My Krissyanne Designs Sticker Binder!

Krissyanne Designs Sticker Binder

My first purchase of planner stickers ever (from a shop that hand-made them) was from Krissyanne Designs about a year and a half ago. I had been admiring her stickers for a while, and the stickers themselves and her customer service had me hooked right away!

From the very beginning, it was clear that she was intentional about making her stickers as user-friendly as possible. She was one of the first sellers to cut her sheets in such a way that they fit in the back pocket of the Erin Condren Life Planner. Last Spring, she announced her plans to release a binder full of her stickers that were pre-punched for easy organization, storage and use. I love that she not only creates a wonderful product, but wants them to be as user-friendly as possible. Her first round of Sticker Binders sold out almost immediately! No surprise. They are BEAUTIFUL, functional and the highest quality.

I was SO EXCITED when one of these beautiful binders arrived in my mailbox a few months ago! I have used it every single day since then, and it has cut my planning time in half. Being able to flip right to what I need, peel it up and stick it in my planner has eliminated searching, flipping through piles, and taking sheets in and out of boxes and files folders.

Let me give you a tour!

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The Binders come in two sizes: Travel Size and Full Size. I got the Travel Size! (The Full Binder is a full-sized 1′ Binder, while the Travel Binder is a 1/2″ smaller binder.) It is a high-quality binder with reinforced corners and a personalized cover of your choice. It is sturdy and BEAUTIFUL!

Here it is in comparison to my Erin Condren Life Planner:

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and from the top:

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My binder came with 22 sheets of stickers that were punched and already in the rings, like this:

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Included with a binder purchase are two binder-exclusive sampler sheets (which I love and as you can tell, have already used):

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I LOVE – cannot describe how much – being able to just flip to a page, write, peel, and stick.

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Speaking of writing on stickers, Krissyanne Designs stickers are semi-gloss, and I recommend using a permanent marker so it doesn’t smear. I tested it out here (Pilot permanent on top, Pilot G2-07 Gel smeared below):

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My favorite is the Pilot Ultra Fine Point Permanent marker. Sharpie permanent markers, Bic permanent markers (or really, any other permanent marker) will work fine as well! Team Blue, of course 😉

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When I first posted about my binder, everyone asked how I was going to incorporate the dozens of other Krissyanne Designs sticker sheets I already had. I decided to hack apart an old Erin Condren Life Planner folder and tape the two sides into each side of the binder.
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I was easily able to add all of my other sheets to the back and front pockets! It didn’t add too much bulk, either.

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There aren’t enough heart eyes emojis:

IMG_6598Binders are sold as an inclusion with a minimum purchase of sticker kits. Once you purchase a minimum amount ($100 worth of sticker kits for the Travel size and $200 worth of sticker kits for the Full size), you add a binder to your cart and the binder price drops to $0.00. It is SUCH a great deal. Essentially, you are buying stickers at a discount (in comparison to if you were to purchase each individual sheet from her site) AND you get a personalized binder with two sampler sheets included. Kits range in price from $20 to $100.

SPEAKING OF KITS… I’m SO happy to share that there is now a JenPlans sticker kit! It includes 20 sheets of what I personally consider essentials for functional planning. These are the stickers I use most frequently and recommend most often. If you purchase the JenPlans kit, it is enough of a minimum purchase for a binder which will also give you two additional samplers 🙂 This was created as an easy way for me to recommend stickers to those who ask.

If you have additional questions about the Sticker Binders, check out the FAQ in the pinned post of the Krissyanne Designs Facebook group. Kristin will also be doing a live Periscope broadcast to answer any questions sometime (TBD) on Thursday evening, October 1, which will stay up for 24 hours. Be sure to follow Kristin’s channel here if you want an alert when she goes live!

The next round of binder sales will open at 9pm CST on Friday, October 2nd,  directly from her website. The last round sold out quickly, so if you’re planning to purchase, be sure to set your alarm and write it in your planner! 🙂 I am so excited to order more kits for my binder! Can’t wait to see what everyone else orders!

