Monday, October 31, 2011

Just Dance 3

I am so pumped!!  We were just selected to host a Just Dance 3 party through House Party.  The best part is that we were going to have a birthday party that week for Belle's birthday - wait a great way to celebrate her birthday! 

Just had to share :)

Weekly Goals

Last week I was still down with this cold although I did better than the previous week.  Just when I think I'm getting better it seems to strike me down.  We were at a family Halloween party Saturday night but needed to leave a little early because I started to feel terrible.  Hopefully this is the week that I'll be shaking it!  I should put that as my goal :)

Here is how I did last week:
For Me
  • Create list of books to read
  • Exercise 30 minutes every day - this might have been a little ambitious, maybe I need to start with three times a week :)
  • Schedule a hair cut
  • Schedule a massage

 For the House
  • Buy shelf and organize closet in basement -
  • Organize cabinet in boys bathroom - didn't even start this one. 
  • Get estimate for house cleaning - this one is not done for lack of trying.  I have e-mailed and left voice mails for three different cleaning companies and cannot get a response.  Two of them are national companies (Merry Maids and The Maids), all I can say is shame on you for not returning calls.  I get that these are franchises and the corporate offices don't have control but I'm surprised in this economy there are so many people looking for house cleaners that they can't be bothered to call a potential customer back.  I put a note up on the bulletin board at work and have a couple of leads to follow up with next week

One of the items on my list was to develop a list of books that I want to read.  My plan is to read one self-improvement book and one for fun book every week.  To develop the self improvement portion of my reading list I went to one of my favorite blogs, Michael Hyatt, and looked at what was on his reading list.  For my personal list I'm trying to step outside of my comfort zone and read different books.  There have been a number of books in the People magazine book review (yes - I'm a People addict) that I've been wanting to read but I keep forgetting to write them down.  I also will be looking at the NY Times Bestsellers list.  So far I haven't really picked out any for fun books other than one I've been meaning to re-read for a while.  Desiree is a book I've read a number of times but have really enjoyed.  It's a fictional account of Napoleon's first love who had a tremendous impact on history.  Here is my reading list:

Self Improvement
I'll be looking for more books to add to my personal list.
Here are my goals for this week:

  • Read "The Four Hour Work Week"
  • Start Desiree and get half way through
  • Exercise three times for 30 minutes
  • Dig out my BodyMedia band and start wearing it
  • Finalize St. Louis weekend
  • Follow up on house cleaner leads
  • Look for shoe storage options for coat closet
  • Finish spice organization (I still haven't made up my mind about the storage method so I'll need to make a decision!)
  • Buy shelf for second basement storage closet
  • Submit guest post
  • Follow up on interview opportunity
  • Catch up on visiting other blogs (with being under the weather the last couple of weeks I haven't done a very good job of visiting other blogs that link to the same site as I do.  I've got quite a few to go back and visit!)
  • Meet with M. to discuss new blog (if we're going to meet our January 1 launch date we need to get cracking!)
I guess that's enough for this as I'm trying to keep it realistic.  What are your goals for the week?

I'll be linking this up over at Money Saving Mom

You might also like:

Meal Planning
Maximizing Your Clothing Budget
Organizing Spices

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Menu Planning

I still felt pretty miserable last week.  So miserable in fact that we skipped going out for fish tacos which was good since I fell asleep at 7pm that night!  Otherwise we did OK following the menu last week.  I did skip the pineapple upside down cake in favor of my apple crisp and I forgot to take the meatloaf out of the freezer early enough so we had take-out instead.

Even though I'm still not back to 100%, this week is going to be fairly easy.  My husband is out of town most of the week on business, I have a work dinner one night and my daughter has a band concert.  I am going to invite my parents over for dinner while my husband is out of town but I'll be making that meal this weekend so both of my cooked meals will come from the freezer.  Gotta love that freezer cooking!

Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, glazed carrots, homemade applesauce, strawberry shortcake
Dinner out (half price burgers at one of our favorite restaurants)
Pizza (love Little Caesars $5 pizzas!)
Lasagna, strawberry salad, corn, Breadsmith bread, pineapple upside cake
Work dinner (kids will make themselves mac and cheese or go to McD's)
Steak dinner at another one of our favorite restaurants to celebrate somebody's birthday
Dinner at my parents

Yes, someone in the WWIN household is celebrating another birthday and turning 42 this week.  Since my husband is out of town and working this coming weekend I've decided to pamper myself.  I'll be getting a massage and a haircut (yes - I get to cross those two items off my goal list from the week) in addition to the new clothing I bought for myself.  Then, to be completely decadent I'm going to Chicago for a girls weekend the following weekend where I'll enjoy a full day of shopping (probably won't buy much), a fancy dinner out followed by a 90 minute massage the next day!  I actually debated not going on the girls weekend but my husband insisted and who am I to argue with him?
I will also need to do some baking Monday night.  My husband's trip is a training session at a military facility, breakfast and lunch is on your own.  Typically when my husband goes to these trainings it's with a bunch of men who just do whatever they want for meals.  This time he's going with four women, what do women do best?  Plan!  The ladies have decided that everyone will bring a breakfast item to share and some evening snacks.  So I now need to decide what to make for my husband to share.  I'm thinking I'll make zucchini muffins and Payday Bars.  Both of those are yummy and tend to go over well.  Both of these are family favorites that I'll share with you later.

What's on your menu for the week?  Feel free to leave a link to your post in comments.

I'll be linking up over at I'm an Organizing Junkie and Money Saving Mom

You might also like:

Maximizing Your Clothing Budget
The Benefits of a Large Freezer
Ways to Pay for Christmas

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Meaty Lasagna

I cut this recipe years ago off of a box of manicotti noodles and adapted it to lasagna.  In case you're wondering, lasagna is MUCH easier to make than manicotti and I'm a firm believer in making things as easy as possible for myself.  If you are a glutton for punishment you can actually stuff the cheese mixture in the manicotti shells (I will do this once or twice a year because it does seem a little fancier) or you can take the easy way out and just follow my adaptation.

Lasagna is one of my favorite meals.  It's easy to make, stores well in the freezer and warms up great for leftovers.  The kids aren't huge lasagna fans but since I'm the mama and the chef this is a regular in our winter rotation.

Meaty Lasagna

I package of lasagna noodles
1 pound Italian sausage
1 pound ground beef
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 gloves garlic - minced
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
1 6 oz can tomato paste
1 teaspoon basil leaves (sometimes I just use Italian seasoning)
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 (15 oz) container ricotta cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup shredded provolone cheese
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg

Cook pasta according to package directions.  In large skillet (medium heat) brown sausage.  After pouring off fat (I actually rinse the meat to remove additional fat) add onion and garlic.  Cook until onion is tender.  Stir in tomatoes, tomato paste, basil, sugar, salt and pepper.  Bring to boil; reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes.  Combine ricotta cheese, 1 cup mozzarella, provolone, Parmesan cheeses and egg; mix well. 

Spray bottom of 9 x 13 pan with non stick spray and lay first layer of noodles (if you would like you can add a small amount of the tomato mixture in the bottom of the pan.  Spread 1/3 of cheese mixture over first layer of noodles, top with 1/3 mixture of tomato sauce.  Repeat for two more layers ending with tomato sauce mixture.

Bake in a 350 oven for about 35 minutes or until hot and bubble.  Top with remaining 1 cup mozzarella cheese and bake until cheese has melted.

