Simple Goodness – Guest Blog By Lucy Curtis.

Posted on August 29, 2012

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Today, we have my lovely friend Lucy Curtis back on Mumchic to share with us simple, time efficient ways to plan ahead in our busy lives. As Lucy explains, a little planning goes a long way and you will see how. If you are a part of a busy family or household, this post is sure to inspire you. Over to Lucy !

 

 

 

A Simple Good Food Idea – By Lucy Curtis

I want to share with you really simple idea – a way of saving money and time, keeping healthy and connecting with your family all in one easy step.  For years now I have been carrying out this easy idea and it still amazes me how something so simple can make such a big difference to my life and my family’s life. The busyness of our day to day lives means time and patience are particularly stretched after a long and tiring day, so when evenings too quickly roll around, cooking a family meal seems a monumental task – so alternatives like takeaway or frozen foods, high in fat and kilojoules are an easy, if unhealthy route to getting a meal on the table.  But by simply putting aside some pleasant time once a fortnight to plan Meal Menus for the weeks ahead, you give yourself the gift of advance planning which can make all the difference in the world.

Every fortnight at about the same time Sunday afternoon I gather my supplies – a few recipe books, seasonal food cooking magazines, sometimes the laptop for online recipe sites, a notepad and pen for the Menu List and a comfy spot to sit. I first begin by checking the family calendar and noting the schedule for the weeks ahead. I make a simple fortnightly list with a space for each day and add a word or two in the border reminding of any special happenings; the likes of  play-dates, sports training, ballet lessons or appointments, in fact anything which ‘eats’ into precious food preparation time in the evenings.  I then happily flip through the recipes and gorgeous food photos, dreaming of (and drooling over) the delicious meals we’ll share at our kitchen table. When I’ve finally decided, I pop the recipes with page numbers and places I found the recipes on the Menu List and we’re ready for action.

But I have my rules – meals need to be as healthy and nutritious as possible, containing recipes and unique flavours from various cuisines as well as including a wide variety of fresh and seasonal vegetables and herbs. We’re lucky enough to have our own vegetable and herb garden so harvesting as many fresh vegetables for the Menu List means each meal will have an added burst of nutrients for us all. Also included in the rules is the inclusion of pasta and rice dishes, preferably wholegrain, as well as beans and lentils at least twice a week. Egg dishes from our clucky back yard chickens are popular, economical and tasty and quality meat, fish and chicken dishes for much needed protein. Fresh herbs from the garden, give added flavour and texture as do the addition of spices which prevents ‘food boredom’ setting in. Homemade vegetable or meat stock added to soups and casseroles makes a big difference to flavours and are easy to prepare and freeze in small amounts for later use.  By keeping an eye on the budget I also alternate the meals with cheaper cuts of meat or more vegetables to fill up hungry tummies.

Once I’m happy with the balance of flavours, nutrients and budget-friendly meals for the fortnight, I make sure that meals on these nights when we’re ‘time poor’ are quick and easy to prepare, or sometimes a tasty leftover casserole or pasta bake from the night before with new or interesting vegetables does the trick.  By keeping basic fruit and vegetable supplies in the pantry or refrigerator crisper means vegetable sides and easy desserts are also at hand and quick to prepare with the main meal, or through the warmer months having a staple salad such as pasta and vegetable salad or a tabouli in the fridge means meal preparation is even quicker. After I’m satisfied with the Menu List, I add any extra ingredients we need for the fortnight to our standard grocery list which means I can relax knowing I have just the right ingredients for each meal and won’t need to do a last minute dash to the supermarket.

With the meals planned and grocery shopping done, you’re more than half way there to getting a meal on the table.  The Menu List means anyone who can cook in the family can prepare the meal, and knowing the ingredients are on hand makes it a quicker and more pleasant experience.  As a bonus the meal comes together at a reasonable hour and sitting together to share the meal and events of the day becomes a cherished family ritual.

So the working week rolls around again and the Menu Lists sits on a clip on the fridge for all the family to see (and often scrutinize with relish).  This simple list radiates an almost yogi calm on all of us; as the promise of healthy, tasty meals for the weeks ahead are laid for all to see, a bit like a blackboard menu at a much-loved restaurant.  With some enjoyable advance planning, the Menu List comes together easily, preventing the “what will we have for dinner” panic, saving money on takeaway  and frozen food and brings healthy meals and healthy eating back to the family table where it belongs.  It really is a simple idea that just works.

Lucy is a teacher, trainer and (beginner) Life Coach based in Canberra, Australia.  You can follow her on twitter @Lucy Living

 

What are the strategies you use to deal with the pressures of a busy lifestyle? 

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Posted in: Food, Musings