This was NOT a sponsored post. I was not asked to publicly review this product.
All opinions are genuinely and enthusiastically my own.

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Review of the 2015-2016 Erin Condren Life Planner (Horizontal Layout)

Another launch day (!!) has come and gone, and now comes the waiting for deliveries and, for some who are still considering purchases, mulling over final decisions about which planner to choose. Though I already posted a video overview here, I’ve now had the planner for a few days and wanted to put together a more comprehensive post with pictures to share all the details with you!
We were coming back from my kids’ swim lesson on Saturday morning and as we pulled around the corner, I saw THAT BOX. You know. The colorful, fun EC-patterned shipping box that everyone waits (not so) patiently for. I yelled STOPPPPP at my husband and literally jumped out of the car and came running to the front steps.

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Normal? If you’re an EC fan, of course it is.

In my package:

Erin Condren 2015-2016 Ready-to-Ship (RTS) 18-month Life Planner in the NEW horizontal layout

Assorted gift labels

2 sets of Keep it Together bands

Coil Clips

Keep it Together pen holder

Snap-In To-Do List

Designer Sticker Book

COVER

Let’s jump right in, shall we? The cover on the Ready-To-Ship (RTS) is deep purple with the quote “and so the adventure begins.” Indeed! If you choose a RTS, you’ll get a code to order a free cover which will snap onto the coil. All covers are interchangeable.

ECLP and so the adventure begins cover

VELLUM OVERLAY

When you open the cover, you see the nice, thick, vellum overlay which has a design pre-printed. Under the vellum layer is a page to mark down your contact information in case your planner is lost. I love that they moved that block onto the pages since the covers are interchangeable now, to keep you from having to write it over and over. Great and thoughtful update.

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MINI MONTHLY CALENDAR

The next big turn is to the mini-monthly calendar/year-at-a-glance. You’ll find July 2015-December 2016 in this spread, and of course you could use it just as reference, but plenty of people use this space actively to keep track of monthly goals or challenges, their menstrual cycle (especially for those who don’t want it on their weekly spread but like to track for health reasons), keeping track of vacation and sick days all at once…you really have a lot of flexibility in how you use this space and I always encourage people to use every inch of these great features.

ECLP Year at a Glance

GOAL PAGES

Next you’ll find a NEW section, a spread with 12 flagged boxes. You can use them for important dates, goals, lists, or keeping track of your measurements/weight (which is what I’ll be doing!).

ECLP goals

NOTES PAGE BEFORE EACH MONTH

MY FAVORITE PART IS NEXT. No secret that my favorite addition to this year’s version is the notes page before each and every month. This used to be a feature of Erin Condren Life Planners but they were removed the last few years. I will use these to keep track of monthly projects, gift lists, things I need to buy or make and sooo many other things I don’t need on my weekly layout and that are too big for the Goals section on the monthly layout.

ECLP Monthly Note Pages

MONTHLY LAYOUT

Speaking of the monthly layout, past EC users will feel right at home using this month-on-two-page layout. The Goals section is the same also, and a great place to put goals, bills, workout challenges or a favorite quote.

ECLP Monthly

HORIZONTAL WEEKLY LAYOUT

The horizontal weekly layout is next and it’s SO BEAUTIFUL. The colors are vibrant and soothing and I really love the jewel tones used in this option. It’s clean and crisp and gives you the choice of keeping it clean or taking a LOT of freedom with decorating for those who like to use stickers and washi tape (me!). You’ll notice that Monday-Thursday is on the left page, while Friday-Sunday is on the right, along with an equal-sized notes section. Thank you, Erin Condren, for making Saturday and Sunday full days in your planners. It is a huge plus to this planner. The day boxes are mostly lined with the exception of a box off to the right on each day.

EC Horizontal Weekly Layout

TABS

The tabs are laminated and coordinate with the main color of each month.

