Meal Planning for Beginners: 5 Helpful Tips for Millennials

Meal planning is a vital skill, yet not always easy to master. My boyfriend and I have been homeowners for over a month now and our grocery bills have certainly increased! We’ve been spending our evenings and weekends tackling small home renovation projects (more to come on the blog soon) so preparing a healthy dinner hasn’t always been the priority. I know how important this is though, not only for our budget but for our overall wellness too.

Here are a few tips and tricks that I’ve been using the past little while that seem to be working well for us.

1) Write down a weekly menu

After coming home from work, the last thing I feel like doing (most of the time) is thinking about what to make for dinner. This tip eliminates that need to think by planning a menu in advance. Every weekend, I write the menu for the week on our menu board, including the cookbook page number if applicable. By doing this, we’re able to see what meat we need to pull out of the freezer and any other preparation we may need to do in advance. As an added bonus, if my boyfriend gets home from work before me, he knows what to start for dinner.

mealplan

To create the menu board, I simply bought an 8×10 frame and printed off this free menu from blogger The Creative Index.  I love it! It’s easy to use, looks great and wipes off easily when you use an erasable marker. If you don’t like this design, I came across Fab n’ Free’s amazing blog with tons of free options.

2) Use your cookbooks

When I started to meal prep, I found I would plan our meals as follows: meat, vegetable, starch, repeat. This is certainly a fine way to eat, but it wasn’t very interesting. I started to combine items in meals by looking at recipes and that’s when cooking got much more enjoyable. I tend to plan for a few meatless dinner meals every week, a leftover night, a casual (quick) dinner and a chicken and beef option. I’ve also found some great cookbooks hat provide quick recipe options for busy weeknights.

Here are a few I recommend:

  1. Taste of Home Comfort Food Diet Cookbook
  2. Thug Kitchen: The Official Cookbook
  3. Taste of Home Healthy Cooking Cookbook
  4. The Looneyspoons Collection

3) Read the flyers or use the Flipp app

Do you receive a lot of flyers? We do and while they used to go straight into the recycling bin, or were used to protect surfaces from paint splatters, I read them now and use them in my meal planning. What meat is on sale? Is pasta on for a good price? Over the weeks, we’ve built up our pantry and freezer with items on sale. This means that many of the key ingredients we use over and over, we already own. To easily search items in flyers in our community, I use the Flipp app. You can type in an item like “eggs” and it will search all the flyers and pull up where it’s on sale. You can add coupons in the app and show items at the register for price matching.

4) Work backwards

With our basics covered, I try to limit the number of items we need to purchase each week that are not on sale. As a meal planning technique, I prefer to work backwards. I see what needs to be used up in the fridge and plan our meals around these ingredients. I also try to include meals that use some of the same items in other recipes so nothing goes to waste. This is just one technique though. There are many others – like cooking everything for the week on the weekend and freezing in batches, choosing theme nights, etc. This blog post digs deep into the various options and is worth a read.

5) Use Pinterest

I am a huge fan of Pinterest. I use the platform with my style coaching clients and personally find it’s a wonderful way to explore different topics. Meal planning is no different. While watching my favourite show, or simply relaxing on the weekend, I regularly ‘pin’ recipes I would like to try. This is helping expand my cooking repertoire and is also a great way to start a conversation with my boyfriend on foods he would like to include in our menu. This is helpful, particularly for finding beginner recipes that include exotic foods.

Have you used any of the above apps to help with meal planning? What works for you? We would love to hear! Comment below.

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5 Tips on Organizing Your Wardrobe When you Share a Closet

Moving in, and buying a house with a special someone is a wonderful experience, but it is also about compromise. This is something I’ve been learning, and practicing the last few weeks. With a dresser and a standard size closet (luckily with closet organizers installed), it has been a challenge to comfortably and neatly organize our clothes in an effective way. I’ve worked with many clients on wardrobe organization, but when it comes to your own pieces, it isn’t as simple it seems. 🙂

As we’ve been working to integrate our wardrobes together, here are a few tips I’ve found helpful.

1.Invest in closet organizers: If your closet only has the standard hanging bar in it, organizing your wardrobe will be a challenge. This is because clothes take up far less space when they are folded. You can pick up closet organizers from places like Canadian Tire, Home Depot, or Ikea, which will all help to maximize the space in your closet. They can then be customized to match what your unique needs. Do you have a lot of suits and dresses? You will need the hanging room. Do you have more sweaters and t-shirts? You would benefit from some pullout drawers. These are just a few examples.

2.Learn an effective folding technique: How you fold your clothes will also impact the amount of space they take up. I recently read Marie Kondo’s book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” and she offers readers a wonderful example of how to fold anything. Check out the video below for more details.

