"Handmade (Not Homemade)" describes the way this Denver blogger approaches her many projects in life: creating, inspiring, loving and exploring. Living life to it's fullest requires more than a rag-tag assortment of homemade theories and thrown-together decisions. But the goal is not perfection, for handmade items and actions have a slightly imperfect organic charm.


Monday, March 28, 2011

Fun playroom pillows

Warning: this is not a tutorial. Why not? The process to make these fun playroom pillows became so long and drawn out they I became frustrated and stopped taking photographs. I changed my mind (part of the design process) too many times and there were too many problems* that I ran into while making these pillows to keep track of the real steps.

I guess I made them sound hard, but actually, these pillows were fairly easy to make, and turned out much better than I originally expected. I designed them to be fun and kid-like, since they will live in the "playroom." But they are also sophisticated and chic enough since that room is also our family room, and where we watch TV and hang out.

Here's a quick rundown:
  • make pillow fronts by using some sort of patchwork pattern in several coordinating fabrics (I made my own pattern)
  • find images you would like to applique to the pillows, re size if necessary
  • cut them out of a coordinating felt fabric and applique them to the pillow front
  • find some coordinating trim for the edges, and sew it all together when you put the backs on the pillows

I used an envelope closure on the back of my pillows, so they are really pillow "slipcovers" and can be removed very easily. There are no buttons or a zipper, just overlapping fabric.

So here they all are! I chose animal images for the pillows. Elephant, lion, rhino and giraffe. I hope  Wyatt has fun learning all the animal noises later, although I must admit that I have no idea what sound a giraffe makes, if any!

*So, not to dwell on it, but here is a list of "problems" I encountered during the two-month(!!!) process of making these pillows:
  • chose fabric and made 3 of the 4 patchwork pillow fronts
  • decided I hated them because they looked too country-crafty
  • got upset that I had spent money on fabric that I now hated
  • abandoned the project, while still dwelling on it
  • solved the "country-crafty" problem by coming up with the idea of the chic silhouettes a la a Christmas Anthropologie pillow I remember seeing
  • bought felt for the appliques and chose my images
  • decided to take one of the 3 completed pillow fronts with me to the paint store to choose a new coordinating paint color for the family room, apparently losing the pillow front in the process
  • spent 2 weeks looking for the missing pillow front and/or waiting for it to reappear
  • decided to just go buy more fabric since I didn't have enough to complete a total of 4 fronts
  • saw that my favorite fabric store (and the only one in town that sells these prints) was sold out of some of the fabrics
  • sulked for 2 more weeks
  • was in the parking lot of a TJMaxx Homegoods store and saw what looked like a new quilting store
  • went into quilting store on apparently their 4th day open and thought I had stepped into heaven, bought additional coordinating fabric that I loved more than the original fabrics
  • sewed the pillow fronts and appliqued the animals
  • went to the store to get ric-rac trim to match the felt animals
  • discovered neither JoAnn's nor my favorite local place sells ric rac that color
  • decided to make coordinating piping myself, bought all the supplies
  • got home and could not find my zipper foot (an essential tool in making piping)
  • discovered that JoAnn's also does not sell zipper feet
  • had to find a little Vac & Sew place to get a new zipper foot
  • about 3 feet into making the piping, ran out of matching thread
  • got matching thread and finally finished

But I love them so much and I am so proud of them, that I think all the trouble was worth it!

Lampshade makeover

How cute is this lamp? It's little shade is like a fun dress. Or maybe more like a fancy hat since it's on top.

This is what this little gem looked like a few days ago.

I had been looking for something to makeover for a task light to fit under my upper cabinets in my craft area. When I saw this at the thrift store, I knew it was prefect for the kind of makeover I had in mind.

First, I spray painted the base glossy white, just like my other lamp.

Then I got to work on the shade.

Using scraps of fabric, I tore strips (yes, tore) about an inch and a half wide. I tore them so they would have little frayed edges. To do this, you just need to make a little scissor cut in the fabric, and rip away! It should tear right on the grain line.

