5 Things To Make Back To School Easier For Moms

Maybe your kids have already started back to school, or maybe you have a couple more weeks. Here they start tomorrow. After a summer of slothing around I’m looking forward to a schedule, but thinking about all the things that are going to be on the schedule kinda freaks me out a bit. Over the past couple of years I have put a few things in place that have seriously made my life easier and more peaceful.

First up is organizing school supplies and school papers (you know the ones that come home that are too awesome to throw out).

1. Organization for school supplies and papersIn our entryway closet (for lack of a better place) we have this

The tower of drawers on the left holds various school/office supplies and the kids keepsakes for the year (the top drawers). The crate to the right holds more school/office supplies. I love this because they have learned where to find things they need all. on. their. own. Major mom win!

A place for everything and everything in its place.

3. Family Calendar – I hang large monthly calendars here in our kitchen

I attempted at one time to color coded but that was just too much for me, so I just write the person’s name by their activity. It helps a lot to see it out in the open.

I pre-bag snacks so I can just grab and go. This way the only thing that I have to make is sandwiches. (Yes, we could go healthier, but hey it’s just one meal, and how much do they really eat anyway??)

5. Meal Planning – This is a total life saver when I do it – here is what my meal plan looks like

Basic, but it works. This year I am planning to kick this one into high gear by adding some homemade freezer to crockpot meals. I tend to buy frozen dinner things that I can throw in the oven on a busy day. But, I know some of these aren’t that healthy. I love to use my crockpot but I don’t always have time in the morning for the prep work. I have pinned some great sources on my pin board with a great variety of recipes. I printed a bunch out for myself and I am making my grocery list! 

I hope these ideas help stream-line some of the necessary chaos that comes with the school year! Happy learning everyone!

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Recipe Organization

I consider myself an organizing junkie.  In that, I like to try out all kinds of organization methods. In fact, I try out several different ways to organize the same thing, until, hopefully I discover a way that actually WORKS for me. Anybody else out there?
Aside from design inspiration, I love pinterest for new recipes.  When I am feeling in a bit of a rut, I will spend an hour or so printing recipes from my pinterest boards I have collected.  After a while of doing this I have quite a collection of printed recipes just floating around.  A couple of years ago I made myself a binder with pocket tabs for different types of recipes, and sheet protectors to slide the recipes into.  
Recipe notebook
Well….after a while I quit sliding the recipes back into the sheet protectors.  And then….after a while I stopped putting the recipes back into the right category.  And then….I stopped putting the recipes back into the pockets.  So, I ended up with this mess.
recipe organization
I knew it was time to try something new.  I tend to organize better loosely.  Meaning, I don’t do well when I have to put things into lots of things. So, a sheet protector, into a section, into a binder was just too many things.
Folder for recipe storage
I found this cutie at walmart and decided to give it a go.
recipe organization tabs
Since I am using this mostly for main courses – for meal planning purposes – I labeled each section by the type of meat and also a “favorites” section and a “misc” section. Favorites for those meals that my family could eat everyday, and misc for a few side dishes, bread, salads, and you know, misc.  🙂
Keep recipes organized in catagorized
I re-sorted all the recipes, threw out a few that hadn’t turned out well, and filed them away.  
recipes organized by category
I’ve shared before my easy-peasy meal planning system and where I store the recipes for the planned period.  I still love this method! It’s easy to see the meals, it keeps the recipes I need handy, and the sheet protectors keeps the recipes clean while I’m cooking!
Use a clear sheet protector for a meal plan and recipe holder for easy access for the week
I’m hoping this new file sorter will be easier for me to manage when it comes to meal planning, and putting things back in the right place!  We shall see.  🙂

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A Functional Kitchen is a Must

We talked yesterday about how people love to gather in the kitchen.  I also mentioned that it’s good if you enjoy being in your kitchen. Functionality of the space has a lot to do with that!  If you can never find what you need, or if you are constantly going in circles trying to get anything done, then your kitchen might need a little overhaul.

After 13 years of living in this home, the kitchen is as functional as I can get it for now.  I have moved, tweaked, stored, and arranged things in lots of different ways over those years, and I’m sure even though I say it’s good – something will change in the next year or two!!

Life is constantly changing.  Schedules, routines, the ebb and flow.  So changes in our home are inevitable.  I am not a morning person so I do everything I can to make my morning run smoothly.  Coffee is a requirement.  Making the coffee is something I wish I could wiggle my nose and make happen.  But, I do find that having everything in arms reach in this coffee station makes it a little easier. (maybe you can tell, some of these pics are pre-kitchen-update :))

I loathe making lunches for my kids, but I hate wasting money on school lunches even more. These lunch bins I started a few years back, make morning lunch making less work.

