Good morning!

Good morning!

Sitting here enjoying a few quiet minutes before getting started on the day.

Praying each of you has a day in which you find joy in the small things and an unexpected blessing or two along the way. Share a smile with someone. It might make their day.

Working on our first Weekly Challenge of 2016. It involves your pantry/food storage “system.” So take a look at the way you store your food and essentials. Really look at it. Start pondering on how well (or not!) your system is working for you. Next week we’re going to make it fabulous.

It won’t cost a lot of money, but it will – hopefully – save you time and energy when you’re in the kitchen.

I’m working on mine this week. I’m taking embarrassing “before” pics. I don’t know how the pantry gets destroyed so quickly. (Well, I do, but I don’t want to name names.)

So enjoy your week. When you find yourself with 15 minutes or so to spare, clear out your “junk drawer.” And if something in there us really junk, throw it out. Yes, out. I’m going to handle that this morning.

Y’all have a blessed day!

Lynne

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The Joy (Ha!) of Budgeting

So…a new year starts on Saturday and with that, a new budget. Budgeting is so much fun. (Insert eye roll here.) So that’s what I’ve been working on today. Fun times, fun times.
 
I love when I look at the budget and I’ve stuck to it. When I look at it and overspent on groceries (usually the place where I overspend), not so much.
 
But it is what it is. And I’m working diligently – with the aid of coffee – to get the new one ready by January’s first paycheck. Some adjustments had to be made in our utilities since our son moved back home (imagine that!) but today I cancelled a couple of magazine subscriptions because I wasn’t a big fan of those particular ones anyway; cancelled Sirius XM radio; and we’d already done a bill combination thing with our satellite and cell phone service that saved us some money. (Supposedly. Hubby did that and I haven’t seen the bill to prove it yet, so we’ll see. Next week, in fact.)
 
In light of the rising cost of eating well, I think I’ll work harder on my garden this year. Like, really hard. Don’t tell Hubby, but the whole back yard might turn into a garden. And there are enough flower beds back there that can be moved so we can re-landscape the front yard without buying plants.
 
We had been doing so good since we took Dave Ramsey’s FPU last year, but the last couple of months, I’ll admit that we’ve been lax. Remiss. Budget? What’s that? And now it’s time to buckle down.
 
We’ve got a 25th wedding anniversary coming up in July. I think a really nice trip is in order. So getting the finances back in order is the first step.
 
Do you do a budget? Do you find anything (forms, websites, etc.) that work especially well? Do you have ideas for cutting costs and reducing bills? Please share with the rest of us!
 
Back to the calculator I go!
 
Lynne 🙂

Menu Planning in the Works

Good afternoon, all!

I’m starting with some menu planning for the coming week and the month of January. Going to use these themes for January. We’ll see how it goes and change it up in February if we have to. (Don’t tell Hubby, but he is going to join me in eating healthier.)

*Meatless Mondays

*Tex-Mex Tuesdays

*”What’s Up?” or “What’s New?” Wednesdays (undecided on name, but it will be new recipes or it might be family member’s choice)

*Throwback Thursdays (leftover buffet night)

*Family Friday (pizza or pasta)

*Soup and/or Sandwich Saturdays

*Slow Cooker Sundays

I have been scouring the internet for new recipes and downloading them to Plan to Eat which is what I use (and love!) for meal planning and am ready to get started. (This is not a usual Sunday and we have leftovers from the THIRD Christmas dinner, so we will actually be having leftovers tonight. Which is fine by me!)

We sometimes have other leftover nights if the fridge is full, but we definitely do Thursdays. Sometimes we have soup twice in one week. (I love soup!) Sometimes I’m really just not in the mood to cook and I order pizza. True confession right there.

What do you think? Do any of you do themed nights? I think it just makes it simpler when you’re meal planning. I know that the last couple of weeks with all the stuff that we’ve had going on that I’ve not been meal planning and man, oh man, can I feel it! And I don’t like it.

Meal planning is one of the easiest ways to simplify your weekdays, in my humble opinion. (That and learning to say the word “no.”)

Let’s give it a try together. I’ll post my week’s menu here as soon as I’m done.

Y’all have a blessed day!

