Planning Weekly Meals…

The dreaded run to the grocery store.  I love to cook and create a delicious meal just as much as the next, but I dread making out a grocery list and planning the weekly meals.  However, I equally hate not having a plan and scrambling to figure out whats for dinner each and every night.

If you have a Recipe Binder (see last weeks post), then making out your grocery list is more fun.  You can flip through your binder and decide what to have each night from your organized array of recipes.  Remember to change it up and try a new recipe or two each week.

Another way to make life easier is to refer to your inventory list.  Inventory what you have on hand (freezer, refrigerator, and pantry).  If you already have 3 lbs of ground beef, then decide to make tacos or spaghetti one night.

Write out your meals for each day of the week (breakfast, lunch, and dinner).  Use the menu to transfer needed ingredients to the grocery list.

I challenge you to take this a step further and organize the list according to how the store is laid out (produce, bread, canned goods, coffee, etc).  If nothing else — organize by type.

Next week — how to plan your meals around whats on sale and coupons! 🙂

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Organizing Your Recipes…

Anyone who knows me, knows I love binders.  I love to store all kinds of information in binders: holiday binder, decorating ideas binder, plants & garden binder, workout binder, and RECIPE binder! 🙂

I subscribe to roughly 6 monthly magazines (Southern Living, BH&G, Self, etc).  I love to tear ideas and recipes out of the magazines and then recycle them when Im done.  (No piles of year-old magazines sitting around my house!) But what to do with all the pages once they are torn out?  Here is my (refined) system:

1.  Tear out any recipe that you might like to try from the newspaper or a magazine, or print one online.

2.  Three hole punch the paper and place in your recipe binder

3.  Any new recipes that you have not tried and tested go in front of each section.  Recipes that you constantly use go in the back of each section in sheet protectors.

— This helps you keep track of what you have tried and like

4.  Once you have tried a new recipe

A. Throw it away if it tastes awful

B. Cut out the recipe and tape to a white piece of paper.  Place the paper in a sheet protector

How to Make a Recipe Binder:

1.  Buy a 3 ring binder (1″ or 1.5″ is best) — I like white binders with clear pockets in the front

2.  (optional) Create a cover sheet for the binder on your computer (slide in pocket on front of binder)

3.  Create different sections within the binder with tab dividers.  Ideas of sections: Seafood, Chicken & Beef, Side Dishes, Desserts (always the largest section for me), drinks, breakfast, etc

4.  Start adding to your binder!  

Ive seen some interesting ways of ‘storing’ recipes — Ive even seen a recipe drawer that I immediately labeled ‘A Hot Mess’.  The binder is a great way to keep track of recipes that you love and recipes that you might want to try.  The key — throw away a recipe if you hated the way it turned out OR store it in the binder in a sheet protector.  Make a decision right away when you try a new recipe — it will help keep the madness at bay.

Another idea – vow to try at least 2 new recipes a week.  Your family will thank you for mixing it up.

The reason I recommend cutting the recipe out and taping to a white piece of paper is to cut down on visual clutter.  Most recipes from magazines are on the same page as pictures, other recipes, and ads.  I dont need to check all that out when Im searching for a recipe.  Cut out the recipe — trash the rest!  I take it a step further and organize the recipes that I plan to keep by style.  Example:  all apple pie recipes are taped to the same page (multiple pages for me because I love to bake).  When I want to make an apple pie, I flip to the dessert section and then to the apple pie section.  Now the decision can easily be made! That might be a little over the top for some…

The binder is very helpful when it comes to planning your weekly meals and making your grocery list.  (Tips on this next week)!

Organizing your Pantry…

I must admit that keeping an organized pantry and refrigerator is a challenge for me.  The hardest part is knowing what you have, what is about to expire, and what you need to buy.  My goal to managing my food stockpile is to save money!  I dont want to buy more ground beef when I have 2 lbs in the freezer, or purchase a can of frosting when I already had one in the cupboard.

If you use a closet as your pantry — I suggest building a system that works for you either with ClosetMaid shelving or built in solid shelving.  I prefer the solid wood in pantries because items dont tip over like the do with ClosetMaid.

Suggestions:

  • Keep a running list (either handwritten or electronic) of items in the freezer and pantry
  • Make your weekly menu plan from this list & buy only what you need
  • Empty everything in your pantry (you will thank me later)
  • Clean the shelves
  • Toss anything that is expired — donate anything that you dont need or even like — sort the rest
  • Store flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, etc in clear canisters with tight fitting lids (label the canisters)
  • Use risers for canned goods and spices
  • Use undershelf baskets (if you have space) to keep bread uncrushed and off the counter
  • Maximize door space (shelves that you attach to the door or corkboard)
  • Shelves attached to the door are great for items that you will need this coming week for a meal or items that are about to expire
  • Corkboard is great for keeping that inventory list handy or to showcase a recipe
What are your tricks to keeping your pantry organized?
Coming soon…organizing your recipes, organizing coupons, saving money at the grocery store with coupons and a plan! 🙂
*Image courtesy of http://www.transformhome.com

 

“Holiday Stress” & Excess Consumerism…

Christmas is here — or so it seems with the commercials, ads for gifts, and music playing on “preview weekend”.  I love Christmas as much as the next person, but sometimes I feel we rush it.  Its rushed because of retail — they need to make a buck and know that you are ready to spend.

