Just 5 ingredients for perfect minimalist recipes

812F9FF7-534D-4DF1-9E65-AC8B09574A8D.jpeg

I’m eagerly anticipating the arrival of Robert Lustig’s book, The Hacking of the American Mind, in which he considers the difference between pleasure and happiness through a focus on four C’s: connection, contribution, coping (strategies) and (unexpectedly) cooking!

These interesting themes are ones that writers such as Jonathan Fields and Brené Brown also emphasize in their work.

Throughout the work of these writers, the idea of connection is particularly prevalent, as are other c’s such as compassion and courage. I wonder why they all begin with ‘c’?

I’ll come back to these in future posts, but I want to focus today on one particular ‘c’. It’s a favourite of mine: cooking! And it’s something that brings me both pleasure and happiness.

Cooking the minimalist way

I’ve written before about meal planning and you already know that I’m a big fan of The Happy Pear, as I wrote about here. However, there’s a lot to be said for simplifying not only how you cook, but what you cook.

Dana Shulz from Minimalist Baker offers a simple approach to recipe planning: 10 ingredients or less; one bowl or 30 minutes or less to prepare. Her innovative recipes are great if you’re looking for plant-based inspiration and many of her creations are ‘special diet’ friendly.

What if you’re not a foodie?

One of the things about embracing a minimalist lifestyle is that you may not want to spend a great deal of time in the kitchen. If it doesn’t add value to your life, you’re not going to want to devote precious minutes to this activity.

For some of us, including myself, it’s fun to try new recipes, so cooking becomes a form of enjoyment and relaxation in itself. For others, food = fuel, so time spent weighing, chopping, stirring and baking (then waiting for the food to appear on the table) ideally needs to be minimised. But how can we do this without compromising on quality?

For me, the answer came from an unexpected source.

Jamie’s 5 Ingredients

Celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver, who is not known for brevity when it comes to his lists of ingredients, has recently published a book that I think is worth a mention.

Jamie’s 5 Ingredients offers a new twist on a old theme: combine just 5 items to make a delicious meal with, “maximum flavour… minimum fuss.”

Do you:

  • Aspire to eat well, but don’t want to be tied to the kitchen?
  • Love flavours and textures that go together?
  • Want to eat well-balanced and nutritious food?

If the answer is ‘yes’, then I think this book is worth a closer look.

While myriad similar books already exist (I once owned a copy of James Tanner’s Take 5 Ingredients), this collection seems to embrace the current culinary zeitgeist: fresh ingredients, tasty combinations and easy (but quick) ways to get food on the table.

Classic combos

There are some things in life that go beautifully together. In terms of food, think leek and potato, cheese and tomato, maple and pecan, coffee and walnut…

This book offers tried and tested recipes including:

  • Lemon/courgettes/mint/Parmesan/pasta (=lemony courgette linguine)
  • Salmon/coriander/ginger/lemongrass/chilli jam (=fishcakes)
  • Pancetta/mushrooms/eggs/cheddar/rocket (=mushroom frittata)

Jamie Oliver’s tasty recipes draw on these classic combinations to offer everyone the chance to cook from scratch without the whole business taking up a whole evening or hours on end.

Find out more

If you’re looking for some new recipe inspiration, check out the book if you’re in the UK here. Or if the .com version is for you, look here.

And, no, I don’t have any vested interest in this. What interests me is this: minimising that which doesn’t add value and maximising what does.

Do you enjoy pared-down recipes? What’s your trick for eating well but simply? I’d love to know! Share your answer by replying below.


Join us!

Join hundreds of others in the Midlands Minimalist Community, receiving unique news and content that’s only available for subscribers. On joining, you’ll get access to all my free content on my Community Resources page.

Receive unique news and content by clicking on the button, below:

button_join-the-community-2


Email me via midlandsminimalist@gmail.com, send me a Tweet (@MidsMinimalist) or connect via Instagram (@MidlandsMinimalist)

Give warm greetings and farewells

hyacinth-787841_1920

Each time I finish a book, I find invariably that there’s something that particularly stands out or that resonates with me. There’s that one thing – sometimes just a small notion – that sticks in my mind.

When I read Greg McKeown’s Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, it was McKeown’s exhortation to “Do less, but better!” that stayed with me. Likewise, James Wallman’s Stuffocation left me with this simple but perfect mantra: “Experiences over stuff.”

A ‘sticky’ resolution

So, I wasn’t surprised when I finished Gretchen Rubin’s Happier at Home and found myself musing over one of her many resolutions. It was this:

“Give warm greetings and farewells.”

In spite of Rubin’s sensible acknowledgement that you can only change yourself, she made an exception when proposing this resolution to her family.

She wanted to ensure that family members felt acknowledged and welcomed when returning home. Further, she wanted these brief but important moments of connection to be extended to saying farewell whenever a family member left for his or her daily trip to work or school or wherever they were going.

