A Year's Worth of Laundry Detergent for $20

March 30, 2013

Since I went to college 10 years ago I have hated buying laundry detergent. The good stuff costs too much, the cheap stuff leaves you feeling like you're covered in ants all day. I bought middle of the line for a long, long time. It was just a total pain to spend 10-20 bucks on detergent every other month, and more often than that once Jeremy and I were married. 

Once we moved so that Jeremy could start graduate school I knew I had to make cuts somewhere, the last thing I wanted was for cleaning products to take up a chunk of our budget. I'd much rather spend money on food than bleach any day of the week. I had to find something that would last a year, work well, and be cost effective. 

After searching detergent recipes, and attempting to sway Jeremy towards my side on this idea, I finally found one I liked. I started off intrigued by the Duggar's recipe, but the time that goes into making a liquid detergent is just too much for me. As you could probably guess the most labor intensive I was willing to go was grating some Fles-napa in my food processor. And grating in a food processor I did, what I landed on costs $20 total and just involved a bit of grating and some stirring. 

The best part, it made 288 loads. We are officially a month past the day when I made this detergent last year. It works amazing, and for $20 total that has cost us roughly .35 cents per week to wash 2-3 loads, and sometimes more, of laundry. We usually do two loads of clothes a week, a load of towels, and every other week or so toss in another load of dog stuff and 2 loads of bedding. 

While this is a great basic detergent recipe, it doesn't smell. Jeremy love a good laundry scent, so we have opted to use Purex crystals in our bedding and Jeremy's laundry loads. I rarely use anything scents just because of my allergies, but with a scent free detergent you have the ability to tailor it to your family's needs. 

Laundry detergent:
makes 288 loads(1 Oxy Clean scoop per load)

1 4 lb 12 oz box Borax (2.15 kg or 76 oz) 

1 4 lb box Arm & Hammer Baking Soda (1.81 kg)
1  box Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda 55 oz (3 lb 7 oz)
3 bars of Fels-Naptha soap
2 small containers of Oxy Clean or store brand(3.5 lbs total)

Grate Fels-Naptha by hand, or in a food processor with the grater attachment. Combine with all other ingredients and store in a air tight container. 

Have you ever made your own cleaning products? What was your favorite? 
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Show Us Your Life :: Date Night Ideas

March 29, 2013

Today I'm linking up with Kelly of Kelly's Korner, you can head over there to see all the other date night ideas! 

Over the years we probably haven't dated as much as most couples do, this year we have really made a point to get better at it though. While a going out is always an option, some of my favorite have been low key and at home. Here is a little list of a few date ideas we've had:

1. Taking the dogs to the park and having a picnic at lunch.
2. Ordering takeout and watching a movie in bed.
3. Cooking a fancy dinner at home.
4. Go to a festival, get a ton of food from different vendors, lay in the grass, and enjoy the live music.
5. We've made a habit to try a new BBQ restaurant when we travel, one of my favorites.
6. If you can't afford to go out to eat, cook at home and go out for dessert. 
7. Bowling.
8. When we were engaged we went to a dancing class/club...it was so fun!
9. Breakfast/coffee dates are always a favorite.
10. Splurge and go to a bed & breakfast...with a jacuzzi. Jeremy always insists it has a jacuzzi:)
11. Our favorite, and how we started dating :: Go to see a local band in concert. 

What are some of your favorite date ideas? 
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How to Optimize Your Blog & Create an Apple Icon

Some blogger's don't need a lot of help optimizing their blogs, somehow their sites get attention through a few simple steps...other's follow many of the same steps and don't see the same speedy results. I for one sometimes feel a bit behind, I've seen people to have blogged for a way less amount of time than I have see much greater results. Maybe I didn't devote the time, maybe I haven't discovered my niche, maybe I'm just not giving my readers what they want. In any matter, there are a few ways to successfully optimize your blog, change a few mistakes you are making, and see some results. 

