Posts Tagged ‘shopping’

Organize It: Navigating the Grocery Store

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

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Grocery shopping is hands-down one of my least favorite chores. It’s crowded, people aren’t paying attention and by the time I get through the checkout line and to my car, I am ready for a stiff drink and a nap.

Even with all the chaos in the store, I have found a sure fire way to shop as quickly and efficiently as possible, and get out relatively unscathed. Just like my tips in my last post — Organize It: Meal Planning Tips — the key is planning and organization.

Step 1. Make your grocery list.

Once you have your meals planned for the week, make a list of everything you need for those dishes. After that, add staples — like milk, eggs and bread. Finally, add any miscellaneous items you are in need of like cleaning supplies, soap, toothpaste, etc. (I keep a pad of paper and pen in my “junk drawer” in the kitchen so that I can write down items that we run out of immediately. It helps me to remember them when I go to make my grocery list.)

Step 2. Organize your grocery list to the schematic of your store.

Have you ever gotten all the way through your list only to realize that you forgot an item that is on the other end of the store? Me too. The solution to this is to organize your grocery list to the flow of your store. So, you will group all produce together, and then group items by aisle.

For example, see my list (top) and crude (er, I mean, super amazing) drawing of the layout of my local grocery store (bottom):

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You can see that I go from right to left in the store, and I have my items grouped by aisle from right to left. Doing this keeps me from having to look at my entire grocery list every time I go to a new section of the store. I just have to review the list for that particular area of the store. I have had far fewer instances of getting home and realizing I forgot something by doing this method (although it does still happen, usually with ice, because I am so happy to be done that I forget to ask the cashier to add it to my bill).

This method will be tricky at first, but the more you do it, the easier it will be, and you will then be able to combine steps 1 & 2.

Step 3. Organize your cart.

Ok, you have your list and you are ready to go. So, now what? When you get to the store, make sure to set up your cart before you get started. I like to put my reusable shopping bags in the top basket in the cart and then I keep my list and a pen in my purse along with the bags.

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I also make sure that I have my store’s loyalty card and payment card ready to go in my wallet. There is nothing that stresses me out more than realizing that my debit card is not in its normal spot when I am halfway through the checkout process.

Step 4. Divide and conquer. (If you bring a shopping buddy.)

This step I can only do if my husband comes with me to the store. If you have an organized list, you can easily put your shopping buddy to work! When we are in the produce section, for example, I will assign items for Bryan to go and gather, and we then are able to more quickly get through our list and get home.

If you have kids that are old enough that you feel comfortable with them helping with this step, it’s a great way to get them involved in the shopping process.

Step 5. Review and check.

After you get through each aisle/department, do a quick visual check of your cart and list and ensure that every item you have checked is actually in your cart, and that you haven’t missed any items on the list.

Step 6. Get out of there!

You did it! You survived your weekly trip to the grocery store! Now it’s time to head home, put away the groceries, clean your reusable bags (I make this a part of my grocery process so that I remember to it every time), and put your feet up. You deserve it!

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Do you have any tips on surviving the grocery store? Share them in the comments below.

Happy shopping!

Organize It: Meal Planning Tips

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

Eating out is bad for your wallet and your waistline, but we succumb to the temptation on a regular basis because we can’t figure out how to incorporate cooking into our busy schedules. In addition to picking out meals and shopping, the prospect of making a meal when we get home from an exhausting day at work usually has us waving the white flag in defeat, and speed-dialing our local pizza place for delivery.

How do you get out of this cycle of fast food and delivery every night? The key is developing a meal plan routine.

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Each Sunday morning, I sit down with a cup of coffee and put together a meal plan for the week. I then plot out my grocery list and hit the store (keep an eye out for a future post with tips on efficiently navigating the grocery store).

Step 1: Recipe Research
The first step is to decide what you are going to cook for the week. This can be an overwhelming task, so I have three sites I would recommend to help you in getting started.

Pinterest: Like most of us, I am on Pinterest daily, so I pin recipes as I see them, and then use my boards as a one-stop shop for planning my week.

