Weekly Menu Planner {Free Printable}…

If you do a lot of cooking, then you probably do a lot of planning for that cooking.  In this house, we cook.  In order to cook, we have to be prepared.  In order to be prepared, this chick needs to know what to buy from the grocery store.

Disclaimer #1: I hate making out a grocery list and I hate going to the grocery store.  Both are tedious and take up too much time.  Doesn’t help that I have to lug those groceries up a flight of stairs and unpack them … myself.  Whew .. tired just thinking about it!

Disclaimer #2: We eat roughly 3 meals a day … at home … each.  Unless I have a lunch appointment, we are both eating 3 meals a day at home.  Good for the pocket book and waist but something else you have to be prepared for.  When we run out of food, we eat out.  And I hate eating out .. often!

With that said, if I wasn’t prepared each week with a menu plan and grocery list, then we would never cook.  I’ve purchased menu planners from Target & Michaels for years.  I’ve borrowed menu planners from other bloggers for months.  Nothing really worked for me.  So I decided to make my own .. and share it with you! 🙂

HOW I USE IT:

  • Weather:
    • It might seem weird to include this in a planner for meals.
    • I like to cook based on the weather.
    • Example: 45 degrees and rainy.  We are having soup or pot roast.  60 degrees and sunny.  Salad topped with grilled chicken.
  • Plans:
    • I use this to write out meetings and appointments for each day.
    • If I’m having lunch with someone, then I don’t need to worry about lunch for me that day … only Raymond.
  • Dinner:
    • I don’t plan breakfast and lunch.
    • We usually eat the same things for breakfast each week.
    • We eat leftovers for lunch.
  • {TO COOK}:
    • I use the section for anything special I want to make that week.
    • Salsa.
    • Mini Apple Pies.
    • It serves as a reminder so I can easily grab the recipe and don’t let those groceries go to waste!
  • {IN THE PANTRY}:
    • I hate wasting food.
    • I base our meals off what we have in the pantry and freezer.
    • This cuts down on the grocery bill … some.
  • I fill out the menu planner each week and then use the planner to write out the grocery list.  Yes I have a process. 😉  I’m a process kinda gal.

Feel free to print a copy for yourself.  And if you use the planner, then I would love to hear your thoughts?  Is it helping? 🙂

Weekly Menu Planner {Free Printable}

Until next time…

What Happens in Waxhaw…

Ends up on the blog. 🙂

I was invited to a potluck a few weeks ago in Waxhaw, NC.  First, what a beautiful place!  The land was extensive.  The homes were massive.  And the air was clean, crisp, and quiet.  It was like being in a horse farm country … but only 15 or so miles from Charlotte.  Lovely place!

Local Buggy

The potluck was organized by Kara Cozier, founder of Local Buggy.  You know I am a sucker for anything organizing. 🙂

From their website:

Local Buggy™ is a website created to simplify SignUps. Members have the ability to organize SignUps for any number of participants at the local and national level. We even have an international membership in the United Kingdom! Our system is designed to coordinate SignUps without the hard to follow chain of emails, confusing spreadsheets, countless phone calls, and calendar invitations.

It was love at first sight!  We had a SignUp for the potluck where each person knew what the other was bringing and what other supplies were needed.  This would be an awesome website to use for the holidays!  😉

We had a massive array of food.  I tried out a Pinterest recipe but thought it was a little too … buttery.

What a potluck! 🙂

These cupcakes were adorable! I ate so much that I couldn’t possibly hold another thing — so I didn’t get to try these. :/

I got to know some of the ladies while chatting over Buffalo Chicken Dip and wine.  I really hit it off with one lady, Juliane Kilcoyne.  She is the founder and owner of Blooming Events.  I was drooling over her creations!

Juliane can help bring your party ideas to life with her Event Planning Packages and beautiful party creations! 🙂

Blooming Events Party Favors & Invitations

From her website:

Blooming Events handles planning & design of all life’s milestones and accomplishments.

Whether it’s a party at home, a baby shower or a milestone birthday, the fun starts with Bloom. Each & every party is skillfully crafted to ensure the best guest experience possible. From site searches to menu planning and all decor & design, there isn’t an event we can’t create for you.
Hm….holiday parties anyone?  Baby showers?  🙂

Blooming Events Holiday Collection

Her creations are sold over at Etsy — be sure to drop by and check them out! 🙂

Feel free to leave some love for these wonderful ladies in the comments section. 🙂

Until next time…

{Turkey Talk} Fancy Schmancy…

There are days that I dream of owning a house.  A house that can entertain and welcome.  The holidays are “one of those days”.  If I had a house that could accomodate families for Thanksgiving, then it would go a little something like this:

{1} Everyone would be invited.

Raymond and I are from the same town.  Well sorta.  Good thing?  We don’t have to pick which family we visit for the holidays.  Bad thing?  I don’t get to spend a lot of time with him.

Families tend to set the same times for lunches and gatherings.  Raymond hasn’t been to my family’s Thanksgiving dinner in years.  Why?  Because his family gets together at the same time we do.  Every year.

