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Thursday, January 31, 2013

January Goals In Review

Food Goals
  • Return to more comprehensive meal planning including all meals and some snacks. This worked out pretty well.  We didn't completely stick to the plan all the time, but we definitely ate out less and had more ready-to-go options for breakfasts, lunches, and snacks.
  • Participate in a modified version of the Life Your Way real food challenge.  We ended up traveling for the beginning of this scheduled week, which didn't start the challenge off well.  Once we got home, we went out for coffees twice, and I think had some bagged appetizers.  Not on the real food list!  But we did do homemade burgers and fries instead of going out for lunch one day (and didn't go out at all that week!), and most of our snacks and meals were real food-ish.
Craft Goals
  • Make some circle punch art with my new punches. I didn't make the art like in the picture, but I did use my circle punches for a project, so that kind of counts.
  • Finish the fronts (2.5 left) and at least 25 of the sides of my Advent Calendar pockets.  (See photo at the beginning of this post) I ended up finishing the fronts and 35 of the sides of my calendar pockets.  40 sides to go! And then the whole big background and putting it together and...
Organization Goals
Blog Goals
  • Switch coupon posts to one day a week rather than as they happen (probably Thursdays). I like this better, and I think it's working well!
  • Continue Menu Plan Mondays and What I'm Reading on Sundays.  These have continued as always.
  • At least one "content" post per week besides all of the day-specific ones.  With all of my progress reports on the organizing challenge, plus a few other projects, I more than covered these for this month.

Weekly Coupon Shopping

Walmart


We were at Walmart because all of my socks have gotten holes at once, and after throwing at least one away for the past 4 days, I figured I might need some new ones.  So I grabbed these bars too.
  • 2 South Beach Diet Snack Bars: $3.98 each.  Used two $3/1 printables = paid $0.98 each!
  • 10 pairs of socks (not pictured): $6.97.
  • Total spent: $9.22.
Target



We recently got a juicer, and have been enjoying homemade juice almost every night.  But I read somewhere that you're not supposed to juice oranges, so we got a cheap handheld juicer for those.  
  • Bounce Dryer Sheets: $1.97. Used $1/1 Target coupon (insert) = paid $0.97.
  • 2 Jingo Crackers: $1.89 each.  Used two $1/1 (insert) = paid $0.89 each.  
  • Juicer: $3.99.
  • Total spent: $7.11 
Walgreens


  • 6 Chex Mix: $0.99 each.  Used two $0.60/1 printables and four $0.50/1 printables = paid $2.74/6.
  • 3 Russell Stover Hearts (2 not pictured): $0.50 each.  Realized later I never handed over the ad coupon to get them 3/$1, so I paid $1.50 for 3.
  • 4 ID Gum: $0.99 each with ad coupon.  Used two BOGO printables = paid $1.98/4.
  • Lorna Doone cookies: $1.59.
  • Used two $3RR from last week = paid $2.20 for everything after tax.
Other Coupon Savings
  • Caribou Coffee: Saved $1 because of a receipt survey, $0.44 for using my own mug, and $0.10 for trivia.  My total was $3.09 this time.  Last time was $3.15.  Must be something to do with the order they push the discount buttons...
  • Kwik Trip: Used $0.07/gallon coupon to save $1.03. 
  • Walmart: Used $5/1 Millstone Coffee (got in the mail awhile back) to pick up a bag of decaf for only $2.98.  Used free Farm Rich product coupon (got in the mail for emailing the company) to get mozzarella sticks for free instead of $4.98. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Iron Craft Challenge 2: Orange

One of my favorite colors is orange, so I was excited to see that as the challenge theme this week.  I also still wanted to attempt some circle punch art, to try out my new punches that I got for Christmas.  So I grabbed a stack of orange magazine pages and got to punching.


Last year for one of the Iron Craft challenges, I made my note card journal.  I like it and have been keeping up with it, but it has been bugging me for awhile that it was still in the ugly baby wipes container.


I peeled off the label, and mod podged on some of my circles.  The label left some sticky-ness, so I just put a few coats over the whole thing to get rid of that.  It's not perfect (especially some of the corners), but it's a lot better than it was!



