Singapore confinement food – a few caterers reviewed

As promised to my Facebook friends, here is my review of confinement food from different caterers, based on suggestions given to me. [For non-Asians wondering what on earth ‘confinement’ means in this context, here’s more info on what we mums go through soon after giving birth. I don’t entirely believe in all the practices for scientific reasons, but it keeps the peace…]

Chilli Padi / Chilli Api

For my first confinement in late 2012, I had chosen Chilli Padi, the caterer known for its tasty Peranakan food, based on a recommendation from my friend Karen.

Chilli Padi’s confinement food is kept warm in thermos containers, which they collect when they make their next delivery. Presentation and taste-wise, it was good:

Chilli Padi confinement catering

Chilli Padi confinement food catering - 2012
[Note: Photos were taken in 2012]

Just that after a while, I started to feel ‘jelat’ (jaded). Don’t get me wrong – I love Chinese herbal soups – but try having the same type of food 28 days in a row!

They once made a late delivery and I was starving, although for the other 27 days things were more or less on schedule. Administratively, I recalled it was a bit troublesome having to mail them a cheque, although they responded well to phone calls. In short, I felt they were still a bit ‘old school’ in terms of transacting with customers. I would have chosen them again for my second confinement, but given that their menu seemed to be the same as before, I was game to try something new…

Richfood Catering

I read about Richfood’s confinement catering and it was also recommended by another friend, Chew Hwee, who found the food tasty and the proportions generous enough to share with her husband. Their trial lunch was $29, payable by internet banking, although it was troublesome having to show them a screen shot to prove that payment had been made, as we had to blot out our bank balance first.

Apart from that, they were the quickest to reply. The guy in charge, Nigel, seems to be perpetually checking his emails. The trial lunch was duly delivered and the food was tasty enough, by confinement standards.

RichFoods confinement catering sample

All food is delivered in disposable plastic containers, with a time stamp indicating when the food was cooked and when it has to be consumed.

Natal Essentials

Natal Essentials were pretty good at marketing themselves – to the extent that my aunt (who has three kids in their 20s and obviously is not in need of confinement food herself) heard about them. Their trial lunch was slightly more expensive, at $32, and so was their full menu – although small price differences weren’t the main concern for me. The bigger question was, is the food ‘sedap‘?

The food was tasty enough – similar to Richfood:
RichFoods confinement catering sample - full picture

What I did not like was their administrative policies and procedures.

i) They needed 2 working days to verify that I had made payment – although with internet banking, this could’ve been done immediately (which was what Richfood did). I tried informing them – by replying to their automated email – that my transaction had been completed, but realised that the reply-to email field was set to my own email address. They did not list their own email address in the automated email, so I had to search for it on their website.

ii) Also, I had asked for the trial lunch to be sent to me on 20 April but they replied, acknowledging delivery for 21 April instead with no reason given for the change. So I asked them again and they apologised for the error. Small point, but overall it added to my impression of them not being very sharp.

iii) Last, but not least, they require proof of your EDD (estimated delivery date) to qualify for their early bird discount as stated on their order form. They’re so serious about it that they even attached a sample doctor’s letter from Thomson Medical Centre, with the patient’s name blotted out!

They must have been cheated by customers who wanted to qualify for the early bird discount. But they shouldn’t presume all  customers are like that, and make everyone go through so much trouble. I would have had to ask my doctor to issue such a letter – just for my confinement caterer?!

Given the extra red tape, plus a slightly higher price and no noticeable superiority in terms of taste or quality in their food,  I decided to give this caterer a miss.

YeYeah Delights

Lastly, another friend, Sherlyn, recommended YeYeah Delights. She had not tried it but met the account manager who came across as very enthusiastic.

However, they did not seem to offer a single-meal trial on their website. I wrote to them about it, and they confirmed that they could only send me three days’ worth of lunches and dinners! Now, who would want to eat confinement food for three days in a row when they haven’t even given birth yet?? :) And all that food would fill up my fridge.

I guess it’s their modus operandi and they cannot vary it – but as a prospective customer I would’ve had to shell out $108 for six trial meals, when other catering companies offered a single-meal trial for around $30.

So, it was a “no no” for YeYeah, simply for being a bit too rigid. They did however reply to me within the day, so at least their administrative staff were on the ball.

My decision

So, given my limited time and sample size, and given that the food quality and taste seemed pretty much the same (from 2012 to 2015), I decided to go with the caterer with the least hassle and hiccups – Richfood. So far, they have not disappointed in terms of quality or delivery. And yes, they gave me an early bird discount without having to view proof of my EDD!

IMG_4365

These are two of the tastiest dishes so far:

Richfood catering - 28 day lunch menu
I am quite sure this was cod fish or something similar in texture and oiliness. Ate it all up!

Richfood catering - 28 day lunch menu
Delicious combination of herbs and chicken. Again, I finished it and even drank the gravy!

