Friday, February 24, 2017

The Ulitmate One Trip Grocery List

Weekly Grocery List, Grocery, Grocery Printable, Organized Grocery Shopping
One and Done: How to Make One Trip to the Grocery Store a Week, #Menu Planning

I don’t mind going to the grocery store once a week, but I HATE to have to make two or more trips in a week.  I like to get it all over with at once. I learned to be efficient at this when I lived in Germany and my refrigerator was half the size it is now.  Groceries at that time, closed at 5:00 PM, and were not open {GASP!} on Sundays.  Both my husband and I worked, so shopping during the day was out of the question.  So on Saturdays, we would drive an hour to make it to a “big” grocery store to do our once a week trip.  It was like the day before Thanksgiving busy every Saturday.  I hate crowds, so this was torture for me.  I guess I still carry those scars, because the thought of going outside the once per week limit I set, makes me want curl into the fetal position and cry.  Kidding, it isn’t thaaaat bad (but close, very close).  What is does resort into, is some pretty wacky meals from whatever I can find in the pantry to tide me over until my scheduled grocery trip. I know what you’re thinking, that maybe I should see a therapist about this, but really, we have a much more important issues to discuss, so I’ve devised a plan to keep me in the once a week zone.     

The key to making this work is coming up with the menu on Sunday night.  Most of us have a set rotation of meals that we cook.  Well, take a look in your pantry and see what you already have, then think about your schedule for the upcoming week, and plan accordingly.  Know you have soccer practice on Wednesday and won’t get home until 6:30?  Well, don’t try that new recipe then.  Bring on the old standby or make room for pizza, or whatever.  We have a late night Tuesdays, so I pick up something easy for my husband to start while I play taxi driver.  Typically it’s Tamales and salad, or I’ll put something I already made in the oven or on the stove and tell him to start it at xx:xx time (Typically something he doesn’t have to pay too much attention to because I know he will get distracted with work.). 

I can hear those eyes rolling for those of you who “just can’t be tied to a list”.  (Might I suggest that perhaps this is a fear of commitment, but we’ll save that another post.)  “The List” doesn’t tie you to anything.  You did not just sign a contract in blood.  There will not be mutiny in the family if you stray from “the plan”.  There are nights I have just looked at the menu, and said, “Yeah, that’s not going to happen,” and ordered pizza, or pulled something out of the freezer, or just made peanut butter and jelly, scrambled eggs, or cereal for dinner.  It’s okay.  In fact, my kids love when this happens, as it usually gets them out of eating some vegetable that they didn’t want to eat anyway. Afraid the hubby will complain? Well, I tell mine he is free to scrounge for whatever he wants in the kitchen.  Really, I won’t be offended  Or, better yet, he can show me by example the next night, what a proper meal should look like.  I am always open to learning new things 😉 .   You don't even have to let the family know you have a plan for the week.  I do post mine, mainly so I no longer have to answer the question, "What's for dinner?" They just look at the menu.

I have given myself the freedom to change things up if the situation calls for it.  You know what I don’t have?  Panic.  I no longer stare at an open refrigerator or pantry willing for a dinner for four to appear George Jetson style.  There is nothing worse after a long day of using your brain, and coming home, and being forced to think about one more thing, like dinner.  This is when PB&J becomes a habit rather than a one off.  So do yourself a favor, and spend 15 minutes planning out a dinner menu for the upcoming week.  Then use this grocery list to mark off the items that you need. 

Don’t have a menu to pull from?  Start building one.  I started off by just typing up some ideas when I was looking for recipes on line (Pinterest is a great source for this.)  Then I printed it off, and slipped into a folder with my grocery list for Sunday night when I write up my menu. I add to it as we try new things that we like.  I don’t even re-print or open the computer, I just write it down on the list.  I might tidy it up one day and re-print, when I have more time (ha, ha, ha, when I have more time!) Here is a picture of my messy but functional menu list that I keep in my family planner binder.

