Remember KISS


We all know the KISS principle – Keep It Simple, Stupid.

Sometimes I read things online or hear conversations that really leave me wondering if it is time to remind ourselves of this and, dare I say it, get back to basics.

Today I read a comment on social media from someone who wanted to know if there were any good Apps for menu planning.  I do have an iPhone and have several Apps on it but certainly do not need one to plan a menu for the week.

If you can make a decision on what to eat for dinner, make sure you have the ingredients, prepare the meal and serve it to your family then you are capable of menu planning – and it does not require an App or any other gadgetry.  A pen and back of a used envelope work quite well.

Some people plan for a month, others have a 4 week rotating menu or a set dish each week such as Monday night is pasta and so on.  Some make a fixed decision about what meal on what day or the opposite view is a list of potential meals and choose what suits each day.

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There seem to be as many ways to plan a menu as there are people but here is my take on it.

I plan meals for the coming week – 6 or 7 nights – and do it each weekend before I go shopping.  I know what staple pantry items I keep and the first step is to check for anything in the refrigerator which needs to be used up.  I also make a note of the types of meat I have in the freezer and take into account what is growing in the garden.  Basing our meals on what is seasonally available is important to me and nowhere is this more evident than what is in your own garden.  Take into account any family commitments eg: sports training, late meetings, social events.  I then make a list of meals using the ‘rules’ I have set up.  These are unique to me but I am sure you will have some of your own.  They may relate to pricing, type of food, preparation time and so on.


My ‘rules’ are that in a 7 day period there will generally be one fish, one chicken and two red meat dishes with the remainder vegetarian which will include at least 1 egg-based meal.  Also, I try to make sure I rotate the carbs in a meal and do not have rice on consecutive nights.  Our meals are gluten-free but that is really no problem for me – it is simply how we eat.  The weekday meals must be able to be made ahead and reheated or prepared quickly due to long days at work and commuting.  I generally prepare enough of at least some meals to freeze for another week.


Then it is simply a matter of roughing out a plan on a piece of paper.  From this you can then make a shopping list and buy only what you need for the week.  This will assist in eliminating wasted food and save you money.

I think the aspect of menu planning that people find the most daunting is actually thinking of meals to add to the list.  If you are struggling with this just start by keeping a notebook and writing down meals as you think of them and the meals you eat each night until you have at least 12 meals and use that as the basis of your plan.
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There is nothing particularly clever or high tech about menu planning.  It is simply a method of taking the angst out of deciding what to eat for dinner each night.  It removes the fallback position of “let’s grab a pizza/fish and chips/hamburger” and puts you in control.

Too Much Food


I am sure you have seen the statistics which indicate that we discard between 20 and 50% of all food that is produced.  Although this is from the UK, the situation is similar in all developed countries.

It is disgusting that so much food is wasted while there are millions of people on this planet who go hungry every day.

When I first read these figures, a couple of years ago, I found it unbelievable.  However, since then I have realised that many people have very different ideas to me when it comes to food usage and storage.

I work in a city office of a large global corporation and from time to time there are catered events.  I understand the difficulties of predicting quantities when catering for unknown numbers and tastes.  However, the fate of the leftover food is disappointing, to say the least.

This week (Tuesday) there was a large tray of untouched green salad – specialty lettuce, red onion, cucumber, bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, shredded carrot and corn kernels as well as breads, dips and fruit.  This was placed on the bench in the kitchen area and generally announced in the open office.  I decided to have a plate of salad with hommus and basil pesto for my lunch and save my packed lunch for another day.  There may have been one or two others who had a little salad but there was still a substantial quantity left a few hours later.  I did not want to see it spoil so I packed it in the fridge.  I put as much as I could into a square plastic container that I had plus I filled this container that was on the bench.

2015-03-05 01That accounted for about half of the salad so I put the rest in 2 large noodle bowls, covered them and placed them in the fridge.

I brought the 2 plastic containers home which provided enough salad for 4 lunches plus dinner for both of us tonight, alongside our hamburger patties and some fried mushrooms and onions.  The salad remaining in the container is enough for my lunch tomorrow – last of the 4 lunches.

I was not in the office yesterday and when I arrived this morning the 2 bowls of salad were untouched but the midday they had disappeared.  I cannot be certain but most likely they were discarded into the bin.  I am constantly astounded by the lack of interest in using up perfectly good food.  I am not suggesting that people gorge themselves on the excess but rather use it for future meals.

On a similar note, I went to a small community gathering yesterday evening and the request was to bring a plate of supper to share.  This is what I took.

2015-03-05 02Does it look meagre?  I constantly witness over-catering at events where there is ‘bring a plate’ catering..  If you think about it logically, you should really only contribute the equivalent of what you or your family group would reasonably eat if there was no other food to choose from.  If everyone adhered to this principle, rather than bringing huge cakes or platters of sandwiches, there would be minimal wastage and less over-indulging.

What do you think?

Making Ends Meet – Emergency Action


As I mentioned in my previous post, these are the things that you can do immediately that will make a difference.

1  Eat from what you already have

We have all heard the cry, “But there is nothing to eat!”  If you are living in a developed country it is very, very unlikely that this is the case.  In fact many of us do the grocery shopping out of habit as much as for the real need of buying food.  The other thing to consider is that in the UK, USA and Australia research shows that somewhere between 20 and 40% of all food is wasted.  Imagine buying 5 bags of groceries and throwing 1-2 bags full straight in the bin.  It sounds ridiculous but that is essentially what is happening.

The first step is to make an inventory of what you have – in the refrigerator, freezer and pantry.  Then plan as many meals and snacks as possible from what you have.  Trawl around the internet and you will find literally hundreds of sites offering ways to create meals from limited ingredients. 

2  Stay away from the shops

If you are not there you cannot spend money.  It is simple really.  Shopping is not entertainment.

3  Curtail your car usage. 

Walk or cycle everywhere that you possibly can.

4  Minimise your heating costs

Wear more clothes at home.  Put a beanie on.  It may not look glamorous but a disproportionate amount is lost through your head.

keeping warm
Do all of these things for 2 weeks and you have immediately saved the equivalent of what you would normally spend on:

Incidental purchases

Try it and see how you go.

If you would like to send me a list of what is in your freezer, refrigerator and pantry right now I will do a menu plan for a week (at least) and use it as the basis of an upcoming post.  Just let me know the number in the family and ages of children.  You can email me at the address in the ‘About Me’ tab at the top of the page.

World Environment Day

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Well, yesterday was World Environment Day.  So, what did you do?  Anything special to mark the occasion?  Make a commitment to change something to make your life a little more sustainable?  Even just stop and pause to reflect on your journey to lower your carbon footprint?

The theme for this year is Think. Eat. Save and the focus is around the enormous (20%) wastage of all food in 1st World countries.  I am planning to encourage people in my workplace to take up the challenge and try not to waste so much food.  There will be more details on that another day.