Category Archives: An Organized Kitchen

12 Days of Christmas for the Home {Day 8}

12 days of christmas

For the most part, I don’t have a sweet tooth. But, I love to bake and during the holidays I let myself indulge in the normal no-n0′s: Egg nog, sugar cookies, peanut butter bon bon’s, fudge, and gooey butter cake.

In this 8th day of the 12 Days of Christmas for the Home series, it’s all about holiday baking.  Do you have family favorites or family traditions that you always make?  I have about 3 staple recipes that I make every year, but I like to try new ones as well.  Since I switched to a Paleo lifestyle this year, I will be trying out some Paleo Christmas baking recipes from the Paleo Mom.

Christmas 2012 baking

So, with every thing left to still do before Christmas, how will we get any baking done?

First, make a list of ingredients you need for everything. I make one giant list of things I don’t have and make a grocery run in the evening for them. If your recipe is online, try using Ziplist to download it.  I started using it this year an love it! It downloads the recipe and files the ingredients into a shopping list.  You can organize it further on their website.

At ZipList, we want to make grocery shopping quick and simple. So we’ve put all the tools you need to effortlessly organize this weekly chore in one place. What does that mean? It means having your personal recipe box, shopping list and grocery deals all on one place, at ZipList.com.

goodtaste.tv

goodtaste.tv

Next, make the stuff.  Either spend one whole day doing it or break it down over the next couple of days.  It totally depends on your schedule and your deadlines.  I usually give my cookies to neighbors and a few friends before Christmas day, so I like to have them done by around the 23rd.  The rest are for the Big Day. Whatever you don’t get done, don’t sweat it.  It will spare you the calories and a few hours at the gym after New Years.

My number one recipe to make is my grandma’s chocolate bon bon’s~

chocolate bon bons

Nanny’s Chocolate Bon Bons

1 stick melted butter

1 lb powdered sugar

2 C crunchy peanut butter

3 C Rice Krispies

Chocolate almond bark

Mix the first 4 ingredients by hand and chill 3-4 hours.  Take chilled dough out and roll into balls the size of walnuts.  Chill again.  Melt almond bark in microwave for 1-2 minutes.  Dip balls in bark and dry on wax paper.*Using a toothpick to dip the balls makes it easier.  You may have to re-heat the almond bark if it gets too thick.

Here is a great recipe for a NO BAKE treat and it makes 400!!  You wouldn’t even have to make another cookie!!

remedialeating.com

remedialeating.com

Makes about 400

2 lbs. Peanut butter
1 pound butter
3 pounds powdered sugar
two 12-ounce packages of semi-sweet chocolate chips. Use a high quality chocolate.
1/2 of one bar of paraffin wax
toothpicks for dipping
waxed paper

Place wax paper onto cookie sheets and set aside. Cream peanut butter and butter until combined. Add sugar a little at a time. Make sure it is mixed well. Roll peanut butter mixture into approximately 400 1-inch diameter balls. Insert one tooth pick into each small peanut butter ball. Set all of them aside. Melt chocolate and paraffin (parafin helps the chocolate become shiny when it cools) in a double boiler. Be careful not to over-heat the chocolate. Dip the ball into the chocolate so as to ALMOST cover the entire ball. Leave small portion of ball uncoated. Let cool on waxed paper. Store in a cool place.

My other two favorites are Betty Crocker’s Orange Cranberry Bread

reporternews.com

reporternews.com

And my final favorite, Snow Covered Almond Crescents~

iwashyoudry.com

iwashyoudry.com

Tell me what your family favorites are! Don’t miss out on any of the 12 Days of Christmas for the Home series!

 

 

 

 

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Organizing for Thanksgiving Day: A Timeline {video}

Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be stressful!  Start organizing for Thanksgiving Day right now by following these tips!  In this vintage segment of Organize Your Life, I share a timeline with you to keep you on track and stress-free during this holiday meal time!  Getting organized early for Thanksgiving allows you to enjoy your family and your yummy meal!

First, head over to Life Your Way and print your holiday planning printables!  They are awesome and help me every year!  Once you have your printables you can follow this timeline.

Thursday: Starting today, take a simple pocket folder, print Thanksgiving eBook and make timeline for the next week. Make your menu and create the shopping list based on the menu If you don’t want to cook any or just a part of the meal, grocery stores like Harris Teeter offer fully made Turkey meals that serve 8-10 people for $49.99.  Take a look at your local grocery store to see what they offer.

