Friday, October 15, 2010

Brown Bag It! -- So to Speak

Do you ever wonder where your money goes? Or why your waistline just won’t shrink? The answer to both these questions may be found in your lunch bag. Yes, the one that has been pushed to the back of your highest shelf.

Grabbing a bite on the go responds to our need for variety, and convenience. While there are more healthy choices available, both the healthy and not-so-healthy lunch options are costly – in more ways than one.

Most people say they just don’t have time to prepare a lunch. So, a few suggestions for you:

1. Never underestimate the leftover. If tonight’s dinner will travel well, just pull out an extra food storage container when you’re putting away the extras and voilà, lunch to go. You’re ready for tomorrow, before the evening has drained your energy.

2. It’s not all or nothing. If the thought of creating a complete meal is still too daunting, start with the non-perishable snacks. Put some fruit, a granola bar, a few crackers, in a bag the night before. You won’t have to think twice as you walk out the door in the morning and you’ll be glad to have some healthy supplements throughout the day.

3. Insulated lunch bags. If you haven’t got one, treat yourself. The lunch bag is now a trendy accessory. To be absolutely sure your meal will be safe to eat, throw in an ice pack for added peace of mind.

Bon appétit!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Building Time: Multi Task vs Multi Layer

The question of whether multi-tasking works to increase productivity comes up frequently at our house.  What can I say?  I have a teenager.  This age bracket of our species has taken multi-tasking to new heights with ear buds, television, blackberry and homework all going at the same time.

My experience is that multi-tasking does not work well.  I define multi-tasking as participating at one time in two or more activities that each require our attention.  Thus talking on the telephone and typing a report is multi-tasking. Similarly making dinner while helping a school child with home work is multi-tasking; both require your attention in order to be completed.  If your attention is distracted from your task, it is unlikely that you will complete it well.  Your phone mate may perceive you are distracted or merely wait patiently for your attention to return to his/her question, the report may have errors.

Time layering or time deepening is a strategy that does work.  I define time deepening as organizing two or more tasks that do not require our attention to be accomplished simultaneously.  If many layers are being developed, only the top layer can take your attention while the other tasks are accomplished without your input or attention except to get them started.  Home managers have known this strategy for ages: wash the laundry and hang to dry - while drying, mix bread and leave to rise - while drying and rising cut beef/vegetables and set stew to simmer - while drying and simmering, knead bread and set to rise - while drying, simmering and rising, mend clothes.  Project managers differentiate between those tasks that must be accomplished in sequence and therefore are time and order sensitive versus those tasks that can be accomplished at the same time therefore layering tasks.

If you work from home you may already layer your time without realizing that you are using this strategy: put on laundry, take out dinner meat to thaw, set coffee to drip, turn sprinkler on lawn - pour coffee, set to work on report.  One hour later you turn over laundry, turn over meat, move sprinkler to back lawn, refill coffee and back to report.

You get the picture.  Try it.  How many layers can you build into your time? 

Friday, October 8, 2010

Happy Turkey Day!

If you’re the lucky family member making a turkey this weekend you must be making a grocery list as well. As you sit to consider everything that will make your gathering a success, take a moment to also consider the aftermath of the holiday feast.

Do you look forward to demonstrating your culinary expertise, night after night preparing turkey pot pie, turkey pizza, turkey à la king – whatever it takes – to free yourself from the bird?

Do you haphazardly shove everything into the fridge and forget about it, until the smell in your fridge makes it impossible to forget?

Or do you cleverly freeze your leftovers, only to toss them out months later when the ice crystals make them unrecognizable?

With a bit of planning, your holiday meal can be enjoyed beyond this weekend, without being a burden.

· Purchase clear storage containers, suitable for fridge or freezer
· Label and date the contents of each container
· Separate large quantities into meal-sized portions before freezing; when it’s time to thaw your food, you only pull out the quantity you need – instead of chipping away at a frozen block
· Give some away: after six weeks living on a university campus, your big kids are jonesing for some home cooking; send them back to school with a care package of some of their favourite holiday treats.

Whatever you plan to do this weekend, have a Happy Thanksgiving.