Thursday, January 30, 2014

All Things Food and Meals: Part 2

I promised this was going to be a multi-part posting on food, meals, groceries, possibly budgeting (not sure if I'm ready to tackle that topic just yet) here we are at Part 2.  Last time I showed you my meal planning station:
Ain't she a beaut?  Well, another thing that my family relies on is our deep freeze.  Now, I'm aware that some of you may not have space for such a thing, but they come in all shapes and sizes and you may be surprised to find that there may be one just perfect for you.  Like how I'm talking about a deep freeze like it's a significant other?  Years ago, we received our deep freeze as a Christmas gift from my in-laws (thanks again!), and while it may not seem like a "fun" item for a gift, it's saved us loads of money.  Aaaaannnndddd, let's face it, once you get to be my age, 25 (OK, 33), receiving a gift for the home is a luxury!  We did get to choose what type of deep freeze we wanted, and we went with the chest.  Mostly because this specific one had more square footage than a standing deep freeze (like a big ol' fridge).  Here's my baby:
"Aaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh" (those are angels singing).  But really, this sucker has saved us a lot of money over the 10 years we've owned it.  How?  Well, let me tell you.  There are certain foods that we use a LOT of in this house, mostly:  beef (mostly ground beef), chicken (mostly breasts, but hindquarters are great on the grill in the summer), butter, and shredded cheese.  When any of these items go on sale, and we're running low, it's time to stock up!  For example:  Hy-Vee (the local grocery store around here...that we don't usually shop at but sometimes has great deals - post on grocery stores/shopping coming soon) had boneless, skinless chicken breasts on sale for $1.88/lb.  Since we have this chest of frigid temps, we stocked up on it.  As a matter of fact, Sweet Pickle and myself were the "crazy" people walking around the store with a cart FULL of chicken (juice was on sale too so we did have some of that!).  And another example is shredded cheese, it is on sale THIS WEEK FOLKS, again, at Hy-Vee, for $1.00/2 cup bag!!!  This is a steal!!!  I realize that we could easily buy block cheese when it's on sale and grate it ourselves, but let me tell you something:  I do NOT have a great relationship with our grater.  I ALWAYS, I mean it, ALWAY grate my knuckles - never fails.  And, I do like the ease of the bagged shredded cheeses.  Here's what our stock looks like (I'm kind of embarrassed):
I know it seems crazy, but we really do eat a lot of meals with cheese in it (pizza, lasagna, tacos, foil packs, tater tot casserole, goulash, stuffed breads), and the kids LOVE to eat it.  It's messy as all get out, but if they like it, I'll vacuum.   Another thing you'll notice is that wire basket the cheese is in.  We currently have two of these in the deep freeze to make it a little more convenient to grab items.  It's a very deep, deep freeze (double meaning on the whole 'deep freeze' thing huh?), so to get to the bottom...well, let's just say you could get lost.  These baskets are from The Container Store, and they were $9.99 each.  Here is a glimpse of inside the freezer (minus the cheese of course):
We also like to buy things in bulk, ONLY if we use it often.  We buy tater tots from Walmart at $5.00 for a 5lb. bag.  We do the same thing for french fries (I like to make my own as well!).  As for beef, we actually purchase a half a cow from a local beef man, big initial payment, but per pound, it's much cheaper and we are well stocked for about 6 months.  We almost always run out of ground beef, so we keep our eyes peeled for Fareway (another local store here) to have a sale.  It's always cheaper to purchase the 10lb. tube of ground beef (that sounds really gross now that I'm typing it) and separate it yourself.  I make a double batch of cookie dough, form balls, freeze them and put 24/freezer bag.  We then just bake a dozen when we want a warm cookie.

