Archive for the ‘For the Home’ Category

01/21/10
Amy
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(Money Saving Tip) Grocery Sale Cycles


When it comes to food, there are sale prices and then there are sale prices. If the item you are buying is less than 10% off, then it is probably a phantom sale and not worth stocking-up on. But when an item really goes on sale, how much should you buy? You don’t want to break your pantry shelves, but you also don’t want to run out before the next good sale. It is hard to make that call when you don’t know when it will be on sale again…or do you?

img_1227As it turns out, stores generally run on 12 week sale cycles and coupons follow a similar pattern. Your best deals are going to be found when you save your coupons to match those great, rock-bottom sale prices. But even if you aren’t a coupon clipper, just watch the sales and transition to making the bulk of your purchases based on the 12 week cycle. You will save a ton of money and can make a calculated decision on quantity based on the 12-week rule-of-thumb.

Note – There are always exceptions to rule. Start observing the sales at your store and you will soon see patterns emerge.

01/20/10
Amy
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(Deep Cleaning) Medicine Cabinet


Taking vitamins and supplements on a routine basis is a challenge to keep up with, especially when you are orchestrating it for the entire family. The key is to keep the process as intuitive as possible. Simple decluttering and organization is the first step. Spend a few minutes this week cleaning out your medicine cabinet. Here are a few tips to get you started:

1. Get rid of expired medications and supplements.

2. Discard items that you no longer use.

3. Separate medications from nutritional supplements.

4. Further divide into adults’ and children’s groups.

5. Store your regularly used supplements at the front of the cabinet where they can be easily accessed.

medcab

01/14/10
Amy

(Cooking) Enchiladas


This is one of my family’s favorite enchilada recipes. It is quick, easy, and packed with rich Mexican flavors without being too spicy. I have made it with ground meats and also with chicken before – both are delicious!

Enchiladasenchiladas

1 lb ground beef, ground turkey, or shredded chicken
1 onion, chopped
1 t minced garlic
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1 8oz can tomato sauce
1 t paprika
2 t chili powder
1/2 t cumin
1/4 t salt
1/4 t black pepper
3 c shredded Mexican cheese blend
1 10oz can enchilada sauce
Tortillas, flour or corn (if making gluten free) (quantity will vary between 6-12 depending on tortilla size)

1. Cook onion in a little bit of oil until tender. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add cooked meat, tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, paprika, salt, black pepper, chili powder, and cumin. Simmer for 10 minutes.

2. Pour 1/3 of the enchilada sauce into the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish.

3. Fill each tortilla with a scoop of the meat mixture (amount depends on size of the tortilla) and cheese. Roll up tortilla and place it into the baking dish seam side down. Repeat with all tortillas. Top enchiladas with remaining enchilada sauce and cheese.

4. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until bubbling.

Garnish with sour cream and cilantro.

01/07/10
Amy
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(Money Saving Tips) Dishwasher & Hot Water


faucetRun the hot water in your kitchen sink before starting the dishwasher. This will ensure that the first water running into the dishwasher will be hot and not cold. If you have a dishwasher that heats the water internally, then it will save you on your energy bill. Otherwise it keeps your dishes from being washed with cold water.

01/06/10
Amy
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(Organization) File Cabinet


If you fell into a file cabinet, it is quite possible that you would be lost forever. Well maybe not you, but certainly that tax form sitting on your desk or the pile of last month’s bills that are waiting to find a new home in a labeled manila folder.

There are some basic filing cabinet rules of organization that most of us more-or-less follow. Okay, maybe one rule. Put the old bills, tax forms, receipts, pay stubs, etc. into labeled folders. If you are a really ambitious individual, you might even have the folders grouped by type (i.e. bills, medical, etc.). Simple, right? But if filing cabinet organization is so simple, then why are most of us afraid to open ours or have the need to do the “squish-slide, squish-slide” routine to get the drawer closed?

This organizational concept idea for file cabinets takes a little bit of work initially, but maintenance only requires one slight adjustment in your filing routine. And the result? No more lost paperwork or “squish-slide” routine.

1. Remove one folder from the drawer.filing

2. Divide the bills or statements into years.

3. Order each year’s papers from the earliest month to the latest.

4. Bind each year with a paperclip and a sticky note that states the year.

5. Put all years except the current and the previous year into a new labeled folder and then into a portable filing box that can be stored in the attic or closet.

6. Place the last year’s bound group of papers back in the original folder (at the back), leaving the papers from this year unbound and situated in the front of the folder. Leave the first statement/bill of the year in front and work your way backwards.

7. At the end of the year, remove the bound group of documents from last year to the portable filing box (or shred and discard if appropriate), put a paperclip and dated sticky note on the newly completed year and start again.

The one change in your filing routine is simply to always place the most recent paperwork at the back of the current year’s papers. This will keep your documents in order from the beginning, thus dramatically reducing your organizational time later.

*Tip – Note that I said to only remove one folder at a time during the initial organization. Allow yourself to make this transition slowly enough that you don’t get overwhelmed (i.e. one folder a day), but also quickly enough that the lack of completion doesn’t overwhelm your attempt to change your routine.

