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How To Meal Plan With Coupons

November 06, 2012 By: RealLifeSolutions Category: About the Family, Healthy Living, Organization, organizing No Comments →

Meal planning takes much of the guesswork out of cooking. It ensures you know what you’re going to make each day. It also helps you save a bit of money because you’re going to the supermarket with a list. Just buy what’s on the list, nothing else, and you’ll save money. But there’s another way you can save money with meal planning, and that’s by integrating it with couponing.

Step #1 Gather Your Weekly Supermarket Flyers

The first step is to sit down with the weekly sales flyers. This is where you’ll learn that chicken breasts are on sale and blueberries are a buck a pint. Base your initial meal planning on the flyers, because the majority of your meals will be from the produce section and there generally aren’t too many coupons for produce.

Inevitably, once you have an outline for your meals that week, you’ll need to also add some staples to your list. These may be things like yogurt, cereal, and bacon for breakfast on Sunday, crackers for the kids’ lunches and so on. It’s time for the second step.

Step #2 Scour Coupons

Now it’s time to tap into all of your coupon resources. These may be in your newspaper supplements, in your mail box and in magazines. You can also find downloadable and printable coupons online. It’s a great money-saving resource.

Clip or download only the coupons that match items on your list. You’ll ideally find coupons to cover just about every staple on your list and you may find some produce coupons too. Produce coupons are usually for bags of vegetables or salads. Sometimes you can find coupons for eggs and milk too. Clip these!

It’s also a great idea to clip any coupons that you think you might use next time. You can then work next week’s grocery list around the flyers and the coupons you already have. Additionally, don’t forget to clip coupons for household products like paper towels. Sometimes it just makes sense to stock up.

Step #3 Go Shopping

Head to the store and shop from your list. In a perfect world every item on your list will either be on sale or have a coupon, or both. Track your savings. Also track how your weekly meal planning went. Did you have to run to the store mid-week for anything? Make adjustments to your meal planning routine to prevent this from occurring.

Meal planning is a super way to save money and to reduce stress. Add in a smart couponing strategy, and grocery shopping becomes an efficient and budget friendly process.  Check out  Meal Planning Central for a free meal planning report.

To find out how to get organized and put these strategies to use right away, visit: The Definitive Guide to Home Organization for Busy People today and get your life and home organized and clutter free forever!

How to Keep Your Coupons Organized

June 11, 2012 By: RealLifeSolutions Category: About the Family, Goals, Organization No Comments →

We live in the age of the coupon. Frugal consumers are continuously on the prowl for ways to save money and tighten their purse strings. Finding the perfect coupon in the Sunday paper is like unearthing the Holy Grail. In this day and age, cutting and clipping coupons has become an art form, and attentive and organized shoppers are saving thousands of dollars on their monthly grocery bills. There are newspaper editorials, magazine articles, and even reality television shows that detail the ins and outs of extreme couponing.

You probably consider yourself to be a smart and strategic shopper. You always look for deals and bargains. You preplan the weekly menu by what is on sale at the grocery store. Couponing has always been a weekend warrior hobby, but now you want to take it to the next level. But what do you do? Where do you begin?

Two Ways to Approach Couponing

When it comes to strategic couponing, one thing is for certain: You don’t want your coupon collection to be as cluttered, disorganized and chaotic as your desk was back in college. You need to find a system of organization that works for you. However, before you even begin to organize your coupons, you are going to want to consider what type of couponing approach you are going take. First, are you going to clip only those coupons that you are positive you are going to use? Second, are you going to keep every single coupon you cut until it expires? In other words, the manner in which you organize your collection of coupons will depend, to some degree, on how many coupons you have.

Finding the Right Couponing System

1. If this is your first foray into serious couponing, then the envelope technique is a good place to start. Every envelope represents a different aisle or category in the grocery store. For example, you can have envelopes dedicated to diary products, meat, beauty and hygiene, snacks, and fruits and vegetables. Cut the coupons, put them in the according envelope and then bring the envelopes with you to the grocery store.

2. Depending on how many coupons you use and discard, there may no longer be enough room in your envelope system to hold all your coupons. This might be the time when you graduate to an index file box. Once again, each category and section should be labeled. While envelopes easily fit into your purse on grocery shopping day, now you are going to have to look through the index file box for those coupons you want to use before you go shopping.

