Seven ways to make a busy life easier

Family time...I'll do whatever it takes to get more of this.

Family time...I'll do whatever it takes to get more of this.

I don't love the word busy. These days I feel like most people have quite a bit going on, and we're all just trying to do the best we can in a demanding world. Saying one is busy is a rather boring thing to say, to be frank. 

That said, since having Amelie, H1 and I have found that our lives are quite a bit – well, shall we say 'fuller' than they used to be, and also more complex. In the past, if we didn't manage to organise ourselves to have fresh groceries for dinner, or we forgot to pick up paper towels at the supermarket, it was no big deal. Now, however, we have to feed Amelie dinner as well, and I prefer not to just give her toast if I can help it, and if we ran out of nappies it would be terrible for everyone involved. 

On the upside, after well over a year of practice now, I've worked out a bunch of little things that make our lives so much easier. Here are my top seven for you, if you're interested...

Order My Food Bag

Absolutely my top tip. It might not be called My Food Bag where you are – you might have Blue Apron, or Hello Fresh – but odds are there's a meal delivery service in your area. Having the decision-making removed from cooking dinner is such a luxury on weeknights – and that's said by someone who enjoys cooking. I can only imagine how much simpler it must make life for people who aren't as fond of cooking as I am. Plus, it's fast, you'll waste less food, you'll probably buy less takeout, and if you're like us and upsize your plan, you'll have enough for lunches too.

Get a cleaner

I love having a cleaner and it's one of the things I'd give up last if we had to cut back. Not having to take a chunk of family time away from the weekend is just the best. We still have to clean, of course – I pull the vacuum out most days, after Amelie is in bed because she's scared of it – but all the big stuff, like bathrooms, is taken care of on a Friday so we can enjoy a pristine house over the weekend (well, until 9pm Friday night, usually – by then the shine has worn off and we usually have bits of Amelie's dinner on the floor again).

Keep an assortment of kid-friendly food in the freezer

I don't exactly feel like Supermummy when I give Amelie frozen veggies and cheese for dinner, but at least she's getting some vegetables into her (and she loves this meal, to be honest).

Unashamedly cook the easy meals

We only do My Food Bag once a fortnight, and the other week we enjoy such delicacies as lazy chicken tacos (lazy because the chicken is frozen tenderloins and we just throw it in the oven with some taco spice mix), dumplings (also from the freezer section) with broccoli and beans, and tomato salad with feta, basil pesto and some sourdough. Would I serve it to guests? Hell no. Is is tasty food that serves its purpose for us, and means we're not cooking all night? You bet it is.

Give yourself lots of different ways to get around

In Auckland at least, if you only ever use a car you're going to spend a lot of time sitting in traffic. We have a car, but we also walk, cycle, bus or train frequently. If the traffic is horrendous (as it often is) and H1 has the car, he often wouldn't make it to pick Amelie up in time – but because we're happy to be flexible and we have other options, this doesn't happen. It's often seen as hard but trust me, for us it's so much easier than dealing with traffic all the time.  

Live closer to where you want or need to be

This is a biggie! Because most people can't just drop everything and move. However, you can move other stuff, like daycare, schools, errands, the gym...do people in every city drive all over the show to get to everyday places, or is this a weird Auckland thing? We get so much more time together because our everyday life things are close together. There are sacrifices of course – our apartment is not exactly a grand sweeping space – but the trade-off is totally worth it. I know it's not possible for everyone, but even moving just one thing – like having your children go to a school that's walkable instead of having to drive them there, or changing your drycleaner to one by the office so you can drop clothes off and pick them up on the way to work – could make such a difference.

Be prepared to drop an errand

This is something I learnt quickly when I was at home with Amelie, and trying to fit life around her nap and feeding schedule! I have a tendency to try to do too much, get overwhelmed and stressed, and end up in tears. Now, I counteract that by expecting there will be one thing too many on my list, and I won't get to do that thing that day. If I get everything done it's a bonus and I feel awesome, and if I don't I've already dealt with that. This also means I always do the most important thing first...never a bad way to live.

 

A weekend of friends

Besties. Image via Washington Post

Besties. Image via Washington Post

Are you up to much this weekend? I've kicked things off early in the socialising department, having been out Wednesday and Thursday nights. Tomorrow we're off to a friend's place for a rooftop barbecue (everything crossed for fine weather!) and then I'm looking forward to some hang time with H1 after Amelie's gone to bed. Relaxed and easy – exactly what a late summer weekend should be.

Some interesting reading for your Friday...

This apartment is gorgeous, and the owner's description of why city living with kids is the best really resonated with me.

I made this mango sorbet during the week. It's a perfect summer recipe.

Love this stylish, restful looking bed.