There are a few things I am plagued with. 1) Affiliates always want numbers, I can give them page view numbers...but my actual subscribed GFC followers are lower than they like. 2)Who on these unknown people reading, what do they want to read about, how do I actually engage them. And 3) I am still trying to get my head wrapped around SEO...and finding the time to do all of this can be a full time job in itself. 

Before we get too deep, there are a few things you can do to enhance your blog experience::
1. Interact with other bloggers, comment, comment, comment!
They won't talk to you if you won't talk to them. 
2. Find button swaps and get to swapping. 
This is something I am working on, I don't have the cash to pay out every blog on earth for it is a matter of checking out blogs I fall on and seenig if they offer free swaps to bloggers. 
3. Get on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest!
This is free marketing, use it! People will think you are nuts for using your blog name on everything, but you have to brand yourself and use a consistent brand to actually make sense. I can't hope between accounts with differnt names and easily convince affiliates that I am LABride. So to solve it I stay LABride on everything. 
4. Make your blog easy to read and navigate.
There is nothing that makes me leave a page faster than automatic music and a cluster of madness. 

Now what do you do after you've done all of that?

Get Google Analytics and check your grade on Grader.com

I'm getting the hang of Google Analytics, and have sworn myself off of it for a month until it gets accurate stats on me. Otherwise I will go insane watching numbers change like crazy. So get on, set it up, add it to your blog template, and leave it be for a bit. 

Once you are on you will need to go to Admin, then Tracking Info, and get the code and add it to your blog's template (html). This is the tutorial I used to figure out just how to add the tracking info to my blog, it was a total pain figuring it out. 

Now let's get to why you should be using Grader.com. 

First off it grades your website on a 100 point scale based on a ton of things listed below. It takes into account your Twitter, Facebook, and a few other things that I just don't understand how the internet know it! 

After you've entered all of your social media and blog addresses you will be shown 3 scores (that all come together to make your main score) that include Top of the Funnel, Middle of the Funnel, and Analytics. 

Thi is why I said to get Google Analytics set up, it will help your overall grade if you are working on such things:)

Top of the Funnel then tells you whether or not you meet their top actoin items such as Blogging, SEO, Mobile, & Social; Grader gives you a little check and some tips, if not it tells you how to fix it. For instance, I don't share posts on Facebooka and Twitter more than once a day on average. I should do it more, but I'm afraid it will bug the tar out of people. I also don't have Apple Icons, but we will get to that later. 

Middle of the Funnel goes over the same topics, but it comes in from a differnt angle. For instance, mine told me that 5 out of my last 5 posts included landing pages. Does your blog have an email subscription link? Do you have social media subscription icons? Okay, you're good, we can contine. One of the best things about Middle of the Funnel is that it digs deep into your Twitter interactions and flat out told me that my Twitter links aren't landing me many peeps on the blog. The good side of that, it gave tipes on how to fix it. 

Analytics just basically checks off that you figured out how to use Google Analytics and lets you off the hook. 

So what do you do with your Grader informatoin? Use it, find out what you aren't doing and start doing it, but in the least annoying way. You can tweet badly, you will annoy the mess out of people is you come online soley to tout your blog and jump off. This is why interaction is so key. Am I good at it, not at all. I have times of the week and year when I can devote more time to blogging in its full capicity and I do it them. Thanks to websites like Grader and Analytics I do know how to solve some bloggy issues now. Things that four years ago weren't even an issue. 

Now for that Apple Icon. I am going to be working on mine to get it up and running, but thought I'd share what I've learned anyway. Hey, if a girl can't go to a blog conference she may as well use spring break for some blogucation (yeah I made that up right now.). Making an icon looks easy enough, we shall see once I dive into messing with it. With mobile page views being so high, and the majority of web...interactions...coming from there it is crucial that we use the mobile format that Blogger offers up for our blogs. It makes things just a little bit more easily accessed. The icon, makes it easier. 

