Friday, 31 August 2012

Weekly Meal Plan #8

Hi there everyone :) Here is my meal plan for this coming week.

Friday - Slow cooker Beef Stroganoff   with mashed potato

Saturday - Cheese toasties

Sunday - Father's Day BBQ dinner. We'll be having chicken kebabs and two kinds of sausages with salad, potato bake and bread rolls

Monday - Oven baked fish, chips and salad

Tuesday -  Slow cooked apricot chicken  with rice

Wednesday - Sausage and potato casserole

Thursday - Chicken schnitzel and cauliflower cheese

I'll be back later today with my next clean and organise challenge post! 

See you soon,


Thursday, 30 August 2012

My Evening Routine

Hello again! I'm chiming in late today with this blog post because today has been so busy! I love it though, I got lots done around the house and all my washing is now completely up to date. It's a good feeling. 

It's time for my next post for the 20 Days to Organise and Clean your home challenge that Katrina from The Organised Housewife is running. It's still not too late to join, just click on the link above or on the button I have in my sidebar. 
So, today's 'pre challenge' challenge (lol) is creating an evening routine. Like the morning routine, I already have one of these in place, so I'll take this opportunity to discuss it in more detail. Here we go!

3:30pm - Big kids have their showers and change into after school clothes.
4:30pm - Put on the last load of washing for the day.

5:30pm - Dinner time. 

6:00pm - Clean up kitchen, stack dishwasher, wipe benches and take rubbish out if needed. Peg washing or put it in the dryer.

6:30pm - Shower or bath the little ones and have story time.

7:00pm - Put little ones to bed.

7:20pm - Make school lunches for the next day and make sure uniforms are ready. 

8:00pm - Big kids bedtime.

8:10pm onwards - My quiet time!

As you can see, my evening routine is pretty cruisy. I've already gotten most things done during the day, so that frees up my time a fair bit by the end of it. Because we have four children in the house, I get the older kids to have their showers early because they're less likely to be dirty by bedtime and it makes for less rushing after dinner trying to get everyone ready for bed.
You'll notice that there are some fairly large gaps between the times in my routine. That's simply because we tend to slow down at the end of the day. I'll have a drink and a chat with hubby, or he may help me with a job I couldn't do on my own during the day. The kids will watch tv, or play outside or read. It also means if things are running behind, then there's plenty of time to catch up! 
I love our slow evenings. Everything is done and the kitchen and house is clean and tidy ready for the morning. 

Let me know about your evening routine!


Wednesday, 29 August 2012

*RECIPE* - Apple and Sultana Cake

I decided to do some baking today, and made one of our family favourites. Apple and Sultana Cake. It's one of those delightfully rustic cakes, which requires little to no baking skill :) Don't we love those? I hope you enjoy it xxx

*I made a double batch of this mixture, because I wanted to make 2 cakes. The recipe is for a single batch, but the photos show the double batch. Just in case you think it looks like a lot - it is!



2 apples, peeled and diced (great for apples that are bruised or are a bit old)
1 cup sultanas
1/2 cup raw sugar (you can use any sugar, I used plain white sugar today because it's all I had)
2 eggs
125g butter, melted
1/2 cup ground almonds
1 cup wholemeal SR flour (I use gluten free SR flour but it is very lovely with the wholemeal)
1 tsp cinnamon


Peel and dice your apples and place them in a bowl with the sultanas.

 Add everything else:(do you notice I don't bother sifting my flour for this cake?)

Mix together:

Pour into a greased loaf tin. Make sure you line the base with a piece of baking (greaseproof) paper. 

Bake at 180 degrees celsius for approximately 1 hour. After it's been baking for about 20 minutes, cover it with a piece of foil. Because of the high sugar content of the fruit, your cake will burn if left uncovered for the full hour. 
Check your cake after about 40 minutes as oven temperatures vary, just to make sure you don't over cook it.

And, here it is!

Before you turn the cake out onto a cooling rack, loosen the sides of the cake with a knife. The hot sultanas will stick to the pan as it cools and your cake will break apart. Or, you could line the whole tin with baking paper if you prefer. 

Eat and enjoy!

This is one of those fabulous cakes that you just put all the ingredients into one bowl, mix then pour into your baking tin. So easy! It is a beautiful morning or afternoon tea cake and would be a lovely cake to welcome a new neighbour or to give a friend. 

