A blog about "nothing"!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Meal Planning

I'm just going to say that meal planning is one of the best habits I've gotten into EVER.  I used to think that people who did this were obsessive compulsive.  Some are, but for the most part, it is a handy tool that can help you to eat healthier, eat a better variety of foods and save money.  It's not hard either.

My foray into meal planning started because I was tired of eating the same things over and over, annoyed that I would get to the end of the groceries I had in my refrigerator/freezer/cupboard and not have much of a variety.  We were throwing out too much.  Plus we were eating out far too often.  Usually that happened because I hadn't thought ahead about what I wanted to cook and neglected to get anything out to thaw and didn't have anything simple to make.  I'd had enough.

The truth is, you can make meal planning as simple or as complicated as you want it to be.  I know people who plan down to every detail what they are going to cook and do their grocery shopping accordingly.  I chose a much simpler approach instead.  I go buy groceries and plan from that.  A huge plus is that I can take advantage of what is on sale at that particular time instead of having to stick solely to my list. 

Here's what I do.  I make a list of things I know we are out of.  I buy primarily staple items such as chicken, pork, hamburger, potatoes, lettuce, frozen veggies, etc.  I'm going to tell you right up front that we eat very little that comes out of a box.  At present, the only boxed foods in our pantry are white rice, taco shells and some ramen noodles, in our freezer some minute steaks and 2 pizzas.  That's it.  Everything else I cook from scratch, so I make a point of keeping basics on hand at all times along with a nice variety of spices. 

Once I come home from the grocery store, I make a list of what main course items I bought and add to it what I may still have in my kitchen.  It might look something like this:

Pork Chops
Spaghetti Sauce

Then I write down the days of the week and figure out what we are going to have as the main course for each of those days.  If we are going out to eat on a specific day, I write "Out" in that spot.  We try very hard to limit our dining out to two times a week. 

Th--pork chops

The nice part of this is it eliminates possibly eating the same thing two days in a row.  Plus we try not to eat red meat two days in a row, or starchy items like potatoes too often.  At this point if you wanted to, you could then write in what you want as sides to go with each of these items, going from what you just purchased and already have. That's up to you, I don't unless it's something very specific that I know I need to do some advance prep on or I want to use up. And you have at a glance a list that tells you each night as you prepare dinner, what you may need to get out of the freezer to thaw for the next day! As we use up each main course item, I cross that off my list.  It makes it simple to know what I have left for my next meal planning session, as well as what I may need to buy.   As soon as we run completely out of an item, I start my shopping list for my next trip to the store.

At any given time, I may have anywhere from a week to 10 days worth of meals planned out.  I've also gotten into a habit of planning specific items that I know will yield a decent amount of leftovers towards the end of the week so that we have easy lunches for the weekend.  It has taken a bit of practice, but the end results have made me a very happy person.  We throw out far less food, we eat a much bigger variety and I've actually gotten down to doing one big grocery shopping trip a month!  I still have to go pick up perishables such as milk, bread and fresh vegetables/fruit here and there, but overall I find myself using what I have in stock much more efficiently by shopping this way.  It eliminates all those awful temptations to just throw things in the cart. 

Twice a year I do what I call a grocery "purge".  We eat down to the point where there isn't much left in the house.  I do it in the spring because we eat different things in the warmer months, plus I don't like to have as much in my refrigerator/freezer during the spring/early summer as we live in an area where the weather can change at a moments notice and we might find ourselves without electricity.  It doesn't happen nearly as much since we have moved, but it still happens.  My other purge is usually in October, more as a space maker since I know I'm going to have a frozen turkey to store (sometimes two) as well as other holiday foods.  Once the holiday/storm season is over with, I restock and go back to my usual game plan until the next purge.  This also eliminates things getting lost in the pile and going bad.  I HATE that!!!  We might have a few "interesting" meals towards the end of the purge, but that's okay, to me it's worth it.

Getting started is probably the hardest part.  You need to do an inventory of what you have and either use it up, or shop for items to go with it so you can use it up.  Groceries are one of those things that are a constantly revolving item in your home, that you can't change.  But you CAN change how you shop and how you cook so that you use them more efficiently and find yourself far less stressed when it comes to cooking.  Meal planning is a tremendous help in these areas.  It also saves time. 