Creating an Apple Icon
1. Resize the photo you want, or blog button, to a 57x57 (I've also head you can use 144x144 and it will auto resize) pixel using an easy site like Picmonkey.
2. Upload the image to a photo hosting site such as Picasa or Photo Bucket, whatever your use.  
3. Add this HTML code to your header before the closing

Be sure when doing this that you use an icon that is easily recognized as you, don't get too detailed, it will be lost in the small size of icons. Basically the whole point of this is that this is the icon that will show up if and when someone chooses to save your blog to their homescreen in iOS. Otherwise it just gives a screen shot of your blog...which isn't going to be clear at all. This is yet another, free branding. Use it, love it. Free is free, and hard to come by in the interwebs. 
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Crafts, Crack Dip, & 5 Other Things Pinterest is Lying About

March 28, 2013

Sometimes Pinterest feels the need to straight lie to us about things. For instance, any recipe that is labeled "crack" tends to not taste as good as crack might. For me, crack has an addictive tendency that many a Pinterest recipe hasn't elicited. My most recent Pin-debacle came Tuesday after strolling the aisles of Wally World searching for an Easter basket and exactly 12 eggs to send to school with the little dude. 

In that instance I realized just how much I was failing at Whole 30, you can take away the dairy...but dear baby Jesus you can't remove the grains from me! But I'll save that story for later in the week. Point being, I scrolled Pinterest and came across a "healthy" cookie. Healthy it was, cookie it wasn't. 

Which brings me to::

Things my favorite website is flat lying about. 

#1. Yes those "cookies" above will help you with that chocolate fix and slightly soothe your conscious because of just how "not bad for you" they are...but they are far from cookies. To quote my father:

Dad - "What are those?"
My sister - "Cookies."
Dad - "What's all that gooey mess?"

They weren't good cookie gooey, they were banana baked in the oven for 15 minutes gooey. Will I make them again, probably so, a girl needs a cookie fix in times of need. Is Jeremy probably ecstatic that he wasn't around for this...highly so. 

#2 Cauliflower pizza crusts. I've tried it. I'd use it as a replacement if I had to and in some sort of a zombie apocalypse there was a whole wheat flour shortage. But does it taste good? No. Heck no. Stop trying to convince me it does by having yet another amazing picture taken of it. You can't even pick it up, isn't that a good 90% of the reason we all eat pizza? You don't have to do dishes when you eat out of a big cardboard box. Then again, I'll probably make it again. I have to learn a lesson hard to get it. 

#3 There is no use in pinning "workout inspiration" because that isn't your body. I can do every "sexy legs" workout on Pinterest...I'm not going to get that double-d chest the girl in the pin has. You are just hurting yourself by comparing yourself to someone else. My body is my body, it can't look like your body, or Jennifer Aniston's body for that matter. 

#4 If you are so much of an alcoholic that you have to jazz up your booze with food dye to get it on a cruise you either A) should attend an AA meeting, or B) stop being so cheap and just buy the booze on the cruise. 

#5 If it says crack, and isn't real crack, it probably doesn't taste that great. Crack dip. Crack pie. Crack bread. Trust me, from someone who has tried a ton of Pinterest recipes...and had to listen to her husband ask if I seriously liked what I was eating....the crack recipes aren't that good. 

**this was meant to be satire, if you can't take someone joking about the ridiculousness of Pinterst you should probably list yourself as #6. 

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Oh How Pinteresting Wednesday!

March 27, 2013

Here are just a few of my favorite Pins from the week, I'd love your know your Pinterest handle if you are on there, just leave it in the comments and I'd be glad to follow. You can find more of my Pins here::

The Beauty Benefits of Honey

Cheesy Ham and Egg Baked Breakfast Baguette

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900th post :: just a chatty coffee blogger date

March 26, 2013

Today is my 900th post. Four and a half years, 900 posts. That's a lot of typing, especially for someone who blogged at a minimum for so long. I really feel like I've just gotten into this in the past two years, and have learned so much about editing, html, social media, and networking because of it. After 900 posts, let's just have a little coffee date, or a blate (blogger date) as I've seen a bunch of bloggers jokingly call it. I'll share my hopes and dreams, and you can share yours. 