We do not have a pantry.  Probably my largest complaint about this kitchen.  So, storing baking supplies can be a little tricky.  I changed to this system a while back and I love it!! 

Keeping things corralled on the counters in trays or baskets makes for less mess and easy clean-up.

Schedules are crazy around here, and keeping up with it all is a challenge.  And, so is meal planning.  I make both of these as simple as I can.

Oddly, this is one area of the house that I am constantly purging and paring down.  New things come in and old things must go out.  I have limited storage for cooking supplies and dishes so it is a have to thing more than a want to thing.
Smaller space + more things = chaos.  And chaos doesn’t work for me!!

How do you keep your kitchen functioning for you?? 

To see other posts in this series click on the link below

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Summer Crock Pot Recipes {Family Friday}

Hello friends and welcome to another Family Friday!!  I use my crock pot a lot during the winter because I love all kinds of soups.  Soup is my form of comfort food in the winter.  But then, spring rolls around and my family I no longer want soup.  However, our schedule is such that using the crock pot here and there would be VERY beneficial – keep us from eating out.  So, as I was meal-planning today I pulled some of my crock pot meals out that aren’t soupy and added them to the menu.  

Then…I thought of you guys!!  Do you have a crock pot?  Do you use your crock pot?  Do you use it for things other than soup?  I have a whole board on Pinterest dedicated to crock pot recipes, and when I am in a rut, I check there and add a few new ones to the mix.  I very rarely share recipes with you but today, I am going to share with you a few recipes that I have found, that are tested and approved by my own family.

Hope you enjoy!!

This first one from Picky Palate was is a huge hit at our house.  I very rarely make the potatoes (although they are very yummy), but you can pair the pork chops with just about any side you would like.

Ranch House Crock Pot Pork Chops with Parmesan Mashed Potatoes
6 pork chops, 1/2 inch thick
1 packet dry Ranch Dressing Seasoning
10 oz can Cream of Chicken Soup
4 lbs peeled, cubed potatoes
5 Tablespoons real butter
1 Cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
6 cloves roasted garlic (click for directions how to roast garlic)
1- 1 1/2 Cups warm skim milk (any milk will do, I just happened to use skim)
1 Tablespoon salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper, or to taste
1. Place pork chops, Ranch seasoning and soup into a medium sized crock pot over high heat for 4 hours or low heat for 6 hours.
2. Place potatoes into a large pot of cold water. Place onto stove top over high heat and bring to a boil. Once water is boiling, cook for 10-12 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender. Drain and transfer to the work bowl of a stand or electric mixer. Mix on low until potatoes are mashed then add butter, Parmesan, garlic, milk, salt and pepper. Season to taste if needed. For thinner mashed potatoes add more milk, slowly until your desired consistency.
3. Scoop mashed potatoes onto serving plates and top with pork chops and soup gravy from crock pot. Enjoy!
This next one is yummy too!!  The recipe below is from Makin’ it Mo’ Betta which she adapted from Six Sister’s Stuff.  I usually serve this one with rice and broccoli, but would be good with just about anything.


adapted from Six Sisters’ Stuff

4-6 chicken breasts *I used 2 lbs boneless/skinless chicken breasts
1 cup packed brown sugar *I used 3/4 cup
2/3 cup vinegar  *I used apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup lemon-lime soda *I used Sprite Zero
2-3 Tablespoons minced garlic *I used about 1 1/2 T. fresh minced garlic
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
2 Tablespoons corn starch
2 Tablespoons water

Red pepper flakes (optional) 

  • Spray slow cooker with non-stick cooking spray. (Crock pot liners are also great!)
  • Place chicken (frozen, thawed or fresh) inside slow cooker. 
  • Mix together the sugar, vinegar, soda, garlic, soy sauce, and pepper, and pour over chicken. 
  • Cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 4 hours. (Frozen chicken will obviously need a longer cook time.)
  • Remove chicken from slow cooker (it should basically fall apart) and pour remaining sauce into a saucepan over high heat. 
  • Mix together corn starch and water, pour into saucepan, and mix well. Let sauce come to a boil and boil for 2-3 minutes, or until it starts to thicken and turns into a glaze. 
  • Remove from heat and let sit for a minute or two (it will continue to thicken as it cools).
  • Sprinkle red pepper flakes on top if desired.  

I also use my crock pot for easy basic things like BBQ chicken – chicken and BBQ in and forget it, and taco meat – I usually cook my meat first, then toss it in the crock pot with my taco seasoning and forget it!!  I love the leave it and forget it part don’t you?!?  Oh, and speaking of taco seasoning, I now make my own, and I love it.  I love that I can tailor it to my families’ tastes and that I know what is in it!!  The recipe I use is from Smells Like Home and you can view that here.
I hope some of these are helpful and have inspired you to pull-out your crock pot!! 

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