LynneMenu

Introducing: The Schedule

schedule

noun
1. a plan of procedure, usually written, for a proposed objective,especially with reference to the sequence of and time allotted for each item or operation necessary to its completion;
2. a series of things to be done or of events to occur at or during particular time or period;
3. a timetable.
Synonyms: agenda, itinerary, lineup, list, docket, order of business
Antonym: DISORGANIZATION (Preach!!!)
I know some people don’t like the idea of having a schedule.
  • It’s too constricting.
  • It leaves me no freedom.
  • I like to be spontaneous.
  • I’d rather just fly by the seat of my pants.
WHY? A schedule is the opposite of constricting – at least for me. A schedule gives me a sense of peace. Please note that the schedule is written on a piece of paper. It has not been carved in stone. Please also note that the schedule is not full. There are empty spots. Free spots. Room for spontaneity. Room for fun. Room for rest. Room for a nap!! 🙂
And though the schedule does have times on it, most of them are pretty flexible. Unless it is a set appointment (like with the trainer at the gym at 8:30 on Wednesday mornings), most things can be moved around. I think of the schedule as more of a guideline…a general idea of how the days should flow if I want to get things done and not feel overwhelmed. It can also serve as a wake up call. If there are no empty spaces at all, busyness has taken hold of you and you have lost your margin…your free space is gone.
Now, I have two adult children and work part-time outside the home. When I worked full-time, the schedule looked a lot different. When I homeschooled those two now-adult children, it looked different. Everyone’s schedule will look different from yours. And that’s okay. It’s more than okay.
And some days, nothing on the schedule happens like it should. Nothing. That’s also okay. Probably very stressful, but okay. But if you generally keep a schedule and stick to it most days, one day will not throw you into a downward spiral toward total disarray and disorganization. You just get up the next morning and start over.
See that antonym for schedule at the top there? Disorganization. Know what the synonyms for disorganization are? Chaos. Confusion. Disarray. Disorder. Disruption. And my personal favorite: unholy mess. Who wants THAT? Not me!
I have my schedule. I have a chore chart. I use the Daily Docket which is a “to do” list. I try not to do chores on Saturday because my main work day is Sunday and I like to rest up. I usually don’t do laundry on Saturdays. Unless it was raining on Friday and is sunny on Saturday and I can hang my sheets outside.:) Some weeks things don’t go as planned and I spend the whole day Saturday doing laundry and other chores. Then I’m tired. And grumpy. And I drink excessive amounts of coffee. (Excessive even for me!)
If you work full-time, Saturday may be your laundry day. But if you can find a way to do it during the week, do. When I worked full-time and had two under the age of three and a half, I threw a load in before I went to bed at night, then put the load in the dryer when I got up and let them dry while we got ready for the day. Then I folded them after dinner. You have to do what works for you.
Every couple of months, I’ll spend part of a Saturday deep cleaning a particular room. Vacuuming blinds. Wiping down window sills and baseboards. Washing curtains. The things you don’t get to every week and really don’t need to. Occasionally, when Hubby works day shift on the weekend, I’ll have one day of a great cleaning frenzy. He usually comes home to rearranged furniture on those days. 🙂
The point is that everyone needs some sort of “outline” of their days. Some people account for every single minute. Some people just need a list that has five things that just need to get done that day, not in any particular order or timeframe. What works for you is what’s right for you.
When I started working on this new schedule a few weeks ago, I didn’t realize how much I’d missed having one. I had gotten out of the habit and I felt out of control. I was tired. I was grumpy. I was drinking excessive amounts of coffee. Then I sat down and started looking at this…at what matters to me and what I need to get done. I can’t tell you how many schedules I wrote and tossed. Lots. I really, really had to think hard about it. And these pictures show what I ended up with.
The schedule. http://highland.hitcho.com.au/schedule.pdf
IMG_3490-0
The chore chart. http://highland.hitcho.com.au/householdchores.pdf
 Chore Chart pic
The Daily Docket. http://theartofsimple.net/downloads02/
 Daily Docket pic
So here’s my challenge to you. I’ve given you the links to the schedule, the chore chart, and the Daily Docket that I use. You can Google or go on Pinterest and find many (many, many, many) more options. Find one you like. Take some time to think about it. Write down a list of your priorities, absolute must dos (like go to work!), and things you’d like to do. Make several copies of it or write in pencil.  Then make yourself a schedule. You can make your kids a schedule.
When you’ve gotten one on paper, share it with us in the comments. Or you can join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Simplify2013?fref=ts. You should join us there anyway. 🙂
I look forward to seeing what you come up with!
Blessings,
Lynne
(whose schedule indicates that it’s about bedtime!)

Meal Plan for the Week

A few days ago, I posted a picture of the schedule that I have been working on for myself. I’ll share more about that tomorrow and include a challenge for you – yay! (Did you know that “schedule” is NOT a four-letter word? I think many people feel that way about one. But more on that tomorrow!)