I do make some variations to this recipe.  First of all I don't use canned tomatoes unless I don't have any tomatoes in my freezer.  I pull the frozen tomatoes out of my freezer, pull the skin off and add to the meat.  I really can't tell you exactly how many tomatoes I add since I just do it by sight, once it gets to the right consistency I'm good.  It's usually about 5 tomatoes give or take depending on their size.  I've also added mushrooms or other vegetables to the meat/tomato mixture while it's cooking if I have something I want to use up.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Maximizing Your Clothing Budget

I like wearing nice clothes.  The problem with nice clothes is that they are expensive, even when on sale.  To keep my wardrobe budget at a minimum I maximize my wardrobe by buying as much as I can on clearance and wearing most of the pieces all year long.  Since I live in the Midwest with climate extremes it isn't as easy as living in a more temperate climate but it is still doable.

Here are some tips for maximizing your wardrobe budget
  • Find a store that carries clothes that fit you all the time - this is important if you are difficult to fit, if clothes always fit and looks great on you then this isn't a big deal.
  • Sign up for mailing lists to your favorite stores - you will get calls and/or e-mails about fantastic sales before the event in addition to coupons.
  • Stop in or shop online as frequently as you can - unless you don't have willpower and will spend unnecessarily this is a terrific way to find great deals.  When we had a Liz Claiborne outlet in town I would stop at least once a week to check out there clearance racks.  It was rare for me to pay more than $10 for an article of clothing.  I'm very sad that they are no longer here.
  • Buy quality pieces that last.  You can buy three cheap shirts for $10 a piece that don't fit great and won't make it past one season or you can buy 1 shirt for $30 that looks fantastic and lasts for several years.
  • Mix and match your clothes, this really does work.  My trick is to buy some really different shells to wear underneath jackets.  A black jacket paired with a red shell and black pants looks very different than that same jacket with a black shell and grey pants.
  • Splurge on one or two pieces of really cool jewelry.  A standout necklace will help make a blah outfit shine.
  • Wear as many pieces all year long.  I have a few seasonal pieces (like the crocheted sweater for summer or the poncho for winter) but otherwise I try to buy pieces that I can wear all year long with some minor modifications.
Here is an example of maximizing your wardrobe.  I received an e-mail from one of my favorite stores (Chico's) that I could take 40% off clearance items from their website.  Chico's clothing fits me pretty true to size so I feel confident buying tops from them (I never order pants online).  I spent $100 for all three pieces, including shipping and tax.  That may still seem like a lot of money but these three pieces will last me quite a number of years and will be worn all year long.  Here's what I bought

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This is a very lightweight jacket and is actually see-through.  During the winter months I'll be wearing a fitted, long-sleeved black t-shirt underneath to keep me warm and to keep skin from showing.  When the weather warms up I'll wear either a black or white tank underneath to keep from getting overheated.  I plan on wearing this around the house or to work on casual Fridays with a pair of casual black pants

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During the winter months I'll be wearing this sweater with a brown turtleneck or the same black t-shirt from above and either brown or black pants.  Once the weather warms up the combinations are almost endless.  The neutrality of this piece will allow me to pair it with almost any color pants or shell.

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This was a little bit of a splurge because it's not quite so neutral and doesn't have as many options but I like having a couple of stand out pieces in my wardrobe.  This is a lightweight trench coats that during the winter months I'll be wearing to work with black pants (or jeans on the weekend) and a black shirt.  Once the weather warms up I can wear this as a lightweight jacket outside.

For full disclosure, unless I've gone a year or two without buying much I rarely spend more than $300 a year on my wardrobe.  Most of the time I'm buying pieces to freshen up and replace worn pieces, I'm not replacing my entire wardrobe.  However, there are years when I may spend more if I need to replace some of my suits.

How do you maximize your wardrobe?

I'll be linking this up over at Life as Mom

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Closet Organization

I have a confession to make, my closets aren't very organized.  Sometimes I use my closets as a dumping ground for things I don't know what to do with.  Anyone else do this or am I alone in my disorganization?

When we finished our basement, we created three rather large closets around the typical basement plumbing and "stuff".  For the last five or so years that those closets have been finished I've struggled with an organization system for at least two of them.  The third has a system but you wouldn't know it from looking at it.

I also have another confession to make, I'm a little bit of a paper hoarder.  These basement closets are where I hoard my papers.  This past week I needed to pull out our tax information from the last two years for the bank (we're refinancing).  Should be relatively easy, right?  It wasn't, took me a while to find the appropriate file.  If anything happened to me my husband would have a dickens of a time laying his hands on what he would need.

Since my mom's incident last month, I've been trying to prepare ourselves for medical emergencies.  On my list of items to accomplish was getting all of our paperwork in order.  Of course to get our paperwork in order I first needed to go through the closet, make sure all the paperwork is together, get rid of what we don't need and then reorganize the closet.  Whew, I'm tired just thinking about all the work!

As usual, when I start an organization project I sit down and ask myself what my fundamental problems are with the area.  Here are the problems with the closet I tackled this week.
  • To much stuff haphazardly stacked on top of each other
  • Unnecessary paperwork mixed in with necessary paperwork not filed in any sort of order
  • No sustainable process for keeping important papers appropriately filed
  • Homeless items in the closet 
While those are just four little sentences, it's a much bigger project than I get accomplish in a week.  Especially week number two of my cold which has been trying to kick my butt (and winning some days).  My target for the week was to get the super unorganized stuff out of the closet, sort it and start an organization system for the closet.  I say the super unorganized stuff because half the closet is semi-organized Christmas items.  If I can develop a system for the front half, when we pull the Christmas stuff out I'll re-organize that before I put it away.  I have to keep these project doable or I'll get overwhelmed and never finished.

I don't actually have a picture of the closet before due to the fact that I started pulling out everything when looking for my tax information but here is a picture of the stuff strewn all over the basement.  Because everything is pulled out and scattered it looks a little worse than it really was.

After pulling everything out I started sorting it into piles.  The basic piles were kitchen items/dishes, Christmas wrapping/boxes, paperwork, books.  While I was going through I really debated whether I needed to keep the items or not.  I kept the crystal from our wedding even though we don't use it (maybe we'll use it more since I can get at it easier) but I got rid of the lemonade maker that has sat in the closet for four years.

I went to Lowes and found a heavy duty shelving unit that my son put together for me.  My plan is to get at least one, possible two more for the closet.  Here is my halfway picture where I've started putting items back.  This isn't a great picture but it gives you the general idea of what I plan to do.  There's a drain in the middle of the floor so I can't move the shelf all the way to the wall, however my husband thinks we can squeeze another one in to make an L shape.  I probably won't buy the other shelf until next week so we'll see about that.

Today I took a half day off work and I've been going through paperwork.  I'm putting all the papers that I  don't need in a box which I will take to work and shred one of these days.  Sometimes banks or other local businesses have collection days where you can bring in papers to be shredded.  Our bank just did that last weekend but I wasn't ready then.  Papers that I want to keep I'm putting together to develop some kind of filing system.

Here is what I still need to do for stage one.
  • Develop filing system for my paperwork, may include buying a filing cabinet
  • Buy a heavy duty shredder
  • Develop better wrapping paper/box system
  • Finish putting items away
  • Label boxes so I know what is inside (without opening the lid)
That's my organization project for the week, what have you been up to?  Feel free to post a link in comments to your organizing project.