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NOTES PAGES

Next up are notes pages in the back! You have six pages (two full front and back and one front and one back – so three spreads) of lined notes pages. Perfect to keep a list of favorite meals on-hand for easy meal planning, books you want to read, gifts you want to give or anything else you list out that you don’t need to be specific to a particular month. You have four graph pages (one full, one front and one back, so two spreads), perfect for room layouts or charting weight, finance goals or annual tasks. After the graph pages, you have 5 blank notes pages for doodling or taping in your own lists or pictures (two full, one half, so two and a half spreads).

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2017 CALENDAR

After the last notes page is a one-page 2017 calendar. You can use a sticky note or write off to the side any important 2017 dates (weddings, graduations, etc).

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BOUND-IN STICKERS

Next up are the stickers! Every planner comes with four bound-in sheets of stickers, two pages have text (birthdays, vacation…see picture for all text) and two blank pages (I’ve already used two to test a new idea!).

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FOLDER

After the stickers is the updated two pocket folder. You can also use packing tape to secure the bottom of the folder and slip even more things into the middle section! Thanks to @crafty_renee for that tip! This folder has really evolved over the years into a very strong, shiny finish folder. The back of the folder contains the perpetual calendar (coming next!).

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PERPETUAL CALENDAR

Each planner contains a perpetual calendar which you can use from year to year to keep track or birthdays, anniversaries or other special dates. I’ve seen these repurposed into daily gratitude journals, baby milestone logs and more! The people in the planner community are so creative. This year’s version also includes a contacts section, password log and list of annual holidays.

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ZIPPER POUCH

Next is the bound-in zipper pouch which has the party pops design this year! This pouch is great for keeping things secure (stamps, concert tickets, pictures or anything else valuable). Another HUGE upgrade this year is the contents of each zipper pouch! You’ll get one coil clip to try, a sampler sheet of the do-it-all-dots stickers, compliment cards and referral cards.

And that’s it for the planner itself!

EXTRA ACCESSORIES

I also got an awesome stash of extra accessories you can find in the accessories section of the Erin Condren site! There are elastic bands to keep your planner closed in two color options (three bands each), a pack of 12 coil clips to keep any extras in your planner or notebook (invitations, shopping lists, etc), a pen holder to attach to your planner, the new party pops markers (red, pink, orange, blue, green and charcoal, which do NOT bleed on your pages – see pictures below!) a snap-in laminated to-do list, and the BEAUTIFUL Designer Sticker Book! With 10 sheets of stickers and priced at $15, this is a GREAT value especially considering these stickers are adorable and many of them are foil-pressed!

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(On the left, check out the EC markers; on the right, you can see the back of the same sheet).

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I’m so excited to jump right into my planner! This is by far the most upgrades I’ve seen in a single year in the time I’ve been an Erin Condren customer and I’m thrilled that I had the opportunity to review it! If you’re a new customer, be sure to use this link to create your account and you’ll get a $10 code e-mailed to you to use on your first order!

Thank you to the Erin Condren team for sending me these wonderful products to review and share. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments!

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First week of Whole30

This first week of Whole30 has been such a valuable learning process for me!

Some history: My brother has been encouraging me to do this program for a while now. I always said no because I was scared I’d fail and honestly because I didn’t want to give up the food I love. I love food. I love eating. I love events that revolve around food. When I know I’m going out to eat, I look up the menu online ahead of time to read every single thing and decide what I’m getting then drool until I go. That’s how much I love food. A few weeks ago, he came in town and stayed with me for a few days and finally convinced me to try it (and said he’d do it too, long-distance). I also roped my always-a-good-sport husband into the program.

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Why’d I say yes? A few reasons. I’ve been a lifetime member of Weight Watchers for 13 years. I joined in college to lose the freshman 15, went back after each of my three children were born to lose the baby weight (successfully), and have maintained pretty close to my goal weight. I love Weight Watchers and will always recommend it, but I was ready for something that was solely focused on healthy foods. I’ve been feeling sluggish lately and the scale was stuck despite “eating mostly well” and exercising. I want to break my love affair with food. Not because I don’t want to keep loving what I eat, but because I don’t want to love things that are bad for me. I need to retrain myself. I’m also a very competitive person (with myself) and really don’t like feeling like I can’t do something. Because I can. I can do anything. And so can everyone.

