Fall Meal Planning: Tools & Hacks

 

 

 

Summer was fun. We traveled, we ate at food trucks, we brought over all of our random scraps and melded them with another families random scraps and called it dinner. We grilled things with two ingredients and called it dinner. We got away with murder. It was good, but it’s time for things to get real again.

I love the rhythm of meal planning, the knowing, the doing, the never scrambling, but I know that it can be very overwhelming for some, and so I want to share some of the things that have worked for our family.

Our goals are to:

  1. Cook once, use it or eat it twice (or more)
  2. Eat healthy, diverse food
  3. Minimize processed ingredients
  4. Minimize waste

I think our goals are the same goals that most people have, but achieving these requires a little bit of work at the beginning of the week, a willingness to eat leftovers, and a general rule that everyone in your family eats the same thing. People ask me all the time about how I feed my kids, how I get them to eat what they eat, and my answer is very simple: I only make one meal. Period. Ever.

You can tell me “my kid will never do that” – but I will say to you, if you only ever make one meal, and there are no alternatives, your children will eat what you eat, and they will be omnivores within a matter of weeks. Will there be tears? Maybe. In the long run, you will save time and money, and you will raise tiny humans who eat more than fries and chicken nuggets.

This plan works for our family. I would love to hear what works for you family.

Saturday and Sunday: Lay out your week, visually, and see which nights you need meals. Factor in business trips, nights out, and if you’re cooking for another family this week.

Sunday: Slate your meals into your schedule, and make your shopping list and grocery shop (if you can) or plan to shop early Monday or pick up groceries. I am a huge fan of the pick-up spaces at the grocery store – they come and load my car. I am picky about produce, so usually don’t order it. We buy most of our meat in bulk at Costco and we rarely eat processed food, so grocery shopping is a little easier.

A typical schedule for us looks like this:

Sunday: Cook something more elaborate/homey-something I wouldn’t make on a weeknight, it’s a good night to try a new recipe

Monday: Cook twice. I make a soup in the InstantPot that I will eat for my lunches all week. Cook a meal for that night.

Tuesday: Cook a meal with leftovers.

Wednesday: Cook a meal

Thursday: My MIL coined the phrase “Ditto” night – it’s when you empty all of the leftovers from the fridge onto the counter and you let everyone choose what they want. This means that everything gets eaten before the weekend, minimizing waste and maximizing freshness.

Friday: Either pizza night at home – we use Cali’flour pizza crusts and keep jarred sauce and toppings on hand always, or we do a no-cook charcuterie and cheese board with a good bottle of wine.

Saturday: Eat out

If I’m following this plan, I need five recipes a week, one of which is almost always a soup. I keep a list on my phone of my family’s top 10 recipes – at least two of my recipes are almost always repeats that vary by season, and usually two recipes are new. This minimizes the amount of new recipes I’m trying per week and how much time it takes to find them. One of my favorite hacks is taking a cookbook to the playground (either from my collection or the library) – I take photos of the pages of things I want to make and upload them to a shared album on icloud so they are easy to find when I’m making my weekly plan.

Last, I use this pad and this one for my Saturday/Sunday week and meal planning. And really last, we use the Our Groceries app to make our grocery lists by store. The app syncs to my iWatch and to my husband’s phone, so even when we’re grocery shopping together we can both be crossing off items. It organizes our lists by store, and keeps us from overbuying.

Rent It.

img_1369About a year ago, I realized that I was living in Athleisure. Was it California? Was it mom life? Was I really just a gym rat? Either way, I found that after my morning workout, I was more than likely staying in my spandex throughout the day, and more and more of it began to invade my wardrobe.

Still, you can’t pour champagne in athleisure. I am a girly girl. I love a fit n’ flare dress, a great pair of jeans, a fabulous jacket, or a great skirt. I have long been addicted to the feminine, playful silhouettes of Kate Spade, and as I noticed more and more dresses accumulating in my closet, I realized they were being worn less and less.

With no shortage of occasions to dress up, I still found myself wanting something “new” every time. I forced myself to recycle my beloved dresses, but felt somewhat uninspired by my wardrobe. Enter – Rent the Runway.

Wait, you thought it was just for evening wear? So did I. Wait, you thought you rented items one at a time? So did I. While trying to check out formal wear for a wedding that I officiated, I found RTR’s unlimited subscription. I gave it a whirl for our anniversary trip to Santa Barbara, and four stunning outfits later (with one snafu- missing romper), and no drycleaning costs, I found myself completely in love with the model.

Rent the Runway came to me at a time when I was embracing minimalism, and contending with an ever-changing post-partum body. With a RTR unlimited subscription, you get four items at all times in your closet, and you can swap them out as often as you want. Rent the Runway has eliminated my need to shop (something I never had the time for anyway). I feel like an actress with access to one of the most exclusive and stylish closets on earth. I get to try everything on with the right bra and shoes, and I have some pretty raucous fashion shows for my husband, toddlers and even my in-laws.

