Aldi’s and Zucchini: Our Favorite Gluten-Free Finds!

When my 9 year old daughter was diagnosed with gluten sensitivity a year ago, we had no clue how much her diet was going to change.  It was obvious breads, cereals + pastas had to go or be replaced with a gluten-free alternative.  So many other bagged, canned + boxed items, condiments and even some shredded cheeses had gluten as well.

We live in a small country area and have very few options locally to buy gluten free alternatives.  We have a Wal-Mart here and 20 minutes away is an Aldi’s.  We have found that Aldi’s has a much wider selection so we make the drive once a week for at least gluten-free items, diary + produce.

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Skylander Superchargers Birthday Cake

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I made this Skylander Superchargers birthday cake for my little mans “first decade birthday”. I used three Pillsbury box cake mixes and two frostings, that I added gel food coloring. The sides are Kit Kat bars and a Hershey’s bar bridge. I really should have taken photos of the process, but it was actually much more simpler to do than it looked. It was definitely a hit with him and his friends!

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Freezer Meal Prepping 101

Guess what my favorite time of the month is?  Meal prepping!  Due to this routine I have found myself in, we have begun saving a significant amount of money (and time) on groceries.  If we were to cut out all the soda, we’d be down to about $200 a month on food for our family of three!  That’s without couponing and all from planning, prepping and choosing items wisely.  Today, I’m going to share with you a quick version of my meal prep days.

Meal-Prepping-101

PLANNING

  1. Create your menu.  Make a list of all the meals that you wish to have in your time frame, whether it’s a week, two weeks or a full month.   I have a set list for breakfast + lunches that I use repeatedly with the basics.  Oatmeal, cereal, pancake mix, syrup, bacon, eggs, etc for breakfast.  Mac-n-cheese, sandwiches, soups, etc for lunch.)  Dinners I whip up depending on the season, our schedule and what we are in the mood for.  Remember to add snacks or desserts as well, if you choose.
  2. Make your grocery list. Add all the ingredients you will need for your menu.  I’m quite OCD about my lists, so I go as far as sorting the ingredients by the sections of the store.  Make your list to suite you.
  3. Go shopping.  If you coupon on a regular basis, then you can save a lot more than I do.  I choose to clip coupons only when I have the time, when I know it’s something I use or if I want to try a new product out.  Make sure to get everything on your list first, as this is to be used for your menu.  I compare prices of different brands + sizes, then choose what’s best for me.  Just in doing this and preparing ahead of time, I have cut our grocery bill from $450 a month down to $250 currently.

PREPPING

  1. Gather supplies + ingredients.  Pull out everything that you need (except for the meats).  This includes freezer bags, saran wrap, utensils, bowls, something to label your bags with, etc.
  2. Label packaging.  I take a moment to label freezer bags with the name of the recipe and quick cooking instructions (such as Chicken + Dumplings – Crockpot on High for 8 hours.  Shred + add biscuits pieces.  Cook additional 1 hour.).  If I have a monthly list and have two of the same recipe, I go ahead and label two separate bags.
  3. Cut, chop + dice.  All your veggies, fruits, cheeses, etc that need to be cut, chopped or diced, should be completed first.  I add these to the bags that I labeled as I go.
  4. Add the meats.  I clean up my area after finishing up with all the veggies, fruits and cheeses.  I get all my meats out and work with them one at a time, cleaning up after each type of meat.  Some recipes call for ground hamburger, so I go ahead and cook large amounts at a time for multiple recipes.  This takes some time out from cooking before each meal.  Once cooled, I can separate it and place into the bags needed.  Some meats you only have to trim the fat and some need to be cut into slices or bite sized pieces, depending on recipes.
  5. Add condiments + seasonings.  Now, according to your recipes, place the last condiments + seasonings into the bags.  This can include anything from honey mustard, ketchup, bbq sauces, garlic + herb marinades, seasoning packets, salt + pepper, garlic powder, etc.  If the recipe calls for small amounts of liquids, I add them at this time as well.  If the recipe calls for a larger amount of liquid (about 2 cups or more) remember to add that to the label on the bag so you can add it when you cook that meal.
  6. Store your prepped meals.  Most of my meals are freezer to crockpot or one-pan oven dishes.  So I lay the freezer bags flat and stack them in a nice fashion to take up less space.  I also have a “no touch” drawer for the fridge. I put everything needed for meals that are prepped in here that needs to be cold.  I have a shelf specifically for canned/boxed items like this as well. Everything else in the house is free to be used as snacks.

ENJOY

After planning + prepping (usually takes me one day of planning + two days of prep work), I can sit back and relax.  Every night, I pull out the next nights dinner to defrost.  Most are able to be tossed into the crockpot frozen if I happen to forget.  The one-pan oven meals I tend to pull to defrost two nights before.

I prepped 20 dinner meals (list below), on my last prepping session.   Since the first of the year, I haven’t spent more than 15 minutes “cooking” in the kitchen at all, excluding 2-3 prep days a month.  I absolutely love saving time!

