Thursday, January 31, 2013

Menu Planning 101--Working the plan!

You've got your tool what? 

It's time to work out your menu plan!
Here we go! 
  1. Decide on your time frame-- This will be different for everyone, and you may have to use trial and error to see what works best for you. I plan my menu for a 2-week period of time. Some people do a month while others plan for just 1-week. The choice is yours! Remember--the length of your plan kind of determines how often you grocery shop!
  2. Choose your meals-- Some menu planners plan ALL their meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner). I only plan dinners. This works best for our family and I always semi-plan for the other meals (i.e. always making sure to purchase bread for sandwiches, oatmeal for breakfasts, etc). I just don't actually put anything on my calendar for those meals. Your next step is to choose what would work best for you and your family.
  3. Find the sales!--I honestly don't take too much time on this step. I have two or three stores where I do most of my shopping. I basically look at the weekly ad to see what's on sale (especially produce and meat) before planning my meals. That helps to get a good deal! If you are the type of person who doesn't really clip coupons or shop sales, then you can skip this step. I find it saves me a few dollars each month, and its worth that to me! Again, totally your choice!
  4. Plug in your meals--Plug the meals into your calendar (or pencil them in if you are using an "old-fashioned" planner). Be sure you have the recipes handy for the next step! **TIP!--Make things easy on yourself by having one night a week that is always the same. For example--we have homemade pizza almost every Friday night.  That makes planning a little more simple because that is one less recipe I have to come up with! We do a taco night every other week; again, its simple, quick, and doesn't require a whole lot of thought or preparation! Your family may actually love the routine of meals like this...we look forward to Friday nights because we know what to expect!
  5. Write out an ingredient list--Take your recipes for the meals you've planned and make a list of every ingredient for every recipe...even if you KNOW you already have it in the pantry. This might seem tedious, but it will be worth it...I promise! 
  6. Check the pantry--and refrigerator. Mark off anything on your ingredient list that you already have. You've just created your grocery list and since you took the time to look in the cupboards for each item, you should not have a night when you remember that you don't have any ________ and have to make a trip to the store. It is a longer process for making your list, but it does save time (and money) in the end. 
  7. Go shopping--I prefer to go grocery shopping on the same day that I create my menu. It's fresh in my mind and I remember what the ingredients are for, etc. It just makes sense to me. You can choose whether you go on the same day or the day after. Maybe doing all of this in one day seems like a lot to conquer for big deal. Do what works for you! 
  8. Work your plan--You've planned. You've shopped. Now, just work out that plan! Feel free to swap recipes on nights that call for it. When I have Bible study, there are nights when dinner doesn't get started in time and I have to switch to something that was going to be later in the week because it is quicker to prepare. That's fine, just note it on your calendar so you aren't confused when it gets to Thursday night and you've already had potato soup! Just swap the meals! If you get invited to friend's house for dinner, just skip the meal you planned for that evening. You may even put it down to the next week that you haven't planned yet, and then you'll have one less meal to plan when the time comes (for this reason, I typically leave one day on my calendar open...if we skip a meal by going to a friend's house or church dinner, I move that meal into the open day--typically Sunday. If we don't skip any meals, we will eat leftovers or sandwiches that day). 

There you have it. Eight simple steps to planning a menu. 

You're all set, so get started! Be sure to comment and let me know how it goes for you!


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

"Wendy" Wednesday

Yesterday was gorgeous!

We played outside for almost 3 hours in the afternoon! My girl didn't even want to go in for a snack, so we took the snack outside! We enjoyed every second of the 70+ degrees and blue, sunny skies! Totally not typical for January here! 

But it didn't last long! Today we woke up for 70 degrees and the sunshine turned to clouds rapidly.
A pretty big storm just moved through the area and we are under a tornado watch until later this afternoon. The wind is blustery!! Any of you ever seen Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day? We had it on VHS when I was kid--reminds me of today!

We, however, are so thankful for the time spent outside yesterday--especially considering Friday its supposed to be 24 degrees!In my opinion, "Mother Nature" is crazy!