Fast forward: So after I clutched my coffee with crack-creamer and shoveled donuts in my mouth, I logged on to www.whole30.com and started reading. These are the things that stuck with me: “Certain food groups (like sugar, grains, dairy and legumes) could be having a negative impact on your health and fitness without you even realizing it . . . so how do you know if (and how) these foods are affecting you? Strip them from your diet completely. Cut out all the psychologically unhealthy, hormone-unbalancing, gut-disrupting, inflammatory food groups for a full 30 days.” Ummm. LIGHT BULB. “It is not hard. Don’t you dare tell us this is hard. Beating cancer is hard. Birthing a baby is hard. Losing a parent is hard. Drinking your coffee black. Is. Not. Hard.” LIGHT BULB. “there may be other foods that you find are not psychologically healthy for your Whole30. Use your best judgment with those foods that aren’t on this list, but that you suspect are not helping you change your habits or break those cravings.” LIGHT BULB.

Noticing a theme? The PSYCHOLOGICAL relationship with food is also being addressed. I love this. This is not about creating your favorite junk foods with Whole30 ingredients and pretending it’s healthy. It’s about really, truly, eating clean. And feeling good about it.

The food: I printed off the grocery list and started thinking about meals. You don’t have to get fancy or eat a bunch of stuff you’ve never tried (though it’s been GREAT trying new foods). I looked at Instagram pictures tagged with #Whole30. I made a list of easy dinners I know I could make. I went to Sprouts (comparable to a Trader Joe’s or small version of Whole Foods) and stocked up on produce and healthy proteins. More on meals in a bit.

The first week: The first day was awful. I was SO excited to start and stayed compliant, but I skipped coffee because I didn’t want to drink it black, and if you go from drinking four to six cups of coffee each morning to zero, I will tell you a secret. It hurts. Also, when you completely cut processed sugar out of your diet, that doesn’t feel great either. So around 2 p.m. I started getting dizzy and feeling nauseated. I’ll spare you the details but basically I was literally sick to my stomach from about 4 p.m. on, and for the first time in 10 years, had to call my husband home from work because I physically couldn’t care for the kids. WHY DO PEOPLE DO THIS TO THEMSELVES? Then I realized . . . huh. These things I was putting in my body were so significant that it made me physically sick to remove them. I was literally dependent on crap. Our bodies were not made to depend on crap. They were made to depend on real food. Food is fuel. That was a big eye-opener and one of the things I’m happy to have learned right away.

Photo Jun 07, 12 00 42 PMBreakfast: I have a weird texture issue and cannot eat eggs unless they’re on toast. Like in the same bite. (Weird, I know). So eggs are out for me. I also am/was not a breakfast eater, but without my morning coffee (wasn’t ready to try it black), I decided fruit and some cashews or almonds (or almond butter) were good.

Today I made a big brunch for the family and had fruit and compliant bacon (not cured, no sugar added. Did you know most bacon contains sugar? I didn’t.

Photo Jun 03, 5 32 33 PMLunch: These have been the hardest for me. I’m by myself with the kids all day and it’s so easy to make a sandwich and I can’t eat a salad every day. I bought a big container of shredded rotisserie chicken from Sprouts and kept it in the fridge all week. (Lasted three to four days, then I bought a second container). My lunches were pretty much the same every day: Chicken, half an avocado, some fruit, almonds or cashews, and sometimes raw carrots. You can eat compliant lunchmeat (check the ingredients!) on Whole30, but it’s fairly expensive, so I skipped it this week. All in all, it was repetitive but good.

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Snacks: Mostly fruit, cashews, almonds, avocado with a little sea salt and roasted sweet potatoes.