Final comments: decent food, but please make it easier for customers to order and pay

Confinement catering is still a niche business in Singapore. While I did not manage to review all available caterers, I approached the more popular ones recommended by friends. As the caterers’ foods were of comparable quality and similar prices,  they had to distinguish themselves based on how well they served the customer.

Confinement food itself may not be very expensive but preparing and packaging it for just person and delivering it within the same time frame to different parts of Singapore for a month, certainly requires extra effort and that is probably why each meal costs $30 on average.

Overall, these caterers could improve their service by allowing the customer to make payments in easier ways, such as Paypal. This generation of expectant mothers is more IT-savvy and would appreciate not having to order by fax, mail cheques or submit screen shots of online banking transactions. This however is an issue with many of our local SMEs, not just caterers – they need to keep up with the times and be more customer-centric.

And, to re-iterate an earlier gripe: When a customer just wants a sample, don’t make her buy six of your products!

More photos will be added every now and then to my confinement food Flickr album, specially created for this occasion.

Breast is best – my journey as a mother of two

[Disclaimer: The views in this article, and in the rest of the blog, are strictly my own and do not necessarily reflect any organisations I am associated with.]

When I had my first son, Peter, I was determined to breastfeed him exclusively, having been educated through many books and classes, with the support of friends who were also pro-breastfeeding.

Alas, this dream was not to be. Within my first week, despite getting the help of nurses and a lactation consultant, my nipples continued to bleed and I had to be taken off breastfeeding while Peter received formula. After healing I managed to continue providing breast milk, although Peter grew impatient with the breast for having a slower flow. No matter what I ate, from supplements to the mythical fish soup, I could not get my supply up. However I continued to offer Peter the breast and he did breastfeed for 15 months.

On hindsight, there were a few things I didn’t know then which I know now. Strangely, the books I had read and the classes my husband and I had attended, made no mention of the slight detail of using nipple cream after breastfeeding. I was only told that I should have used it when I had already started to bleed. So, with the birth of my second son Paul two weeks ago, we ensured that there was sufficient nipple cream to keep me going – along with ensuring that he was properly latched.

Secondly, I should have started expressing milk within my first week, as an alternative to breastfeeding directly with sore nipples. I did so with Paul and amazingly my milk supply increased to the point where I was producing over a litre a day, a week after his birth. It has continued to increase, to the extent that I have had to switch to larger bottles to contain my expressed milk.  I later read, happily, that the first week is crucial to establishing milk supply. 

Thirdly, and crucially, depending too much on formula actually decreases your milk supply. While we are eager to ensure that our babies are well-fed, using formula as a supplement is only a short-term fix that does not help you increase your own milk supply. Formula also takes twice as long as breast milk to digest, thus the baby may seem fuller and suckle less often at the breast, which then causes milk supply to decrease.  Formula-fed babies also look fatter, which makes some traditionalists believe that formula is better when this isn’t necessarily the case.

So I have a love-hate relationship with formula, because it takes the pressure off some inexperienced mothers who may otherwise feel guilty and inadequate, but it also causes them to fall back too much on it and further diminishes the role of breastfeeding.

Some are also of the belief that formula is good enough. Yes, many people have been raised on it and turned out fine. But there are also many studies which show that breastfed babies have a lower risk of obesity and diabetes, and have fewer allergies. In addition, the antibodies in breast milk (which formula does not have) also give them added immunity. There are various benefits to mothers who breastfeed, too. It is also much safer for mothers in third world countries to breastfeed than to give their babies formula, due to public sanitation problems and other factors.

Given the rising global trends of obesity and diabetes, among other things, I do wonder how many people suffering from such conditions today were formula-fed as babies. Of course, many other factors – genetics, lifestyle and environment – also come into play. But every little bit counts as well.

So, if you know a mum-to-be who is keen on breastfeeding, do respect her wishes and give her your total support. This will contribute to the real ‘formula’ for having a healthy baby.

 

[ps. This post was written while I was expressing milk at 3am. You may post your comments and any amendments or additional points of importance which I may have missed out ]

Being organised for baby

While expecting our second child, we told ourselves that we would be more organised this time. Gina Ford’s books would be our bibles; the baby would be put on a more regular schedule and we would all be able to get more sleep.

It’s still too early to tell how successful we are. For sure, our baby is responding well to a schedule. But more could be done…

Given that at work, we have started to assign RACI (roles that decide who is Responsible, Accountable, to be Consulted and Informed), I decided to draw up something similar at home. Otherwise, if something is everyone’s responsibility, there is a risk that nobody will think they have to do it.

So I now have a very busy Shared Calendar which not only lists the task that needs to be done (e.g. feed/wake/put baby to bed) as well as the exact timing (thanks to Gina Ford), but also who in the household is responsible (i.e. me/husband/helper) and for busy periods, who will be the backup support.