 Here is what is on the lid of the freezer:
This dry erase board helps us to keep track of what's in the freezer without having to constantly open it.  Now, the trick is to make sure you mark off what you've taken so the inventory stays current...we slack on this but I'm hoping we can get better.  All of what you see is written in permanent marker, these are the items we always have or will have.  We just use the dry erase marker to write down the amounts and the miscellaneous items that rotate through from time to time.  Very helpful...but not very pretty is it?
Much better!  Washi tape to the rescue!  In summary, our freezer has helped us to stock up on items as they go on sale for use later.  Items such as the coveted shredded cheese, runs as high as $2.12/2 cup bag (Walmart), so when it's only $1.00/2 cup bag - you're already looking at a $1.12 savings, on ONE item!!!  There you have it, another must have in our home organizing!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

All Things Food and Meals: Part 1

Deep breath...meal planning.  Sometimes I find this task to be super simple, other times I feel burned out and resist having to do it.  But, in our family, it's a must.  Insert groan.  I do all of the meal planning, and every weekend I ask all members of the fam "any ideas for suppers this week?".  I usually get one answer from Peanutty; "ummm...tater tot casserole!". Yay (said with a sad kind of enthusiasm)!  While I love the occasional TTC, Peanutty could hammer that down every single night if I made it. 

Once I ask if there's any kind of ideas for suppers (I do sometimes get ideas from Hubs but not too often, he eats anything I cook), I then take a quick look at what is already in the inventory.  I check the deep freeze to see what kinds/cuts of meats - frozen veggies - butter stock (we only use butter in this house - kids are allergic to margarine, and I heard one time that margarine is the closest thing to plastic...true or not, we don't use it) - shredded cheese - and already prepared freezer meals.  Then to the pantry, cupboards and fridge.  I start there, then form a few meals out of what we already have and/or meals that only require a few items to be purchased.  If I don't have grand ideas, then I hit up this pretty lady:

A meal idea binder.  In here you will find an array of meals that our family will eat and enjoy.  Even though there are a couple hundred ideas in here, we find that it feels like we just had it and are in need of something new.  In comes...da-da-da...PINTEREST.  Oh how I have a love/hate relationship with Pinterest.  I pin a few meal ideas here and there, try them out, if we like them, we print off the recipe and slide it into the binder.  If it's not one we're so wild about, I simply delete it off my 'Food' board.  In this binder you will find ideas for breakfast, lunch, and dinner ideas are separated out into meat categories: beef, chicken, pork and seafood (we don't eat much of this but the occasional shrimp scampi never hurts).  There's also a section for dessert ideas (LOVE making it, don't care to eat it that much), and a section for marinades/spices.  In the very back of this binder you'll find two double-sided folders.  They contain our grocery list sheet, meal calendar template, and coupons that need to be clipped.  Here's a glimpse of what our meal planning station looks like:
Allow me to break it down for you:
This is the clipboard that we keep our meal planning/grocery list on.  ALL of this meal planning station is attached to the side of our fridge, and very easily accessible.  No excuse for not writing down that you're out of peanut butter...which reminds me...anyway, on this paper we write down our meal plan for the week and there's also a space for your grocery list.
This is what it looks like under the list.  I have now upgraded to a plastic envelope that is reserved for coupons that we plan to use for the current list.  It's easy to grab and go.  On a side note, I also mark items on our grocery list with a little circled 'c' to remind me that I have a coupon - I've been known to check out without using my coupons because I forget I have them.
And here is our weekly meal calendar.  It has a place for you to write down breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner for every day of the week (I've never planned snack...we just keep a variety in the house because who really wants to HAVE to eat a specific snack because it's on a list?).  Instead of busting out a new sheet every week, I picked up a black frame from the Dollar Tree for $2.00, put the sheet inside it, and then purchased strip magnets from Hobby Lobby for $7.00 a roll (but if you get on their site you can usually snag a 40% off coupon for one item...this was before I had a smart phone though and I didn't even think to print one off before leaving home).  I attempted to use the magnets but I didn't get one that was strong enough to hold the weight of the frame, so I used some 3M hook adhesive - minus the hook.  I had a few extra laying around and decided to use it instead.  Worked like a charm.  We now use dry erase/wet erase markers on the glass of the frame.  Why do this extra step of the weekly meal calendar?  There are some days that Hubby is home before I am, so he just takes a peek at the calendar and starts cooking.  It's also a great reminder for school lunches, sometimes Peanutty wants school lunch, sometimes he wants a packed lunch.  We go through the school lunch calendar on the weekend and then map out which days are which so there isn't confusion...we wouldn't want him to have to eat at school on Breakfast Bake day!  See, dodging bullets!