Yesterday afternoon my niece came over and played with Little E for a while. That gave me some time to get a few things done--hooray! 
One of my tasks was to make granola. I've been wanting to for a week now, and finally got around to it (having a toddler and being pregnant wears you out--so free time is taken up by napping/resting...not chores).
This was stove top granola--my first attempt and it was super simple and quick! Here's the thing, I will need to double the recipe next time! I made it last night and after this mornings breakfast (Hubs, E, and myself) its basically gone! Seriously! Its delish!
Here is the recipe! Enjoy!! 

Just a little announcement--my sister, her friend, and I will be co-hosting a link up in the next few weeks. More details to come soon, but it'll be mainly for you book worms or aspiring book worms! So, be prepared! 

Enjoy your last Wednesday of January! 


Saturday, January 26, 2013

Saturday Love...and yogurt

Hello Weekend! 
In celebration of the fact that today is Saturday, I wanted to share a little love with you!

Many of you commented on the homemade yogurt from Monday's post...well here ya! 
The recipe and my experience at your disposal! Have fun and enjoy...oh! And there's a special treat at the bottom of the post :)

My Little E would eat yogurt for all three meals a day and her snacks if I let her--that and cheese! 
Granted, she won't drink milk even if its chocolate, but she loves yogurt! I prefer to give her the organic stuff to avoid all the growth hormones and such, but that can get expensive! 

I followed this recipe to a "T" and it worked wonderfully! 
In my opinion, you definitely need to strain the yogurt at the end of the cooking process. It's entirely too runny if you don't (especially if you're giving it to a toddler).

You can see, I used organic milk and plain organic yogurt as my starter. I honestly wanted to make it with whole milk, but the grocery store was completely out of organic whole milk when I went, so I just went with the 2%. It still turned out nicely. 
I did follow the recipe and put some honey and vanilla extract in it--made it have a really nice flavor. My girly LOVES it! 

Many people have asked if it was hard--No. It was super simple, but pretty time consuming. Not time consuming in a hands-on way, but you have to let it cook for a few hours, and then let it sit for several hours, mix stuff in, and let it sit over night (around 12 hours). So, its best to make on a day you're planning to be home for a while.

I've also heard this question: How much did it make? 
Well, I used 1/2 gallon of milk, so it basically made that much. I was able to fill up a 32oz container and more than half of an 18oz container (that will be my starter next time). 

If you've been thinking of making yogurt but worried that you can't do it, don't can! Its really simple! If you have a crock pot and some time you have all it takes! 

Now for a special little treat to give you a laugh this weekend.
Tsh from SimpleMom shared this on her Face Book yesterday and I love it! 

Video of Two Men Experiencing Labor Contractions
Watch This Hilarious Video Of Men Experiencing Childbirth

And, YES, I think your husband/fiance/boyfriend should watch too!

Happy Weekending!

I'm linking up here today...


Friday, January 25, 2013

...Waiting for Snow...

That's what we're doing today! 
They say (whoever "they" is) that we are going to get anywhere from 1-5 inches of snow today. I'll believe it when I see it. We don't typically see as much snow as they do in the mountains (only 60ish miles from here). Usually, we get a little dusting. I can honestly say that we haven't had a "big snow" since the winter we went to Uganda--so we missed it! Oh goes on...obviously. 

Honestly, part of me is pretty excited to get snow. I mean, its an exciting thought...and much better than a cold rain! The other part of me is SO ready for Spring! Life spent indoors with a toddler can be a bit much. I'm ready to get outside and let her run her little self until she's exhausted--and E is a busy little lady so it would take her a while! 

The little bit of snow we got in a freak snowstorm in October. Not a whole lot, but
enough to knock power out for a day and cancel school for 2 days.

