Annual Kitchen Organization Challenge, Part 1

Hi, all!

I’m back and ready to get started on kitchen organization and decluttering. Especially the decluttering part. I have reached a point in life where I just want less stuff to take care of. It’s time for a reality check as to what I use and don’t use in my kitchen. I love my kitchen gadgets and when I buy stuff, it’s usually for the kitchen.

As I was looking back over previous blog posts – and getting notifications from Facebook about my memories – I realized that the beginning of the year always seems to start with reorganizing and decluttering the kitchen. So I guess I start out strong and then gather things in over the course of the year and need to declutter and organize again. I’m going to (try!) to implement this rule for myself: If you bring something new in, something old has to go out. (That scared me just typing out those words. For real!)

So…let’s get started on kitchen organization. Today is easy – no physical labor required. 🙂 What I want you to do today (or tonight) is to simply walk into your kitchen and look around. That took me approximately 4.8379 seconds as I have a small kitchen. But this was a very important step. I felt my kitchen wasn’t functioning as well as it could be…that things where’re where I needed them to be. So I stood there sipping a cup of coffee, notebook on the counter, and looked around. I thought about dinner prep and what would make that more efficient. I thought about what was near the stove and what was in the pantry.

I asked myself the following questions:

  • Do I have a designated prep space?
  • Are my pots and pans and cooking utensils near the stove?
  • Are like items in the same location (baking products, coffee stuff, etc.)?
  • Is the organization in my kitchen meeting my needs?
  • Is there ANYTHING that could be moved from the counter top to another location. (Cluttered counters are getting on my nerves!)

So, I just want to take a few minutes to look around your kitchen and determine whether or not it’s working for you. If it is, then you can just sit back and relax this week. 🙂 If not, start thinking about what you can do to make it more functional. Functionality is key in kitchen organization. Key, I tell you. The fewer steps you have to take when prepping dinner (or any other meal) saves you time, right? And saving time is good. Very good.

I spent time over the last week reorganizing my kitchen cabinets and pantry. I got some new stuff for Christmas that I needed to make room for. So I got rid of some stuff instead of overcrowding the cabinets. I’m still not satisfied, so I’ll be doing this challenge along with you this week. So take a good hard look at your kitchen and see where you might want to start making changes. 🙂 Write it down. Make a list. You have to have a plan!

I’m taking my pen, notebook, and coffee and heading to the kitchen now.

Have a blessed Monday!

Lynne

Recipes from Last Week’s Meal Plan

Slow Cooker French Dip Sandwiches

The men in my family love these. I don’t remember where I got the recipe, but I’m glad I saved it!

3-4 pounds lean beef roast
1⁄2 cup soy sauce
1 32 carton low-sodium beef broth
4 whole peppercorns
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 bay leaf

 

Directions

Remove and discard all visible fat from roast and place in slow cooker. Combine all other ingredients and pour over roast. Add water to almost cover roast. Cover and cook on low heat for 8-10 hours or until meat is very tender. (I usually sprinkle the roast with some meat tenderizer.)

Remove bay leaf. Remove meat and shred. Serve on fresh hoagie rolls or French bread with sliced cheese (Havarti or Swiss). Use cooking juices as “au jus” for dipping, if desired. Yields 12 servings.

Crash Hot Potatoes

My, oh my, I love these things! LOVE.

Source: www.stacymakescents.com

Ingredients

12 whole new potatoes or other small potatoes (I do way more than 12…like a 3-pound bag of little red potatoes)
Olive oil
Kosher salt
Fresh pepper

Directions

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add in as many potatoes as you wish to make and cook them until they are fork-tender.

On a sheet pan, generously drizzle olive oil. Place tender potatoes on the cookie sheet leaving plenty of room between each potato.

With a potato masher, gently press down each potato until it slightly mashes, rotate the potato masher 90 degrees and mash again. Brush the tops of each crushed potato generously with more olive oil.

Sprinkle potatoes with kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper and fresh chopped rosemary (or chives or thyme or whatever herb you have available.)

*I use Mrs. Dash garlic and herb mix.

Bake in a 450 degree oven for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.