You may (or may not) be wondering where I got the lovely printable grocery list and meal calendar sheets...well, we all know I didn't design them because posting on this blog is hard enough!!!  I actually purchased (don't judge me) these off of, here is the link:

This site has numerous helpful templates for all sorts of organizing!  Love the colors and style of them as well. 

If you noticed, I titled this as being a Part 1.  Well, my meal planning, grocery shopping and actual meal outcome is a few steps.  So instead of making a super long post, I'm going to break it up.

*Side note:  Target has Washi tape in their dollar bins.  The Target I went to had only 2 rolls left in it, but if you're lucky, maybe you can grab up a few rolls for just a few bucks!*

**Another side note:  I really do need to write peanut butter on my list.**

***And last side note:  I have not figure out how to rotate pix, so please be patient - or turn your screen.***

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Winter (insert shudder) Wear

I can't even begin to tell you how much I loathe winter wear.  Yes, I love to wear it because it keeps you warm and snuggle buggled...but it truly is the BANE of my existence.  You lose a glove/mitten and your whole day is ruined, or a hat goes missing...never to be found again, even though you clearly put your name on it with a nice, black Sharpie (in this case I'm referring to children's winter wear...but hey, if you're an adult and find the need to label yours - good for you!).  Oh the boots and the snow pants and the scarves and the hats and the mittens and the coats...EEEEEEKKKKK!!!  Do you ever find that your entry way looks like this?
Welp, welcome to my world around 3:15 in the afternoon M-F.  On a side note, I do NOT allow it to stay this way...the children return to put them away, once I threaten not to give them a snack.  Our back entry way is very small and cramped, really it's just a stairs landing that enters into our kitchen.  We do have a mud room but it's not heated year round.  We simply kick off our shoes (literally, there are shoes everywhere back there AKA "The Shoe Graveyard" - another post for another time), and scurry in the house to get warm.  My hubby and I can control our urges to just throw our coats and garb on the floor and run off to play Legos or watch Mickey, so this is mostly about reigning in the kids' stuff into one area that's easily accessible and right by the door.  Here's a picture of what it looked like before (ok, so it's what it looks like now, but before there weren't any hooks):

Wow!  Just looking at the second picture of the hooks makes me realize how my eye-balling technique is NOT up to snuff...You get the idea.  Since the area wasn't being utilized, I added 4 3M large hooks to home backpacks and coats.  Here's what it looks like now:

As you can see, the coats and back packs are off the floor and hanging on the wall/side of the kitchen cupboard.  Another great way to corral boots and snow pants is to put them in a reusable bag so it's easy to grab and go.  I put an old hand towel at the bottom of each bag so when the kids throw their boots in them after school/daycare then the towel can absorb all the water and snow, less messy and easily washable.

As you can also see, we have two ribbon boards (no idea what those are called, so I made up a term) above the coat area.  One board is for sunglasses and the other board is for birthday invites, baby announcements, and the random photo from here or there.

Another feature of this area is the basket that's tucked away in the corner.  This basket serves as the "basement" basket.  From time to time something from our basement ends up upstairs; toys, office supplies, a tool, etc.  And we all know what a drag it is to run downstairs every single time something needs to go down there.  So, basement basket to the rescue!  Throw it in there and the next person to go down will take it with them.  Saves a few trips and keeps it all in one place.

You're probably wondering where all the hats, mittens and scarves go.  Well, here's our solution for that!

That's right.  A shoe organizer.  I can't take full credit for this one, a friend of mine from work gave me this marvelous idea - I just executed it.  I purchased this one at Walmart for $5.98.  Target had one as well but it was the plastic kind, but I wanted mesh to let the fabric breathe in case it was a little damp - damp, not wet folks, I let that stuff lay out to dry!  These breathable pockets make the perfect home for all things hats, mittens, gloves and scarves.  We have this hanging right by the back door so we can grab what we need and head out.

