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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

10 Best Ways To Save Money On Groceries Without Couponing

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We are all busy people, right?
 Not all of us are inclined to spend our free time finding coupons, clipping coupons, organizing coupons and carrying them around with us at all times.
It just isn't praticall to commit to that kind of time & dedication for many people.
So how can you save money on groceries if you don't coupon?
There are several things you can do to save money on what you spend on food each week.
You probably use a lot of these strategies already, but maybe you might find one new idea to use!

Monday, January 30, 2012

5 Easy Steps to Meal Planning...

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So, here at Echoes of Laughter, we are going to talk about some super fun home management stuff this week!
Hopefully, you will find some ideas that you make your life easier!
Today is about "Meal Planning".
Tomorrow, I will be sharing some ideas on "Saving Money On Groceries Without Couponing."
Wednesday's topic will be "Revolutionize Your Laundry."
On Thursday I will be sharing an organizational project you won't want to miss as it it something that all families should have.
***
Meal planning is so important for families.
It is the key to healthy meals, controlling the grocery budget and avoiding fast food.
Plus...it reduces the stress in your life...you will feel so much better knowing  that you have a meal plan for each day!
No running to the grocery store on the way home from work to pick up something to make for dinner!
And I know lots of you out there already do meal planning, but since I had some readers ask about how I meal plan, I thought I would write a new post for 2012,

I usually plan our meals for the week on Sunday....it's the day that works best for me, but really meal planning  can be done on any day that works for your schedule.
 Some people plan meals for whole month at one time, but I plan a week at a time..it's just the way I like to do it!
Do whatever works for you!

Here are the 5 easy steps I use to plan our meals.

1. Look at the Family Schedule.
Each week, before I begin meal planning, I look at our family calendar to see what's happening for the week.
 Is there a day supper should be early or a day where it should be an easy supper?
 I take this  into account when planning the meals for each day.
I  plan the time that each meal will be served so that when the kids or hubby ask, I can say dinner will be ready at a certain time.
Because of the children's schedule, for instance, on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, I serve dinner at 3 pm...as soon as they get home from school.
{You can read more about this here.}
2. Check the Fridge & Freezer.
Many people don't think of this step when planning meals, but it makes perfect sense to plan meals around what you already have.
The first thing you should check is what fresh vegetables and fruit are in the fridge.
 Plan to use those first so you are not wasting fresh stuff you already have!
For example, have some lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber? Make a salad as a part of the first meal.
Do you have potatoes, sweet potatoes, or squash? Roast them to go with a meal.
Is your freezer full of meat? Start there for making your meal plan!
In doing this, you save money on groceries by using what you already have and creating less waste.

3. Write Down the Meals.
After you have checked the inventory of the fridge and freezer, now it's time to write down the meals you have chosen to make/serve based on what you already have.
Just write it down on paper...you don't need anything fancy!
I use a simple meal planning pad that I found at Micheal's for $1.50 and I leave it on the fridge.
And I only plan meals for Monday to Friday.
I leave Saturday and Sunday open so we have some flexibility, and also because my husband likes to cook on the weekends.
When planning the meals, I like to make sure that we have a variety.
I plan the protein first, and then I add the sides and vegetables.
I keep these things in the freezer all the time:
For proteins: fish, chicken breasts, ground turkey,  beef, lean hamburger, and pork tenderloin.
For sides: frozen peas, frozen beans, frozen corn and frozen mixed vegetables.
I keep these things in the pantry all the time:
Canned tomatoes, canned beans {assorted}, different types of rice, potatoes, onions, carrots and sweet potatoes, assorted pastas and cartons of beef & chicken broth.
And go easy on yourself...don't plan complicated things or try new recipes on weeknights...save that for the weekend when you have more time!
Notice that a  lot of my meals are simple, kid-friendly, and can be on the table in 30-40 minutes.
For weeknight meals,  Below is a sample menu plan.
 I rotate the protein choices each night so we have a variety of meals and flavours throughout the week.

Here are examples of what we might have:
 
Soup Night
 Fish Night:
 Beef Night:
{Shown:Sloppy Joes}
 Pork or Chicken Night:
{Shown:Mu Shu Pork}
 Pasta or Vegetarian Night:
Rotating protein choices helps to relieve the boredom of similar meals served too often.
 
