, it is not only difficult to decide what to make for dinner, but it also wastes money.
How many times have you gone to the store bought something only discover on your return that you already have 2 or 3 of the same product in the cupboard already! I own my kitchen, do you?
Being kosher means that we can’t always get a lot of food stuffs, so I developed a habit of buying unusual kosher products, which then sat in my cupboard for years. Last year I got rid of 2 cans of waterblommetjies. They had expired 3 years before.
The expiry dates on canned good is not really an expiry date but more of a date of when the producers will no longer guarantee the quality of the product inside. As long as the can is not bulging your food is safe to eat.
I did think, however, that having sat in my cupboard at least five years and still not been used in a recipe, it was unlikely that I would ever make a waterblommetjie bredie (stew). There were also other products that needed to be tossed.
Keeping your pantry cupboard tidy and organised is a must if you want to stop wasting time and money. If you ask a family member to look into a disorganised pantry cupboard and pick something to make, 9 times out of 10 the answer will be, ‘there’s nothing to eat’!
Keep like with like
Keeping items of a similar kind together will definitely make your time spent in the kitchen easier, cut down on your grocery bill and allow you to use up products before they expire!
It doesn’t need to be OCD tidy to be organised. If you have all your baking ingredients, your pasta’s and cans on their own shelves, condiments together on another shelf and spices together on a different shelf, you are what I consider organised. Items don’t need to be alphabetised or facing the same way, unless that’s what you want of course, but being arranged like with like will be enough.
Follow in the group as we get through the week with short daily tasks to organise the pantry cupboard https://www.facebook.com/groups/gettingsorted/.
Planning for 3 meals a day is important when you are trying to follow a healthier eating plan.
Starting off well
Breakfast is purported to be the most important meal of the day as it helps to kick start your metabolism after a 6-8 hour fast (sleep).
One aspect of meal planning is that you are able to plan your meals according to you and your family’s activity levels.
What your first meal of the day should be, depends entirely on what activities you will be doing during the morning.
Fuel for the day
For adults at a desk job, who go straight from home to the office, or go via the schools, you want to plan a meal that is low GI and low carbs as you will not be expending too much energy.
However, you still need to eat something that will keep you feeling satisfied, at least until your tea break.
Eating to exersise
On the other hand, if you are stopping off at the gym for a workout, you will need to plan your breakfast accordingly.
A cardio workout allows you to have a little extra in the carbohydrate department, while a strength workout would require you to take in a little more protein for your first meal of the day.
The midday meal
Lunch should be your biggest meal of the day. However, for most of us it is a hasty meal at our desks. Once again, when planning your lunch meal, you need to take into account what you will be doing in the afternoon.
A daycare worker may require higher energy producing foods than an executive, no matter how busy you are.
What’s for dinner?
The evening meal should be lighter and more easily digested than the midday meal as you will most likely be going to sleep a few hours after you have eaten.
This meal should also be the lowest GI as you want it to keep your blood sugar level fairly constant throughout the night.
A low GI food is a food that will keep you feeling full for longer as it helps to keep your blood sugars on an even keel.
When your blood sugar drops, you are left feeling hungry and often craving for something sweet. Eating fruit first thing in the morning can keep you going till lunch time but be careful, not all fruit is low GI.
Apples, oranges, peaches, cherries are a good low GI fruit, while watermelon is definitely not! If you are going to the gym then a banana would be good, along with raisins and other melons.
Healthy eating is about conscious eating and meal planning plays an important role in this.
If you are not following any type of eating plan, why not try a little experiment? For two days keep a food diary. Every time you eat anything, write it down. Next, try and create a meal plan just for the following two days and watch your eating habits change.
Remember that meal planning is best done after a meal, so that you are less inclined to put high energy or comfort foods into your plan.
One of the tricks that has got me through meal planners block, is theme nights.
I don’t mean elaborate themes, I just mean creating a template for yourself that will make meal planning, in all aspects, a little less stressful.
What is a theme?
A theme is whatever idea you want it to be. Some of the examples I have used are:
Countries of the world
Jewish dishes from around the world
I love Africa
Cooking shows I love
Success and failure
Some were harder to follow than others. For example, the dinner from Russia was a total disaster! Vareniki- I don’t know what I did wrong, but they were totally inedible.
Others, like my cashew nut chicken, are such a hit that they now appear on my meal plan once a month.
The homemade pasta that I learned to make from watching MasterChef and Gordon Ramsay were another rebounding success.
How to decide
Using current trends to create themes is another easy method. Meat free Monday, Banting and LCHF (low carbohydrate, high fat) recipes are another method. You don’t have to follow the diets themselves, just some of recipes that your family might enjoy.
A basic template can actually be used when changing lifestyle eating habits to control your food choices.
Creating a template for your plans can sometimes be difficult and other times quick and easy. However, once created, the actual meal planning time is cut almost in half. Monthly Menu Planner and Shopping List
Decide what night you will be eating which type of meal. Here is a basic example of a template.
Monday- Meat Free
Tuesday- Mince (any kind)
Thursday – Chicken
Friday – Red Meat
Saturday – eat out
Sunday – pizza
Weekly menu planner and shopping list
Love it or hate it
Whether you love cooking or hate it, whether you are a contender for MasterChef, or you can barely boil water, what a template allows you to do is cook within your preference.
I am one of those people who love cooking. I am also a pretty good cook and love to try new recipes. Thankfully I have a family who like to eat and aren’t too fussy about their food choices.
I use meat free Mondays to make mac and cheese, tuna or vegetable lasagne’s and often to experiment with vegan recipes.