I'll be linking this up over at I'm an Organizing Junkie and A Slob Comes Clean

You might also like:

Streamlining the Wardrobe
Bathroom Organization

Quick Apple Crisp

My family loves apple deserts.  I love giving them what they want, without a lot of work, which is why this is one of my favorite recipes to make.  This is the easiest apple crisp recipe that I've come across while still being incredibly delicious.  If you prep apples in the fall for the freezer it's even easier!
Quick Apple Crisp
5 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced into rings
1 package (9 ounces) yellow cake mix - I use Jiffy mix
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/4 cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 350F. Cut apple slices crosswise in half.  Place in greased 9 inch square baking pan, sprinkle with dry cake mix.  In small bowl, combine sugar & cinnamon: sprinkle over cake mix.  Drizzle with butter.  Bake 30 minutes or until topping is golden brown.  Serve warm with ice cream, if desired.


I'll be linking this up over at Life as Mom

Monday, October 24, 2011


For those who read my blog regularly you know that I make these crazy, over the top to-do lists knowing that I won't be able to accomplish everything on them but hoping to get as many done as possible.  The end result is I end up completely exhausted and burned out, fearing that I'm not enjoying life as much as I should because I'm so busy getting 'stuff' done.

Crystal over at Money Saving Mom has been writing weekly goals for a while touching on several different parts of her life.  I've been thinking that this may not be a bad thing for me to do.  Many of my things to accomplish aren't things for me or spending time with my family.

For the time being I'm going to just focus on my goals for myself and the house, there are other goals for the husband and kids but I'll keep those to myself :)  Here's what I hope to do this week.

For Me
Create list of books to read (I love to read but don't haven't made time in months to pick up a book, that needs to change!)
Exercise 30 minutes every day
Schedule a hair cut
Schedule a massage

For the House
Buy shelf and organize closet in basement
Organize cabinet in the boy's bathroom
Get estimate for house cleaning

What are your goals for the week?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Weekly Menu

Another bust week following our menu plan, we did manage the chicken taco buffet & spaghetti but that was pretty much it.  There was a lot of fending for yourself and take out last week.  I did come down with the cold that I thought was coming on and let me tell you, it was a beast!  I started getting sick last week Sunday and I'm still sick a week later.  While I'm definitely feeling better, it feels like the cold will be sticking around for a few more days as I still have a terrible cough and sinus problems.  With that being said, I'm planning a pretty simple menu for this week. 
Every year we get together with my husband's family for a Halloween party.  The kids go over in their costumes, we have dinner and play games all night.  It's gotten to be a very fun tradition even though last year I lost one of the games and ended up wearing a ridiculous costume all evening.  I'll be taking over the Halloween dip because I think the pumpkin container is so cute! 

I'll be linking this up over at I'm an Organizing Junkie

You might also like:

Freezer Cooking Wrap Up
Organizing my Spices
Saving for Christmas

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Wrap-up Freezer Cooking

Every three weekends my husband works so I try to use those weekends for freezer cooking or organizational projects.  For this freezer cooking weekend I had planned the following:

Unfortunately I picked a weekend to do my freezer cooking when I was coming down with a terrible cold.  Some of these items were very time consuming (like peeling and preparing a couple grocery bags of apples), plus I had company the day I was trying to accomplish this so I also did some baking and cooking for them.  It actually took me longer than a weekend to get this done but I was still able to get most of it done. 

The first thing I worked on was the apples.  I had gotten several bags of apples from my mother-in-law's tree and they HAD to be processed.  From these apples I made the applesauce, prepped a bunch for future pies and made apple chips.  I'm going to admit that the apple chips weren't that fantastic so I won't be making those again.

Here is what I accomplished:
  • Apples - My family really likes apple deserts and breads so I try to prep my apples in different ways for easy baking when I easily bake for them.  A few of the bags hold two cups of diced apples for my apple cake.  A few bags hold 6-8 cups of peeled apples and quartered apples for traditional pie while the rest of the bags hold about 4 cups of peeled and sliced apples for my quick apple crisp.  I don't add any ingredients to my apples so that I have flexibility when it comes time to use them.
  • 1 pot of white chicken chili (separated into single servings for lunch)
  • 1 double batch of cranberry relish
  • 2 chickens baked and shredded (after shredding the meat from each chicken goes into a freezer bag.  I don't add the taco seasoning until I'm ready to make the tacos.  My experience has been that's an easy way to warm up the chicken while keeping it moist but you could go ahead and add the seasoning and then warm up in the microwave)
  • 2 batches of chicken stock
  • 1 batch apple chips
  • 1 batch bread crumbs (this was my first experience making bread crumbs - I'm a convert and will be sharing my process later)
  • 2 meatloaves (I form these in my 9x13 stoneware pan and then wrap in aluminum foil and bag.  I prefer to bake my meatloaf in a stoneware pan since it can get a little greasy)
  • 9 cups pumpkin puree (I'll write more about this later but I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out)
  • Two lasagnas (I prepare, freeze and then bake these in Gladware)
  •  Several batches of applesauce 
What have you done in the way of freezer cooking?  Feel free to post a link to your post in comments.

I'll be linking this up over at Money Saving Mom and Life as Mom

You might also like:

Organizational Plans for This Weekend
Being Mellow
Ideas to Save for Christmas
Organizing the Spices

Friday, October 21, 2011

Organizing Spices

Am I the only one with a spice issue in my pantry? I was talking to my mom last weekend when she was over about my plans for my spices and she started laughing. She was laughing because for Christmas last year she almost bought me a spice organizer since she thought my spices were such a mess. I would not have been happy!

Here’s the deal, I have a spice rack. It’s a very nice spice rack. It’s a spice rack that I bought four years ago because it matches my appliances. It’s a spice rack that only has about three used spices. Why does it only have three used spices? Because who the heck cooks with mint, coriander, marjoram or mustard seed? Alton Brown – pipe down, I’m not talking to you.

I’m sure that there are some people out there who use the wide range of spices in a typical spice rack but that isn’t my style. I do use typical spices like thyme, rosemary and sage but I also like to use onion salt and garlic salt which aren’t included in spice racks.

So, what’s a girl to do? First item in the WWIN arsenal is the question:

Q. What is my fundamental problem(s)?

A. 1)Spice rack on the counter not being used 2) spices falling all over my pantry 3)numerous jars of the same spice because I can’t find the ones that I have.

My solution was twofold. I’ve completed phase one but am still working on phase two. The first phase was to make my existing spice rack more useable. I threw out all the spices I didn’t use on a regular basis, washed and dried the container. I then went through my spices in the pantry to decide which spices I wanted in my counter spice rack. There were two methods that I used. 1) Is this a spice that I regularly use? 2) Will adding this to the counter spice rack allow me to get rid of a jar in my pantry?

The second question may seem silly but cinnamon is a spice I use regularly so I buy it in large containers. I added it to my counter spice rack but I still have the master jar in the pantry that needs to be dealt with.

Once I added the new spices I needed to label the containers appropriately. One of the things I loved about my spice rack was it had the names of the spices engraved on the top, it looked very elegant. My new look isn’t as lovely but it is functional. I’ve created labels with my wonderful label maker, updating the tops of the containers for both the new spices and the original spiced I kept so that it had a cohesive look.

Now that phase one is complete I need to focus on phase two. I have quite a few more seasonings that didn’t fit in the spice rack or are the master containers for spices in the spice rack. There are a couple of different options that I’m mulling over. The first is one of those racks that slide out and rotate, but some of my bottles are larger and may not fit. The second option is buying some racks I can hang on the pantry wall to keep the spices in. I’ll let you know what I decide.

What do you do with your spices?

I'll be linking this up over at I'm an Organizing Junkie

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Saving for Christmas – Additional Ideas

I wrote my original “Saving for Christmas” post back in July. Since then I’ve had a few more ideas that I thought I would share with you.

