How to simplify getting dinner on the table

How to simplify getting dinner on the table - four tips to take the drama out of cooking for your family

At school, I was a diligent student – a “brain strain” as my brother liked to call me – but the only subject I ever came top of the class in was home economics.

I’m no gourmet, but cooking is fun for me, a creative outlet and a way to relax. Or at least it was. Parenthood kind of ruined that.

These days, cooking is mostly a utilitarian activity. Preparing dinner is a precarious mission to get something palatable and vaguely nutritious on the table before someone has a meltdown (usually me).

Cooking dinner for kids may not be a walk in the park, but it doesn’t have to be a nightmare either. Here are four things I do to make it easier.

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For me, right now: January 2019

 

For me, right now: January 2019 - what I've been doing, reading, listening to, making and thinking about #slow living
Living here, we’re not desperate to get away for a holiday

School is back and all of a sudden, it’s stifling hot – it must be the end of January. I’ve had a very chilled-out month, enjoying the school holidays and opportunity to forgo my usual routines.

Introducing Holly and Lenny - two recent additions to our family #slowliving
Introducing Holly and Lenny – they’ve already grown so much since this picture

After Christmas, we welcomed two new members to our family: Lenny (he’s black and white) and Holly (she’s the tabby). We’re enjoying getting to know them and watching them get up to all sorts of mischief. It’s like having a toddler in the house again.

The summer holidays were one epic staycation. We took advantage of the beach being only a stroll away. The wee guy went on a little holiday of this own to my parent’s farm. Mr More Time and I had three nights at home by ourselves. It was quite a shock to the system.

The only big “it’s easier without the wee guy” task we embarked on was clothes shopping. It confirmed that wandering around the shops is not a pastime I miss, not that I was ever a great shopper.

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Nine ways to feel less busy in 2019

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Imagine you could repeat 2018 – carry the same responsibilities, meet the same commitments, achieve just as much (maybe more), but feel less busy. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? Plenty of doing, but no more feeling rushed or overwhelmed. No more feeling like a little mouse on a wheel, legs frantically moving but not getting anywhere. Well, I think you can. In fact, I know you can, because I’ve done it.

Roll back the clock four years and my life was a frantic mess. On the outside, I was the poster-girl for work-life balance – superstar in the office for three days a week and supermum at home with a toddler for the rest. On the inside, I felt like I was being chased across a tight-rope. Eventually, I fell off.

Following the fall, I scaled my life right back. I got myself into a pretty good place. With time, I found the courage to give things a go again. Fiercely protective of my newfound peace and calm, but equally determined to make a bigger contribution to the world, I went about adding things back into my life.

In 2018, I ramped things up. I tripled my working hours, throwing myself into challenging projects. While exciting, it was also terrifying – amplified by the fact I was back working at the scene of the fall, around the same people and on the same projects.

But this time, it was different. In the intervening years, I developed a set of strategies to help me feel less busy and, under pressure, they held up well. They got me through and I’m looking forward to doing it all again this year. Here are nine strategies to make you feel less busy too.

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Enough – my word of the year for 2019

Enough - my guiding word for 2019

One thing I’ve learnt from letting myself slow down is that it’s easier when you have boundaries that force you to prioritise. With this in mind, I’ve chosen “enough” as my guiding word of the year.

I’ll ask myself, “What is enough?” to help me frame what’s in and what’s out in all areas of my life.

Last year, I started using enough lists to simplify tasks and projects. I find them to be a tangible and practical tool for intentional living. I want to apply the same principle to all aspects of my life.

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For me, right now: December 2018

What I've been doing, reading, listening to, making and thinking about in December #slowliving
December – such a contradiction – hectic pre-Christmas and then super chilled out post-Christmas. This is all clearly post-Christmas! Pictures are mostly in and around my parents property.

Looking back, 2018 turned out a lot differently than I expected. This time last year, I had just completed my first freelance project. From there, the work snowballed and I’ve had as much work as I’ve wanted. Sometimes more.

It’s been a great test for my slow-not-lazy approach. I went from working 10 hours per week to 30 and the wheels didn’t fall off. All year, I was nervous about taking on too much, scared I’d end up back on the hamster wheel – endless rushing, getting nowhere. There were occasional blips of busyness, but, for the most part, I remained calm and had time to enjoy life.

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For me, right now: November 2018

For new, right now: November 2018 - What I've been doing, reading, listening to, making and thinking about
It’s the season for everything to happen at once – even rainbows

Wow, we’ve reached the end of November. I can’t say this is my favourite time of the year. As we move into December, everything happens at once, plus I do a lot more shopping than usual.

A year or two ago, we simplified our household finances. We now have two joint bank accounts – one for day-to-day transactions and one for savings. We have debit cards hooked up to the transaction account. It works well, but theee’s one downside to this simple set-up that comes into focus at this time of year – it’s hard to buy a present and keep it a surprise, especially if you buy online!

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Three steps to simplify any activity

Three steps to simplify any activity

My not-so-little-any-more boy recently turned six. We had a party to celebrate. He wanted a big party, if he’d had his way he’d have invited every kid he knows. We compromised on 22.

I’m not going to lie, the prospect of hosting 22 three- to eight-year-olds was daunting! Plus, the timing was fairly awful. Both my husband and I were going to be away (separately) in the lead up to the party and I had a massive work deadline the day before. It could have been a perfect storm of my own making. The kind of thing you avoid if your goal is to banish busyness from your life .

What was I thinking?

I was thinking, “I’ve got this”. Because I knew I did. Over the years of adopting a slow not lazy approach to life , I’ve learnt tips and tricks that help me to cut through the chaos and avoid feeling overwhelmed. I marshalled them all into action to enjoy the birthday party.

Essentially, it comes down to an easy, three step process that you can use to simplify any activity.

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