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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Use Your Phone to Stay Organized

Here are several ways you can use your phone to stay organized and tackle your to-do list.

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!

Modern technology can handle a huge workload. Smart phones can assist with everything from managing your schedule to finding restaurant reviews to paying bills.

Technology is also portable in a way that wasn’t possible until fairly recently. The trick is to make our gadgets work for us in a way that actually helps us, rather than creating distractions. So how can you use your phone to stay organized??

Here are 5 ways I use my phone to keep my family organized.

1 | Reminders/Alarms

Personally, I prefer an old school planner for managing my schedule. I think more clearly when I write things out on paper. However, I also enter appointments into the calendar on my phone and set an alert.

I use the alarm feature to remind myself about important tasks, like giving one of my kids medicine. It’s a simple way to jog my memory so that if the day gets busy, things don’t slip through the cracks.

2 | mobile banking & money exchange apps

Gone are the days when you have to make a trip to the ATM or write a check to pitch in for a group gift.

With mobile banking and money exchange apps like Venmo, the process has been simplified tremendously. If you need to deposit a check, most major banking apps can handle this too.

3 | Coupon  & Store Apps

Who likes saving money?! I’m not a big coupon-user in general, and I am notoriously bad at remembering to bring coupons to the store.

Having an app that I can quickly search for deals while I’m at the store, is much more convenient. I also love the apps for stores like Michael’s that display current coupons and sales.

Instead of having to carry coupons around in case I happen to stop at Michael’s, I just check their app to see if there’s a coupon available.

4 | camera app

The camera on your phone can be used for a lot more than just snapping pix of your vacation. I use mine all the time to help me remember things when I’m out and about.

When we were renovating our kitchen, I’d snap a quick photo of the price and model number of a particular appliance or fixture that I liked. Back at home, I could take the info right from my picture to compare prices, look at reviews, and check dimensions.

5 | Shared Calendars

One tool that has been super helpful in our family is a shared calendar. My husband and I use a Google calendar, and I added the app on my phone.

Whenever we have an event or appointment that we both need to know about, we add it to our joint calendar. It’s much easier to make plans when I can quickly check the family calendar for any conflicts.

These are all simple ways to use your phone to make life easier. You don’t have to be super tech-savvy to find an app on your phone or set a reminder. Each of these tools will help cut down on paper clutter and make it easier to stay organized and tackle your to-do list.

Go HERE for a full list of posts from the 14 Days of Organization series.

How do you use your phone to simplify your life??

Here are several ways you can use your phone to stay organized and tackle your to-do list.
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3 Elements for a Killer Morning Routine

How to create your ideal morning routine.

It took me a long time to get to a place where I enjoy the morning. I was a perpetual night owl, even after my kids were born. I woke up every morning wishing that I could stay in bed just a little longer.

Eventually I realized that staying up late and waking to the sounds of my kids getting up wasn’t working. I hate to say it, but I was often grumpy and snappy in the morning until I’d had a chance to fully wake up.

It’s hard to open your eyes to immediate demands, even if they come from someone unable to meet their own needs. I didn’t like that I sometimes felt resentful that my children had woken me up. In yet another example of God’s perfect timing, that’s when I discovered Hello Mornings.

I found a community of moms who felt just like I did. They didn’t want to be grouches, dragging themselves out of bed in the morning. Just like me, they wanted to greet their babies with smiles and hugs. So I retired my night owl tendencies (mostly) and worked to create my ideal morning routine.

Do you want to make your own mornings more effective and pleasant?? Here’s what I do:

1 | I wake up early.

If there’s one element that has been a game changer for my morning outlook, it’s getting up before my kids. Sometimes I’m only up 15 or 20 minutes before my oldest, who typically wakes around 6:30, but it really makes a huge difference.

The key to getting up ahead of my family is getting to bed at a reasonable time. I am a sleeper. Just ask my husband. Most nights I get about 8 to 8 ½ hours of sleep. If I get less than that, I either need a nap or a second cup of coffee.

Once you figure out the time you plan to wake up, count backwards the number of hours of sleep you need. That’s your bedtime goal. For me, I set my alarm for 6:00 so I’m usually lights out by 10:00pm. That might seem really early to some people, but it works for me so that I feel rested and ready to get up in the morning.

