Thursday, October 27, 2011

Menu Planning - end of week one

So, how did the week go for you? We had some monumental changes of plans at the last minute for a few reasons (a random 35 degree day was the biggie, no I wasn't going to have the oven on 200 for 40 minutes thank you very much!!) and a big fail for me forgetting to add GF pasta to the shopping list... we also did the grocery shop at Aldi to try it. Yes it was heaps cheaper but I am yet to find something I 'have to go back and get more of this'. Perhaps my taste is for richer flavours but I have found their products a little bland. I will keep going but they don't have anything GF so I have to support one of the big 2 nasties anyway.

The Pie was a hit, not sure if you saw it on Facebook but here is a pic of it. It is from taste I think or maybe bhg and called family meat pie. The little pie is for me with GF pastry. Hubby likes it because it has beer in it (you can't taste it as beer, just adds a certain richness to the meat) and Amelia loved it. Having recently discovered pastry she has had a whole new world opened up to her! Fruit, meat or chicken, she's a happy camper. It has been a Godsend when we have had a 'pub' lunch as often the kids menu is deep fried something or other, a pie or vou-le-vent, whilst not the healthiest of choices, beats the deep fried nasties any day.

This was our new recipe to try this week, we have had it a lot before kids but it is fiddly and you have to let the sauce cool completely so I have to allow a morning to cook it and then let it cool or make the day before. I think you'd be able to freeze the meat sauce, or the pie for that matter... I can't see why not. We had it with mashed potato and steamed veges. The saltyness of the pie went well with the veges and added a lift to the potatoes without having to make a gravy as well.

Because the meat sauce was quite a lot and I had half a GF sheet of very expensive puff pastry left over I made 2 'sausage rolls' as well which were handy for my lunch the next day.

If you would like me to share this recipe with you I would be happy to! Just send me an email.

Now to get my head around next week. With the introduction of a short term well paid job for 2 days a week I am going to have to be even more on top of dinners than ever. I'd love to hear how your week was and whether or not you think you spent less than usual or if you shop fortnightly...

Saturday, October 22, 2011

My Week of meals

This is my week. I am a gluten and wheat free girl and have used GF for things I have replaced in my pantry. With things like pasta I cook a pot for myself and Stef and Amelia have regular pasta. Pizza bases, Amelia prefers and eats more when I use the GF bases for her pizza. I have written staple next to things I always have in my pantry/freezer. These have helped me out of many a tricky situation with visitors just popping in!

Friday - Homemade pizza
Shifts - none - RDO
Activity -  Mum had a night out leaving Daddy and daughter to have an evening together after swimming.
Needed - tomato paste,  mushrooms, ham, salami
Pantry/Fridge items - small tin pinapple pieces (staple), bacon, cheese, Lebenese bread (staple), GF bases (staple), salad veges

Saturday - Mushroom and bacon pasta w creamy sauce and meringue nests, strawberries and cream for dessert
Shifts - none - w/e off
Activity - boring BAS and other accounting stuff
Needed - nothing!
Pantry/Fridge items - reg & GF pasta (both staple), onion, garlic (staple), bacon (staple), mushrooms, strawberries, cream, meringue nests (staple)
(this meal was a fluke, the merigue nests were left over from Xmas 2010 but within date, the cream was left over (unopened) from a dinner party last weekend and the strawberries wouldn't have survived more than passed Sunday!). I feel pretty pleased with myself I was able to use up so many items!

Sunday - Family meat pie
Shifts - none - w/e off
Activity -morning playdate, afternoon sewing!
Needed - GF pastry, potatoes
Pantry/Fridge Items - mince, onions, carrots, broccoli, beer (yep a bottle of beer!)