In fact, it kind of reminds me of my first car...I had a blue Chevy Corsica in college, which my dad knew wouldn't be re-sold, so he let me paint a line of orange polka dots on it (I wanted to do the whole thing in polka dots, but we compromised).  Ah, the memories!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Menu Plan Monday

Breakfasts:
  • Morning Glory Muffins (using leftover carrot and apple pulp from our juicing)
  • Whole Wheat Chocolate Pancakes
  • Banana Bread
  • Oatmeal with Dried Fruit and Nuts
  • Cereal
Lunches:
  • PB&J/Soups
  • Quesadillas and Fruit
  • Muffin Tin Lunch
  • English Muffin Bread Pizzas
Soups will be leftover Venison Chili from the freezer, and Minestrone

Dinners:

Monday/Tuesday: Veggie Loaded Pasta Bake (got switched around from last week)
Wednesday: Veggie Barley Soup
Thursday: Zucchini Quesadillas
Friday: Stuffed Mushrooms, side dish TBD
Saturday/Sunday: Pasta with White Bean Alfredo Sauce

Snacks:
  • Leftover muffins and banana bread
  • Popcorn
  • Yogurt
  • Granola
  • Apples
  • Canned peaches and pears

Sunday, January 27, 2013

What I'm Reading...

On Juicing.  We got a juicer shortly after Christmas, and have been making juice almost every night! So far we've stuck with mostly carrots, celery, and apples, but we plan on experimenting more as things go on sale. (Joy the Baker)

Personalize Your Productivity: How To Create Your Best Productive Self.  I wanted to jump on the "household binder" bandwagon for a long time, but that's just not how I do things.  I have virtual post-it note lists on my computer for a lot of stuff, which works awesomely, except for when the kids start typing and erase them. (Work Your Way)

How To Write Your Own Recipe.  This is what I do! But I've never been able to articulate it so nicely. (Easy Homemade)

5 More Tips For Feeding Your Family Whole Foods On A Budget. I do the first three of these already, and I have thought about doing the fourth.  (Money Saving Mom)

Does Your Home Have White Space?  Mine has more than it used to. (Home Your Way)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Weekly Coupon Shopping

CVS


There wasn't much I wanted to get at CVS this week, but I did stop in for a couple quick things.
  • CVS Jumbo Pack Diapers: $6.99, get $2ECBs.
  • Garnier Fructis Shampoo: $2.99.  Used $1/1 (RP 01/13/13) = paid $1.99.
  • Total $9.20.  Used my $10 gift card from last week, got back $3ECBs ($2 above, and $1 for my green bag tag).
 Bath & Body Works

Bath & Body Works had a coupon out for a free 2oz. lotion (no purchase necessary, expired 1/20) on their Facebook page.  I love when they have these freebies! Saved $3.50.

Walgreens
 
Jesse really likes these Nature Valley granola bars for a quick breakfast, so I was excited to see a good deal on them!
  • 5 Nature Valley Granola Bars: 2/$4 or $2.29 each (so $10.29 total).  Used two $0.50/2 printables = paid $9.29/5, got back two $3RR (probably a glitch, but it was printing 2!) and 1,000 rewards points.
  • 6 Quaker Yogurt Granola Bars: 2/$1.  Used $1/2 (January All You) and two $0.75/2 (RP 01/13/13) = paid $1.00/6 and got 250 rewards points.
  • Total spent: $9.50, got $6RR and 1,250 points. 
Other Coupon Savings:
  • Starbucks: Used $1 off of a Cafe Mocha from their website (expired 1/20) and $2.60 eGift card from their Blonde Roast promotion (a week or two ago) = got 2 grande drinks for $4.62!  Jesse's chai latte was basically free.
  • Caribou Coffee: Used $1 off (receipt survey), and also got $0.10 off for the trivia question and $0.44 off for using my own mug (10% of the drink price).

Monday, January 21, 2013

Organizing Revolution Challenge 4: The Kids' Room

The final week of the Organizing Revolution is the Playroom/Living Room.  Since the majority of the toys are in the kids' room, I decided to work in there.  My main goal for this challenge was to make sure every toy has a home, and that each one is easy for the kids to understand so the room stays neat and tidy.  We also just got an influx of toys for Christmas, so we were more than ready for a toy purge!  For those of you peeking over from the Organizing Revolution Challenge, here are my two boys, Jonah (age 3) and Matthew (age 1).  Aren't they cute?