This may sound like overkill, but given that we also have an active toddler to take care of concurrently, plus relatives visiting, things need to run like clockwork. Let’s see how this goes…

How to show you’re being ‘strategic’ without actually needing to use that word

Being ‘strategic’ is a good thing – provided that you can also execute your strategy to achieve the outcomes you want. But we may mistakenly believe that labelling the titles of our projects and the work in our appraisals as ‘strategic’ will position us for greater things, when they aren’t much different from what we used to do or be. So what does it actually mean?

To illustrate things simply: To impress your boss, you state that you ‘strategically drove a Brand X car down Road Y’. Yes, it sounds a little odd, but you can adapt this example to work that you’ve actually done.

That alone does not show whether you achieved the desired outcome, nor whether the means you took was the most suitable.

Instead, you should state that you reached Point Z (which ideally, should be an important organisational goal) or at least did something that brought you closer towards it. This was done by pursuing the shortest and easiest route, using the most effective means of transport – which may or may not have been a Brand X car – or even a car. In fact, did you even need to drive?

Depending on your organisation’s mission and culture, you may also be judged on how you actually went about achieving your goal. Did you take the fastest car – which may also have wasted the most gas and caused the most pollution? Did you stop to pick up people along the way or did you ignore them, damaging relationships? Did you take a detour, which may have caused some delays, but discovered an even better route which has opened up new opportunities?

So, while being ‘strategic’ is very much about achieving your desired outcome, it’s also about doing it in a way that is deemed acceptable by industry standards and organisational values.

You can show you’re being strategic without having to use that word. Conversely, you can throw the word around everywhere but end up looking anything but it.

Pregnancy – heading towards the home stretch

I’ve actually been in pain for the past few days. Being pregnant and in my final trimester has resulted in the accumulation of a number of minor problems – what I’d like to call ‘death by a thousand paper cuts’. Each problem impacts on something else and it makes me yearn for a healthier, leaner, ache-free body which I will hopefully regain in a few months’ time.

When you’re pregnant, your immunity level goes down so that your body doesn’t attack your unborn baby. This means that you’re more likely to fall ill. I’ve been on safe antibiotics for three times since getting pregnant this time. I would’ve loved not to need any, but staying up all night coughing and not being able to present at work were no-nos.

When you’re pregnant, you release a hormone called Relaxin which sounds rather nice, but it loosens your joints in preparation for something the size of a small melon popping out of your vagina. Ideally, it should only be released as you’re giving birth, but the body doesn’t work like a machine, so instead you get gradual doses of this stuff over time. I’ve been walking around with a painful hip for the past few weeks. I really shouldn’t have played that game of badminton when I was 7 months pregnant…

And my biggest bugbear to date is something unmentionable. It’s not funny when you try to sit down, or pee, or poo. It hurts like hell sometimes and unfortunately, gravity does not work in my favour. It is an embarrassing problem  which may get worse as the baby gets heavier and pushes down on my pelvis more each day.

So in summary: Sore throat, sore legs, sore arse and in a month’s time, presumably sore tits. But it will all be worth it in the end.

How I nearly had a facial (but didn’t, because I’m pregnant)

Some time ago, I bought a facial package from a company that was apparently permitted to call me because I was a Citibank customer. While they were a bit pushy, I liked their treatment so I decided to purchase 10 sessions with them.

After getting pregnant with No. 2 (who’s been in development for the past 8 months), I received a call from them, asking if I’d like to make an appointment. Sure, why not? I thought. 

So this afternoon I arrived punctually for my facial… To be greeted with looks of surprise from reception staff. Apparently I should have told them I was pregnant, as not all treatments were safe. 

Given that I hadn’t purchased a particularly fancy package that used harsh chemicals, I hadn’t thought it would be a big deal. But they said there was some “Dian” (Mandarin for electricity) in their technique. Their main salesperson, who has been the pushiest staff member so far, then tried to offer me an ‘oxygen’ treatment that was ‘specially’ for pregnant women. All for the trial price of “only $188″. For one session!

When I resisted, I was unsurprisingly informed of how my skin was looking worse since the last time she saw me. In fact I’ve been moisturising myself more regularly and my skin no longer feels as dry as before. 

Sensing my doubt, she then proceeded to do some scans of the pigmented part of my cheeks – displaying them in magnified versions on a computer screen. Still it didn’t look compelling enough to move me. Surely one ‘oxygen’ treatment wouldn’t be enough and I would have to pay more to restore my skin to its former state of glory.

At this stage I decided that I should inform her that I had a propensity for blacking out when lying on my back after 20 minutes. (This did happen to me a few days ago while going for my detailed scan – as Baby was pressing on my aorta). And they couldn’t give me a facial if I lay on my side instead, right? And that ‘electricity’ used in my standard package – hmm – that sounded more risky now… 

So on that basis, we mutually agreed to postpone my appointment until after my confinement period. 

I suspect the hard selling will continue when I return to this ‘spa’. But with all the complications of pregnancy, as I approach the finishing line in a month or so, the last thing I want is to have more stress on myself and my wallet by feeling obliged to buy things I may not really need.