Let me preface this with this...after hearing what Lisa Leonard spoke on at Blissdom, I want to blog what I feel and not appologize for it. If I can say what I feel, then what is the point of this whole online journal of mine. 

Lately I've hit that point where more IRL people read my URL. It's weird to say the least. For years I've blogged openly, but never really told people I knew that I was blogging. People look at it weird. Yes, I admit, it is weird to have tons of friends that you constatly talk to over Twitter and IG but have met very few in person. But it's a good writing release, I can get things off my chest and at the same time see that others have gone through, or are going through what I'm dealing with. In the most psych major way possible, it's like therapy to me. 

On the same side of that, sometimes I think bloggers get me more than some IRL people. Sometimes it seems that bloggers know that everything shared isn't everything. There is more to me, more to my views, more to the relationship with my husband. Just because they aren't discussed on a daily basis doesn't mean they aren't a part of me. I don't share a lot of personal stuff every week, I do share...but not every single week. 

For instance, the pending move/not move is weighing on me massively. This is the first year I've taught that I didn't move. I absolutely loved walking into a classroom I'd been in, a teaching environment I was familiar with, and lesson plans I had already written. It was a sense of ease that I hadn't experience before. Now with the potential move I could be anywhere teaching anything. I'm honestly fine either way, on a non-work level I would like the excitement of a different city. Especially a few of the ones we are looking into. Where we are is just too small town with not much to offer, but if we stay I'm fine with that too. I just know that where we are now is a "the world is my oyster" situation, so to not dream and think about living elsewhere seems kind of dull. When we walked into this situation 2 years ago I vividly recall standing in the kitchen with Jeremy and him placing his whole graduate school decision on me and saying that if I didn't think I was up to it we wouldn't do it. I agreed, I know just how smart and determined he is and I didn't want to take a chance from him. At the same time, I wanted excitement, and no matter how miserable getting settled somewhere else is, it's new and exciting to some extent. 

I really didn't think I'd be where I am now. I really saw late 20's as more of a settled down with kids thing. Jeremy always tells me I'm much more nostalgic than he is about the whole 5 year plan idea. I seriously had a 5 year plan though. Parts of where we are now were present in that plan, others not so much. I'm with him though, and that is the roller coaster ride I signed up for. The man saw me through grad school and now I'll support him through as well. 

Honestly though, having a husband a year out of thirty is weird at times. Not for me necessarily, but the way people view him is weird to me. I see a man who came a long way and conquered a lot to get where he is, yes he is almost 30 and finishing school, but that is because he had zero support from anyone and had to do it alone. I laugh when people try to tell me things about a man I know so well. I laugh, because it is funny to me that other people think that things that are so normal for us are something to make a deal out of.

I don't know, it's just weird how people treat us like children...because we don't have any. When we've focused on our education and being settled before adding extras in, on purpose. Nothing with Jeremy surprises me, but that doesn't mean I'm not proud of him. I just don't gloat about it. The only person I care to know how I feel about Jeremy is Jeremy. The only people who actually would understand why I would be proud of him would be me, and maybe a few others who know what he came from. Guess the problem here is that I am not impressed with common occurrences because, well, I wouldn't expect any less of the man. I know what he is capable of, and his determination makes me look like the laziest human on earth. 

So I guess what I'm saying here is that you don't hear me talk about him much, because I talk about him to him. I don't feel the need to yell it to the world, because I've whispered it to him. 

Maybe it's just the situation we live in now. Where we live is vastly different from where we lived and grew up before. The things people judge you on are different, what they care about is so different. At least through it all I have a hubby who is on my side, and knows I am on his side as well. 

In the same way that I think people's view of Jeremy is so different from who I know, I see the same thing with me. I think what caused this is basically the fact that people where we are now only know the past 2 years of us, unlike our hometowns who look at either of us and see the real thing. 