 

Slow Cooker Bacon Ranch Chicken

Mmmmm…..

Source: www.bettycrocker.com
Total Time: 6 hr 10 min

 

Ingredients

1 lb chicken breasts
6 slices bacon cooked and diced
3 cloves garlic finely chopped
1 package (1 oz) ranch dressing and seasoning mix (or make your own)
1 can (10.75 oz) condensed cream of chicken soup (or make your own)
1 cup sour cream
1⁄2 teaspoon pepper
1⁄2 cup water
8 oz spaghetti or other pasta, cooked according to package directions

Directions

1. Spray 4-quart slow cooker with cooking spray; place chicken breasts in cooker.

2. In medium bowl, mix remaining ingredients except spaghetti. Pour over top of chicken.

3. Cover; cook on Low heat setting 6 hours or on High heat setting 3 to 4 hours.

4. When about 15 minutes are left, cook and drain spaghetti as directed on package.

5. Just before serving, shred chicken with 2 forks, and toss creamy chicken mixture with cooked spaghetti. (I serve over the pasta rather than mixing it in, but that’s just preference.)

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

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 🙂

Laundry Challenge…yes, again

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Fresh and FREE!

If you have been following this blog for a while, you may recognize much that is in this post. I tweaked it a little, but mostly I just left it alone. Why reinvent the wheel, right? Anyway, laundry is one of those things that has a way of overwhelming lots of people.

So we’re just going to jump right in BEFORE THE NEW YEAR and start paving the way to an organized, well-run household. Having talked to many women over the past few years about what household chore most often overwhelms them, I have learned that laundry is a problem for everybody. Like…everybody. For real. So let’s start with the big problem and get it out of the way right now.

In fact, there are people whose laundry pile could be measured and it would be taller than they are. They could get lost in the laundry pile and not be found for days. Did you know that there are people who don’t do their laundry for weeks at a time??? That spend entire weekends “catching up” with the laundry monster and not enjoying their days off? Well, I am here to help you not only catch up with him (the laundry monster has to be male, after all), but to kick his rear end to the curb. You will not miss him! At all. And, please, for your sanity and the safety of those around you, do NOT let him back in!

Now, I have had a laundry schedule for many years. When I was working full-time and then homeschooling fuller-time, I did one type (not necessarily one load) of laundry each day. It was whites  on Mondays; towels  and underwear on Tuesdays; darks (jeans, t-shirts, sweats) on Wednesday, delicates (generally, things that don’t go in the dryer) on Thursday, and sheets on Friday. I also usually do another load dark clothes sometime during the week because my husband and both kids have work clothes that their coworkers probably appreciate being washed periodically. Just saying that their work clothes tend to be a little stinky.  I tried doing laundry only twice a week, but it just doesn’t do it for me. I’d rather do my one type a day thing. It is just what works best for me.

NOTE: I do everyone’s laundry in my house. My kids are certainly old enough to do theirs and they do know how. If not, there are instructions printed and laminated and taped on top of the washer. In case I am unable to fulfill my task as Laundry Goddess, someone else can do it. I don’t do all the laundry because I’m oh so nice, but because I don’t want to run the washer and dryer for small loads if everyone does their own. I also use a clothesline instead of dryer whenever weather permits. I know people who’d rather have their kids do their own laundry and that is perfectly fine. Just stick to a schedule of some sort. (NOTE: If I do not “receive” your laundry in time for it to go in the wash with mine, you on your own. Suck it up, Buttercup, and do it yourself.) See…not all that nice about it. 🙂

Last January, I spent a week NOT doing laundry –  I “took one for the team,” so to speak. Then on a  Saturday, I dumped my hamper into the middle of my bedroom floor. I had both my kids dump their hampers onto the pile. Oh. My. Goodness. The pile was HUGE! And there are only four of us in this house. I can’t imagine if there were more. It overwhelmed me and I was only doing it for the experiment. So that I could help you. You’re welcome. :)

So. I looked at this laundry pile. I took pictures of it. I stood in awe (and fear) of it. I came face to face with the Laundry Monster – and it wasn’t pretty.  I said, “Oh, no. I don’t think so. You’re going down!” But it was completely overwhelming. I can only imagine how you feel if you face that every single Saturday. Or any other day.