Here is our old system before: We had a toy box where a bunch of toys got buried, and a blue basket for stuffed animals (which looks controlled, but half of the animals ended up in the beds or the toy box, so it's actually normally overflowing).  The chair and two push toys don't have a home.  

Here's the rest of the toy storage.  The cube shelves were stacked, but I ended up pulling the two top drawers out almost every day so my younger son could reach the top ones.  We also had a bunch of random stuff on top of the shelves, some of which needed to be put away.


After purging toys, we decided to get rid of the toy box, and moved the top cube drawers over under the window.  I also got rid of some stuffed animals, so what is in the basket, though full, is all of them.  I used a rubbermaid tub (without the lid) for the miscellaneous balls, and some wipes containers for smaller collections of toys, like the animals you can see in the picture below (click for the larger version).


The other two cube drawers stayed where they were, with a few more wipes containers and toys on top.  While cleaning, I managed to find almost all of our instruments, which had been disappearing one by one into the abyss of behind the shelves/under the beds.


The blue shelves are still working really well for all of the big trucks and Little People sets, so I left those mostly how they were.  We use ice cream buckets for different types of blocks, and the green bucket on top holds Play-Doh.  The only things that still don't really have a home are the 2 push toys.  As long as they're parked off to the side at the end of the day, I guess we'll call that a success.

Aside from the toy storage, the other area I wanted to improve in the kids' room was the top dresser drawers.  Right now they are just storing a lot of stuff that could be used elsewhere.  Ideally this is where I want to put clothes in the next size up for each kid, so I can see what I have and what I can look for a sale on.  Jonah's side before:


Jonah's side had cloth wipes, swim diapers, and underwear. Now after:


It still has the underwear (and the wipes, because I don't have a good spot for those yet), but now the bigger pajamas and shoes are in there too.  The swim diapers went to the closet with the rest of our diapers.  Apparently I will have to go shopping for this kid come summer.

Matthew's side had baby blankets and the wheels to his bed (one falls off, so we just took them all off so it stays flat). Before:

And after:

This side will generally be pretty full, because as soon as Jonah outgrows something, it's just going to head in here.  We have tons of pants and shorts, but hopefully Matthew doesn't grow too much above the waist, because the next size of shirts is what Jonah is currently wearing.  I like this system better than packing the clothes away in a tub just to pull them out again later.  I'll save the tubs for the clothes that are too small for both.

The blankets moved to a box in the hall linen closet to make use of some of the vertical space on the top shelf.  I'll pull them out again in May when Hannah comes.

This has been a really fun 4-week challenge for me.  I've organized several trouble spots in my house, and gotten rid of some of the clutter!

Menu Plan Monday

Breakfasts:
  • Leftover Pumpkin Chip Muffins from the freezer
  • Banana Bread
  • Oatmeal with Dried Fruit & Nuts
  • Cereal
Lunches:
  • PB&J/Soups (Split Pea & Ham and Chicken Enchilada Chili from last week)
  • Quesadillas and Fruit
  • Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup
  • Ham Sandwiches
Dinners:
Monday: Scrambled Eggs with Veggies, Bacon, English Muffin Bread
Tuesday: Sausage, Mushroom, and Black Olive Pizza
Wednesday/Thursday: Slow Cooker Jamaican Red Bean Stew
Friday: Sweet & Sour Ham and Rice
Saturday/Sunday: Veggie Loaded Pasta Bake

Snacks:
  • Granola
  • Yogurt
  • Apples
  • Goldfish Crackers
  • Peanut Butter Graham Crackers
  • Popcorn

Sunday, January 20, 2013

What I'm Reading...

