Simplify Saturday: Meal Planning Made Easier

Simplify Saturday: Meal Planning Made Easier

As a busy mother of two with a full time job and a part-time business on the side, I know a thing or two about how difficult it is to cook. I also know that when you’re not prepared, it’s a lot easier to justify running to the drive through, where you end up spending money and making choices that aren’t the healthiest.

Once during the school year, we went over our monthly bank statement to discover we’d spent $400 that month on eating out. We were shocked…and vowed to do better. We are now doing an experiment in our house- we write on the calendar each time we eat out, and write down each time we cook at home. This is helping us keep track of how much we are spending, but also on how often we are eating at home.

I’d also like to share some other things you can do to ensure that meal times run more smoothly in your home.

1. Keep staple ingredients in your pantry at all times.

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Who else here has started following a recipe, only to find that you were missing one or two ingredients you needed? Isn’t it frustrating? Think about your family’s favorite things to eat at home, and isolate the ingredients that are common in those recipes. Then, make sure you keep a stockpile of those ingredients in your pantry and fridge.

2. Plan ahead as often as possible

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Planning ahead means that you already have a good idea of what you are going to cook for that week. I have tried to plan two weeks of meals at a time, but sometimes life happens and we don’t stick to it entirely. I’ve now started planning for one week at a time, and planning based on what I have in the pantry, fridge and freezer that week. This way, I am taking our weekly activities into account as well. Gymnastics on Tuesdays? Use the crock pot so it isn’t as time consuming and there is little clean up. Church on Wednesday night?How about salads for dinner? You get the idea.

3. Clean as you go

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Do you ever find that there is a giant mess in your kitchen after you cook, and you often do not get to it until hours later? I have had to wake up early before to clean the kitchen from the night before. One way that I handle this are to fill the sink with soapy water and wash/rinse utensils as I’m cooking. I can also soak bowls and pans before popping them into the dishwasher. The second thing I do is to reuse a bowl from meal prepping to put food scraps or trash in. Having a trash bowl saves me trips to the compost bin or trash can. I use a dish that I’ve already used so I’m cutting down on dirty dishes. It doesn’t sound like a huge deal, but it really helps.

4. Pre-prepare as much as possible

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I’ve reached a point in my life where I’ve realized I need to spend a little more money at the grocery store to get pre-chopped vegetables once in awhile. I initially felt silly about this, but then I realized it truly does save me a lot of time and prep work in the kitchen.

What have you done to simplify your cooking at home? Please comment below and share your tips with me 🙂

 

Have a wonderful weekend.

 

 

 

 

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Simplify Saturday: How to live with less

Simplify Saturday: How to live with less

We have been actively purging our home for a few weeks now. We’ve cleaned out closets, we’ve donated items, we’ve given things away and we’ve thrown away or repurposed other things. It’s easy to get rid of some things, but others, it’s more difficult. How do you decide what to purge and what to keep?

1. Take a tour of your home and note everything you use regularly. It’s easier to do this room by room. If you don’t use it regularly, how long has it been since you last used it? If it’s been more than one year, don’t keep it. If it’s clothing that no longer fits, don’t keep it. If it’s broken, stained, or damaged, throw it away. If it’s something you don’t need, but may need someday, don’t keep it. If it’s something sentimental, keep it or take a picture of it to keep.

2. Living with less creates a sense of calm. Cluttered living stresses you out and keeps you from being able to relax. It’s also true that living with clutter distracts you from being able to enjoy items you truly love. After all, the secret to happiness isn’t having what you want, but appreciating what you have, right?

3. Don’t buy material items for your family but invest in experiences together.

We have been trying to both reduce our number of things in our home, but also to save money. This can be hard when you have kids. When Christmas or birthdays roll around, you may potentially receive a lot of “things.” What if families put money toward experiences, such as a zoo trip, or a paint your own pottery class? Our kids have college fund accounts that their grandparents contribute to for holidays and birthdays. Another popular idea is to have party guests bring an item to donate to a local charity, such as pet food to be donated to an animal shelter. I think in today’s society so much emphasis is placed on having “stuff” and I think it’s important to teach our kids to value one another instead.

4. You get what you pay for

There was a time when if I needed something, I’d just go buy it for as cheaply as possible. I ended up having to replace a lot of things. If you’re purchasing something you’ll use a lot, buy quality. It may seem like you’re spending more money up front, but items of a higher quality last longer and don’t need to be replaced as often. This actually saves you money. I have even found this to be true of clothing: higher quality fabrics wear better and look nice for much longer than cheap clothing. It’s worth the higher purchase price to be able to use it longer. Spending more means you’ll be less likely to purchase duplicate items, too.