Sweet Peas & Pumpkins: This Jamie Oliver Food Revolution award-winning blog is written by self-proclaimed “foodie mom” Sweet Pea Chef. She tasks herself with designing healthy meals that her kids will actually eat. One of my favorite recipes is her Mexican BBQ Chicken. I marinade sliced chicken breast, along with peppers and onions, and use it for tacos. I also love her Sesame Ginger Chicken Burgers.

Skinnytaste: Skinnytaste is another site I visit daily, and most of our meals come from here. Gina creates recipes that are delicious and low-calorie, and she lists all the nutritional information on her site (including Weight Watchers Points!). Our favorites include her Stuffed Buffalo Chicken Breasts, Zucchini Tots and Turkey Chili Taco Soup.

Tips on picking your meals:

* Whenever possible, try to pick at least one meal that you can have for two nights. This makes it so that one night during the week, you just have to reheat your meal instead of starting from scratch.
* If the recipe makes more servings than you need (say it’s six servings and you are a family of two), cut the recipe in half, or use the leftovers for lunches, or freeze them for future meals.
* Share ingredients between recipes. Did you find a recipe that uses a 1/2 pound of chicken, but you are buying a pound? Find another recipe that you can use chicken in so that you reduce food waste.
* Don’t pick complicated meals. I usually do a quick read-through on any recipe before I add it to my meal list to make sure that it’s not something that needs to simmer for 3 hours, or something that has dozens of steps in order to complete. The more complicated it is, the higher your chances are of giving up and getting take out.
* Want to be adventurous? Check out Rachael’s post on how you can source locally grown produce inexpensively. Most of these local vendors will even provide recipes on how you can use your produce. It’s a great way to save money, and be more inventive with your cooking.

Step 2: Schedule Meals
Once you decide what your meals are going to be by day, either take a piece of paper and write them out, or do what I do and compose an e-mail to yourself. In the e-mail, I usually list out each day, what we are having, and below that I put a hyperlink to the recipe, for easy access. I title the e-mail “Recipes for the week of (Date Here)” that way it’s easy to find in my Inbox.

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It is a good idea to take inventory of any produce or perishables you have before you make your schedule for the week, and use items that are close to expiration first. For example, if you have a zucchini on hand that’s starting to get a little soft, you can schedule your Skinnytaste Zucchini Tots for earlier in the week.

Step 3: Make a Grocery List
Finally, you have to make your grocery list. To do this, I go through each recipe, write the ingredients on my grocery list, and then go into the kitchen and cross off any item I already have. When I don’t do this, I usually end up buying something I already have, which is why I have three tubs of white pepper.

The more you practice your routine, the better you will get, and the easier it will be to shop each week. I can tell you from experience that if you have the ingredients at home, you are more likely to stick to your meal plan.

Do you have any tips on creating your own meal plan? What recipe sites are your favorite and why? I would love to hear about it in the comments below.

T-Shirt Mania!

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

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There is nothing more classic or comfy than a t-shirt and jeans. I am lucky enough to work at a company that has a year-round casual dress code, so my t-shirt collection has grown exponentially over the years. I feel that t-shirts, like bumper stickers, tell you a lot about a person – what their interests are, causes they believe in, their sense of humor, etc.

I am asked a lot where I get my t-shirts. Most of the time, I get them at one of the stores or online shopping sites listed below. They all have a great variety, good customer service, and a consistently good selection of shirts that cover pop culture stuff that I like.

Busted Tees

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http://www.bustedtees.com
What I like: They have a great selection of funny shirts, and usually have some kind of sale.
What’s not so great: If you don’t buy during a sale, the prices are a bit high for my taste. Also, they use a variety of manufacturers for their shirts, so the sizing is not consistent. Check the size chart on each item (and the snazzy photo feature they have showing each shirt on several body types) before you buy.