Why I'm Not Going Low-Fat This Year.  We've switched from margarine to butter, but I still have to look into oils.  However, I am definitely on the full fat in moderation boat.  (Food Your Way)

A Creative Life: Finding Your Creativity And Making Time To Create.  I've been working on some projects that I can do while I watch the kids or watch tv (knitting, stitching, and the like).  Sometimes making time is hard, but it's worth it! (Simple Homemade)

Wearing It Out, Paying It Forward.  I wish more people had this mindset. (The Simple Dollar)

CVS ExtraBucks Tip: The 98% Rule.  I knew you didn't have to quite make it to the dollar amount, but it's nice to have an actual percentage to go off of for some of the deals.  (Penny Pinchin' Mom)

How I Live With My Crafty Person.  I hope my husband feels this way, and not that I just have lots of useless stuff all over. (Offbeat Home)

Young Moms: Something To Prove? This is something I still struggle with.  I never had a "real job" before becoming a mom, and sometimes I feel like just being a mom isn't enough.  (The Happiest Mom)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Weekly Coupon Shopping

CVS


1st Transaction:
Because the diapers were $9.49 each and not $9.99 like I was thinking, I didn't hit the $30 mark to get the $10 CVS card.  So I had to go back later on to grab a few more things.

2nd Transaction:
  • 2 Dawn dish soaps: $0.99 each.  Used $0.25/1 (P&G mailer) = paid $1.88 for both after tax, got back the $10 CVS card.
Rue 21

This is not a store I normally shop at, but I won a $10 gift card from a mall contest just before Christmas, so I went to see what I could find.  They were actually having a big clearance sale, so I got 3 shirts for $4.00 each.  I was excited because the purple one will actually work with my preggo belly for a little while.  The other two will have to wait until after Hannah is born, but they are pretty light and summery anyways.  With the gift card, I paid $2.00 out of pocket.  Not bad! 
Cub Foods
 
We did our big grocery shopping at Cub Foods (and a little bit at Aldi) this time around, because we had some gift cards from Christmas.  I won't bore you with the details of everything, but here are the items I used coupons on:
  • Langers Juice: $2.49.  Used free coupon from Facebook promo (no longer available) = free!
  • Farm Rich Mozzarella Sticks: $6.65.   Used free coupon from emailing the company = free!
  • Lindsay Olives: $0.89 each.  Used two $1/1 printables (no longer available) = free!
  • Hormel Black Label Bacon: $7.17. Used Cub coupon booklet coupon to get it to $3.99.
  • Red Gold Tomatoes: $0.89.  Used Cub coupon booklet coupon to get it to $0.69.
  • Larabar: $1.69.  Used free coupon from contest win = free!
Other coupon deals and savings this week:
  • Kwik Trip: Used a $0.10/per gallon coupon to save $1.23, and a free donut coupon to save $0.89.  These came from a flyer in the newspaper when we were in Wisconsin, but they are good in MN too. Score!
  • Sbarro: Free slice of pizza.  It was supposed to be for their new "skinny slice" pizza, but they didn't have any cooked when I went there, so they let me get a normal slice since I was in a hurry.  Saved $3.79.
  • Caribou Coffee: Used my own mug to save 10%, which was about $0.40.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Coupon Organization Redo (Again!)

Back in October sometime, I got kind of burnt out on couponing.  I decided to take a simpler approach since I wasn't doing much any more.  So I transferred my system from clipping every coupon and sorting them in envelopes in a tub to just filing the inserts.  However...

After a few months, this is what that turned into.


Pile after pile of inserts, plus some coupons I had printed off or received in the mail that just didn't have a home.

I also think part of the problem was that my accordion file didn't have enough room for very many weeks of inserts, and I didn't have a good timeline in place for when to get rid of the old and move in the new.

So...I decided to go back to my old system.  It does take more time to clip and sort them all, but I know where everything is, and I can actually use the coupons that I want without struggling to find them.  Plus, I can generally clip and sort them all while watching a tv show during naptime, so for now, it's still worth the effort.


I clip them into the basket (or throw the random ones I get with samples and whatnot in there), and then sort them into the appropriate envelopes in the tub.  Sometimes trial and error is the best way to figure out what works for you!

I still keep my most used coupons in my small accordion file in my purse, which has a section for each store, along with baby and cereal coupons, since those are what I use the most.