Monday - Tuna Pasta Salad
Shifts - Day ,home at 7.15pm
Activity - Girl guides 5-7pm
Needed - green beans, tomatoes,
Pantry/Fridge items - Reg & GF Pasta (staple), tinned tuna (staple), eggs (staple), mayo (staple), olives (staple), capers (staple)

Tuesday - Chicken Stir-fry
Shifts - day off
Activity - school
Needed - chicken and lots of veges!
Pantry/Fridge items - Jasmine rice (staple), GF soy sauce (staple), garlic (staple)

Wednesday - mystery pick! On the school dinner menu is Mexican Enchilida bake so we might do something that resembles nachos as there will be sauce left overs I imagine.
Shifts - Stef - Day shift, home at 7.15pm, me kitchen shift 10-2pm
Activity - school and me working
Needed - corn chips
Pantry/Fridge items - fresh salad veges

Thursday - Roast beef, roast /steamed veges *Amelia and I will eat early to allow her dinner to go down before she goes to bed and the veges not to spoil while we go to the bus stop!
Shifts - Day, home at 7.15pm
Activity - Music till 3.30pm
Needed - joint of beef & veges!
Pantry/Fridge items - gravy (staple - we actually keep Gravox in business...)

Friday - sausage and mash!
Shifts - Day, home at 7.15pm
Activity - Swimming 4 - 5.30pm
Needed - sausages, potatoes, veges to steam
Pantry/Fridge items - frozen peas (staple)

So there you go, a week of us. This is an easy week or at least in theory it should be. The needed items are basically my shopping list.

With 4 day shifts there is little to no scope for help with the cooking but I will (make up for it over the weekend) do some of the prep before shcool pick up where I can or get Amelia to help which she loves, peeling carrots and cucumbers are her speciality. We also meet Daddy off the bus and as the evenings are lighter we can. Daddy gets home about 7pm which is a dreadful time of the night... We want to eat as a family but she should be in the bath! Aarghh! It's all good though. She seems to be coping with the later nights but still awake early in the mornings as we don't have the sound buffering in our new house we had in the old one and the combination of shower noise + male = early mornings :-(

We're finding it a hard juggle and having lots of early nights on the weekends!!

I will do my best to post the recipes for the pie and the tuna salad this week. These are my variations on printed recipes so I am not breaking any laws!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Planning - the next step

How do I go about planning my meals?

1. Boil the kettle and put the cook books and calendar on the dining room table.
2. Make tea.
3. Grab menu planner and a pencil.
4. Look at what activities or social commitments we have on for the week, Stef's shifts for the week and his days off.
5. Look at what I have left in the fridge and the pantry to use as a base or work with.

6. Find at least one new recipe to try and sweeten the deal with some favourites either side of the new dish.
7. Make sure there is one meat free meal in the week and the days Stef is working there will be enough 'left overs' to take to work or, in the case of pasta and meat sauce, enough for 2 meals and his lunches.

Monday we have an after school activity that doesn't finish till 7pm  so dinner is something that is light and easy to digest, can be prepared and cooked early in the day or reaheated quickly while madam is in the shower. Egg and Bacon pie/pasta bake/tuna pasta salad (salad nicoise)/macaroni cheese and peas are a meal that usually appear on Mondays menu. Stef doesn't like cheese sauce and Amelia doesn't like thinks mixed in together (like lasagna) but she is getting better as she gets older, Stef won't budge on the cheese sauce stance!

Tuesday & Thursday are 'normal' days, we don't do anything after school as a rule (except for music till 3.30 on Thursday at school so that is just getting home a bit later than 'normal') so I can spend a bit more time in the kitchen. We will usually have a 'meat and 3 veges' meal with salad or steamed veges depending on the meat and the meal.

Wednesday I work at school in the dining hall and there is usually left overs from school lunches that come home with me or I make enough of dinner on Tuesday as I am quite tired and don't feel like cooking!

Friday we have swimming at 4.30 and I am usually knackered after running around all week so it's pizza or ovenbaked fish and chips on our menu! Easy is required.