I'm still trying to decide what we're going to do today. They say its supposed to start snowing at 8:00 am--its 8:16 according to my computer clock and I haven't seen a single flake. But, when it does start, its supposed to get slick real quick--so do I venture out to Target in hopes that the roads stay okay or do I simply stay put waiting on what may (or may not) happen. And if we stay home, what in heaven's  name are we going to do? Honestly people, we've been home all week because its been all of 19* outside and I hate going out in the cold. Other than a library and grocery store run, we've basically been at home. Our activity list is getting really short...
Here are some of my ideas.
1. Watch Elmo for the 15th time this week
2. Color/Paint for the 3rd time this week
3. Make cookies (or something!)
4. Make and play with homemade play dough
5. ????

See. I'm running low on ideas!

What would you do if you were home today with my busy toddler? 
Tips much appreciated! 


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Menu Planning 101--The Right Tools

Convinced that menu planning is for you? Still confused at where to begin? 
That's what today is all about! 

Like any other task, having the right tools is essential!

I am going to tell you about my favorite menu planning tools to help get your wheels turning about what would work best for you. While the things I tell you about work wonderfully for our family, they may not be the best thing for yours. Best advice--trial and error. Try what you think might work and if it doesn't find something else that does! 

1. Google Calendar
(and no, Google didn't sponsor this post)

I absolutely love using my Google Calendar for menu planning. 
It allows you to create color-coded calendars, so I created on call "Menu Plan" and it is green. When I menu plan, I pull up the calendar and there I can see all of my commitments for the next few weeks. I know what nights we are having dinner at a friend's house, or what nights the Hubs won't be home for dinner. Knowing my schedule helps me plan meals that go with the things we have going on in any given week. For example, last night I met Hubs at the church and we had dinner there before prayer meeting began. I planned to make a meal that would be easily transported because I knew we'd be eating it somewhere other than in our kitchen. 


So, my "Menu Calendar" is green. 

I basically click on a day of the week, add a new event, and type in the meal we will be having that evening. (**Side note--some people plan breakfast and lunch was well, but I find it more effective for us to just plan dinner. If you wish to be more thorough by planning all meals, you may want a separate calendar for each meal). In notes I include a link to the recipe if it is online or the cookbook that it is located in--basically anything I might need to know when it comes time to cook. 

If we are having a meal at a friends house or a potluck at church, I put that as the event title. In the notes I put where the dinner will be and what I am supposed to bring (if anything). 

2. Planner

I mentioned in a previous post that I am addicted to my planner. It is no wonder I use it for menu planning too. 

If I am away from a computer or my internet isn't working, I turn to my good, old-fashioned planner. I use it to put everything in as well, so I simply write the meal I am planning to have on the day. It is less complex than the Google Calendar, but has its downfalls too. My biggest issue with it is that it cannot communicate with the Hubs. When I program something into the Google Calendar, it also goes to Hubs' Google Calendar. He will be able to see if from his Ipad or his Ipod Touch. I can also see it on my Ipod. Either of us can update it and that is huge! Keeping him in the loop and allowing him to make adjustments as needed is great for us! 
A planner can't do that, but it works well for taking it with you. I take my planner in the car when I go grocery shopping or run errands. If I don't have wi-fi I can't access my Google Calendar, so the back-up is great! 

3. Pinterest
Don't worry--they aren't paying me either. 

I love to use their site to look up recipes if I have something I want to use but don't have a recipe for it (i.e. I have ribs in my freezer and don't really know what I'm doing with them. I'll use Pinterest to find a good recipe idea for them soon). 
I also "pin" recipes that sound good to me any time I see them and when I am stuck in a rut (yes...sometimes we have tacos every week!) I will turn to my "Recipe" board for inspiration. It really is great for coming up with something new, which I like to do every once in a while just to keep it real. 

4. Pencil, Paper, and Pantry

The last tool that I use is a piece of paper and a pencil. 
I go through my calendar and write down all ingredients I need for making meals. Then I head to my freezer, fridge, and pantry where I cross off all the items I already have. Using my revised list, I create a grocery list and head out shopping! 

Those are some of my favorite tools for menu-planning. Like I said, yours may be different or you may find that my system works for you too! Everyone is different. Use these ideas to get yourself going and find your niche' as you go! That's the best way I've found. 

