Category Archives: Household

Managing your food stock – saving time, gaining choice

For myself I have identified several core principles towards managing our food stock:

  • there should be a variety – I like to experiment, I like trying new things and new food combinations, so there should be diverse ingredients;
  • my freezer should always be as full as possible! And freezer is my best friend in general – I’ll talk about it in a bit more detail further.
  • as less waste as possible – if there are leftovers they have to be if possible integrated in a new dish. For example, when one of these days I had a bit of boiled rice, unfinished steak, a bit of broccoli left from our dinner the day before, and some old but not yet bad cheese – all that was “recycled” or better “up-cycled” into a nice lunch: just put everything together, add eggs, some spices, a bit of cream and put in the oven for about 10 minutes. Serve with some toasts. Done.

In this post I would like to talk about frozen food. For me this is a perfect way how to increase my efficiency in the kitchen without sacrificing the important aspect of having a variety in food. I must admit that I switched to using my freezer to the full capacity not that long ago. Before that I only had some pizza’s, ice-cream and ice cubes lying there. Nowadays, there is everything from steaks to chicken breasts, at least five if not more different vegetable varieties at all times and slices of bread in small sealed packs. And it is so convenient!

I will start with bread. When I am not baking bread myself (and I do that occassionally) we buy bread at a local bakery. It is very tasty once fresh and stays being so for another day after the purchase. The problem is that the loaf of bread in our household is usually not finished completely in these two days, and I am too lazy to take out a toaster on the third day. So what I do nowadays is buy two loafs of bread, divide them in three or four “sets” and immediately after purchase put everything but one “set” in sealed plastic bags in the freezer. Defrosted at a room temperature in about 3 hours this bread has all the properties of the freshly bought including a soft inside and a crusty crust.

For vegetables I have it all – I grow my own vegetables (zucchini’s, tomatoes, broccoli, etc); I buy fresh vegetables at the farmer’s market and I have a selection of frozen vegetables in my freezer. To note, that frozen vegetables usually contain more vitamins than supposedly fresh products from the supermarket. How come? Well, they are harvested at optimum ripeness; there is usually a short path and fast processing after harvest; they are stored at about -25C and at such temperature e.g. green beans lose only 20% of its original Vitamin C content within a year. In comparison, since Vitamin C is heat and oxygen sensitive already within the first 4 days in the chilled environment the same green beans would lose more than 60% of their original Vitamin C content. That gets even more dramatic if the green beans are stored at room temperature, as the lost Vitamin C value spikes to 80%. So the bottom line is that actually deep-frozen vegetables are far better than their “fresh” counterparts. Of course, that does not apply to home-grown vegetables, but I want to have broccoli also in February!

With respect to frozen meats, fish and poultry there are almost no vitamin and mineral loses because protein, vitamins A and D and minerals are not affected by freezing. Some claim that the taste for instance in a steak, is lost, but I disagree. Actually, chemically speaking, deep-freezing and subsequent defrosting should make meat more tender. Yet, as mentioned I do not really see the difference in the end result. Maybe I am just good at cooking? (LOL) I must admit, that also here I do buy fresh meats and fresh fish, but most of the times my main course comes from my freezer.

Additionally, my freezer has some fresh herbs frozen in olive oil, the leftovers of wine for subsequent cooking, a couple of ready-made deep-frozen dishes like moussaka and lasagna for those rare times when I get too lazy to cook.

What do I gain by this approach? In addition to variety and freshness, also – a choice. I like the freedom to open my freezer and decide right there on the spot if I want to have a duck breast or a beef steak or a pork tenderloin or a salmon fillet, instead of going to the shop everyday or other and buying them fresh.

I save time and gain choice.

 

Managing cleaning-up

Cleaning-up is one of the most annoying chores around the house. At least for me. First of all it seems to be never-ending, especially when you have kids. There always seems to be dust everywhere and spills of all sorts, not even talking about toys all over the place, books on the ground and piles and piles of all the different junk. Secondly, it is really frustrating that you seem to never have the time to finish anything – you’ve been cleaning for an hour, but it’s only the floor that is more or less clean. There is still a pile of dirty dishes and laundry, and dust on the TV, and… the list goes on. And it doesn’t even seem like you would have done anything! How to survive in all of this?

I am not going to talk about hiring help at this point in time. Now it is about doing everything yourself just without driving yourself totally mad.

Ok, let’s think like a manager – after all we have a mess to manage.

Step number one – de-clutter! This is a priority number one and one of the most difficult tasks. However, the less junk the less sorting. There is absolutely no way how to effectively sort junk. It clutters your home and your life and will keep on doing that forever until you get rid of it.

Practically speaking using the example of toys. Kids never play with all the toys they have, what they love to do is to throw these toys all over the place and go back to those couple of favorite ones. Elimination! I am not encouraging to throw away toys, but toys can be strategically put away. We have a set box of favorite toys and a couple of rotating boxes of other toys. This is a great way how to always have “new” toys. Other junk has to be analyzed on the regular basis and sold/given away/thrown away, you pick. But is has to go!

Step number two – How to get to it? Now, the approach I personally like towards the time management for the cleaning-up is the FlyLady (r). This is an approach by Marla  Cilley which in the nutshell can be summed up as follows:

  1. 15 minutes at a time. This point I sincerely consider to be genius! As Cilley says herself this is a way to stop procrastination and reduce opportunities to get sidetracked or bored. Indeed if you have a concrete task and a limited time allocated to it there is a big chance that this task gets done. Results! That is what is so much missing in the life of a stay-at-home mother. You seem never to have results – tangible, concrete, visible! If you say – now, I have 15 minutes, I am doing the dishes, tik-tak – there is a big chance that you will manage to do the dishes and you have your result. Now, next – laundry. Same 15 minutes. In half-an-hour you have two tasks realized, two results that you see.
  2. Clutter cannot be organized. That’s what I already said. Be as strict as you can on this one.
  3. Weekly routines and zones. This point I personally use with precaution, as I don’t like too much structure in my life. If I see that somebody messed up the drawers of my kitchen island I am not going to wait until it is a “closet cleaning-up day”. Although, Cilley has some point on this one, because routines allow for additional focus.

What Cilley also recommends is to keep a “Control Journal” which is some sort of a household management notebook or binder. The purpose of this would be to keep track of the routines, lists and other important household information. I personally don’t have a journal like this once again for the same reason that I don’t like to have too much structure and having a journal for me is a “too much”. However, also here I do see the point related to the psychology. If you have a journal of routines, tasks and consequently tasks scratched out, you visually see your results, your achievements and your goals. Just like a manager of any business unit or entity.

Finally, and this I also consider to be an extremely important one, is to always keep in mind that perfectionism is a b*tch! This is applicable not only to cleaning-up but to literally everything, because the only outcome of being too much obsessed with perfection is your procrastination and inefficiency.