Over the weekend: *Clean out refrigerator and clear clutter from kitchen; throw out     expired food and condiments. *Shop for food *Confirm guest count and review menu; if sharing responsibilities or menu items with others, confirm with them. Depending on the size of the turkey, take it out to thaw Monday afternoon or Tuesday. Monday: start collecting and taking out any serving dishes, cooking or baking dishes, utensils, place settings, napkins, glassware, and decorations for table.  Set aside.

Monday and Tuesday: start making any chilled dishes, pies or cakes, or any other foods that will are fine to sit a couple of days.

Wednesday: Set the table and finishing prepping any foods that you can.

Thursday morning: put the turkey and finish preparing foods. Enjoy!!

Tips: *Ask for help!  Everyone in your family should have a job in preparing the meal, setting the table, clearing the clutter, and cleaning up!

*Use a disposable turkey pan.  Makes cleaning up so much easier!

*Assign a set up team and a clean up team.  Let kids and adults pick which one they want to be on.

*Create a Thanksgiving bin. Put platters, linens, dishes, carving knives, and whatever else that only gets used on Turkey Day.  Label and store in attic, basement, or a closet.

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Organizing the Freezer + video

Since last week was National Clean Out Your Refrigerator week, I thought we’d follow it up with Organizing the freezer! I have a story to tell about organizing my freezer and a confession… This is the like the plumber with leaky pipes or the shoe cobbler’s kids without shoes: I’m the organizer with a cluttered freezer.  Seriously, it wasn’t until I was writing the TV segment for the vintage segment of Organize Your Life  that I realized my freezer situation was a mess!  In my dumfound-ment, I admitted my failure and my sister-in-law loudly agreed, “I have been meaning to talk to you about this…” Really?  Even she knew it wasn’t right.  I used the exact tips and steps I told you to use and it took me all of 10 minutes to do.  No lie.  In 10 minutes I  categorized, containerized, and threw away old, I mean o-l-d, meat and frozen fruit.

Before organizing

Before organizing

I didn’t make labels, but I recommend them.  I also used both the large and small sizes of these baskets and didn’t stack them.  Because my main freezer is a bottom-drawer style freezer, it is easy to open and see all that I have.  If you have a standard top door freezer or side-by-side, you may find stacking them is more helpful and you can get more food in it.

Stacking basket from Target

Using these baskets from Target, I containerized meats, frozen veggies, breakfast foods, ice cream/frozen treats, seafood, and frozen fruit.  I had a smaller container for all the miscellaneous ice packs we use for lunch boxes. Find containers that are easy to label and easy to clean out.  Don’t get stuck on what the container is labeled for…if it says it’s a bathroom container, but will work in the freezer, than use it!  I even used the dish drainer I showed you on TV in my garage freezer for frozen veggies

Here is the finished freezer!!

You can see that each food category has its own container.  The only things sitting outside a container are a box of fish sticks and one frozen pizza.  While it’s hard to get a really good shot of a freezer, you can see that the food is nicely separated and so much easier to find.  I won’t come across 1-year old meat again (don’t judge me!). I would love to see your before/after pictures, not just of your freezer or fridge, but of any space you decided to tackle!

After organizing the freezer

“After”-the top pullout of drawer

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Organizing Your Refrigerator {National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day}

It’s National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day!  And few things are more daunting then a dirty and messy refrigerator. I try to keep up by wiping the shelves clean as I see the messes, but I swear it gets gross overnight!  So let’s get serious about organizing the refrigerator today and make it simple once and for all!

messy refrigerator

A couple of years ago I decided to get a grip on the inventory in our refrigerator because I found myself throwing out moldy, spoiled food just because we forgot it was in there!  Talk about wasting money.  I used simple,  clear plastic shoe boxes to corral food groups and create zones.  These have worked fine, but have started cracking from the cold and not held up as well as I wanted.

I was thrilled when I found these Fridge Binz at Bed, Bath & Beyond and started using them. Now they are sold in multiple places and you can even order them from Amazon (see below)!  I have included some ways to use them, so pick the sizes and shapes that would work best for your family and get them ASAP!

 

Here are a few quick tips for organizing your fridge!

First, be sure to take EVERYTHING out of the refrigerator and throw out expired and old food.  Next, use containers to organize foods by types.

 Using plastic containers in the refrigerator allows you to create the same sort of zones with cold foods.  Make labels to attach to the outside of the container.  These containers make it easy for anyone to make good food choices and again, it makes inventory control simpler.

 Container One:  cheese sticks, boiled eggs, yogurts, lunch meat,  any prepackaged protein drinks, or grilled chicken breasts.

