How I Make It Work {a guest post from Jennifer from Life in the Green House}

*Today’s post is from my dear friend Jennifer from Life in the Green House. Jennifer is such a good friend with a heart of gold. She is a beautiful writer and writes about life with her adorable toddler, Braylen. Jennifer is very creative and has great ideas and recipes that she shares on her blog. My favorite posts of Jennifer’s are the ones where she so openly shares what’s on her heart. I hope you’ll hop over there and visit her!

Let me give you a little background about myself. I blog over at Life In The Green House about random happenings in our home. I have a tiny toddler who pretty much rules the house, or so she thinks.

And I teach kindergarten.

That’s right, I’m a working mom.

It sounds weird for me to even say that since I’m sitting here at 1:30 in the afternoon typing this post in my Nike running shorts and a well worn t-shirt from college. Actually, I’m on summer break for about another two weeks and I am enjoying every minute despite the nearly unbearable temps. But really I’m no stranger to the stay at home mom gig, I didn’t go back to work until my daughter was nearly two.

This isn’t going to be a post about which is harder because let me tell you, I’ve tried both and they are equally challenging in different ways. I wish I could tell you that one side or the other grows grass in a slightly greener hue. But I can’t.

The truth is when I stayed home I questioned myself as a mother and I wondered if going back to work was the solution. Now that I’m back at work I feel the same way, I’m in a different position but I face those same nagging feelings each morning when I leave.

I think that once we become mothers a piece of our heart is literally laid on our chest in the delivery room and we are never, ever the same. So when I decided to go back to work I felt like I was leaving a piece of my heart at home each day. But I didn’t dislike going to work, I actually fell in love with the routine and structure it provided for us. I think there will be many times as she gets older that I experience the same tugging of my heart and that just comes with being a mother.

Life can be chaotic, our calendars tend to be full and most days I feel like I’m running in circles. Early on I knew I would have to make some changes and implement some organization in order to help us stay grounded. Whether you’re a working mom, stay at home mom or work from home mom, I think these can help all moms:

  • Create a home organization notebook. I saw how much Erin loved her  notebook and decided to create my own version. I’m being completely honest when I tell you that we use ours all of the time. It has been such a big help especially since I went back to work.
  • Organize your life. I use the Erin Condren Life  Planner but really it doesn’t matter what brand of calendar you have just as long as you have something that works for you and your family. I write down everything in my calendar from daily to-do lists and family goals to appointments and social activities.
  • Organize your home. We moved at the beginning of summer and I am slowly trying to organize and unpack. I created a Kitchen Command Center to help us stay organized and I have several more projects like this planned. I function best when everything has a place.
  • Family Meals. I started meal planning every Sunday morning using the printable from The Project Girl and we sit down and eat dinner together each night during the week. I also cook several freezer meals a month to use on the days when I just don’t feel like cooking. We are a family of three which makes it easy to half recipes for things like enchiladas and casseroles and eat one half for dinner and freeze the other half.
Do you have any tips for me? How do you stay organized and sane during the week?


10 Tips to Make the Most of Your Time in the Kitchen

I love to cook. It is one of my favorite things to do. But there are only so many hours in the day, and every day doesn’t allow for me to cook gourmet meals. Sometimes I only have thirty minutes to get it together. And there are days when I just don’t feel like cooking.

It’s because I love to cook that I don’t want it to become a chore. I like to be prepared every week for what I’m going to make for supper during the week. I like to have all of my groceries on hand and I don’t want to make any last minute trips to the grocery store–especially with two small children. I want to enjoy my time in the kitchen!

So I came up with a little list of 10 tips to make the most of your time in the kitchen. Some of these are time-saving tips and some are sanity-saving tips.

1. Create a binder of recipes with your favorite go-to meals that are the easiest to make. I have a binder that has all of my favorite recipes. Some of these are torn out of magazines, some have been passed down from my grandmother, mother and aunts, and some are printed from websites. But these are my favorite meals that are the easiest for me to make.

2. Make sure that at least half of these are 5-ingredient recipes. For more 5-ingredient recipes, go to Cooking Light. Having 5-ingredient recipes cuts down on prep time and hopefully on cooking time. Save the fancy meals for nights when you have more time and you don’t have as much going on. Getting food on the table is one of our nightly chores, but it’s much better when we all enjoy the process.

3. Create a meal plan over the weekend. I use a great printable in my home organization binder to create my meal plan. I sit down with my recipe binder and sometimes bring out some cookbooks if I feel like getting more creative for a special night. I try to find common ingredients so I can cut back on my grocery bill. Extra tip: While you plan your meals, make a grocery list and organize your grocery list by the way the store is laid out. This will help you save time while you’re shopping.

4. Grocery shop on Sunday. I like to make sure that I only have to go to the grocery store one time every week. This helps me save money and it ensures that I am ready for every night of the week before the week even starts. By doing it on Sunday, I can leave the boys at home with Todd so I can get through the grocery store faster.

5. Prep your meal in the morning. One of the ways I can cut back on the time it takes to prepare our meal every night is by prepping the meal in the morning when I wake up. I get the vegetables chopped and put them back in the refrigerator. Or I peel potatoes or put the food in the crock pot.

6. Have at least one crock pot meal in your meal plan. The crock pot makes life and dinner time so easy. Use it!

7. Wash the dishes as you go or ask your husband to do the dishes while you cook. If Todd is home while I’m cooking, he’s my dish man. It makes me feel less overwhelmed if he’s cleaning up behind me while I’m cooking. Then when we’ve both finished eating, we can relax instead spending another thirty minutes cleaning up.