Stay tuned for next week's Menu Planning 101--The Process! 
It'll be a long one, but I'll detail how I go about the menu planning and grocery shopping process!  


Monday, January 21, 2013

Life Lately--LINK UP!

It is an exciting day around here! I am co-hosting my very first link up!
Welcome to the Life Lately Link-up!

Here's a short glimpse of what's been going on here lately. 

The hubs got an Ipad Mini for Christmas. Little E's new thing
is using the doodling app and playing the "pino" (translated piano...I keep telling her it isn't wine). 

FINALLY our little city got a pottery painting place. Yes, its been a long time coming! 
Last weekend we went with some dear friends (who ended up welcoming their first child into the world only two days later) on a double date. We wanted to paint something with our "Family Vision" on it to display in our house. Here's the finished product. 

I made homemade yogurt for the first time! 
You'll hear more about that in the weeks to come...I promise!

If any of you are my "friends" on Face Book, you maybe saw a post reading something like this, 
"making a popcorny, ooey-gooey, marshmallowy, chocoately treat for our Downton date this evening..."

This is the creation! 
Basically, just a bowl of popped popcorn, mini marshmallows, and chocolate chips--made all warm and gooey by the microwave. Delish! 

By the Face Book post I just quoted, your probably gathered that we're watching Downton Abbey.  
Let me say this--we don't have cable and we actually JUST got a television (for a few weeks its ours). That said, we are about 2 seasons behind! AHH!! We finished the first season last night and will be boring the second on DVD from my mother this weekend ( I hope!). And YES, the Hubs has gotten rather into the show too (only don't tell him or his buddies I said that). 
Yesterday my sister and I went on a little crafty shopping spree! 
These are some of the fabrics I picked up for making Baby #2's crib bedding! I finished the blanket yesterday and am SO pleased with how it turned out! I can't wait to see it all together!

This may be the last thing I post, but it is the one I am most excited about! 
I posted on here several times about how the book One Thousand Gifts has truly challenged and inspired me. I'm reading through it for the third time in just under 2 years! Well, ladies, Ann Voskamp came out with a DVD study that can be done with a group! We started it this week with a small group of ladies from church, and it is wonderful! I am so excited to see what the next few weeks hold for us on this journey toward the fullest life! Highly recommended if you are looking for books to add to your reading list for 2013!

Now its YOUR turn! Link up your post about your life-lately below! Here are some simple rules to follow:
1.) Follow your hosts via GFC.
2.) Follow your co-hosts via GFC. 
3.) Link up your life lately posts or any post about your life. 


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Menu Planning 101--Why plan?

So, when you read I'd be doing a short series on Menu Planning maybe you thought that was a really silly idea. Or maybe you were wondering what in the world I was talking about! Who knows, you could be one of those people (like me) who is all about planning things (you know, the ones with obsessive lists and planners that are all highlighted--don't judge). 
No matter your response, you may just be wondering why there is a need for menu planning. Here's my short and honest answer:

It makes life simpler.
and that's what we're all about here! 