3. A three-ring binder is the favorite organizational technique amongst seasoned couponers. Why is that? The binder can hold an enormous amount of coupons. Once you fill its plastic sheets with coupons, separate categories with binder dividers and begin to sort the sections alphabetically, you know you are no longer a weekend hobbyist, but a hardcore super-saver.

Cleaning out Your Coupons

If you are a diligent coupon clipper, getting rid of old coupons every once in awhile is a must. Every six months, spend an hour or two and sort through the entire collection. Toss anything that is expired and throw out any coupons that have an expiration date within the next month if you don’t plan on using it before then.

Additionally, don’t clip every single coupon that you see in the Sunday paper. Only add coupons to your collection that you know you will actually use.

Elli likes to blog about family and work life, home security and safety, and general home improvement tips.  She works in content marketing for YourLocalSecurity.com  (read more about them here).  To learn more about Elli, follow her on  Google+ .

 

Tips for Organizing Your Family Vacation

June 05, 2012 By: RealLifeSolutions Category: About the Family, Healthy Living, Just for Fun, Organization No Comments →

We all hope our family vacations become a treasured source of togetherness and memories. But the reality is often far less lovely: getting an entire household out the door with every needful thing can be an overwhelming task. With some good organizational strategies, you can make planning less stressful, and vacations more meaningful!

1. Decide Your Budget

Stay-cation, state park camping, regional or national parks, domestic or international travel: where you go and what you do depends on what budget works best for your family.

Decide how you will divide your budget…set a limit for travel expenses and break out a daily amount for all activities, meals and souvenirs. Knowing your funds are spread appropriately over the entire span of the vacation provides security and freedom.

2. Grab a Notebook, or Binder, or Computer

Most important, stash all or your vacation information in one place, be it a notebook, binder, or saved on your computer. Consider organizing your files into sections,like: lodging, attractions, activities, meals, maps and packing plans.

Next, create a packing list for each member of your family,and give them ownership of preparing their suitcase and determining what other necessities they may need.

3. Get Family Input

Find out what vacation aspects are the most emotionally important to each family member. When you know that one person enjoys trying off-the-beaten-path restaurants,another likes having a bit of cash for small souvenirs, and another wants to fit in hiking or swimming, you can plan destinations and days that help your family form positive memories along the way.

Family input also helps avoid vacation ruts. If you’ve been going camping because it’s tradition, but solicit family input and find out no one actually enjoys the camping tradition, you’re primed to change paths and make a new tradition that meets your family’s needs.

If you have big dreamers in your family, guide the brainstorming session with topics like ‘Things to do while camping’, ‘Things to do in the car’, or ‘Fun stops along our route’. This cuts down on suggestions like para-sailing and surfing on your drive to a land-locked state.

4. Surf the Web

‘Google’ your proposed destinations, to learn about: local attractions, restaurants and reviews, printable maps of the area–along with driving directions, schedules, and discounts to the activities your family most enjoys.Knowing which activities are free, which have a low cost,and which are more expensive, helps you maximize the budget you set in step one. Additionally, you can order event and activity tickets before leaving home. This could save you time and the frustration of waiting in line for tickets.

Online research can also help you save money on hotel accommodations. Compare amenities, rates, room combinations, and discount options. Look for mid-week specials, area attraction passes, free meals with room reservations, and other perks that add value to your hotel spending.

With that information in hand, make a call to your favorites, and see about additional deals or available discounts. Many can be had just by politely asking. For example, one family found a seaside suite motel that looked like a great home base for exploration up and down the coastal highway. A quick call to the manager secured a much lower weekly rate on their stay. Extending that leg of the vacation plan by one day saved over $150!

Another family discovered it would be more cost-effective to rent a beach side cottage, versus taking multiple rooms in a chain motel further from the water. With self-catering and in-cottage laundry machines, the family saved an average of $120 a night, compared to the original motel plans.

On-line research and pre-planning give you a ready stock of options, and let you tailor your vacation days to suit your family’s energy. Plan for some high energy days, and some low energy days, and no matter what happens, you’ll have options. Be sure to have a few options for lousy weather,and a few very open activities (such as pick-up deli chicken and have a picnic) that can be tossed into the mix at a moment’s notice should the family’s needs change.