Family Planning Notebook, Weekly Menu Planning, Grocery Shopping

I leave the grocery list on the counter during the week for anyone in the house to mark off those items they eat the last of and want more of.  If it’s not on the list, then it doesn’t make it home.  Prepare yourself, there may be fall out from this change for the first couple of store runs, but stand your ground!).  On Sunday, I make the menu on the back.  Once I know what I have, I go through the pantry, fridge, and freezer to see what I have and what I need.  This keeps me from buying unnecessary duplicates as well (bye bye multiple jars of dill pickles!)

A note about “The List”:  I modeled this list around the grocery store I frequent.  Yours may be different.  Next time you are at your store, with the list, mark it up to make it user friendly for you.  For instance, the salsa my husband likes is in the dairy section of our store and not the produce section (I don’t understand it either, but it is), so his salsa goes under the dairy section.  I also put the things we tend to buy frequently.  Please change them out to suit your family’s frequently purchased items.  If you would like a word version (or a pages version) of “The List”, in order to customize it to your needs, please let me know, and I will be happy to send it to you.    Bonus idea:  I haven’t done this yet, but I might try it.  You could laminate two copies and use a dry erase marker to mark your list, and that saves you from printing our lists every couple of weeks.  I print 4 pages at a time, and that lasts eight weeks, since there are two lists per page, so right now that is working for me.   

Monday, February 20, 2017

How a Fairy Door Created Memories to Last a Lifetime for Mom and Daughter

Last Christmas, I stumbled across a Fairy Door from the Irish Fairy Door Company.  On a whim I added it to my cart and purchased it for my daughter who was 6 years old at the time.  

The doors come in different colors and styles and it comes with a magic key (cool, right?)  Your child can name their fairy and can register his or her fairy on the Fairy website (

Creating a Fairy Garden, Fairy Door, Kid Activity, Play Therapy
Fairy Door from the Irish Fairy Door Company

When your chosen box arrives you mount the door somewhere in your home or outside.  We chose a shelf in my daughter’s closet for the door to be mounted.  I mounted it with Velcro Command Picture Strips. Once your door is mounted the perfect fairy for your child moves into it’s fairy home, signs the lease agreement and takes the key.

What do they write about?  D tells her fairy the special things that happen in her life, and any troubles that she is going through, and Tulip gives her advice.  I give her advice too, but somehow she thinks Tulip is wiser  😉 .  Like the time D fell off her horse during her riding lesson and was afraid to go back and try again.  Tulip shared with her the time she fell off her dragonfly during her flying lessons and what helped her (D got back on the horse to make Tulip proud, and she is still taking lessons.) D’s friends have left notes to Tulip when they are over here for a playdate, and keep this between us, but the older bro has even written to Tulip too. Of course, he asked for money for something I had no idea he wanted (so I knew what to add to his Christmas list).  Tulip wrote him a nice note back, but informed him that fairies were generally broke (except for the tooth fairy.  That fairy is loaded.) D asks questions about fairy life, and Tulip shares some of her adventures. Sometimes they just leave pictures.  D might surprise Tulip with a new small animal for her yard.  Tulip sometimes leaves tiny notes in drawers for D to find.

D tells me such detailed and imaginative stories about Fairy Land.  She has created a whole world in her imagination around Tulip and her fairy friends (maybe this is how J.K. Rowling started?) She also takes these stories to school with her and she and her friends have amazing recess adventures inspired by Fairy Land.   

This year D wanted to surprise Tulip with a new front yard for Christmas.  I told her she would have to find most of the materials around the house or outside. D came up with a rough design and plan for her yard, and went to work finding things to make it happen.  D found some cardboard, and some rocks for a table and some sticks.  I gave her a $5 budget (little budget planning lesson) to use at the craft store to buy some other things for Tulips yard, and she used that to purchase some green pompoms for the tree, a birds nest, and a miniature broom because it is super important to keep your room yard clean.  We had some twine/string from the dollar store, paints, blue rocks, and hot glue already at home.  We had the best time searching for things in the craft store and outside to use for the garden.