Start slow. Try getting up 15 minutes earlier than normal. After a few days, try 20 minutes. Keep working incrementally until you’re at your ideal wake time.

2 | I’m intentional with my time.

The idea behind getting up before your kids is that you start the day with intention. Waking up ahead of schedule means that you have time to do something for YOU before you have to do anything for your family.

The first thing I do when I come downstairs is make my coffee. I actually wake up looking forward to it. Am I the only one who does this?!

After I’ve got my coffee, I sit down with my Bible, journal, and my Bible study. I spend anywhere from 20-45 minutes soaking up some good study time. If I don’t do my quiet time in the morning, it just doesn’t happen, no matter how good my intentions might be.

I can feel a difference in my day when I spend even a short time reading my Bible and devoting time to studying God’s word. I’m calmer, more at peace, and more aligned with God’s direction when I start my day with even a short time in the Word.

If that’s not your thing, there are plenty of other ways to get your day off to a good start. Journaling, reading, yoga, and meditation are all ideas for purposeful self care first thing in the morning.

3 | I assess the rest of my day.

On Sunday, I map out the week so I can see all my appointments, kids activities, and important dates ahead of time. Each morning I review what’s on the schedule for the day.

It helps me remember any time commitments, and I also write down tasks that need to be done. Before I launch into the day, I have a good idea of what it’s going to look like.

In the past, I wrote things on a monthly calendar, which I still do. But if for some reason I didn’t look at the calendar in the morning, a commitment or appointment might slip through the cracks. Now I’m just taking some time to refresh my memory so this doesn’t happen.

Having a routine to start off my morning improved my attitude, not only as a mom, but personally as well. I no longer dread the sound of my alarm. Actually I’m often already starting to wake up before the alarm goes off. If you struggle in the mornings (and you have kids who sleep through the night most of the time,) developing a morning routine can be a huge improvement.

One final reason I truly believe in the power of my morning routine… if I’ve been off the regular pattern for a few days, I look forward to getting back to it. Even if I’ve been on vacation, I’m still excited to put my habits back in place. To me, that says it all.

What does your morning routine look like??

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Thanksgiving Kid’s Craft Packs

My kids have been a little restless lately. They’re a little harder to entertain. They’re a little more sassy. And they are driving their mama CRAZY. Time to do a little Pinterest exploration and find some activities that will not only help keep us busy, but get us excited for Thanksgiving too!

turkey craft for kids

One of my fave sources for kids activities is No Time for Flash Cards. If you want to do a project or craft or activity of any kind with a child of any age, it’s a great place to look. I found a couple for Turkey Day that I thought would be easy enough for both my kids (22mos & 4 1/2yrs).

Handprint Turkey

toddler-handprint-turkey-craft

How cute is this?? The supply list is short and the prep time is minimal. Check it out in detail here.

Turkey Counting Craft

turkey-counting-craft

I put together the supplies for this one, but didn’t make the counting sheets. I’m not sure if I’ll just leave it as a craft or use it to practice counting. Either way, it works. Find the full scoop here.

paper plate pilgrim craft
I originally found this cute paper plate pilgrim craft at easypreschoolcraft.blogspot.jp but the link no longer works 🙁  I cut out the pieces to be put together by my four year old daughter. She can also do the coloring and draw the face. I also designed a paper plate Indian since the story we read about the first Thanksgiving includes how the Indians helped the early settlers to survive.

 

Crafty ideas are great, but having the supplies ready to go at a moment’s notice is even better. If boredom sets in, it can take a long time (in kid minutes) to find all the supplies and do any necessary prep work. I did some quick and easy advanced preparation and now I have a few craft projects all set to go.

kids turkey craft

I traced a small bowl for the turkey body and drew the faces with a sharpie (try not to be too overwhelmed by my artistic genius) and I glued on the little red waddles so they would be authentic. I cut out a stack of multi-colored feathers that can be glued on to make an easy, but cute craft.
Hello, girls!
turkey craft cutouts
I cut a bunch of Christmas trees from green felt to be decorated with supplies we already have (glitter glue, foam stickers, etc.) I think my fancy four year old will really enjoy decorating her own mini trees.
christmas tree craft

How do you keep boredom at bay for little ones?

Linking up to…

Becoming Martha

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