If this is you…if the Laundry Monster lives in your house…please serve him his eviction notice. He can (and should) be out by this coming Saturday. If you are not on a schedule for your laundry and there is a huge pile of it just waiting on you, let me show you how to show him the door. (If you are on a laundry schedule, God bless you and keep up the good work!)

There are several ways to conquer your laundry pile, but the first step for any of them is to put all your laundry in one place…one pile. One big giant – possibly stinky – pile. Gather the laundry from wherever it may be in your house and bring it all together in one place. Everyone throw it all on there. Then look at it. How do you feel? Overwhelmed? Frustrated? Anxious? Don’t be. Like everything else we’ll do in the coming weeks, we’ll take it one step at a time. I know you’ll see it and want to get the whole thing out of the way. Today. But then you’ll be so tired that you won’t be good for anything else. The key here is to establish a workable schedule and then stick to it. If not, the Laundry Monster will move back in when you aren’t looking. He’s very, very sneaky. And quick!

Here’s what I want you to do. Trust me on this one. It really will work.

Monday: Put all your laundry in the pile in a place where it can hang out for the week. Take a picture of it. We will not judge. We’ll just applaud your awesomeness at the end of the week when there is no pile. Then sort the laundry into smaller piles – however your mama taught you to sort. We all have things we wash together and things we don’t; my sorting may not be the same as yours. Then pick a pile, any pile. Start with the smallest pile so you can get through today and feel a sense of accomplishment. (Unless there’s a pile you NEED. Then do that pile.)  Take that pile, walk to the washer and get to washing. You may have more than one load from your pile but only wash one pile per day. Yes, that’s right. One pile per day. Ignore the other piles. Step around them if you must. You are going to wash, dry, fold and put away one pile today. That’s why I suggested the smallest one.

Tuesday – Friday (or Saturday) – Wash, dry, fold and put away another pile. One pile per day. You may want to document your diminishing piles with photos. And share them with us at the end of the week. Please. I, for one,  love before and after pictures. Love.

ANOTHER NOTE: If you are not home during the day, you can start a load of laundry before you leave for the day and finish it after you return (don’t do this if there are things that will fade on to other things), or you can run the washer at night and throw the load in the dryer (or on the line) first thing in the morning and let it dry while you are getting ready to head out. Do NOT leave your dryer going if no one is going to be home. The goal is to completely finish one pile per day. Any “new’ dirty laundry goes to the hamper if you’ve already washed the pile it would go in. (On? Whatever.)

When the last pile is gone, take a picture of the spot where it all started. Wow! Don’t you feel a great sense of accomplishment? Do you feel the urge to sing the “Hallelujah Chorus”? Go right ahead. I’ll be happy to sing along with you.

The other thing you must do it to take take pen and paper in hand. On the top of the paper write “Laundry Schedule.” Write down what type/load of laundry you are going to do on each day. Post it where you can see it. (You can even get all fancy and type up a laundry schedule.) Then – and here’s the kicker – do what it says. It will do you no good if you don’t stick with it. But if you do, you will not have a giant pile of laundry waiting for you on Saturday mornings. So you can sleep in without feeling guilty! Post your “before” picture from this week beside it. That should keep you motivated! You don’t want to go there again.

At our house, there is a laundry hamper in each bedroom. Also, I have a small laundry basket for everyone in the house. When the kids were younger, when the  laundry was done and folded, I handed each family member his or her basket and had them put their laundry away. Then they could put whatever is needed for the next day’s laundry in the basket and return it to the laundry room (or laundry closet, if you’re like me). This worked well then.

Now, my children are 24 and nearly 22 (I understand that they’ll never leave if I continue feeding them, but I haven’t had the heart to stop yet)…they don’t always return the baskets that the clean clothes were in. (I don’t even know where they are.) I now text them what I need (whites, darks, towels, etc.) and they bring them down. If they don’t – and my son is prone to NOT doing it – it doesn’t get done by me. Then he does his own laundry. Which isn’t a bad thing for me as he apparently has more clothes than the rest of us combined and wears every single thing he owns every single week. Weird. Folded clothes are left on the stairs or the chair by the stairs to be taken upstairs by the owner of said clothes.