Remember, if you use the raw sugar and wholemeal flour your cake will look darker than mine pictured. I used white sugar and gluten free flour. But the raw sugar lends a gorgeous caramel flavour to the cake, I highly recommend it!

Happy Baking!


My Morning Routine - and a 20 day challenge!

Good Morning! I am participating in a challenge set by The Organised Housewife. The challenge is called 20 Days to Organise and Clean your home. I'm quite excited to be involved, because while my house is clean and tidy (thankyou routines!) I do need help in organising some things. I mean, I know where everything is in my house, it's not that I'm disorganised at all, but after I finish cleaning up, I seem to have a pile of 'stuff' that I need to keep, but doesn't really have a home. I'm interested to see some of the ideas Katrina has, and how I can perhaps apply them in my house. Plus, it's always great to see other people's methods of cleaning and tidying, because you might just find something that works wonders for you! 

The 'pre challenge' tasks started 2 days ago, but the actual challenge doesn't begin until Monday next week. Once you subscribe (it's free!), Katrina from The Organised Housewife sends you an email each day giving you your daily task with a link to her blog post on that task. In 20 days (4 weeks, because you don't receive tasks on the weekend) your house will be clean, tidy and you will have some organised routines in place. It's not too late to sign up, so what are you waiting for ? You can sign up by clicking on the button in the sidebar, or at the bottom of this post.

So, today the task is about establishing a morning routine. Lucky for me, this isn't really a 'task' as such, because I have a good routine in place. But reading back over a post where I've talked about routines, I realise I haven't discussed the morning part of my routine in any great detail. So, today is a good day to do that, don't you think? Here is what my morning routine looks like:

6:00am - My alarm goes off and I get up to have my shower and get dressed. 

6:20am - I head into the kitchen and make the school lunches if I didn't do it the night before and begin unloading the dishwasher.

6:30am - I wake the big kids so they can get dressed for school, then go back to the kitchen to start their breakfast and finish unloading the dishwasher.

6:45am - Kids eat breakfast. I click the kettle on and get tea/coffee ready for me and hubby while he gets showered/dressed for work.

7:00am - Big kids pack their school bags, brush their teeth and make their beds while I get the little kids dressed and stack the breakfast dishes into the dishwasher.

7:10am - Free time to read/watch tv for big kids (or if they're dawdling it gives them some time to catch up). Some play time for little kids. I sit down with hubby and have a coffee. I'll also put a  load of washing into the machine to start. 

7:30am - Walk out the door to drive hubby to work and the kids to school. 

8:10am - Run any errands or go to the supermarket to pick up anything I may need.

9:00am - Come home and start my housework, put dinner into the slow cooker (if I'm slow cooking that night!) or chop vegies. Later in the day I take my little daughter to preschool, so I try to get most things done in the morning. Day carries on as usual.

And that's it! I probably don't need to wake so early, but I like to make sure I have time for a coffee in the morning, and if I need to iron a uniform or make lunches then it gives me time to do that too. Plus I love not having to rush or rush the kids! It works well for us, so I will continue with it for the time being. 

Feel free to link up  your morning routine! And don't forget to join the challenge! I'll be blogging about my progress as I go along :)


The Organised Housewife

Monday, 27 August 2012

Weekly Meal Plan #7

Good Morning All! Here is my meal plan for this week. I haven't exactly stuck to it so far, but I've indicated where things are different and why :)

Friday - Sausage and Potato Casserole (we didn't actually eat this, I ran out of time and just cooked up the sausages and served a Continental pasta packet and vegies on the side.

Saturday - Baked beans on toast

Sunday - Shepherd's Pie (we didn't eat this either! We actually went fishing on Sunday and caught some threadfin salmon and mudcrabs, so we had those instead. Delish!)

Monday - Creamy chicken casserole and rice (cooking in the slow cooker as I type!)

Tuesday - Chow Mein

Wednesday - Zucchini Slice

Thursday - Beef Stew (from freezer)

So as you can see, I don't always stick to my meal plan. 99% of the time I do, but sometimes you just have an odd week where things don't quite fall into place. The good thing about it though, is now I have all the ingredients for 2 meals (I have extra sausages in the freezer) that I can put into next week's meal plan which makes things a bit easier then!

Have a lovely week,


Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Granny Stripe Blanket

Good morning! I'm here to tell you about an exciting new project I'm about to get underway. It's a project that will undoubtedly take a very looooong time to complete, but I'm very excited about its beginnings. 
I love crochet. I am definitely not an expert, considering I've only recently mastered the Granny Square, but I do love it. I've kind of stopped and started crochet over the years, but this time it seems to have finally all clicked, and I'm actually understanding the different stitches and what they look like and how things all fit together. It's so relaxing and just lovely to sit down with a hook and a ball of yarn and watch it come together. 