People here see me as brass and outspoken. Most see it as negative. They don't see what made me who I am, or just how toned down I've become. Granted I will speak my mind, I was raised to do so, but at the same time the Emily you get now isn't nearly as much as the Emily you would have seen at 20. I was a tough cookie at 20, heck I spent that year trying to hold my own and hold onto what I thought was mine. Over the years I've mellowed out a lot, a lot. I still have a lot of mellowing to do...but you can't expect perfection overnight. I assume that by the time I'm dead I will have worked out the last few kinks. 

Honestly, sometimes I feel like giving people a taste of colleg Emily, just so they know what they're dealing with ha! I'm a work in progress, everyone else is too. Being home where people actually know me though, that has led to a nice feeling of normal that I haven't had in awhile. 
On the other hand I think I've devised a way to go to Blissdom next year. I want to focus on what I love doing and do my best to ignore the negative. I want to grow my little blog, and grow myself as a writer. I'd like to guest post more, tweet more, and take more pictures of food. 

If you're still reading and you follow my blog through Reader, Bloglovin, Twitter, FB, or IG I really honestly thank you. If you read be sure to leave a comment letting know who you are, I'd love to visit your blog, or follow you on social media some how. It is so fun to connect with others, so let me know who you are:) 

On the other hand, are there any topics you'd like to see me blog about? Or questoins you have? 
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Meal Pinning Monday

March 25, 2013

[What is Meal Pinning Monday?]
MPM is how I meal plan for our little family. I once spent a lot of time searching the web and my recipe books hunting for new recipes and ideas for what to cook every week. Then, Pinterest came along and made meal planning much easier for me. Every weekend I look over what I have pinned the prior week and decide what I would like to cook and make my grocery list from these recipes. MPM came about as a way to share what I am cooking, and to also see what others are cooking every week to hopefully get even more dinner ideas from other bloggers. If you don't pin your recipes feel free to just share what you are cooking. 

After an emotional eating weekend I am back in the saddle for some #whole30, and the only way I will be able to stick to it is to force it down the throats of the people who birthed me. Aren't I glad they love me, I think Mom is just happy to see someone else cook! While I'm going #whole30 on these meals, I am easing up on the crowd and just making them eat clean. They can have dairy, I don't want to cause a Cater uprising around here. 

Monday:: Key West Chicken with Cilantro Lime Cauliflower Rice

Tuesday:: Pan Crisped Chicken Thighs with Garlic Thyme Pan Gravy and Roasted Carrots

Wednesday::Chipotle Chicken Sweet Potato Skins

Thursday:: Slow Cooker Shoulder Roast with Sweet Potatos & Onions (because I forgot I was leaving town and planed too many meals last week)

Friday:: Leftovers

Saturday:: Leftovers

Sunday:: Easter, and honestly who knows what we are doing. 

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When you let a 3 year old get in the way of your better judgement...

March 24, 2013

Being that I'm the cool aunt, and well seemingly the only aunt, I tend to do what ever is requested of me from this child. I spend my life disciplining children, teaching things that really matter according to whoever is in charge of our state these days, and being an adult

Sorry, but it is hard to be an 'adult' when you wake up some mornings fearing you missed the bus...a bus that passed well over a decade ago. 

I digress. 

My life is about being responsible and setting some example, so when it comes to this kids it all goes out of the window. He is the only child you will ever see me act this silly with, have conversations with fish with, and ever listen to what he says to do even when I know I shouldn't. 

Which brings me to yesterday. 

We shopped till we dropped, introduced ourselves to every fish in PetSmart, ate enough flat taffy to kill a diabetic at Hobby Lobby, and bought the craziest bouncy ball...that would come back to bite us in the butt later. 