Photo Jun 05, 6 43 03 PMDinners: The first night, I was too sick to eat. Two of the nights, I had lunch repeats. The other dinners this week included Philly cheesesteak-stuffed peppers (minus the cheese), grilled steak and zucchini with baked potatoes, grilled boneless pork chops with roasted vegetables, and a chipotle salad (lettuce, chicken, pico de gallo and guacamole). See end of post for recipes!

 

Whole30 Dinner

Overall reflection: I’m so glad I’m doing this. It’s SO HARD, but I am breaking my dependence on crap food, eating SO MUCH MORE healthy food (especially fruit and veggies) than I ever have,drinking more water, being more thoughtful (am I hungry or just bored?), and really fueling my body. I’m setting a good example for my kids. My blood sugar is so much more stabilized – I don’t feel that up and down and food coma you feel after eating. That part is crazy to me. It’s going to be hard to stick with this for another 23 days, but mentally I’m just taking it one day at a time. I can do one day. I can do that 23 more times.

Do you have any questions for me? I’d love to answer them! Comment below and I’ll answer them in my next Whole30 post!

RECIPES:

Philly Cheesesteak-Stuffed Peppers (minus the cheese):Whole30Food

Ingredients: 4 green bell peppers, two yellow onions, half a pound of compliant roast beef sliced thinly, a splash of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), salt and pepper.

To Prepare: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut peppers in half from top to bottom and remove stem and seeds. Drizzle with EVOO and season with salt and pepper and pop in the oven. Caramelize onions in a little EVOO (this will take about half an hour). Remove onions from pan and crank heat to high. Tear up roast beef and toss in the pan to sear. When all the meat is seared (will only take a minute or two), add the onions back in and mix everything up. Pull your peppers out of the oven and fill each one with the roast beef/onion mixture. Serve!

Roasted Veggies:

Ingredients: 1lb carrots, 4 red potatoes, 2 onions, extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), herbs de provence herb mixture

To Prepare: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Season and sear all vegetables on high heat in a little EVOO and put on a foil-lined baking sheet. Pop into the oven for an hour, flipping everything halfway through. Serve with grilled pork chops or meat of your choice!

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Picky eater tries Whole30

I’m writing this the night before I start Whole30, which is a 30 day commitment to only eating whole, unprocessed foods. (To learn more about Whole30, click here.)

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I decided to do try Whole30 for two reasons. I’ve been following Weight Watchers for 13 years (of which I’m a HUGE fan and which has helped me lose the baby weight successfully three times), but over the last few years, I’ve felt a major decline in energy. After blood tests came out normal, my doctor said my fatigue is likely from my environment (mom of three kids age four and under), and to try to improve my exercise and diet. I like the structure of Weight Watchers but want to try something more rigid that didn’t include shakes or supplements (not knocking them, they’re just not for me). I’m going to try Whole30 and then gradually reintroduce certain food groups to see how my body responds (I’m guessing dairy will be a difficult one). The other reason is that I’ve become much more of an emotional eater recently and I really need to get a grip. I love food, it’s the part of my life I feel like I can indulge in that doesn’t require a lot of time or effort, it’s the focus of most family celebrations and it’s fun and relaxing to prepare. I don’t want to stop enjoying indulgent food – but I want to stop making that food the center of things that bring me joy.

I don’t doubt my willpower or my ability to meal plan. My biggest challenge is that I’m extremely picky (actually, I’m fairly certain I have some sensory/texture issues), and that limits what I will be eating from the Whole30-compliant foods. I won’t be eating eggs as part of my Whole30 experience, which are a HUGE part of what I see when I look at Whole30 meals. I’m nervous to give up coffee for a month (or at least to try and drink it black) because I have about 47 cups every morning. I love cheese. Enough said.

Whole30ShoppingListMy prep work included reading about the program on whole30.com and then printing out the shopping list, grabbing a pen and meal planning. I searched #whole30 on Instagram for meal ideas because I’m a very visual person and that helps me feel like there are a lot of options. If I can see what other people are eating, it makes me feel a lot better.

