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Monday, March 8, 2010

52 Hungry for some Meal Planning?

As I sat down on Sunday morning, with my coffee, newspaper, scissors and clipboard in hand, I thought to myself, "What a big part of my day {life} this is!"  

To me, meal planning is somewhat of a dreaded subject.  It does consume a chunk of each Sunday, however, I keep telling myself that it is so absolutely worth the small time investment, because my weeks run smooth and I save a ton of pennies.  So, I thought I would share it all with you, to see if there are a couple of ideas you could borrow, however, in return, I ask that you share some with me to borrow as well.  I am always looking for ways to cut down on the time it takes to do the dirty work, in order to spend time with my beloved munchkins.

Food.  For some, it's a survival thing, for others, it's the yummness factor.  Whichever reason you go for the food thing, the matter of the fact is that it's a HUGE part of our everyday lives.  And when you are a stay at home daycare mommy, it becomes even that much more of a big deal.

So in order for me to keep some fund management and sanity in the food department, I have come up with a pretty solid system.

 1.  Prepare:
The first step to my weekly meal planning, is to actually be prepared ahead of time.  I pre-print out a stack of meal planning grocery lists, clip them into a bulletin board and hang it inside the pantry door:


This is great for having a quick place to jot down items that are running low or out, at the time, vs, having to scour the cupboards right before grocery day to look for missing items.


2.  Find a Happy Zone:
That's right, I roll back my table runner and cop a squat right at the kitchen table.  It's the perfect space for spending my Sunday morning, listening to my little men giggle and play together while the amazing chef hubster prepares a nice Sunday brunch:


My happy zone requires a few necessities.  First on the all important list of musts, my coffee:

 

With that in tow, I can conquer anything really.  Everything else is secondary for this task {OK, completely necessary}!


 3:  Snipity Snip:
Nope, I don't mean going under the knife here, nothing that major for this easy task.  I just snag some scissors and start clipping away.  Coupons that is!  Yep, I am a coupon saver.


I actually snag coupons from a couple of different locations.  Of course, I see them randomly throughout magazines I read, but I also go to a couple of reliable websites to print off only the ones I will use {it's great when you can just browse and select}.  Websites I currently go to are: SmartSource, RedPlum, Coupons.com, Target.com and Money Saving Mom.  The best part of finding coupons online, is that it's free of charge, actually, it's like they pay you since you are actually saving money when you shop and didn't have to buy a magazine or newspaper to gain the money saving coupons.  Win, win and an extra win!  Lastly, I do splurge on a Sunday paper, because I do find that I am still able to gain on the investment with all the coupons I snag from there as well.

And once they are all clipped:

 

They get tucked into this uber handy coupon file:



4. Plan the Meals:
 When I am planning my meals, I actually have a section built right into my grocery list template {click to enlarge}:




It lists out each day of the week, and gives me a line to fill in a Breakfast, Lunch, Snack and Dinner.

So, with clipboard in hand, I start the process:


This is the most time consuming part of the morning.  But it's good, and here is why:

a.  Using the coupons I just clipped or already had in stock and using the local sales flyer for my local grocery hut, I pick meals that will offer me the most discount.  Money in the pocket = good!
b.  We try to always find at least one new recipe to try each week.  New foods to try = good!
c.  Using the recipe binder we use to corral our favorite recipes, we plan the remainder of our meals.  Planned meals = less eating out = being more green = at home family time = good!


d.  We also plan meals according to our weekly schedule, to ensure we give ourselves the appropriate amount of time to prepare the meals on our list.  Nights where we have cubby scouts or soccer practice, require quicker meals than our at home family nights do.  Being prepared for each night of the week = good!


Then, once all of the meals are planned and listed out on the grocery list:

 

I look at all the meals, and fill in the grocery list side with all the items I need to purchase during my weekly shopping trip:


 
I also mark each item that I have a coupon for, so I can make sure I snag the right one.  And when possible, I try to list them in order of the isles at the grocery store, making it easier to grab things in order and not forget things until the end of the trip.


