Wednesday, May 6, 2015

My Weekly Dashboard

So maybe it is just me, but I find it very difficult to live 'simply' when my life is disorganized.

Knowing what is coming up and how I am going to get things done, really gives me the confidence to let go of those aspects a little bit. If I have a plan, I don't have to THINK about it all!

Along with my monthly wall calendar where I keep track of the bulk of my day to day events (classes, meetings, trips, birthdays), and my smart phone calendar where I keep track of the day to day minutiae (library books due back, subscriptions and bills due) I also take time each weekend to create to plans for my upcoming week - one for meals and the other for our homeschool plan.

Before I go further I should add that I am not a natural planner. I don;t feel a strong need to map things out like this, but that doing so stops the daily panic of 'what ARE we going to eat tonight?' and 'WHAT did we do for school last week?!'

My meal plan is a really basic affair, and one that I received as part of a bundle from Waldorfish, but I really like the simple layout, and that there are blocks for breakfast, lunch and grazing platters (affectionately known in our home as monkey platters!) I've written before about how I tend to go about creating my menu plans, here. It's still working for us!

And before I go any further with my homeschool plan, I should add a humongous caveat.
Yes! - I make a plan each week.
No - I don't expect us to do this each week.

Again, I've found that if I make a plan, it frees up a little extra brain space for me. When we are ready for our next 'school' project, I can just check my book for inspiration. I'll write more on how we homeschool another time, because honestly that's a huge multi- post project all by itself.

After struggling to find a homeschool planner that I loved, that had the flexibility I wanted for our family's schooling needs, I created my own out of a 50 cent composition book. I used this post as my inspiration, but honestly my planner has evolved so much since I first started doing this at the beginning of the school year. But that's the beauty of it! - now it's my own creation,a nd it perfectly fits my needs. Joy!

And lastly, my To Do book. This is a newer addition for me, and was borne from the need for me to write out to do lists and random notes. Am I the only person who finds that physically writing something out with pen and paper helps me remember it better?!

This one is still a bit of a work in progress, and I know it will be evolving over the upcoming months, but it's good to have a collected place to jot everything down, and a beautiful book at that, rather than the countless scraps of paper.

I use a lovely Moleskine notebook for this; it had all the features I wanted; a ribbon for marking my place, an elastic strap for holding it closed, and a pocket int he back for any random scraps of paper that may just need to be contained (ahem).

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A (Homeschooling) Addition

Ah! - the irony of blogging about living simply, is that life often isn't!

With three young children, a hubby with a demanding job which requires long days, my WAH-business and now homeschooling, life is often hectic. But despite how hectic our days and weeks often are, we still strive to live simply.

Some weeks are better than others; heck, some YEARS have been better than others!

But we still go in for home cooked meals, long afternoons with books and tea, puddle jumping and backyard mud pies, local hikes and expanses of time at home for the children to fill as they wish.

And now - homeschooling!

My eldest kiddo, known around these parts as The Little Guy, or TLG, is coming up to 7 years old, and although I try to keep our learning approach as 'simple' as our lifestyle, there is a fair amount of teaching and learning going on. The twins are coming up on 3 and a half and they tag along, learning effortlessly as we go.

I was considering starting another homeschooling blog, to keep track of what we are doing, our plans, our adventures and projects, but it occurred to me that I might just segue this blog a little, and incorporate what we are doing for 'school' here (I use that word very loosely!)

One more note, before I go!
Know that I don't have all the answers. That sometimes homeschooling terrifies me, that the prospect of failing looms pretty large sometimes. That none of my children are gifted or geniuses - just averagely bright. That my way is not THE way.

But, it is fun!

Friday, May 31, 2013

Food Waste Friday: A Slip, A Recovery and A Save!


I just love The Frugal Girl blog. Really - just love!

Each week (well - most weeks) she blogs about her food waste, a kind of public declaration, aimed to reduce her own food waste. And she invites the rest of us to join her!

I didn't blog about my Food Waste last Friday, in no small part because I knew I had some food waste, and just couldn't face writing about it! I felt pretty awful about slipping up after four zero Food Waste weeks in a row.

