When I was in middle school back in the U.S. we had a required course called “Home and Careers.” Frankly though, for all our fresh-from-scratch cookie baking and haphazard introduction to sewing machines, the class may as well as been titled “How to Make a Mess in Forty Minutes.”
It wasn’t quite the primer they probably intended to help us twelve year-olds understand that running a home is hard work (!). Fast-forward to present day Me, trying to lay our new foundations in Hong Kong with few familiar resources to do so. Ultimately I was able to mobilize by reviving some good old-fashioned home economics. Here are my top tips for injecting a little “Home Ec” thinking into your own life here in HK:
Don’t just get organised. Stay organised.
Decide what days will regularly be dedicated to shopping, cooking, and/or around-the-house projects. Consider these as standing appointments and you’ll basically have a plug-and-play calendar ready to go.
Now…. make a list. What do you need for the week ahead’s activities? I rarely shop without a list. It gives me focus (and helps me stay focused), helps me stick to a budget, and I feel accomplished when I leave the store. Many ParkNShop’s now are starting to surprise me, responding to increasing demand for organic whole foods. Online health food stores, such as Rawthentic Food, also play an important role in HK, providing access to highly nutritious ingredients.
Now I’m not saying there’s no room for a little spontaneity. It’s about having a general framework to support you at all times. You will have a clear picture of what needs to get done, by when, for whom, and who will take on that task.
Which leads me to my next tip…
Everybody likes to contribute.
A smoothly running household relies on a division of labor and everyone having a part to play. Because a full grocery shopping in Hong Kong usually requires multiple stops at various shops (!), assign your husband/partner one key ingredient to pick up (with good direction if it’s something very specific!). This gets him invested and involved in the meal. Likewise, I always encourage letting kids help with the meal prep. They will be more likely to eat their “own” cooking and try new things as a result. And it never hurts to compliment your helper frequently for her contribution – remind her how important her role is to the family in creating a healthy home and in how many ways she touches your lives.
Don’t forget to try new things.
This might be my most favorite way to feed my slightly obsessive compulsive tendencies, because I can introduce new foods and routines into my household and look all cool and blasé like it was no big thing. Here’s how: Choose a category and a time frame. If you’re trying to incorporate some new foods and flavors but are lacking inspiration, start with a food group or cuisine. For example, for the next two weeks (time frame), you are going to experiment with different greens (category). Goodbye mesclun mix and romaine! Hello chard, bok choy, beet greens, and kale! Chase down a few basic recipes that make these ingredients the star and you can hit the ground running. After the two weeks are up, pick a new category to test out but see how you can work these new friends into your repertoire. Before you know it, your options will have multiplied many times over. Honestly, nobody likes getting in a food rut. Variety is the spice of life!
Finally, a note on budgeting (this is an article on economics after all!): Sometimes our best intentions aren’t perfectly aligned with the market prices, especially in Hong Kong, a little island so reliant on foreign exports. To strike the balance between what you can afford to spend and what you feel comfortable spending it on, decide on your top three priorities for your home. Then do a bit of research where those priorities have the most impact (e.g. food products versus cleaning products versus materials). Some priorities to look for include:
Free of chemicals/additives/artificial dyes
Do what you can within your means and don’t feel obligated to do it all at once. Home Economics is all about balance. It’s a delicate art, but one I hope that we can proudly preserve and pass down, lest I ever meet a sewing machine ever again…
A yummy scrummy recipe I can’t resist passing along…..
Shake breakfast time up with this cooling yet luscious pudding from one of my favourite websites, www.thekitchn.com Have fun pairing with different toppings for garnish!
Avocado Breakfast Pudding
1 ripe avocado
1/2 cup of milk (dairy or plain soy, almond or hazelnut milk)
1 Tbsp honey
2-3 Tbsp of granola (or other favorite topping, such as crushed nuts)
Scoop avocado into a blender (or food processor). Add 1/2 cup of milk. Add the honey and blend until smooth. Garnish with granola or almonds. You can also chill for about an hour for a refreshing coolness.
Yield: Serves 2