5. Make it a point to purchase only what you need

I’m not saying you should never buy things you want. You can, but you must do it sparingly, or you’ll end up spending a lot of money on things that sit around taking up space. Make it a point to buy only what you need and splurge on your wants occasionally. Your home will be lighter but your wallet will not.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my tips for simplified living. Have a wonderful day.

Simplify Saturday: vacationing with kids

Simplify Saturday: vacationing with kids

Vacationing can be relaxing and fun, but it can be stressful as well. The trick to vacationing with your little children is to be as organized as possible. With the following tips, your family vacation will run much more smoothly.

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1. Plan ahead as much as possible.

Where will you be going? How long will you be there? What will you need to take with you?

Make a checklist so you will be less likely to forget to pack the things you’ll need. If there are things you need to buy, make sure you create a shopping list as well.

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2. Pack snacks for the trip itself.

Hungry kids are grumpy kids, and sometimes it’s hard to stop for snacks. Pack a small bag of non-messy snacks to keep your kiddos happy while you’re driving or flying.

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3. Pack a “boredom box.”

Take along coloring books, puzzle books, something to read, or anything else to combat boredom. No one likes hearing, “Are we there yet?” every few minutes. If you have a DVD player in your vehicle, bring movies. An occupied child is less likely to get bored and get in trouble.

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4. Explore the area amenities before you book.

If you’re staying somewhere unfamiliar, check into local attractions before you book. This way, you’ll already know what is available to your family before you book your trip, and you can plan accordingly.

Remember to plan outings for everyone. Plan fun things to do with your kids, but don’t forget to include some fun for yourselves as well. Being less stressed means you can relax and enjoy one another more.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Simplify Saturday: Spring cleaning

Simplify Saturday: Spring cleaning

Some of us have been elbow deep in our spring cleaning routine. Because I am a teacher, spring cleaning takes me a lot longer than most. I don’t enjoy losing my whole spring break to cleaning, so I have to stretch my spring cleaning out across several Saturdays and evenings. This means my projects are on a smaller scale than most, and the bigger things get saved until summer vacation.

I came up with a 21-day challenge for those of us who work a lot, raise kids, and don’t have a ton of time to devote to spring cleaning.

This 21-day challenge breaks your spring cleaning into smaller pieces, and enables you to go through your home room by room instead of tackling your whole house all at once.

Even though it doesn’t say it on the graphic, I dust blinds, baseboards and clean behind and under furniture in each room as I cross it off the list.

Another option is to organize only a small part of each room on the list, and then repeat the challenge for 21 more days and finish the rooms. You have a lot of flexibility.

I would love for you to participate along with us and share your before and after pictures on social media. Please use the hashtag #21dayorganizingchallenge.

Happy organizing! Have a wonderful weekend.

Simplify Saturday: Simplify your cleaning routine

Simplify your cleaning
Routine

Today, I want to talk about how to simplify your cleaning routines. We used to try to clean our entire house on Saturdays, but then we quickly realized we were losing our entire day to cleaning the house, leaving us no time to do anything else. The solution? Designate certain cleaning tasks to certain days, and deep clean different parts of the house on a monthly basis.

1. Create a cleaning schedule that works for your family

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We created this cleaning schedule to help us stay on top of the cleaning duties, but also to break up each task so that it doesn’t require such a large chunk of time to complete. We simply check off each task as we complete it and do whatever is left over Friday evening before bed. We created two other cleaning schedules before we made this one, but those other schedules simply didn’t work for our needs. Don’t be afraid to adapt it as needed. If it doesn’t work for you, you won’t do it.

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3. Create cleaning zones and keep your cleaners there for easy access

We also created cleaning zones, and we keep whatever supplies are required to clean that zone in close proximity. For example, we keep a cleaning kit under the sink in both bathrooms- this kit contains a toilet brush and cleaner, antibacterial bath cleaner, daily shower cleaner, magic sponges, a small hand broom for small messes, and mirror cleaner. We have one in each bathroom. Under the kitchen sink, we have stainless steel cleaner, antibacterial cleaner, window cleaner, magic sponges, and dish detergent. Our multipurpose cleaners that serve multiple rooms (like furniture polish and floor cleaners) are in the laundry room.

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3. DELEGATE!

Don’t try to do everything yourself- even small children can do chores. Give every member of your house one chore that is their responsibility. You can even create a chore chart if your kids like having a visual.

