Posts Tagged "meal plan"

Kids Can Make Their Own Lunch

Posted by on Nov 20, 2009 in 5-minutes-a-day, Easy Organizing, Sanity Savers, What You Need & Where to Put It | 0 comments

Kids Can Make Their Own Lunch

I’m not a morning person, so the idea of rolling out of bed and preparing food first thing, is not a the top of my list. Generally I like to meander into the kitchen, put on the coffee, check my email. Take it slow.

Well, we all know that with kids, regardless of what time you get up, generally the morning rush is a little chaotic. Therefore, in an effort to maintain my easy-going-attitude in the morning, I’ve “organized” a few things so I can drink my coffee in peace, but still greet my children at the kitchen table and see them off to school.

Once I realized that my kids were capable of accomplishing particular tasks, it was then that I realized I could just make sure they had on hand what was need AND they could assemble their lunches. Why does this come as a suprise? Many people may think, well why didn’t you just tell them to do that?? Well, because I may be organized, but I’m still a mom and the guilt runs high with me…guilt over what, you may ask? Oh, just about anything. The fact that I had to take away my daughter’s cell phone because she’s never happy with the number of text messages I allow give her. That’s just on example. In all seriousness, I want the best for my kids, I want to coddle them, take care of them, nurture them, but it’s WEARING ME OUT! So out of shear exhaustion and frustration of not having help, I delegated the task of making lunch to my kids–the ones who will eat it!

So here’s you can get organized to help your kids make their own lunch:

1. Designate a storage spot for lunchboxes so they don’t “live” on the kitchen counter when at home.
2.  Post a checklist on the refrigerator of what your child needs to include. For example, sandwich, piece of fruit, snack, drink, utensil (if needed), and water bottle.

3. Store refrigerated items in one container for them to choose from. For example, cut up carrots and celery and put them in individual baggies so the kids can grab one and put it in their lunchbox. Put other items like yogurt and string cheese.
4. Use baskets to hold non-perishable snacks and put the baskets where they can reach them.

Devise a system that works for best for you and your kids. Here are a couple of things I also do that helps slow down the morning rush…

  1. The Magic Happens at Night–Before the kids go to bed, I make sure all school-related paperwork has been signed (if there is any), gear is by the front door, all coats/hats/mittens are returned to their home so we are not searching high and low the following morning AND the kitchen table is set for breakfast (cereal boxes and bowls, spoons, and napkins).
  2. Reporting for Duty – This may sound harsh (and it felt that way at first), but in order to make sure there wasn’t any dilly dallying, instead of my children meandering down for breakfast then getting dressed, I changed the rules! Everyone (except for me, ha ha) needs to be dressed, including shoes, before eating breakfast. That way, the only thing left to do is make their lunch and brush their teeth.

How do you slow down the morning rush in your home? Please share.

Also, if you’re not a blog follower, sign up. Soon I’ll post a follow up to this entry on creating a litterless lunch.

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Coupon Dork…Hardly…She’s Saving Lots of Money!

Posted by on Oct 3, 2009 in Sanity Savers | 4 comments

Coupon Dork…Hardly…She’s Saving Lots of Money!

Gotta love social media! Nancy and I worked together in publishing in the late 90s. When I left the company, my first born was eight months and Nancy wasn’t even married. Almost ten years later, she and I reconnected on Facebook where we’ve had a chance to see how our children are growing! (She and I have two children each now…wow, how time flies!)

Not too long ago, I read a status update of Nancy’s where she told everyone that on a recent trip to the grocery store, she brought home $90 worth of groceries and only spent $30. This status update peaked my interest and I decided to interview this busy mom of two on how she manages to find time to save!

Would you consider yourself a Coupon Maven!
I prefer the title Coupon Queen, although my friends have been known to refer to me as Coupon Dork.

How long have you been clipping coupons?
I have been couponing diligently for about six months now.

What inspired you to get started?
Like many people, I would use coupons now and then, and was happy to save five or ten dollars at the most. When friends of mine told me about how their “coupon systems” allowed them to literally cut their spending in half for groceries and other household items, I was skeptical. Even if they were on to something, how would I ever find the time to do couponing on a regular basis?