Child Craft Activity, Child, DIY Fairy Garden, Play Therapy

We worked on it for a couple of weekends.   First we cut the cardboard to fit Tulip's shelf.  We glued the pompoms to a stick, and we glued two empty bobbins to the cardboard to hold the tree in place. The clothes line was made from two sticks and our dollar store twine.  Scrapbook paper made the welcome mat.  We used some blue rocks for the water and A LOT of hot glue.  That is probably the only thing I would do differently.  The rocks can become loose and fall off, but since the garden doesn't get moved around, I think it will be okay.  I might go with scrapbook paper or paint if I had to do it over again.  The seashell fountain is made from shells gathered from our annual beach trip. Lucky Tulip, got some surprise accessories from the Fairy Door Company to make her yard complete.  It's amazing how Santa knows what you need.  Tulip was super psyched about how well everything turned out, and so was D and I.

This project cost under $10 to make (leaving out the fairy door accessories).  The door was around $18-20.  So, for under $30 I get an adventure spanning two years and still going strong that includes writing letters back and forth to my daughter, seeing her imagination blossom, watching her share the magic with her friends, and creating memories that we will both have for a lifetime,.  That my friends is priceless.  

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Easy, Printable, Customizable, DIY Class Valentines

Do It Yourself, Easy DIY Valentines, Customizable, Printable

I am not particularly crafty.  I don't own cutesy punches, have a collection of paints or ribbons, and I have no idea what to do with all this beautiful washi tape I see everywhere.  However, this is the year!  This is the year I go from a Pinterest Collector to a Pinterest Do-er!  In January, I pulled out some Pins from the thousands I have accumulated determined to do at least a few of them this year.  Here is the thing.  I needs to be super simple and it needs to still look cute.  As much as I admire those up cyclers out there for their creativity, sometimes it still looks, well......let's just say, maybe it shouldn't have been saved from the recycle bin.  Maybe it was just that milk jug's time to go.

My first adventure into the DIY world is Valentine's cards for my kids' class this year.  I cannot believe I haven't done this before.  It was that simple.  See below for the step by step.

Materials needed:

  • Cardstock (I used 65# in White)
  • Washi Tape
  • Candy (optional)
Step 1.  Open Pages (or Word for non Mac users).

Step 2. Google Free ClipArt.  I chose Star Wars for my Star Wars crazy son, and a super cute Owl for my daughter.  I saved them to my photos to upload in Pages.

Step 3.  Come up with some cute little sayings for your cards.  Hint: Again, troll the internet for ideas if you are experiencing writers block.

Step 4. Insert your saved image in your open document.

Step 5. Create a text box and write your cute saying in different fonts and colors in the text box.

Step 6 Imagine two columns on your paper.  Move the art and the text box into the upper left corner of the page to make the first card.

I could fit two across, and 4 down (8 per page).

Do It Yourself, Easy DIY Valentines, Customizable, Printable

Step 8.  Print and using a picture cutter or paper cutter, cut apart your Valentine's.  If you do not have a picture cutter (although I recommend it, and it is great for cutting school photos).  Then using a ruler, lightly draw cutting lines and use scissors.
Esy DIY, Do It Yourself, Star Wars, Classroom Valentines

Step 9.  Using washi tape, tape your candy to the back.  We used lollipops and pixie sticks, but any wrapped candy would do.  I suggested pencils, but the 9 year old boy informed me that "no one wants a pencil".  So cavities it is....

