Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Never underestimate the power of a plan...

Hello Friends!

I have been trying to reorganize my life since I have been married. There is just TOO MUCH to remember when you have others to take care of (in my case: husband, dogs) and too many things get overwritten in my brain. The most important (to my stomach at least) is Dinner. How often have you realized 30 minutes from dinner time that you didn't take out anything to thaw or you are missing an ingredient?

As I have mentioned before, I had been reading Organize Now! for awhile now - and one of the very last chapters in the book happened to be one of the first ones that I tackled, Meal Planning & Groceries.

Here's a sneak peak at how Meal Planning and Grocery Delivery has saved me from those mental lapses!

Meal Planning 101

Here are the basics:
• Pick a day to meal plan - (best if its the same day each week - and the day before you shop!)
 (I use Google Cal for everything - God Bless Reminders!)
 Make a list of your family's favorite meals, stuff they liked, and recipes you would like to try. 
(HAVE YOU SEEN MY PINTEREST? Seriously, this list would have been massive!)
 Separate meals by Weekday and Weekend Cooking (cook time determines this for me) 
• Pick a meal for each day!

Sounds easy right? Well, my first attempt WAS A FLOP. I tried to do it all by myself - and though I was eager, I made about 4 trips to the grocery store that week. EPIC FAIL.
I went back to the drawing board and tried to perfect it - when I stumbled upon a great time saving tool....

Why do I heart Pepperplate? 
It loads recipes from the most popular sites (realsimple.com, allrecipes.com, myrecipes.com, skinnytaste.com, etc) by just copying and pasting the link into their system.
{Hint. I know that all of your favorite recipes arent going to be online at one of these sites. You can also add your own recipe manually - but I just go to MYRECIPES.COM and copy and paste or type in my favorite recipes from cookbooks, other sites not offered, my memory, etc. and once its on myrecipes.com it will populate into pepper plate.}
With a couple of clicks you can add it to your meal plan calendar. (above)
Another click will add the menu plan to your shopping list. (below)

The shopping list combines all of your like items together, gives you a proper count of what you need, and then breaks it down into what each recipe needs beneath.
It also lets you delete items that you already have on hand, and add to the list items not on the food plan (like candy bars or trash bags)
It also has a handy dandy app for your smartphone so you can see what you need at the grocery store, look at a recipe, etc while you are out and about. (or as I do - walk through the kitchen and cross off the items after ive populated my list! hehe) 

Once I am all done planning on PepperPlate - I post it on the fridge on a 2 week calendar board (it was a one week calendar board from staples dollar drawers - but I drew a line down the middle and split it into two.) This serves as my reminder each night when I am done cooking dinner, I pull out what's needed for the next day's dinner. (THAWED!)

Time for Groceries

First thing's first - to keep peace in my household, I have made a printable grocery list with all of our favorite and most purchased items listed with a little check box on the right. This list includes all of the products needed for the stuff that Dovey is responsible for - making coffee, feeding the pups, taking out the trash, etc - this way when Dovey uses the last of something, he can just check the box before he forgets. I print two copies a week and leave them on the fridge (that way if I am using one of them for any reason - he still has a sheet and wont get in trouble for not writing it down... lol) I generally pull this off the fridge once I am done Meal Planning and add the items checked to my PepperPlate list.

I used to go to the store once a week - when I meal planned that way, now I have been going once every two weeks - and it has been AWESOME. Just think what you could do with one whole weekend without grocery shopping duties! That's like 2 or 3 hours free'd up! I hurt my neck a few weeks ago, and that's when I started Grocery Delivery. It's truly been a Godsend. I get lots of this free time now!

I use VONS since there's one nearby and delivery is so easy. It's only about $10 more for delivery, and you don't have to shlep to and from the store or carry all the heavy groceries. I first go to the two different coupon menus to make sure that all of my savings are added to my rewards card - and then I knock off my shopping list one aisle at a time. I choose a delivery time that suits me (you can save money by choosing the least busy time frames - like 6$ off for Sunday from 11am-3pm... that makes delivery only $4!) Pay the bill and VOILA. Groceries just appear at your door when you want them to. They even substitute items that are out of stock with other brands/sizes so that you don't have to go to another store! {Dont worry! If there is something your keen on a specific brand/size you can mark those ones no substitutes}

So my dear friends. That is how I survive the "HOLY COW I FORGOT TO THAW DINNER AND DOVEY IS GOING TO BE HOME IN FIFTEEN MINUTES!" ordeal. Hooray  for having a plan in place THAT WORKS!