01/04/10
Amy
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(Cooking) Dipped Oreos


Every holiday season, I look forward to those fudge dipped Oreos gracing the grocery store shelves. And every holiday season, I buy the overpriced box of only twelve dipped cookies and savor every bite.

This year as I indulged in my delectable holiday cookie, it dawned on me how easy and much cheaper they would be to make. And an added bonus? I could use double-stuffed Oreos! As you may have seen in my Photography 365 – 2010, I was not disappointed.

jan1

To make this yummy treat, all I did was melt Almond Bark/Vanilla Candy Coating (you could also splurge and use real white baking chocolate, but I found this cheaper alternative did nicely) in the microwave for 30 seconds, stirred it, and continued to cook and stir in 15 second intervals until it was melted. Then, using a pair of tongs, I dipped each cookie until it was completely coated. The cookies were then set on parchment paper until they hardened.

Eat and enjoy!

*Tip – For a decorative touch, you can drizzle the dipped cookies with melted dark chocolate and/or add a slice of strawberry to the top.

01/02/10
Amy
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(Healthy Living) Garlic Oil


Ear infections. Those two words can make the strongest mother shudder. If you have been up in the night with your hurting baby who is crying hour after hour, you know exactly what I mean. Antibiotics certainly don’t fall under the “ideal” category, but even the most idealistic parent can succumb when seeing their child in such pain. But what if, as long as the infection was not severe, there was an alternative treatment? Or even a preventative?

Garlic OilGarlic oil is a fabulous alternative treatment option. It is famous for its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, thus addressing some of the main concerns in ear infections. By putting just a couple of drops in each ear several times a day, the infection is addressed as well as the pain. It can also be used as a preventative, and can be helpful if, for example, you have a child who you know is prone to ear infections after colds.

Some infections can grow too intense and need to be treated by a doctor, but you can continue to use the garlic oil in conjunction with antibiotics.

The only real disadvantage of using garlic oil is that your child will smell a bit like Italian food. But if that’s your worst problem, then you can just make spaghetti for dinner.

01/01/10
Amy
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(Home Management) Toy Rotation


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Toys are wonderful things. They can stimulate creativity, provide entertainment, and have the potential to enrich the childhood experience. But there can be too much of a good thing. Has your child ever come to you, complaining of boredom and dramatically declaring that there is nothing to do? But when you look around, the floors are littered with numerous sets of toys, half-worked puzzles, and mismatched games. Toys that you and grandparents spent lots of money on! How can they be so ungrateful?

As adults, we are (largely) aware of how our workspace impacts our state of mind, ability to work effectively, and our level of creativity. When there is too much in front of us that is demanding our attention, we can become paralyzed or ineffective. Where do we even begin? I felt this way about cleaning my house just today!

It is the same way with our kids. While variation in their toys can have a positive impact, unorganized quantity can render them useless. Even though play is different than work, our minds function similarly in both scenarios. The less that is immediately in front of us demanding our attention, the more focused we can be on the task at hand, allowing our minds to exert energy on depth instead of surface management.

When it comes to toy organization, the best place to start is with a simple box system, a concept that I have written about previously. The boxes enable you to easily store the toys in a variety of locations such as in closets, on shelves, under beds, or in the attic. The next step is to implement a toy rotation. Every few months, rotate out the toys from deeper storage into storage that is readily accessible to the kids. Then encourage them to only get out one or two boxes of toys at a time. This allows them to be completely focused on the play at hand. When they decide at some point that they want to move on to the next activity, clean-up expectations are clearly defined: return the first activity(s) to their boxes before taking out another.

You will quickly find that the toys take on a new life, as well as an increase in your child’s attention span and creativity. And all it took was a few little boxes.

12/11/09
Amy
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(Deep Cleaning) Pre-Christmas Toy Purge


The month before Christmas is a perfect time to do a toy purge. The biggest reason is because kids are often more willing to part with their junk old toys when you tell them it is to make room for their new Christmas presents.

So one day this week when you don’t feel like braving the cold or the crowds for last minute shopping, spend a couple of hours doing a toy purge. Have one bag for trash and then another bag for toys to donate. A couple of hours spent now can save your sanity after Christmas.

toybox

Tip: Don’t make your ambitions for this project so great that it is overwhelming and you don’t do it at all. If you only have an hour to spend on the task, then adjust your expectations accordingly. This does not have to be a complete toy organization overhaul. A brief, high-level toy purge can make a HUGE difference.

12/02/09
Amy
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(Healthy Living) Sugar and the Immune System


sugarIt is a fairly well known fact that sugar weakens the immune system. But did you know that it most strongly weakens your immune system for the first 4-5 hours after eating it?

Sugar is a fun treat in life and I personally cannot imagine life without a little bit of sugary goodness. However, especially during the cold and flu season, be choosy about when you consume sugar. Times when you are around a lot of people or exposed to more germs are some of the worst times to drink a soda or munch on candy. Instead, select a non-sugary drink on the airplane and encourage your kids to have more of their treats at home instead of at school.

Being mindful of your sugar consumption is a significant factor in your health; not just the amount, but also the timing.