So, there you have it!  Our way to organize the mess that is winter wear (and coats and back packs)!!!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Washi Wonder

Oh Washi I love thee!  Paper. Crafting. Tape.  Who knew?  This stuff is very versatile and so flipping pretty!!!  It can spice up the simplest of things for a very little cost.  I'm ALL about doing things inexpensively, so this is right up my alley!!!  I was asked what in the world I use Washi tape for, so I hopped on Pinterest (EEEK!! Love Pinterest but it is the sink hole of my spare time...and I just tend to get peeved because I didn't come up with the idea), and found a plethora of uses for this wonderful tape.  Some, I must admit, are cooler than cool, but not exactly practical for my liking...for example, someone decked out a Huffy 10 speed in different tape - SUPER cool...but not something I would do.  So, here are just a few of the ways that I've used Washi tape:

  • The LOVE of my organizing life:  MY PLANNER!!!  Yes, this planner comes with stickers, but sometimes the stickers are too big and bulky for what I want to use it for, so I resort to Washi tape.  It's pretty, and it comes in a few different widths.  The standard size that I've seen is a hair over 1/2", while I have a couple that are a little more narrow coming in a hair under 1/2", and I have the big dog that is 2 1/4".  I use the narrow tape if I want to conserve a little space OR if I want to change up the style.  But, I mostly use the tape for blocking off large amounts of time for vacations or school breaks.

  • Rogue bullet alert!!!  Next up is binder clips.  At the end of last school year, I wanted to give Peanutty's (my son) teachers a little something that was homemade but functional.  So, I covered binder clips with pretty Washi tape (chosen by Peanutty himself).  I purchased about 20 of the clips at the Dollar Tree for $1/10 clips - so I spent $2 on the clips and of course the cost of the tape.  I've been lucky enough to buy the tape anywhere from $3-$5.  Target has sales on the 3M Scotch tape every now and again, so I got some that were buy 2 get 1 free.  I also use the tape to spruce up a plain envelope, in this case, the envelope holds coupons for our current grocery list.  Comes in handy!
  • About 2 years ago I purchased two boxes of Better Homes and Gardens brand of Mason jars, with the intent of using them for tomatoes.  Well, fast forward to now and I have yet to do that...BUT, I have found other cute and functional uses for these jars.  For example, our Q-Tips in the bathroom.
  • Labeling drawers.  My daughters room has a wonderful built-in drawer unit, it's dated but it works.  So, to bring a little fun to the drawers (and to help guide hubby when putting clothes away), I used the tape and labeled each drawer with my clear labels using my lovely label maker.
  • In our home, we have a meal planning station as well as a daily station (post on that will be later).  In order to keep the pens and markers out of Sweet Pickle's hands (daughter, she's 2.5 years old and into everything), I made some magnetic containers out of old cans and brought in a little color with the tape.  And then proceeded to place them up high on the refrigerator so she couldn't get at them (worked for a while, but now she can climb).
  • This past fall I created a thing called "Our Life in Documents", out of a accordion file so it was easily found and accessible (a post on this is scheduled for later).  This has things like our marriage license, vehicle titles, immunizations...among other items that need to be readily available. I labeled all of these items with Washi tape and my trusty label maker!  This could be done for any kind of envelope, file or binder as well!

  • From my friend, Janel, she used her Washi tape to help put a little eye candy (in the crafty sense) to her recipe binder!  Love it!!!!

  • From another friend, Jessica, Washi tape was used to organize and separate her keys that were the exact same.  Adore this...not to mention she purchased me the same tape as a birthday gift!!!
  • Other ideas for Washi tape that I think would be fun and functional would be:
    • Color code cords under your computer desk (we all know how messy that can get)
    • To put a little flare on a clothespin (I want to do this one!) or a paperclip.
    • Make your own cupcake flags with the tape and a toothpick.
    • Seal an envelope/card.
    • To label ANYTHING!!!
    • Charging station and color code each electronic item
    • Jars, vases, jugs, bins, tins...the list goes on and on!
I have about 5 ideas on how I want to organize/store my tape.  Right now it's in this lovely pink paisley canister (all 3 canisters were purchased at Michael's on super clearance for $8 - BOOYAH), and full to the's time to come up with something fun and different!!!

There you have it!!!  My uses for Washi/paper tape!  The ideas are endless and I love to hear/see ideas.  I have a HUGE project going on right now that includes a basement, rearranging, purging and of course, ORGANIZING.  I will start posting on the progress of this project very soon.