I come from a family of knitters/crocheters/crafty women and while I have always been reasonably crafty, I've never really taken the time to learn a craft fully and make wonderful things with it. I'm hoping now this will change. 
I've always wanted to make my children a blanket each. Whether it's for their beds, or just to snuggle with to watch some tv, or to keep as a keepsake from me. I originally wanted to make heaps of granny squares and then join them together to form a blanket, but I'm now realising that while it's feasible to make one like that, it will be quite tedious to do one for everyone that way. It would mean starting that fiddly granny square from scratch lots of times, lots of ends to tuck in, lots of squares to block and then join.....I can't see myself ever finishing them. 

But I was determined to make them. And so, it struck me. If I'm now understanding the stitches required to make a granny square easily, why can't I try the one with stripes I've seen over at Attic24? I'm a long time follower of Lucy's beautiful crochet filled blog. But be warned, if you decide to take a peek, you can expect to be lost for ages in pages and pages of what she charmingly calls 'hooky goodness'. Love it. 
But she has created this blanket called the Granny Stripe Blanket, which, instead of going around and around like you would a granny square, you go up and down in stripes instead. No joining, no messing about, just row after row of cute little treble clusters. You can find the pattern for it here

So I'm giving it a go! I'm making a rainbow stripe one first for my 4yo daughter and will go from there. I'll blog my progress as I go along (as well as my regular blog posts) and it will be so exciting to see how it all unfolds. I begin tonight! 
I did go and buy some yarn yesterday to get started, would you like to see?

It's just to begin with, of course. I have some more balls coming in the post and then I'll see how much more I need to finish it off. But I think it should turn out beautifully. I keep peeking in the bag because it's just so pretty. But wish me luck because I need to crochet a looooooong chain (without losing count of my stitches - eeek!) and apparently that and the row of double crochet to follow is the most challenging part. But after that it should be easy. I am so looking forward to it. I think I will have an early night and snuggle up in bed with a cup of tea and my crochet. Bliss.

See you later,


Friday, 17 August 2012

Weekly Meal Plan #6

It's time for my new weekly meal plan!

Friday - Slow cooked apricot chicken and rice

Saturday - Toasted sandwiches

Sunday - Oven baked fish and cauliflower cheese

Monday - Rissoles, mash, veg and gravy

Tuesday - Fried rice

Wednesday - Corned beef, cabbage, carrots and white sauce

Thursday - Slow cooked Beef Massaman Curry and rice

 I'd love to know what's on your meal plan :)

Have a lovely week,



Slow Cooked Apricot Chicken

I thought I would post another very easy slow cooker recipe. Apricot Chicken is one that is a firm favourite with my family. I usually serve it with either mashed potato or with plain steamed rice. This recipe feeds a large family like mine, so if you're cooking for about 3 or 4 people only, then just halve the recipe.


  • 10 chicken drumsticks. I use this because it's a cheaper way to buy chicken and I find the meat is much more moist. You can use breast or mixed chicken pieces if you prefer, just use as much chicken as you'd like to eat. I pull the skin off the drumsticks because the skin won't go crispy in this dish and I prefer it off.
  • 2 x 400mL tins of apricot nectar.
  • 2 x 40g sachets of French Onion Soup Mix. You can use either the Continental brand or just home brand if you like.
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 2 large carrots, sliced.

  • Mix apricot nectar and french onion soup mix together, set aside.
  • Take skin off drumsticks
  • Put drumsticks, peas, carrots and apricot mixture into the slow cooker. 
  • Put the lid on and cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 4 hours. 
  • When cooked, you can thicken the sauce with a tablespoon of cornflour mixed with a little water.

Happy Cooking,


Thursday, 16 August 2012

Reducing the cost of your grocery bill

Good morning everyone! I'm in the midst of my meal planning and grocery list making for the fortnight, so I thought I'd do up a quick post on my tips for keeping the cost of your grocery bill down. In a household of six, it's really important for us to keep our food bill as low as possible. We have a lot of mouths to feed, and there's cleaning products and personal items to buy as well - so it adds up fast! 