5.  Transfer:
This is another sanity saver for myself and my family.  I created this weekly meal plan calendar {click to enlarge}:


And then I matted with scrapbook paper and laminated it:


Then, with a dry erase marker, I fill in each meal for the whole week:

 

This way, I can hang it on the fridge {on a not so visible side}, and can see easily at a glance what each days meals will consist of.

Seem a little silly and redundant?  Maybe, but it's not so silly when I can see on Monday, that on Tuesday I am making chicken breast sammy's, so I remember to take them out of the freezer a day in advance to make sure they are all thawed and ready for our Tuesday evening feast.  Plus, it's great for the hubs because he does a lot of our cooking, so he can also be prepared ahead of time.  No need to have open communication in this relationship, nopers, just look at the fridge for your answers to what we are doing each day, and what will be filling our tummy holes.

So there you have it.  Again, I am home all day every day and have lots of hungry little childrens to feed, so this really becomes a little more of a process for me than it would have to for many of you.  Planning out one meal per day vs. four, would take much less time and could be done less frequently than weekly.  Probably even monthly would work?!  

Like I said at the beginning, I am hoping you savvy meal planners have some other tips and tricks in your grocery bags, that you can share with me!  Anyone else know of other good places to snag money saving coupons?  Are you one of those amazing individuals that can go to the grocery store and leave with a cart full-o-groceries for $4.12?  If so, spill your secrets!



52 comments:

  1. I don't meal plan, with just the 3 of us it just wasn't necessary. But, couponing is like a hobby to me. I even work together on a blog about it. Today I got free body wash and free soap from Target. And a $10 gift card for a $2 purchase. Getting a hold of as many newspaper inserts is key. I took one from Culver's last night!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I try and set a routine for each week...

    Sunday is the day I cook a big dinner--something that might take a little longer than average. Monday is Mexican night---tacos, nachos, quesadillas, fajitas, etc. Tuesday is leftover night. Wednesday is Italian night--spaghetti, lasagna, alfredo. Thursday is crock pot night. Friday night is pizza or take out. And Saturday is "Something New"---this is the day that I'll find something new to try and cook! Sometimes Saturday is also "Grill Night"---just depends on the weather.

    This helps me plan my meals out for the week. Sometimes it needs adjusting, depending on what our schedule looks like or what the kiddos have planned after school; but it really does pay out in the long run!

    : ) Marci

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jeanie Turner GreathouseAugust 11, 2012 at 3:15 AM

      I could work with this schedule. Think I'll give it a try. Sunday would be my "something new" day

      Delete
  3. Figures your coupon caddy is from TCS. I'll add it to my list! Thanks!

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  4. Hi Heather! I have seen similar versions of the coupon holder at Target for around $1 if that is easier for you! You are right though, I really do heart The Container Store! Nothing like 20% off {found via online coupon codes} and no shipping since I can pick up my goods at the store! :)

    xoxo,
    Jen

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  5. Thanks for this posting. I just finished my family's meal plan template. Even though there are just 3 of us, I travel quite a bit so I imagine using it in my prep routines will greatly help me.
    I adore the weekly calendar on your fridge. Where did you get it? I've looked everywhere for something similar.
    Thanks in advance Jen!

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  6. Never mind, I found the calendar at Target! I should have guessed :)
    So, my next question for you is how did you attach the brads to hold the ribbon to your clipboard? Did you drill holes? Did you glue?
    Thanks in advance Jen!

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  7. Hi Melanie!

    I just drilled a small hole in each side and knotted the ribbon on the backside and used the brad to hold it more securely, it was simple as that, it's been holding up really well thus far!