The price tag isn’t for everyone, but I have decided that if I don’t shop for clothes, outside of a few casual tees and jeans per year, I can afford to keep my wardrobe constantly refreshed.

Scared? The hundreds of reviews per item on RTR really give you a feel for what the clothes look like on real people in real lighting.

Use my referral code to save $30 on your first order (for a one time rental or an ulimited subscription). Your closet will thank you. Your drycleaner won’t!

Head on over to Facebook to follow this page, so you’ll never miss an update, and you’ll be entered to win a free month of Rent the Runway unlimited – that’s like 17 new outfits. I’ll announce the winner on October 1st!

 

How To: Clothes and Shoes BST

 

“The postman had to walk up to the house because you ordered too much stuff,” says my husband as I walk in the door. There are 7 packages in a stack on the bench in our entryway. Shopaholic, no? These packages aren’t from Nordstrom, Tea Collection, Smocked Auctions or Target. They’re from mamas across the country who form a vast network of “BSTers” – buy, sell, traders.

As a network, we recycle, hand-down and cycle the carefully selected quality kids clothes and shoes that we covet. Does it feel like I’m speaking another language? I admit that three years ago the descriptor “VGUC Livie and Luca Petals” or “EUC Bella Bliss pima cotton, one small flaw” would have meant nothing to me, but now it’s my private language of commerce.

Here’s how it goes. An item is purchased new by someone. Sometimes its purchased by someone with no budget, sometimes its purchased for a photo or for a certain occasion, but for whatever reason, when the owner is done with the item, it still has a great deal of wear or life left in it. BST “boards” connect and network the owners and potential buyers of these items. There are BST boards for things sold at Nordstrom, for expensive smocked clothing, for Native shoes, for monogrammed items with the letter D, and for probably a thousand or more categories I’m not naming.

I have champagne tastes in kids’ clothing, but a consignment budget. Consignment shopping is a hobby of mine, but I rarely have the time without kids to do the browsing, so I use the BST boards to target the brands I love, and I buy almost every single thing my kids wear used on those boards.

I pay less than 50% of retail on all items. I later resell those same items for less than I paid, effectively renting them from the market for the short life in which my children will wear them. I buy all of our shoes used because I have found that my kids hate stiff leather (blisters), and so a worn in pair of shoes is not only affordable, but soft.

I’ve failed to mention the environmental impact of these boards — so many clothes are purchased, but not worn to their full life, and this offers an almost perfect market for making sure they are recycled and loved again. So, take to Facebook and search for BST with the brands you adore. Learn the lingo, set up your PayPal account, and get ready to get close with your mailman.

So, as the stacks of packages roll in, I beam with pride knowing that my kids will be dressed adorably, affordably this Fall. Can you handle the cuteness?

Want “in” on this world?

  1. Identify your favorite brands; the ones you would buy over and over if you could afford it.
  2. Search the name of the brand and BST on Facebook – find groups, and request to be added.
  3. Read the pinned posts at the top which will hold the rules for each board.
  4. Set up your PayPal account- clear out old addresses and get it linked to your current bank account or credit card so you’re ready to purchase- the way you buy on boards is by posting your PayPal. Be ready to execute prompt payment or you will lose the items, or your status on the boards.

My favorite boards:

  • Nordstrom BST under $20
  • Hot Smocking Mamas (this is the epicenter of all southern clothing)
  • Boutique Florence Eiseman New and Gently Used
  • ‘M’ Monogram Resale
  • Little Citizens: Tea Collection Resale

Favorite items to buy BST:

  • Leather shoes: they come already broken in, so no blisters, and leather shoes generally have a lot of life left- I adore Livie & Luca, See Kai Run and Keds
  • Holiday-themed outfits: kids only wear these once, maybe twice, so they are perfect to buy used and then hold and resell the next year
  • Anything pristine and white: these are usually for a photo, but lets be honest, no one is putting their kid in white if it’s not their portrait or Easter
  • Itty bitty things: bonnets, bloomers, swaddle bows – photo opp stuff
  • Play clothes: I love to get play clothes at a steal, especially brands that wear well like Bella Bliss, Tea Collection, Vineyard Vines, and Florence Eiseman – I would never pay retail for these, but they are great used purchases

Leaving you with a few of my favorite BST finds – oh, let them be little, and be dressed by me forever!

Birthday Present Closet

 

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The birthday party hiatus is over. School’s back and that means that every other Saturday, you’re likely to be found at a bounce house, a city park, or an indoor play space standing around in a semi-circle having awkward conversation with other parents while your children run around in grippy socks getting high on pizza and cupcakes. The birthday party circuit gets real this time of year.

