How to Simplify Meal Planning

How to simplify meal planning to make your day run more smoothly.

Confession: meal planning is not my strong suit. I know it would help my week go more smoothly, but I struggle with implementing this strategy. One of my goals this year is to improve in this area so I’m taking steps to simplify meal planning.

prep some Back-up freezer meals

To start, I want to have a few crockpot meals in the freezer for busy days. Even this takes some planning because most meals have to thaw beforehand.

If I look ahead at the week and see that Thursday is going to be busy, I’ll have to thaw a freezer meal on Wednesday to make dinner easier the next night.

I did some research on Pinterest for freezer meals and found Six Sisters’ Stuff. They have a great post for making 8 slow cooker freezer meals in one hour. I chose three of the eight meals to start: Black Bean Taco Soup, Hearty Beef Stew, and Cilantro Lime Chicken.

Meal planning takes the guesswork out of dinner, making your busy nights go more smoothly.

I labeled gallon Ziploc bags with each meal, today’s date, and the time each takes in the slow cooker. Then I just followed the instructions and dumped everything in. It took me about an hour to get everything ready for these three meals.

use a Menu Tracking Sheet

Each week, I can usually predict which nights I need to have a meal that’s either in the crockpot all day or very quick to prepare. Particularly when the kids have activities that end on the later side, I don’t want a dinner that takes a long time to prep or cook.

With a menu tracking sheet, you avoid the 5 o’clock panic that sets in when you don’t have a plan for dinner. You also know what needs to be done ahead of time, such as thawing a frozen meal to go in the crockpot.

There are a zillion menu planning sheets on Pinterest. I personally like a weekly option that also has space for a grocery list, such as this one from Finding Time to Fly. The grocery section is even broken down by category.

Simplify meal planning to make your week run more smoothly.

Keep a Favorite Meals List

If your family is anything like ours, I’m sure you make a lot of the same dinners over and over again. My kids are on the younger side (and one of them is picky) so it makes mealtime a lot more pleasant when everyone enjoys what we eat.

Sitting down to plan the weekly menu is a lot harder when you’re relying on your own memory to come up with options that everyone likes. To simplify the meal planning process, keep a list of family favorites handy so you aren’t trying to remember if you’ve ever eaten anything besides tacos.

Just these three simple strategies make meal planning less of a chore. By planning ahead, you’ll be less rushed, spend less money at the grocery store, and waste less food.

How do you make meal planning easier?

Need more organization tip and strategies?? Find all 14 Days of Organization here!

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Purse Essentials: What You Need & How to Stay Organized

My purse can easily become a dumping ground rather than a well-ordered carry-all. Here are my purse essentials for making life easier and a few tools to keep everything organized.

Welcome to my 14 Days of Organization series where I’m sharing tips, tools, and strategies to help you organize your home, your family, and your personal life!

Does this situation sound familiar? You’re at the grocery store, and your phone starts ringing. You reach with one hand into your purse for the phone while keeping the other hand on your toddler who has outsmarted the shopping cart seatbelt. You dig furiously through your purse with your free hand while your toddler laughs hysterically as you hold onto the back of his pants. Normally you’d ignore the phone but you’re waiting for a call from the pediatrician. Finally your fingers grasp the phone just as the pediatrician’s number lights up as a “missed call.”

My purse can easily become a dumping ground rather than a well-ordered carry-all. I want to be able to find the phone when I need it. I want to know exactly where to find a receipt when at the dry-cleaner or returning an item at the store.

So ladies, today we’re getting down to the nitty-gritty about what to keep you in your bag and how to keep it in order.

Purse Essentials that Make Life Easier

I keep some basic items handy for the day-to-day: purse essentials you could call them. Aside from my phone and wallet, these are things that I use most frequently.

1 | Chapstick/Lip Balm

I can’t handle dry lips. So I always have a good chapstick in my bag (with sunscreen because I live in San Diego where we get a lot of sun.) My favorite right now is coconut Sun Bum Sunscreen Lip Balm. It smells like a tropical vacation!

2 | Feminine Products

You don’t want to get caught without these on hand right?! I keep tampons & bandaids in a separate pouch so they stay in their packaging and don’t get dirty. Even though the packaging helps, I find that over time they get gross when they’re loose in my bag. Plus I don’t want to pull out my wallet and have a tampon fly out at the grocery store 😉

3 | Bandaids

Because I have younger children, I like to have bandaids handy in case of the minor scrapes that happen. Keeping them in a separate pouch makes them easy to find and keeps them clean and ready to use.

4 | Headphones

I’m a podcast addict so headphones give me the opportunity to catch up on episodes I’ve missed. I can pop in my headphones and listen to something interesting while watching my kids’ karate class. Check out some of my fave podcasts here.

5 | Hand Sanitizer/Wipes

Kids touch everything. Even now that mine are a little older, they can’t keep their hands off surfaces at the store, the post office, or pretty much anywhere. Especially during flu season, I like to have hand sanitizer available to deal with those dirty hands when we’re out and about.