    Thanks!

    xoxo,
    Jen

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  8. Hello Jen!
    I just found your blog a couple of days ago (through an organizing post on thenest.com)! I have been addicted to it ever since and have been feverishly reading through tons of your blogs! I am truly in organizing heaven!!! Thank you so much for your wonderful posts that help keep us organized! One question about your meal planning...how did you make your grocery list template that is on your clipboard? Love it...but am not so computer savvy! Please share!!

    Thanks SO much for your inspiration!

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  9. I LOVE your blog!! I am a new follower and adding your button to my blog!! LOVE IT!

    Hope you will stop by and follow Simple As 1-2-3 soon!

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  10. I also am not as computer savvy as I could be. Is there any way that you could share your meal planning & grocery list in a pdf? It's so cute, & I'd love to adapt it to my family. Thanks Jen!

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  11. Hey I love this post! I also have a home daycare including 3 hungry boys and my daughter all under the age of 4, I also have a daughter in school and my hubby works the evening shift... Meal planning in our house is absolutely necessary, however I have never found a system simple enough and complex enough at the same time to fit our needs. I think this is it! Thanks for being such a great planner and sharing your gift! =) Think I'l head over to your etsy shop now!

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  12. Just wanted to echo the thanks. I have tried couponing for years, but couldn't get it to work. But your system seems so simple and easy, that I'm gonna give it a try! Thanks! :)

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  13. Hey I just came across your blog and thought is share something I got into thanks to another blog, pre preparing meals for oven or crockpot. It took me a bit but I have it down to a science where I have a whole weeks worth prepared in 4 hours of one day... You get the food set up like you would to cook only leaving topping off then freeze in plastic containers or gallon bags. If I have extra time to cook i store it for the next week so that if I get sick or leave to visit family of friends in our home state for a short time I have a back stock so my hubby can fix it (he doesn't cook besides raman and sandwiches lol.) I think I might try meal planning but for the premake day. I like this method really well though as I run a FB page, an online business, have a toddler, blog, and am involved in activities on base, and am trying to get in shape.. lol its a small miracle I keep my house clean and food in my family's belly.

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  14. Thank you for this post! I will definitely be trying this way of meal planning. And thank you for this site! I just found it yesterday and I'm loving it! :)

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  15. I am in love with your blog!!! I keep finding more and more posts and I get excited to finally get organized haha...this is a perfect idea...my husband, if he's home, takes the kids on Sundays aka my "me" day so this is perfect for me to start doing! Thanks again for the kick in the butt!!!

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  16. I also have a meal section, and a grocery list section - however, I break my grocery section into grocery isles/sections. Example - dairy, cereals, canned/boxed goods, etc. That way, when I shop it's all in order.

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  17. Love this blog! Your ideas are great and so clean. I love CLEAN! I spend a good bit of my week meal planning, just for two people! We are on a strict budget and with the both of us working full time and having a lot of other activities, it's important to us to spend time eating dinner together. I open up my calendar and coordinate meals according to our week. For instance, Wednesday's are very busy for us, so I plan on a simple homemade pizza with salad. If there is an evening that isn't as busy, I try to make a bigger meal that will have left overs for our lunches. Something like soup, or a casserole. If we have plans to visit family, or be somewhere that is providing a meal, I don't plan a meal! It saves us so much money and helps me to stay sane with a busy work week! :)

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  18. So, this isn't so much to help with menu planning if you are really organized and buying for just a week, but it works for me because I like to plan my menu around what I have on hand (we have a garden during the summer), and I like to get different recipe ideas. I use Supercook.com - you can sign up for a free account, enter what you have on hand, and it will find recipes throughout the internet that match those ingredients. Brilliant!

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  19. @Anonymous - Thanks so much for the site! Can't wait to check it out!

    xoxo,
    Jen

    ReplyDelete
  20. Hi Jen I found your blog thru Pinterest and just want to say that I trully admire you!! I try to be organized specially because I have three kids and work part time but sometimes i just give up, you have inspired me back to getting on track! Thank you so much!!!

