Category Archives: Food

Simple (and natural) Housecleaning- The Microwave and the Fridge

Image :Pexals
If you’re interested in natural yet simple housecleaning check out the hints below.
The microwave:
To deodorise and clean stubborn food splatters from the interior of the microwave fill a microwave safe bowl or jug with water. Add a few slices of lemon or even lemon halves that have already being juiced. If you have them you can also add a couple of whole cloves. Heat this mixture on high for five minutes then allow to stand for a few minutes. The baked on splatters should then wipe of easily with a soft cloth and the microwave will also smell fresh.
Wipe down the exterior of the microwave with a soft cloth dampened with a vinegar/water solution ( 1 cup of warm water and a couple of capfuls of cheap white vinegar) . Dry and polish any streaks away with a soft dry cloth.
Keep a plate cover in the microwave to encourage people to cover their plates or containers before heating food. If they use it, it will save a lot of work.
The Refrigerator.
Clean the refrigerator the day of or the day before you do your grocery shopping. Do this each week and it will be faster and easier to clean. You will also be able to write your grocery list as you go and save money and cut down on wastage by buying only what you need and not buying what you already have and by seeing what you can use up before it spoils.
Try using plastic baskets or a similar type of container to keep like items together. Find containers that are easy the see items through and that are easy to wash. Plastic baskets are found in discount stores and also in the supermarket- often the aisle where the laundry products are kept. If you are watching your budget buy one a week until you have the supply you need. Otherwise you might already have suitable containers such as food storage containers that have lost their lid, or the plastic punnets apples and other fruit are sold in. This is a great way to recycle.
Consider lining the vegetable crisper drawers with old but clean tea towels or placemats. This saves on cleaning and absorbs moisture. When they become soiled or damp, wash and dry them, wash out the drawers and then re-line them.You can also use paper towels but they’re not as durable or eco friendly.
When cleaning start at the top of the fridge, working down to the vegetable crisper then back up to the top of the door and work down from there. Do the same with freezer. 

Have an ready;

an empty bin

a compost bucket

a bowl or ice cream container filled with warm water with a couple of capfuls of vinegar and a capful of vanilla added

a sponge with a soft scourer on one side

a dry cloth or tea towel

and a notebook and pen for the grocery list.
Take all items off the first shelf. Check for freshness and check use by and throw out or compost any spoiled food. Write anything you need to replace or are low on, on you grocery list. Wipe down containers of items you are keeping and sort them into baskets if you are doing so. If the baskets also need washing do this too. Wipe the shelf over and under with the damp sponge and dry it before replacing the food. Continue on with this until the shelves and inside door are finished.
Wipe down the sides of the door and door seals with the same vinegar/vanilla solution and dry well.
Add an opened container of bi-carb to the back of the top shelf- it will absorb odours.
Wipe and polish the refrigerator door handles and the door. A spray bottle filled with 1 part white vinegar and 4 parts water with work for most surfaces. Add a capful of eucalyptus, tea tree or lavender oil (or all three) to make a sweet smelling cleaning spray the naturally disinfects as well.
Never use abrasive cleaners or cloths on the outside of appliances like the fridge, microwave or dishwasher. They will cause scratches. A vinegar solution or methylated spirits on a dry cloth will make stainless steel doors shine.

When your fridge is clean and tidy look at what you have left and try to incorporate that into your next weeks meal plan.

Clean your freezer in the same way if it is frost free. If it is not you will need to find your owners manual- it should be online if you don’t have a physical copy- because there are safety precautions you MUST follow.

Do you have any tips? Share in the comments below and subscribe for more aSimple Life 🌟

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Simple Lunch Boxes

The new school year is about to start here and the supermarkets are hawking the lunch boxes and lunch and snack foods so I thought it would be a good time to think about simplifying the lunch box.

Smash Enterprises Rubbish Free Containers

Packing a lunch box is a great way for anyone to save money and eat healthier food. Being organised and simplifying how you pack the lunch box will make sure you actually DO use it because it is READY when you are about to run out the door. Put a post it on the door to remind you to run back to the fridge and grab it though!  If you are mindful about what you include, packing a lunch box and s cheaper and healthier than bought lunches and snacks too.

 
Look at the tips below for organising and simplifying the task of packing lunch boxes.

