Thursday, September 2, 2010

How I Got Organized

There are parts of my life that are über organized and there are others that look like they were put through the food processor with those onions last night! Husband has funny little quirks like making sure the TV remotes are all in a straight row, and I have funny little quirks like the urge to mess up his little row of remotes! But, when it comes to things like my belovéd bookshelves, my recipe collection, and laying out the 14 Hershey's Kisses I just got out of the pantry, there has to be straight lines and organization! I was also that kid whose room would appear to be organized (because my sister's wasn't and she was the one who was always getting in trouble--ha!) but I'd also have a "junk drawer." I also go through spurts of productivity, and, having recently just went through one, I'm hoping this spurt sticks. Being an unemployed teacher means I have a whooooooole lot of time on my hands to cook and clean, but I've been in a slump. I finally stood up one day and announced to all my little dust bunnies, "I will no longer be disorganized!" They ran and hid underneath the entertainment center...I'll vacuum them up tomorrow.

How I Got Organized
My friend, Summer, put up these corkboard tiles for me in my kitchen several weeks ago and then I added the vinyl at the top. Those wall words are so expensive! I use my Cricut and Sure Cuts A Lot to create custom vinyl work all over my house! :) These tiles are so handy--I love them! I keep my monthly menu, weekly shopping lists, and my printable recipes for the month arranged neatly on the board. By having these things in public view, it makes it easy for Husband to see what we're having for dinner. I think he really appreciates this organization because he took the September menu from me before I put it up and started commenting that he was excited to try certain meals, suggesting additions and deletions, and noticing my days of grocery shopping so he could plan our finances accordingly.

After having made myself plan out meals for all of August and having such a huge success with it, I planned all my meals for the month of September. I feel confident now that this organizational system works so I'm ready to share it with you! You'll notice on my menu that I made sure to incorporate days for leftovers and days when I'd do grocery shopping because I stick better to schedules and routines.

About a week before a new month starts, I sit down at my computer with several cookbooks, the internet, colored pens (for fun!), weekly grocery list template (see below), a Diet Coke, my chapstick, and go to town! I scour recipes trying to find something that we'll both like, we haven't tried yet, and that doesn't have a bunch of expensive, one-time use ingredients. I use Microsoft Publisher to create and maintain our monthly calendar. It's a 12-page document that I just open up and edit one page at a time. By keeping a single document that contains the entire year I'm able to look back to see what we ate each month so that I'm not too redundant.

I also created a weekly menu planner and grocery list template which I use while looking through the recipes and planning out my month of meals. It's helpful because I take the whole thing with me to the grocery store (along with my coupons!). In the past, I'd write down things like "Gruyère cheese" or "15 oz. can black beans" and get to the store only to question my sanity and the validity of those items and cross them off the list. Then I'd return home to make dinner and find I needed Gruyère cheese or a 15 oz. can of black beans for a recipe that night! Using this template forces me to refer to what I'm making for the week and not question a single item on the list.

In the end, I am a much happier and more organized wife and shopper. I am saving boatloads of dollars by shopping sales and using coupons deliberately, and dinner is actually getting cooked at a decent time. E-mail me at if you want any of my templates. I've gotta go vacuum up those dust bunnies!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Wheelsagna Bus Go 'Round and 'Round

I love being a teacher and I love it even more when I actually have a classroom and job to go to everyday! It's been tough for teachers this year in California. Almost 30,000 teachers were given pink slips this past school year and very few jobs were ever posted to which we could apply. Any jobs that were posted received anywhere from 200-400 applicants. Needless to say, I was not one of the lucky applicants to receive a job this school year. This only would have been my 6th year teaching so I know that teachers with double or triple the experience deserved the jobs before me, but it's just a tough pill to swallow! At any rate, to commemorate the beginning of my first school year not in school, I thought I'd get a little cheesy and try to name a dish after something school-related. This fakeout lasagna was the perfect choice. Remember that song, "The wheels on the bus go 'round and 'round, 'round and 'round,..."? I loved getting to do all the fun motions like the windshield wipers, the horn, etc. Such fun times! I'm a nerd, I know. I love school and everything school-related! This is the perfect dish to make after a long day at work and school! Enjoy and best of luck to all you teachers and students out there!

Source: adapted from Tasty Kitchen
Serves: 4-6

1/2 lb mini wagon wheel pasta (or any fun shape like bowties, tubes, or curly pasta)
1/2 lb ground beef or turkey (the original recipe called for 1 pound but I thought it was too "meaty")
3 cups marinara sauce
1 T olive oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cups sour cream

-Boil pasta. Meanwhile, brown the meat in small pan. After noodles are cooked, drain, return them to the pot, and drizzle with the olive oil. Mix in the marinara sauce. Add in the fried meat, seasonings, cheese, and sour cream. Fold together and allow it all to combine and melt together over low heat for about 5 minutes. Serve with a simple green salad! So quick and easy!


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