 Container Two:  grapes, apples, carrots, celery, etc.

 Container Three: drinks, yogurts, snack cups of fruit or hummus

Once you have created containers and zones for foods, try not to stuff the refrigerator full.  It’s harder to keep clean and it takes more work for it to stay cool when it’s packed full.

momfabulous.com

momfabulous.com

Keep produce either in the drawers or containers with the plastic bags around them that you get when you buy them.  Here is a great article from Spark People about keeping produce fresh in the refrigerator!

Two suggestions that will save you time and promote healthy eating:

  • Cut up vegetables one time per week-celery, carrots, etc and put them in baggies.  Place the baggies in the containers and they are ready to grab and go!
  • Next, boil eggs weekly and have them on hand in your container.  Then you can grab and peel.

Inside-the-Refrigerator1-600x398


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Organizing for Exercise and Fitness {video}

People always ask me how I manage to fit exercise in 5-6 days a week when I already have a busy schedule. The answer is in getting organized each day to make exercise and fitness a priority and eliminate any excuses I could give myself!  In this vintage segment of Organize Your Life I share my personal tips for organizing for exercise and fitness!  I do these each day and without them, I would find it very easy to not exercise!

If you need more tips on time management or setting a schedule, I have that covered in my 6 most important things blog post!


 

1. Pack workout bag the night before, including a snack. Keep it with you in the car at all times! (snacks =1/2 piece of fruit, almonds, Larabars, beef jerky, etc.).

2. Decide WHEN, not IF, you will work out each day. Schedule it into your calendar just like a dentist or doctor appt.  Make it non-negotiable with yourself!

3. Have several options to work out: gym, home DVD, or outside.

workout and fitness

4. Something is always better than nothing. If you have 30 minutes, some trainers that I know recommend the following:

 Warm-Up- 6 mins

Mini band forward and back walking

Mini band sidesteps

Jumping Jacks

High Knees

Butt kicks

Leg Swings

Mountain Climbers

Roll Spine

Core - 12 reps of each.  As many circuits as possible in 3 minutes.

Side Plank with hip raises

Leg raises

Power - 3 mins

Squat Jumps – 5 reps every 45 seconds, for 4 sets

Resistance - 8 mins (4 mins each pairing)

DB Step Ups with DB Push up/Row (12 reps of each)
Lateral lunge with touch, Pull-ups or Cable Pull-down (12 reps of each)

Metabolic - 12 reps of each.  As many circuits as possible in 3 minutes.

Burpees w/pushup and jump

Sit-ups

Forward Lunges

 

5. Hire a trainer or group to get you jump started and hold you accountable.

6. Use the Organizing Your Kitchen techniques to assist you in your health goals.

 

 

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Top 3 Kitchen Organizing Tips

top 3 kitchen tips

There are dozens of ways to organize your kitchen cupboards and drawers, but after organizing hundreds of kitchens over the years, I have reduced it down to my top tips for kitchen organizing.  You can call these “Amy’s Secret Kitchen Organizing Tips” if you want, but the truth is is that any size kitchen can benefit from these tips and reduce clutter in the kitchen!

1.  Use turntables-

Definitely my secret weapon, turntables can be used in the pantry and in cupboards to  group things together. Create a turntable with spices or one with everyday cooking essentials like oils, salt and pepper, garlic, sprays, or other spices.  Use them to groups canned goods or condiments.  Even use them in the refrigerator for grouping items together.

rubbbermaid

rubbbermaid

 

woman's day

woman’s day

2. Drawer Dividers-

I cannot tell you how messy some drawers are out there! And all of them can be made 1000% better with some simple drawers dividers! First, pull everything out of the drawer, purge what you aren’t using and then add some dividers.  It will make your life so much easier!

My favorite are these expandable drawer dividers because use can customize them.

bed bath & beyond

bed bath & beyond

But already made ones work great too!

a different kind of.blogspot

a different kind of.blogspot

3.  Create Zones-

There are so many different kind of tools and gadgets in the kitchen, but most things can be grouped into the following categories-baking, mixing, slicing, storing, pots & pans, seldom used, and entertainment.

Look around your kitchen and decide what kinds of things you have.  Once you’ve done that, organize your kitchen based on how frequent you use these things and by grouping things to create zones.  You might make a baking zone where all things related to baking live.  You may then go onto create a prep zone where knives (slicing), cutting boards, strainers, mixing spoons, and bowls for mixing live.

kitchen-basics

When you organize this way, it’s super easy to pull out a mixing bowl, spoon, cutting board and knife and prep the meal without zig-zagging across the kitchen.

normal kitchen zones

If you do nothing else in your kitchen except these three things, you will have already made it so much better and easier to manage!  Happy Organizing!

amyvolk.com

 

 

 

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It’s National Dine Out Week on Restaurant.com + Sweepstakes!