Freezer to Crockpot Meals prepped:

  • 2 x Chicken Fajitas
  • 2 x Chicken + Dumplins
  • 2 x Garlic + Herb Pork Chops
  • 4 x BBQ Ribs
  • 1 BBQ Dr. Pepper Chicken

One-Pan Oven Meals Prepped:

  • 2 x Hamburger for Spagetti
  • 4 x Hamburgers
  • 3 x One Pan Chicken Bake

NEXT TIME

My next post for meal prepping will include what I do for breakfasts and lunches.  Soon enough, I’ll add the recipes and sample menu plan that I use for dinners as well.

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Create a Blogging Planner

Blogs are used by many folks these days. From personal family blogs, coupon blogs, mommy blogs to the business blogs to showcase products or services. Blogging can be a hobby, an extra income source or even a career. It’s sometimes hard to keep everything organized and running smoothly having to keep up with affiliates & sponsors, ad space, scheduling upcoming posts, reviews + giveaways.

I have searched far + wide to find free printables that were suitable for myself to use. I would love to create my own in the future, but until then…here are my favorite free printables to create your very own blog planner. The only other thing that I have added to the following was a general year at a glance holiday page so I could decide what type of Blogging Events I have wanted to join in on and a yearly analytics sheets so I can keep track of the social media + blog stats for quick findings.

Blog Planner from Confessions of a Homeschooler

This is my first go to in regards to a planner. I actually even use the lesson planner for our homeschool as well. This blog planner has almost everything I needed.

  • Monthly calendar (each day contains space to write your post title + box to check off once you share to social media)
  • For each month, there is also an “extra info” page for you to keep track of monthly statistics and space for ideas + inspiration.
  • Blog Advertising pages to keep track of sponsors, payment, links + other contact information.
  • Giveaway + Review pages to keep track of the vendors, contact information, product costs + social media links.
  • And last but not least, there are pages for brainstorming ideas. Bloggers can never have enough of these!

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Visit Confessions of a Homeschooler – free 2013 Blog Planner to download.

Playdate Crashers Product Review Worksheet

This is a one page (only one I have seen to date) product review worksheet. You can print off as many as you need. Simply fill in the information about the product, due date + sponsor details as your reviewing the product so you don’t forget about those likes + dislikes before you have the chance to sit down to write about it.

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Visit Playdate Crashers – Product Review Worksheet to download.
Please leave a comment to let us know of any free blog printables that you have seen. If you could request printables to be made for a planner, what would you like to see?

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The Great Printable Shopping List

The Coupon Project has my favorite FREE printable shopping lists — one for Grocery Stores + one for Drug Stores! Each list includes product name, product price, store/manufacturers coupon, Qty, final price, rebates/RR/Up+, etc.  Also has a space for notes, estimated trip cost and actual trip cost.  Remember to print + if possible, make black & white copies to save on ink!


Visit the Coupon Project to print your copy of the shopping list today!

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Create a Planner That Suits You

Moxie Pear Planner
(Image source – Lisa Bacon, The Moxie Pear)

So it’s almost the end of the year.  Many folks choose to use this time to get things organized within their home and/or work space so that they can make those famous resolutions of “staying organized”, “never being late again” or “eating healthier”.  Maybe even “staying within a budget” or “becoming frugal” will be on next years list.

My resolution for this next year is to spend more quality time with my family and for myself and to be as stress-free as I can possibly be.  Which has lead me to the quest of creating a household notebook for myself and family that suits us perfectly.  Everything will be at our my fingertips (the kidlets won’t be actually using this just yet) when I need it from now on.  I will be sharing my printable finds, free & for purchase, in this post and completing my notebook over the next week or so. Once completed, I’ll share my final product here.

First Things First

Gather supplies that you will need for your planner.  A simple 3-ring binder can work for this or you could use one of the more expensive ones that have a leather or fabric covering that zips up (which is great for added security in case anything was to accidentally come lose).  Copy/printer paper, pen/pencil should be all that you would need; depending on how fancy you get.  Scrapbook supplies are great if you plan to get all crafty to make it look pretty.

Next, create a list of everything that you wish to have in your notebook.  Anything that you do in your everyday life, if it can be simplified in anyway by being in this planner, add it to the list!  Here are some examples of things you might want to add:

  • Calendar/To Do List: Daily, Weekly and/or Monthly Sheets to schedule appointments & events
  • Household Tasks: This can include a daily chore list and weekly/monthly house/auto maintenance
  • Menu Planner: Include a weekly or monthly plan sheet, blank grocery list, master list, frequent meals in your household
  • Budget: You can include anything from income, expenses, goals to lessen debt, folder for bills and more.
  • Emergency: Emergency numbers, Contacts such as neighbors & closest relatives, plan in case of natural disaster emergencies to go over with family once every few months to make sure every remembers or gets updated if something changes.
  • Address Book: Contact lists with options to include name, phone, address, website, email, birth date, etc.
  • Holiday Plans: List of events such as birthdays and anniversaries, Gifts to buy & Gifts received lists (so you can send those thank-you notes later), Holiday meal plan if you typically use the same recipes.
  • Homeschooling planner: Attendance records, Weekly Lessons, Reading lists, etc.
  • Extras: Websites & password list, Babysitter information, and the list can go on and on forever.