5. Spread Out the Work

There may be many pre-vacation tasks that can be delegated to family members. Share the load. Print out individual packing lists, a countdown to-do list, and other organizational aides to display in a central area of your home, and keep everyone motivated and working together toward your vacation.

Even small children can be given some tasks. They could choose three books or a favorite toy to take in their amusement bag, or decide which five shirts they most want to bring along. Older children might be assigned packing buddy status with a younger child.

Teen and adult members might do well with full responsibility for mapping rest stops, planning layover activities for flights, or packing nutritious snacks. If you have one or two members who enjoy photography or blogging, assign them to document your adventure, and put them in charge of creating a family photo book from the images or blog entries later. Give younger family members disposable or inexpensive digital cameras for a very unique look at the vacation from an entirely new perspective. Let everyone take ownership of some aspect of the vacation.

Taking the time to plan with all your family’s needs in mind is a commitment, but the pay-off is a great, low-stress vacation everyone will remember for years!

Stop by Get Organized Now – and check out the amazing collection of 2,175 ideas, tips and techniques for organizing your home, getting rid of clutter, organizing your time, your schedule, your money, your paper, your family and much more!

Menu Planning Tips for Busy Moms

May 21, 2012 By: RealLifeSolutions Category: Healthy Living, Organization, Stress Management No Comments →

Dinner is the last meal of the day and a time when families can get together and discuss their day. It is also a hectic meal for busy moms who are just getting off of work or who have been busy with other activities all day. If you are a busy mom or you know a busy mom, here are  some menu planning tips to help make dinner meals easy and even fun.

Menu Planning Tips

1. Schedule your meals a week in advance –  This is one of the most important menu planning tips. Knowing what you are going to eat throughout the week means less chance that you will stop off at the closest fast food joint for a convenient, but unhealthy meal. Decide on the   last day of the previous week (let’s say Saturday for the sake of argument) what the menu will be for the following week. Create your shopping list from the list of ingredients to avoid   buying what you don’t need at the grocery store.    Also see Meal Planning Central for a free meal planning report.

2. Look for bargains – Clip coupons, read advertising circulars and the like to decide where the best grocery to shop is for your menu items. If one ingredient is a common denominator in  many meals, consider buying in bulk to save money. Common staples like milk, eggs, bread and  sugar can be bought in bulk as well. Some stores will have double or triple coupon days when  you can save even more.

3. Search online - After a while your family will get tired of chicken and rice every Thursday. You can get into a menu rut sometimes. Use the Internet to search for new and exciting recipes. Learn to put a twist on old recipes for a new taste.

4. Have a leftover night – After preparing meals for five or six days, there is bound to be so  me food left over.   One of my favorite menu planning tips is to designate one night to be leftover night and let everyone mix and match for dinner. It saves mom from having to throw away any food.

5. Cook your meals in advance. After deciding on a menu plan for the week, go ahead and fix as many meals as you can. Choose a day when the entire family can help like Saturday morning or Sunday afternoon. Each person can take one meal and fix it for the following week. Once everything has cooled, store it in sealed containers or casserole dishes to be frozen until the  night it is needed.

6. Do prep work in advance –  All of the meals can’t be cooked at once. Some foods just taste better freshly prepared. For them, so as much prep work in advance as you can. Enlist your kids to help chop (give them the kitchen shears instead) vegetables, dice cooked meat and mix to  gether dry ingredients. The night of the meal, all that is needed is to add the wet ingredients and bake.

As you can see, using some menu planning tips will be your ticket to saving money, sanity and time  – what else could a busy mom ask for? Now, let’s get Cookin’!  Remember that meal time doesn’t have to be all on mom. The entire family can help with dinner so it is a relaxing meal for everyone.

More Menu Planning Tips Here

Also see Meal Planning Central for a free meal planning report.

Easy Ways To Save Money Fast

May 11, 2012 By: RealLifeSolutions Category: Goals, Healthy Living, Organization No Comments →

With the global economy at one of its all-time lows, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to make ends meet. However, many of us are looking for easy ways to save money fast.   There are many easy ways to save money fast and you don’t necessarily require drastic action, and you may even want to try some of these out simply as ways to save up for something you want. So here are a few great money-saving tips that you might never really have thought of.

