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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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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For me, right now: June 2018

For me, right now: June 2018
There have been some cracker winter days

Looking back at June, a clear theme emerges – letting go. At the start of the year, with my son settled into school, I decided to pivot towards more paid work. I told everyone I know that I was looking for contract or freelance work. I crossed my fingers and hoped some work would trickle in. Well, there’s been a steady stream. It caught me offguard. I still consider myself a stay at home mum who works a bit on the side. Well, that was until this month, when some crunching of the numbers revealed I was working virtually full-time and pulling in pay cheques equal to my husband. It isn’t a blip – I’m a working mum now and there had to be changes for that to be sustainable. I couldn’t add in more paid work without letting other things go.

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Just Do It (Yourself)!

There are so many ways you can get a dose of DIY – cooking, crafts, gardening. One I recommend to everyone is making your own household cleaners. It’s something we all use regularly and they’re surprising quick and easy to make, plus they’re better for the environment and a money saver.

What’s simpler – picking up your phone and ordering a pizza, or making dough, then kneading, proving, shaping, topping and cooking it?

In comparision to our convenience society, the make-it-yourself ethos of the simple living movement is the antithesis of simplification. However, the judicious addition of a little bit of DIY to your life is worth the effort as:

  • it’s a counter-weight to the norm of consume, consume, consume
  • you can’t beat the satisfaction of making something yourself, and
  • it gives you a real appreciation of what goes into making things.

There are so many ways you can get a dose of DIY – cooking, crafts, gardening. One I recommend to everyone is making your own household cleaners. It’s something we all use regularly and they’re surprising quick and easy to make, plus they’re better for the environment and a money saver.

I’ve been making most of my own cleaners for over a year now. You can find good recipes on the internet and buy most of the ingedients you need from any decent wholefoods store, but I buy mine from Figgy & Co. Not because they’re cheaper (they’re not), but because they have great recipes. Ones that really work for my household. I’ve written a post over on their blog where I share how I got started making my own cleaners . If you’re curious about making your own cleaners, but a bit unsure, head over and check it out. If you’ve got any questions, ask away. While I’m not enthusiastic about cleaning itself, I’m very enthusiastic about cleaning recipes.

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