Disneyland

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http://www.disneystore.com/disney-parks-product/mn/1001081/
What I like: Usually the best part is that I am in Disneyland. If you aren’t able to jet off to the parks though, you can buy a lot of the same merchandise available on their website. The quality is good and they often have vintage-style designs, which I love.
What’s not so great: Like Busted Tees, Disney is a bit pricey in the t-shirt department. They also have inconsistent sizing, so make sure to check the size chart before you buy.

Hot Topic

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http://www.hottopic.com/hottopic/Tees.jsp
What I like: This is one of the few brick and mortar places I buy t-shirts on a regular basis, and so being able to actually try the shirt on before I buy it is great. They have one of the better selections of pop-culture shirts, usually from the 80s, so I can get my nostalgia fix.
What’s not so great: Their “women’s” sizes are for no woman I have ever known. In most stores, I can wear a M or L size, but at Hot Topic, I am usually buying an XL or XXL. I don’t shop here as much as I used to for this very reason, but I still get a shirt here and there from them, so they are still on my list of go-to stores…for now.

Old Navy

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http://www.oldnavy.com
What I like: Like Hot Topic, I love that I can actually go to the store and try on my t-shirt before I buy it. They sizes are good, the shirts last well and don’t shrink up, and I can also get jeans while I am there. The shirts here usually revolve around superheroes, Star Wars, and cereal/food, so it’s the Jenny trifecta.
What’s not so great: The selection is small. At any given time, they usually have fewer than ten designs, so you have to check back seasonally to see what’s new. Also, not all of the styles are offered on the website, so if you can’t find your size in-store, the web is usually not a reliable back-up option.

TeeFury

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http://www.teefury.com
What I like: This is hands-down my favorite of all the t-shirt store options, and the majority of my collection is from this site. Each shirt is designed by a different artist, and they have very obscure designs like the worm from Labyrinth that says “allo” designed in the style of Hello Kitty, Ron Swanson saying “Give me all the bacon and eggs you have” in the style of Dr. Seuss and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog in the style of a record album cover. The list is endless. They are good quality shirts with consistent sizing (they print all of them through the same manufacturer), you can pick the color you want to have the design on, and they are only $11.
What’s not so great: There are only two things that I would say are “issues.” The first, and it’s also one of the cool things about the site, is that each shirt is only available for 24 hours. If you miss it, it’s usually gone. (UPDATE: TeeFury added a newer feature where you can purchase a selection of previously sold designs, at a higher price, in its Gallery page – score!) The only other challenge is that, although they have consistent sizing, you have to take a chance the first time you order and hope you used the sizing chart correctly. I found it to be accurate, and was correct in sizing with my first order.

My t-shirt collection embodies my varying taste in pop culture – it’s dominated by Star Wars, as well as a lot of sci-fi and cult shows (Firefly/Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog), and things I loved as a kid. They are bright, colorful, and fun, which is how I like to think of myself.

What are some of your favorite t-shirts and what do they say about you? Share your thoughts with me in the comments below – I would love to hear from you!

Thank You for Being a Friend, Etsy!

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

Bryan likes to joke that I act old for my age. He sees the glimmer in my eye when I see an ad for Viking Cruises, that bathtub with the door, or even the cane that stands on its own. I think I have always been a bit of an old soul. So, it is no surprise that The Golden Girls was one of my favorite shows growing up.

Who am I kidding? It’s still one of my favorite shows (and I may have a couple of seasons on DVD). I love Sophia’s crazy stores that always start with “Picture it..”, Rose’s sweet nature and St. Olaf stories, Dorothy’s quick wit, and Blanche’s Southern charm and obsession with youth.

I was surfing the net one afternoon and stumbled upon an article on People’s website called “15 Awesome Golden Girls Items You Didn’t Know You Needed,” and got extremely excited about the world of product on etsy that I didn’t know about.

I don’t know why I always forget about shopping etsy when I am looking for something unique (ether a gift or something for myself). Inspired, I decided to do my own search and share my favorite etsy Golden Girls items.