Easy Ways To Save Money Fast

Ditch your car (sometimes): Your car is probably one of the most expensive things in your life. We forget that not we’re not only paying up for fuel on a regular basis, but we also have to pay all the maintenance costs for our cars.

We don’t necessarily need cars to get on with our daily lives. Public transport is great alternative. Another great alternative to a car is a bicycle. Bicycles cost almost nothing to run, with very low maintenance costs and zero fuel bills. Better still, you’ll even get fit by using a bike.

Finally, you can walk as much as possible. While some things will probably be too far away for walking, there’ll almost certainly be plenty of things you can do by walking which you’d normally take your car to do.

Many can’t imagine life without a car, but you don’t actually have to drop your car altogether to save money. Just making shorter journeys by bus, bike or on foot can start saving you money on fuel, and will reduce wear and tear on your car making maintenance less of an issue.

Stop going to the gym: If you are looking for  easy ways to save money fast, you may want to check out your work out habits.   If you’re paying out to go to the gym on a regular basis, then consider doing your workout from home – at least until your financial situation is looking a bit better.  You can arrange to go on runs in a local park or on the sidewalk with friends if you want to get out of the house. But it’s also possible to do lots of exercises in the house.

You can also try to cycle journeys that you would usually make in the car. As mentioned above, this can reduce fuel costs at the same time as keeping you fit. It’s also a timesaver, as you won’t need to use up as much of your free time on exercise if you’re cycling to get around.

Plan your food shopping: One of the most common mistakes we make is not planning our food shopping properly. By using some key family meal planning tips, you can save a lot of money monehly.  It can seem like an annoying chore, but by buying only what you know you will need you waste far less. It also means you can take advantage of bulk-buy special offers.

Check out supermarket clearances: Supermarkets often have end-of-day, or end-of-week clearances. These are definitely worth checking out! You can find some truly amazing deals here, particularly if you’re buying meat. Find out when food clearances usually take place at your local supermarket and make it a habit to turn up for them frequently. It’s possible to cut food bills down quite a bit this way.

Drink less alcohol, smoke less cigarettes:  It sounds boring and difficult, but if you can manage it then cutting back on alcohol and cigarettes can be a huge money-saver. Cigarettes are one of the biggest money wasters – especially for chain smokers. Those who are unable to quit cigarettes might be able to cut back and save some pretty decent money.

Alcohol is actually easier to cut back on than many people think. You don’t have to stop drinking it altogether, but saving it for just one or two nights per week can really make a big difference to your expenses. Also, if you drink out at bars a lot, consider drinking at home beforehand. This can reduce the cost of a night out quite a bit!

As you can see by the list above, there are many  easy ways to save money fast ways.  These are just a few ideas to help get you thinking. Take a look at your daily life, and see if you can find other ways to save yourself money in addition to these.

Click Here For More Easy Ways To Save Money Fast

More Organized Mornings

February 21, 2012 By: RealLifeSolutions Category: Organization No Comments →

Here are some great tips for more organized mornings.  Are your mornings chaotic? Do you want them to move more smoothly? Here are some tips to help you do just that.

1. Plan ahead.

Develop the habit of preparing for the next day the evening before. That will not only give you a head start for the day, but will get your body in the habit of slowing down to fall asleep when you want it to. Realize you can’t work or play until you fall into bed exhausted. Exercise is great, but earlier in the day, not right before bed. Your mind and your body need to relax after the busy day to get a good night’s sleep, that’s a big plus toward an organized morning.

The length of time required to prepare will depend on family size, and what the next day holds for each person. Start with 30 minutes to an hour, making adjustments as necessary. Also note that planning is done by each family member mature enough to do it, not by Mom or Dad alone, though someone will have to take the lead.

 2. Select tomorrow’s clothing.

Does work require a suit, business casual, or casual? Is this a tennis or golf day? Will someone volunteer at the food pantry? Will the children need school uniforms, or more sturdy clothes for a field trip? What about sport uniforms or dance outfits for after school?

Select clothing and set it out where each person dresses. Check for missing buttons, broken zippers, rips, or stains. Those problems are more easily corrected in the evening.

