Meal Planning 101

Last week we talked about the benefits to meal planning.  My favorite is the reduced stress that meal planning can bring.

Let’s talk about the basics of meal planning.  First, I urge you to keep it simple, especially if you’re trying meal planning for the first time.  While you can plan three meals a day, seven days a week, let’s just start with one meal.  I’m going to pick dinner for my example because I hate that feeling at 5 o’clock of what are we going to eat?!?

  • Take a regular sheet of paper – we’re keeping it simple!
  • Write down the days of the week.  Mark any off that you will not be preparing that meal – for instance, perhaps you have a weekly night eating out.
  • Write down meals for the remainder of the week.  Stick to easy recipes that you enjoy preparing, especially this first week.
  • Now you have your meals, write down the ingredients you will need to prepare the meals for the week.
  • Shop your kitchen first.  There’s no sense in buying spaghetti sauce for spaghetti and meatballs if you already have three jars in your cupboard.  Cross off the ingredients you already have.  And your weekly shopping list is complete!  Head off to the store and buy only what you need.

Try it out – let me know how it goes or any questions you have!



It’s 5 o’clock somewhere…

5 o'clock somewhere

5:00pm, in a town not too far from where you live…

Family Member #1: What do you want to have for dinner?

Family Member #2: I don’t know…what do you want to do?

Family Member #1: Well, we could have chicken and…::rummages through cupboards::

Family Member #2: Nah…I’m hungry and the chicken is frozen.

Family Member #1: We could have a salad…

Family Member #2: The lettuce went bad.  We have no food.  I’m hungry.

Family Member #1: What do you mean we have no food?  Look how much is in our cupboards!  What do you want to eat???

Family Member #2: I don’t know…take-out?

::chaos ensues as the stressed out, hungry duo continues arguing and searches for take-out menus::

Can’t you feel the stress?  The hunger?  The frustration?

How could it be stopped?  Two words – meal planning.

What is meal planning?

It can look different to different people, but basically it is sitting down, writing down the meals for a specific time period, writing down the groceries that you need to buy, and having your “plan” of what’s for dinner!  I’ll be spending the next few weeks giving some pointers on meal planning, but if you decide to try it, you will probably have

  • reduced stress
  • less wasted food
  • saved money AND time
  • an answer to the age old question, “what’s for dinner?”

Stay tuned!

A Fall Checklist

Pumpkins adorn porch steps.  Trees are arrayed with colorful leaves.  Autumn has arrived!  And with the autumn, cooler temperatures.  Winter will be coming soon and all the holidays.  This is a great time to prepare your home for the seasonal changes.

Here are a few of my suggestions to prepare your home this fall for the upcoming winter:

  • Clean the leaves from gutters.
  • While you’re up on the ladder, inspect your roof for any possible problems.  No one wants an icy leak this winter!
  • Check exterior lighting before those trick-or-treaters come in a few weeks.
  • Make certain your furnace is working before it gets really cold!
  • Turn off exterior water.
  • Make sure any chimneys and/or fireplaces are clear of debris (such as bird’s nest) before you light a fire.
  • If you live in a snowy area, make sure you are prepared for snowfall – shovels, salt, snowtires, etc.
  • Clean and store patio furniture.
  • Drain and store garden hoses.

What else do you suggest to prepare your home for the upcoming winter?


Fire Prevention

 In case you don’t have elementary aged children, or in my case, a 3 year old grandson, you might not know that this week is Fire Prevention Week.  Why talk about it on my blog?  Well, it’s a good reminder to check your house for fire safety!

Fire Safety Checklist (Disclaimer – I am NOT a firefighter or fire expert – just some friendly suggestions to keep you and your family safe!)

  • It’s a good idea to test your smoke alarm batteries every 6 months…why not this week?  Write a reminder on your 2014 calendar to check again in early April, or set a reminder on your phone/email!
  • Test/check your kitchen fire extinguisher and make sure it has a home in your kitchen that is easily accessible and EVERYONE in your family knows its location!
  • Make sure all hallways and doorways are ALWAYS clutter free.  It is terrifying to read in the newspaper about people dying in a fire because their house was too cluttered to allow them to escape.
  • Make a fire escape plan with your family members – even if you all are adults!  You should know where you will meet outside away from any danger if there ever was a fire.
  • Have piles of paper?  Recycle these fire hazards!
  • Teach young children how to call emergency services and make sure phones are at an accessible level.

And of course, stay safe!