3.Keep only what you wear: The fewer items you have to organize, the better when it comes to combining wardrobes. Take turns. Go through each person’s clothes one at a time, and create four piles: keep, donate/consign, toss and repair. The keep pile are clothes which you wear regularly and make you feel great. The donate/consign pile is for items that are not damaged in any way and could be enjoyed by someone else. The toss pile is for clothes which are beyond repair, and are ready to be taken to a fabric recycler (like The Kidney Foundation). The repair pile is for clothes that need to be fixed or taken to a tailor. With reduced wardrobes, it’s easier to fit clothes into a smaller wardrobe.

4.Group like items together. A great way to organize wardrobes is to group like items together e.g. blouses and dressy tops, or skirts, and dresses together, etc. Sharing space, we found grouping our like items together was the most effective way to organize our clothes. We put all of my dressy tops, with his, to share the hanging space, for example, and all of our t-shirts and sweaters in the dresser (in different drawers). We carried this over into other areas, putting all of our shoes in the same place, as well as accessories. This way, if you are looking for something specific, you always know where to go.

5. Use drawer organizers and other closet storage solutions to your advantage: A clean, organized closet is an effective closet that helps minimize the stress of getting ready in the morning. Some items, however, don’t fit nicely into a regular wardrobe like belts, ties, bags, scarves and more. Luckily, stores like HomeSense and Solutions have plenty of options to help in this way, which minimizes visual clutter. Another tip is to purchase wide bins which are short enough to fit under your bed. We use these to store our off-season items.

How did your experience merging closets go? Any advice for a newbie? Comment below.

According to Audrey Hepburn. How to Get Elegant Social Skills

We’re not born knowing how to socialize correctly in public situations. Largely, we take on the mannerisms of our parents, who teach us how to talk, share, and become good citizens of the world. As society becomes less and less formal however (lol’s, and emoticons anyone?), there are fewer opportunities to practice the skills that speak of refinement and class. That said, there has never been a time where social etiquette and first impressions meant more than in today’s day and age. It is truly refreshing to find someone who makes those around them feel comfortable and at ease during interactions. That’s what elegance means to me.

So today readers , we take a page from Audrey Hepburn’s “How to be Lovely: The Audrey Hepburn Way of Life” as she was not only a style beacon but a truly elegant spirit. No one was more charming, graceful, elegant or wise than this fair lady. While few of us actually met Audrey Hepburn, we met her characters – Eliza Doolittle, Princess Ann, Sabrina, and who could forget, Holly Golightly. Both in character and in reality she represented all that a women could be. Years later, we remember her fondly as she continues to inspire us to become the best  versions of ourselves. With some tweaking for  modern times, and situations, we can still apply many of Audrey Hepburn’s teachings when guiding our own lives.

In social situations (such as at networking and community events), when alone with confidence lagging, I think, “what would Audrey do?” and try to take on those characteristics myself. No one wants to make a social faux pas, and making others feel bad is the ultimate faux pas. It’s best to always treat those you meet with kindness, as I promise, those acts will be remembered. Here are some actions, I believe, Audrey would utilize in her daily interactions:

  1. Smile. Smile at those you know and smile at those you’ve just met. If you look happy and  inviting, people are much more likely to approach you to engage in conversation. It’s ok to check your smart phone every once in a while, but don’t use it as a safety net. An interesting individual may not approach you if they think you are busy.
  2. Compliment others. A simple “I like your dress,” or “nice tie, buddy,” will go a long way in helping you create positive interactions.
  3. Always say please and thank you. Nothing is simpler or more polite than using your basic manners.
  4. Admit when you’re wrong. There are times your facts may not be entirely correct. Admit this. You can learn as much from others as they can from you.
  5. Have a sense of humor.
  6. Engage with everyone in a group. Don’t exclude someone from the conversation.  Try your best to find common topics of interest.
  7. Remember people’s names. This is truly a challenge for me, especially when networking, and meeting many new faces at once. If you can master this task however, it is a simple skill that will truly go a long way.
  8. Be sensitive to others points of view. Even if you have a strong opinion on a topic, make your case in a constructive manner that doesn’t overpower the other person.
  9. Return phone calls and emails within twenty-four hours. In fact, send a “nice to meet you” message to new acquaintance’s within twenty-four hours through email or a social media platform such as LinkedIn. This is particularly important for relationships you wish to cultivate in the future.
  10. Minimize your use of swear words. While swearing has become more common, and to a small extent, accepted by today’s society, there is nothing classy about this type of language. It is important to speak eloquently when interacting with others (no more like’s, umm’s, ahhh’s :))

Having good etiquette is timeless and will never go out of style. I urge you readers to take these tips and incorporate them into your daily lives.

Can you think of a modern-day Audrey Hepburn? I would have to argue Kate Middleton is currently society’s beacon for style, grace, elegance, and class. I mean, she is a duchess right?! Other thoughts?

Images courtesy of: http://www.tumblr.com, http://www.bramblewoodfashion.com, http://www.kitsch-slapped.com, http://www.fabulouscelebrities.com, & http://www.highendweekly.com