So today – according to my new schedule – is menu planning day. I set aside an hour for that, but it took a little less than that to plan and prepare a grocery list. I took a quick “inventory” of my pantry and freezer before I made this meal plan and list. I mean, why spend money if you don’t have to, right?

Thursday is payday and that’s when I get my grocery money for the week. I budget $100 – $125, depending on whether I need money for the Fresh Market’s $2.99 Tuesday meat sale that week. My plan is to do my grocery shopping early on Friday morning right after my morning walk. (I walk at 6:30 am; you get to see amazing sunrises if you do that!) This is a test to see if that’s a better time to shop. Friday afternoon…definitely NOT! If Friday mornings aren’t it either, then I’ll try another day.

Anyway, here’s what’s on the dinner menu for Thursday – Wednesday.

*Thursday – Leftovers (always – Mama needs a night off!)

*Friday – Slow Cooker Bacon Ranch Chicken, Pasta, Broccoli or Cabbage (or both!)

*Saturday – Taco Soup, Tortilla Chips, CHEESE (and a dollop of sour cream for me!)

*Sunday – Baked Spaghetti, Corn on the Cob, Bread/Rolls (Since Sunday is a work day for me, I’ll prep the baked spaghetti on Saturday so it will just need to be popped in the oven and cooked on Sunday)

*Monday – Bacon Cheddar Cauliflower Soup, Cornbread Muffins

*Tuesday – “Alice Springs Chicken” (like at Outback), Mashed Potatoes (w/ garlic & herb butter), Peas or Green Beans

*Wednesday – Slow Cooker Smothered Pork Chops, Rice, Roasted Veggies (cauliflower, carrots, butternut squash)

We eat leftovers or sandwiches for lunches. Thursday nights are basically for cleaning out the fridge. If there are leftovers after leftover night, I will usually freeze them in individual serving sizes for something quick for lunch or when the plan doesn’t work out. (By the way, it doesn’t always work out.)

Breakfasts are pretty much an “on your own” kind of deal around here. If I’m feeling particularly kind, I’ll make breakfast on Saturday. I have been making breakfast muffins for the week that can be microwaved or put in the toaster oven and heated. Hubby leaves for work at 4:30 in the morning. I love him, but I’m not likely to get up and fix him breakfast. Sorry. He’s not a big breakfast eater, anyway, so I hope his feelings aren’t hurt. smile emoticon

I use an online meal planner, but really all you need to do is sit down with a couple of cookbooks or cooking magazines (not your entire collection), your calendar (so you can see what days are your busiest), and a piece of paper. Oh, and a pen or pencil!
Be sure to include at least one night for leftovers if your family will eat them. You can see that I use my Crock-Pot Slow Cooker as often as possible! Best kitchen appliance ever. Ever, I say! On those busiest of days, it’s awfully nice to walk into a great smelling house with dinner simmering away.

crock pots

If you’ve never meal planned before or if you’re not used to cooking at home, plan 4-5 simple meals, a leftover night, and a night to eat out/carry out. Start with what you feel you can REALLY accomplish and go from there. Don’t plan seven elaborate meals and then feel disappointed in yourself and give up. Please. Pretty please.

Cooking from scratch really isn’t hard…and it’s easier on the pocket book than eating out. And easier on the body that processed, pre-made foods. (Though there are days when that’s just what happens and it’s okay.) Having a couple of hours on Saturday or Sunday afternoon to do a little prepping (chopping veggies, mixing marinades, etc.) also helps reduce stress during the week.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask! I’d love to help you with your meal planning!

Blessings,
Lynne

Back to School Challenge: Taking Control of Your Family Calendar

Happy Tuesday!

Well, Boy Child has officially flown back into the nest. My sweet Mama was kind enough to remind me that I and two of my brothers did the same. She also gave me some very sage advice: Enjoy them while you have them home. Enjoy them. While they’re home. Sigh. So that got me thinking that we need to get back into the habit of having a family dinner night. Just one night a week where we all sit down at the table at the SAME TIME and enjoy a meal.

So while both of my children are adults, we still occupy the same house and have to intentionally make time for that. It’s hard because we all work – plus Boy Child is going back to school – but I’m going to try. And while we are the typical “Back to School” family with little kiddos, a lot of this post still applies. I originally wrote about this back in August, 2013, but it bears repeating. 🙂

Some of you have kids who have already started back to school. If not, it’s just around the corner. If you’re not affected by the school calendar, you can call this your end of summer challenge. 🙂 I’m going to address something that I see as a real problem with so many people today: busyness. So often, when I ask someone how they are, they respond with, “Busy.” Or tired. Or stressed. They wish they had time to just sit and relax for a few minutes each day. They wish they had time to make dinner at home. They wish they had one night a week that they didn’t have some activity or another to get to.

