Top 5 Dinner Hacks for Busy Familes

Statistics show that we're feeling busier than ever these days, so any way we can maintain meaningful relationships, while sticking to our hectic schedules, we're all in!

Dinnertime is vital to family cohesiveness, and often the only time of day when everyone can be sitting together in the same room, attention fully on each other.  Use this time to talk about your day, bond, laugh, and create positive, lasting memories!

Here are five ways to save time, lessen stress, and make dinner time the best time of your day!


dinner hacks for busy families


1. USE YOUR GADGETS!  Make good use of your pressure cooker (aka. Instant Pot, etc.) and slow cooker (aka. Crock Pot, etc.)


"Ain't nobody got time for that!" is a popular meme for just about everything these days.  It doesn't matter if you stay-at-home, work a full-time job, are in school, or simply have a lot on your plate, if there's a way to make dinner go faster, smoother, and taste great, using your InstaPot or Crock Pot is THE way to go!  Toss some simple ingredients in, and let these kitchen gadgets do their thing!


2. SHOP TO COMPLETE MEALS.  Take a look in your pantry, fridge, and freezer to see what you have already available, then shop to complete the meals that week.


I'm ALL about finding ways to streamline and make things more efficient!  Why?  Because efficiency means things go quicker, thereby freeing up time to do things that I WANT to do!  Grocery shopping to complete meals not only saves you money, it saves you time.  Because you're thinking about what you're going to make in advance, you're not scrambling to figure it all out while the kids are already hungry and cranky!

Example 1:  Have you potatoes to use up? Grab a can of chili, or cheese and broccoli, and some sour cream for baked potatoes. If you have chicken broth and some cream, cube up those potatoes for a delicious soup. Leftover Christmas ham? Toss that in with it!

Example 2:  Got frozen chicken breast? Grab some BBQ sauce and toss in your pressure or slow cooker for a super easy main dish. Or, add salsa, corn, and black beans and offer up with tortillas or chips for a simple, delicious Mexican dish!


3. LET THE KIDS HELP!  It may not be done perfectly, or very quickly, but it will keep them busy, allow them to learn valuable lessons from you, and become more self sufficient little humans in the long run.


As a parent, we're faced with near constant bombardment of requirements from our children.  From play time to clean up to snuggles, they want (and need!) our attention on the daily.  So it can feel easier to just "do it myself" because it's faster, more efficient, cleaner, etc......but I PROMISE that involving your little ones in dinnertime prep and clean up will not only allow for more bonding, but prepare them to really and truly be helpful as they grow and mature!

"Teach a man to fish," as they say, and they will become more productive, less whiny (can I get an "amen!"), and an excellent little helper soon than you'd think!


4. TWO WORDS:  MEAL PREP!  It's not really feasible to plan out every meal, but having a little forethought will lessen stress and make mealtime much less hectic!  You may even enjoy yourself!


We've all heard the buzzword "mealprep", and for good reason!  Not only can it help you make better choices when feeling snacky, prepping meat or veggies for dinner ahead of time will help eliminate decision fatigue and stress surrounding meals.

Even if you're not able to prepare parts of the meal ahead of time, actually thinking about WHAT to make will help tremendously!  Don't do like I've done and wait until 4:30 or 5pm to figure out what's for dinner!  On busy days, even if I have an idea around lunchtime what I want to make for dinner, I can pull some frozen meat out of the freezer, or prep something to use for later.  It's easy to do this while you're sitting down for lunch or your young kiddos are down for a nap.  Even better, have a game plan before bed the night before (gasp!)!


5. COOK EXTRA!  Doubling a batch of rice, veggies, meat...all sorts of things, will make meals the next day that much easier!


This definitely falls into the meal prep category (if you can swing planning out your meals for a whole week, you're gonna start loving life!), but by cooking more than you need, you can save half in the fridge and use it to make dinner go that much quicker the next day!

Example 1:  Making chicken and rice?  Cook a double batch of rice and use it to make stir fried rice tomorrow.

Example 2:  Cooking ground beef for a stroganoff?  Double the batch and use the browned meat in a shepherd's pie or tacos the next day.


6. BONUS TIP:  Make breakfast for dinner!


Who doesn't love a hot breakfast?  Sometimes we just don't want leftovers or PB&J for dinner.  On those crazy nights when you need something fast, go ahead and make some pancakes, french toast, or loaded oatmeal!  Not only can you prepare it quickly, but ingredients are pretty standard, so it's likely you have everything you need already in your fridge and pantry.

Breakfast foods are quick to prepare and cook, so you can easily go from "what's for dinner" to "mom is the best!" while your kids slurp up the last of the syrup from their plate!