Do you meal plan? How often do you do your grocery shopping?

Monday, June 18, 2012

A letter to my 16-year old self...

So, I have been reading this book - it's a compilation of letters from some amazing people to their 16 year old selves. 


It's been a great read - some are scrawled on a napkin, some came on letterhead from their fancy-pants jobs, some are typeset... but the jist of it is clear - DON'T GIVE UP. At sixteen, we can't imagine the amazing things that are in store for us. If I could go back in time and deliver a letter to myself at that age, it would probably go something like this....

Dear Manda, 

I know things are pretty crazy right now. Your world has been falling apart for the last few years, loved ones leaving you - parents breaking up, dad getting sick... right now SUCKS. And truthfully, it is going to suck for awhile. I wish I could push fast forward for you - but you learn so much at this time. You are going to change a lot in the next few years, simply from just getting up every day and fighting the good fight. Your friends will start to cycle out because they don't know what to say or how to deal. It's okay. You will reconnect with the most important ones. 

Daddy is going to get sicker... and sicker... and sicker. And one day, he too will leave you. And though you are the only one to see it coming, you will still be lost in a sea of broken dreams. It is going to hurt more than anything else in your life. Make every minute count - and take more pictures of him and you - those are the ones you will cherish the most.

In high school you will meet a boy - and he will break your heart over and over again. It's only when you finally say goodbye for good that you will be able to find out WHO YOU ARE and WHAT YOU WANT out of life. Follow your dreams first - the rest will come into place. You are an artist - and a damn good one. Embrace it! And when you get that job offer in a far off land where you know no one - TAKE IT. It is by far the best decision you will ever make. You learn the most about YOU when you are by yourself. Enjoy your yearlong sabbatical - and then come home and enjoy life like never before. 

Sadly, one of your closest friends will leave you far too soon, so make every moment count. Enjoy every laugh, every tear, every smile and every frown. She has been in your heart since the moment you set foot at CHS - and she will be your best friend until the moment she leaves you. Cherish her - and tell her she is special - she needs to hear it!

The next boy that steals your heart in one swinging hug... that's the one you want to hold on to. And wanna know the best part? He wants to hold on to you too. ;)

It's only been 15 or so years that have passed, but I can tell you that right now - You are happy. You are secure. You are hopeful. Trust me, your hope does come back - be patient. 

You're worth it.
And most importantly, I love you! 
Futuristic Manda

 Now if only Marty McFly could deliver it for me!
I guess she'll just have to find it on the internet! ♥ hehehe.

What would you say to your 16-year old self? 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Mean Girls...

I was reminded today of some of the 'Mean Girls' I grew up with. Now, don't get me wrong. I know there are good and bad people, and a bit of good and bad in all of us. But whether it be their upbringing or circumstance, these girls were just plain mean.

Sadly, the worst offenders weren't from my school at all, they were from church. Whether they went to my church, or my bible camp. The ones that left the deepest cuts for me were the girls from that part of my life. Maybe it was because they didn't really understand the love that GOD teaches, or maybe they were just raised to be MEAN.

I distinctly recall a few of the girls that hurt my feelings the worst, going to the church's private school. Some of them stayed with me while touring for choir. Some of them were mean to me at camp. I was always amazed at how judgmental they were. I couldn't believe that they were being taught the same as I was in church (and school!) and could still say the things they did.

Don't get me wrong. I know I was poor. I know my clothes were second hand. I know that my house wasn't cool and my life wasn't the best. I KNOW THIS. But it hurts most when those you expect to be the most understanding totally let you down.

I am glad that I have had the privilege of learning how to be understanding and compassionate through my faith teachings. I wish that these girls would have had the same gifted teachers. I hope and pray that they have learned the kinder way of life... and that they can forgive themselves for some of the awful things that they said and did. I know that I have.

Forgiven, but not forgotten. The sting will never fully disappear, but alas. I do forgive you.

Did you survive a mean person, too?
If so, I am PROUD of you for overcoming it.
It takes alot of courage to take a beating and get back up. I commend you.