4.Plan the Grocery Shop & Prep Notes.
Plan your grocery list to pick up things you  need to complete the meals or for packing lunches.
{You can read my post on '5 Easy Steps for Packing School Lunches' here.}
And it's a great time to read the weekly sales flyers!
Take advantage of the sales to make your grocery budget go far!
Also, write down on your meal plan or in your planner little reminders of when you need to take things out of the freezer to thaw in time to make the meal.
For instance, if you are having chicken  on Wednesday, write down that you need to take chicken out of the freezer on Tuesday.
Also, are there things that can be done ahead of time to make the week easier? For example, if you are having rice on Tuesday, maybe the rice could be cooked on Sunday and stored in the fridge to make things easier come Tuesday.
Plan the grocery list to include lots of fresh fruits & vegetables that your family likes.
The best way to avoid junk food is to not put it in the grocery cart  at all!
I grocery shop evey 2 weeks.
We used to shop every week, but I found we wasted  lots of fresh fruits & vegetables this way by buying more before the previous week's produce was eaten.
Every 2 weeks gives us time to eat everything before buying more.
5. Involve the Family.
I usually prepare the meals, but sometimes if I am out, I let my daughter know that she needs to put something in the oven for me when she gets home from school, or I let Tyler know that he is helping make the salad that night.
I think it is so important to involve the children in the meal-making as much as possible so that they feel comfortable in the kitchen and will one day cook for themselves.
And my husband cooks on the weekends, so he chooses what he feels like cooking and I am quite happy to have a break!

***
One of my very favourite sites to visit for ideas for meal planning is my friend Laura's blog
On Mondays, Laura hosts a Menu Plan Monday link party where each week over 200 hundred woman link up their meal plans for the week.
This link party is so full of great information and inspiration....I highly recommend visiting it on Mondays!

Do you have any tips for planning meals?
What works for your family?
 
Here are other great meal suggestions:
 
Here are some other posts that might interest you:
 
 You can also check out these boards on Pinterest:
 
Thank you for visiting!
xo
 

Sunday, January 29, 2012

So Canadian Eh: Please visit me over at hodge:podge today to see my interview....

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The lovely and wonderful Barb of the blog hodge:podge  is featuring me today as part of her amazing series on Canadian blogs.
Thank you so much Barb for including me in  your series...I am thrilled!

Please click here to visit my interview.
Please tell Barb I sent you over and make sure to visit her archives to see more interviews from this delightful series!
{ A few weeks ago she interviewed Suzanne Dimma~the editor  from Canadian House & Home Magazine!}





Friday, January 27, 2012

A Vacation Memory Jar...

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I have wanted to make a 'Vacation Memory Jar' for a long time.
I just love the look of them....something touchable and tangible.
Inside this jar rests the memories and sand from our family vacation to Florida in March 2011.
I really would have loved to use an antique jar, but I had visions of it being knocked or smashed on the floor....those types of things happen in this house....so I found this acrylic jar to use as  a safer choice.
I like the size and shape...perfect for this project.
I used simple twine to tie around the top for rustic feel....along with some scraps from my scrapbooking stash.
Some tiny clothespins worked well for attaching a tag to the picture.
I also used a photo overlay to add the pattern around the outside edge of the picture.
And sand from Cocoa Beach....a place that my family has been visiting since 1982.
The shells were collected by the children.
The little bottle full of shells we purchased from 'Ron Jon's'...a Cocoa Beach Landmark.
This project didn't take very long to put together after I had assembled the jar and my stash of scrapbooking embellishments.
I just played until I got a look that was pretty to me.
{It was extremely hard to photograph though...because of light & reflection!}
The memory jar sits on a shelf in a place that we can all enjoy.
It was a such a fun project to make.
I think this would be so lovely to make as a keepsake for a wedding too....with a pretty picture inside of the bride & groom and dried flowers from the wedding...it would be stunning and unique!




This post is linked to these terrific parties:




Positively Splendid

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Feeding Kids After School...

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Like so many other moms, I have super hungry kids that come in the door every day after school.
They are hungry and want to eat.
No if, ands for buts.
I see it as an opportunity to feed them something that will really nourish their bodies.
{Below~fruit plate with a yogurt dip}
 My son takes a packed lunch to school and usually eats all of it.
Since he attends a sports academy for school, his school day includes lots of physical activity and he comes home ready for another meal.
My daughter is in High School.
She used to take  a packed lunch, but this year although I pack something for her, she chooses not to take it.
This does not make me happy, but I can't force her.
What I can do is make sure that there are healthy & nourishing things ready and on the table for when she gets home.
All my children have to do is wash their hands and sit down.
I call it the '3 o'clock special'.
Of course, I could let them rummage around the pantry for whatever they want...but I am home and I can really shore up a healthy diet for them by offering/making great food available.
{Below~spicy tzatziki with carrots and naan bread wedges}