Before we get started talking about the new ideas, I’ll reiterate some of the ways that I mentioned before.

Swagbucks – Excellent way to stick aside some money easily without a lot of effort. Remember from last week though that 1) Ten $5 Amazon gift cards use Swagbucks than one $50 card 2)you can only buy five like gift cards per month 3)it takes up to 14 days to get the cards credited to your account.

Christmas Club – We started ours last year and it’s a fantastic feeling knowing I have that money there for Christmas shopping. Our money will be deposited from our club to our savings on November 1st. I’m not planning on needing all the money so I’ll be able to either save the rest or put towards debt reduction.

Credit card points – This option isn’t for everyone but I do use a credit card that I pay off every two weeks when we get a paycheck. I would actually use it to pay some bills (like our cell phone) that didn’t charge us a credit card fee to help rack up points. However, if you are paying interest on any of your purchases it doesn’t make sense to use the credit card just for the points.

Part time job – Christmas time is a great time to get a part time job if you can work it out with your schedule. Many employers are looking for seasonal helpers and are willing to work around different scheduling needs.

Selling items you no longer need – This is a two-fer, you get to purge items you no longer need and make money! While rummage sale season has come and gone for those of us in the Midwest there are still options for selling your stuff. Look at consignment shops, indoor community rummage sales, Craigslist or bulletin boards at work to sell items that you no longer need. Last year I made $100 selling paperback books at work! Please don’t ask how much I spent on those paperback books!

Selling crafty items - November is a huge time for craft sales.  If you have a particular craft see if you can get a spot at a church or school craft sales (they are typically cheaper) and sell some of your items.  Any thing you could do is open a store on Etsy. 

Here are three new ways that I’ll be paying for some of our Christmas presents.

Saving our change – I know that there are some of you that probably already do this; I’m going to admit that I’m not real diligent about saving my change. We do have a container that we throw pennies in but otherwise I take my change to work for the vending machines. Many times right around Christmas the coin changers (like CoinStar) will offer incentives to cash in your change. If you choose the gift card option they’ll waive the fee and give you a bonus amount (like 10%)on the card. As of yet CoinStar hasn’t announced any incentives but I’m sure there will be some around the holidays. Some of the cards available include: Amazon, JC Penney, Old Navy, CVS and many more.

Taking advantage of rebates – My husband ‘needed’ a new phone this past summer. The phone he wanted happened to have a $100 rebate attached to it. When we received our rebate check we decided to stick it aside and use it for Christmas. We’ll either give the card as is to our son (he’s a college student so he’d appreciate it) or use the card ourselves to buy a present. Many retailers offer rebates on their products, saving them up and sticking them back for Christmas would add up to a nice sum.

Other refunds due – My employer reimburses us for half of our gym membership up to $300. I keep forgetting to file my claim. As soon as I’m done writing this post I’m going to get it done! Do you have any unclaimed money lying around somewhere that you keep putting off? If so get out there, claim and put it aside for Christmas!

Do you have any other ideas for making money to help pay for Christmas?

I'll be linking this up over at Life as Mom

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Have You Never Been Mellow?

When it comes to music I have several guilty pleasures, one of which is Olivia Newton John.  Does anyone out there remember Xanadu?  One of my favorite movies from my teen years but I'm terrified to go back and re-watch it.  I'm sure it's one of those things that are better in your memory than reality.

One of my favorite Olivia songs is Have You Never Been Mellow.  I'm not sure if I'm the audience or the speaker as I feel like this song was especially written for me.  Let me tell you, I'm anything but mellow and sometimes it catches up with me.

A few years ago I took the Strength Finders test, Achiever is my number two strength.  Knowing that I scored high in Achiever explains a lot.  According to Strength Finders, Achievers have a great deal of stamina and work hard, they must accomplish something every day to feel good about themselves.  Sometimes having high Achiever is not a good thing.  It drives me to set unrealistic expectations for myself and to never be satisfied with my accomplishments.  I struggle to relax and enjoy life.  I put myself last, not because I don't think I'm worth putting myself first but because I view the sea of unfinished work out there and cannot relax until it's complete.  I am sometimes judgemental of people who don't have my need to achieve.  Not very positive traits I'm afraid to admit

Here's what happens to me.  I go full steam ahead for so long and then I hit the proverbial wall.  After a full day of cooking and cleaning on Saturday (which started at 5am) I had a total breakdown.  My poor husband really didn't know what hit him.  Then on Sunday I started getting sick.  Because I don't take good care of myself I tend to get hit hard when I catch the bug.  I was down Sunday night, all day Monday and all day Tuesday. Didn't get anything accomplished, unless letting the dryer repair man in the door before collapsing on the couch counts as 'accomplishing' stuff.

I don't have the answer, but here's what I do know.  Life is to short to work yourself to death.  Hitting the wall and laying on the couch for two days doesn't do anyone any good.  I need to find some kind of balance between my need to accomplish and my need to slow down.

It would help if we could afford to hire an Alice or a Mr. French.  If only :)

Have You Never Been Mellow

There was a time when I was in a hurry as you are
I was like you
There was a day when I just had to tell my point of view
I was like you
Now I don't mean to make you frown
No, I just want you to slow down

Have you never been mellow?
Have you never tried to find a comfort from inside you?
Have you never been happy just to hear your song?
Have you never let someone else be strong?

Running around as you do with your head up in the clouds
I was like you
Never had time to lay back, kick your shoes off, close your eyes
I was like you
Now you're not hard to understand
You need someone to take your hand

How do you keep yourself mellow?

I'll be linking this up over at We are THAT Family

Monday, October 17, 2011


Last week was pretty much a bust following the menu.  We started really well by having the taco salad.  For the next night I substituted Cheesy Beer Soup (from Tastefully Simple) for Potato Soup  and that was a miss.  Here's what I would say, adding cut up brats to the soup may help it.  I just felt like it was drinking melted cheese, there was no substance to the soup.  I think I have another one in my cupboard so I may try that next time.  We made it as far as our dinner plans for fish tacos, which were really delicious, but from there the plan disentegrated and we pretty much had take out the rest of the week. 

After thinking about why the plan didn't work I would have to say this usually happens when my husband is off during the week.  There must be something about not working that makes him want something other than what's on the menu.  I'll have to think about that and figure out a better plan next time he's off during the week.

I'm going to admit up front that I don't know how successful we are going to be this week.  Last night when I was writing the majority of this post my throat started hurting.  I took some Ziacam but woke up feeling worse.  If I have a doozy of a cold or flu coming on then we may not be sticking to this menu very well, we may have a whole week of fending for yourself.  Fortunately I have the day off today with only a couple of things to do so I'm going to try and take it easy.  Mom's don't have time to get sick!!!
I'm going to stop posting breakfasts and lunches.  They really don't change and I don't have any recipes to share so it seems a little futile to post them every week.  Here's is what's on our dinner table for the week:

Chicken taco buffet with apple pie for dessert - yum!
Brats, potatoes, cranberry relish
Fish Taco's for the grown ups, sandwiches at home for the kids unless they commit to the $1 fish tacos
Spaghetti & Meatballs or Lasagna, strawberry salad, corn, homemade applesauce, Parmesan Garlic Biscuts
White Chicken Chili with home made bread (as home made as frozen bread dough from the store gets)
Dinner out

That's what on our table for the week, what's on yours?  Feel free to share a link to your post in the comments.