Fast forward to when we got home last night, Joshua was insisting I bouce the ball really high. So far the first few bounces went well. Then...then, he asked me to bounce it really hard, in the hallway. Just so we are clear, I had a moment of mental absense that that glass light fixture that has existed in this house since I was born was at that moment in existance in this hallway. So I bounced the ball. 

Oh and it bounced high. So high it knocked off the light fixture covering, which is all glass, sending it sailing straight towards my sister's dog (if she were a human she'dwould be classified as having Generalized Anxiety Disorder, she once got freaked out in a game of chase and jumped onto my parents bed and peed on my mother's pillow) and smacked her in the back before exploding into opaque white shards everywhere

Now I realize that was the longest run-on sentence ever, but it is how I'd say it in real life, so we will over look that for now. 

So at that point, I'm standing in the hallway, looking at a super freaked out Spaniel mix, a 3 year old who can't decide if he sould play in the glass or say something to me, and two weenie dogs who's first instint is to run through the glass with their tiny little paws. 

After a moment of silence Joshua looked dead at me with the most serious 'you're in trouble' look I've ever seen on his face and he angrily proclaimed "That was NOT cool Meme!" For a second I thought he was going to insist I go into time out. Luckily I just got a speech. "Meme, you threw the ball too hard...it went waaay up dere (there), and hit that ting (thing), and it broked. Not cool Meme. Not cool." 

I just got schooled by a pre-k kid. Oops! 

So schooled, that he got up this morning to tell me that throwing the ball super high was not cool. 

Perhaps I'll never live this down. 

I do know one thing though, I need to go get another light fixture this afternoon. 

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Things That Make Me Say Yeay!

March 23, 2013

We are officially on Easter Break, I am at least. Jeremy isn't until the week after Easter. Oh how I can't wait for next year when we are both working in the same school district (hopefully) and getting very similary breaks. For some odd reason colleges never match the school systems they are sitting in as far as breaks go. 

I decided to come home while I'm off for a few days and hang out in my hometown, which if you've ever been to Natchez you have probably seen this funny landmark. For me, Mammy's is the sign that after a lot of driving I am finally home! 

This little dude is cracking me up! When we went last night to see our childhood friend's new baby Connor we told Josh what the baby's name was, instead he kept saying "I'm going to see a baby named Child." Then, when this picture was taken, he was mad that my sister had removed his yo-yo from the death grip of his hands and decided to self punish himself in an odd protest form of time-out. ]

That wasn't the end of his funnies that night though, while I was doing yoga Joshua walked into the room and looks upsidedown at me, asks what I'm doing, then  scoffs and announces "Meme, they are doing it way better on the TV." Oh 3 year old how I love your honesty!

When I got home yesterday I realized I had recieved my confirmation email about Living Proof Live Bossier! Why does this excite me, aside from the fact that I love LPL events, you ask? Well I won 2 tickets on Beth Moore's blog a few weeks ago. This means the three of us, Mom, Laura, and I, are going to LPL and only having to buy one ticket and book the hotel room! Whoo hoo! The way things are with Jeremy in graduate school I couldn't commit to going before he got an internship, and even then it is still costly (which is why I couldn't go to Blissdom), but now we can all go:)The 3 of us do her simulcast at my home church every year and I just knew this would be the best girls trip ever, I entered and prayed that God would find a way for us to go. Beth Moore never comes to Louisiana, so this was definitely a must do trip, and Jeremy probably thought I was nuts when I called him screaming over the phone a few weeks ago that I won tickets and could go now! 

This little guy just cracks me up, he is finally starting to calm down as far at the puppy biting goes. Ugh, the oral stage just drives me nuts. Then again all babies go through it, I'm starting to believe Erikson's stages go for all animals, not just people. After a long day of not being home Rudy was determined to cuddle with me and crawled into my lap, flipped over, and passed out. Cute thing:)

While LEAP testing makes me want to rip my hair out, I literally thought I was going to stroke out during Phase 1, I did managed to get 12,000 steps in on my Fitbit during the school day. Blame it on my manic state, but I did get a good walking workout in during that awful test. 