 There are 3 days a week that one or both children have sports activities around dinnertime.
So instead of feeding them a snack....hoping it will hold them over until them get home after their sports practice...I just go ahead and feed them supper at 3 o'clock.
This makes sense for so many reasons....the first of which is it satisfys their hunger right away.
I know they are eating healthy doses of fresh fruits and vegetables...especially during cold & flu season.
And when they get home from practice, they only need a light snack.
And I am not left cleaning up the kitchen at 8 o'clock at night after a late supper.
On this particular day, I served my homemade Italian Wedding Soup along with a fruit tray, a veggie tray and rolls.
I usually eat with them, and I put the leftovers in the fridge for hubby...who meets the children at their  sports practice and brings them home.
Then while hubby eats supper, the children eat their snack with him at the table.
The other 4 nights, we eat supper as a family together.
 I have found that this is the best plan that works for our family.
And the kids are really happy to eat a meal when they get home from school...it seems to be their 'hungriest' time.
Even if I worked outside the home, I would still try to have a fruit or veggie tray in the fridge and ready for them to eat. And homemade soup ready to heat up.
This {below}was the '3 o'clock' special yesterday....crab cakes, a spinach salad, whole wheat pasta with olive oil, garlic and tomatoes, and fresh pineapple spears.
This meal was also a bonus because there was enough spinach salad and pasta left for today.
We really try to avoid the trap of drive-thrus and fast food.
And what really helps a healthy meal happen is menu planning on Sunday for the week.
Planning. Planning. Planning.
It is so important!





This post is linked to these great parties:


Home Stories A2Z



UndertheTableandDreaming



























The 36th Avenue


I'm Lovin' It at TidyMom


















It's Overflowing


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Organizing Magazine Tear Sheets....

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Over the weekend, I seriously dug into some organizing projects that really needed attention.
I had stacks and stacks of magazines that needed to be dealt with.
Let me preface this by saying that for years I have been a huge magazine junkie.
I love reading them and they have been such a source of inspiration to me.
 I hate letting them go, but I cannot have piles of stuff around the house for very long.
For years, I have ripped out 'inspiration' pages from magazines and organized them into file folders.
I debated switching them into binders, but that would require hole-punching and page protectors which would also require time, so I decided against it because I just wanted a quick 'drop & dump' method.
This works for me.
A simple box with file folders inside.
 I label the files to show the different ideas I want to keep.
And I clean them out every so often...discarding what doesn't appeal to me anymore.
 I recently got this file out to look at. Can you guess what I am waiting for?
I have noticed a  lot of my tear out sheets have come from Martha Stewart, Country Living and Style At Home magazines. So obviously, I should keep those subscriptions.
But you know what is replacing all this?
Pinterest.
And yes, I pin!
I think I have 42 boards now with hundreds of pins.
So eventually, I think my magazine tear sheet box will be empty...which is ok with me.
But it works for now.

Do you save magazine tear sheets? If so, what do you do with them?
Do you 'Pin'?
 I love pinning because it's pinning and organizing all in one step!




This post is linked to these terrific parties:

IHeart Organizing

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Valentine Sweet-spiration Week:Valentine Vignette

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If I had to choose between decorating for Valentine's Day and Christmas Day as a favourite way to spend a few hours...I am not sure I could choose.
I mean, who could not help but love adding the theme of romance to their home?
It was a perfect day for decorating projects because it was insufferably cold outside again today....in the area of -40.
I put on some big band music and dug around my collection of Valentine's things to create a vignette.


 Here's a tip for creating a vignette...books with coloured spines are great things to use...today I gathered up my red-spined books to add to the theme.
 I found these darling little cupcake decorations at Pier 1.
The decorations on the branches are all dollar store finds.
 You may remember I found these at the dollar store for $2 each and I took them apart to make napkin rings.
If you notice the bottom 2 hearts only have 1 hole for wire.
I used this scrapbooking tool set and....
added another small hole...
 and then pushed the wire into the other hole to make the heart into a hanging decoration for the branches.
And these soft velvet looking hearts were in a package for a dollar.
I prettied them up a bit by using a hot glue gun to add a button for a bit of homemade charm.
I think you could also easily paint these.
It makes for such a pretty valentine tree!
This project is the end of the fun for Valentine-Sweetspiration Week!
It was a lot of fun as I shared ideas for a little crafting, a little tablescaping, a little baking, a little packaging and some decorating!
I so hope that you found some inspiration!

Thank you so much for joining me & all of your lovely comments!
You are all fabulous!
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