I've decided to post on the T's:  Tuesday's and Thursdays.  As long as I've got a project, idea, request, recipe...I'll keep it coming!

Special thanks to my guest contributors:  Janel and Jessica!!!  Love your Washi tape uses!!!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

THE Planner

My original intent on this blog was to post once maybe twice per week unless I have a stellar project going that I could share more frequently.  I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of support, questions and comments I received (through Facebook messages) over the past 24 hours.  A lot of people out there that need or want to get organized and ones that loved the idea of the planner but weren't sure what it was all about.  SO, that being said, I have decided to dedicate this post to THE planner.  The peanut butter to my jelly, the left to my right, the place my Sharpie likes to write in best...THE planner.

I will go through the planner and tell you what I love about it.  And, for your viewing pleasure...PHOTOS!!!

  • The size.  7.25" x 9.25" of pure spiraled goodness.  I had looked into numerous planners when I was feeling like my life was getting out of control.  Some were small, too small for my liking, I write a little larger and wanted a little extra space to play with.  I looked into one that I could print off and put into a binder-type planner, it was a 8.5" x 11" had the most amazing amount of space to write in, plus some, but I REALLY wanted a planner I could put in my purse and take with me everywhere.  This was just too large.  Then I stumbled across this planner:
  • That's right folks, you can PERSONALIZE it!!!  Some hate personalization, but some, like me, enjoy it!!!  They have a multitude of styles you can choose from, last years model was a candy stripe design, I adored it, but was ready for a new and different scheme!
  • Tabs.  The planner has tabbed months, as well as special dates, a 2014/2014 double page layout, notes and contacts.

  • Another thing I truly appreciate is that each month has a double page layout so you can see it's entirety in one shot.  You get to look at your whole month at once to see what's going one, plus a little section off to the side for some notes.  Here is a blank look at a double page layout of a full month.
  • Next up, one of my favorite features, is the week double page layout.  It allows you to write down what's going on in three separate sections; morning, day and night.  It also allots space on the bottom to either meal plan (I use it for this and writing down school lunches for the kiddo), record your exercising, or random things you need to put in. There is also a space off to the side for goals and notes.

  •  There is a section in the back for taking notes.  I never had used it until this last fall and I started writing down home projects, gift ideas for Christmas and birthdays, questions for doctor appointments, and now, blogging ideas.  It comes with lined and blank pages.

  • Each planner comes with a handy dandy book mark that fits right into the spiral binding.  You can easily access the current week (that's what I use it for) by grabbing it and flipping right to it.  And these planners come with  sheets of stickers you can use.  Two pages have already been pre-made with 'Birthday', 'Dr. Appt', 'Girls Night'...etc, you get the picture.  And the other two pages are blank stickers which allow you to write on them yourself. Also keep in mind, you can customize your own stickers as well, for a price of course (I use one of my Sharpies to write on the blank ones - BOOM! PERSONALIZED)  Each planner also comes with a two sided catch-all folder AND clear pouch.  I put important school papers, forms, extra stickers (left over from last years planner) in my folder.  And in the pouch, I always have stamps, you never know when you'll need one and if you're like me, you don't have cash...ever, to buy one.  And you can kind of see in the last photo, on the back cover (on the inside) there is a 2015/2016 calendar available for you as well.


    Again, this planner is from .  I use this sucker every single day.  When I'm home, it's out on the kitchen counter flipped open to the current week so it's there out in the open.  But, it then fits snugly in my purse when I'm out and about.  VERY handy for making future appointments/plans!  Lots of styles to chose from and even a few that you can upload photos on to.  The planner is the only product I have ordered from this site...of course I did order an address book  for home but it hasn't shipped yet.  More on that later.  The covers are a thick laminate that's very durable and sturdy.  My last one had a little wear and tear on the corners but that's normal considering how many times it gets put in and out of the old purse-a-roonie.  You may want one bigger, smaller, or cheaper, but this one fit the bill for me and my life.  

    On a side note, this was my first time working with bullets...there's an extra one floating in my post but I can't get it to go away!!!  I'm working on my computer skills, so hang in there!  I can only get better!!!