So last week I lost half a bunch of kale, some watercress, and about a quarter of a tub of cream cheese. I was upset about each of these, because all of these would have been easy saves (kale and watercress could easily have been thrown into a salad, and that small amount of cream cheese could have disappeared in a single lunchtime meal of cream cheese and jam on toast). But I got busy, and a little overwhelmed and the items all went way past their good-to-eat stage.

But, this week, I picked myself back up, dusted myself off and got back in the proverbial saddle, for another zero Food Waste week - yay me!

Also, I had a huge food save, which I was really proud of. We were prepping for a picnic dinner last weekend, and My Good Man helped out by hard-boiling a dozen eggs for some egg salas. He decided to experiment with a new cooking method, which went a little awry, and we were left with a dozen cold, soft boiled eggs. We tried re-boiling them, but they just started to get tough outer whites, but still soggy inner whites and yolks ... not so good for egg salad. I put them aside, and hard boiled a new dozen eggs for the salad, which worked out fine.

But what to do with the dozen soft boiled eggs?! I peeled a couple of them the next morning, mashed them up a little, and just cooked them in a skillet, making a sort of chunky scrambled egg. Served on toast, no one batted an eye! I served the rest of them on subsequent mornings, until they were all gone - total save! Double yay! (I really felt bad at the prospect of wasting a dozen fresh-from-the farm eggs).

So how was your Food Waste this week? Feel free to share, or add a link back to your own Food Waste blog post; I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

A New Grocery Shopping Routine

I have a couple of big factors when it comes to grocery shopping.

1. buy healthy food
2. shop within a budget
3. get food that everyone in the family will eat
4. shop in a way that minimizes waste.

This didn't seem so difficult, but honestly our grocery budget was creeping higher, as was our food waste each week. We always seemed to have plenty of food in the pantry and fridge, but I was always met with deep sighs when I suggested meals or snacks.

Something had to change!

A couple of months ago I inadvertently adopted a new way of grocery shopping, that has seemed to meet all of my criteria. Now this new method is not hugely dramatic, more of a subtle shift, but it has really made a big impact on the way we eat, our budget and our food waste. We are not buying LESS, but shopping and eating with a different focus.

In the past, like most families I would have a look at our pantry and take a few requests for evening meals, and make my menu plan for each week accordingly. Then off I would trot to the grocery store to buy whatever I needed for those meals.

What I eventually found was that I was buying items specifically for meals. There was invariably some of the item left over, and it would sit at the back of the fridge until it went bad.

I also found that despite my plans to use up leftovers for subsequent meals, the family would protest ... and so the leftovers would invariably sit until they wound up on the Food Waste Friday list.

All round not good :-(

So my big solution?! Bulk shopping for everything!


I buy all our pantry items in bulk, keeping them either in the freezer or in airtight canisters. This includes items like pasta (regular and gluten free), beans and pulses, flour and grains, and a few canned items like tomatoes and black olives. I replenish these as I need them, but it saves me buying small quantities each week, at a higher cost. I also found that when I use smaller packets, I have a tendency to prepare the entire bag, creating those leftovers that get wasted.

Our week to week shopping is now centered around perishables only, such as fruits and veggies, cheese, tofu, and dairy free milk (we drink rice and soy milk).  And our meals are then focused around these weekly perishables, rather than around recipes.

For example, in the past we would have burritos, with a package of tortilla wraps, a tub of guacamole and a jar of salsa. Now we have rice and beans, on a bed of spinach, with fresh avocado and tomato.

Before it would have been a specific bean chilli recipe, now it is more likely to be beans cooked in seasoned (homemade) pasta sauce, with roasted veggies and quinoa.

For me the difference is in focusing more on elements of a meal, rather than the meal itself. And, with all of those veggies it is healthier to boot. (When you buy spinach and romaine lettuce in 4 lb bags it takes a real commitment to make sure they get finished each week!)

We are now doing almost all of our shopping at Costco and our local health food store (we buy all of our grains, beans, nuts and flour from the bulk bins at our local health food market).

The photo at the top of the post is of our recent Costco shop, which is fairly typical (save the eggs, which we usually have delivered from a local farmer, along with our milk).

As I said, a subtle shift, but one that seems to be the right fit for our family!

How do you grocery shop? Daily, weekly, monthly? Do you focus on bulk, packet, or a combination of both? Feel free to share; I'd love to hear from you!