The turning point for me was discovering some online resources that make everything simple. There are several free web sites that list the weekly ads from the various grocery stores each week, along with coupon matchups for the sale items. The whole idea is to find coupons for items that are already on sale that week, to achieve big savings.

How much time do you spend clipping coupons each week?
My initial learning curve when I was trying to understand coupon strategies and setup an organizational system for my coupons was rather time consuming. Now that I have a routine established, I typically only spend one or two hours per week clipping and organizing my coupons and planning my shopping trips.

How often do you food shop and what is the typical length of a shopping trip?
I food shop two times per week. I only keep track of weekly sales and coupon matches at my two favorite grocery stores. I visit each of these stores once per week, to take advantages of the deals at both stores. When I shop with coupons, the actual length of the shopping trip is about the same as before. I do spend more time planning my shopping trip. The night before I go shopping, I spend about 30 minutes preparing my grocery list and pulling the coupons out of my binder that match up with the sales.

Do you meal plan? If so, do you ever use the same ingredient for more than one meal in a week?
I am a “big picture” meal planner. I don’t plan what we are going to have for dinner each night of the week. However, I always have the ingredients for our favorite meals on hand, thanks to my stockpiling strategies and the help of a deep freezer in the garage.

Some favorite meals in our house include spaghetti and meat sauce; hamburgers, fries, and vegetables; fish, rice, and vegetables, etc. Fresh vegetables rarely go on sale, and often spoil before I get a chance to use them. I try to get lots of frozen vegetables when they are at their lowest price with store sales and coupons.

What is the least expensive item you’ve ever purchased?

  • Mrs. Paul’s Fish Sticks (Cost $1, I had a $3 coupon)
  • Uncle Ben’s Wild Rice (Free, I had a 75 cent coupon that tripled during triple coupon week)
  • Green Giant Frozen Carrots (Free, they were on sale for $1 and I had a 50 cent coupon that doubled per the store’s everyday policy)

What’s your strategy? How do you organize your coupons?
I use a combination of two systems. When the Sunday paper arrives each week, I clip all of the coupons for the items that I would normally buy. The clipped coupons go into the coupon binder that I take with me on shopping trips. My coupon binder is a three-ring binder with clear “baseball card style” page protectors. I store the coupons in the little baseball card pockets. Duplicate coupons all go in the same pocket. I also have tabbed section dividers to organize the different coupons into groups (frozen foods, toiletries, etc.).

I keep the whole coupon inserts with any remaining unclipped coupons, just in case I need them later. I write the date on the front of each insert and place the inserts from that day’s newspaper in a dated file folder. Free web sites such as and provide lists of the items on sale from the stores’ weekly ads, along with the newspaper dates of coupon matchups for the sale items. So, for example, if an item on the list has the code “SS 9-27-09” beside it, I would look in the Smart Source coupon insert from the September 27th paper to find the coupon that is available for the sale item. This may sound a bit tedious, but it really doesn’t take much time or thought to find the coupons I need now that I have established a routine.

Web sites such , , and are great sources of free Internet printable (IPs) coupons. New coupons are typically loaded onto these web sites on the first of the month, so be sure to check them periodically. I file my IPs right along with my newspaper coupons in my binder.

What’s the most amount of money you’ve saved in one shopping trip?
My average grocery bill has been reduced by at least 30%. There are certain staple items such as milk and bread that are difficult to find coupons for. When my favorite grocery store has special coupon promotions, such as double or triple coupons, my average bill is reduced by 50%.

Do you shop in bulk? If so, where? And where do you store the extra items in your home?
I still shop at Costco occasionally for some favorite items. There are rarely coupons for items such as fresh meat and produce, so places such as Costco and Sam’s Club can still be good sources for that. I spend much less money at Wal-Mart these days, because many household items (cleaners and paper products, etc.) are actually cheaper at the grocery store with a combination of store sales and coupons.

I find that most of my “bulk” shopping actually takes place at my two regular grocery stores. For example, if Cheerios are on sale for $1 per box because they are Buy One Get One Free (BOGO) and I also have coupons for them, I will go ahead and buy six boxes. The key is to buy enough of the sale items until it goes on sale again. A general rule of thumb is to buy enough to last your family six weeks.