NOTE: I know a lot of you think it’s crazy that I do everyone’s laundry. But I figure, they have a lifetime to do it and I’m doing mine anyway so it’s not a big deal. And maybe one day, they’ll do mine. Bwahaha! Besides, there’s that whole extra water and electricity usage that I just can’t think about.

At the end of the week when your giant pile of laundry is gone, sit down, have a cup of coffee, take a nice hot bath – or both – and relax for a bit. Then – and here’s the kicker – on Monday, you must do the load/type of laundry that you wrote on your laundry schedule. And again on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. You don’t have to do a load every day. If your family is small, you might want to do three days a week. Figure out what works for you and your family, your schedule, etc. But please don’t do it all on Saturday. That’s a day to relax. And really, it takes a few minutes to throw a load in the wash. A couple of minutes to throw it in the dryer. A few minutes longer if you use a clothesline. But it’s not like you have to blow dry each item yourself. It takes longer to fold and put away laundry than anything else, but still less than 30 minutes. And then it’s done. Done. I’d rather spend 30-45 minutes a day on laundry than hours on Saturday (or any other day, for that matter). Wouldn’t you? Plus, it’s not 45 minutes straight. It naturally divides itself up into smaller tasks. Laundry is doing you a favor, folks.

You will be amazed at how great you feel with a schedule or routine. Amazed. I promise. And that’s just the laundry.  Who knew having your laundry under control could feel so good? I did! Ha! 🙂 Now…get to washing and have a great day!

Blessings,

Lynne

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This Week’s Meal Plan & Today’s Recipes

Meal Plans for 12/28 – 1/3/16 (Yikes!)

So today is my prep dat for things I can do make or do ahead of time. I’ll make a quiche and some black beans and rice to have for lunches on days I don’t want to have leftovers. And I’ll run to the store if there are ingredients that I’m missing.

I’ve planned out all three meals because I’m really good at skipping breakfast which is bad. And I often struggle over what to have for lunch.

So here you go.

Monday
Breakfast: Smoothie (berries, spinach, almond milk, protein powder)
Lunch: Quiche
Dinner: Lentil-Quinoa Soup, Cornbread

Tuesday
Breakfast: Egg White Omelet w/ Veggies; toasted Ezekiel bread
Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: Beef & Bean Burritos; Homemade Mexican Rice

Wednesday
Breakfast: Smoothie (banana, Greek yogurt, almond butter, honey, almond milk)
Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: California Chicken Wraps; Roasted Veggies

Thursday
Breakfast: Hard-boiled egg; turkey sausage; toasted Ezekiel bread
Lunch: Black Beans & Rice w/ Sausage
Dinner: Leftovers

Friday 
Breakfast: Smoothie (strawberries, yogurt, almond milk, honey, protein powder)
Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: Homemade Pizza (trying a grain-free crust): 1. chicken & spinach Alfredo, 2. beef & mushroom, 3. cheese & cheese smile emoticon
Treat Night: Homemade Ice Cream Sundaes

Saturday
Breakfast: Bacon & Egg Breakfast Pizza (grain-free crust)
Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: Slow Cooker French Dip Sandwiches; Crash Hot Potatoes

Sunday
Breakfast: Smoothie (banana, yogurt, almond milk, almond butter)
Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: Slow Cooker Bacon Ranch Chicken, Pasta, Green Peas, Roasted Carrots

I will post pics and dinner recipes throughout the week.