8. Make 4 freezers meals at the beginning of each month. In case of an emergency, you’ll already have dinner ready to go and you just need to thaw and put it in the oven. Sometimes I have a meeting and Todd is home with the kids. Sometimes we have a day where the boys don’t nap and the last thing I want to do is cook. By having the freezer meals ready, we have a few nights a month where we can take it easy.

9. Let your kids pick one favorite meal per week. This keeps them involved and makes it fun for them, too. And they’ll be more likely to help out with dishes and setting the table. There’s nothing more frustrating than cooking supper for your family and then seeing your kids not eat it. This way they know they had a part in choosing the menu for the week and they know they can look forward to their certain favorite meal.

10. Embrace leftovers. Maybe not three nights of leftovers, but at least once. We’re big into eating our leftovers. Especially if it’s a meal we loved. You don’t want good food to go to waste and we don’t want to be in the kitchen every night. You can spice up your leftovers by turning them into another meal completely.

How do you Keep It Simply Smart with your time in the kitchen? Share your time and sanity-saving tips with me for a chance to win $100 to

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Erin Condren Life Planner Link Up

I’m linking up today with Meredith from The Sweet T Family for an Erin Condren Life Planner link up. Even though I already showed y’all my Life Planner the other day, I wanted to link up with Meredith.

I loved my Life Planner this past year. I used it every single day and took it almost everywhere with me. There were some things I wished were different, like the thickness, and I wanted laminated tabs.

And Erin Condren and her team listened to all of their customer feedback and made some fantastic updates to this year’s Life Planner.

I chose a 12 month Life Planner so it’s not quite as thick. And I am always ready for a new calendar after a year anyway. You can choose a 12 or 18 month version and have it start at whatever month you prefer.

I chose the Mod Morocco design and had the colors customized. I went with teal and coral for my colors. Instead of having my monogram like the design shows, I asked if I could just have it say “Erin” instead. I’m a little weird about monogram styles and I just thought it would be cuter with just “Erin.”

The metal coil binding is the perfect update for the new Life Planner, so it won’t bend and will hold its shape when you put it in your purse.

The laminated tabs are so great! Such a simple change that will help make it last all year.

In the back there is another “Keep it Together” folder to hold pieces of loose paper and the personalized notepad. I ordered the personalized notepads again and I know I’ll use them up in just a few months, like I did last year.

This year’s notepads also have little adhesive tabs on the back so you can attach it the inside of the back of the Life Planner– or the front.

There is also a cute new little clip-in ruler to help hold your place and use as a straight edge or ruler.

And of course, like last year, there is the little pouch in the back for holding any extras. And the sweet folks at Erin Condren sent more personalized gift labels again. They’re so cute! I need more of these!

I also ordered the Erin Condren pens, but they haven’t arrived yet. I’m super excited to try them out!

My other favorite pens to use with the Life Planner are the Paper Mate Flair (felt tip), the Paper Mate Liquid Flair, the Pilot G2, and the Uniball Vision Elite. And I love getting all of these pen sets in the multi-colored packs.

I can’t wait to see what other Life Planner covers everyone chose!

how my home organization notebook changed my life… and a link up!

I know that sometimes I say things on my blog that make me sound really dramatic. How can a notebook change your life? Honestly.

Well, it’s true. I promise. You may remember a couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post talking about all of the hats that women wear and how I feel like I want to wear all of these hats but don’t always have time to wear all of the hats. I was pretty stressed. I felt like I was always behind and I could never catch up.

And then came the notebook. As soon as I had my permanent daily to-do list, my weekly chore list, our family budget, my menu plans and grocery lists, my party and vacation plans, and my blog organization all in one location, things started to feel so much better.

Read the original Home Organization Notebook post here!

TC came home from work one day last week and remarked on how “pleasant” I had been every night that week. “Why are you so happy?” he asked.

First of all, you know it’s a true sign that something was “off” if your husband has to ask why you’re happy. I mean, I did just have a baby and life hasn’t exactly been “normal” around here. But for the first time in months, I felt like I had a good handle on everything. I hated the feeling of always being behind and not really having a good “system” throughout the day. But by the end of the day, I had completed all of my daily tasks and dinner was ready by the time he got home. For the most part, I had cut back on that “chicken with its head cut off” feeling by 80 percent!

I think this is one of the hardest things about being a stay-at-home mom. If you don’t implement structure, you don’t have any structure. And just like my babies, I need structure. I need a daily and weekly routine so I can achieve as much as possible during the day.

And then my Erin Condren Life Planner arrived on my doorstep this week and the skies opened up and angels sang. The combination of my home organization notebook and my Life Planner has been so great. I chose not to put any kind of calendar in my notebook because I felt like it would be too much and I’m pretty particular about what kinds of planners I like to use.

So there you have it. The notebook has changed my life. Every morning I get up and know what day it is and that on Mondays I wash, dry, and fold the boys’ clothes. And I get our day started and get the boys dressed. There is a lot to be said for feeling like you have your stuff together! And I get to spend much more time enjoying my time with these guys.

I wanted to open up this post to all of you. If you’ve created a home organization notebook and you have a blog, write a post about it and link up here. That way we can all see each other’s notebooks and swap some ideas. I’ve already decided to add a couple of tabs to mine. We’re reading to move our budgeting system over to the notebook and I also need a Junior League Decorations tab, so I can keep notes of ideas I have there.

Hundreds of Lists to Put Your World in Order

So use the tool below to link up! Show me what you’ve got.

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