I’m looking forward to cleaning up what I put into my body and seeing if it makes a difference in how I feel! For good measure (and possibly because he knows me well enough to know that I need a buddy), my brother is doing this with me (long-distance from Houston), and I’ve dragged my always-a-good-sport husband along for the ride, too. I’ll report back soon on how things are going. 🙂

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Organization for home maintenance, manuals and warranties

When we moved into our new home a few months ago, I vowed to keep things organized and easy to find. There are a few documents we don’t need very often but when we do need them, it’s helpful to have on-hand without having to dig for them. They all fall into the categories of maintenance, manuals and warranties. Paperwork for garage instructions, water heater warranty information and so on can really come in handy if you need to quickly fix something!

In the past, I’d file them away. Despite our best attempts at keeping our filing cabinet organized, we’d let our “papers to file” pile add up…and up…and up. We still file old bills and statements, but I really needed a better system for these home documents. I searched Pinterest and combined a few of the ideas I saw pop up over and over.

Time Needed: 15 Minutes

Materials Needed:

  1. Large, durable 3-ring binder. I got a 3’ D-ring binder
  2. Page protectors
  3. Dividers

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Time to Assemble!

  1. Gather all of your maintenance records, manuals and warranty documents and put them aside.
  2. Assemble your binder inserts, dividers up front and all of the page protectors in the back. As you add documents to your binder over time, just pull a page protector our and move it to the appropriate section.
  3. Decide how you want to organize the documents within the binder. Some people like alphabetical, some people like by category, some like alphabetical by category, and some people like to just put everything in the order in which they add to the binder. I chose to just add them as I get them because it would drive me crazy to see the little divider tabs not line up if I switched them around.
  4. Write out your tabs for your dividers to correspond with what you’re putting into each page protector. I like to have a tab for each individual item rather than each category.
  5. Slip the paperwork into a page protector and pop it in behind the corresponding divider.
  6. As new paperwork comes in, just keep adding!

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Voila! I keep mine in my kitchen in a high cabinet. Always accessible but tucked away!

Do any of you have great storage solutions for your home paperwork? Share in the comments!

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Stocking the freezer

The cycle is pretty much the same two to three nights a week in our house. I have an ambitious plan to make a nice, home-cooked meal and have it on the table when my husband gets home from work. Four or five o’clock rolls around and it’s time to start prepping, but with three unpredictable small kiddos, I just can’t always step away to get started. One of two things happens; either I make nothing and we do a fend-for-yourself night, or I start cooking after he gets home and we eat super late. Both of those scenarios stress me out.

I’ve pinned a bunch of freezer meal ideas on Pinterest, but I’ve never tried them, and I’m always worried I’ll make something in bulk and then not like it. I decided to jump into the freezer meal world and just start easy and simple. The older I get, the less fancy I try to be (should it be the other way around? Oops). I decided to pick three meals we already make and like, and start there.

Stocking the Freezer

Here are the things you need to think about when you plan to cook in bulk for the freezer:

  1. Space available to store food
  2. Containers/food storage items
  3. Time available to prep and make food
  4. Cost

Once you’ve determined what you have to work with, pick a few meals you already cook and like. I have learned that starting small and easy makes new things less intimidating. I picked Beef Stew, Chicken Fried Rice and Chicken Pot Pie for my three meals. I think they freeze well and they also have a lot of crossover ingredients that make prep really easy (carrots, onions, etc). You save time and money when you can stretch ingredients over several meals.

First up, making a shopping list. Inventory what you already have and then create a list of what you need, including quantities.
I recommend prepping everything the day before you actually cook/assemble so that it doesn’t take up one big block of time. I cooked the chicken in the crock pot with chicken broth or water all day, then removed and shred for the chicken fried rice and chicken pot pie. I peeled and cut the carrots and onions, diced the celery and made rice in my rice cooker. I put everything in airtight containers in the fridge so that it was all ready to use the next day.
Containers FreezingBeef Stew

Once it was time to make the meals, I started with the one that would take the longest – the beef stew. I always sear my stew meat before throwing it in the crock pot. It gives the meat more flavor and locks everything in. I might become more adventurous in the future (and feel free to use your own recipe!) but I just took a beef stew seasoning packet from the store, threw the beef, carrots, onions and potatoes in the crock pot, mixed the seasoning packet with 3-4 cups of beef broth and poured over the food. I cook 8-10 hours on low to make sure the meat breaks down properly.