If you aren't using the Timehop app I highly suggest you get it! I've said it before, but I've been on Facebook since it let ULM on in 2004, the good thing about nearly 10 years of social media is that you get to remember just where you were this days years ago. The other day I got this reminder, I started dating my silly husband 5 years ago Monday. He is such a goof, and I think that is a bit of what I admire about him. This picture really sums up a good part of Jeremy's personality for me, he is very confident in himself and doesn't mind being goofy. I on the other hand am very confident as well, but can't be goofy in just any situation. Then again, we really appreciate things that the other can do that we ourselves can't do. It just wouldn't be fun if we had too much in common. Let me also comment on the fact that he looks like a BABY here! Oh my word, without facial hair I almost worry that I married a high school-er. The man ages well.

After what many could call "the week from hell" based soley on LEAP, and then a whole other mess of garbage, I took a night off from Whole30 and got some dairy. Dairy in the form of a Reese's and Oreo Sonic Blast. While fruit tastes insanely sweet on a #whole30 it just doesn't satisfy when one is in desperate need of some good ole comfort food. Today I'm back on my A-game and detoxing my way out of Sonic with the good ole Dr. Oz juice cleanse. Seriously, I felt amazing on Whole30 all week, adding dairy and grains into my diet for one meal (I had a quesadilla for dinner that my mom made too) has made me feel like utter death today. 

For a little blog world things that made me say yeay this week...I got to guest post on one of my favorite bloggie friends Duchess of Fork's blog about meal planning. I hadn't guest posted for anyone before, and this was an absolte blast for me. Thanks again Molly, I just love your blog and love that you gave me the opportunity:)
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Meal Planning :: It's about making life easier

March 22, 2013

*** I guest posted earlier this week at Duchess of Fork, I thought I'd share it here for those of you who didn't read it:) No one is above reposting material when it comes to finding blog content lol. 

We are all so insanely busy these days on so many different levels. Everyone always has something they have to be doing, and something they should be doing instead of what they are doing right now. I for one am so guilty of this, when I am in one activity I am thinking about the next one, and so on. Life is just hectic for our generation. To simplify things on the food side of life I started meal planning. I’ve done it since college just to get the most bang for my buck, but it wasn’t until I was married and started teaching that the time crunch got to me. On days were I am only home long enough to let the dogs out before moving onto the next activity I can’t afford not to have some sort of meal plan in place. Our meals range from crockpot recipes and casseroles to things I can grill, and quick. I like to look at my schedule ahead of time and see what we have going on for the week, after that I get to meal planning. On nights I am home for good after work I cook, if I know the next day will be hectic I make sure I have leftovers. If I won’t be able to cook at all it is a crockpot heavy week. The list goes on, constantly changing and evolving based on our weekly schedule.

Meal planning can be as simple or hard as you make it. Simply put, it is just a grocery list with meals for the week attached. It saves time and money in the long haul, and really encourages you and your family to not have to go back to the store several times throughout the week. There are benefits, trust me. Here are a few:

 1. It checks one thing off of your daily list for good.
By meal planning I don’t have to worry about what I am cooking that night, I decided it days in advance already. I know that some Wednesdays I will have a faculty meeting that will run into church activities later in the day, so cooking isn’t an option. In that instance, I plan ahead and make sure I either have leftovers or a crockpot meal. By planning ahead I don’t have to think about it that day, when I get home everything is already done or I already have the items I need to make the meal. No time is wasted going back to the store, yet again. Or even worse, having that “What on earth are we eating tonight?” panic! It is all alleviated by planning ahead.

2. Meal planning saves money.
By writing out exactly what you need, and buying only what you wrote, you will save money every week. Yes, some weeks we get things that aren’t on the list, but overall I try not to. I don’t buy a ton of extra food just for the sake of buying it; I only purchase just what we need. With it just being the two of us it is easy for food to go bad before we get a chance to eat it. Not purchasing extra items allows us cuts back on waste. Nothing hurts my teacher/college graduate student income feelings quite as much as spoiled food. If you are a super shopper, clipping coupons can take meal planning to the next step. I’m not the best at it, but when I can use them I definitely take advantage of coupons.

