Is that still tasty?

For all of you who share my fear of what happens to food that's been eaten past its prime, I came across a very cool website I had to share. Ever wonder how long that package of shredded cheddar cheese stays safely edible in the fridge once its been opened? Did you know that the bottle of opened capers you have in the depths of your refrigerator is still good for up to a year? These are just a couple of helpful tips you can find at www.stilltasty.com; your ultimate shelf life guide.

I'm so paranoid about eating food beyond it's shelf life that I use a sharpie to mark it with the date I open it. Seriously. I keep one in the drawer next to my fridge. How many times do we wonder how long that pasta sauce has been sitting in the back of the fridge and we open it to see if there's any mold growing on it? Well, dear, if you checked www.stilltasty.com you'll realize that if you opened it more than 10 days ago, you can toss it, or chance tossing your cookies.

StillTasty.com also has some cool topics of discussion they appropriately call "shelf talk". You'll learn things like how to decipher the difference between sell by, use by and best before dates and if you must eat the chicken the same day you defrosted it or if you can save it for another night if your dinner plans change. The answer in case you're wondering - it depends on how you defrosted it. :-)

And for me, well, I'm off to toss all those dried spices I've had since my wedding; since they're only fresh for up to three years and I'm about to celebrate my seventh anniversary. Ciao!


One step closer to making meal planning easier.

A few years back I read an article in Real Simple magazine about taking all your favorite recipes and creating a recipe binder so everything would be in one place. It was the ultimate 'aha' moment for me. I loved it and immediately started my recipe binder project. Over the years, I've added many recipes so the binder was quite large and unwieldy. I also got lazy and didn't put them in the clear sleeves and just stuck them in the front, which made it difficult to find what I was looking for. It just wasn't serving the purpose any longer. I needed an intervention.

I recently finished transferring all the recipes into smaller, more manageable binders that sorts the recipes based on main ingredient (chicken, beef, seafood, pasta, etc.) and I feel so much more organized. Here's how I did it...

What I bought...
  • Four cheapie 1 1/2" binders from Staples ($.79/ea)
  • A box of 100 clear sleeves (3-hole punched) ($12)
  • A four-pack of dividers (5-tab), one set for each binder ($5)
What I had...
  • Shipping labels
I started by brainstorming the types of food my families eat the most and left more room for more recipes in those binders. We eat a lot of chicken, so I knew I'd need a good amount of space for those recipes. I logically made groupings of what I thought I'd use together, where it made sense to do so. I made the following tabs into four binders...

  1. Breakfast, Appetizers, Desserts, Breads
  2. Salads, Soups, Lunches, Kid-Friendly, Snacks
  3. Chicken, Seafood, Pasta
  4. Beef, Pork, Quick Favorites, Vegetables, Side Dishes
There was a method to my madness in putting certain recipes in the same binder, but you need to do what works for you and your family. For example, I put vegetables and side dishes in the same binders as quick favorites so I wouldn't need to pull out two binders as frequently (although they are slim).

I used existing printing labels to print labels for each binder (as you can tell from the pictures - a bit of cut & pasting). It was important I could see what categories where in which binder from the spine. You could also use binders with customizable spines, but I didn't want the spend $5 a piece on them when I could make pretty versions of them at home.

Then I began transferring all my recipes from my overflowing, unorganized recipe binder into the corresponding section. It took me about an hour. If you don't have existing recipes printed out already, then just start from scratch. If you come across recipes in a magazine, tear it out (or print out from my personal fave - the online collection at www.allrecipes.com) and plop it in the clear sleeve in the proper section in your binder. After a short while, you'll have an organized collection of go-to recipes for under $25 when you're wondering...What's for dinner?

Be sure to pull a recipe from your collection if you try it out and it doesn't make your repeat list. This will keep your collection manageable moving forward.


Attn: Mommies! A Fabulous New Behavior Chart for Kids

As the mom of a three year old, I'm constantly challenged with how to make sure I raise a child that has good behavior on a regular basis and understands that rewards are earned, not expected. I've done sticker charts in the past with decent success, however, I always provided stickers every time he said please or thank you or went potty on his own (they learn very early how to manipulate the system). I found that we'd be traveling to Target for the newest Transformer far too often.