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1. The Golden Girls Spray Paint Tote Bag
2. I’m a Dorothy/Rose/Blanche/Sophia Print
3. Golden Girls Cupcake Toppers
4. The Golden Girls Brick People Toy Set
5. Golden Girls House Scale Model
6. Golden Girls Greeting Card (with cheesecake)
7. Golden Girls Magnets
8. Blanche’s Bedroom Fabric
9. Dorothy & Rose & Blance & Sophia T-Shirt

The great thing about etsy is not only that you can find unique products on even the most obscure pop culture, but that you are supporting small shop owners.

So, the next time you need a great gift, don’t forget about etsy. If you need a good starting point, check out Christina’s BFF Gift Guide.

Stock Your Holiday Bar Cart

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

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A few months ago as Rob and I were preparing for our pumpkin carving party, we headed out to BevMo with plans to stock our cute vintage bar cart. Before heading out, I searched the web for a recommended list of spirits and mixers that one should have on hand when hosting a party. Alcohol is spendy and I wanted to provide a variety of options to our guests without breaking the bank. Unfortunately I came up empty handed, unable to find a list that would help me shop smart. So, the shopping list included all of the ingredients we needed to make our signature cocktail (an apple cider margarita), along with a few spirits and mixers that I’d consider staples.

The pumpkin carving party was a success, with most guests sticking to our signature cocktail. When a couple folks decided to mix their own favorite drink, I was relieved to see that our little bar cart was stocked with everything they needed. In typical blogger fashion, I thought I’d share my shopping list which includes a selection of staple spirits, mixers and garnishes that will make a wide variety of drinks; along with a few tips to keep in mind when shopping for booze.

Stock Your Bar Cart Shopping List

Spirits
Gin
Vodka
Spiced Rum
Whiskey/Bourbon

Mixers
Tonic Water
Soda Water
Ginger Ale
Orange Juice
Cranberry Juice
Aromatic Bitters
Grenadine
Triple Sec

Garnishes
Lemons
Limes
Oranges
Maraschino Cherries
Green Olives

Tip #1: Select a signature cocktail or two for your party. Choose a drink that will pair well with the food you serve and it will be an easy choice for your guests. This will also make shopping much easier as you’ll spend most of your adult beverage budget on the ingredients needed to make one drink.

Tip #2: Don’t buy everything! You could quickly spend hundreds of dollars stocking your bar cart unless you keep it simple. Provide your guests with a variety of staples and they’ll be able to mix up a delicious drink. Your guests don’t want you to go broke providing unlimited options. And, if they have a soft spot for an obscure spirit encourage them to bring a bottle to share with the group. What a great conversation starter!

Tip #3: Keep a few cocktail recipe books on hand. Unless your friends are bartenders, you’ll probably have a few guests that don’t know the recipe for their favorite drink. This will also help them mix their own drink later in the evening.

Tip #4: Post the recipe for your signature cocktail(s) near your bar cart. You don’t want to be stuck in the kitchen all night making drinks. Greet your guests with a pre-made signature cocktail, then let them have fun mixing one of their own.

Next week, I’ll be back to share the Wilderness Girls favorite champagne cocktails. A bubbly champagne cocktail is the perfect signature drink for your New Years Eve celebration!

Did I miss anything? Be sure to share your bar cart must haves (or the recipe for your favorite drink) in the comments below!

Etsy Gift Guide: Birthday – for your BFF

Monday, September 2nd, 2013

What do you buy for the girl who has everything? Ok, she may not have everything, but your BFF can probably purchase most of the things she can’t live without. When gift shopping for my BFF, I’m always on the hunt for lovely, unique items that she never knew she needed.

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1. Best Friends Print Set
2. Princess Bride Quote Pencils
3. Pink Ceramic Mug
4. Granny Chic Mirror
5. Salted Caramel Brownies
6. Best Friends Whale Necklace Set
7. Love Knot Rose Gold Ring
8. Oh Darling Journal
9. You Are My Very Best Friend Print
10. Marshmallow Bubble Bar
11. French Macaron Sampler
12. Wooden Narwhal Broach
13. Tiny Pot with Air Plant
14. Aztec Print iPhone Case Set

Need more gift ideas? Head over and check out my bff gift guide list on Etsy.