I'll be linking this up over at I'm an Organizing Junkie

You might also like:

Freezer Cooking - Halfway Status Check
Using Swagbucks for Christmas

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Grilling Brats

I can remember going to a grocery store in Missouri about 15 - 20 years ago and asking where their brats were.  The grocery person thought I was crazy, they hadn't heard of brats before.  Many years ago brats were a regional food that weren't readily available throughout other states.  We live in an area where many Germans settled, so brats, like Friday Night Fish Fry's and beer gardens, have been part of our culture. 

Long story short, the "Brat Council" must have hired a new marketing manager because now you can pretty much go anywhere in the United States and get a brat.  Luckily for you I have a tried and true recipe for making brats that I'm willing to share with you.

Let's start with the definition of bratwurst:  a small sausage of highly seasoned fresh pork usually served fried.  I've never seen a brat fried, but who can argue with the dictionary?   The best way to cook brats is to par boil them and grill them.  You can eat them just boiled, but that's pretty gross.  You can eat them just grilled but then you'll be eating a small blackened sausage of highly seasoned fresh pork or a semi-raw sausage that may give you worms (isn't that what your mother always said about eating raw sausage?).  Par boiling and then grilling is the way to go.

The next thing I'm going to say is I hate beer.  This may seem a little random but it's important to note because beer is my main ingredient.  If you have a strong aversion to alcohol, I wouldn't use my method.  However, between boiling of the beer and then cooking it over a flame the majority of the alcohol is burned off.  While we don't typically drink in our family I don't feel like there is enough alcohol left to be concerned about serving it to my kids.  I haven't tried it before but I would assume that an alcohol free beer would work also.

The most important thing when cooking brats is to start with a brat you love.  If you don't have a favorite or know where to start I would recommend Johnsonville Beer Brats, those are our personal favorites.  Sometimes a butcher will have yummy brats, but since they tend to be their own recipes I've found those to be hit or miss.  We stick with Johnsonville since they are tried and true.

6-7 brats
1 can of beer
1 small onion (quartered is fine)
6 brat buns (not hot dog buns, brat buns)
Condiments of your choice (sauerkraut, onions, ketchup, mustard, brat sauce, etc)

In a sauce pan, add your thawed brats (this is very important, it is possible to start with frozen brats but they don't seem to be as flavorful), beer and cut up onion.  Bring beer to boil, typically the brats aren't completed covered by the beer so you'll want to turn them about half way through to fully cook them.  You'll know the brats are done because they'll turn a pale, whitish color.  You don't want to overcook them as this will toughen them up.  You also don't want to pierce the brat since it will lose a lot of it's juiciness.

Move brats to heated grill over medium flame, turning several times.  It typically takes us about 5 minutes to get our brats to the perfect grilled level. 

There are many different ways to top your brat.  The typical toppings would be sauerkraut, raw onions, ketchup or mustard.  My husband discovered a brat sauce called Old Man Charley's that he absolutely loves.  During the summer months when we have brats weekly I can hardly keep it in stock.

That's the Wonder Woman I'm Not way of grilling a brat.  Do you have any special brat tricks?  I'd love to hear them.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Halfway Done with Freezer Cooking - Status Check

It's the end of day one of my cooking weekend.  I've gotten a lot accomplished but I still have a long way to go.  My original plan was to start Friday evening but one of my friends called and asked if I wanted to go to dinner - fun won out over cooking.

Here's is what I've done so far:

1 pot of white chicken chili
1 double batch of cranberry relish
2 chickens baked and shredded
2 batches of chicken stock
1 batch apple chips - I really didn't like how they turned out so I won't be making those again
1 batch bread crumbs

I had company over for breakfast and wanted to treat my kids so for breakfast I also made:

Cinnamon rolls (don't be to impressed, they were from a can)
Nana's Apple Cake
Fresh fruit
Scrambled eggs
Hash browns

To finish up the day tomorrow I'm planning on making the following:

Lasagna - I'll try and get the recipe up tomorrow
Homemade Applesauce
Apple Slices for the freezer

If I can find my cape and tights, I may also try to pick up decorations for my front porch.  We'll see about that.

What are you doing this weekend?

Cranberry Relish

Before I met my husband I didn't realize that there was a recipe for cranberry relish.  At Thanksgiving my mother would put the requisite canned cranberry on the table that no one would eat.  At my husband's house his grandma would always bring home made cranberry relish.  It became a staple at every holiday and on Sunday's after church when we visited her.  Now that Granny's gone I continue the tradition at our house by keeping cranberry relish around all winter.  I usually serve it once or twice a week depending on what we are having.  Now when I go to my mom's for Thanksgiving Granny's relish is always requested, the canned relish has been banished from her house.

Granny's Cranberry Relish
1 bag cranberries
1 large can crushed pineapple - drained
1 large orange (or two small oranges)
1 - 2 apples, peeled and cored
3/4 cup sugar

In a food processor chop the cranberries, orange and apples.  Dump drained pineapple, cranberries, orange and apples into a bowl and add sugar.  You can add more or less sugar to taste but if you don't add enough sugar this tends to be pretty tart.

Let sit for a couple of hours before refrigerating.  I typically divide into 1 1/2 cup servings and freeze.  If freezing will last for 6-12 months.  In the refrigerator use within 2-3 weeks.


Happy Halloween Dip

As I've shared in previous posts I really love Tastefully Simple items and in a previous life was a consultant hosting a lot of parties.  Even though I've come to the realization that I don't have time to host parties I still have contacts in the business and buy a lot of product for my family.  As a treat I send my grandparents a box every couple of months.

I saw this picture and recipe when I was online placing an order and just had to share it with you.  Absolutely adorable!  We're having an eat day at work later this month and I plan on serving this.  It makes me look very creative with very little effort.


Bold Buffalo Blue Cheese Dip Mix
8 oz. softened cream cheese
1 Tbsp. hot sauce
1 large orange bell pepper
2-3 large pitted black olives (optional)
Blue Aztec Chips


Combine first 3 ingredients; chill 2 hours. Lay the orange pepper on it’s side; slice off the top side to make an opening in the pepper. Carve a face around the stem as the nose. Fill pepper with dip. If desired, before filling with dip, slice black olives in half and press behind the eyes and mouth to make them more distinct. Serve with Blue Aztec Chips. Makes 10-12 servings.

I've also put the cream cheese, dip mix, hot sauce and shredded chicken in a small crock pot and used it as a hot dip which I probably like a little bit better.  However you wouldn't be able to serve with the cute little pumpkin!

Do you have any cool Halloween recipes to share?  Feel free to post a link in the comments.

You might also like:

Homemade Applesauce
White Chicken Chili
Meatball Recipe

Note:  The above link is an affiliate link.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Christmas Shopping - Swagbucks

In some of my earlier posts I shared that I was going to use Swagbucks to help with Christmas presents.  My goal was to get enough Swagbucks to get a $50 certificate.  I've been diligently printing coupons, surfing, answering polls, etc to get my bucks up to the 6,000 mark. 

Now, I'm sure some of you know this but I didn't so I'm going to let you in on the secret I learned.  It's cheaper to buy 10 $5 Amazon certificates than to buy one $50 - significantly cheaper.  I've seen people post that they would pick up a $5 certificate as soon as they had enough points but I guess I didn't understand why, I do now!

I'm going to let you in on another secret, you can only buy five of the same certificates in a month AND it takes almost two weeks for them to be usable.  Soooo, if you are planning on using them for Christmas you better get cracking!

I've bought my five certificates for the month and will buy five more early November.  I'll have enough Swagbucks to get more (and will pick them up in early December) but I won't be using them for presents since it will be getting to close to Christmas.  Still haven't decided yet what I'll be buying from Amazon but I know that there is something on there that would make a nice gift.