How do you organize your coupons?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Organizing Revolution Challenge 3: The Closets

Week 3 of the Organizing Revolution is closets.  My main goal this week was to redo a couple of things in our hall linen closet.  It is right across from the bathroom, and because of the location, it has no door, so I wanted to tidy it up a bit.  Here's before:

And after:

The bottom stayed pretty much the same, just storing our extra paper products.


The towels stayed on the next shelf, but I did get rid of a few items hiding in the corner, so now it is simply our cleaning rag pile.


The next shelf was the best change.  I got rid of a few sets of sheets that we didn't need, which made the left side less crowded.  I put the candles in a container, and I found the wire shelf underneath the kitchen sink, of all places.  The dish rags and towels moved to a small drawer in the kitchen, which makes more sense.  I just hadn't bothered to clear it out before.  Nice and neat now!


And on the top shelf, I added a box with baby blankets, which came out of the kids' room.  More on that next week!  As a bonus, I still have some extra space up here, although I'm not sure what to do with it at this point.


Another closet that I'm still struggling with is the boys' closet.  Here's how it looked at the start of the week:


I have all of the "fancy" outfits and snowsuits hung by size, which helps me see what we have.  The laundry basket is for clothes that both kids have outgrown (when it gets full, I take it upstairs and pack the clothes away in the proper tubs by size).  We also have a box of baby wipe refills (on the right side), and a box of diapers (hiding off to the left in this picture, so you can't see it).  Finally, this closet is where the "Mom gets this toy" toys go.  You know, the ones that have lots of pieces and keep getting dumped all over the floor?  A lot of those, which are both on the floor and on the top shelf.

I wish this closet had another shelf, right about that laundry basket level.  Right now, things are kind of piled all over each other, and it's a pain to get in there for anything.  Since we're renting, and I'm trying to not spend much money, adding a shelf isn't really an option.  So I need to come up with another idea.

I did manage to get the basket of too small clothes sorted out and put away, but otherwise, not much changed in this closet.  I'm still trying to decide what I want to do with it.  Maybe you can help me?  Who has cheap or free closet hacks for a rental to make better use of the space?

Iron Craft Challenge 1: Cotton

I thought about putting "participate in Iron Craft 2013" on my goals list, but with 2 blog challenges and several other projects already on there, I wasn't sure if that was realistic.  Still, I do want to try to do these challenges.  I was not that great at it last year, although I do enjoy looking at all of the other crafters' projects.

The theme for this first challenge was cotton.  Sometime last year, I bought a few rolls of cotton yarn to make some dishcloths.  I made two each of two colors, but for some reason I never finished this color.  Time to fix that!



I am no expert knitter, so these are simple 40x60 and 30x44 stitched cloths on #7 needles.  I like the size of the bigger one better, but the skein of yarn only had enough to just make these, with about six inches of yarn to spare.  These homemade rags do the job, and the ridges from the knitting actually make these better scrubbers than my store-bought dish rags.  Yay homemade!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Menu Plan Monday

Breakfasts:
  • Banana Pancakes (a new recipe from a friend)
  • Leftover Apple Muffins from the freezer
  • Oatmeal with Dried Fruit and Nuts
  • Cereal
Lunches:
  • PB&J/Soups
  • Quesadillas and Fruit
  • Ham and Cheese Roll-ups
  • Seminary Wives lunch out on Saturday
Soups will be Ham & Split Pea and Chicken Enchilada Chili.


Dinners:

Monday: Multi-Bean Soup, Homemade Bread
Tuesday: Homemade Macaroni & Cheese
Wednesday: Crockpot Beef & Broccoli for us, leftover mac & cheese for the boys
Thursday: Baked Potatoes
Friday/Saturday: Enchiladas
Sunday: Breakfast for Dinner - Scrambled Eggs with Sausage & Veggies, English Muffin Bread from the freezer

Snacks:
  • Bananas
  • Yogurt
  • Granola
  • Chocolate Cupcakes (from a mix we got for Christmas)
  • Goldfish Crackers
  • Canned Peaches

Sunday, January 13, 2013

What I'm Reading...