 3. Prepare tomorrow’s food.

Prepare and refrigerate lunch boxes in the evening when time is more relaxed. Part or all of breakfast may be fixed at the same time. This minimizes cleanup: two meals, one cleanup.

In addition, set the table for breakfast. More time for breakfast means a more readily digested breakfast.

 4. Collect tomorrow’s needed items.

What goes to work, reports or contracts? Put it all in the business case(s). What goes to school, homework, or projects? Put those in the book pack(s). Is anyone going to the doctor? Bag the patient’s prescriptions and over-the- counter medicines; remember to include all of them. Any questions for the doctor are written out and included with the medicines. Does anything need to be picked up? Make sure the ‘picker’ has the needed ticket or receipt. Does the tennis player have his racket, the golfer her golf bag, the canasta player his cards? Try to think all this through before going to bed.

Stage these things by the door. Set them in order as needed, and in tote bags or containers to keep everything together. For example, if Dad leaves first, his items will sit at the door. Those leaving next have their items behind Dad’s. If Mom leaves last, her things are at the end of the line. Each person’s pack is waiting for them as they leave. Everything is in order, nothing is left behind.

5. Wake up refreshed.

When the clock goes off, do not push the snooze alarm. If you got to bed early enough, that won’t be necessary. Even if you didn’t, don’t push the snooze alarm, and don’t jump out of bed immediately. Instead, do easy stretches, like a cat does. While stretching, think gratitude, be grateful for another day, for another chance to succeed and be happy. That way when you do get out of bed, you’ll feel great. Continue feeling great by remembering how you prepared the night before; there’s no need to rush this morning.

As you get up, make your bed. This takes little effort, yet gives lots of benefits. It makes the room neater; it keeps people from fussing, and it makes the bed feel oh so nice when you climb into it at night. If children are too young to make their own beds, let them ‘help’ until they can do it alone. The earlier they develop this habit, the easier it will be for them, and you.

Another stress reducer is staggering awakenings and bathroom times. Not everyone can crowd in there at once, so stagger times to allow those leaving first to get into the bathroom(s) first. Whoever guides the rest of the family, leads the way. Last ones out of the house are the last ones in the bathroom(s). Make the schedule so each person has the time they need. Unless you live alone, consideration for others is the key.

6. Eat a healthy breakfast.

Don’t forget breakfast. Everyone needs a little fuel for the morning’s activities. Even those with small appetites can have coffee, juice or milk, toast or fruit, a hard boiled egg, something so they won’t leave the house on an empty stomach.

Since most or all of it was prepared the night before, breakfast doesn’t have to be rushed. There’s even time to wash the dishes or put them in the dishwasher.

 7. Ready, set, go!

Finally, make sure the first person home has keys to get in the house. Have the last one leaving make sure the door is locked while everyone is away. As each person goes out the door, encourage them to tell the rest still home that they love them. Being organized is great for relationships.

Result: The previous night’s preparation smoothed the morning routine. Organization replaced chaos. Each person had ample time to dress, enjoy breakfast, collect his or her things, and leave on time, relaxed and eager to meet the challenges of the day.

Stop by Get Organized Now – and check out the amazing collection of 2,175 ideas, tips and techniques for organizing your home, getting rid of clutter, organizing your time, your schedule, your money, your paper, your family and much more!

Time Saving Tips for Busy Moms

December 08, 2011 By: RealLifeSolutions Category: Organization No Comments →

It is no surprise that moms feel overwhelmed when they try to fit everything into their busy days. After all, few single people can manage to juggle work, home life, and fun successfully. On top of these responsibilities, moms add car pool duty, cupcake emergencies, and last minute science projects to their to do lists. So, how do moms manage to fit all of those tasks into their lives and still keep their sanity without resorting to cloning?

First, you may want to consider making a list of tasks that need to be completed. Then, take a hard look at that list for anything that could be simplified or eliminated. For example, do your children really need home baked cupcakes for the school party? The bakery up the street will be happy to box up 24 cupcakes and have them ready for you to pick up the next morning, saving you at least a half hour.

Next, look for tasks that really take a lot of your time, but could be done by someone else. If your children are too young to help walk the dog, you may want to consider hiring a dog walker to give your pooch his daily exercise. Errand services are also a great time saver. You can have your errand service shop for back to school supplies, pick up groceries, or get the dry cleaning. A maid service can come in once a week to do some heavy duty cleaning.