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  21. I've only recently discovered your blog, this post was great ... I try and meal plan but never seem to stick to it. On Sundays I try and cook a meal I can turn into a second meal for the freezer such as a bolognase that I can also make a lasagne from. That way when I need a quick meal from the freezer I already have a homemade ready meal!

    Would love to know if you have any updated meal planning tips?

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  22. Here's a fun way that works for me and my family: I've made little squares of paper with all of our favorite meals on them - one each. They all get folded and put into a hat/bucket. Near the end of the month, we sit down with a blank calendar page (easily found online) and our little "meal bucket". We pass the bucket around, and each person takes out a slip of paper, and that meal gets written in the calendar. We just go day by day. We only do our meal planning for dinners, and we're flexible enough that if something comes up, we can switch meals around, or postpone one if a sudden "take out" night happens.

    We also have a couple of standards in there that happen every month: Mom's choice, Take Out, Kid's Choice (My son must prepare dinner that night), and Leftovers (because there are ALWAYS leftovers in the freezer!!)

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  23. I am a meal planner, but I don't really enjoy the process. So, I gathered a few friends (online) and created a little meal planning group. We are each assigned a week and are expected to post meal plans (and recipes and a grocery list) for five days before that week begins. It's been great because it causes me to try new meals, and it's easier for my husband to make supper because he knows exactly what we're having and where to find the recipe.

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  24. Two things: 1) I have those same exact basket weave mugs. My whole kitchen set is that pattern. 2) I found your blog by accident and I think I might have ready every single post already. Our biggest issue with the groceries was staying under budget. So, I put my nerd glasses on and made this excel spreadsheet with formulas that will auto-calculate the total of our shopping list. Our objective is to stay under $100 per week and we sit down together with the circular every Thursday evening circling items in it we'd like or need. On Saturday morning, it takes me about 15 minutes to plug in the brand name, item name, quantity/weight, price per item and whether or not I have a coupon. It totals as I go, including tax and deducting the coupons, so I know when I need to stop adding or start removing items. It's the only thing that's worked for us so far and my Fiance thinks I'm the coolest for making it, lol.

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    Replies
    1. Would you be willing to share your spreadsheet?

      Delete
    2. I would also love to use this spreadsheet, would you please post for us to use?

      Delete
    3. Hi friends!

      You can find my printables in my shop:

      http://www.etsy.com/listing/81423059/personalized-meal-planning-and-shopping

      http://www.etsy.com/listing/72258719/personalized-meal-planning-calendar

      Thank you!

      Jen

      Delete
  25. So I would really love to get a copy of these (the weekly menu plan sheet and the to eat/to buy sheet). The one I clicked said sold. do you still sell these? if so, how can I get them?

    thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You can find all of my new printable templates in my shop here: www.etsy.com/shop/IHeartOrganizing

      xoxo!
      Jen

      Delete
  26. LOVE your blog!!! Found you on Pinterest and have sat at my computer reading all of your wonderful ideas for three days straight!!! I am in the same boat as the "anonymous" reader above my post.....I would really like to have the printables on the weekly menu plan and the to do/buy sheet. When I clicked on it, it also gave me a message that it was sold. How can I get it? Thanks so much!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You can find all of my new printable templates in my shop here: www.etsy.com/shop/IHeartOrganizing

      xoxo!
      Jen

      Delete
  27. I LOVE your blog! I am going to try these meal planning tips, I never remember to take meats from the freezer and always end up "rethinking" dinner (ugh!). I did want to share some money saving grocery tips that help us. I totally take advantage of the grocery stores BIG sales and make it a point to get rain checks. Most stores rain checks NEVER expire and can be combined with coupons later. Always ask for the maximum limit on quantities too. Anytime there are buy 2 get 3 free type sales they always sell out quickly...this is the PERFECT time to get rain checks, and I usually go back the next day to see if they are restocked and if not get another rain check. Later on you can use a coupon in conjunction with the rain check and really come out spending even less than you would on the original sale. I also make a point to hit the reduced meats section on Mondays, they always reduce after the weekend, especially after big holidays. It never hurts to ask for something to be reduced while your there too...if the date to "sell by" is the today, then ask would they be willing to reduce it now if you purchase. I often ask this at WalMart for the rotisserie chickens that have the hours marked on them. If it has been over 3 hours since they were put out or at the end of the night then I usually score them for half price!