 
If you don’t do this already, plan on dedicating an area in the fridge and the pantry or place where you store non-perishables, for lunch and snack items so the person packing the lunch box has easy, grab and go access to items. If you freeze lunch items designate an area in the freezer too. Keep in mind that you don’t have to designate a whole shelf or drawer, a basket or plastic container will do. Apart from making it easy to grab and go by having a designated spot for lunch items, the grocery shopper/s in the family can also see at a glance which items need replenishing.

Try to pick a regular time of day to pack lunches. Pick the afternoon or before dinner if mornings are a mad rush. If afternoons are a problem think of another time when you might be in the kitchen anyway, like lunch time, while you’re cooking dinner, or after you have unloaded the dishwasher- you will probably only need 5 or 10 minutes max. Consider delegating the task and get the kids involved. If they don’t want to help, tell the, that’s ok you were planning on packing sardine and liverwurst sandwiches, they will be happy to fetch the Vegemite then. Wink!
If you succeed in getting the children involved make it easy for them to help you by storing the items you will commonly use where they can reach it. You can even have your child make their sandwich when they have their afternoon snack or while you are making dinner or cleaning up after breakfast. It is possible that the more involved they are the more likely they are to eat their lunch! Consider posting a chart somewhere in the kitchen (like the inside of a cupboard door) with pictures of what you want packed, eg a sandwich, one or two pieces of fruit, veggie sticks, a treat, and a drink- whatever you wish they would eat!
Speaking of getting the kids involved, I started and continue to try and enforce the habit of bringing the empty lunch box and drink bottles to the kitchen as soon as we get home. This is usually the time when when I will be fixing an afternoon snack anyway so it makes sense to me. It’s a good time to discuss what and why something hasn’t been eaten and enjoyed so you can plan alternatives and it’s a good time to wash everything. A caveat-don’t rely on your child (or teenager!) to completely empty all the food and containers out of their bag, it is highly unlikely that they will ! Unless you personally check their bags frequently, you WILL one day be lead to an odour that turns out to be a shocking, soggy, mouldy mess that will permanently stain and ‘odourise’ their bag and turn you off your own lunch for quite some time-trust me on this one, I have l much experience in this matter.
Cut veggie sticks the night before when preparing the veggies for that nights dinner-(This is also a good time to prep veggie for the next nights dinner!) Store in airtight containers or ziplock bags lined with a paper towel liner and the veggies will stay fresh. Save little sauce containers if you get some with a take away to use to sometimes add a dipping sauce for some variety.
When washing grapes, take the time to wash the whole bunch. Use kitchen scissors to cut smaller bunches and pop them into containers or ziplock bags. Place these into a storage basket in the fridge for a grab and go snack or a quick addition to lunch boxes. Try popping a few of the pre-packed bunches of grapes into the freezer for a refreshing snack the is a healthy alternative to ice-blocks etc.
Most fruit can be washed ahead of time, but strawberries should only be washed close to the time when they will be eaten for the best texture and flavour. Oranges can be pre-cut but keep apples whole or cut them at the last minute and then reassemble it into it’s “apple” shape and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap to keep out as much air as possible so it won’t go brown.
Most schools have a ‘munch and crunch’ programme for students to have a snack and reenergise during class time. You will probably be given a list of suitable foods, which are not only healthy choices, but are also ‘less messy’ foods. Use this list to remind you to pack the munch and crunch and as a jumping off point for what you can pack that is healthy and not as likely to stain that freshly ironed school uniform-you may say I’m a dreamer… You may note-cherries are NOT ON THAT LIST!
Half or quarter fill drink bottles with the chosen beverage and freeze them. Each morning top them up with the rest of the beverage to make a handy ice pack to keep lunches fresh as well as providing a cool drink.Remeber what beverage you froze though, some combinations that may occur as a result of forgetfulness may not be so palatable- chocolate milk and lime cordial comes to mind. Better to stick with water, I think.
Check containers are easy to open and close for your children to prevent them dropping or spilling their lunch and prevent leaks-refer to stained school bag dilemna above. Schools encourage labelled, reusable containers, and while try are better for the environment, they can be quite costly, so check that they are user friendly too. Don’t spend too much though, they will get lost! You may don industrial grade rubber gloves and check ‘lost property’ but don’t expect too much of this black hole of  scholarly belonging so-in fact, I limit my search to two minutes or less, lest I also be sucked into this portal where Tupperware lids, jumpers and yellow raincoats go to die.
Be on the look out for different sizes and shapes of containers. Reuse takeaway containers and  tiny sauce tubs too.Label the top and bottom with the families last name. Also have on hand ziplock bags, foil, wrap, paper towels and even some plastic cutlery. Try to find a common drawer or shelf to store all of this. Keep it as neat and organised as you can and try not to have too much, toppling Tupperware towers will NOT inspire you to pack a lunch and being hit on the head by an avalanche of alfoil and glad wrap boxes just plain HURTS, When you wash and dry a drink bottle or container put it’s lid on before storing it and discard the odd bods.
Consider having two lunch boxes per person. While one is being used or washed and dried, the other can be filled ahead of time and kept in the fridge, ready to go.
When you have time be creative with your child’s lunch just to make it more appetising and special, present it bento box style, cut food into shapes or make wraps or rolled up sandwiches, include stickers or a note, add a few treats to share such as home popped popcorn or some smiley faced biscuits.
That’s quite a few tips for now, I might leave it there and revisit this topic again later. I also think most of these tips apply to adults as well, working or not, consider taking more homemade lunches and/or snacks when you are not at home and I think you’ll feel better for it.
Add your own tips in the comments too, I’d love to hear them!
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Simple Breakfast Ideas to Get You Out the Door

