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!

Happy New Year!

I sincerely hope you and yours have had a wonderful Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Winter Solstice (did I miss any?)!  I loved having all my daughters, son-in-law, and grandson home for the holidays (husband too – but he’s always here).

I’m sitting here at my desk looking at my brand new 2013 calendar.  It’s waiting to be filled with exciting events – conferences, trips, times with friends and families.  It’s also sitting here challenging me to think of what I want to improve in this new year.

Do you set resolutions?  It seems there are two different types of people – those who do every year and those that are vehemently opposed.  I supposed I’d have to place myself in the opposed category because the word “resolution” is too overwhelming for me.  I prefer the word “goal.”  A goal is much more forgiving than a resolution.

How would I suggest setting a goal for yourself?  I love the S.M.A.R.T. goal format:

Using this format, as opposed to an open-ended resolution, your goal is well thought-out, approachable, and has a plan.  Instead of “I resolve to organize my entire house in 2013 and keep it that way” think more in the way of “My goal is to declutter my home, donating at least 100 items to charity in 2013” and then map out a plan for room-by-room.  The more specific you can get, the better!  I’ll be sharing one of my 2013 goals next week – stay tuned!

Two Minute or Less Tasks

A friend and fellow organizer, Patti Kreamer, always says “if it takes less than 2 minutes – do it now!”

What can you accomplish in 2 minutes or less?

  • Place your dishes in the dishwasher
  • Make the bed
  • Put away folded laundry
  • Throw a load of laundry in the washer
  • Wipe off the kitchen counters
  • Delete emails

What you CAN’T do in less than 2 minutes

  • alphabetize all your media
  • turn your living room into a thing of beauty that Martha Stewart would want to be YOU
  • declutter a very cluttered basement

Confession time – no one is perfect, least of all me.  I know you secretly picture my home as a place of complete organization at all times – not exactly true!  I may be a professional organizer, but I’m far from perfect!  I have a habit of leaving my breakfast dishes on the counter instead of placing them in the dishwasher – it would take me only 30 seconds!  It’s something I’m really going to start working on.  I encourage you to do the same – examine your daily routine – what little task could you accomplish in less than 2 minutes?

Imagine this – if everyone took 10 minutes in their day, we could ALL accomplish at least 5 tasks that take less than 2 minutes.  What difference would that make in your home?  In your life?  If you’re struggling to find the time, try the commercial breaks of your favorite tv shows!  I know you can find those 10 minutes!

Count Your Blessings

When my daughters were young they loved the Berenstain Bear books by Stan and Jan Berenstain.  As I’m watching my facebook feed filling with friends who are participating in the 30 days of Gratefulness, I’m reminded of reading “The Berenstain Bears Count Their Blessings” many times to my girls.

The storyline was simple – Brother and Sister Bear were comparing themselves to their friends who had so many more toys – I believe it was video games and “Bearbie” dolls.  In the midst of their arguing, a thunderstorm hits and knocks out the electricity and Mama and Papa Bear encourage the cubs to stop and consider their blessings – a safe home, a loving family, good food to eat, etc.

(Sister Bear of course takes it a step to far at the end and actually starts counting her blessings numerically…but the concept is still sweet.)

Take 5 minutes right now.  Close your eyes and consider your lives’ blessings.  You don’t need to count and tell us how many!

Don’t open until you really consider what is important in your life.

No peeking!

Okay, ready?

I’m going to guess that you thought about blessings such as your family, friends, health, a home, perhaps financial security, food, water, your religious beliefs etc.  I’m also going to guess that you did NOT say “I’m so blessed to own an overabundance of clutter.  Clearly I need MORE things!”

Why aren’t we grateful for the clutter and the excessive things taking over our lives?  They aren’t what really matter!  The people we love and cherish, the memories we make each day, the ability to provide for our family, good nutrition, a healthy lifestyle – this is the stuff that really matters.

Take a look around your home.  Is there clutter you’ve been meaning to let go?  Release it.  Recall those simple blessings you were thinking of and remember what’s really important.

May you all have a Happy Thanksgiving filled with loving family and friends.

Preparation is Key

I’ve been thinking a lot about the victims of Hurricane Sandy this week.  We were lucky and the storm did not hit Pittsburgh too badly.  However, if it did, would my family be prepared?

Like the rest of you, I love my electricity – hot showers, microwave, computer, tv, etc, but if we were without electricity for days/weeks because of the storm our more pressing needs would be food, water, and heat.

Now, I’m not suggesting you run out to your local Giant Eagle and hoard all the bottled water, turning your basement into a potential disaster prevention/hoarding zone, but it is a good idea to have some necessities on hand at all times, JUST IN CASE.  It never hurts to be prepared!:

  • Bottled water – enough for your family to use for 3 days.
  • Canned food – enough for your family to eat for 3 days.
  • Flashlights and (current) batteries – be sure to check batteries on a regular basis and replace old ones.  Does anyone else find that when a storm hits all the batteries are dead or is just me???
  • Matches and candles
  • First aid kit, with basic medications (please make sure they are NOT expired!)
  • A week’s worth of prescription medication
  • A water and fire proof strong box containing all important records – passports, birth certificates, marriage licenses, medical records, medical insurance information, life insurance policy, a will, etc.

Wait, did I just read that right?  A will?  What?  I’m only…well, if you don’t know how old I am, I’m not telling.  (However, I’m pretty excited when someone thinks I’m my daughter’s older sister!  Not too shabby for a grandmother!) 🙂

It is imperative to have a will, especially if you have children or dependents.  It does not need to be a gigantic fancy-smancy document that only lawyers would understand, but a basic outline of your wishes – what you want to happen in case you are in a situation where loved ones need to make a decision to keep you on or off life support, your thoughts on organ donation, who will be responsible for raising your children, where you want your assets to go (charities, family members, etc), and how you want your body disposed.  I’m not trying to be the grim reaper, but it is a fact of life that we will all die one day.  If we knew the day and time, we wouldn’t need to worry about preparing, but it’s a mystery.  Why not make it easier on our loved ones by having our wishes clearly stated in writing?

Please don’t hide your will.  Have an open and frank discussion with family members.  My three (adult) girls roll their eyes at me when I tell them where to find our documentation and the family friend who we have appointed executor of our will.  “Geez Mom, you’re so morbid!”  But I know that each of them knows what to do if something were to happen to myself or my husband.  Instead of leaving your family members with the burden of decision-making during a tragedy, help them a little.  Be prepared!

Room additon?

Considering adding onto your home because you need more space for your things?  Consider this article from the Pittsburgh Tribune Review.  I am featured in the article and urge you to think about the purpose of a new room – what is your goal for the room?  Do you already have the space available for activities?  I hope the articles helps you consider many factors before you make a decision to expand.