I've been meal planning for about 4 years and I say that if I can do it, anyone can do it.  Now I can't imagine not meal planning.  Start small and simple by doing 4 - 7 days worth. I know some people who plan an entire month at once.  Everyone is going to have different ways of doing it based on the size of their family, availability of groceries and the amount of storage space you have.  Regardless of all of those factors, even if you are someone who shops more than once a week, you will find that it truly helps.  When I started out I was a once a week shopper, it took me a while to fine tune it to the point I am now, but I know that I dread cooking dinner far less.  Just that factor or alone makes it worth it.  All the rest is just icing on the cake!

Monday, August 31, 2015


Several posts ago I mentioned about cleaning out some stuff in our house.  I've been putting things in the "thrift store" pile since then, and I took a bunch of clothing to another donation center.  Today I decided to tackle my craft room.  Oh dear.

It's the only room that I haven't already done a bit of purging in, and boy does it need it.  I have a bunch of stuff to go to the thrift store, a box of stuff I'm saving for my sister for a sale an organization she is in is having and another box for a friend.  And I'm not even part way done.  In fact, if you were to look in the room right at the moment, you might say "what did she do?"  Truth is I did quite a bit, but there is a long way to go!

I am definitely looking at things with a different eye.  Partially because my interests have changed.  Had I done this a few years ago, I probably wouldn't have gotten rid of nearly as much.  But I realize that some of this needs to go now, and I don't think I will miss it.  And as embarrassing as it is to admit, there have been a few things I've come across and thought "I didn't know that I had that!"

One rule I'm making from here on is this:  no more buying things for a craft project unless I am planning on sitting down and doing it within several days.  Also, no more hanging on to items I would otherwise throw in the trash because "I might be able to make something out of that."  Not that either of these things were horribly out of hand, but they could easily get that way. 

An area where I'm having a bit of a dilemma is photography stuff, primarily negatives.  Since I did a ton of photography for a number of years, I have literally boxes and boxes of negatives.  The slides won't be quite as difficult, I will run them through a viewer and I will know quickly if it's worth keeping or one to toss.  Not quite as simple with negatives.  But the other side to this is what are the chances I will EVER need them again.  I need to think on this, I may save that cupboard for last.

Have you ever tackled a huge cleaning project?  What "rules" did you set in place before, during and after to keep from having things get out of hand again?  Would love to hear what others have done!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Perhaps I spoke too soon???

A few weeks ago I was lamenting the sad state of my veggies.  It seemed as though nothing was going to do very well.  I was right about the onions and the lettuce.  The lettuce we've managed to get two pickings off of and it looks dreadful already, I'm not holding out hope.  The onions I haven't totally given up on.  The tomatoes have done about what I expected, I've had enough so far to make two batches of fresh salsa and I see two more coming up over the next days into the weekend as a bunch of them are turning.  I'm not sure I'll get much more beyond that though, the plants themselves look dreadful and we aren't getting any new blossoms.  Oh well.

The real surprise has been our banana peppers.  We got these in so late that I didn't expect much to begin with, and then the weather certainly didn't help matters.  3 of the plants struggled along for a while and then all of a sudden everything took off.  We had tons of blooms and peppers started to appear.  The first few peppers were small though, but big enough for my salsa recipe.  However, over the past week or so, a bunch of these have taken off, and today I managed to make a decent harvest!

Yes, I managed to pick 10 today!  Now, I have to say that I have 6 plants this year instead of my usual 2, but 4 of these peppers all came off one plant.  The funny part is that the plant that seems to be producing the nicest ones is the plant that I fully expected to die!  Just goes to show that you can never tell.  We should have a few more pickings too, there is plenty of activity going on.  I guess I will be heading to the grocery store tomorrow morning for the ingredients to make sausage stuffed peppers--yummy!!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

The best things I've ever bought from QVC

I've been a QVC shopper for a number of years, in fact, since not long after I got married.  I've bought a decent amount of stuff from them--I'm far from a QVC addict, but they've gotten their fair share of money from me.  Some things have been flops, most things have been good, but a few things have stood head and shoulders above the rest.  I'm going to share those 3 things with you so that you can try them too if you are interested.  Keep in mind, I'm getting NO compensation from QVC for this post, this is just me raving about 3 products I love!!!