How important are these moments of connectedness!

How connected are we really?

We live in a connected world. As of June 2017, Facebook is said to have had 2.01 billion active users; Twitter 328 million and Instagram 600 million. Today’s technology enables us to reach people in myriad ways, whenever we feel like it. Our teenagers are ultra-connected, with an almost constant flow of SnapChat snippets and ‘streaks’ to keep them – and their network – tethered by wifi.

And yet, when our loved ones walk through the door, do we lift our heads from the iPad, put down the virtual pencil or look up from whatever we are doing? Not always. Why? Because we are distracted. We are drowning in busy-ness. We’ll be there in a minute.

This won’t be new, but I suppose we have to disconnect to reconnect.

Who greets you first?

The late, great Nora Ephron wrote:

“When your children are teenagers, it’s important to have a dog so that someone in the house is happy to see you.”

Many a true word said in jest….

I once attended a family gathering at which the children of the host acknowledged their grandparents’ arrival with something akin to mild indifference. Witnessing the grandparents’ confusion and hurt made me resolve that, within our own family, we would always ensure that we made our own parents feel truly welcome.

Spark those connections

Reading Rubin’s resolution reminded me of the importance of this daily ritual, as we acknowledge the daily comings and goings of loved ones.

So, now, within our little family of three (plus dog!), we now observe this resolution in our own day-to-day interactions and remind each other, “Warm greetings and farewells!” It really does make a difference.

Do you have a mantra or resolution to help you maintain those family connections? What’s your way of sparking and maintaining a connection with loved ones? Let me know by replying below!


 

Join us!

Join hundreds of others in the Midlands Minimalist Community, receiving unique news and content that’s only available for subscribers. On joining, you’ll get access to all my free content on my Community Resources page.

Receive unique news and content by clicking on the button, below:

button_join-the-community-2


Email me via midlandsminimalist@gmail.com, send me a Tweet (@MidsMinimalist) or connect via Instagram (@MidlandsMinimalist)

Sustainable shopping: tumble dryer wool eco-balls

IMG_2485

As the weather continues to get cooler (and certainly a lot wetter), there are some items in our laundry for which we use the tumble-dryer. These are notably things like towels, which would otherwise take a long time to dry.

Tumble drying isn’t energy efficient

Now, I know that the tumble dryer uses a lot of energy so it’s an expensive way to dry our laundry. Indeed, I certainly don’t tumble dry clothes because it’s too wearing on the fabric. I discuss the other methods of drying we use here.

Ways to combat downsides of tumble drying

To offset the energy-efficiency issue, we only dry during the hours when our electricity is at its cheapest rate. We have a tariff, which offers a reduced rate at off-peak times (according to where we live).

To improve the tumble-drying process, we bought some wool dryer balls. These are not only reusable, but they save 15-30% drying time, thus saving energy too.

Eco-friendly balls

IMG_2486

These 100% New Zealand Wool eco-friendly balls tumble in the dryer, along with the laundry, pulling excess water out of the items to reduce drying time.

These are also gentle on the skin, as they contain nothing but pure wool (we never use fabric conditioner).

They work in two ways:

  1. They absorb some of the water, thus taking the water out of the items to be dried.
  2. They help separate the items in the dryer, creating pockets of air so that the items don’t clump together.

From New Zealand?

Balls

I looked for a UK-made version online, but haven’t found one yet. Maybe there is one, in which case it would be good to know.

In the meantime, we continue to use these balls, which certainly give the weekly washing a bit more bounce!

Just don’t let the dog anywhere near…


Join us!

Join hundreds of others in the Midlands Minimalist Community, receiving unique news and content that’s only available for subscribers. On joining, you’ll get access to all my free content on my Community Resources page.

Receive unique news and content by clicking on the button, below:

button_join-the-community-2


Email me via midlandsminimalist@gmail.com, send me a Tweet (@MidsMinimalist) or connect via Instagram (@MidlandsMinimalist)

Sticking to your budget – week by week

shopping-cart-169267_1920

For a while now, I’ve been using my dual account budgeting system for our family finances. In case you haven’t read about this before, I use two separate accounts. One is for all of our regular standing orders and direct debits, the other for discretionary spending including food, fuel, clothing and so on.

Use two accounts

Splitting out our two major spending groups means we never have to worry about our bills. These are paid automatically. Plus, we make sure there’s always the money we need in the first account to cover this planned, regular expenditure.

Track with an app

As well as my dual account budget spreadsheet, I’ve been using an app called Spending. This helps me work out what proportion of my overall expenditure is devoted to the different categories I have specified. By seeing the percentages in Spending’s pie chart, I know that I’m allocating the correct proportion of our overall household budget to each category.