1.  MEAL PLAN. I have done a previous post on meal planning here. It goes into how I do my meal planning. When I wrote the post I was meal planning weekly, but I've recently changed to fortnightly because that frees up every second Friday for me, but the principles are the same. Remember what I said about routines being flexible? It's the same for any kind of routine, meal planning included. Planning out your meals for the week/fortnight/month (whatever works for you) will reduce the cost of your shopping list. You will know exactly what you can use up in your fridge, freezer and pantry and you're writing down every ingredient you need and buying it when you do your shopping, thus eliminating the need to go back to the supermarket for one forgotten thing. We all know what happens when we go into the shops for 'just one thing', don't we? We buy something that we don't need. And waste money. So meal plan, because it WILL save you money. 

2. CHECK YOUR CATALOGUES. If you don't get your catalogues delivered regularly, check them out online. Coles and Woolworths also have a subscription option so you can get the weekly catalogue emailed straight to you. Have a look at what's on special. Not just to help you meal plan, but make sure you're looking at the cleaning products and other household items that are in there. Write down on your shopping list the things that are on special - and how much they are. Too many times I've gone shopping thinking something was on special for one price and it's been marked as another. And the idea of having a trolley with small children and leaving where you're up to in your shopping to go and find a catalogue to check it? Too hard. Or alternately, carry a copy of the catalogue with you, or pick one up on the way into the store.

3. READ THE PRICE TAGS. Okay, you've made it into the supermarket with your comprehensive list of everything you need. As you make your way around the shop, take the time to glance at the price tags. Often cheaper items will be placed on either the top or bottom shelves, with the expensive items right at eye level. Some stores have instore specials as well, which are not in the catalogue. A lot of stores have a great tool you can use on the price tags now too, which tells you how much something is per 100g, or per 100 sheets (toilet paper)...etc. It's a great way to compare how much something really is and whether you're getting the most out of your dollar. 

4. LOOK FOR MARKED DOWN ITEMS. This is especially applicable to the meat and dairy sections, but can be applied storewide. Supermarkets will put stickers on their produce indicating something is a cheaper price when it's coming close to it's use by date. These are important to look out for because they will save you a lot of money. Even if something goes out of date the next day, you can freeze most things to use later on. Depending on how flexible your budget is, sometimes it's worth picking up things that are marked down by quite a bit and freezing them to be used in another week's meal plan or shopping list. If you're on a strict budget, just pick them up if they're on your list. 

5. STICK TO YOUR LIST. Okay, I'm contradicting myself slightly here. In the point above, I advocated picking up things that are dramatically marked down to save you money in the future. I don't always do this, but I will if I know it won't blow my budget. It's something you need to assess based on your situation. 
But, I generally stick to my rule of NEVER deviating from the list. Stick to it. You've spent time making sure there is everything you need on it. If chocolate isn't on the list - don't buy it. If that nice looking scotch fillet isn't on the list - don't buy it. It's a sure fire way of adding LOTS of money to your shopping bill. 
If you're ducking into the shops mid week to pick up bread or milk or fruit (the only things you should need to get), then still, make a list. Even if there's only one thing on your list. Get used to only buying what's on that piece of paper, and you'll save money. Many a time I've walked in to get milk, and $30 later I've walked out with a bag full of things I don't need. 

6. BUY IN BULK. This will save you money in the long run. But it's generally a larger outlay in the beginning, so we don't always do this. The things I will do it for though is hand soap, toilet paper, laundry powder, etc. It will save you lots of money with your household cleaning things. If you know a good butcher, buying meat in bulk is cheaper, but just remember you will need freezer space for it all. 

I hope these tips help you in reducing the cost of your groceries. Make yourself aware of where that extra money is going - Are you going to the shops daily and buying unnecessary things? Do you impulse buy at the checkout? Do you make a list so you know what you need? Paying attention to these things will save you money. And we all know that can only be a good thing.

Happy Shopping!


Tuesday, 14 August 2012

*RECIPE* - Macaroni Beef

Hello again. I didn't get around to putting up the recipe for Macaroni Beef yesterday, things got a bit busy around the house and running children to appointments. So I'm trying again. 
This recipe is so, so easy. It has very few ingredients and you can cook the meat sauce in the slow cooker to save you even more time, but it works just as well on the stove top. This is a great meal to have prepared in advance, you can make up the bake the day before and just take it out of the fridge and put it in the oven when it's dinner time. My kids love this recipe, it's kind of like a mixed up lasagne, but easier to make! Plus you can grate as many 'hidden' vegies into it as you like.