Another task that takes a lot of time is cooking. However, you can stop cooking a meal from scratch every evening and still feed your family without hitting speed dial for your favorite pizza with bulk cooking. Pick a weekend and cook enough food for an entire month of meals. Freeze the food in dinner size portions and simply reheat a dinner each evening.

Of course moms who work from home have a flexibility that other moms don’t have. If you become overwhelmed with all that you have to do, give yourself permission to take some time off to catch up. If you simply can’t take time off, you may want to find a mother’s helper to watch the children and do some basic household chores while you work.

Finally, if it seems you are always spending your evenings helping your children complete big assignments that are due the next day, give each of your children a homework notebook. If they neglect to write assignments down, ask their teachers to initial the assignment book, so you will know that all assignments are listed. This will eliminate all of those last minute posters, science fair projects, and reports that moms seem to end up helping with until midnight the night before they are due.

Visit Real Life Guidance for more help for moms.. available 24/7.

An Organized Computer is a Happy One

November 10, 2011 By: RealLifeSolutions Category: Organization No Comments →

How does your computer look? Can you find documents and email easily? Or do you have so many documents and email you don’t know where to start? Organizing your computer is an important part of making your life easier and more efficient. Here are some ideas to get your computer organized and keep it that way.

1. The best thing about filing documents on your computer may also be the biggest challenge. Set up broad-category folders within My Documents (in Windows) or on your hard drive (in a Mac). You can also set up subfolders within each category. Use the computer’s sorting function. An easy way to organize is by file types. Put ‘AAA’ (or a space) in front of the names of the most-used folders and ‘ZZZ’ (or a bullet) in front of the least used ones.

2. Name your files and folders with meaningful and recognizable names. Also, be specific and include dates if possible. The goal when naming files is to be able to tell what the file is about without having to open it and look.

3. Reserve your desktop for items that need immediate attention. When you are done with them, file them in the proper folder. Try not to store documents long-term on your desktop. You can also use the Desktop Cleanup Wizard. In the Windows program, you can use this automatic desktop cleanup tool. Go to ‘Start,’ ‘Control Panel’. In the ‘Desktop’ tab, click ‘Customize Desktop’. Then choose ‘Clean Desktop Now’. You can also choose to run this tool periodically. The wizard moves unused items from the desktop to an archive folder.

4. Back up your files often so they can be cleared from your computer. There are a number of affordable back- up options that will keep all your important files, media and photos saved if anything should happen to your computer. This is very important. It is better to be safe than sorry.

5. The most common type of computer files that creates clutter are music files. Music files have shrunk in size over the years, however, they add up fast and you can lose track of how many you have stored on your computer. You should regularly remove excess MP3s onto discs, flash drives or backup drives to keep your computer clear of clutter.

 6. An effective email system is easy to establish and maintain. Reserve your Inbox for action items. Set up email file folders. Set up individual folders for people with whom you communicate often. Create additional folders related to specific projects, events and companies, and a holding file for pending email that you plan to keep for a very brief time. Last, but not least, create a folder name ‘Important’ for high priority items.

7. Put complete information into the subject line of email so they will be easier to find later. You should also allot an amount of time each day to review and file email. Try to download and respond to email no more than twice a day. An important tool to use in Outlook is the Message Rules tool. You can set up your rules for the system to do certain things with different email messages automatically.

8. Other ways to tackle your email include avoiding subscriptions to online newsletters that don’t contain helpful information. Limit your receipt of jokes and chain letter type email. Not only are they time consuming, they can also contain computer-threatening viruses.

9. Is your Internet Explorer Favorites folder busting at the seams? It needs weeding out and organizing from time to time. To organize your Favorites in Internet Explorer, on the Favorites menu, click Organize Favorites. Also, there is additional clean up that is easy to do. Start Internet Explorer and on the Tools menu click Internet Options. In the General tab of the Internet Options dialog box, you have two choices: (1) In the Temporary Internet files section, click Delete Files to remove all temporary files, and (2) In the History section, click Clear History to remove the list of sites you’ve previously viewed.