 

Maybe you or your family have a ‘go to’ breakfast like cereal or toast with an egg for example,but some people have problems eating breakfast due to reasons that can be easily remedied with a little planning or creativity.

Lets look at a few common problems and some possible solutions;

* Being too rushed- planning breakfast, establishing a morning routine and simplifying can help you have the time to sit down and enjoy your breakfast-even if you have kids!

* You or your child have no appetite in the morning or are more ‘selective’ in your food choices (I deleted the word ‘fussy’ since being  selective or having preferences about tastes, textures etc. is common and a big part of my life being a highly sensitive person-so no judgements here)-thinking outside the ‘cereal box’ will help. Typical breakfast food are NOT the only thing that need be on the menu. A hot breakfast of leftovers is something worth trying.

* Your family wants a hot breakfast or craves variety- a little planning and pre-preparation will allow you to serve a pleasing breakfast.

* When you think about the cooking and clean up cereal or toast is just easier- True, a quick and easy breakfast is a great idea, but there are options if you are willing to plan ahead.

Any of the following ideas are worth considering if you want to simplify breakfast or enjoy a more substantial breakfast without stress or taking too much time.

* Write a list of possible meal ideas that you and your family enjoy. Look at Pinterest, recipe books and blogs etc. Refer back to this list when preparing the grocery list. Also think about these options when you read the hints below.

* Set the scene the night before -maybe after the dinner clean up- by laying out placemats, crockery, cutlery etc. Think about what pots and utensils you will need and have them ready on a shelf or corner of the counter.

* Prepare any ingredients you can ahead of time. When you are preparing ingredients for another meal STOP AND THINK if you can also prepare something else now for another meal. Say you are chopping veggies for dinner, spend a couple of minutes chopping some more for an omelette or similar. Store them extra in a ziplock bag or airtight container and it will be available for the next few days. There are also plenty of recipes out there for overnight oats etc, again check out Pinterest for inspiration.

* Pre- measure dry ingredients for your own ‘make-ahead’ mixes. If your are making or planning to make muffins, scones, piklets etc measure a few extra batches of the dry ingredients and store these in labelled plastic containers in the pantry. On the inside of the pantry door have a copy of each recipe with the ingredient list divided into dry and wet categories and also include the method and oven temperature. When you want to make the item the recipe is within easy reach. You will already have the dry ingredients measured and sifted and need to simply add the wet ingredients, mix and cook.

* Love your leftovers- Who says you can’t have leftovers for breakfast? I’m not really suggesting the leftover,cold pizza, I mean leftover fried rice and other rice dishes, savoury mince, roast veggies on toast or added to a frittata -there are as many options as your appetite and imagination allows. Look at what other cultures eat for breakfast-it’s not all porridge and vegemite on toast .

* Go to google. Hit the recipe sites and check out some of the free recipe websites,blogs,YouTube videos etc. While looking online one idea that was new to me was Breakfast in a Mug- google it and see what you come up with. Also don’t forget the magazines and recipe books you already have or that are available at the library. Maybe it is possible for you to decide to try one new recipe a month.
* Just kidding around- it won’t work for some, but in some cases kids can help with breakfast preparation, and making their own food might entice some to eat it. At the very least, everyone can help with the clean up so you are not faced later on in the day with cereal cemented on bowls.