The weekend can be social or busy and there is usually a roasted something with a bevvy of veges and gravy. This has to be one of everyones favourite meals so it is always clean plates at the end. The weekend also usually means a slow and lazy start at least one day and egg and bacon breakfast, either scrambled eggs or french toast with bacon will be on the cards. If this is on the cards then a meal with egg in it is usually mid week. In the case of the Monday egg and bacon pie mention, we would do the cooked brekky hastily before school on a Friday when Stef isn't working.

I am about to boil the kettle so will share my weeks meal with you in a post over the weekend.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Menu Planning... a Challenge

A few days ago I posted on Facebook inviting anyone who has been interested in giving menu planning a go to email me their address and I would send them a couple of sheets of the Organised Mum Menu Planner pad* so they could plan out their meals for a fortnight. I am after feedback on how this works, if it saves you money and also sharing the menu's. It's not too late if you would like to join in.

With the technological age it is easy to whip somthing up on the computer but when I get on the laptop I am easily distracted by emails, Facebook, blogs, anything other than what I have set out to do. There are times where a paper trail is necessary and easier. Shopping lists are one such thing. I have a master shopping list somewhere on a hard drive that was supposed to make my life easy... took me days to write it up, never used it... It's also easy to photocopy the page I send you, please don't! That's just not nice and these aren't that expensive really (and make BRIlLIANT gifts!).

I love the Organised Mum Menu planner. It is SO easy to use and really does not only help me with my Weight Watchers quest, it also saves us money as I buy what we need for the week not just fill up the holes in the pantry. In my opinion (and this is going to sound harsh) my Mum shops poorly and her pantry is always full of tins and packets, most of which are out of date or close to their use by date, her vege drawer also suffers the same fate with vegetables that can't even be revived in a soup... Buying what I need means that we use up all our veges and fruit for the week, there is no waste.

The key with a menu plan is that you have to be flexible. Scenario's like, you didn't get to cook X on Wednesday because there was an emergency and at short notice you had to change your plans which means you didn't get to marinate the chicken for 4 hours don't exist... All you do is look at an easy meal day or no cook day and you swap the meals, move things about, you have all the ingredients after all! You make it work for you. It saves time in the morning because you know what you have to get out of the feezer and you don't spend wasted time during the day thinking 'now, what are we going to have for dinner?' and you know what you have to do to cook that meal. It also creates some anticipation for kids that can read.

It's not too late to be a part of this. If you would like to give it a go and share your experience at the end of it please send me an email with your postal address to

*The current pad is a little different that the one pictured.

Saturday, October 1, 2011


From my newsletter 21/09

Who doesn't love a good nights sleep? We need it to recharge our batteries, recover from illness and give our bodys a chance to renew their cells. Without sleep we are cranky (I know I can be!), we look dull, our fuses are a little shorter than usual and with repeated interrupted sleep we can become suseptable to depression and other mental illnesses. This one I have experience of first hand. Sleep deprivation is a form of torture and until you have experienced it you can't understand what it is like.

As adults there are lots of external factors that can affect our ability to have a good nights rest. This is also true for babies but they can't tell us what they are. One of the things I learned during our stay at Tresillian was the control I needed to get Amelia into a good sleep routine and responding too quickly to her cry made me my own worst enemy. Often babies cry once or twice, just a little one, when they roll over or go between sleep cycles. As I didn't 'go to work' I made sure I was out of bed in a flash so as not to disturb Stefan and this is where Amelia took control of me not the other way around.

Wrapping/swaddling is one of the best ways to get small babies to sleep well. No, they don't like it, yes, they will fight it but it works! You will hear and read about the startle reflex where babies will jump as they fall to sleep, if they are wrapped this can help calm this reflex and put them back to sleep. I found the wraps I was given were too big, too small, too hot, too thin, too, well not quite right. 6 years ago there wasn't a lot of wraps readily available and online shopping was still very new. Now we are spoilt for choice not only in wraps but in online shopping!

I stock 3 brands of wraps which I believe to be the best flat wraps on the market. Two are slightly lighter weight which makes them perfect for summer, fabulous sizes, colours and fabrics.  L'il Fraser need little introduction, Aden+Anais Organic wraps (such sweet designs) and Vanchi.