500g Minced Beef
1 zucchini, grated
2 carrots, grated
Cup of frozen peas
Tin of condensed tomato soup
Macaroni (or pasta of choice)
Cheese (for topping)


Brown mince in pan, add zucchini, carrot and peas. Add tin of soup, cover and simmer until vegies are tender and meat is cooked (about 30 mins). Or if you're slow cooking, just throw all the ingredients in the slow cooker pot and cook on  low for 8 hours or on high for 4 hours. No need to brown the meat if you're slow cooking!

While meat is cooking, boil a pot of water and add macaroni to cook. I use about 250g (which is half a packet). But you can add as much or as little pasta as you like. Adding more is a good way to bulk it up and make the meal go a bit further.

When the meat and pasta are cooked, stir the macaroni into the meat mixture and put it in a baking dish. Top with grated cheese and bake until cheese is browned. 

That's it! Sometimes I make a white sauce and spread it onto the bake before I put the cheese on, but it's not necessary if you want to save time. I'll include my recipe for white sauce in case you decide to use it.


1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons plain flour
500ml milk 

Melt butter in a saucepan and add flour to create a roux (which is just the butter and flour mixed together). Add milk and whisk until it comes to the boil and thickens up. Simmer for a couple of minutes, whisking often. Season to taste. 

I hope you enjoy the recipe, let me know if you try it and what you think. It's a favourite in our house and there's rarely any leftovers!
I just realised I don't have a photo of it, but I'll take one the next time I make it, and will update this post then. 

Happy Cooking!


Monday, 13 August 2012

Weekly Meal Plan #5

Checking in with my weekly meal plan again. There's a few family favourites in there and some quick and easy ones too. My meal plan doesn't run Monday - Friday as many do, and I've explained my reasons for my odd meal plan structure here. Hopefully you get a bit of meal time inspiration :)

Friday - Macaroni Beef 

Saturday - Sausages with corn on the cob and salad

Sunday - Cheese toasties

Monday - Slow cooked beef stew (double batch for meals next week)

Tuesday - Roast chicken and roast veg 

Wednesday - Baked beans on toast

Thursday - Honey baked lentils and salad


I'm going to put up the recipe for the Macaroni Beef later today. It's a fabulous recipe that kids love and you can grate as many vegetables into it as you like! I'll also feature a couple of other recipes from my meal plan as the week goes on. I'm also linking up with The Organised Housewife this week, so feel free to click on the button below and join in the fun :)

Have a lovely week,

The Organised Housewife

Friday, 10 August 2012

Slow Cooking

There's been a bit of buzz in my little world lately about slow cookers. It seems many people are either new to the world of slow cooking or they're rediscovering the joys of having dinner done without feeling as though they've cooked it. I adore my slow cooker. I use it often and it saves me so much time. With four children, things get a bit wild at our place by the end of the day, especially when they're all tired and hungry. By making use of our slow cooker, I can focus on slowing down our routine and getting them settled for the end of the day without having to spend an hour in the kitchen. So I thought I'd compile a blog post about slow cookers with some handy tips and tricks to make your evenings more peaceful and just plain easier.

Slow cookers come in all different sizes. I personally think it's better to go all out and buy a larger one from the get go. I know of many people who have started out with a small one and upgraded to a larger one to make big batch cooking easier. They are relatively inexpensive as far as appliances go, so starting with a larger one may not be too expensive and it will save you money in the long run - especially if your family grows. But by all means, pick up a small one if that's  your preference. 

There are about 3 or 4 settings on a cooker. Low, High, Auto (and some have a 'Warm' function). But these settings can vary between models. Mine doesn't have a warming option, which I find fine as the heavy ceramic dish retains its heat for quite some time, so I just turn it off when it's done. 
Generally, cooking on low will take about 8 hours, whereas cooking on high will take 4. The auto function usually goes for about 6 hours and starts it off on low then finishes cooking on high. The setting you choose will depend on how early you start cooking. 
I have found that most meals will still be fall apart tender when they're cooked on a high setting, but if I'm cooking something like a roast (I'll explain how later) I choose to cook on low, so that big piece of meat really has time to get nice and tender.  In fact, I prefer to cook on low most times, as it will reduce the risk of your meat drying out (depending on the cut you've used). But sometimes my day just won't run as planned, so it's good to know I can pop it on in the early afternoon and still have dinner cooked at a decent hour.