Easy DIY, Do It Yourself, Star Wars, Classroom Valentines

What I didn't do:   I didn't stress over making them all the same size.  I just moved them enough to allow me to cut down the middle and in between each one.  You could probably create a table and insert your art into there, but for me that would violate rule number 1: It has to be easy.
Easy DIY, Do It Yourself, Classroom Valentines for Girls

The whole project took 30-45 minutes.  Honestly, it probably took more time to put this post together.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Fast 15 Minute Meals for Busy Nights

We all have those days when the kids have something after school, and you are pressed to get dinner on the table fast (before I become hangry mommy).   Then there are days when I just don’t feel like cooking, but I don’t want fast food or another pizza.  I still want a healthy dinner (my skinny jeans need me to have a healthy dinner), so I have been trying to come up with some fast, reasonably healthy dinners done in 15 minutes for at least one day during the week.  

This week’s dinner, Pasta with Tuna and Lemon Caper sauce, was not only fast, but someone who shall remain nameless put off going to the grocery store (okay, it was me), so it uses some pantry staples and leftover veggies.  It can easily be tailored to what you have on hand. And miracle, even the kids ate it with minimal complaining (my kids are a little weird though and love capers).  So here it is…..

Easy 15 Minute Meals, Meal Planning for Busy Nights, Uses what is in your pantry

While your water is boiling for your pasta, you will want to get your ingredients ready.  I say this because I always think I can chop, open cans, drain, etc., fast enough while my onions are cooking, but I always burn the garlic.  Burned garlic is bitter garlic, so learn from me, and get your stuff ready or at least mostly ready while the water is boiling.  

My ingredients:

  • Bow tie pasta (any pasta will work)
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic (or as much or as little as you like)
  • Pinch or two of salt
  • Olive oil
  • Butter
  • 2 cans of tuna (packed in water or in oil)
  • Capers (or chopped olives)
  • Veggies (green beans, broccoli, spinach, peas, asparagus, cherry tomatoes)
  • Juice of one Lemon, (your can sub white wine about 1/4 cup, although I usually save my to have with dinner) - If you are feeling especially ambitious add some lemon zest, yum!)
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Red Pepper flakes (Optional)

Boil water for you pasta.  I used bow-tie pasta (the high protein one), but you can use anything you have.  While your water is coming to a boil, chop up half an onion, and a couple cloves of garlic (or however much you like - I used about a tablespoon), and any vegetables you want to add. I used green beans that I had left over.  If you are using veggies like green beans or broccoli, that require a bit more cooking time, throw them right in the boiling water with your pasta for the last 4 to 5 minutes of cooking time.  You will also want to get your tuna cans open.  I used two small cans packed in water, because that is what was in the pantry, but it does taste a little better with tuna packed in oil.  If you use packed in water, I don’t drain the tuna, I just add water and tuna in, but I do drain for tuna packed in oil because that gets a little too oily for my taste.  You could also forgo the butter and olive oil and use the oil from the tuna can.

Once the water comes to a boil, add your pasta and cook according to package directions.  We used 1/2 box of pasta because my kids don’t eat that much (yet).  During the last 4 or 5 minutes of cooking, I threw my green beans (or broccoli) into the boiling water to cook with the pasta.

While the pasta cooks, heat about a teaspoon or two of olive oil and a tablespoon of butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat (the olive oil keeps the butter from burning). 

Add the chopped onion and a pinch of salt and sauté for about 2 minutes or until the onion begins to look a little translucent.  If you are adding quicker cooking veggies like, red pepper, asparagus, kale*, spinach* or frozen peas, cherry tomatoes, do it now and sauté for about 2 more minutes, then add the garlic.  After about another minute, add the tuna and capers.
*If you are using baby spinach or kale add it when you add the drained pasta and lemon juice.

Reserve about a 1/2 cup of the pasta water and drain the rest.  Add your pasta, lemon juice/white wine, to the sauté pan, and baby kale/spinach and gently toss.  If there is too much liquid for you then let some cook off a minute or two.  I also taste here and add salt according to my taste.  Capers and olives are sometimes enough salt for some, although not for me, so I usually add some to my onions and veggies while they are sautéing.  

Grate some parmesan cheese on top of each plate, and some red pepper flakes for my husband and I, and you are done.   

If you are vegetarian or are out of tuna - you could substitute a can of cannellini (white navy) beans for the tuna.