Are there any other Swagbuck secrets out there that I may not know about?  I'd love to hear your Swagbuck plans

I'll be linking this up over at Life as Mom

You might also like:

Saving for Christmas
Preparing for Christmas
Photo Books for Christmas


I don't have any new organization projects to share this week.  Not because I don't have quite a few things left to do on my list but because I just didn't have the time or energy to do any of them this week.  I was feeling a little tired and l-a-z-y this week.

What I would like to talk about thought is sustainability.  Sustainability is, for me, the most important part of the organization project.  How many times have you cleaned out the same drawer only to find it messy again in a few weeks? 

Here are some examples of what I've done to help with my sustainability.
  • Baskets - I'm not a huge fan of baskets but I've really found them helpful in my sustainability quest.  The cheap baskets that I picked up at the dollar store allow my items to stay put and not spread all over the place.  I've used the baskets in the bathroom, pantry and storage area.
  • Shelves - By adding shelves I've created a spot for items that didn't previously have a home.  Having a place for everything helps with sustainability.
  • Changed processes - Sometimes the way you are doing something just doesn't allow for sustainability.  I've written a couple of articles on laundry (you can read the latest one here).  Changing our laundry process has been the biggest sustainability factor in our laundry/storage room.
  • Purge - Do we really need all the things we have?  Purging is one of the most important factors in all my organizational projects.  I had written earlier about my linen closet project.  I've already taken it a step further and purged more towels.  Our laundry process allows us to have significantly fewer towels which helps keep the linen closet organized.  How much of the items in your cabinets, drawers and closets do you really need?
  • Think outside of the box - I've said it before but the definition of crazy is doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results.  Try something different and commit to the process.
You want to know the best part of sustain your organization projects?  You can have the dryer repair man and the appraiser come to the house without freaking out about all the cleaning that needs to be done!

Yeah - you heard me right about the dryer repair man.  My wonderful solution from a couple of weeks ago wasn't sustainable so the repair man is coming on Monday.  I'll let you know what the damage is next week.

I'll be linking this up over at I'm an Organizing Junkie and Organize with Sandy

You might also like:

Freezer Cooking Plans (with recipes)
Preparing for a Medical Emergency
They Call Him Captain America

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Freezer Cooking Weekend

This weekend is one of my husband's weekends to work.  You know what that means - I'm going to have a super busy weekend trying to get a lot of stuff done.  It's been a while since I've done a full weekend of freezer cooking so I guess I'm over due.  We're also refinancing our house so an appraiser will be coming through.  Since I've done so many reorganizing projects lately I really don't need to do much but I'm thinking I'd like to get some of the closets cleaned out.  We'll see how much energy I have, they aren't so bad that I'd be overly embarrassed (just a little) to have them look in them.  Here's what I'm hoping to get finished as far as the freezer meals.  I'm planning on doing the "Meal in a Bag" solution that I shared over at Life as Mom for the main entrees.

Meatballs (I have a new recipe I want to try out, I'll let you know how we like them)
Shredded Chicken (for chicken tacos)
Cranberry Relish
Peel, slice & freeze apples for pies
Pumpkins - I saw this recipe over at MSM and thought I'd give it a try

I also think I've come up with a solution for my spice issue (you know the one - spices falling all over the pantry).  My plan is to finish it up this weekend.  My parents are also coming over for brunch on Saturday so maybe I'll put them to work :)

I'll share my results on Monday or Tuesday.  If you are planning on freezer cooking this weekend and want to share you plan feel free to leave a note in comments or link back to your post.

You might also like:

This Week's Menu
Chicken & Stuffing Casserole
Christmas Idea - Photo books

Meatball Recipe

This is a new recipe that a former co-worker shared with me so I can't give you a critique yet, but I thought they sounded very yummy so I'm sharing the recipe with you.  I'll let you know how my family liked them.



3 pounds ground meat—any one (or, preferably, combination) of the following: sirloin, turkey, chicken, pork, or veal
1-1/2 cups finely chopped onions
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-1/2 cups fine dry bread crumbs (plain)
1-1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
¾ cup skim milk
3 tbsp fresh or 3 tsp dried parsley
3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
3 tbsp Dijon mustard
1-1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper

Optional ingredients:

1 small bell pepper, finely chopped
1 pkg chopped spinach, cooked
½ cup carrots, finely shredded

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray muffin tins very lightly with canola oil.

Place the meat in a large bowl. Add the onions, garlic, bread crumbs and cheese (plus any optional ingredients, if using) and mix well with your hands. Add eggs and milk and integrate well with your hands. Add remaining ingredients and mix until all ingredients are well dispersed.

Scoop the meat mixture into the muffin tins (I use a #20 disher, which is about the size of an ice cream scoop). Bake for 30 minutes or until browned on top and meatballs are cooked through. Serve immediately, or allow to cool and freeze in a large freezer bag so you can grab as many as you want whenever you need them.

How to use them:

• Serve with barbecue sauce or ketchup for dipping, along with mashed potatoes and a veggie.
• Simmer in marinara sauce (roasted tomato sauce, anyone?) for 20 minutes and serve over pasta.
• Instead of making meatballs, form the mixture into loaves (either free-form on a parchment-lined baking sheet or in a loaf pan) and bake as a meatloaf.

If you try them I'd love to hear your feedback.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Menu Planning

Last week was a successful menu planning week, we actually followed the menu perfectly.  Remember when I said I was going to go ahead and try the walnut burger that was half price on Monday?  Didn't taste good at all!  I would have rather paid a couple of more bucks and gotten something yummy.  Oh well, at least I now know I don't like it so I won't even look at it next time.

As I was putting together my menu for the week I was pretty psyched to see that we had a lot of our ingredients.  I thought that we would have a low week at the grocery store, I thought wrong.  We actually spent $225 at the grocery store this week, after $20 in coupons!  This was a little bit of a stock up week in that we bought the following which we don't buy every week:  toilet paper, paper towel, make-up and protein.  Still, I have only had one week under $200 in the last month or so.  We're going to have to find a way to bring that down.

Here's our menu for the week:


  • Cereal
  • Breakfast sandwiches
  • Egg scrambles
  • Cinnamon Rolls
  • Blueberry muffins

  • Kashi frozen lunches
  • Sandwich, Gogurt, string cheese, mandarin oranges, brownies plus a granola bar for a late morning snack (daughter’s lunch for school)
  • Bagel sandwiches
  • Lunch out
  • Leftovers
  • Taco Salad 
  • Potato Soup and Beer Bread
  • Dinner out (kids are going to grandma's and the grown-ups are going out for $1 fish tacos.  My husband loves them but I haven't tried them, I figured for $1 a piece I could give them a whirl.
  • Brats, potatoes/mushrooms/onions, applesauce
  • Spaghetti & meatballs, corn, strawberry salad, Parmesan Garlic Biscuits 
  • Pizza
  • Dinner with friends
What's on your menu?  I'll be linking this up over at I'm an Organizing Junkie

Homemade Applesauce

12 apples, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 - 2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup water

Add all ingredients to large pot and bring to boil.  For about 1/2 hour let simmer, stirring frequently and breaking up apples to desired consistency.

Super easy to make and the kids absolutely love it.  You can use pretty much any type of apple and they don't need to be in great shape.  This is a good recipe to make if you have apples going bad and don't want to waste them.