The Best Resolution For 2013. This is so true for me.  It affects EVERYTHING. (I'm An Organizing Junkie)

How To Can Applesauce In 9 Easy Steps.  For future reference... (Simple Organizing Living)

52 Week Money Challenge.  This is kind of cool, although I think it would get tough towards the end, especially when your "extra" money is limited. (Creative Couponing)

Some Thoughts On Shopping With Children.  When everyone's in a good mood, it can be a good learning experience. (The Simple Dollar)

Everything I Need To Know About Hospitality, I Learned From Molly Weasley.  I never thought about it, but yes, I would like to be like Molly Weasley too. (Religion News Service via Simple Mom)

Coping With Sleep Deprivation.  I am so not looking forward to the lack of sleep that comes with a newborn.  At least I'll have my daily coffee back. (The Happiest Mom)

8 Ways To Nurture A Child's Soul.  The first one, "be a sorter of their tangles", is sometimes the hardest for me to remember.  Kids don't understand things, they just have feelings, and it's our job to sort that out or help them sort it out. (Simple Mom)

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Thomas the Tank Engine Ornaments and Ornament Storage

It's that time of year: time to take down the Christmas decorations. We actually only ended up putting up the tree and a couple random things this year, rather than all of our stuff, which was fine by me.  Most of my decorations are breakable, so I plan on saving those for when the kids are older anyways, since I have limited "can't reach" space.  The few things we did have out, the kids loved playing with, so I'm happy with that.

One tradition we had growing up was that my mom would give us kids each a new ornament each year on Christmas morning.  I loved that, and I love having all of those ornaments on my tree now, so I wanted to continue that tradition.  This year, obviously, I didn't make it by Christmas morning.  But I still wanted to grab these super easy toy ornaments before I packed up the tree!

Step 1: Find a toy that represents something your child loves.  In this case, at least in our house, that would be Thomas the Tank Engine.  We have a huge drawer of trains, and we have some duplicates, so I just "borrowed" some of the extras.


Step 2: String some ribbon through a hole or around a part of the toy to hang it from the tree.



That's it!  That was really quick, and I have no excuse for not finishing those before Christmas.  I put them in the boys' new ornament boxes.  These are the $0.97 plastic bins from Walmart.  They're nothing special, but they will work for quite a few years before they get too full.  Next year I might make some cardboard dividers so they look a little neater, but for this year, they're fine.



Besides, my ornament container is stuffed!  Next year I will have to invest in another bin (I have one similar to this one), hopefully from an after-Christmas clearance sale, since we don't take the tree down until January anyways.

Christmas time is now officially over in our house.  When do you normally take down your holiday decorations?

Weekly Coupon Shopping

I didn't do much shopping this week at all, but I did grab this dvd deal that I saw at Target:



Ride The Rails dvd: $5.00.  Used $3/1 printable = paid $2.37 (with tax).

We are generally Thomas the Tank Engine fans in our house, but for $2.00, I figured we could check out Chuggington.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Organizing Revolution Challenge 2: The Kitchen

Challenge 2 for the Organizing Revolution is the kitchen.  I don't feel like there are a lot of big problems with the kitchen, but there are a few little things that need tweaking.  Here's something that has been working well for us though: Our weekly menu plan is on the marker board on the fridge, and the markers are in the pocket below.  I just cut it off of an old pair of jeans and added a few magnets. 


Under the sink, where all the cleaners are stored, is just kind of a mass of bottles.  Here's before...

And after.


Honestly, not much changed.  I got rid of a few bottles of old cleaners that we don't use, and moved the bathroom cleaner to the bathroom.  The rest just got straightened out.  I'd love to do some fancy shelves, or some sort of dividers or drawers, but I also don't want to spend money on those things, so neatly arranged bottles will work fine for now.  Maybe I need to look to Pinterest for some more inspiration for under here.

I promise, my kitchen organizing gets more exciting from here.  At least, I was excited.

The next problem spot was my utensil drawer.  It was just a mass of stuff, some used, and some buried.  The grocery bag was holding my cookie cutters, but there's obviously a better way.  Here's the lovely before shot:


And after shots!  I grabbed several utensils that I haven't used and added them to my donate pile.  My hand mixer may end up being donated or sold as well, since I got a KitchenAid for Christmas, but I want to see if I actually still use it or not.  I'm guessing I won't.  On the top layer, I added two dollar store baskets that I already had on hand.  On the right is baking supplies, and on the left is miscellaneous/everyday items.


