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!

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!

Slow down for the holidays


My grandson wanted to help decorate this year.

One of my favorite times of year is the holiday season, but, the older I get, the less I want to work to get ready for the holidays!  I don’t see anything wrong with lightening my load and spending more time with family rather than perfecting my Christmas village set-up!

How am I lightening my load?  As my daughters have grown and left our home, I have given them many seasonal decorations and only kept those that I truly enjoy and are of sentimental value.  I know my daughters love having ornaments from their childhood decorate their trees in their own home and I love having less!  It takes much less time to decorate now that I have let go of the decor I never really cared for!

How else do I lighten my holiday load?  I limit my gift list and focus on consumable gifts for my family such as gift cards tailored to the specific family member, tickets to events or shows, or supporting their hobbies (my daughters all scrapbook – what a great consumable gift to give!).  Consumable presents are much less likely to be returned to exchanged and those gift cards can be used by the giftee to buy something they want!

I do enjoy sending and receiving holiday cards.  I keep it simple – only writing longer notes to those friends or family I don’t see very often.  I have a list of addresses organized and ready to go so I’m not hunting down names and addresses when I’m ready to send my cards!

Other ways to lighten your holiday load:

  • Don’t get caught up in all the things to do around the holidays – focus on a few that work well for your family.
  • If you don’t like sending cards, DON’T send them!
  • Make one dozen of each of your favorite cookies rather than 10 dozen!
  • Slow down, smell the roses, and spend time with your family rather than running out to the mall every night

Happy Holidays!

Everyday Clutter Management

Ever overwhelmed by the little clutter that accumulates each day?  My daughter picking up after her young toddler and not-the-best-at-putting-things-away husband sometimes looks like this by the end of the day:

I enjoy browsing through different organizing blogs, looking for great ideas to share and to implement in either my professional or personal life.  I came across Organizing Made Fun the other day and checked out the series on having a “Fake Immaculate Home.”

First, I loved the title of the blog.  As a professional organizer, of course I strive to help my clients overcome their chronic disorganization or clutter, but I realize that very few people can or WANT to live in a perfectly clean home.  (Including me – who wants to clean all day long???)  So, when I came across this simple tip on Organizing Made Fun, I knew I had to share it.  It’s so simple and can work for almost everyone.
Are you ready?  This may blow your mind.  It will stop everyday clutter and make your home so much more organized.

Here it is: every time you leave a room for another look for anything that should be going to your destination and take it with you.

Feel the light bulb turning on?  It’s so simple!  I’m walking from the kitchen into the basement.  Is there anything in the kitchen that belongs in the basement?  Instead of taking two trips – one for my original purpose and the second at some later point in the day to put away the clutter, take one trip and get the clutter put away!

If you make this into a habit (and teach the rest of the family to do it too!), you will be managing the little every day clutter without it taking extra time or effort!  I love it!

Being Present in Spite of Technology

Do you live in moment or are you always thinking about what is next? I think many of us have a tendency to do this, including myself. With technology advancements in phones and the internet, life moves so fast that sometimes it is hard to keep up. Multi-tasking is very encouraged with all the technology that exists. Texting, blogging, social networking, and email all move so fast.

Does multi-tasking really work?  Studies show that it really does not work.  Your brain is capable of doing a bunch of things at once; however are you doing them all well at the same time? Are you really able to drive a car, text, or talk on the phone all at the same time and pay attention to other people driving and your driving?

Technology is a wonderful tool. I enjoy my iphone and participate in social networking frequently-both are great tools. However, they can encourage multi-tasking and can also become time suckers without you even realizing it.

Organize your time with social networking, texting, phone calls, and emails. Allot a certain amount of time each week for social networking. Decide what makes sense for you. It may be 15 minutes a day or three times a week for social networking. Do you have to return a text or a phone call as you as soon you receive it? I know many people who as soon as they see the red flashing light or hear the little ping sound that you have a text, they go right to it.

Try to live in the moment and don’t become a slave to your technology.  It is a difficult thing to do. Has this happened to you or have you maybe been of guilty of this: you are having dinner with someone and all of sudden they stop paying attention to you because they have a text or a call they need to take.  They try to look at you while they are texting and hope you don’t notice. When this happens to me, it makes me feel disrespected and the person is not listening to me anymore. If you are receiving the text or call, live in the moment and let the text or call go for a little while. I know there might it something you really need to answer. It is amazing that 10 years ago these emergency texts and phone calls were rare.  Why not live in the moment and pay full attention to the person across the table from you instead of returning a text or answering your phone right away?

Organize your time and set up a time limit to these devices and focus on one device at a time. Smartphones, social networking, and texting are wonderful tools and I use them often, however live in the present with people who are sitting across from you and talk to them  rather than looking for a bright light or hearing a beep from your iphone, droid or whatever the new item will be in the future.