6 | Sunscreen

Another key item for those of us that live in the land of perpetual sunshine! I like to keep a roll-on stick (like this one) for those times when we didn’t apply sunblock at home. I love to be tan, but I hate to be burned.

7 | Emergency Info Card

I laminated a small card that has our doctors’ names & numbers, our insurance info, and emergency contact numbers all in one place. It’s no big deal to find that info in a normal situation, but having it all in one spot seems like it would be really helpful in the event of an emergency.

2 Tools to Keep Your Purse Organized

Small Pouches/Cases

Have a couple small bags to store your purse essentials serves two purposes. First, it keeps small items corralled in one place so you don’t have to go on a treasure hunt every time you need something.

Second, it makes it easy to switch bags. You just grab the extra pouches and throw them in a different bag, and you’re good to go. No more worrying if you have what you need!

Receipt organizer 

One of the biggest reasons my purse gets disorganized is paper. I put coupons, receipts, and other papers in my bag and then forget to take them out. With a receipt organizer, those papers are all in one place.

One slot is for coupons, one for receipts, another for miscellaneous papers you need, etc. Instead of digging through slips of paper to find your keys, the papers are contained.

Another option is to use a simple envelope as a catch-all for receipts. Clean out the envelope weekly and either file or toss receipts.

One final tip for keeping your purse in order is to take a few minutes each week to go through your bag. Empty out any extra stuff and either toss it or put it where it belongs. With regular maintenance, the dumping ground can be avoided.

How do you prevent your purse from becoming a disaster??

Check out all 14 Days of Organization!

*This post includes affiliate links. Please see my full disclosure here.

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How to Organize Your Bathroom

The start of a new year always makes me feel like deep cleaning and reorganizing. I’m always so optimistic that this will be the year that I manage to find the right systems of organization for our home. One of my major goals for 2017 is to get control over the clutter. One area that has been driving me crazy lately is our bathroom organization… or lack thereof.

Beautiful inspiration for bathroom organization.

We have plenty of storage in our master bathroom. What we need is for each item to have a home. Maybe then the drawers won’t end up looking like the lost & found bin at school, which we all know is pretty scary! I’ve been scouring Pinterest for inspiration and seeing those beautiful pictures is so motivating.

I’m trying to keep this project low-budget so I’ve been searching for organization methods using items that I already have on hand. Here are some ideas to help get the bathroom chaos in order.

Drawer Dividers

Segmenting the drawers with dividers or containers will help keep items tidier. Depending on the number of drawers you have, each drawer can house a specific category of item, such as makeup or hair care products.

If you have fewer drawers, you can still divide them into sections with specific items staying together in separate spaces. The dollar store is a great source for cheap containers. Just spray paint them if they don’t have the colors you need!

make the most of the space under the sink

The space under the sink is usually a good size, but awkward to utilize because of plumbing. I love the metal shelving that Amy from Living Locurto used under her sink.

If you’re looking for something that doesn’t require installation, stackable containers will make good use of the space while accommodating the pipes.

Use the cabinet door

Bathroom organization has a lot to do with using your space effectively.

When you’re trying to make the most of the space under the sink, don’t forget about the cabinet doors. There are plenty of temporary and permanent options for adding extra storage to the door. Simple adhesive hooks would be a great way to hang curling irons or hairdryers.

Jars and Baskets

Using glass jars and baskets is a great way to organize your bathroom because there are so many options. It also makes visible storage more attractive.

Taking items out of their original packaging when storing in clear glass jars turns your storage into a part of your decor. That toilet paper looks so much nicer in the basket than it would if it was just sitting on the shelf. You almost don’t notice that it’s there!

Labels

Not only does labeling keep items in their proper place, but it can also make your storage prettier! I love these labels from The Creativity Exchange. You can edit and print them for free 🙂 This is another great example of using decorative jars and containers to make your storage part of your bathroom decor.

There are so many ways to make bathroom organization work for your home. By tailoring the options to your specific needs, you’ll help ensure that you’ll actually use the systems in place. I hope you enjoyed all this fun inspiration!

Check out our updated & organized master bathroom HERE.

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Spring Cleaning

There’s something about the fresh air of spring that makes me want to open all the windows and refresh the house. Tsh Oxenreider from The Art of Simple has a great series on spring cleaning. It’s a practical approach, addressing the house room by room through a three-step process: declutter, clean and organize.

The first step is to do a quick sweep of all the surface clutter so that you can more clearly see just how much work you need to do. We actually didn’t have as much junk lying around as I thought. The whole quickie decluttering process took me about half an hour. Just for your enjoyment, here are some before and after photos, all in the name of motivation for me to keep working.

Living Room:

Before: (the toy basket has a removable cover that we put on when we have company to fool our guests into thinking our house is cleaner than it is)

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After:

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Kitchen:

Before: (this corner is the notorious dumping ground in our home)

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After:

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Kitchen Table

Before:

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After:

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Bedroom

Before: (this picture really doesn’t do justice to the magazine stack on the top corner of the bed)

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After:

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Sometimes small changes make a big impact. Just clearing surfaces of unnecessary clutter does a lot to make our house feel more comfortable and peaceful.

What are your tricks for spring cleaning?

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