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    Replies
    1. Wow, that raincheck idea is so so smart! Thank you for the great tip, I will be using that one!

      xoxo,
      Jen

      Delete
  28. Hello! I was wondering if you would be willing to share your secrets for coupon organization? I have been trying to get on board with couponing but I'm having a hard time finding a system that works for me.
    Thanks! : )

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  29. Love your blog and this has nothing to do with couponing or meal planning but WHERE did you get your dishes?!!! I have been on what feels like a quest to find the perfect dinner dishes and I <3 yours!!!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I found them at Kohls a few years ago. Happy hunting! :)

      xoxo,
      Jen

      Delete
  30. Wow...all these tips were incredible. Thank you!!! I will definitely try to implement some of this into my daily routine.

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  31. I haven't couponed in awhile, but when I did, hotcouponworld.com was a great site. They have all, and I mean all of the stores circulars weeks before they come out allowing you to plan well ahead of time. And it may sound counterproductive, but I would buy my coupons. After looking at the circulars and seeing what was on sale, I would buy a lot of the corresponding coupons to maximize my savings. I would spend about $5 on coupons but only get coupons that I picked out vs. paying $3 for a newspaper I don't read and only getting about 7 or 8 coupons from it. Another tip is using coupons at publix with their buy one get one deals. Then you can use 2 coupons and really save.

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  32. Great tips! Found you through pinterest and just love your blog! I find I save a lot of time when doing my grocery shopping by using a list with pre-printed headings (Fruit/Veg, Dairy, Fresh meats, Cereal/Bread etc) organized according to layout of the supermarket where we do most of our grocery shopping. No more rushing around going back for things you forgot two aisles down!

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  33. Love, love, love your blog! Thank you for everything you do. I love ti coupon, but I have to tell you that I feed my family of 6 using meal plans from emeals.com! It comes out to $5 a week for them to give me a meal plan that has DELICIOUS and EASY recipes that are based off of the sales at my grocery store for the week. It only has dinners, which is great for me since we do a basic eggs, bacon, pancake, or waffle breakfast. I have loved every recipe, seriously! And I still coupon at my grocery store (Ralph's) when they're having good sales so I have things on hand for the mpnext time I need them.

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  34. I use a website called Plan to Eat. www.plantoeat.com It has honestly changed my life. You store all your recipes online (takes a little work upfront) and then create printable menus and shopping lists. With my iPhone i can access all my lists at the grocery store. No paper involved! I was leery about switching over to an online system but it has saved me hours and hours and is so simple - check it out!!!

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  35. Jeanie turner GreathouseAugust 11, 2012 at 3:25 AM

    I'm so glad I found this wonderful organizing place. One of the things I do to save time at meal time is to "cook ahead". I buy chicken breasts when they are on sale and cook several packages at one time. I then chop up in 2 cup amounts and put this in freezer bags and freeze it. Anytime I want any chicken dish, this portion is already done. Of course, I freeze four whole breasts for grilling.

    I also do the same thing with ground chuck.

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  36. I like keeping a notebook that lists every item of food we have bought with the price right next to it. i will always know how much the total for my grocery bill will be. if i can only afford for "x" amount on a certain paycheck, i can just plan my meals accordingly and make sure we stick within our budget. we also have a different day of the week for a different type of meal. Sunday is crockpot/casserole, meatless monday, mexican tuesday (because tacos every week can get old) wed. is italian... fridays is the kids favorite leftover make your own pizza... sloppy joe and mac pizza or cheesy chicken pizza.... all while using up leftovers that isnt quite a full helping but too much to just toss out.... sign me up!