3)  Hookless Shower Curtain  I'd seen them demonstrate how these worked many times, but it wasn't until I'd seen one up close in a hotel we stayed at that I decided to buy one.  WOW!  No more shower curtain hooks for this girl.  It goes on super easy, washes up nicely and wasn't anymore expensive than a traditional shower curtain.  Did I mention no more hooks?? LOL  I didn't keep much from my old bathroom when we remodeled, this was one of the few things that survived.  I need to order another.

2) Ninja Master Prep Pro and Drink Mixer  Another thing I'd watched them demonstrate a few times, hubby happened to be home one day when it was on and said "order it"!  Don't laugh, it was our Valentine's Day gift that year.  I LOVE it!  Great for making drinks, chopping veggies fine, I even make salsa with it.  I recommended it to a friend when she was wanting a new chopper and she loves hers too, she says she has "Ninja Power"!  I've seen these other places as well, but QVC had them first.
1) Emjoi Micro-Pedi Battery Operated Callous Remover  I have to give the hubby full credit for this find, he thought it looked neat, it was highly rated, and he wanted it, so I ordered it for him.  Of course, I had to try it out after he raved about it.  OMG, it is the best!  My feet never looked so good.  I ended up ordering one for myself so now we have "His and Hers".  As of this writing, this product has over 6300 reviews and over 6000 of those are 5 stars, you don't see that very often.  Worth every penny, I would buy it again in a heartbeat. 

That's it, my 3 favorite things from QVC!  If you happen to try any of these or already have them, I'd love to hear what you think about them.  Have a great day!

You can find these products at www.qvc.com  (in case you didn't already know!)

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Living with less...a lot less!

One of the new fads I've noticed that is getting a lot of attention is the concept of a "capsule wardrobe".  I have to admit that I think it's a neat idea, but not something I think that everyone could do.  I first learned about this idea at this website:  http://theproject333.com/about/

The basic idea is to use only key pieces in your wardrobe and mix and match them.  With this particular site they tell you to work with 33 items for 3 months (hence the 333), then change it out at the end of the 3 months.  Options vary according to where you live, climate, work conditions, etc.  I don't know that I could do it to this extreme, but I did like the idea of just paring things down, taking up less space and having fewer decisions to make when deciding what to wear every day. 

Instead I just decided to quit buying clothing for a while and get rid of things on a regular basis.  It has actually worked pretty well, just this morning I did a large clean out of things that I'm just not that wild about, I got rid of 16 clothing pieces and 5 pairs of shoes.  They may be things that I'm tired of, don't fit or just decided after I wore them for a while I didn't like them anymore.  The simple fact is that if I haven't worn them for a while, chances are I'm not going to anytime soon either.  The best part is that out of those 16 pieces, only 3 were items that I had purchased at regular retail, the rest were all thrift store purchases.  As far as buying new (or new to me) clothing--I have pretty much stuck to limiting that, I bought a pair of jeans in the spring, two pair of shorts at the beginning of the summer and the sweater set I picked up at a thrift store a few weeks ago.  I did buy a new pair of sandals at the beginning of the season, but they were to replace a pair.  I think I've done well, and I hope to continue to weed out and get rid of.

I may at some point impose the "nothing comes in unless something goes out" rule too, I did that one time before and it really does make you think before making that impulse purchase.  My goal at the end of the summer is to have only one container with spring and summer clothing to store, primarily with shorts in it.  That's it.  Come next spring I'll buy a couple of new tops to replace the ones I got rid of.  In this day and age, you truthfully only need a weeks worth of clothing, if even that.  It's not like the old days when you had to drag your stuff down to the river to wash it!

This morning I was faced with a sort of dilemma that made me think about other things in your life that you could do this with.  Our dishwasher is in the process of crapping out.  It's over 10 years old and I quite honestly don't feel like spending the money on a repair, I'd rather put it towards a new one.  But then the other side is, do we really need a dishwasher?  My first thought was yes, but the more I thought about it, I started to question the necessity.  Part of the issue is that we have a small kitchen and without the dishwasher I can't put all of the drinking glasses away.  But is the problem a small kitchen, or simply that we have TOO MANY drinking glasses??  And would we need as many glasses if I was washing them more often instead of waiting until the dishwasher was completely full?  Interesting, huh?  With just two of us, I'm not sure we do need a dishwasher.  Hmmm...