Once it was done, I ladled into 32oz freezer containers, label with the expiration date and put them in the freezer. Easy! When it’s time to call on this freezer meal, just pull it out of the freezer and put it in the fridge the night before you want to eat it, then about half an hour before dinner time, throw it in a pot on the stove with about ½ cup of water and cook until heated through. If you want to cook directly from the freezer, just give yourself more time on the stove.
Chicken Fried Rice
Next up was the chicken fried rice. After years of watching hibachi chefs make this one, I just tried to replicate what they did. Cold rice, diced carrots and onions, a scrambled egg and some of that shredded chicken are all ready to go. I cook the vegetables on a hot griddle in a little butter first, then add the rice, chicken and egg right right in, mix everything together, sprinkle with garlic salt and a little pepper and then pour soy sauce over the mixture. Once it’s all done, I put them into those same 32oz containers and label with an expiration date. Done! Thaw in the fridge the day before and just heat up in a frying pan to kind of re-fry the rice.
Chicken pot pie is last. I use this recipe (link), pour them into disposable single serving foil bowls or mini meatloaf tins and cover with unbaked pie crust, cutting slits along the top for steam to escape. I cover them with foil and pop them into the freezer, again with the expiration date (for these, I also write “Bake for one hour at 400 degrees” so I don’t forget).

If you’re unsure how long food will last in the freezer, use this guide: http://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/charts/storagetimes.html
I always label with expiration dates instead of “made on” dates because it’s easier for me to know how long I can use food.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with recipes you love or try new recipes! Ask friends and family if they have any recommendations, too. You’ll be happy you have a full freezer on nights you don’t have the time to cook but want a home-cooked meal. Bon appetit!

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Organizing kids’ artwork

I can’t bear to let go of the things my children create at school. They come home every day with projects and art, and I knew I needed to find a way to keep it all organized so it wouldn’t take over the house.
My first thought was to create a binder for each of my kids and add their work to it as it comes home. I realized quickly that their things are oddly shaped or too big for that option, so I moved along to something bigger. I bought these bins on Amazon and a pack of hanging file folders.

Kids' Artwork Bins

I labeled each hanging file with a year and gave each child a bin. I used my silhouette cameo to create labels for each bin.
Labels for Kids' Artwork
I keep them easily accessible so projects don’t take over my kitchen counter!
At the end of each year, I sort through the bins and keep the things that are most special to me (usually anything involving hand or footprints!) and take pictures of the rest. I upload them into shutterfly albums (by child and age) so that I can make photo books of their artwork later on.
How do you organize your child’s art?

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Money and shame

Money and Shame Pic

Money shame is real.

I had outlined this post when a dear friend sent me a text message. “Why do we go to the doctor when we’re sick, bring our car to the mechanic but we aren’t supposed to talk about money or ask for help when we have money questions?”

Money shame. Somewhere along the way, the notion that it is impolite to discuss finances has gone to an extreme where no one talks about money ever. Sure, it’s still impolite to ask someone how much money they make or how much something cost them, but what about the rest? What about those struggling with money? With budgeting? With debt? With savings? With retirement? Money is so complex and emotionally charged, it’s one of the top reasons for conflict in relationships and it causes stress in the lives of countless people. Its management is also critically important to your future and security. I’m going to talk money because I think financial literacy is important.