I’m digging the trends on kids’ birthdays these days – many invitations are calling for no gifts, and even more kids are donating their birthdays to charities and causes. These millenial offspring are embracing minimalism in droves. Still, chances are some parties will still call for presents, or that inescapable mom tick will take over – can. not. show. up. empty.handed.

So, today I’m sharing my favorite birthday party present hacks. Ain’t nobody got time for a Target run every weekend.

The three tenets of the birthday gift closet are:

  1. Buy in bulk
  2. Buy on sale
  3. Wrap minimally

Let’s unpack this.

Buy in Bulk

Choose several items and buy them in quantities of 4-5. More than this, and you’ll risk seeming like a one trick pony, less and there will be too much decision making involved every time there is a party. Choose items that are popular for kids at or above the ages of your kids. Remember, there is more risk in buying something that is too young for a kid, but I’ve never met a mom who didn’t love pulling out a game 6 months later that their kid is jussssttt ready for.

Buy on Sale

Say it with me: Prime Day. Every year on Prime Day,  Black Friday and during other close-out sales, I stock my gift closet. Melissa and Doug and Green Toys are often on sale on Prime Day, as are a lot of board games and popular books. Last Prime Day, I bought 5 Sneaky Snacky Squirrel games, 5 Sum Swamps, 5 Camelbak water bottles, and 5 copies each of Rosie Revere Engineer and Iggy Peck Architect. Each of these toys fell right in my perfect price point, and among the 2- and 3-year old subset, most kids don’t own board games yet, so I knew the gifts would be valued and used (eventually). No one can ever own enough water bottles for kids, and favorite books are always a win.

Wrap Minimally

Wrapping minimally is about reducing decision fatigue, time spent, and maximizing the personalization factor. I own one huge role of craft paper (so many uses). I own multiple giant spools of twine in neutral colors. Every year, I order a new pack of personalized stickers (my favorites are from Tiny Prints, and Erin Condren has adorable ones too). This reduces the need for cards and means I never have to go searching for the right kind of wrapping paper, tissue paper or any other items. I apply this wrapping philosophy to gifts for all occasions. Bottles of wine get a sticker. Tupperwares of food get a sticker. Gifts get a sticker. Stickers are affordable, memorable and minimal.

If you’re looking for a solution to gift giving, you can apply these hacks to your life. Maybe you love giving your kids favorite books away- if so, buy 5 copies of 5 books. Maybe you enjoy making homemade playdough for your kids friends- if so, stock the ingredients and bags so you can easily make them in bulk. Putting in a little bit of time and money up front will keep your birthday party game running smooth for the year.

Designing a Shared Room

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From the moment when our move to Virginia was confirmed, I started planning and dreaming about the kids’ room. I was 95% sure that they would continue to share a room, as they have since George was 5 months old (before that, he bunked with us), but I wasn’t sure which house we would find.  So, when we chose this house, I was thrilled that the largest bedroom was big enough to serve as their shared room in addition to a playroom.

I knew I wanted:

  • Matching twin beds, with matching bedding with something gender-specific on each bed
  • A reading nook where we could repurpose the bean bag chair and the IKEA spice racks we painted in California
  • Lots of bins for toys, dress-up clothes, and stuffies
  • A large area for them to play on the floor
  • A dresser so that they could get their own pajamas and underwear out at night

My biggest challenge was finding bedding that was neutral enough to work for both kids, but not boring. I fell in love with this Pottery Barn Kids madras, but agonized over whether it was too girly for GQ. In June, Marilyn and I took a trip to the store and when I found his blue sheets, I knew it was a go. We got the entire set on sale including sheets for both beds.

Next, I had to select beds that would be timeless and wouldn’t break the bank. Having followed Project Junior on insta, I had fallen in love with the Jenny Lind-esque style of these twin beds, and chose these from Wayfair. They were easy to assemble. To start, we haven’t put box springs on the beds. We wanted to make sure the kids wouldn’t fall out first. We’ll add those soon.

Once I had the beds, and the bedding, the rest came together. A local store uses chalk paint to reinvent furniture. We purchased a mid-century dresser from them and it set the blue tone and I think deemphasized the pink in the madras bedding. I love the shape of the dresser and the legs.

My talented mother painted watercolors for above the beds, and we repurposed the Pillowfort animal heads above each headboard.

Finally, I spent weeks trying on rugs, first falling in love with this one from Target, and later selecting a larger one from Wayfair. Bins from Pillowfort rounded out the storage and I’m still working on my plan for this large open wall (stay tuned for a blog post!)

In the end, I’m so happy with the way it turned out. It feels vintage and timeless, but playful and coherent. Tucking my babies in every night, I am a little tempted to climb in, and when they play for hours upstairs, I am reminded that I created this great little space for them!

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