I get bent out of shape on the topic of “holiday stress” & our need to buy, buy, buy!  Lets put the brakes on that cycle right now — I suggest yanking up the emergency brake!  Before the holiday spending season really smacks us in the face, I challenge you to stop a minute and reassess the reason for the season. 🙂

What stresses you the most during the holidays?  I’ll go out on a limb and guess it is buying presents, not forgetting anyone on your gift list, traffic & long lines (they go together in my mind), and racking up credit card balances during the process.  Excess consumerism — do you think buying a bunch of gifts is the best way to show love and appreciation? How about a nice phone call to catch up, and I mean really catch up.  Do you think that person who you are frantically searching for the right gift (and reasonably priced) really needs another candle, bottle of body wash, coffee maker, etc? My guess is their house is overflowing with plenty of stuff and they NEED nothing to make life complete.

Why do we feel the need to pack our tree skirts full of presents?  Is it because we have been programmed to see Christmas as a time of giving…presents?

What is your reason for the season?

Mine is family, friends, and those that matter the most to me!  It is a time of celebration and appreciation for everything that you have in your life and everyone close to you.  And as an extra bonus I love the Christmas music, Christmas movies (Home Alone, anyone?), and all the gorgeous decorations that surround us!

My challenge to you … put the brakes on the gift giving, stress cycle and stop to re-evaluate the meaning of Christmas to you.  Then shine from that place the rest of the season.

Cord Chaos…

In todays high tech society we are over run with cords — USB cords, iPod charging cord, laptop, printer, & internet cord, TV cords!  I call it Cord Chaos and it drives me bananas (as Im sure it does you as well)!

Suggestions on managing the cord chaos:*

*My suggestions are product suggestions as Ive found these are the best solutions.  Ive tried the cheap and easy (twist ties & handwritten labels).  It works, but not well.

1.  Bobino Cord Wraps:  Great for storing cords that you dont use on an everyday basis (cameras, USB, iPod/iPhone charger, headphones)

3 different sizes:  Small ($2.99), Medium ($3.99), Large ($4.99)

Medium is my favorite size — small is a little too small for me BUT great for earphones

2.  Cord Clip:  Great for storing large cords (extension cords, printer cables, anything extra that you keep on hand but is too large for twist ties) ($5.99)

Its like a huge plastic clothespin!

 

 

 

 

3.  Cable IDs:  flexible identifiers for cords.  They dont corral your cables but are great at labeling what is what.  Ideal for TV/Entertainment systems & Home Office/Computers ($7.99/8pk)

 

 

4.  Cable Zipper:  One of the best ways to corral cables together.  Not for labeling cables.  ($14.99)

 

 

 

5.  Flexi Ties:  Great for storing and for shortening cables that you are currently using.  Example:  10′ HDMI cord that is 8′ too long and intertwined with all the other cords creating a huge mess? ($7.99/6 pk)

 

 

6.  Kableflags: My favorite way to label cords!  I love these things! ($6.99/10 pk)

7. “Command Hooks” make some really interesting cable management devices but they are for your wall.  Example:  You want to run a power cord down the wall and keep it from sticking out.  Staples will do but command makes a few options that are much more efficient

All of these products are available at The Container Store.  I have done the legwork and you cannot find anything related to cord management anywhere else (Target — no, Walmart — no, Lowes — no, Office Max — no)

What are your thoughts on any of these products?  Do they seem too expensive?  Is there something that you dont see but think would be ideal for you?  I love questions and ideas! 🙂

Negative Self Talk…

I enjoy reading books that could be classified as self help.  One in particular that I love is “The Success Principles” by Jack Canfield.  I have been reflecting on the negative self talk/inner critic chapters for the past few days.

We talk to ourselves a lot throughout the day, and most of the time it is in a negative way.  “You cant run 14 miles” “You arent skinny enough” “You will never succeed at <fill in the blank>.”  If we talk to ourselves so often and so much, then we should make it positive.  Turn our inner critic into an inner coach.

1. Become aware of the negative thoughts

2. Challenge them.

3. Replace them with more positive affirming thoughts.

You are in charge of whether or not you listen to or agree with any thought that crosses your mind.  Just because you think it or hear it doesn’t mean it is true.  Ask yourself — “Is this thought helping me or hurting me? Is it motivating me to action, or blocking me with fear and self-doubt?”

Anything that doesn’t serve you well and help you move forward to become a more successful person (however you define success) is a waste of your mental energy.

I think stomping out negative self-talk will take a lot of practice, but Im optimistic that habits can be changed — especially when they are for the better!

How do you deal with negative self-talk?  I welcome any and all ideas … as I think this may be difficult to master. 🙂