Here are the recipes for the two things I’ll make today for lunches. 🙂

Lynne

Easy Quiche

I’ll make this today to have for lunches this week. Hubby will be off so I’ll have to feed him, too. Notice that the word “easy” is in the title (name?) of both recipes. 🙂

Source: allrecipes.com
Prep: 10 min
Cook: 50 min
Total: 1 hr
Servings: 8

Ingredients

2 cups milk
4 eggs
3⁄4 cup biscuit baking mix (I’m trying a grain-free baking mix)
1⁄4 cup butter softened
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 (10 ounce) package chopped frozen broccoli, thawed and drained
1 cup cubed cooked ham
8 ounces shredded Cheddar cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Lightly grease a 10 inch quiche dish.
In a large bowl, beat together milk, eggs, baking mix, butter and parmesan cheese. Batter will be lumpy. Stir in broccoli, ham and Cheddar cheese. Pour into prepared quiche dish.
Bake in preheated oven for 50 minutes, until eggs are set and top is golden brown.

 

Easy Black Beans & Rice

Source: wearychef.com
Prep: 5 min
Cook: 25 min
Total: 30 min
Servings: 4

 

Ingredients

 

1 tablespoon olive oil
1⁄4 cup finely chopped onion
2 cloves garlic crushed or minced
1 cup white rice I like medium grain
2 cups chicken broth
1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
1⁄2 teaspoon cumin
15 ounces canned seasoned black beans drained and rinsed
1/2 package smoked sausage or turkey sausage, sliced into “coins”

Directions

In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, and sauté 3 minutes, until onion is tender and starting to brown. Add garlic, and sauté one minute longer. Add uncooked rice, and stir and sauté 2 minutes.

Add broth, salt, and cumin. Stir together, and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, saute sausage slices in a tiny bit of oil over medium-high heat until browned on both sides. Set aside to drain on paper towels.

Remove lid, stir in beans and sausage, and cover again. Turn off heat, and let stand for 3 minutes before serving.

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

I’m back!

Hi, all!

I have been posting over on Facebook because I lost access to my blog account. Finally figured out the problem just in time for 2016 challenges!

I hope you all had a great Christmas full of blessings!

Happy Sunday! Praying to get a nap here today. (As always!)

Have a GREAT day!

Lynne

Recipes: Chicken Pot Pie Stew, Maple Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Slow Cooker Chicken Pot Pie Stew
Source: thecookinchicks.com
Serving: 4-6

Ingredients

4 large, boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into cubes
10 medium red potatoes quartered
1 (8 oz) bag baby carrots
1 cup chopped celery (I omit)
2 cans cream of chicken soup (homemade)
2 bouillon cubes (I’ll use poultry seasoning instead)
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp ground pepper
1 (16 oz) bag frozen mixed vegetables

Directions

Combine all ingredients minus the frozen vegetables. Cook on low 6-7 hours, or high 3-4. One hour before being cooked, mix in vegetables and continue cooking. Serve over cooked noodles or biscuits.

Maple Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Source: tastykitchen.com
Serving: 8

Ingredients

2 Large Sweet Potatoes Washed, Peeled, And Cut Into Small Pieces
1⁄2 teaspoons Salt
2 Tablespoons Margarine or Butter
3 Tablespoons Maple Syrup

Directions

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add sweet potatoes and boil for 20-30 minutes, until sweet potatoes are tender. Drain sweet potatoes, retaining about 1/2 cup of the water. Mash potatoes with a potato masher or fork. Add 1/4 cup of the reserved water, salt, margarine and syrup. Stir to combine. Add additional water if needed until desired consistency is reached.

This week’s dinner meal plan

Well, here it is…this week’s dinner meal plan. Recipes will be shared daily. If you pick and choose, you could have a meal plan set for next week. Just saying’…

Have a blessed week!

Lynne 🙂

  • Monday: Slow Cooker Chicken Pot Pie Stew over Homemade Biscuits, Southern Fried Apples
  • Tuesday: Almond-Crusted Pork Tenderloin, Twice-Baked Potatoes, Green Beans
  • Wednesday: Slow Cooker Honey Garlic Chicken, Easy Fried Rice, Teriyaki Vegetables
  • Thursday: Leftovers
  • Friday: Grilled Steaks, Garlic Parmesan Roasted Potatoes, S’Mores smile emoticon
  • Saturday: Bacon, Cheddar, & Cauliflower Stew, Grilled Paninis
  • Sunday: Slow Cooker Bacon Ranch Chicken, Pasta, Broccoli