I have a friend who is in full out clean and purge mode at her house.  She's sick of tripping over things, not having space to put the things they do need away, and just having clutter around.  I commend her for doing this because I know it's not an easy task.  But I also know that it does feel TONS better after you have done it.  I've been working on mine a little bit at a time, but there is a part of me that just wants to be done with it and it's so tempting to do what she's been doing.  I love her philosophy with it too.  There is no point in keeping something because you think you might need it.  Get rid of it if it falls into that category.  In this day and age, if it turns out that later on you do need it, then you can go buy a replacement for it.  Chances are you won't need it and in the meantime, think of the space you gained! 

I can think of so many things that this would work with in our house.  We have bicycles that haven't been used in years, odds and ends tools, we even have a lawn mower in our garage that has been there since 2012 (when we sold our other house) that we need to make a decision on.  Over the next few weeks I hope to start some more serious cleaning around here, doing a room each week, and I'm hoping that when I'm done, we will have a few less items.  Maybe even a lot less items. 

I do know that part of the reason that I'm thinking more about this is because over the past few months, I've hurt my back twice, moving furniture around.  As a result, I haven't been able to keep up with the cleaning and such around here.  Part of it is simply because my movement was limited during the recovery process.  But the other reason is because there is just too much to clean around.  I can't help but think about how much easier everything would be if we didn't have some of this stuff about.  And I've also had time to think about what I'm actually using and how my interests have changed.  There are things that 5 years ago I wouldn't have thought about getting rid of, but now that some time has passed, I have come to realize that some of those items no longer have the same use or meaning as they used to have.  I've mentioned several times here on the blog about trying to clean out the stuff that we didn't need or use, but now it has even more validity to me as I am truly trying to simplify things around here.  I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Garden Report: I surrender! (waving the white flag)

Two years ago I decided that I was going to have a garden, one way or another.  Not a big one, just enough so that my husband and I could enjoy a few of our favorite things.  We had already had a bad experience with the wildlife in our new neighborhood eating our plants, so I came to the conclusion that container gardening was the way to go, planting the "hot" plants in the built ins and the things that would be attractive to deer and other vermin in planters that could be easily moved.  We had a great gardening season and other than fighting off the crows for the green beans, we enjoyed a nice variety of home grown veggies from June until September.

Last year was just okay.  We had issues with our lettuce rotting, and a tomato plant that completely took over the one planter, keeping anything else from growing.  But we had plenty of peppers and tomatoes to keep us and a friend or two happy.  As long as I could make fresh salsa, I was a happy camper.

This year has been a complete and total disaster.  First we had the winter that didn't seem to want to end, and as a result we were very late in getting some of our stuff planted.  The tomatoes were doing very well, I was incredibly proud of them as I had started this batch from seed instead of buying plants from the nursery.  I had done the same with my peppers, but unfortunately because of where they were going to be transplanted to, we got them in even later than the tomatoes.  We are just now starting to see blooms on them, previously we would have already had one or two pickings off of them.  The tomato plants are full of little tomatoes, just waiting for them to start turning red, but I have a feeling we are not going to get much of a season as the plants are looking horrible now thanks to weather extremes.  And something has been eating at the leaves on one of the pepper plants, I'm tempted just to yank it out to prevent further infestations to the other plants.

Lettuce--what's that???  If we get a bowlful of lettuce, I'll be surprised.  Same problem as last year, too much rain.  And we even watched it like a hawk, moving the planter to safety as needed.  June was the third wettest in the history of this region, we had almost 10 inches!  And my poor onions, they were barely hanging on and this morning my husband discovered that something bit off all the tops but 3, not sure if they are going to bounce back or not.  Bad enough that we had all of that rain, but then when it finally did quit, we had horrible heat, and now we're getting no rain.  It's either feast or famine. 