10. Last, but not least, regularly clean your keyboard, monitor and peripherals. Use lint free cleaning cloths and a cleaner for electronics. Compressed air is also helpful for cleaning dirt and dust out of crevices and between keys.

Traditional Thanksgiving Day Menu

November 03, 2011 By: RealLifeSolutions Category: Healthy Living, Organization No Comments →

It’s that time of year once again.   The leaves are beginning to change colors, Halloween is approaching quickly, the kids are in school and have adjusted, and Thanksgiving is just around the corner.  Creating a traditional Thanksgiving day menu is easier than you think, even for a novice cook. 

When you sit down to plan your traditional Thanksgiving Day menu be sure to start with a shopping list.  For a family of four, a smaller turkey will fit the bill, take less time to cook and still provide plenty of left overs for those delicious cold turkey sandwiches the next day.   A basic list will include the turkey, of course, cranberry sauce, gravy, stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes and for some families – green beans and French fried onions for a casserole.  Biscuits or crescent rolls with butter are a great addition as well.  Don’t forget the pumpkin pie and the whipped cream!

To be sure that you have all of your traditional Thanksgiving Day menu items on hand.  Plan your trip to the grocery store in advance.  This will give your turkey plenty of time to defrost if it is frozen and it will also give you time to visit other stores for price checking and bargain huntint.  Always allow the turkey to defrost over the course of a few days in the freezer, rather than sitting it out on the counter for hours.  This will prevent bacteria from developing, which can cause food poisoning.  No one wants food poisoning.  If the turkey is still slightly frozen on Thanksgiving, place the plastic wrapped turkey in the sink and run cold water over it for a while.  This will help speed defrosting. 

After the turkey is defrosted it is time to prep it for cooking.  Preheat the oven to the manufacturers recommended temperature.  Remove the plastic wrapper from the bird and discard it.  Remove the wrapped package that is in the turkey and place it to the side.  This is the innards and the neck and can be used later to make other things.  Rinse the turkey in cold water and remove any remaining feathers by pulling them out.  If they are hard to get out, grab a pair of pliers to remove them.  Pat the turkey dry with paper towels and throw them out.  Place the turkey, breast side up, on a rack in a deep roasting pan.  For a crispy and delicious skin, melt a half stick of butter and brush it on the turkey, making sure to get all of the parts including the wings and legs.  After coating the turkey with the butter, sprinkle garlic powder and black pepper all over the bird, again getting the wings and legs.
 
After seasoning the turkey, place it in the preheated oven.  Checking it frequently, allow the turkey to bake for the correct amount of time as indicated by the label.  Once the skin begins to brown, pull the turkey out for a minute and baste it with 2 cups of turkey broth.  Cover the turkey with foil at this time and return it to the oven.  Baste it every 30 to 40 minutes with the juices from the pan, recover and return it to the oven.  You may be wondering about the stuffing.  Well, for safeties sake, and because crispy stuffing just tastes better, this guide calls for the stuffing to be prepared separately in a baking dish.  Stuffed turkeys can be havens for bacteria and can cause both the stuffing and the turkey to not cook thoroughly. 

Approximately 1 hour before the turkey is scheduled to be done, begin preparing the other dishes.  The stuffing can be made using chicken or turkey broth to add additional flavor.  After preparing the stuffing on the stove top, spread it out evenly in a baking dish and place it in the oven below the turkey.  This will give the stuffing a crispy top layer, with a softer layer underneath. 

If you traditional Thanksgiving Day menu doesn’t include the plain cranberry sause, a delicious alternative is to mix whole berry cranberry sauce with a can of drained pineapple tidbits.  The pineapple adds a unique flavor to the sauce and goes well with the turkey and stuffing.  Another great side dish is a string bean casserole, made with fresh string beans, cream of mushroom soup and topped with crunchy fried onion strings.
 
For the sweet potatoes, a casserole is another great way to go.  After cleaning and taking off any bad parts, take your sweet potatoes, cut them up into 1-2 inch chunks and place in a microwave safe bowl.  Add 3 tablespoons of butter, also in chunks, to the bowl.  Microwave on high for 4 minutes, then stir or mash the potatoes and butter together in the bowl.  Return it to the microwave for an additional 4 minutes, then remove and stir again.  To the sweet potato and butter mash, add cinnamon and sugar to taste, stirring to mix it thoroughly.  Once it is mixed, place the mixture into an oven safe baking dish.  Top with granola and miniature marshmallows and bake for 15 minutes, or until the marshmallows are melted and browned. 