I'd like to think that at some point I'll be able to transition from rewarding my child for good behavior to just expecting it without reward (well, maybe just a hug or a pat on the back), but for now I was trilled to find this new online kids chart that encourages good behavior with a fabulous graphic interface, customizable chores or behaviors and a "moolah piggy bank" account where they can take a debit from points earned and put them toward a reward that you customize (thus teaching the concept of money). It allows you to provide a "moolah point" for each item each day (not 12 in one day for saying please 12 times!) and keeps track of it throughout the week. This encourages that behavior throughout the day in order to get the point. I think this concept is pretty cool and while teaching a child responsibility is a long process, this is a good start.

One might say it's tough to use an online chart with a young child, and we'll see, but I have a feeling it will be a treat to my son at the end of the day for the two of us to jump on Mommy's laptop, pull up his chart and give him kudos for all his hard work throughout the day. If not, the chart is always printable.

Check out the beta site at http://www.goalforit.com/landing/chore-charts.html. They also have a section for setting, tracking and motivating for regular adult goals, which I plan on checking out and writing about if post-worthy. But for now I had to get the word out about this great kids chart. Oh, and the best part...it's FREE!

Let me know what you think and if you have any success with it (or any other similar chart/program) by posting a comment!


Stay Focused with a Daily Plan

Most people that would be reading my blog would likely be those that also write lists and strive to be more organized in their daily life, so I'm hopeful this post will have some major impact on the sanity-level you currently possess. I'm a list-maker by nature (as I've mentioned in previous posts) but nothing is worse than having a million sticky notes of things you need to do, trying to remember who you need to call, which errands you need to run and what time that doctor's appointment is. I use a family calendar, but it lacks the space for everything I need on a daily basis.

I used to live by my day-planner (back in 1996) but have made several evolutions since then. It too never seemed to have space for everything I needed to remember. Last night, I created a Daily Plan Document to keep be from being too scatter-brained.

Here's what I came up with:

On one side...
  • I've got the hours of the day from 6am until 10pm and a space to jot appointments or reminders. I'll put in things such as babysitters arrival time, time to leave the house for swim lessons or the typical doctors appointments or Gymboree Classes. I've also listed reminders of when to do things. If I don't make those meatballs before my one year old wakes up from her nap, well, I can forget the meal plan for that night! If you're a woman working outside the home, by all means you can list important meetings, workouts, grocery shopping, etc.
On the other...
  • I listed meals for the day. What's worse than wondering at 5pm what's for dinner and everything is frozen?!. You may snicker at this now, but knowing in advance what you're feeding yourself or your family will save you time, money and your sanity. (More on this passionate topic soon!)
  • To Do List. These are things you can do without having to leave your home (or office). Create birthday party guest list, return pending emails, balance checkbook, upload pictures, etc. You may choose to incorporate housework that needs to get done for the day. In my case, if it's written down, I'm much more likely to do it.
  • People (or Businesses) to Call. There is always someone to call in a given day, usually a half-dozen or so, whether it be returning mom's phone call, calling a medical center to get clarity on a bill or the salon to schedule that much-needed appointment. Having all the phone numbers listed right there is helpful too - to prevent the "oh, I don't have the number handy, I'll just call later" excuse.
  • Errands to run. These are To Do items outside the home. Shopping for a birthday gift, grocery shopping, dropping off clothing donations to Good Will, etc.
  • Websites to visit. I added this section last minute after thinking that nearly everyday I say to myself, "I'll need to look that up online tonight." Weather it be checking the yoga schedule online or finding new Halloween costume ideas for the little guys - there's usually somewhere on the world wide web you need to go (i.e. "Check out Well Planned Woman Blog today ;-)
Here's my 1st attempt at getting closer to becoming a Well Planned Woman. It's nothing fancy, but does the trick.

By keeping it stored in my computer, I'm able to change the date on the file and easily transfer any items that didn't get done (there are always some, right?) to the next day's Daily Plan. I can also use it as reference if I ever wonder when I made that call to Verizon or how long those meatballs have been sitting in the fridge. (We've all wondered that, haven't we?). Of course, you could also print out a week or two's worth of blank pages at once and fill them in the old fashioned way.

By doing a brain-dump every evening before bed, I can remind myself of daily commitments and appointments, things that need to get done and what's on the menu for dinner the following night. I simply print it out and I reference it throughout the day. Today, I folded it up and brought it with me to Whole Foods to make sure I got everything on my list. By the end of the day today, it was pretty tattered (I like to cross things off my list - it makes me feel good), but I can always reference the electronic copy if I feel so compelled. Thanks to my handy Daily Plan... today, I felt totally spot-on and am looking forward to tomorrow already.

If you'd like a copy of my Daily Plan template (created in Excel), click here. If you'd like to share this with your readers on your blog, please link to this posting. Thanks!



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