Morning has broken

Posted on Updated on

The ‘habit of schooling’ our society has developed over the last 150 years means that we send nearly all our children to school for 190 days a year. This brings with it a degree of domestic mayhem every morning, and this post is designed to help you conquer this disorder. In terms of time management, allow yourself about at the very least 30-60 minutes in total for all the jobs listed below, depending on family size, age of children, and how well everyone is trained to assist. So just to reiterate, if you work outside the home, you will need to plan for at least an hour in total of bustling activity to get everybody up, dressed and out, on condition that school bags, uniforms, briefcases and packed lunches have been prepared the night before. Therefore for most people, if they get up around 7-7.30am, that will fit in with most day to day commitments during the week, whilst allowing time for a well planned start to the day. Therefore that may be something to aim for in the first instance, while you are getting used to an organised regime. (I’d be interested to know how long you spend getting out the house in the mornings – look in the Polls category on the right hand side of the screen to vote on how much time you spend on this).

  • Make sure family members open their bedroom windows when they get up, and throw back the bedclothes to air. (10 seconds)
  • Once you are washed and dressed, go straight downstairs to set the table very simply and make breakfast (porridge and toast is best if you are on a budget, along with juice or milk for the children and tea/coffee for adults). This job could also be done the night before. Bread rolls and spreadable butter are probably the laziest option if you really aren’t a morning person. (5-10 minutes plus eating time)
  • After breakfast, clear the dishes (use a tray to speed this process up, and also at the same time send someone around the house to collect waif and stray mugs and so on from the previous evening ), stack dishes ready for loading into dishwasher, wipe table and sweep under table if necessary. (5-10 minutes)
  • Next load or unload dishwasher as necessary, or do washing up and put away most or all dishes (if you are going to be out at work all day and only coming back just before supper, you might want to recycle some of the clean dishes immediately so you can leave the table set ready for the next meal, as they do in hotels and restaurants). (5-10 minutes)
  • Wipe kitchen sink or kitchen worktop as necessary. (1 minute)
  • Next empty kitchen bin if necessary, and put in new bin bag, wipe bin if it needs it. (3-5 minutes depending on the state of bin, but probably not every day)
  • Make children’s beds (preferably with their help). (5-10 minutes if it’s just duvets)
  • Make own bed and hang up errant clothes. (5-10 minutes)
  • Clean and tidy bathroom as necessary (eg hang up towels, check there is enough toilet roll and soap). (2 minutes)
  • Close bedroom windows, finally remember to lock up everything if you are going out – OK, I know I’m sounding like a mother of four now. (5 minutes)

Image: healingdream /


Five tinned foods that punch above their weight

Posted on Updated on

I’ve been nosying around my winter survival cupboard today to see what needs topping up, and I am about to make a big trip to the cash and carry to stock up on tins. Interestingly enough, a lot of tinned foods have more vitamins in them than fresh food that things that have been lying around your kitchen for a week or so.  Here are some great additions to a store cupboard that I will be bringing home later.

Tinned tomatoes – these come in different forms but particularly useful are the ones with garlic and herbs already in the mix. Passata in large jars can go onto home made pizza bases with a big of grated cheese and some salami for a Saturday treat.

Pulses – try different kinds such as lentils, chickpeas, borlotti beans, butter beans, mixed spicy beans and canneloni beans. Great with mince, in salads, to bulk out a bolognaise or shepherd’s pie, or to make an instant vegetarian chili.

Stone fruits – cherries, plums and mirabelles make great crumbles and pies, can be served with cream or yoghurt for a quick dessert, and can even be added to smoothies or put on top of muesli.

Exotic fruits – pineapple, lychees, mangos are all wonderful to have around, and give you the makings of a very sophisticated winter fruit salad, but look for tins which state they are in their own juices rather than in syrup.

Fish – Sardines, mackerel, salmon, tuna and even shrimps are all great for sandwiches, pasta dishes, fish pie, salads and little toasts to have as a nibble with a glass of wine.

Image: xedos4 /

Dinners for the home – Week 2

Posted on Updated on

The second week of my economy menu plans, linked to the Week 2 shopping list and dessert recipes.







Spaghetti bolognaise

Banana split yoghurts


Cottage pie


Mango fool



Mashed potatoes


Onion gravy

Fruit salad and single cream or yoghurt


Turkey stir fry and rice

Yoghurt with blueberry jam and elderflower cordial


Baked trout, herring or mackerel with boiled new potatoes and green beans

Rice pudding


Lamb curry and rice

Ice cream and chocolate sauce


Roast chicken with roast potatoes, green beans and broccoli

Fruit crumble and custard

Fruit salad and single cream

Image: Catherine Hadler /

Where should my baby sleep?

Posted on Updated on


Just like with clothes, it’s possible to spend as much as buying a small car on a cot for your baby. However the minimum requirement is a cardboard box, large rectangular basket, or drawer lined with a few blankets.  Yes, Dear Reader, I did say a box, basket or drawer. Any sturdy rectangular object will do, which tells us that in actual fact, you can spend as little as you like on this. What is important is that the baby is laid on his or her back, and that you are careful to avoid having lots of sheets and blankets around the face that risk potentially smothering the baby. No doubt you will be given a leaflet at some point about the ‘Back to Sleep’ campaign to reduce cot deaths, and also advised to make up your baby’s bed so he or she sleeps with feet right at the bottom and head half way up, with the bedding arranged accordingly. This makes sound sense and is advice worth following. For the first 4-6 months it is also advisable to have your baby sleep in the room with you, as this also reduces cot deaths.

If you want to buy something for your baby to sleep in, then a Moses basket is the cheapest option, followed by a basic standard sized cot. You will need six sheets and three cellular blankets to make up the Moses basket or cot. Pillows and quilts are not recommended for babies under the age of one in the UK, although in very cold countries the warm eiderdown is going to be the only practical option if you ever want to take your baby out in the pram. As with anything, keep an eye on your baby and make sure he/she doesn’t overheat or get smothered by bedding.

World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines suggest that sleeping with your baby can be useful and safe when breastfeeding, as long as parents are sober, not overtired, not smokers and the baby sleeps in the crook of the mother’s arm, well away from bedding and pillows that might cause him or her to overheat or become smothered. For further information about the WHO guidance, please speak to your midwife or health visitor. From my own point of view, I found I got a lot more rest by dozing with my babies in the crook of my arm, and breastfeeding worked better this way, so it’s something I think all mothers should take advice on and think about. There is no more wonderful surprise than when your slightly older baby manages to breastfeed him or herself while you are sleeping, which has happened to me a couple of times, to my relief and amazement. Babies are intelligent little things.

Image Criminalat/