By now, the turkey should be done.  Most turkeys come with a pop-up timer.  If it has not popped yet, keep checking every 5 minutes until it does.  Once the timer is popped, remove the turkey from the oven and put in the green bean casserole and biscuits.  Place the turkey on a safe surface and keep it covered for at least 20 minutes with aluminum foil.  This allows the turkey to rest, reach its maximum cooking temperature and gives the juices a chance to settle back into the meat.  Cutting into a turkey as soon as it is removed from the oven is a sure way to lose all of the juices and get a dry turkey.

After the turkey has rested, and the rest of the dishes have come out of the oven, it is time to carve the bird.  Start by removing the legs and wings.  After slicing with a sharp knife in the joint of each piece, using a bit of force, bend it backward until you hear a crack.  You can then slice through the rest of the way, creating clean cut pieces.  Once the parts are removed, you can begin slicing the breast meat.  Using a sharp knife, slice the meat into thin layers and stack onto a serving dish.  Surround the white meat with the legs and wings and serve. 

Everyone has different variations on their traditional Thanksgiving Day menu.  Any of the above recipes and ideas can be modified for your family’s preferences and dietary needs.  The most important part of preparing for any Holiday meal is not that you enjoy the prep work, the cooking and the eating but that you enjoy spending this important time with your family and friends. 

Visit the following link for a Stress Free Thanksgiving.

Saving On Grocery Bills – Coupons

October 27, 2011 By: RealLifeSolutions Category: Organization No Comments →

Do you want to get in on the coupon craze  and start saving on grocery bills?   The practice of clipping coupons nowadays seems to be sweeping the nation in these money-conscious times? Couponing may seem overwhelming to consider at first – who has time to clip, organize, and calculate coupons? You do! It doesn’t have to take a tremendous amount of time, and the money saved (if it’s done efficiently) is said to be worth it.

Here are tips on saving on grocery bills using coupons:

How Do I Do This?

“Organization” is the key to effective couponing. Experienced couponers suggest the following organizational tips:

* Get a coupon book or notebook. Organize it alphabetically, by item type, according to your store’s layout, etc. You might want a special section for items that are on special on shopping day. Do whatever works for you and helps minimize time spent standing in the store trying to fish through coupons.

* Know your store’s specials, discounts, and coupon policies. Some stores routinely double coupons; others do so periodically or for certain items.

* Count on anywhere from 25 minutes to an hour to prepare for your shopping trip – this includes clipping, downloading, printing and organizing your coupons and studying up on your store’s deals.

Where Do I Find Coupons?

You can find coupons at a surprising variety of places. There are electronic ones, paper ones, coupons stuck to the outside of products or printed on the inside of boxes, and so forth. Here are some ideas.

1. Websites

Coupon websites can offer printable coupons, sometimes in conjunction with your store’s current deals. Here is a partial list of some well-known coupon sites:

- CouponMom.com
- RefundCents.com
- Boodle.com
- CoolSavings.com
- Valpak.com
- MyCoupons.com
- SmartSource.com

When it comes to saving on grocery bills, dont forget to see if your store has a website.  If your grocer store does have a website, visit it and see if there are places where you can sign up or join. Some stores offer electronic coupons that you can upload onto a card that is scanned at check-out. Also, when you begin participating in a store’s coupon program and upload various deals, they may send you coupons in the mail or electronically. You can even sign up for electronic notice of store specials.

2. Flyers

Viewing your local newspaper and other local publications is also a great way to begin saving on grocery bills.  Flyers are also a great way to see what’s on special at your store.

3. Product Sites

If you visit your favorite products’ websites, look for coupons offered there. If, for example, you like sauce made by The Hot Sauce Company, you can do an internet search for “The Hot Sauce Company coupons.” 

Know When It’s Not Worth It

The point of couponing is to begin saving on grocery bills. If you find yourself spending a lot of time and gas money driving long distances between stores just for that great deal, or if you are uncomfortable having to go to stores whose business practices you don’t agree with, then you might want to back off a bit. If you’re not clearly saving, then it’s probably not worth it.