You can cook almost anything in a slow cooker. I think a good way to start (especially if you're new to the world of cooking) is to pick up those little recipe sachets you find in the supermarket near the spice section. Some of those are specifically designed for slow cookers, although I have found that if you go to the Maggi website you can look up specific recipe mixes (even ones designed for normal cooking) and it will give you the instructions on how to cook it a variety of ways - including in a slow cooker! McCormicks and Masterfoods are the other brands that I've used. They do slow cooker specific ones, which are really yummy. 

In most slow cooker recipes (including the recipe sachets) it will tell you to brown the meat and onion before you put it in the slow cooker. I know lots of people do this, but after doing it both ways, I have to say I much prefer to just throw everything into the slow cooker pot raw and let the slow cooker do it's thing. I haven't noticed the slightest difference between browning and not browning the meat, and really, who wants another pan to clean? It almost defies the reason for using the slow cooker in the first place! Put it all in together - trust me, it will be great. 

I'm not going to post recipes for the slow cooker in this post now. I may do some in the future, but there is a whole world out there of recipe books dedicated to slow cooking, recipe mixes in the supermarket and the internet has thousands of recipes at your fingertips. But, some of my favourite things to cook are -
  • Stew. Beef stew, lamb stew, pork name it, I'll slow cook it. There's nothing like melt in your mouth meat and veg swimming in thick gravy. Yum.
  • Curries.
  • Soups.
  • All the meat mixtures for shepherd's pie, spaghetti bolognaise, chilli con carne, lasagne...etc.
  • Roast beef.
Now, you'll notice I just said roast beef. That's because when I roast a chicken, lamb or pork I love the crispy fat and skin on top. With beef there never seems to be much of it, so it's a prime candidate for the slow cooker. 
All I do is put 2 cups of beef stock into the bottom of the slow cooker, put the roast on top and leave to cook on low for 8 hours. The meat will fall apart and be divinely tender, and you can use the residual stock and beef juices to make a delicious gravy. 
ALWAYS put liquid of some kind in the bottom of your slow cooker when roasting. Using a dry slow cooker will risk your ceramic dish cracking...and you don't want that. 

Also, when you're adapting  a recipe you would normally cook on the stove or in the oven, make sure you cut your liquids back by about a quarter. Liquids don't evaporate in the slow cooker, and some extra liquid will be generated too, so make sure you put in a bit less. If you're following a recipe designed for a slow cooker, just follow the recipe normally. 

You can also cook puddings and things in the slow cooker, but I have to say I never have. I'm usually too busy cooking other things, but I will have to try it one day. I'd love to hear if any of you have ever done one, and how it turned out!

I can promise you this. Slow cooking will make your life easier. Defrost your meat the night before, get dinner cooking in the morning and your whole house will smell delicious all day. You'll get home from work/picking up kids/after school activities and dinner will be done. At most you might need to put on some rice or mash or something to have with it....and that's not hard to do at all. 
It will save you time and also money if you do some big batch cooking and freeze the leftovers for dinner another night. Slow cooking will change the way you think about cooking dinner. It won't feel like you've cooked at all.

Hopefully you've enjoyed my tips on slow cooking, I hope they've helped!

Happy Slow Cooking,



Thursday, 9 August 2012

Big Batch Baking

I love big batch baking. It makes my life so much easier. I only seem to do it when I'm organised and the house is organised, so I figure that is saying something! (Thankyou lists).
I usually bake for the kids school lunches and freeze them so there's always something ready to go. I decided to get stuck into it today and get a heap of baking done because otherwise I seem to reach for pre packaged snacks...something I'd prefer not to do. Big batch baking is an economical way of making sure there are some treats on hand for school lunch boxes and after school snacks. 

Today I made Peanut Butter Rice Bubble SliceChocolate Chip Cookies and Apple and Cinnamon Muffins. The muffins I freeze in either freezer safe containers (like the Tupperware Antarctica containers) or I've also been known to freeze them in clip seal bags, which makes it easy to see what's inside. If you're using the bag method, make sure they're spaced evenly in the freezer until they're frozen, otherwise you'll end up with squashed muffins.  I made a double batch today, which gave me 36 muffins in total.

The Chocolate Chip Cookies were made from the 100 biscuit recipe. It's quite a well known recipe, but it's the cheapest way I've found to make biscuits. And lots of them. I made up the batch of plain cookie dough then mixed the chocolate chips in. Of course you can make any number of flavours - the possibilities are endless really - and I often make a few different ones from the one batch of dough. 
I normally split the dough into four parts and cook one batch then freeze the rest in logs so I can reach into the freezer when I want to bake more cookies and all I have to do is cut the logs up into little discs then bake them. Today I baked 2 trays of cookies (which made about 28), then split the remaining dough into three sections and froze them in logs. I think each log will still make about 18 cookies when I bake them next. 