    ReplyDelete
  37. I am an organizing vigin, so my planned methods are still in the research phase, but I plan to implement soon. After some thought and research, I've came up with a few ideas.
    Buying in bulk is always cheaper. Stock up on meat when sales and coupons permit. Divide and freeze. To cut down on time, cook meat for two meals instead of one (if stock allows), and have one to freeze.
    *An idea I will have to try out and research is if a meat is prepared and cooked (example-seasoned for tacos), will it be safe and taste good to prepare the seasoned meat and then freeze to use for further use (as taco meat or maybe nachos or enchiladas)...?*
    And as for meals that are capable of freezing, I'd like to freeze individual portions. In the future when I feel like a home-cooked meal for lunch, or when it's just me, I have one ready without the labor.
    Also, when cooking meat, say the recipe calls for 2lb meat and you have more. The next day, plan for a meal to use the previously cooked meal.
    For other meals of the week, I want to figure out the veggies and prepare before. I believe the term is "blanching," but I could be wrong. On Sunday, I can have my little one help me gather, wash, and prep the veggies. (I will do most of the cutting) Then there is a process to partially cook them, and then freeze. So on Tuesday when it's time for Stir Fry, I pop 'em in after the meat and seasons are in, heat and then you're done!
    And lastly, the veggies in disguise. It's always a struggle finding ways to not threaten kids or pressure them on finishing their veggies (lol). I'm finding creative ways on food network and such to spice up those green beans, etc. once I find something we both agree with, I'll make a larger batch, and freeze in portions.
    Then it will be handy to include a written instruction guide for heating them, and adding them to the "Snack Menu." that way my daughter has yet another healthy option for snack when she gets home from school.
    Meal times are always a dreaded subject for me as well, especially when only preparing for myself and a (almost) 6 year old. Thanks for all the tips and I'm excited to have my newest tool delivered to my inbox (your Family Management Binder). You are wonderful at what you do and an amazing inspiration!
    Namaste,
    Vanessa Edwards
    Vanessa.edwards1026@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  38. I'm in love with your blog! I get very frazzled when things are messy but I can never figure out what to start first. And I am very messy but I can never decide when I want to clean. I get confused making my own plans so using yours help me keep my mind on one thing and I plan to update some of your ideas with my needs when I move out into my own place. You are a savior! Do you have any tips and tricks for students in college keeping all their paperwork and school stuff together, maybe separating classes and things? Keep blogging!

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  39. My sister told me about your site, and I absolutely love it!!! Have passed it on to all of my friends as well :) I have been off work (for medical reasons) for quite some time now, so I've had to work hard at organizing my house/life and working with a very limited budget. Your ideas, tips, and projects have made my life SO much easier to handle - thank you so much for all that you do! You and your site are fantastic!

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  40. Thanks Jen for your amazing organizational skills!

    Alyson Dunsmore (adunsmore38@hotmail.com)

    ReplyDelete
  41. Great post. I have to tell you this, I have the exact same recipe binder! That made me crack up. I'm always carting that thing around.

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  42. Thanks for all the fantastic tips. Will be putting them in place to help organize my life. :0) I don't know if someone already suggested this, but for "cutting" coupons, I use an architectural ruler, it has three sides...triangle, so its easy to pick up and reposition for "ripping" one or many stacked coupons. It saves me a ton of time and I find couponing not-so daunting.

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  43. Hey Jen !
    Could you please tell me what size do you print the meal plan for the week table? coz i have noticed that you have clipped it to a writing pad. i have not found anything bigger than A4 size writing pad in where i live. So was wondering , isn't A4 too small? please advice ! thanx much ! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi use standard letter size. A4 seems a bit small, not sure how my printables would work with that size, most likely font and lines would be pretty small.

      xo,
      Jen

      Delete

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