Roasted Potatoes

4-6 small red potatoes
3-4 large mushrooms
1/2 small onion
1 tablespoon melted butter or olive oil
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 - 1 teaspoon crushed rosemary

Thinly slice potatoes, mushrooms and onions.  Add to a bowl with 1 tablespoon butter or olive oil.  Add garlic and rosemary.

From here you have several options as to how you'd like to cook them

Option 1
Cook in microwave for approximately 5 minutes.  Add to a tin foil pan (I actually use two so that the layers are thin), cover with aluminum foil and cook on the grill for about 20 minutes.  If you don't have a tin foil pan you can make aluminum foil pouch.  Bottom layer of potatoes should be slightly browned

Option 2
Add to a tin foil pan (I actually use two so that the layers are thin), cover with aluminum foil and cook on the grill for about 40 - 45 minutes. If you don't have a tin foil pan you can make aluminum foil pouch. Bottom layer of potatoes should be slightly browned

Option 3
Add to a 9 x 13 baking pan and bake at 375 for about 30 minutes.  If you'd like you can broil them for a minute or two before serving to brown them.


Thursday, October 6, 2011

How the Internet Saves Us Money

I'm sure some of you don't even really remember when there was no Internet.  Back in the day (when we walked uphill to school both ways in snow.......), unless you were super handy, a repairman was always called when an appliance went out.  Now, instead of calling a repairman, we head straight for the Internet.

This morning my husband woke me up with the news that our dryer was not heating.  When I managed to finally pull myself from bed and confirmed for myself it wasn't heating (what can I say, I'm from the Show Me State) I headed to the Internet to try and find a solution.  The number one response that came back was a blocked vent from to much lint.  Since we just bought new towels (and they were throwing off A LOT of lint) this seemed like a possible problem.  Before I left for work I checked the exhaust but didn't see a blockage.

When my husband came home I told him the potential solution, he checked and didn't think that was the problem either.  Back to the Internet for solution number two - reset the thermometer.  After following the step by step directions to re-set the thermometer we were back in business - we had heat!

Even though we aren't incredibly handy appliance repair people, by checking the Internet for simple fixes we potentially saved ourselves hundreds of dollars.  Typically the service call alone costs $75 and they may have advised replacing the whole thermostat unit, that seemed to be the usual solution according to the Internet.

Besides that fact that we saved ourselves a lot of money and actually had fun solving the problem together, the best part was how easy it was to get to the dryer since I've been re-organizing.  If you check out the before picture in my organizing the laundry room/storage area, you can see that it would have been a chore just to get a spot cleared where we could actually fix the dryer.  By having the basement organized it literally took us minutes and was relatively stress free and I was easily able to lay my hands on my toolkit.  Because the linen closet was organized I was able to immediately find the flashlight also.  Isn't organization a wonderful thing!

Do you have an Internet saving money story?  Feel free to share it in the comments or link back to your blog.

I'll be linking this up over at Life as Mom and We are THAT Family
You might also like:

September Financial Check Up
Saving for Christmas
Taming the Laundry Beast

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


Laundry has been the topic of some blogs that I've read this week.  It's been very interesting to read all the different thoughts about laundry and how each family makes it work for them.

We've recently undergone a laundry revolution here at our house.  Back in June I wrote a post about laundry (you can read that here), some things have changed and some things haven't changed since that time.

The "shot that was heard around the world" was the organization that I've been doing in the house.  As I was thinking about my sustainability issues in the past with the laundry/storage room I realized that laundry not being being folded immediately was causing some of our issues.

Here are the basics of our old laundry habits
  • Washed every day by my husband
  • Folded by my son "whenever he felt like it" (note:  this caused tension and aggravation in the family) which was about once or twice a week. 
  • We continuously had a mountain of clean but unfolded clothes and a huge basket of unmated socks
  • When the clothes were put in the appropriate owner's room they were placed on top of the bed or dresser, not always finding their way into the proper drawers
  • The top of the washer and dryer were barely visible from the laundry supplies and the clean clothes hanging above them
  • The clean pile of clothes in the laundry room and the clutter on top of the washer and dryer were creating a lot of chaos in my laundry/storage room that was always the start of my downward spiral into disorganization.
Here are our new laundry habits
  • Washed every day by both me and my husband.  Before leaving for work I will put on a load of laundry and fold and then put away (in proper drawers) the previous night's laundry.  When my husband gets home he will switch the laundry and put on a load from that day's wear.  Before we go to bed both of us will go downstairs and fold the last load together.  While I put it away, he will switch the last load.
  • Clothes are folded right out of the dryer.  This keeps items from getting wrinkly but the best part is we no longer have the sock basket.  Socks are mated immediately so we no longer have the need for family "sock mating parties"
  • We installed a shelf next to the washer for the laundry supplies.  Both of us have been amazed by how much this simple change has helped keep the laundry area clean.
  • I purchased hanging racks for my husbands clothes (he likes to hang everything) so that they weren't over the washer and dryer.  The racks have canvas bins underneath that we use for off-season clothes as well as my son's uniforms (don't ask me why - he just wanted them thrown into a basket)
  • We created a specific system for hang drying clothes.  There are quite a few items we don't like put in the dryer.  Prior to the change we would just hang them were ever created more chaos in the laundry/storage room.  Once the clothes are dry we are diligent about putting them in their proper place.
Here are the benefits of the change
  • Chaos has been tamed in both the laundry/storage room as well as the master bedroom.  Remember my shameful secret about the master bedroom?  I'm happy to report that this new system alleviated the mess of my husband's clothes on top of the dresser.  It's been a month since I've re-organized the laundry/storage area and we've been able to sustain the changes I've made.
  • By doing laundry every day we've been able to purge a lot of our towels.  We take between 4-6 showers a day (my son needs to shower after work and my husband showers after the gym), if I only washed towels once a week that would be a lot of towels in the linen closet. 
  • As a working mother I don't have a full day available to me for laundry.  Each of us spends about 10 - 15 minutes a day doing our share of the laundry.  This allows us to accomplish a very necessary chore without a huge chunk of time commitment
  • The sock monster has been tamed.  Need I say more?
I know that laundry every day doesn't work for everyone but if asked, I would have to say that this is my number one secret to keeping the house organized.

Feel free to share you laundry habits and/or a link to your laundry habits in the comment section.

I'll be linking this up over at We are THAT Family and I'm an Organizing Junkie

You might also like:

Saving Money with the Internet
Being Less Wasteful with Freezer Cooking
Organizing the Linen Closet

Monday, October 3, 2011

Freezer Cooking - Being Less Wasteful

When I did the Pantry Challenge earlier this year I was quite appalled by our wastefulness.  We throw away so much food on a weekly basis it makes me a little sick when I think about it.  After giving it some thought I've decided rather than throwing the food away every week to find a way to save it either by dehydrating or freezing it.  Here are some of the food items I've converted over the last couple of weeks.