For mince night, I have a standard set of about 10 recipes, some more involved than others, which range from Chilli Con Carne to Sloppy Joes, Taco’s, Bolognaise, Cottage Pie, Shepard’s Pie, Mince Pie, Meatballs, Meatloaf and a few others.
For fish night, I have a few standards that I dare not alter too much. Haddock and Spaghetti, Hake and Basil Pesto, Grilled Fish and Chips, Crumbed Fish Cakes and Crumbed Fillets. There are a few more but I don’t make them often as they are either too expensive or the majority of my family don’t eat it.
Chicken night is another favourite meal and I can use this to try out new recipes.
Red meat night could mean stews or roasts and is another time where I can play with recipes.
As you can see my family are definite carnivores. Saturday and Sunday nights, we eat whatever is going. In a house full of teenagers this means they are mostly all out on Saturday night and we pretty much scrounge in the fridge for left overs or we have eggs or I will make pizza for supper. Sometime it is simply soup and toast.
Find freedom from the stove
Your template does not restrict you, it actually allows you to play around. You don’t need to follow a recipe either. If you know that tonight is mince night, you can take your meat out the freezer, come home and make whatever you want.
Another advantage is, if you have a whole lot of recipes you like, you can plot them for a month or more into your chosen nights.
Why not give it a try and see how easy meal planning can be?
A meal plan can save you money. If you are budgeting you need to do this
Even if you think you are good with budgeting, you may be wasting money without even realising it.
My first time
The first time I created a meal plan and took the shopping list with me to the store and stuck to it, I spent less than ever. I didn’t have to worry about whether my card would have enough money in or not.
Feel like you are earning more
Since then my saving skills have gotten a lot better, at one time my eldest daughter even asked if we were earning more money. In previous months, by the last 10 days before payday the pantry cupboard, fridge and freezer were ‘empty’ and now there was food to be had all the way through to the end of the month.
The truth is that the pantry while on the lean side, wasn’t empty but because there were no meal plans, what was in the cupboards didn’t seem like food, so we ate a lot of pasta in those days.
Literally from the first month of meal planning all that changed. I ‘shopped’ in my kitchen first and did an inventory of what I had. I took this inventory and scoured my recipe books, then stumbled across a site called ‘myfridgefood.com’. On this site you type in your ingredients and it searches the internet for recipes using those ingredients. I then drew up my shopping list for the items I didn’t have.3 Steps to Mastering Your Grocery Bill
In house trainning
I did have to retrain the family to not help themselves to whatever they wanted. The salad drawer in my fridge has been turned into a snack drawer. Anything in the drawer can be taken without asking permission first, the rest is off limits, without consulting me first.
Now that we have a meal plan in place, we are also discovering a hidden saving. There is almost no food wastage any longer. I only buy what I need, occasionally I will get something that isn’t on the plan. Often, this is the food that usually gets thrown out.
My meal planning is not perfect, when I am stressed, or tired, I will either not plan properly, or just ignore the plan all together.
10 simple ways to save money with meal planning.
- Create a meal plan, whether it is a weekly one, or like I do, a monthly one.
- Based on your meal plan draw up a shopping list and stick to it
- Look out for bulk specials, then cook and freeze for later. Once frozen, you can put it into a future meal plan.
- When possible, plan using specials that appear in the local papers.
- Whether you have a meal plan and shopping list or not, do not shop when you are hungry, tired or feeling sick. You will then most likely not be able to stick to your list and you can end up buying food you don’t need
- Don’t go to the grocery store more than once a week if possible. A minimum of 10% of the final bill will be things that you don’t need but rather that you want. This is costing you money.
- If possible do not take husbands and children with, this definitely costs you more!
- Shopping in your kitchen, before you go out to a store will also prevent you from buying food you already have and then wasting it.
- Buying bigger size packages is not always cheaper. Compare the prices first.
- The store brand is also not always cheaper than the well-known brand. Check first.
A little change, can make a big difference.
Organised Chaos Calendars
Creating a calendar for the family, helps avoid the clashing of schedules. I know in our house we often seem to go for ages with nothing and then 5 events on one day.
How many do you have?
If your school has 20 children in a class and you have 3 children that could potentially be 60 birthday parties! There are only 52 weeks in a year. This is bound to result in clashes. We haven’t even started with the adults yet.
Let’s cut down to a family with only two children, plus two parents who each have one sibling and two parents. The parents’ siblings also have two children this now takes family birthdays to 16 birthdays for family alone. Granted not everyone is going to have a party, but you still need to keep track of milestones. Things like anniversaries and major birthdays.
Now add in extra murals, and possibly concerts or competitions that go with the extra murals. School sports days and exhibitions that need to be attended, work functions or training that you need to be at and you can begin to see the importance of a family calendar.
Remember you need to add in dentist, doctor and other appointments to the calendar as well and suddenly your calendar is full.
My family calendar not only has birthdays and anniversaries on it, it also includes Jewish holidays and the getting sorted plan, plus my meal planning blog ideas. School holidays add vacations need to be written on so that you don’t double bookings.
To keep track I use different colours for different events. As all my children are teenagers, we have fewer parties but more social events. I use a write and wipe wall calendar and use a permanent marker for events that are not going to change. Birthdays, anniversaries, Jewish Holidays and school terms are all in permanent marker. I use a second colour for meal planning (blog ideas and clients planning), and for Getting Sorted, and another for parties and special events.
One of the most important aspects of this calendar is to update it regularly. Put it in a place where everyone in the household can see it.
I also have emergency and important phone numbers in permanent marker on my calendar.
Are you on the Facebook group, why not join us if you haven’t yet? https://www.facebook.com/groups/gettingsorted/
Do you have a family calendar? I would love for you to share your ideas with us.