If we had a house big enough, then both families would be invited.  I hate having to choose between seeing the fam or seeing him. 🙂

{2} Dinner would be an experience.  

I would love to have menus printed.

Dinner would be served as courses.  Appetizers:  cheese plates.

First course: Butternut Squash Soup & Spinach Pear Salad.  Can you tell I have thought this through?

Main course: Turkey (of course) and a few side dishes.

Dessert:  French press coffee, coffee creamers.  Pumpkin Pie something.  Apple pie something.  Traditional.

Wine:  There would be several options to choose from.  Both mine & Raymond’s families are very Southern and very traditional.  That is code for “they don’t drink…much”

{3} Gratitude

The reason for the season.  We would talk about this.  Make a game out of it.

I love the idea of “Gratitude Journals”.  Send guests home with gratitude journals so they can make note of what they are thankful for year round.

{4} A little something extra.

Maybe a game of football in the backyard.

Maybe an impromptu photo booth.

{5} Decorations.

Place settings for each person.

Napkins held together with belt buckles.

Now I realize I am dreaming out loud.  All in hopes that one day we will be able to host and entertain our families on this day of Thanksgiving. 🙂

Do you like any of the ideas?  Which one is your favorite? 🙂

Until next time…

{Guest Post} Keep Your Energy Tank Full…

I have a special treat for you today! 🙂 Guest post by my friend, Lisa Woodie.  Lisa and I met a few months back at several networking events.  We really hit it off with our conversations about beer (yes we both like beer), cooking, and how to eat better.  We talked a little business too but the other stuff was more important. 😉

Lisa Woodie, Owner & Chef
Homemade Fresh

Lisa is the owner and chef behind Homemade Fresh Chef Services.  She helps individuals, couples and families eat healthier meals with heat-and-eat convenience. She provides meal packages, catering for personal and business events, and cooking classes that are educational and fun. All meals are personalized based on each client’s tastes, preferences and dietary requirements. Her scratch-made recipes focus on using fresh, high quality ingredients. Whether you need help this holiday season or all year round, Homemade Fresh is the healthy, convenient, affordable solution!

Maybe she could make something for our Thanksgiving Day feast? 😉

Without further ado…

‘Tis the Season to Keep Your Energy Tank Full

 The holidays are approaching quickly, and for many people that means your schedule will get even busier. You’ll have less time to plan and prepare meals and snacks. So you’ll probably rely more on take-out, restaurant and quick convenience meals from the supermarket. You may visit the drive-through and vending machine more frequently. You may skip some meals altogether. It may be harder to find time to exercise. Then suddenly, it’s the end of the year and you are exhausted and a few pounds heavier. How can you prevent this?

As your schedule gets busier, you’ll need more energy. And the scenario I described above will deplete your energy tank. Your body is like a car, and you need a tank full of good fuel to keep your engine running smoothly and your energy level up. Here’s one way to help you get through the holiday season (and the whole year!) with more energy and productivity. As a bonus, it could make you healthier too!

Don’t Skip Meals, Especially Breakfast

The old adage is true:  Breakfast is the most important meal of the day for your brain, your energy level and your metabolism. In the morning your fuel tank is low, so you need to refuel with a healthy breakfast that includes lean protein and good carbohydrates (like eggs and fresh fruit). This will jump-start your metabolism and give you sustained energy. Beware of caffeine and sweets because those can put you on an energy rollercoaster with dramatic highs and lows. When you skip a meal, your body goes into starvation mode which dramatically slows your metabolism, makes you store fat, and depletes your energy. To maximize your energy and productivity, eat three balanced meals (lean meat, vegetables,  whole grains) daily along with a healthy afternoon snack. Examples of good snacks are a handful of nuts, string cheese, Greek yogurt, fresh fruit, or carrots with hummus. Follow this plan every day and you may be surprised at how great you feel.

———————

So the moral of this story?  Lisa rocks — she is an amazing chef — and never skip breakfast!

I have a hard time getting motivated to eat breakfast.  I like to start each day with a cup of yummy java and then I either dive into a book or work.  If Raymond doesn’t make me breakfast, then I either don’t eat (gasp!) or I eat a bowl of grits (blech!).

I’m trying to make breakfast the most balanced meal of the day! 🙂

Feel free to leave some love for Lisa in the comments section. 🙂 Got any questions?  Ask away!

Until next time…

Turkey Talk {Easy Peasy}…

Thanksgiving.  The long lost forgotten holiday.

Every year … every single year … I have the same conversation with Raymond about Thanksgiving.  It goes something like this, “If we had a large enough house to comfortably accomodate everyone, I would love it if Thanksgiving went a little something like this…”

The thing is Thanksgiving is rushed and forgotten.  Both in scope of the holiday and the actual day.  Food is scarfed down then dessert is pulled out while others are still eating turkey.  Next is a nap and football then people start to head home.  It’s the “Eat & Run” mentality.  I dream of something much different that is more about the experience of the day and less about the actual “Gobble till you Wobble”.

I plan to write several posts about Turkey Day and different ways to go about planning it.

Turkey Day Made Easy 

{1} Cater. Cater. Cater.