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

These are a few of my FAVORITE things...

About a week ago, my husband and myself were heading out to the grocery store.  It was a Sunday late morning and I had yet to shower, I'd managed to drink my coffee while making the list, and had zero desire to leave the house.  Sadly, the milk wasn't going to buy itself.  I went to my room to change out of my pj's.  It was then that I was caught examining a pair of sweatpants.  I looked up to see my husband with a quizzical look on his face and I said "are these my good sweatpants?".  I burst out laughing and my husband quietly turned and walked away.  Yes folks, I'm one of those people that live in sweatpants/comfy pants/lounge pants/yoga pants...but I do also love to dress "normal" as well, but if I'm home, I'm wearing the comfy stuff.  It was also right then that I decided that would be the most perfect name for a blog.  My new blog.  My main focus for this blog is one of my most favorite things to do:  ORGANIZING.  I get asked a lot about how I would organize this or that, so I thought I'd share my ideas to the folks that care to know.  I have NO IDEA what I'm doing with a blog.  I've pretty much just figured out how to post something.  The blog site isn't pretty because I haven't a clue how to design it.  I have no idea how to fill out my profile or where to describe what this blog will be about.  This will take me some time to get used to.  Oh, and I'm terrible with computers/technology.  That's just how I am but I'm willing to long as someone else does it for me.

There you have it!  I'm excited and nervous to try this new adventure, but I hope you are willing to bare with me to see where it goes! 

Cue Julie Andrews...these are a few of my favorite things:

Allow me to break it down for you:

4. Washi tape/paper crafting tape.  I absolutely adore this stuff, as a matter of fact I have about 20 of them.  What do I use them for?  One use is mentioned in my keep reading.  I'll also show what I've used it for in other projects around the house...none of them are crafting projects.  You can purchase this kind of tape at a Michaels, Hobby Lobby, Target (3M/Scotch makes some), and other scrap booking stores.  I'm partial to a brand called Doodle Bug and I purchase mine at a local scrap booking supplies store.

3.  Label maker - in my case label makers.  I have two.  The smaller Dymo label maker (purchased at Walmart - they also sell refill labels) was my first one about 2 years ago.  I LOVED it, but I wanted one that would print clear labels with black type on it, so in came the EPSON label maker (purchased through Amazon).  They are both wonderful assets to my organizing and could be for you too...but hand written labels are just as wonderful and add a personal touch.

2.  Sharpie brand pens and markers.  I am very addicted to the Sharpie no-bleed pens.  They work great for writing on paper, hence the no-bleed feature, not to mention the colors they offer!  I still use the regular Sharpie ultra fine tipped pens as well for other types of writing, especially in cards (thicker grade paper, of course).  And the old school Sharpie pen always comes in handy!  I purchased all of my Sharpies at Target.

Now, for the #1 thing in my life that I can't go without and I'm not sure how I survived without it before:

1.  My LIFE PLANNER!!!  This is not a joke.  I have discovered a wonderful planner from a website called:  I purchased my first planner back in April of 2013, and just purchased my 2014 planner a few months ago.  I am in love.  So in love, I actually emailed the company asking if they would like me to be a sales rep out here in the Midwest for their planners.  Yes, I'm serious.  I'm still waiting for that call... While you all may think I'm crazy, I can't live without this.  Like I stated above, I'm not a technologically savvy person, so the phone/online calendar stuff doesn't do it for me.  I'm a paper and pen (Sharpie pens to be exact) kind of girl.  I'm so wild about this planner that I have 5 friends that own one (due to my wonderful Vanna White skills I'm sure) and one that's wanting one pretty badly (she was looking online just yesterday - right after she took the grand tour of mine!).  I must warn you that they are a tinge pricey, BUT, I think it's worth every single penny.  Coming from someone that pinches said pennies, that's saying a lot!!!  I use the Washi/crafting tape in my planner to block out periods of time for vacations, or school breaks, it pretties it up and really draws your eyes to it when you flip it open.

There you have it!  Just a few of my favorite things!!!  I have successfully managed to survive my first post...let's see if I'm brave enough to let anyone know that I've done this!!!