Establishing the Afternoon Routine

It seems only yesterday my daughters were going back to school…


I don’t know about you, but I’m seeing school buses everywhere!  The school year is upon us and it is an excellent time to establish routines!  While my post today will mostly apply to readers with school-aged children, you can apply the principles to any type of family situation.  Routines are a key to running an organized home.  They ensure homework is complete, the dog is fed, and dinner is on the table without much stress!

  • What things need to be done in your home in the afternoon?  Meal prep?  Homework?  Chores?  After school activities?  Make a list of what needs to be done.  Next, establish the comings and goings of family members.  How and when does everyone come home?  Are all your family’s transportation for the afternoon established or do you need to come up with a plan?  Do you have a back-up plan in case you are running late from work?
  • Assign a place for everything when you come home – car keys, cell phones, backpacks, important papers, mail, etc.  If you establish a routine for sorting and putting everything away immediately you will save time looking for those missing car keys or field trip permission slip at the last minute!
  • Designate a place in your home to be the homework zone/quiet project zone.  Let your kids have some downtime/snack as you see fit and then have them do their homework as soon as possible.  Why?  Do you really want to be practicing spelling words at 9pm when everyone is exhausted?  No sense in dragging out the work until the last minute!
  • Before the kids go out to play, have them repack their backpacks.  They will be ready to go again in the morning and you won’t be scrambling out the door!
  • Too many chores on your plate?  Divide them up among the family members.  I believe it is important for children to see themselves as a contributing member of the household.  If Johnny and Suzy can fed the dog and unload the dishwasher, it gives you the gift of time so you are not struggling to throw dinner on the table.  Sit down as a family and discuss what are the struggles and solutions to chores/meal prep.  Your kids might surprise you with their suggestions.

Establishing the Morning Routine

alarm clockAs I mentioned last week, the end of summer is fast approaching and it is time to get fall routines in place.  For many of you, that includes reestablishing your morning before school routine.  Here are some tips to have an organized morning routine:

  • Think about what you can do BEFORE your family goes to bed to make the morning go smoothly.  Could your children pick out their clothes for the day?  Make lunches?  Work clothes ironed?  Backpacks and briefcases packed and ready?  Any thing you can do the evening before will make your morning MUCH smoother!
  • Consider time everyone needs to be out the door and work backwards to figure out what time to wake up, with a little grace time built into the schedule.  For example, Suzy needs to be out the door by 8am to catch her bus.  She needs to get dressed, eat breakfast, brush teeth, etc.  She usually takes about 30 minutes to get all this finished.  Give her an extra 10 just-in-case minutes, and Suzy should be up by 7:20am to get ready for the day!
  • Having three girls who shared a bathroom growing up and a shortage of hot water, there was always discussion to figure out who got to shower at what time!  Consider your family’s needs and decide together if you need to establish specific times to use the facilities.  Perhaps some family members prefer to shower the night before!
  • Have a backup plan established for any possible situations, such as childcare issues or transportation problems.  Do you have childcare available if one of your children becomes ill or there is a snow day?  Do you have a back-up vehicle or friendly neighbor if your car won’t start?  Considering what ifs and making a plan will help get you to school and work on time, no matter what!

Back to school – supplies

Back to school

Does anyone else notice that the back to school advertisements now start in July??? I’m not sure if I’m ready to say goodbye to summer yet, but the commercials, stores, and less than a month to Labor Day are telling me that it’s time to think about the upcoming seasonal change!

My three girls are well past school age, but I have many fond memories of our back to school shopping days.  If you have school-age children or grandchildren, it’s time to start thinking about the supplies they will need for the upcoming school year.

  • Before running out to your favorite store, visit your school’s website or call to obtain a list of what items are required for the upcoming school year.  There’s no sense in buying your child the 96 box of crayons she has been drooling over when the school only wants her to come with a 16 pack!
  • Sales are fantastic this time of year.  Be smart if you decide to stock up on SOME basic supplies.  Consider if you will use the supplies throughout the school year.  An extra notebook or two might be helpful.  Ten extra backpacks…not so much.  If you really can’t pass up the sales, donate the extras to your school or a favorite charity to help those less fortunate.
  • If your child is planning on packing a lunch, be sure to add a quality lunchbox to your list.  You’ll be saving the environment not using those paper bags!  You might want to consider BPA free plastic sandwich and snack containers as well.  It will save you the hassle of constantly purchasing plastic bags.
  • Label supplies clearly with your child’s name and grade, or per school recommendations.  Many moons ago, my daughter lost her lunchbox during the first week of fourth grade…never to be seen again.  We labeled everything after that incident.
  • Check your child’s clothes and footwear needs.  Be sure to check the school’s dress code to adhere to any guidelines.
  • Have everything ready to go a week before the first day so you can enjoy the final days of summer vacation, stress-free!