from haybox to wonderbag

Those of you old enough to remember the three day week and the oil crisis will remember sudden and unexpected power cuts and half cooked dinners.  My mother overcame this by making a haybox.  To be fair rather than using hay she used a sturdy wooden box and a selection of cushions.  The idea was that you brought the meal (usually, but not always, a soup or casserole) to the boil, popped it in the box, surrounded on all sides, top and bottom by cushions and left it to cook.

Fast forward some 15 years and I went out to work as a health education volunteer in Umtata in the Transkei with Project Trust.     It was an amazing experience, I hope as much for the people we worked with as it was for us, the volunteers.  As a side line if you are or know somebody who is looking for a volunteering experience in the developing world PT is not only one of the oldest, but also one of the best in the business.  They are not, unlike many, in it to make money.  They have been going since 1967 and have sent over 6000 carefully selected volunteers overseas.  But I digress.

One of the issues faced in the Transkei was the lack of fuel.  We built a simple haybox (this time using hay!) and with our trusty three legged potiji

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we went out to show people how to save on fuel and still have a hot meal at the end of the day.  We used it ourselves and it failed us only once, a particularly stringy goat at Sitebe.

Recently I came across this.

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My newly arrived Wonderbag.   Essentially it works in exactly the same way as my mother’s cushion box and our haybox.  But there are three fundamental differences:

  • For every Wonderbag purchased another bag is donated to a family in Africa.
  • The Shwe-Shwe bags are made by women in South Africa creating jobs and income.
  • The World Wildlife bags generate a donation to WWF for every bag purchased

It’s also great for:

  • Camping
  • Picnics
  • Students
  • Bulk cooking
  • Working families – cheaper than the slow cooker and no worries about leaving the slow cooker on whilst you are out.

If you are still unsure have a look at this.    What are you waiting for?

the list

Sunday is menu planning day.  It makes the rest of the week so much easier and I feel good as if I have ticked off a task but don’t feel as if I have actually done any work.

Menu planning means:

  • no more staring at the fridge or pantry wondering what to eat and serving up baked potatoes or spag bol for the millionth time
  • no more panic (and expensive) runs to the shops because you have “nothing to eat”
  • eating down your supplies, “shopping from home”
  • you have time to try out new recipes and experiment
  • buying less food because you only buy what you need
  • appropriate meals for appropriate days (essential if you have a family of teenagers with activities in the evenings)

What’s not to like?

First check your freezer/fridge/pantry.  Always shop from home first.  What have you got that needs using up.  Make a list and bear that in mind when you get to the meal planning stage.

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Then take you diary.  Yup, your diary.  See the final point above.  You do not want to plan to eat souffle on a night when you are going to have to pick up one child from a music lesson and your husband gets home late from a trip.  That is a baked potato or casserole type of night.  On the other hand if you have a free day and have a great recipe that requires all day marinading or is a bit fiddly, that’s a great time to try it out.

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Now choose a couple of cookery books, or fire up your computer and head for your favourite recipe sites and blogs. This is the fun part.  This week I wanted to use up some chicken thighs and lamb shanks.  I also have a lovely pork joint which we were going to have today until I realised we were going out (see even I get it wrong!).  With that in mind I flicked through the books above and decided upon:

  • Green chicken curry (use up the thighs)
  • mozzarella Focaccia (busy day need something easy)
  • Tangia (free day so can make fiddly marinade)
  • Lime and chilli pasta (going out to drinks party so need quick light food beforehand also children can make theirs fresh later on)
  • Chicken with chilli and lemon (a bit like the previous night so may adapt on the day but liked the recipe)
  • Jerk Pork

There are only six meals because we are going out on Saturday and I’ll let the girls chose what they want on the day.

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As soon as you chose a recipe write next to it the book and the page number (you will forget I promise, I speak from bitter experience) AND check ingredients to see what you need to buy.

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Then construct the shopping list. We also have a blackboard in the kitchen for anyone to write down things that have run out.  So next I add on these. Finally I add on any extras.  For example I have just seen this recipe for Tropical Ice Box Pie  which I am going to try out this week so I need some extra ingredients for that.

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I don’t shop in supermarkets so I group items by shop but if you are a supermarket shopper group the items by the order in which they appear in the shop.  That way you don’t have to go back and forth and you only go down the aisles you need  and helps stop opportunistic buying of stuff you don’t need and is just going to add to the clutter you don’t want.

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Finally pin your list somewhere where you can see it!

You may have noticed what I was writing on.  You could do it online on your phone but as you can see from here, I struggle with that.  I keep all our used envelopes, flyers, letters anything with a blank page and clip them together for shopping lists, messages etc.  I’ll keep the spare square above for next week’s menus.

Now that’s all done I think I may go out and admire my garden before it starts to rain again.