3. It gives everyone a chance to say what they want for dinner.
I ask Jeremy what he wants me to cook every week, some weeks he has an opinion others he could care less. By asking family members what they want to eat it will cut down on impulse eating out. For instance, if you know the kids want pizza Friday night, make a pizza, don’t wait until the last minute and order out. Cooking at home saves money and is much healthier for your family. This leads me to my second point…

4. Cooking at home is much healthier.
I already said that didn’t I? Ha! By meal planning you can take time to think about healthier ways to cook the meals you love. When I run in the store on impulse without a list I never get the right ingredients and can hardly think about how I can replace certain foods. When planning ahead I can easily scour the web to find substitutions for foods I don’t want in our diet. Even “unhealthy” foods cooked at home are better for you than restaurant food. You don’t know how much sodium and fat is being added to restaurant meals, at home you can completely control that. Don’t want heavy cream in your pasta, substitute with Greek yogurt. Have a dairy allergy? Use lactose free foods. At a restaurant you won’t get the same substitutions, sometimes they will tell you they are and they aren’t. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked for whole wheat pasta and received white. At home I can control what goes into my food.

5.  Meal planning allows you to only go to the store once.
I make my meal plan over the weekend and we go to the store either Saturday afternoon or Sunday night. Luckily I’ve turned my husband into a stickler for this too, and we do our best not to go back during the week. Not only are you cutting down on impulse buying by doing this, you are also not wasting gas by driving across town for that bag of chips you suddenly decided you want. It will cost you more in gas to get that one miniscule item, than to actually purchase it. On rare occasion, the store we go to doesn’t carry what I need and I will have to go to another grocery store to get it; or like this week I completely missed a main lunch ingredient and had to go back. That probably only happens once a month tops. By making one big grocery haul a week you can save money at the gas pump & you aren’t wasting hours of your life at Wal-Mart.

After al l this talk about why you should be meal planning you are probably wonder how exactly I do it? What resources do I use? This is the fun part people…Pinterest is your best friend when meal planning. I used cookbooks for years, but have slowly migrated my meal planning to good ole Pinterest. Pinterest is your best meal planning friend!

Say it with me, “Pinterest is awesome for meal planning!”

Pinterest is great not only because you can pin recipes, but you can also categorize them. My mother has two categories for food, “Food I want to make,” and “Food I’ve made.” You can come up with more fun names than that, but the premise of the idea allows her to move recipes as she tries them keeping their weekly meals far from boring.

Aside from Pinterest, I also meal plan using my favorite blogs, recipes I’ve saved in Google Reader, cookbooks, and by blogging my own recipes just so I can go back and use them myself later. I personally am terrible at remembering what I put in a dish I came up with myself. If I think of something I really want to eat throughout the week I make note of it and buy it for the next week. 

Now, where do I create my lists? Well I made one for myself a while ago and just recently shared it on my blog. If you’d like to use it, it is available for download below. On my list I have a place for meals on one side and my shopping list on the other. The shopping list is categorized by frozen, meat, dairy, dry, miscellaneous, fresh foods, and so on. If you are looking for deals and like to use online and smartphone list check out Ziplist.com. On this website you can create lists online, and even log into your account on your smartphone app (available for iPhone and Android). From there you can edit as well as find coupons for what you need to buy as well as what you buy most often. The best part for me is that it actually has coupons for the grocery stores in my area, like Rouses. No one has heard of Rouses, except maybe southeast Louisiana natives.

If you have any questions or want to know more about where I get my recipes from feel free to email me at labrideblog {at} gmail {dot} com. I also post my weekly meal plans every Monday on a little post I call Meal Pinning Monday, I'd love for you to check it out for meal planning ideas. 
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