Guess what? YOU are the genie in charge of your calendar (and, as a result, your kids’ calendars as well, at least to some extent), so you can grant your own wish. So consider what you put on there very, very carefully. When it starts looking a little crowded, remember that it’s okay to say “no.” To activities. To obligations. Yes, even to your kids.  If you’re going to make a schedule and stick to it – not a bad idea at all – then schedule in some down time every day and aim for at least one weeknight free from outside obligations. It is good for you to have some down time. It’s good for your kids. It’s just good for your spouse. It’s good for your marriage. It’s NEEDED for your sanity.

So.. my challenge to you this week is this: Think before you act when it comes to your calendar and your schedule. First, practice saying “no.” It doesn’t come easy to a lot of us. But is really not a bad word. Doesn’t even have four letters. 🙂 Then, when you (or your kids or family) are offered  an opportunity – whether it’s sports, the PTA, a church activity, committees, clubs, etc. – tell the person who asks you that you’ll get back to them. Tell them that you have to check your calendar and discuss it with your spouse.

Do NOT immediately say “yes.” You may say “yes” eventually, but don’t say it on the spur of the moment before THINKING and LOOKING AT YOUR CALENDAR. Take some time to seriously consider what saying “yes” will mean to you. Is it one hour per week for real? Or is it going to turn into several hours per week and even on the weekend? If, after looking at your calendar and discussing it with those who will be affected (your family), make a conscious and thoughtful decision. If it’s more than you want to take on, just say “no.” Just. Say. No. The world will not end. The earth will not tilt off its axis. Someone else will do the job. Really.

If it’s something that will enrich your life in some way or something that you really want to do, then by all means, say “yes.” Just remember: Sometimes you have to say “no” to good things so that you can say “yes” to the best things. If you say “yes” to everyone and everything, eventually something you really, really feel passionate about and want to do will come along and you won’t have time for it. How sad is that?

This is something that I have struggled with in the past. Sometimes I still do. But I have gotten better at saying “no” to people and things. Sometimes there are things I’d like to do but I know that I don’t want to or can’t give it the time it will actually require. It’s better to give fewer things your best shot than to stretch yourself too thin and not be able to give your best to anything. So determine what’s best for you and say no to things that are just “good” or that will just be draining your time and energy.

Get out those calendars.  Take a good hard look at them. Don’t add anything that you really don’t want to do or that is going to be a source of stress and anxiety. With your family, choose a day that will be free of extracurricular activities. (The middle of the week is a good one for that if you can swing it, but it might be Friday or Saturday). Next, add things that MUST be done. I personally think that a great rule of thumb is to limit your children’s extracurricular activities to one – maybe two – in a season/time period, but that’s just me. I find it tiring just to hear about friends’ running their kids somewhere every day of the week. I can’t imagine actually doing it! Be selective. Be careful. Be honest – with yourself and others. Don’t take on more than you can handle. Just don’t.

“A full calendar does not equal a full life.”

Y’all have a great week! And remember: It really, really is okay to say “no.” Really.

Blessings,

Lynne

Planning, Laundry, Menus

Happy Friday!
We are going to do some challenges next week – one small one each day. Yay!

For today (and/or tomorrow, wash everyone’s sheets and give everyone in your family some nice fresh sheets to fall asleep on tonight. (Plus, we’re getting this one out of the way before next week.)

If you can hang them on the clothesline, all the better. One of my favorite smells is clothesline-fresh sheets. Ahh!

Also, if you aren’t a meal planner, plan three easy meals for dinners next week. Here’s what’s on my plan:

Monday: Slow Cooker Chicken Marsala, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans

Tuesday: Tacos, Refried Beans, Mexican Rice

Wednesday: Slow Cooker French Dip Sandwiches, Steak Fries

Thursday: Leftovers

Friday: Baked Potato and Salad “Bars”

Saturday: BBQ Sandwiches, Baked Beans, Roasted Veggies

I’ll post links to these recipes in the comments when I get home to my computer. (I’m on the road right now. Not driving!)

Y’all have a great weekend! Get those sheets washed! 🙂

Lynne 

Good morning!

Good morning, friends!

Hope you have a great Monday and a blessed week! 

Decluttering and getting ready for a yard sale are on my agenda this week. What are your plans?

Lynne