Underneath those, I put the cookie cutters in a holiday tin (much prettier than a plastic bag!) and I have my frosting tips and bags as well.  My husband wanted to keep the large grilling utensils even though we don't have a grill, although we do plan to get one once it's warmer out.  This stuff doesn't get used as often, so it's fine on the bottom layer.


And finally, here is our pantry shelf.  This is technically in the dining room, but it falls into the "kitchen" category to me.  It's kind of organized by type, but it's been getting crowded and messy lately, so I figured I could spruce it up a bit for this challenge too.  Here's a before and after:


The top shelf is still a little cluttered, but that is the only shelf that neither of the kids can reach, so that's where all the liquids and canisters and certain open things go.


This box full of stuff is the "Use it or lose it" box.  Some of it expires soon, and some just has little random bits left.  This is stuff I want to either use in the next month, or get rid of it, so I put it out in the open so I'll remember it when I'm planning our meals.


And here's all the expired food I found.  Oops!  In my defense, a lot of this was donations to the Seminary food bank, and not food that I've bought myself, but it's still been taking up space on my shelf.  Not any more!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Menu Plan Monday and Southwest Chicken Casserole Recipe

This week is the Real Food Challenge.  Here is my plan for the week.  I think sticking with the breakfasts and the snacks will be the hardest part, but hopefully I can get a few things made ahead of time so we won't run into issues.

Breakfasts:
  • Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins x2
  • Oatmeal with Dried Fruit and Nuts x2
  • Pancakes or Waffles x2
  • Eggs & Toast or Another Muffin (if I get ambitious)
Lunches:
  • PB&J for the boys/Soups for Jesse and me x2
  • Ham Sandwiches x2
  • Apple Quesadillas x2
  • Muffin Tin Lunch
Soups will be Homemade Chili with some venison we got from my father-in-law, and Chicken Noodle.


Dinners:

Monday/Tuesday: Multi-Bean Soup, Homemade Bread (this is my favorite bread recipe)
Wednesday/Thursday: Veggie Pot Pie
Friday: Southwest Chicken Casserole with Corn (recipe below)
Saturday: Homemade Macaroni & Cheese
Sunday: Crockpot Beef & Broccoli for me and Jesse, leftover mac & cheese for the boys

Snacks:
Southwest Chicken Casserole
(serves 3-4)

Ingredients
Directions
Cook pasta according to package directions.  In large pan, combine cream cheese, seasoning, and water over low to medium heat until melted.  Stir in chicken and pasta.  Simmer for 5 minutes over low heat, stirring occasionally.  Optional (but delicious!): add 1 cup frozen corn with the chicken and pasta.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

What I'm Reading...

What I'm Learning About Joyful Gift-Giving.  I kind of feel like this is about me in some ways. (Money Saving Mom)

The Nutcracker And Joy In The Face Of Sadness.  I love the little moments talked about here, when a piece of your childhood becomes a piece of your kids' childhood. (The Happiest Mom)

2013 Coupon Insert Schedule.  Even though I don't coupon as much any more, I still like to keep track of these... (Penny Pinchin' Mom)

When It Comes To The Flu, Prevention Is The Key.  These tips could have come in handy this last week, as our family got sick.  (Green Your Way)

13 Small Steps To Becoming A Happier Mom In 2013.  This is a good reminder that resolutions or goals don't have to be huge things.  (The Happiest Mom)

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Organization A-ha! Moment: Toothbrushes

As I've mentioned before, our little bathroom has a little sink and VERY little space for storing anything.  We had our toothbrushes in a cup on the counter, but then I wanted to bring in a candle, plus the cup was getting kind of funky, and all of our toothbrushes fell into each other.  All in all, it was not an ideal storage situation.  Enter THE TOOTHBRUSH HOLDER.



I saw this holder on one of the organizing blogs I follow (I wish I could remember which one!), and knew immediately this was the solution for our bathroom.  It only cost a few dollars on Amazon, and it works awesomely!  As an added bonus, now I have room for my candle in our tiny bathroom.

Please ignore my messy sink and the medicine cups...we've had some sickness in our family recently.
What little things have made your home more awesome lately?