Plan of the Day / Week / Month Pages

Moxie Pear Planner moxieplan

I have actually been using this set above from The Moxie Pear, of the daily/weekly/monthly planner, in which it is somewhat similar to the set below but has a few differences to the layout of the design.  I went back to the site this week and realized their blog has been redesigned and the printable planner pages are no longer there. Maybe I can send an email and see if it’s a possibility of those being reposted…will add that to my to-do list now ;c)

niftyplanThese are equally as great!  Simple yet appealing.  This set, The Nifty Studio WAHM Printable Planner Pages is simple, yet appealing but still not ‘too cutesy’.  It includes a daily, weekly and monthly planner as well. Take Bobbie’s tip: “All I do is print off the pages, 3 hole punch them, secure them with 1.5″ book rings and BAM! Instant planner. I also took a few pretty scrapbook papers and had them laminated. I use those for the front and back cover.

The household task can be jotted down on the daily page.  Or you could even go a step further and follow “Hannah’s System 101″ from Sherbet Blossom.  Create a card system (or you can create it as a list for your notebook) similar to her’s but with the tasks that are needed for your family.

There is this daily planner from The Project Girl that includes a spot on each page for To-Do, To-Call, Errands, Shopping List, Notes & Tomorrow; it has lots of space and is designed very well.  And there is also a monthly sample from BusyBodyBook that is set up in a unique way so you can include individual family members tasks/appointments for each day of the week.

Menu Planning Pages

wild olive food planner foodrecipe

I actually have an obsession with this planner.  This one is not free, however it is exactly what I wanted/needed.  The Wild Olive Food Friends Printable is a PDF file that includes a blank monthly page, weekly page, and 4 pages of lists that you can use for your grocery lists, master grocery list, pantry/freezer lists, etc.  You can stop by the Wild Olive Etsy Shop to grab your own copy (It’s currently $5 – PDF file for download.  You can fill in the PDF file form and then print or you may print & fill in by hand.  Use it as many times as you wish and never have to purchase another meal planner again!)

Oh, yes,  just to curb my appetite for those ubber cute food illustrations, I also have purchased the set of matching recipe cards!  You could use plastic photo/card sleeves such as these to put the recipe cards in that you use the most — and these pockets are great for organizing your coupons as well!

And not to forget, there are two different styles over at The Project Girl – Menu Planning Form that are FREE to download as well!

I recently won a free membership to Menu In a Box; an online menu planning site.  I actually don’t use the site as it was originally intended.  As we have two picky eaters in my household (myself and my son), the recipes on the site are not always for us.  They do have a wide variety of recipes (including gluten free, egg free, vegetarian, etc) so I have begun trying some new meals so maybe I will eventually be able to use it to it’s fullest.  And in the meantime, I have picked up on a lot of tips in order to use with the menu planner above.

Extras

Food Journal,  The ultimate travel checklist,  Packing Labels for a Move from The Project Girl

Budget, Website & Password Keeper, Babysitter Info, Medical Info, Holiday Gifts Sent & Received, Important Phone Numbers & much more over at Mom Agenda.

And last but not least for this list, anything and everything Homeschool related can be found at DonnaYoung.org.

Final Notes

Do remember that everyone and every family’s needs are different so make sure that you choose the items to add to your planner that you will use.  Just because it’s pretty or because Neighbor Jane has it in her notebook, doesn’t mean you have to have it too.  The goal is to help simplify your life, not add clutter or confuse one’s self!

Share with us

Do you have a household notebook?  Let us know whether you purchase or create your own; and if you create them yourself, where do you find your printables (free or for purchase)?  I’m always interested in new ideas so feel free to post your notebook solutions here.

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A Few Cleaning Tips

I’m always looking to make things easier or cheaper.  So today, being in the (almost) winter sweep cleaning of my apartment before the big Christmas-Tree-Putter-Upper day, I have been procrastinating and found some really great quick clean methods as well as some create your own cleaners.

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Organizing The Home

I’m all about my post-it notes, to do lists, menu planning, etc. Sometimes, I think I’m more so into the lists and the planning than getting the items on those list completed!

I still have a year before state laws require my eldest child to be ‘in’ school. I am making all my plans now. Getting our routines (schedules and chores) figured out, home organized and all that jazz.

Here are a few things that I have found helpful in my little organizing phase.


Menu Magnets
:: Balancing Everything


Chore Pockets & Tickets Part 1
Part 2 :: Balancing Everything

Lastly, this one I just came across today and thought it would be lovely to create it to match the Innovative Closet in my previous post.


Chicken Wire Organization & Calendar Download
:: The Project Girl

I have a few other things going on that I’m testing out around here that I will share soon. I’m working on our daily schedule for meals, chores, school, activities, naps/bedtimes, work at home, etc. When I figure that one out, I’ll be glad to share it as well.

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