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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A Super-Organized August

I have been missing in action a little again over the last few weeks. The next few blog posts will give you a little bit of an idea as to what I’ve been doing with some of my time!


You’ve seen the posts all over pinterest and the blogsphere about those super-organized women who manage to feed their family of six on $200 a month and only cook or shop once a month, right?

Yes, I’ve seen them too! And I have nothing but admiration for them! Way to go on time and money management, girls! I consider myself already fairly organized, but that was out there even for me! But I decided to try and fine tune my routine a lot more and pick from their suggestions what might work for us as a family!  I want to see if it really makes a difference to my time and money management and to us as a family in general!


So, for the month of August I have chosen the following for me (in no particular order):


1.) To meal plan for the month.

That part was the easiest! It’s amazing how quickly that happened once I had it in front of me! I just pulled up Excel and went for it! I used our favorite staple meals throughout the month, used a few new recipes I had pinned and then filled in the rest with things that would work. When you have it written down in front of you it’s much easier than it sounds!

The other part of that is starting to put together a shopping list as you plan your meals.


2.) Organize pantry, freezer and rotate any food storage that needs it!

That part was long over due. I have a tiny pantry and even though it’s relatively organized, I still loose stuff in there when it gets too full! I also keep various specialty ingredients in different places, so it’s easy to loose track of things!



{You can see more of my pantry here!}


So giving the pantry, fridge, freezer and other food cupboards a good overhaul, doesn’t just help with the organization of things, but you really know what you actually have (and where) and what you need to shop for. And you don’t have to do it again for a while, so that helps too. Now, if you are really into that kind of thing, you could even make a list of all the things you have (and where) and when they need to be used, etc, as that really helps with “inventory” control. But I didn’t go that far this month. I generally have a really good overview of what I have after a good clean out for about 2 months or so. Then I start forgetting about things again, but I think I might be due another overhaul by then anyway, so I will see how that works out for me!

So, that’s what I did. It helped that for my two cooking/cleaning/organizing days the kids were at summer camp for most of the day and I really got stuff done! I always forget how much faster I can be when it’s just me!


I had my shopping list already in hand from the menu planning, now I was adding or taking off things as I was going through the pantry, freezer and food cupboards. Since I am usually pretty well stocked, it was more taking off than adding for me. I was also taking into account breakfasts and regular staples that might not be on the meal plan while going through the pantry. Staple condiments, peanut butter, snacks and all that.


2.) Get most of the month’s shopping over and done with in the space of two days.

Once the shopping list was done, it’s time to hit the stores. I generally limit myself  Costco for bulk, farmer’s market or our local Asiana market for wholefood and organic ingredients and safeways/fry’s for the rest of the local items. In addition to that I also do online shopping. I have some subscribe & save bulk items from Amazon.com, I wait for sales on bulk items online, like the Organic Palm Shortening I posted about the other day, and other gluten-free and low-carb items -  as they are usually much cheaper that way than you can ever get in the stores. Since we eat a lot of nuts, I also get those online for the most part. Except for pine nuts and cashews, we get those from Costco!


I got my shopping done barring a few items I picked up on the third day, within the two days and it didn’t seem all that stressful really. So, other than the fresh (often organic) produce half way through the month, we were set!

I also realized that there was going to be no way I will feed my family on $200 a month. That has little to do with not knowing how, but more to do with the food choices I/we make for our family. We prefer to eat organic as often as we can afford it, we have whole and specialty ingredients. You pay more for that, even when you are very shopping savy, but we’re ok with that - it’s worth the health benefits we reap!



Make it a point to do this kind of very organized shopping without the kids. This might be a no-brainer, but really, do set aside the time, get somebody to watch the kids and go shopping by yourself!

It can feel much less overwhelming to have your brain cover a whole month (that can be a lot of things on your list!) when you’re not being interrupted every 2 seconds!


3.) To cook, prep and portion as much as possible for 2 days to facilitate as little cooking and prepping as possible for the rest of the month.

This was real fun for me actually. Once I had my meal plan, it was quite easy to do too, it just took a little organization.


What it entailed:

-Precooking and freezing ground beef/chicken/turkey in bulk.

I seasoned half with homemade taco seasoning, the other half was just salt and pepper. It makes for a real easy meal when the meat is already done and ground beef takes no time to defrost, so very little forethought is required, even if you’re not meal planning.

I also used some of the ground beef and went on to make 2 meals worth of Bolognese Sauce for Spaghetti Bolognese later in the month. I freeze them flat in zip lock bags, as it takes very little time to defrost.

So for example, for that dinner, I can be done in 15 minutes from beginning to end. Take out the sauce and place it in the microwave. Boil the gluten-free pasta while I prepare the salad and dressing and the kids set the table. Done! It’s as fast as fast food and soooo much more wholesome and nutritious!


- Chopping and freezing ingredients. Onions, celery, herbs fresh from the garden, zucchini, peppers, mushrooms, cauliflower, beans, etc. All of this I freeze on a cookie sheet first, so it doesn’t clump together, then fill it into zip lock bags. Whenever I need it, I can just go and grab whatever I need, no defrosting necessary!


- Portion out the bulk food. That one seems like a no-brainer, but it is amazing how often I have not done that in the past and then spent extra time later trying to deal with a whole block of something. It really didn’t take that much more time while I was already cooking and prepping. And my freezer is so much more overseeable when you can just take what you need for the meal and go!

And I’m not just talking about the frozen bulk stuff. I even portioned out our rice this time. I know how much we usually eat per meal + lunches for the next day, so I used small ziplocks to portion it all out.  Now when I am ready to cook the rice, I just grab a bag, dump in the rice cooker, cover with water, turn it on and let it do it’s thing! How does it get better than that?


- Portion out freezer meals. These are different to the pre-cooked meals that I freeze. They are meals I might put in the crockpot to cook. I put all the ingredients together in a large zip lock bags that is required for the recipe and make a note on the bag what else is needed (water, stock, etc) It makes for quick grab and dump meals basically.



We are through the first week of August now, and I got to experience my little plan in action for a week.


I have to say, I am loving it so far! Cooking is a breeze! It’s quick and easy and hardly takes any time at all in putting it together! I still baked bread, treats and made desserts, but I expected that. The difference is that I can do this extra stuff if I feel like it. All the main stuff is covered, the rest is “gravy”. And I find that it’s much more fun to do the extra stuff now that I don’t “have” to!


I am also enjoying not having to heat up the kitchen fully every day as we are sweltering in the Phoenix summer heat!


It remains to be seen how it all works out for the rest of the month. I do enjoy not having to go shopping much and I think my husband is enjoying not having to run the extra errands on the way home for the things we’re missing here and there!

We will see after a few months what effect it has on the pocket book! I expect it to be a positive one!

I’m already loving the time it freed up! I’m excited to see how it can get even better than that!

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  1. Day-um woman! That's amazing! And all I ever try on pinterest is the art and the drinks. You are the bomb.

  2. Birgit just like you I am very organized, however, your post totally inspired me to do better, thank you!!


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