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What are YOUR favorite ways to save time and lessen stress around meal hours?  Do you have kids or a crazy schedule?  Do you work outside the home and often come home hungry?  Share with us your ideas!

Quick Tip Tuesday | Surprising Diaper Disposal Hack You Have to Try!

After having three kids, we've gone through a LOT of diapers.  Hundreds...thousands, even.  Ugh.  I wanted to be that mom who gave her kids organic nut milk in glass bottles and patiently washed earth-friendly cloth diapers every day...but let's get real.

To all those mothers who manage cloth diapers, you are amazing!!  For the rest of us, there's nothing wrong with saving yourself some sanity (every parent needs all they can get!) and going disposable.  In fact, even if you DO use cloth diapers, this nifty little trick will help you, too!


mom hacks for kids with diapers


Every parent knows our (adorable) kiddos tend to make a LOT of messes.  So whether you're on the go and need a place for sticky hand wipes and half eaten cheese sticks, or you simply need a good way to protect your house from day old stinky diapers, I've got a fun parenting hack for you!

* QUICK TIP *
Doggy doo-doo bags make the BEST disposable diaper bags!




$1 at Dollar Tree - 80 ct. (black) (spend $2 packs of these and get 160 ct., which puts you in the ballpark of the sets available at Amazon for quantity - but definitely NOT on price!)

$5.59 at Walmart - 120 ct. (multi colored) (also on Amazon)

$7.49 on Amazon - 180 ct. (multi colored)

$8.49 on Amazon - 180 ct. (pink)

NOTE: These are the prices listed at time of publish.  There are a lot of options out there, and I even checked some big box pet stores, but I'm sorry to say that they were quite a bit more expensive for fewer bags.  Plus, I tried to find alternative examples that didn't have dog bones all over them!  But if you know of a better deal, let me know!


As you can see, these doggy waste bags from Dollar Tree are a fantastic price!  I've never had one rip, they roll up very small and don't take up much space (I keep a roll in my purse), they're black and discreet (no need to announce to the world you're using a pet product), and you can't beat the price!

These are AMAZING for yucky diapers (obvs), to corral used kid wipes (I always keep some in my car to wipe sticky hands, faces, even wipe down the car door handles, buttons, etc.), small snack trash and wrappers...basically all kinds of little icky messes that need to be contained!  And even if you're just using them to keep your kitchen or nursery trash from getting stinky, you'll love these!

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So, tell me.  What will YOU use these handy little baggies for?

Fabulously Frugal Finds | Winter Shopping Deals

There's no surprise that Black Friday and Cyber Monday store deals draw hundreds of millions of people to shop for bargains, grossing billions of dollars annually (yes, that's with a "B"), but did you know that there are some stores that really make shopping year round feel like you're getting a "Black Friday" deal?

One of my more recent discoveries has been Kohl's department stores.  I've seen them around for years, but we didn't have one near us when I was a kid doing back-to-school department store shopping, and I was more of a boutique store shopper in my twenties.  It's only been in the past few years when I rediscovered the convenience and variety found at stores like Kohl's (like online shopping, but in person - a revelation!), and I'm here to tell you, they make it real easy to want to keep going back for more!

I've been on the lookout for a few pretty sweaters (it got cold this year!) and some new jeans, so I wanted to share with you a few of my favorite things that I picked up just this last week that I know you're going to love!

First up, a handful of darling sweaters!  All of these cost me under $20 after discounts (not including Kohl's Cash) and they're all super soft, with just a little bit of stretch, and come in tons of colors!

THE GOODS




This one sold out in my size before I could snatch it, but I fully plan on getting it in pink as soon as it's back in stock!  I'm showing it here in Chic Mauve and Brick Heater (below).  They are perfect if you're taller and have long arms like me!



Here it is again but in a deep oxblood red.  I bought a medium, and it fits true to size, though it definitely isn't as long on me as it is on the model (I'm 5'9).  If you like your sweaters to be fitted, then I'd size down.




Here's another scoop neck sweater that comes in a large variety of colors.  Again, I love how long the sleeves are, and this one is a little bit thicker and extra soft!




This v-neck sweater fits me much shorter than this photo, but definitely still long enough, even on me.  The sleeves and length of this overall is quite a bit shorter on me (the sleeves don't quite cover my wrists - why does it look SO long on the model?), but that's fine if you're wearing a watch or bracelet. ;)  Again, it comes in a lot of colors, and I even ordered another one in a lovely holiday red.