The new mall going into Newmarket hardly looks mall-like at all. I'm excited.

This is one dreamy looking coffee table book.

Noooooo.

7 favourite foodie Instagrammers

Food is just the best, isn't it?! I got the chance to do some proper cooking over the Christmas break (e.g. cooking complicated recipes for fun, not just throwing some stuff together after work because we need to eat) and it reminded me how much I love really great food. I'm trying to cook something a bit more involved on a weekly basis now, and Instagram is proving to be a great inspiration. Here are some of my favourites...

Food52

A New York favourite that goes heavy on the pasta. I strongly approve.

Image via Instagram/Food52

HalfBakedHarvest

Tieghan just obviously has so much fun with food! And she's even written a cookbook off the back of her blogging, which is so impressive.

Ottolenghi

Yes, I'm a little obsessed, but Ottolenghi recipes are always worth the effort (and then some). His passion for the ingredients really stands out.

Williams Sonoma

Another New York favourite! Last time we were there we stayed so close to the Columbus Circle store...it was heaven. Williams Sonoma is cooking paradise.

La Cigale French Market

An Auckland institution. Pastries as far as the eye can see (and some delicious fresh veggies too).

Dish Magazine

Another NZ goodie. Mostly simple, beautiful food celebrating the amazing goodness we get here.

Smitten Kitchen

So much amazingness...but let's be honest, it's mainly about those puddings.

I know there are so many more I've missed! Who are your favourites?

Do your children eat dinner with you?

Eating an early dinner in Takapuna one evening.

Eating an early dinner in Takapuna one evening.

I was brought up almost always eating dinner with my whole family, and without thinking it through too much I always imagined Amelie would do the same. Right now, however, her bedtime is between 6.30-7pm and by the time we're all home, unpacked and ready for the next day, there usually isn't time to eat together and still get Amelie in bed on time.

Thankfully, this doesn't mean it's always impossible. Occasionally we cook an extra meal over the weekend and have it for dinner on a weeknight; sometimes we have leftovers, and there are always weekends of course. On these nights, H1 and I eat earlier than we'd prefer, but it's worth it to get the time to eat with Amelie. I want her to learn that eating together is the norm, and that it's a lovely way to spend time with people you care about. I also find that she eats a lot better when she's eating with us – she's less likely to play with her food or throw it everywhere, and apparently our meals are consistently more appetising than hers (even when it's the exact same food). It's not unknown that we pretend to take spoonfuls from our own plates to give her so she'll eat it.

I also think it's best for her to eat the same range of foods as we do, and not to restrict types of food from her (as long as it's reasonably healthy). This has resulted in a couple of interesting situations – some tears over chorizo, when she realised she didn't like it as much as she thought she would when she demanded it; olives all down the front in a similar situation – and some surprising ones (like the time she decided she loved the saffron yoghurt in this recipe!) We try to trust her to work out for herself what works and what doesn't for her. This part's not too hard, fortunately – we save a small amount of our dinner so she can eat it the next night; we go out to eat a reasonable amount and ignore the kid's menu; and, of course, we try to get that time to eat together fairly regularly. It's really nice for all of us (in fact, it was one of the things I listed as needing more of in 2018 to keep me happy) and I'm grateful that it works well for us now.

How about you? Do you eat as a family, or do the children eat separately? Are weekends treated differently from weekends? Is it important enough to you that you compromise on things like your preferred dinner time to make it happen, or would you rather wait until your children are older and have a later bedtime?

A weekend of eating

A rainbow of carrots. Image: Food52/Instagram

A rainbow of carrots. Image: Food52/Instagram

What are your plans for the weekend? We're in the city this weekend and I'm hoping to go check out the Parnell Farmer's Market. I've been to La Cigale so many times but I didn't know about this alternative until recently – it's at the other end of Parnell and looks to be more produce-focused. I'm always looking a great farmer's market in the city and I'm hoping for good things, this being one of the few things that I just haven't been able to recreate from my New York life (until now, maybe?!)

I'm also brunching with some friends at this charitable café. Again, I've never been there before, and it's just down the road from me! Looking forward to it.

Some good reading for your Friday...

It is hot in mostly un-air-conditioned Auckland right now, and some office workers are being driven to desperate measures. Made me giggle.

I just love Ottolenghi, and these summer recipes look amazing.

Cape Town is about to run out of water. Such a bizarre and scary story.

Minimalism is great and all, but I do believe everyone should own at least one ridiculous thing that they don't regret buying.

I bought this incredible book last year but just loaned it to a friend and it reminded me all over again how great it is.

If you're in Auckland, have you been down to Silo Park this summer? It's such a nice chilled place, especially for being in the middle of the city. This car boot sale of the future looks fun.

Have a lovely weekend!