You will find them all here... Please note, some stock is a little low... As time progresses you will see some brands go and new ones be introduced. I am working on stocking a 'sock' type wrap but at the moment they are not taking on any new retailers.

5 months later...

We had had a few orders, mainly from friends and friends of friends, I can still recall the joy of our first outside order, and the conversation around it! But things weren't moving along as quickly as we would have liked. Amelia still was demand feeding and draining me of every ounce of energy and sane thought I could muster and Lisa had taken on a bit of work for her other business.

It was mid August, our turn to be visited and host lunch which we did, Stef was out doing something or other, Amelia was screaming (situation normal) and Bella was well and truly mobile commando crawling but not walking yet and I was existing on about 6 hours sleep (that had been had in three 2 hours bursts). Amelia was bum shuffling at the speed of light most place and pulling herslef up on things but not close to walking.

We sat down for lunch and Lisa said that she was thinking about moving away from our business and wanted to give me a few options to consider. Sell my half of the business to her, sell my half of the business to her mum, close the shop down or buy her half of the business out.

As these words were going around in my head and I was fighting hard not to cry the phone rang. It was Tresillian, they had a spot they could offer us, would we like it and could we be at Neppean Hospital at 9am the next morning?

That was the last of my composure, in tears I asked the lovely lady at the end of the phone to hold the spot for me while I checked with Stef that he could get the time off work, Lisa took the cue and suggested we think about the offers and left and Amelia was put in her bed and for once in her life, actually slept while I packed a suitcase for 3 people for 5 days.

Tresillian was my life saver. I hate to think what I would have done had we not had that experience, I certainly don't think I would be here in the same life situation as I am now. Amelia learned how to self settle, I was formally and properly diagnosed with PND and Stef and I had conversation with conclusion and purpose without interruption.

One sentence I remember him saying very clearly 'you smile when you are talking about the business, it makes sense to keep that smile on your face. Let's see how much Lisa wants for her half of the business.'

So we did. And I haven't looked back.

How it all began...

How did it all begin?! I can remember the specifics, but in the haze of newborn sleep deprivation and the grey foggy cloud of PND, there were major efforts to keep life as normal as possible and to get out of the house at least once a week. Visiting friends with similar aged children was the obvious thing to do as we were all on 'maternity leave' of some description or other.

One of these friends was Lisa, a girl I had met through my last 'paid job' who worked for a telecommunications company. She was terrific at helping me organise the telephone systems during the relocation of our office and 3 other businesses. We sort of hit it off quite well and I learned (before a lot of other people) that she was pregnant. I was very excited for her as we were going through that trial as well but hadn't been so lucky at the time.

Lisa and I met, became pretty good friends and kept in touch after she had finished work in the later stages of her pregnancy. She was one of the first I told too that we were finally expecting! I met and played with Isabella a few times before we were blessed with our daughter 13 weeks after Lisa gave birth.

Isabella aged 6.5 months, Amelia aged 3.5 months
Once we were in the swing of what resembled a routine, each week or fortnight we would take it in turns to visit each other. With a 45 minute drive between our houses it did require some planning but we were pretty good at staying in touch and starting the girls friendship.

During one visit we both expressed a bit of boredom at not having 'an interest' and the idea of having a baby shop or similar was briefly discussed. with the distance between our houses the logistics of a physical location was going to prove to be a challenge. Lisa had a side business of web design and so the seed of an online store was planted. Discussing it with respective husbands we decided online was going to be the way to go so we both added $2000 to the kitty and set about going into business as a partnership.

We registered the business and the name, Lisa looked after all the technical stuff, set up the shopping cart, the hosting and the merchant facility, together we found some suppliers to start with and setting up a spare 6'x3' cupboard in our rumpus room, we put the stock away as it arrived. I would handle the deliveries and packing and sending the orders, Lisa would look after the money and the techy stuff. was born.

That was in April 2006...