I received a Restaurant.com gift card for this post. This post was made possible by Mom Spark Media. Thoughts are my own.

trip advisor

trip advisor

I love to eat out. I love it mostly because I don’t have to cook, but I love the conversation that happens around the table, trying dishes I probably wouldn’t make at home, and adding a yummy glass of wine to go with it all.  We have our local favorites, but I recently discovered Restaurant.com and now I’m hooked on trying a bunch of new places!

Here’s how it works: 1) Find a restaurant 2) Choose your deal 3) Dine and save!

If you’ve never been on the Restaurant.com website you’re in for a treat because right now they are celebrating the 2nd Annual National Dine Out Week, which started October 3rd and runs through October 12th and have kicked it off with a sweepstakes! Everyone who enters has a chance to win hundreds of prizes including Restaurant.com eGift Cards and a donation in their name to their local food pantry.

National Dine Out Week

National Dine Out Week started to raise awareness of independent and locally owned restaurants so we can support our local communities.  In a nutshell, Restaurant.com is the nations largest dining deals site, offering savings to thousands of local restaurants nationwide. Since they started, customers have saved more than 1 billion through their dining deals gift certificate program.

gift certificate at restaurant.com

So,  head over to the Restaurant.com Facebook page and enter the sweepstakes!  While you’re dining with family and friends, you could win from hundreds of prizes and make your community happy! Not to mention a happy tummy!

I received a Restaurant.com gift card for this post. This post was made possible by Mom Spark Media. Thoughts are my own.

amyvolk.com

 

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How to Start Eating a Paleo Lifestyle

how to eat a paleo lifestyle

I am not new to fitness or clean eating, so last year when I kept hearing about “eating Paleo“, I wanted to learn more.  Even though I ate “clean”, I was still getting bloated and I had a suspicion I might be, not allergic to gluten, but sensitive to it and was willing to try Paleo out.

What I found was a huge amount of information, resources, and websites, but I wanted to know what Paleo really was and how to start eating a Paleo Lifestyle. Whether you are a junk food junkie or already eating fairly well, here is the skinny on eating Paleo.

*disclaimer* I am not a nutrition expert or Paleo expert, but just a woman and mom trying to eat better and feel better.  Oh, and Live Better. 

To start, here is how the dude at Nerd Fitness describes what Paleo is:

nerd fitness

The Paleo Diet is an effort to eat like we used to back in the day…WAY back in the day.  If a caveman couldn’t eat it, neither can you.

This means anything we could hunt or find – meats, fish, nuts, leafy greens, regional veggies, and seeds. Sorry, the pasta, cereal, and candy will have to go! Instead, you’ll be making things like chicken stir fry and paleo spaghetti.

Everyone needs to get Robb Wolf’s book, The Paleo Solution.  Robb is the godfather of Paleo lifestyle and a scientist, teacher, and coach.  His book is all the science behind Paleo and then the practical steps behind it.  If you’re wondering, “Why eat this way?” or “There’s no way I could cut all that stuff out!“, then Robb’s book will answer all of that.

robbwolf.com

robbwolf.com

Once I read his book, I finally understood why eating the Paleo way mattered.  I then bought my first (and favorite, still) Paleo cookbook, Everyday Paleo.

everydaypaleo.com

everydaypaleo.com

This was the first 30-day meal plan I followed.  I love it because she breaks each week down with the recipes and shopping list, so you can buy just what you need for the week of recipes.  I cannot tell you how much money I have saved on food since I started eating the Paleo way and following a meal plan. I suggest you start with this cookbook because it’s simple, everything is delicious, and she has kid-friendly recipes in her cooking.

Here’s where I pause. The biggest shift I had to make when starting a Paleo lifestyle was the idea that I needed grains to feel full.  I was used to having oatmeal, whole wheat bread, and snack bars throughout my day and adding things like quinoa, rice, or pasta with dinner.  All of a sudden we were eating what seemed like large amounts of meats with some veggie side dish and I was afraid I would be hungry. Plus, everything I had ever been told about butter, fats, and nuts was that I should avoid them!  Now, these people were saying to eat them!

It’s as much a mind shift as a practical shift.