The peanut butter rice bubble slice won't be frozen. I've stored it in an airtight container in the fridge. It probably won't last long as the kids love it, and I haven't ever tried freezing a rice bubble slice, so I'm not sure if it would lose its crunch. Hmmm.....I might just have to test a piece and see.

Clockwise from left - Peanut Butter Rice Bubble Slice, Apple and Cinnamon Muffins, the cookie dough logs for freezing and Chocolate Chip Cookies.

I hope I've inspired you to do some big batch baking of your own! Not just for school lunches, it's also a great way to stock up on treats for hubby's lunch, when friends drop by for a cuppa unexpectedly or when you're heading out to a morning tea. How great to have some home baked loveliness ready to go when you need it.

I'd love to hear what you'll be baking!




Wednesday, 8 August 2012

What's on those lists anyway?

Following on from my post on routines yesterday, some of you may be wondering exactly what is on all those lists I have stuck up everywhere. I love those lists. I can't believe how much easier they are making my life. I used to think there just wasn't enough hours in the day to do the Mummy thing, school runs, washing, cleaning, shopping etc that needed to be done. I felt like I was run down and just running out of time. 
My first list is my daily routine. I think at the moment this is the important one for me. It spells out my day in black and white, from the time I wake up at 6am (my designated wake up time which guarantees me my morning cuppa!) right through to making lunches for the next day before I sit down for the evening. 
I think it's important for school mornings to run smoothly. It gives your children a better, more peaceful start to their busy day and you don't feel like your  nerves are shot by 8am. So that means being organised the night before with lunches and uniforms, not just being organised in the mornings. My basic daily routine goes something like this (an abbreviated version) -
6am - Get up, shower, coffee. Empty dishwasher from the night before while the kettle boils.
6:45am - Wake kids, organise breakfast. 
7am - Breakfast time. Put load of washing on while kids eat.
9:30am - General housework....(see list)
11:30am - Get ready for preschool 
12 noon - Preschool drop off
And you probably get the drift by now. It all fits on one A4 size piece of paper, but it's quite detailed with little reminders to make sure things get done. 
I have no idea how I functioned without it. Actually, it's fair to say I didn't . My house certainly didn't stay clean. 
So next we have the daily cleaning list. This is on a separate piece of paper stuck up above the routine. These are all the jobs I do in a day around the house. And I do them all every day. I've learned not to stress myself out by doing a full spring clean within every task, which just takes way too much time and I'm exhausted by the end of the day! Because these are the things I do daily, they don't take much time and we're talking about doing them as quickly as possible.
It looks a little like this -
- Clean kitchen, stack dishwasher and wipe down benchtops/cupboards
- Laundry - Wash, dry, fold and put away
- Vacuum floors
- Wipe over bathroom vanity and toilets
- Dust
- Tidy playroom 
- Sweep back verandah and tidy toys in yard
- Make beds
- Check bins and take out if needed
That's pretty much it at the moment. Doing these few things every day keeps my home looking clean and tidy. And because it's done every day, none of these things feel like a big job at all. Good, hey?
The other list I have up is a weekly cleaning list. I've allocated one 'bigger' task to be done each day of the week (Monday to Friday - on weekends we all pitch in and we're generally busy so things get done differently). My weekly list looks like this -
Monday - Mop floors (I know some may mop more than once a week, but I find by vacuuming daily I can avoid this as it's time consuming with the floor space in our house. I do spot clean throughout the week though and if it's looking untidy towards the end of the week I'll do the kitchen/living areas again).
Tuesday - Spot clean walls. (We have a 3 yo boy. Enough said? LOL! He puts his hands and feet on the walls and it's impossible to stop him. It would also be impossible to clean if it wasn't done regularly. So it is.)
Wednesday - Strip beds and wash linen. 5 beds. It's a big job.
Thursday - Give bathrooms a really good clean. This means besides the quick clean done daily, on this day I also scrub out the bath, clean all the glass shower screens, mirrors, around the taps...etc.
Friday - Grocery day. I actually only shop once a fortnight, so this gives me every second Friday free to do something else that may need to be done. When I do a monthly cleaning list I'll probably utilise this second Friday to get that task done. 
So there you are! I've totally swamped you with lists, but I hope someone out there will find this post useful. I've used a few cleaning systems in the past (Flylady being the most recent one) but I like this system. It's simple, it's clear and it tells me what needs doing and when. I imagine it will evolve over time (as lists and routines tend to do) but for now this is good for me. 
I'll put up the monthly and annual lists when I get around to doing those.
Until next time,
Weekly Meal Plan #4

Friday - Marinated chicken wings and salad

Saturday - Take away (we had pizza)

Sunday - Snack tea (cheese on toast)

Monday - Slow cooker creamy chicken casserole and rice

Tuesday - Tacos!