THE DOWN-LOW ON THE DISCOUNTS


My favorite thing about Kohl's is the Kohl's Cash, for example: Purchase $50 worth of items and receive $10-15 in "Kohl's Cash" coupons to redeem on anything you want in the following weeks.  Yes, it keeps you coming back for more, but what I love about it is there are no gimmicks, no minimum purchases, and (get this!) you can use other sales and percentage discounts with the Cash!  It's a great system if you're a bargain shopper, and really, it makes shopping extra fun when you're figuring out how to stack all the amazing discounts!  Plus, the website is set up to easily add your Kohl's Cash (it's also stored in your online account) or discount codes.  They even list additional deals and discounts in your checkout, so be on the lookout in case you missed anything before you hit that purchase button!


I'll be sharing my favorite new jeans from my recent shopping trip very soon (if you follow me on Instagram, you may have caught my Stories singing their tummy control, stretchy, high waisted praises!).  They come in lots of colors, in bootcut and skinny silhouettes, AND in two different fits (aka. regular and curvy).  They're amazing!

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What's your favorite place to shop for awesome deals on clothing?  Have you ever shopped at Kohl's before?  Do you usually forget to use your Kohl's Cash like I do? 😂

How to Organize Your Junk Drawer For Good - Step By Step!

The Dreaded Junk Drawer


Disclaimer: Those with weak stomachs may want to advert their eyes and page down for this part.


how to organize your kitchen drawers

Don't judge.  You know you have one, too.

Good news is, you don't have to have one!  I'm here to tell you that it can be done.  You can get rid of this wretched black hole and keep it that way!

About five months ago I decided that I just couldn't take it anymore.  I'd cleaned out this drawer on occasion over the years, but this time I vowed to better organize it, keep only what made sense for the space, and KEEP it that way!

how to organize your kitchen drawers


Step 1:
Grab that drawer (maybe borrow a forklift) and haul that sucker to your family room floor.

Step 2:
Turn on a movie you've already seen (nothing nail biting, you're working here!).  Blasting upbeat Broadway show tunes is also a good idea.

Step 2a:
If playing sing-a-long show tunes, offer family members ear plugs for the next hour while you work.

Step 3:
Dump out the junk from your said drawer.

Step 4:
Start sorting.  Toss trash in a small garbage bag, plastic grocery bag, or just make a pile.  Make piles for office/craft supplies, tools, batteries, coupons, things to file (receipts, etc.), and piles for specific family members or rooms.

Step 5:
Once sorted, spend the next few minutes finding homes for the stuff that doesn't go back into the drawer.  Little Girl's crayons go to a craft box, Tic-Tacs go to your purse, extra pens and scissors go with your main office supplies; you get the idea.

Step 6:
Get rid of duplicates. You may want a nail file in your drawer for random snags while you're in the kitchen, but you don't need two or three.  This drawer is going to be functional and convenient, but the majority of your supplies need to go to a main home that makes sense.

Step 7:
Take a look at your glorious empty drawer.  Breathe a sigh of relief that the worst is over.  Take a look at your piles.  What's staying?  Why?  Think about their use and why it's important to keep them in this drawer.  Create a plan to organize them.

Step 8:
Don't go crazy making it pretty just yet.  Right now function is most important.  Grab some dollar store plastic baskets/bins for batteries, candles, and lighters; use an old cutlery divider for pens, scissors, Chapstick, and tape rolls.  Look around your house for containers and dividers that will do the job.

Step 9:
Wipe down the drawer with a damp cloth.  Maybe place colorful removable vinyl to protect the drawer.  Add containers to drawer and organize items inside.

Step 10:
If an item doesn't fit well in the drawer reevaluate if you really need it there.

Step 11:
Stand up slowly and stretch your legs.  You're not as young as you used to be!

Step 12:
Slide your fabulous new drawer back in place.  It's easy now that you've cleaned it out.

Step 13:
Before closing your drawer, admire your hard work.  Isn't it pretty?  Isn't it SO much more functional?  Not so embarrassing anymore, is it?  In fact, you might want to throw a party in it's honor.

Step 14:
Go find your family and show them your tremendous achievement.  You'll have to walk around to find them.  Calling out won't work since they still have earplugs in.

Step 15:
Practice humility as they sing your praises.

Step 16:
Take note of any organizers that aren't working perfectly or that aren't winning any beauty contests.  Next time when you're out and about, keep your eyes open for containers that fit the bill.  Then throw that party.


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P.S.  I found this post hiding in the closet of my blog...originally planned for late July 2013.  You read that right!  To this day, I still remember sitting on the floor of my family room with my drawer, trying to make sense of it all!  Sorry to say, I have no idea where the "After" photo ended up (we moved early August, just a couple weeks later), but I'm happy to announce that my kitchen junk drawer has never been this bad since, and my family continues to sing my organizational praises! 😂


post: 7/25/2013