Once you have done 30 days of Paleo, you will feel more comfortable “winging it” with some meals, but I recommend getting the beautiful and new, Practical Paleo cookbook.

balancedbites.com

balancedbites.com

It’s much more than a cookbook, but instead another layer of information, including diseases that eating the Paleo way will help eliminate, plus several 30-day meal plans.  It’s laid out so well with lots of pictures and charts and super easy recipes.

The single best way to start eating a Paleo lifestyle is to arm yourself with a plan and instead of thinking about all the things you can’t have, think about all the things you GET to have!  Things like avocado, butter, eggs, bacon, sausage, and steak!

Next week I will answer the two questions I get asked ALL THE TIME: 1) What do you feed your kids and 2) Do you ever “cheat”?

Lastly, I have armed my self with several Paleo websites, like Nom Nom Paleo and The Civilized Caveman and two other cookbooks!

the-paleo-slow-cooker-arsy-vartanian

OmgThatIsPaleo

Let me know what questions you have!  I’d love to hear your own experience with trying out the Paleo Lifestyle!

amyvolk.com

 

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Moving In and Organizing Tips {Video}

This segment of Organize Your Life features moving in and organizing tips as Part Two of a downsizing series.  But even if you aren’t downsizing and just moving, these tips work for any space and any move!

Organize Your Life Moving in Tips from amy volk on Vimeo.

BEFORE you move, purge and reduce! 

1.  Re-think furniture-

When moving to a new space don’t get stuck in how a piece of furniture is used.  Just because it was used in the dining room in the old place, doesn’t mean you have to use it that way in your new place

For instance, maybe an old sewing table becomes a small desk. Or this buffet table became a display for vintage tins.

vintage tins

 

2.  Pay Attention to Function in each room-

Think about how you will use each space.

*What things are most used?

*What things are less used?

For instance, how is the kitchen set up? Organize drawers and cupboards based on what things are used the most.

3.  Re-think collections and decor-

First rule of thumb is USE it or DISPLAY it!  Otherwise don’t keep it!

When you have collections or decor to put out, consider grouping them in a different way than before.  This is especially critical if you are downsizing.   Remember the repurposing tip!

clocks and glass

4.  Go vertical-

I have said this a lot, but always try to use wall and closet door space for organizing daily stuff, especially when space is tight or you don’t have enough drawers or cupboards

Shoe pocket organizers make GREAT vertical storage in bathrooms, closets, kitchen pantries, and for toys.

shoe pocket

5.  Do one room at a time-

Organize ONE room until it’s finished. However, on your first night there, get all the beds set up and sheets on.  That way when everyone is tired, you can go to bed regardless of what isn’t done!

Then, choose one room at a time to organize.  Don’t zig zag across the house doing little parts of each room

I suggest doing the kitchen first, followed by bathrooms, then start on one bedroom at a time until all are done.  All other areas can fall in line behind these.

Happy Organizing!

amyvolk.com

 

 

 

 

 

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5 Kitchen Organizing Tips {video}

5 kitchen organizing tips

Click picture to play video

We are getting back to basics in this segment of Organize Your Life with 5 Kitchen Organizing Tips! With the kitchen as the hub of most homes, clutter can build up quickly especially if you don’t designated places for things to go.

These 5 Kitchen Organizing Tips take you through the 5 most common spots for kitchen clutter and shows you some tools to use. Check out more Organize Your Life segments to cover every area of your home.

1. Spices-

Using risers will allow you to see all the labels.  Organize by alphabet or by type.

Turntables work well in deep cupboards or if you are short!

2. Hanging Racks in Pantry-

If you have a pantry and need extra storage space, use hanging racks to organize canned food, snacks, small boxed items, baby food and condiments.

Also try a shoe pocket organizer for snacks and loose items.

3. Snack basket-

Instead of keeping dry snacks in the boxes, empty them out and create a snack station.  Works great for chips, bars, boxed food, oatmeal packs, etc.

snack center

4. Drawers-

Think about WHAT tools you use the most and HOW you use them. Then, organize kitchen drawers with either utensil trays or drawer dividers.

Group items together by how you use them or frequency of use.

Less used tools should not be in the immediate workspace so really think through what you use most days and what you use them for.  Locate less used tools to a drawer or area further away from workspace.

5. Use Hooks-

This is the most under used organizing solution! 3M Command Hooks work great and come in tons of sizes.

Use these hooks inside kitchen cupboards for frequently used kitchen tools, lids, pot holders, etc.

Especially great when kitchen drawer space is limited!

 

Happy Organizing!amyvolk.com

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