Wednesday - Oven bake fish with chips and salad

Thursday - Eggs on toast

Hi there! It's been quite a while since I did a meal plan on the blog. I'm hoping to get back to doing it weekly again - it really helps future meal plans to be able to go back for ideas. There's a bit of a difference with this one though (and all future ones will be the same). Instead of doing meals from Monday through to Sunday, like I was doing previously, I've now done it from Friday through to Thursday. This actually suits me better, as our pay day is on a Thursday. So I shop on the Friday morning and structure my weeks meals from there. 

If you're wanting to use this meal plan, feel free to close your eyes and pretend it starts on a Monday if that suits you - or start on whichever day you like! This meal plan is a bit late, as it's already Wednesday, so expect a new one this Friday!

Happy Planning~


Tuesday, 7 August 2012

The Virtues of a Routine


Hello again! It's been a loooong time since my last post. Life has been hectic in general and I, um,  became disorganised (yeah, yeah, I know. Shock horror, huh?). So I'm left without a doubt that when my home is disorganised, my head is the same. I run late, the place looks a mess, the children are irritable, I find myself yelling and well, let's just say chaos reigns supreme. 

So I sat and had a think. Obviously I have some defective gene that prevents me from naturally being organised and getting things done. I remembered back to the days of my first baby and the huge lists I'd write down so I didn't forget anything. And then it struck me. Routine. Things seemed to run smoothly when I had a nice structured piece of paper telling me when baby was meant to be sleeping, when I was going to do the shopping, when I was setting aside cleaning time - etc. Yep, I was once one of those 'list' people. And you know what? It worked for me. Well, at least I seem to remember it working. Of course you allow for some flexibility within your routine but it was somehow reassuring to see there was a plan for how my day was going to go.

So, now that I'm the mother of four children, it stands to reason that I probably need that little piece of paper more than ever. I don't have a baby anymore (my youngest just turned 3) so there's no longer naptimes etc to contend with. But I do have a preschooler who does 4 half days a week, 2 big kids who have drop off and pick up times for school, a big house that just won't clean itself for some reason AND I'd like to maybe get some baking done some days. 

I was also just getting tired and fed up. Tired of not being organised in the mornings, rushing to sort out uniforms and school lunches, telling kids to hurry up with their breakfast because we're running late - all of which was my fault. Not theirs. Surely my children deserve a mother waking them up with a happy 'Good morning!' as opposed to a quick 'Get out of bed we're going to be late!!!'.
Okay, so it wasn't quite that bad, but it wasn't the peaceful start I wanted. Plus, there's coffee. I was missing out on my morning coffee! It just wouldn't do. So I got to typing.

Don't laugh. But I've pretty much outlined everything I do in a day. With times. But, like I said above, flexibility is key. That doesn't mean I can just ignore the routine and carry on my merry disorganised way, but if I don't get that load of washing in the machine while the kids are eating breakfast because I'm cleaning up spilled milk then that's okay, it can be done later when I get home from the school run. I use those sorts of things as little reminders of what I could be doing when my brain is frazzled from having an in depth conversation about what the smallest planet is at 7:00 am. It keeps me on track.

As a result, my days are peaceful. They flow. I have no excuses for forgetting to stop at the supermarket because it's right there in black and white reminding me to do it. I've stuck this up in the kitchen where I'll see it all day. Just above it I have a daily cleaning list and a weekly cleaning list, to remind me as well. And of course I have my trusty meal plan stuck up inside my pantry door. I'll let you know how it all goes. But for now, I sit here in a clean and tidy house, with dinner started, a cake baked for afternoon tea, washing done, folded and put away and I have a quiet moment to blog.

I'll do another blog post some other time that details my routine and cleaning lists I've got going on at the moment. I'm more than happy to share if it helps others!

But for now, life is sweet.

Have a happy day,