Still skeptical? 
Want more specifics? 
Here goes--
  1. Menu planning limits your amount of work. Sounds a little counter-intuitive right? I mean, it does seemingly give you more to do. That however, is a myth. While planning for a week or two of meals at a time does take a little bit of work, it often alleviates a lot of the work at meal time because you are completely prepared for what's coming. No more (or very few) last minute trips to the grocery store for something your forgot, or not knowing what you're going to make which can cause chaos in your home. Simply put--a little more work in the beginning produces less work on the other end.
  2. Menu planning simplifies meal time. Meal times, especially dinner, can be extremely hectic! Trying to get something decently healthy for your family to eat while juggling everything else on your plate is not always easy. That's where menu planning can help. No more guessing about what you're going to have for dinner--you've already planned it days or even weeks in advance. You know what you'll serve and even what it'll take to prepare it so you aren't stuck at 5:00 trying to make a decision or rushing because you didn't have adequate time to prepare. When you know what you're going to serve, you can prepare your mind (not to mention your taste buds) for the work that is coming. You know how early you need to put in that casserole that needs to bake for an hour. So really, having a plan is simply more helpful.
  3. Menu planning saves you money. If you were only half reading what the other two points were about, I bet your fully into this post now! We all want to save our money. Who wants to spend all of their money on consumable things, like food? (My pet peeve is gasoline...I just hate spending money on it, but it must be done). Probably no one! So, how does the fairly simple task of planning your meals save you money? There are a few ways I can think of. (1) Remember those last minute grocery store trips we talked about earlier? You won't have as many of those! If you're like me, you go into the store to get that one thing you are forgot...your eye catches something else (because its dinner time and you're hungry) end up coming out of the store with more than you intended to buy! You spent more than you planned! While that seems like a tiny bit of extra that you spent, if you do this once a week it can really add up. By planning your meals, you know in advance what you need and can do a large grocery shopping trip to get all of those items (we'll talk more about the grocery shopping later). (2) It's 5:15, your hubby will be home in 15 minutes and the kids have soccer practice in 45. No clue what to make for dinner so what do you do? Call the hubby and tell him to meet you at your favorite, fairly quick, restaurant. For our family (of 3) to eat out and have a decent meal, we will usually spend $15-$20. Doesn't sound like much, but if you do that even just three times a month it is almost $60 of your budget spent on food--and maybe not even good food at that! Eating at home is much a cheaper and healthier option for your family. Planning your meals can keep you from those last minute trips through the drive-thru because you already know what you're having for dinner and you could even get a head start on it if you know you have a busy evening ahead. 
There you have it!
Some of the reasons I started menu planning. 
Are you ready to go? Ready to get started? 
Well, pull out your recipe book--or your recipe board on Pinterest! Next week I'll share with you my favorite tools for menu planning (and they're all FREE)...then we'll delve into the in's and out's of HOW to menu plan effectively. 


Wednesday, January 16, 2013


Get your cameras out or start pecking away at your key board
Life Lately LinkUp

with Life on Leroy and The Weekend File is coming up in less than a week!

Don't know what Life Lately is all about? Click on the button and it'll take you to a full description, but if you're more into the bare minimum description here it is:

On your blog, write a post/post photos of your life in the past few days or weeks. Then, head right here on January 21 and add your link to the party! 
That's it!
It really isn't anything too fancy, just a post about life in your neck of the woods. It is, however, very fun to read what everyone is into these days and even make some blogger friends while you're at it! 

Be sure to join us here for a link-up party on the 21st! 
Don't worry--I'll remind you again :)


Friday, January 11, 2013

In the Works

With a New Year comes new dreams, new goals, new inspiration
At least, that's what has been going on here! 

Things have been rather quiet around here lately, and that's because I have some new things in the works for you! I am super excited about what this year holds and hope you are going to stick around for the next few months to see what happening here. I'll give you a little sneak peak now.

...Features of 2013...

1. The Shop-- I've been working on re-vamping my etsy shop. Welcome to The Cozy Cottage.
Here you'll find various things (both sewn and crocheted) to cozy-up your life. There are basically two categories-- 1) To Carry 2) To Wear. Check out the shop for a more detailed look at each category. 
Every few weeks I plan to feature an item from the shop here on the blog. With that feature will come a coupon code for your shopping pleasure. 

2. The Series-- Direction is always a good thing! No goals = no progress. 
This year I am planning to write a couple series of posts to help you simplify your life and love it at the same time! Many times simple is translated as boring. This is not true! Over the next few months we'll see how simplifying can be thrilling and inspiring with a series on Prepping for Your Spring Yard Sale and Menu Planning 101

3. The Sharing-- Later this month (January 21 to be exact), I will be co-hosting a link-up party with Alli over at Life on Leroy. She co-hosts a link-up called Life Lately. So get your camera clicking and be ready to link up your photos of your life lately on January 21. Don't worry--I won't let you forget about it! 

There are other things in the works, but I don't want to give everything away just yet! 

Let's just say these next few months are going to be exciting around here and you don't want to miss it!

Happy Friday, ya'll!

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