I'm so disappointed and discouraged.  Not just at seeing my poor plants destroyed and not doing well but I also think of how much money I have invested in this projected.  I had to buy some new planters this year, we needed some new soil and some other stuff--I'm probably out close to $30 or more and I'm going to be lucky if I get $10 worth of veggies.  We won't even talk about the time invested.  I've decided that I'm taking next year off.  Mother Nature is being such a bitch about things and I'm tired of trying to beat her at her own game.  I'll go visit my Amish buddy instead and pay him for his trouble.  I give up. 

Friday, July 10, 2015

Let's put a stop to this!

If you live in the US (and some other countries) I'm sure you've received a scam phone call or two.  These are usually what you would call "phishing" expeditions where the scammers are hoping that the person they call will be gullible enough to give them information that they can then use illegally.  These calls annoy me to no end, and come in a number of forms:

Windows Support
Bridget (or Rachel or Carmen) from Cardmember services
Someone trying to sell me insurance.

The calls I get from someone trying to sell me insurance usually aren't from the same outfit, and usually very polite, but the other two are persistent little bastards.  You can report them, but most of the time these calls are originating from outside of the US, so it doesn't do much good.  Plus, the FTC and other law enforcement are inundated with reports, so not much is being done.  Hanging up or letting the call go to an answering machine doesn't do any good either, they call back again and again.  So, I've decided to flip the table.  If they are going to waste my time, then I certainly have no problem with wasting theirs!  I figure the time they are stuck on the phone with me is that many fewer people they are pestering too.  I got this idea from a friend of mine.  She used to work in an office where they were constantly getting calls from someone trying to sell something.  She said it was getting to be completely annoying and time wasting, so she decided to fight fire with fire.  When someone would call, she would tell them that "Harold" took care of that, and that he was on the other line, could they hold?  Then she would put them on hold--indefinitely!  Eventually they would hang up.  The best part--these idiots were so stupid, that they started calling and asking for Harold!!!!  Of course, that was immediately a red flag and those people always got put on hold.  I loved it!  She said after doing this for a while she did notice fewer calls.

I used to just hang up on these people, but they kept calling back!  Even one that said "press 8 if you no longer wish to receive these calls" didn't work, I still got calls.  Now, I press whatever number it says to hit if you wish to speak to a representative.  Then I let them have it!  I use every bit of foul language I have learned in my life, call them losers, you name it.  Guess what?  I'm getting fewer phone calls!  Even scammers don't want to be called nasty names I guess.  They usually hang up on me, but I have released some steam and let them know that I am aware that they are nothing but con artists.  I used to get several of these calls each week, sometimes several in a day.  The Windows Support calls have completely stopped and I'm getting very few from "Cardmember services".  When I do I let them have it.  I've noticed that there is a definite cycle to it too.

Another thing I've started doing with people calling and begging for money--I simply tell them that because of the high rates of fraud, I no longer accept ANY solicitations over the phone.  I worked for a small business that told people that.  I also had someone call me begging for money and had them mail me paperwork to send in my donation.  I simply didn't send it in.  I know that probably doesn't sound very nice, but it put an end to phone calls from that group along with a number of others.  They sell lists of names of people who donate to other organizations but apparently don't forward the names of deadbeats!

Try it!  It can't hurt anything and hopefully it will eliminate some of these annoying calls.   Just remember that the time you tie them up on the line is one less person they can call who might be gullible enough to give them the information they are looking for. 

In addition, you can also call these numbers back and harass them as well.  If you have caller ID, just jot the phone number down and return the call.  It will usually (not always) give you several options, how you want to handle it is up to you.  Just keep in mind that you can probably get away with saying whatever you want to these losers as they aren't going to report you, they are scam artists.  I'm also going to list any phone numbers I receive calls from, so feel free to take part in my fun by calling them back.  I will update it regularly!  Let me just say that not only are you doing a service by tying them up with your nonsense (just like they do to you) but eventually they will give up as they are losing money every time they have to take one of these calls.  Pass this info on to anyone you know, the more, the merrier :)  My goal is to turn this into a nationwide activity, perhaps you could call it a new "hobby"?  It's a wonderful stress-buster too.

Please feel free to add any phone numbers you may be receiving calls from in the comments section as well.