Serious couponers use a storage strategy known as “stockpiling.” I have emptied out my linen closet and stored all the linens in the bedrooms, so that we now have second pantry to store grocery and household items. (Great organizing tip putting linens in the bedroom, Nancy!)

Please provide any added insight or tips that would be helpful to families who want to save money on their grocery bill?
Only buy items that you truly need and use. It’s very tempting to get three boxes of Pop-Tarts just because they are free with coupons!

Once you have a decent stockpile established, you will be able to “shop” from your stockpile and can wait to buy things when they go on sale. This puts you in a position of power! You will no longer have to pay the full price for many items, just because you need to have it that week.

I rarely buy extra newspapers to get additional coupons. My typical newspaper will contain two or three coupon inserts. However, if a certain Sunday paper has many coupon inserts (five or six), I will buy several extra copies of the paper just for the coupons.

Most grocery stores have customer loyalty programs. Make sure to get on the email list for your favorite grocery stores, and present your customer loyalty card every time you shop to receive special savings. Also, be sure to check the stores’ web sites to learn about their coupon policies before you go shopping with your coupons.

Nancy Pennington lives in Charleston, South Carolina with her husband and two children

Follow @Hotcouponworld and @afullcup on Twitter

You may also want to check out Mary Jo Rulnick’s book for shopping lists, recipes and tips 

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Five Tips to Stay out of the Drive through

Posted by on Feb 27, 2009 in Easy Organizing, Sanity Savers, What You Need & Where to Put It | 3 comments

Our guest blogger this week is Heather Solos, one of the brains behind Home Ec 101, “what you wish your mama had taught you,” which provides truly useful information on cleaning, cooking, fixing, and more. Today, Heather focuses on mealtime.

And here’s today’s blog entry: Five Tips to Stay out of the Drive through

It’s possible to use a little organization to turn dinner into a manageable routine without falling into a rut. The following five tips help keep mealtimes under control with minimal effort. A few minutes of preparation prevents the added stress of trying to figure out what to cook while hungry family members prowl the kitchen asking, “Mom, is it done yet?”

1. Create or find a menu plan. Use the menu to build a grocery list or use a website that provides both. If you need menu ideas, OrganizingJunkie has hundreds of menus posted every Monday catering to almost every imaginable dietary need. A menu plan doesn’t have to be strict. I write mine with our schedule in mind, quick meals or planned overs are saved for our busiest days. Don’t consider a plan a failure if it has to be changed to accommodate unexpected events. As a side benefit, having a plan helps prevent food waste.

2. Do not short order cook. Take family members’ tastes and needs into consideration while planning the menu, but don’t cater to whims. Dinner is dinner, don’t engage in the battle. If a child simply cannot eat what is served, a simple sandwich or a bowl of cereal can be their alternative, but only under extenuating circumstances. Remember to not base a child’s nutritional intake on a single meal, a good rule of thumb is to watch their intake over the course of a week. If they skip the vegetables on one day they may make up for it the next. The key is to make sure most meals are generally nutritious and that they aren’t holding out for junk food at every other meal. Obviously, if you are a parent with a special needs child, this may not apply.

3. Theme nights In our family Saturday is pizza night. Sometimes we go wild and change it to subs or calzones. Other families have Tex Mex or Meatloaf Mondays. Whatever fits your style will reduce the number of meals that require thought and effort.

4. Cook once, eat twice. Familiarize yourself with planned leftovers. Tonight’s roast chicken can be shredded and mixed with cheese and beans to create quesadillas. Yesterday’s pot roast can be tomorrow’s toasted beef sandwiches. A little creativity can save a lot of effort, but as a caveat, watch your spice combination as you translate one dish to the next. A yankee pot roast flavored with rosemary will not make a great chili.

5. Have a back up plan and keep it on hand. Sometimes activities run late or someone is sick. For those nights it’s nice to always have a “go to” meal. For example keep a jar of your favorite pasta sauce and noodles in the cabinet and garlic bread in the freezer. Whenever these items are used don’t forget to add them to your grocery list.


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