  • Carrots - I had some carrots I bought for lunch that didn't get eaten so I made glazed carrots
  • Potatoes - My big bag of potatoes had a bad potato in the bunch. Once one of them start going bad I get a little nervous so I pulled three of them out for dinner last week and then I made mashed potatoes for the freezer with the rest
  • Bananas - Usually I just throw the banana in the freezer with peel still on. However, peeling the frozen banana gets pretty messy as they thaw. I want to start making smoothies so this week I peeled the banana, sliced it and then threw it in the freezer, we'll see how that works out
  • Strawberries - My plan was to core them and use them for smoothies. However the girls sleeping over at our house after Homecoming ended up eating the whole pint of them I don't have any left :( They enjoyed them and that's the important thing.
  • Mushrooms - I found a recipe for dehydrating mushrooms on eHow (not much of a recipe, cut and bake in the oven).  I tried it and was very pleased with the results.  However, eHow said it would take about an hour when instead it took probably about 4 hours.  I didn't mind the time but I don't thinking running the oven for 4 hours to cook up $1 worth of mushrooms was very frugal.  The dehydrating mushrooms worked so well though that I may buy a large batch of mushrooms and dehydrate them so that I always have mushrooms around.  Having an oven full of mushrooms to cook won't seem quite so wasteful.The trick will be keeping my husband out of them for his omelets.
  • Applesauce - My MIL has an apple tree with an abundance of apples this year.  So far we've made three batches of applesauce and prepared enough apples for three pies.  We still have well over a grocery bag to process.  Ugh!  We'll appreciate all the work this winter when we're eating our homemade applesauce and pies.
  • Tomatoes - I received two big bags from a friend a work. I simply wash, core, dry and then put about five tomatoes in a freezer bag. I throw the bags in the freezer and then use them for future recipes. Because there were so many tomatoes in the bags and I let them sit for a few days I did have to throw out some of the tomatoes that had split and were starting to go bad.
I would have liked to have the time to get some actual meals in the freezer but this was quite an accomplishment and I feel pretty good with my results.

How about you? Have you done any freezer cooking lately?

I'll be linking this up over at Life as Mom

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Menu Plan - Week of October 3

Weekly Menu Planning

Wow - I hate to admit this but we strayed so far from our menu plan last week.  I could try and put a positive spin on it by saying we had the brats, pizza, fend for yourself and dinner out but I didn't make the spaghetti, Italian Chicken or chicken casserole so that's a pretty weak argument given how easy those items were!

On Monday my husband and I thought we would sneak out for a date after driving our daughter to dance.  Our son got whiff of our plans and wanted to come along.  It's not very often that he gets time by himself with us so we did take him with us.  We found out that one of our favorite restaurants offers half price burgers on Monday nights.  Unfortunately one of us insisted on getting salmon instead of a burger which made a bill bigger than it needed to be.  Let me tell you, she's going to get a talking to this week!  We are planning on going out again this Monday and I am going to try the walnut burger this time.  Besides saving money it looked pretty yummy.
Grocery shopping and menu planning was pretty easy this week given I had the ingredients for three of the meals.  My bill was definitely cheaper than it has been for quite a while but I still can't seem to get it down below $150.

Here's the menu.


Breakfast sandwiches
Egg scrambles
Cinnamon Rolls
Blueberry muffins
Veggie Burgers (I know this sounds crazy but I enjoy heating up an Amy's Veggie Burger and eating it for breakfast on my way to work.  I splurged and bought some this week)

Kashi frozen lunches
Sandwich, Gogurt, string cheese, mandarin oranges, brownies plus a granola bar for a late morning snack (daughter’s lunch for school)
Bagel sandwiches
Lunch out

Chicken and stuffing casserole, ciabbata bread, glazed carrots, pineapple, salad

Brats, grilled potato, onions & mushrooms, homemade applesauce

Crispy Italian Chicken, rice, mashed potatoes, biscuits, salad

Spaghetti & Meatballs, strawberry salad, corn, bread
Dinner out (x2)

That's our menu plan, what are you planning for the week?  Feel free to leave a link to your menu in the comments.

I'll be linking this up over at I'm an Organizing Junkie

You might also like:

Freezer Cooking - Being Less Wasteful

Chicken & Stuffing Casserole

Chicken & Stuffing Casserole

8 Chicken Breasts
Swiss Cheese
1 14 oz bag of stuffing
2 cans Campbell's Garlic Cream of Mushroom Soup
1/2 stick melted butter
1 cup milk

In a bowl mix stuffing, 1 1/2 cans of soup, butter and milk.  Mix well (mixture will be wet but stuffing will not be soft).  Spray bottom of 9 x 13 pan with non-stick spray.  Evenly spread chicken breasts on bottom of pan.  Place a dollop of mushroom soup (1/2 of can) on top of each chicken breast and then cover with Swiss cheese.  Spread stuffing mixture on top of chicken.  Bake at 400 for approximately 60 minutes (or until chicken is done). 

Optional:  Add broccoli on top of cheese before adding stuffing.

To keep stuffing from over browning I will usually cover with tin foil for the first half hour. 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Linen Closet

Things have been a little chaotic around here lately.  I haven't had as much time to organize as I would like, however I didn't want to lose my momentum so I did take some time to organize my linen closet earlier this past month. 

The linen closet doesn't get a lot of attention from me because my towels and wash clothes are kept downstairs in my bathroom.  I put my sheets on the same day I wash them (the sheets were expensive so I didn't buy a second set).  When I do go in there I close my eyes so I don't have to see the mess.  At least that was what I did before I re-organized! 

When I decide to tackle an organization project I always ask myself what the fundamental problems are and then try to solve those.  The main problem that I faced with the linen closet was to much stuff.  We have so many towels, sheets, wash clothes and household supplies that it just looked cluttered.  I've noticed that we as family tend to accumulate stuff, much more than we need.

The first thing I did was pull everything out of the closet and sort it. 

Towels - I don't know about the rest of you but we keep our towels for a long time, they tend to get a little ratty and show their age.  Plus we had way too many of them.  We didn't need any more rags around the house so I put them in a bag and donated them to a facility here in town that has a use for old towels.

Sheets - I found sheets in the closet from my son's old bed.  The one we got rid of about three years ago.  I went through all the old sheets keeping one spare set for each my son and daughter.  The rest were donated to Goodwill

Light bulbs - I also found light bulbs from a light fixture we got rid of years ago.  My parents use those light bulbs so I got rid of them

Cleaning Supplies - Years ago I bought a crate to carry all of our cleaning supplies.  For some reason, when the kids clean they are unable to put the supplies back in the crate.  I re-loaded the crate and set the expectation that supplies are to be put away appropriately.

Misc Stuff - We also keep a lot of miscellaneous stuff in the closet that needed to be organized.  After sorting through everything the only other items (besides linens) that we are keeping are: medical supplies (i.e. heating pad, first aid kit, blood pressure cuff, etc), light bulbs, flashlights & candles, my good vase and candle sticks.  Nothing else belongs in the closet.

I'm having trouble with my before picture but here's my after picture.

When I do my organization projects I try to devise a way to sustain it.  The big problem with the linen closet is letting the kids put away laundry.  Since doing the laundry room, my husband and I have taken over laundry duties.  I'm the one who has been putting away the laundry so it's pretty easy to sustain the linen portion.  The penalty of death threat seems to be working pretty well with the cleaning supplies!

My next step is to go out and buy new towels.  The trick is that I'm only going to replace half of our current towels with new ones and then get rid of the rest.  The new towels will be so thick that I don't think anyone will notice :)  Since we do laundry every day having enough clean towels in the house really isn't a problem.

That's my project for the week.  How about you?  If you've organized something recently feel free to either post a link in the comments or write about it.

I'll be linking this up over at A Slob Comes Clean and I'm an Organizing Junkie

Meal in a Bag

As busy moms sometimes we need to think outside of the box to find solutions to our problems.  One problem I recently solved was how to get my family to put a complete meal on the table without a lot of calls asking what they needed to do.

I've shared my solution, a "Meal in a Bag", over at Life as Mom.  Head on over and check it out.  I'd love to hear your creative solutions for getting dinner on the table.

You might also like:

Weekly Menu Plan
The Benefits of a Chest Freezer
Are You Ready for a Medical Emergency?