Try breaking expenditure into weekly totals

In spite of paying a lot of attention to budget tracking, August seemed like a very long month in money terms. The long summer holidays meant our usual spending patterns shifted and there seemed to be too much month left at the end of the money.

So, I decided to take my ‘what gets measured gets improved’ philosophy a step further. I opted to divide my monthly budget amounts into weekly totals. This way, I could pace our expenditure, and track our overall monthly finances at the same time.

Here’s how I did it

I quickly worked out the number of weeks in the month. It’s easy if every month is February (28 days/7 days in a week = 4 weeks in the month). But, what about a month in which there are 31 or 30 days? Well, a 31 day month has 4.43 weeks and a 30 day month has 4.29. So, that’s the maths out of the way.

An example

Imagine you’re allocating £575 per month to your family food and groceries and you’re in a 31 day month, that gives you £129.84 to spend per week on your weekly shop. Seeing this amount as a weekly total really helps you focus when you’re doing your online shop. I have found that if I spend a few more moments comparing prices and making substitutes, I can keep within the weekly amount.

When it gets tricky

Other items are a little more tricky to manage on a week-by-week basis. For example, a single tank of fuel can exceed the weekly budget, but I know that we only fill up around once a fortnight. For this category, I might allocate fortnightly amounts.

I also think it’s OK to vire between budgets (get me with my finance terminology!). For example, if I know that there are no school lunches to buy during vacation time, I can boost another ‘pot’ if that would be helpful or allocate those funds to savings.

What next?

So, I’m going to continue for the remainder of the month and see whether or not this ‘pacing’ of expenditure makes a difference. At least, I’m not buying stuff we don’t need. That’s such a blessing in so many ways.

How about you? What helps you stay on track? Do you use an envelope system and pay for everything in cash? Do you have a favourite app? Do share!


Join us!

Join hundreds of others in the Midlands Minimalist Community, receiving unique news and content that’s only available for subscribers. On joining, you’ll get access to all my free content on my Community Resources page.

Receive unique news and content by clicking on the button, below:

button_join-the-community-2


Email me via midlandsminimalist@gmail.com, send me a Tweet (@MidsMinimalist) or connect via Instagram (@MidlandsMinimalist)

Sustainable shopping: eco-wrap from the honey bee

IMG_2496
Abeego’s beeswax wrap

Since launching the blog, I’ve written on a variety of topics from decluttering to simple living, intentionality, frugal living, the slow home and more.

My passion for minimalism has sparked a number of new but related interests. For example:

  • How can we live in a more sustainable way?
  • Can I be more ethical as a consumer?
  • How can we eat simply but well?

Sustainable Shopping

Having consulted members of the Midlands Minimalist community, it’s clear that some of you agree. So, in the coming months, I’m going to expand into some topics that relate to these themes, one of which will be ‘Sustainable Shopping’.

This first ‘Sustainable Shopping’ post focuses on a new-to-me product, Abeego’s reusable beeswax food wrap.

IMG_2494

Food wrap redesigned

In our house, most of our cooking is from scratch so we often enjoy leftovers the next day. As a result, anything we don’t eat straight away may remain in its cooking pot or dish, but sometimes I want to decant a single serving into a smaller container. Here’s where years of conditioning have us unintentionally reaching for the cling film. But there is a better way.

Abeego’s beeswax food wrap offers a genuine alternative to the ‘use-it-once’ plastic film to which we are all accustomed.

My pack came from Ethical Superstore whose service was quick and efficient. However, there is a large ‘but’ coming…..

Wrap within wrapping x 4

AbeegoBox

The Abeego wrap comes in its own cardboard packaging, which provides useful information about the product and its various benefits, as well as offering tips on how to get the best out of this washable, malleable beeswax wrap.

So far, so good.

But I found Ethical Superstore’s excessive packaging (2 layers of bubble wrap and an outer layer of grey plastic) really disappointing. How cushioned does a cardboard pack of beeswax wraps need to be?

The proof was in the wrapping

I was dubious as to how effective this product would be, but what a revelation! Just as Abeego promises, the wrap is a little tacky to the touch and malleable so you can push the wrap into the shape you want (as I did in the photo at the top of this post). Once in the fridge, the wrap stiffens, keeping itself firmly in place.

To keep it clean, a quick wash with cold water is all you need.

The MidsMins thumbs up 

So, I recommend Abeego to you. I’d estimate that – over the course of this product’s ‘lifecycle’, it may not actually save you any money, but it’s one less item going into landfill. For me, that’s reason enough to invest.


Join us!

Join hundreds of others in the Midlands Minimalist Community, receiving unique news and content that’s only available for subscribers. On joining, you’ll get access to all my free content on my Community Resources page.

Receive unique news and content by clicking on the button, below:

button_join-the-community-2


Email me via midlandsminimalist@gmail.com, send me a Tweet (@MidsMinimalist) or connect via Instagram (@MidlandsMinimalist)