* The most important tip is that any morning will run more smoothly if routines are in place and followed. A morning routine of eating,dressing,packing bags and making beds before any T.V. or electronic devices are allowed will motivate some to move a little faster and eliminate panic and raised voices most of the time. An afternoon routine done the day before where books and sports gear for the next day is assembled, uniforms readied and lunches packed with bags and keys accounted for will add even more time to your mornings. These routines plus getting to bed early enough might even get you a extra cup of coffee in the morning!

No one likes to feel rushed in the morning and no one likes to be late and stressed. It is also a sad start to the day when you have sent the kids off to school without a proper breakfast or with the sound of a nagging, scolding voice setting the tone of the day- they will probably soon forget about it, but you will likely feel crummy all day. A small change here and there, a little planning and preparation, even gaining a few extra minutes to your morning can make all the difference.

Feel welcome to comment with your tips and breakfast ideas.

Leftover Easter Eggs and Add To Me Muffin Mix

Even though it’s only been a week since Easter, you may be looking for ways to use all the leftover Easter eggs and chocolate, instead of having it tempt you every time you see it. Easter eggs are more expensive gram for gram than regular bars of chocolate, so it is wasteful to throw it out when it can be used in so many ways. Try some of the following ideas, and don’t forget if you intend to use the chocolate for cooking you can always freeze it to use later.

1/. Finely grate chocolate in a food processor. Use this for;
* Hot Chocolate Mix- Add the grated chocolate to hot milk. 
* Cake topping- Sprinkle the chocolate over iced cakes and cupcakes.
* Chocolate recipe addition-Add the grated chocolate to pancake, cake, cupcake and muffin batters. Stir or fold through cheesecake, ice-cream and any dessert mix that calls for chocolate.

2/. Melted chocolate. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or slowly in the microwave. Add it to recipes or use it for fondue, ganache, chocolate dipped strawberries. With Mother’s Day and any other special occasions coming up try making gifts of homemade molded chocolates, chocolate dipped spoons, rocky road and other confectionery. Add it to warm cream to make an ice-cream and dessert sauce.

3/. Mini Easter Eggs- Chop roughly or keep whole and add to muffins, cupcakes and cookies.

This is a simple basic recipe for a plain muffin mix. I make up a few separate quantities of the dry ingredients and store it in takeaway containers in the pantry, and just add the wet ingredients and the flavourings when I am ready to bake them. Mini Easter eggs or chopped or grated chocolate is a tasty addition to this mix. Add between 1/4 to 1/2 a cup of the chocolate.

Just Add to Me Muffin Mix

Ingredients:

2 cups plain flour

1/3 cup sugar

1 tbsp baking powder

3/4 tsp salt

1/4 cup canola oil

2 egg whites

1 cup skim milk

Method:

Place the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl and blend all the ingredients together well. In a separate bowl use a whisk to blend the oil, egg whites and milk until blended completely together. Pour into the dry mixture. Mix with a wooden spoon just until everything is moistened, don’t over stir or beat. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Prepare a muffin tin with a non stick cooking spray or paper muffin cups. Fill each muffin cup 2/3 full of batter. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a couple of muffins comes out clean.

Consider making a double batch and freezing the muffins individually for a quick lunchbox addition or to have on hand for guests.

For more interesting muffins just add:

Banana – add 2 mashed bananas with the wet ingredients

Choc Chip – add 1/3 cup choc chips with the dry ingredients

Berry – add 1/2 cup frozen raspberries or blueberries with the wet ingredients

Strawberry and White Chocolate – add 1/2 cup mashed strawberries with the wet ingredients and 1/3 cup white choc chips with the dry ingredients

Cinnamon – add 1/4 tsp nutmeg to the dry ingredients, bake as per recipe. Mix 1/2 cup sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon together in a small bowl and dip tops of muffins in this mixture as soon as they come out of the oven

Apricot – half fill each muffin cup. Drop 1 tsp apricot jam into each muffin pan, add remainder of batter on top

Ham and Cheese – add 3/4 cup grated cheese and 1/4 cup diced ham with the dry ingredients.

Try any variation you can think of. I would love to hear your muffin variations or ideas for leftover chocolate in the comments section.

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