There are two MBAs living under our roof and neither of us had done a true written budget until last year. No matter how much education you have, there is very little exposure to managing your own personal finances. It’s not that we didn’t want to or that we weren’t smart enough, it was a combination of not knowing how, and for me, some shame. I read Dave Ramsey’s “Total Money Makeover” in three days while my husband was gone on a business trip. I opened my laptop, created our complete budget and when he came home, told him about our new plan. He was totally on board and excited (relieved?) that we had a path. I was so excited that I shared with a few close friends and family members. The responses were so interesting.

“Ohhhh, Jen. I’m so sorry. I thought you guys were doing okay . . . .”

FREEZE. Okay. This response, I will admit, sparked some shame. We WERE doing ok. We could pay all of our bills. We never worried about feeding our family. We were saving some. We were able to give gifts and have fun. We were fine. Why did a budget suddenly mean that we weren’t doing okay? Are budgets only for people who aren’t doing okay financially? “Doesn’t that feel too restrictive?” “Only poor people need to budget.” “Only people with a lot of money can budget.” “You work hard, you DESERVE to get whatever you want.” WOAH. No wonder we have money shame.

For a lot of people, money shame comes when you have to say no, when you limit, when you have to own up to your own financial behavior, when you spend money you know you don’t have, when you know you should be changing your behavior and don’t, or when you ask for help. It also prevents us from change. “I deserve,” “I earned,” “I want.” Disregarding our long-term for short-term gratification. Our focus culturally has shifted from being wise with money to materialism and the price is high. Any of this sound familiar?

I challenge you to let go of the shame. For so many reasons. The biggest is that shame weighs us down and gets in the way of happiness. It gets in the way of actually being able to help ourselves financially. Don’t let your shame rob your future. Saying no is hard, asking for help is hard, owning up to your behavior is hard, but once you do it, you’re free! You can go on the path. You can learn. You can grow. You can pay off debt, save and be financially secure. You can give. You can win.

The single best way to control your finances is to control what goes OUT. Get a written budget. “The Millionaire Next Door” teaches us that most millionaires become millionaires because they control what goes out. They don’t buy things they can’t afford. They save and invest. They are disciplined. They say no. And most of them did that from the ground up – not from inheritances or the lottery. Hard work and smart choices. They aren’t ashamed to limit themselves.

It’s something everyone can do…but you have to let go of the shame.

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Welcome to JenPlans

Thank you so much for joining me!

I’m Jen, and I’m a stay-at-home-mom to three little ones, the wife of almost 10 years to a busy entrepreneur and I just moved our family across the country to chase some dreams. I’m so glad you’ve stopped by!

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Over the years, I’ve had many people ask how I manage to stay so organized and get so many things done. In the spirit of keeping my thoughts organized, and after a lot of encouragement, I felt like the time was right to start blogging about my projects, habits and thoughts. I hope you’ll find this to be a helpful, inspiring place!

To start off on the right foot, I want to share my goal for this blog. We are all human and no one is perfect. I strive to be smart and efficient with my time and resources and to try my best. Sometimes I fail. Sometimes I succeed. I learn from my mistakes. I keep learning new things. I keep trying new things if old things don’t work. I’m a firm believer in choices dictating outcome. I strive to be disciplined and diligent. Most of all (and ironically), most of my focus IS NOT on the planning . . . it’s on the DOING.

Planning is a great tool, but it can also be a way to procrastinate. My focus will be on how to efficiently plan in order to accomplish your goals. That should always be the objective of planning. Getting too caught up in how to organize or the best supplies to use or how every system has to be perfect hinders us all from getting things done. I’m going to try to share how I plan with the end goal of accomplishment. I’m not a particularly creative person, but I’ve learned how to take ideas and inspiration from others and tweak them to fit what works best for my family. I will share my process for finding ideas and making them work for me so that you can have more ideas of how do the same in your own life.

We’ll dive into many topics – daily planning and home management, personal finance and budgeting, health, family + marriage, and much more! If there’s something you’d like to see, please let me know and I’ll happily share!

In the FAQ tab, you’ll find the answers to some of the questions I’m asked most. In the links tab, you’ll see resources I find helpful and inspiring organized by topic.

Thank you again for joining me on this journey!

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