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4. Do whatever you need to to make cleaning more enjoyable

Do whatever you can to make cleaning enjoyable for you. I do, for the most part, enjoy cleaning, but listening to music always makes it a much more enjoyable task. If music’s your thing, crank it up. If playing air guitar on your broom makes you smile, go for it. If using cleaners with a pleasant, calming scent speaks to you, make it happen. Do what works for you and don’t feel bad about it.

How do you simplify cleaning in your home?

Have a wonderful weekend.

Simplify: tips for a happier and healthier life

Simplify: tips for a happier and healthier life

Simplify tips

We’ve been talking each Saturday about simplifying areas of our lives, but what about simplifying our lives in general? There are so many things we do that add stress to our lives, and we don’t even know it.

I publish a blog each week called “Organized and Simplified,” but sometimes my life is anything BUT simplified. I am the world’s worst for trying to do too much, and it’s something I need to work on.

In order to simplify my life, I am doing the following things. Please feel free to comment below and add any more tips- I’d love to hear from you!!

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  1. Know your priorities, and choose them wisely.

I am guilty of often trying to do too much in one day. I often try to do so much, that quantity takes over quality, and I end up doing a lot of things, but not necessarily doing them WELL. If you’re like me, I get stressed out by a lengthy to-do list. Just because you have a lot to do, doesn’t mean you need to do it all at once, or even in the same day. Give yourself permission not to be perfect. It’s OK- no one else is, either.

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2. Read more, watch TV less

I am trying to make an effort to read more than I have been. I love reading, but I usually have no time for it, until summer or spring break. I have been taking at least 15 minutes a night to read something, and a few minutes during lunch to read my daily devotional.

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3. Less phones!

Hooo boy, is this an area that I need to work on!! My family has been making a concentrated effort to put down the cell phones and just be present. Turn off your social media notifications, and allow yourself only a little cell phone time each day.  Being constantly tied to your phone stresses you out and makes it difficult to concentrate on other things.

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4. Declutter your spaces by getting rid of what you don’t need.

A cluttered space is stressful and makes it hard to relax. A light, airy, decluttered space is a space where you can get comfortable and relax.

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5. Focus on the present, not the future

Focus on what you’re doing right now, and what you need right now. Don’t worry too much about the future, as you can’t do anything to change the future. Worry about the future when it gets here. For now, enjoy where you are.

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6. Don’t overcommit- you can say no, and you should say no. No one can do everything- it is perfectly OK to turn down tasks if you feel overwhelmed.

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7. Don’t multitask- singletask when ever you can, to sharpen focus and effectiveness. Trying to focus on too much at once is like a computer browser with too many open tabs. Your brain runs more slowly and less effectively when you are trying to do too much at once. Focus singularly and you can focus more easily.

 

I hope you have enjoyed these tips for simplifying your life. Please comment below to share any additional tips you might have.

 

Have a great weekend!

Simplify Saturdays: Simplify Your Morning Routine

Simplify Saturdays: Simplify Your Morning Routine

I don’t know about you, but mornings are the most stressful time of day at our house. We are frequently in a hurry, the kids are lagging behind, we’re angry and yelling….you get the picture. Side note: it’s usually because someone doesn’t want to wake up.

We are far from having “smooth sailing” mornings, but I feel like we are getting closer. Today, I am going to share a few things we’ve learned that make our mornings run more smoothly.

1. Do as much prep the night before as you possibly can

The night before, we get our clothes ready for the next day. We pack lunches. We lay out the necessities for tomorrow’s breakfast. We put water and coffee in the coffee pot and set the timer. We put our book bags by the front door. We get everything ready for the next day that we possibly can.

2. Check your agenda the night before.

If you’re like me, you’re a list maker. The night before, I like to look at my agenda and see I need to do tomorrow. I check out my to-do list and see what items are more pressing than others. I get a feel for what the day ahead might hold.

3. Get up fifteen minutes before you think you need to.

This one is sometimes easier said than done, but if you give yourself that extra 15 minutes to get moving and get out the door, you’d be surprised how much less stressful your morning is.

4. Don’t go all out for breakfast; a simple grab and go breakfast will work just fine.

Around here, we love instant oatmeal and waffles we make ahead of time and freeze. They’re quick to heat up and easy to eat when you’re in a hurry. Plus, when you have several small mouths to feed in the mornings, simple is better.

5. Leave ten minutes before you’d planned to.

When you leave early, you don’t feel rushed. When you are rushed, you are more likely to forget things. Leaving earlier ensures you have adequate time to travel safely to your destination.

What tips have you tried for a less stressful morning? Have a wonderful weekend.