Raymond and his family have purchased The Cracker Barrel Thanksgiving Meal every year since his grandmother passed away.  That lady sure could cook, and apparently the only elder that could or would.  Since then — no homemade anything.  With that said, they love the Cracker Barrel option.  Easy, affordable, and delicious.  Call your nearest Cracker Barrel to place your order.

Buy your turkey from Bojangles.  They sell AWESOME deep fried Turkeys.  We ran out of turkey last year at my family’s gathering.  It was hmm-mmm-mmm good!  Place your order at your nearest Bojangles.

Cater dessert.  We all know tons of bakeries that would greatly appreciate the business this time of year.  Call up and ask what their speciality is.  Buy the speciality and something more traditional (like pumpkin pie).

{2} Remember the reason for the holiday

To give thanks.  To be thankful.  To be grateful.  To reflect.

Be sure to incorporate this into the day.

The easy way?  After you eat, go around the table and ask everyone what they are thankful for.

{3} Easy Peasy Decorating

Resist the urge to break out the Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving.  Easier said than done as I’m pinning away for my future Christmas decor ideas.

Some candles, pumpkins, dried corn & beans, and an old window.  Voila!  Instant charm! 🙂

Do you feel like Thanksgiving is the long lost forgotten holiday?

Until next time…

Organizing Your Holiday Decorations…

So the season is almost over — one week to go!  I might be a little early in making suggestions on organizing your decor, but keep these suggestions in mind next week when you start to take down your Santas and Snowmen.

1. BEFORE REMOVING ANYTHING:  Take pictures of each decorated room in your room.  It will make decorating much easier next year.  Start with a broad shot of the room and then take more detailed pictures of tables and mantles.  Download the pictures and store in a folder marked “Christmas Decorations” on your computer.

2.  Donate any decoration that you dont really love.  If it didnt get displayed, then donate it.  If you did display it and despised it everytime you walked pass, then donate.  (You will thank me next year).

3. Toss those raggedy, marked up cardboard boxes once and for all.  Buy green and red plastic totes to store your decorations.  Walmart, Target, Lowes, and Home Depot all sell them and are running specials on them from now until the end of the year.  Buy 5 or 6 this week to make sure you get the right size and color. (Trust me, you wont be able to find them next week).  Buy similar sizes. If you are storing these on shelves (which I highly recommend), make sure to measure the shelves BEFORE shopping!

4.  Buy a tote to store your ornaments.  These are very (VERY) handy and a great way to keep ornaments organized and safe.  THIS WEEK: Buy 3 or 4 depending on how many ornaments you have and how many trees you have.  These are the first storage bins to go and they dont come back until next year.

5.  Store like with like.  All mantel decor goes in one box labeled mantel.  All outside stuff goes in another box labeled outdoor.  All bathroom decor…well you get my drift.

6.  Take note of anything that you want to purchase for your holiday collection (tree skirt, wreath, etc).  Schedule some time to go shopping a day or two after Christmas to see if you can nab these items at a steal of a deal.  One year I purchased an artificial wreath complete with pinecones and fake snow for $8.  It was a $40 wreath normally!

7.  Throw away the Christmas cards.  Unless you have a craft project in mind for next year, toss these babies!  No one will care that you threw away their card — trust me — no one will care!

8.  While you are at it — throw away any wrapping paper remnants.  And for goodness sakes — dont keep used bows!

9.  Label the light strands on the artificial tree as you are taking in down.  “A” strand plugs into “A” output strand…etc.  It took me over an hour to plug my tree together — I finally mastered the puzzle and then quickly labeled the strands for easy assembly.  This year it took all of 20 minutes 🙂

There is a lot of sadness that comes with taking down holiday decor.  Many people are sad to see the holiday go — Im usually one of them as Christmas is my favorite time of year.  As you are putting everything away, pull out a journal and jot down some thoughts for the new year.  A good start is looking back on what a great year 2011 was for you and your family — it will put you in a great mood to decide what to do differently for 2012.  New hobby? New interest? Keep the motivation and energy high as you welcome 2012! 🙂

The Season of Giving…

I’m always amazed by the number of commercials (tv, newspaper, direct mail, etc) that come up at Christmas asking us to give.  This is the season of giving, right?  Why does Christmas have to signify giving — don’t these organizations need money and donations all through the year?  I’m a little “Bah-humbug” about the overflow of requests for your donation at Christmas…if you can’t already tell.  I will use a different entrance to a store just to avoid the Salvation Army bell ringer…I sadly admit.

Then I started to do some research and reading.  Yes organizations need money and donations throughout the entire year, but perhaps they increase their requests at Christmas because everyone is usually in such a good mood.  Good mood = more likely to donate.  I’m not made of money, as most of us are not, but tonight I will be donating to a local Charlotte charity, Pat’s Place.  Pat’s Place is a Child Advocacy Center for children who have been sexually abused.  I will be donating some juice boxes and animal crackers…and my heart strings.

http://patsplacecac.org/index.asp

“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35

What charities will you be donating your time, money, and heart strings to this holiday giving season?