Then I took my pile of strips to my sewing machine. Using a medium length stitch, I pushed the pedal slowly and in little spurts, so I could manually gather the pieces into ruffles by pushing the fabric under the presser foot as I went. They did not need to be perfect, so there was no way I was going to spend a lot of time doing ruffles the traditional way (sewing a long stitch, then pulling the bobbin thread to gather the fabric).

I also did not gather each piece individually. I connected one piece to the next into one long running stitch.

When I had a good long pile of ruffled strips....

I got out the hot glue gun. First, I used dots of glue to cover the bottom and top edges of the shade with some packaged seam binding I had on hand. If you have a plain shade, you can skip this step. Also, if I had been working with fabric in shades of blue I would have skipped this step as well. This pic is a little bleached out, but you can see at the bottom that I used light yellow binding.

While I don't have a picture of the next step, it's pretty self-explanatory. Starting at the bottom, use dots of hot glue to attach the ruffles to the shade. Wrap around and around, covering the top of the row below, until the shade is totally covered!

Here's the final result!

It fits perfectly under my upper cabinets, and gives me some great task light for when I'm sewing or working on other projects.

Oh the cost? The lamp and shade together were $4.99 at the Goodwill. I used the same spray paint from another lamp project, and the fabric strips were leftovers from a pillow project.

Wait a minute... the lamp itself was actually free. I had used a Goodwill gift certificate to pay for it (I got the gift certificate by attending a benefit for Goodwill where I got to meet Mondo from Project Runway). How cute is Mondo?

I guess we both like to turn patterned fabric into pretty things!

Thrift store find lamp trash to treasure

You know when you see something in a store and you are so obsessed with it that when you do not buy it right away, you just cannot stop kicking yourself in the pants for not getting it right then and there.

That's how I felt about this lamp when I saw it. I was completely transfixed by this...

Do you think I'm crazy? Wait til you see what I did to it! But first, the story.

One of my favorite fabric stores in Denver is in a pretty urban area, so parking is hard to come by. Rather than park a block or two away or driving around for a while looking for the best alternative, I park in the Goodwill parking lot instead and walk through their store on the chance that I may find something awesome.

The other day I walked through the Goodwill, saw nothing of note, then went to the fabric store. On my way back to my car, I thought I saw something amazing poking out of the donation bin. I literally stopped in my tracks. One of the cars driving through the lot waved at me to pass in front of him. His window was down, so I said "Oh no-you go on. I just saw something that caught my eye. Um, did you just donate an owl lamp?"

"Yes, I did," he replied.

That's when I became obsessed.

I know for a fact that Goodwill will not let you take anything out of the donation bin, even if you want to buy it right away and do not care abut the price. I probably would have paid $30 for this lamp right then and there. But no,  they have to "process" it-a process that can take a few hours or a few days. I was determined to drive there immediately the next morning, hoping that someone else did not snap it up first.

When I got there the next day, it was nowhere to be found. But I asked a nice volunteer about it (odd, he knew the EXACT lamp I was talking about ha!) and he went to the back room, priced it ($5.99), and let me take it!

And after quite a few coats of white glossy spray paint. Here it is:

The chic-est cheapest lamp ever!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Start With the Soil-and the seeds!

For some recent holiday where we exchanged gifts, Will "gave" me a vegetable garden. Really this meant that he would build me a raised bed in our backyard so that I could plant veggies. Well, the bed was (almost) completed as of last weekend (he is still going to add a cap to the top so there will be a place to sit while reaching into the garden), so this week I set out to get it ready for planting.

My mom gave me a gardening book called "Start With the Soil." I think it is actually a book about composting, which I would love to eventually do, but the soil is the very first step in getting a garden ready to go. Wyatt and I headed to Home Depot to get our supplies. Every time we go there he is the star of the store! He has already made friends with several people in the gardening dept that have remembered his name! Those same friends suggested the materials we needed to amend our soil (peat moss and some bagged compost), so yesterday, when the weather was nice, we added it to the bed.

Here is the garden before. (Note my cowgirl gardening hat shadow.)

And after:

Not much different, huh? I turned the peat moss and compost under about a foot into the dirt. While I did this, Wyatt watched on from his pack-n-play. He loves being outside! But after about 30 minutes, he was ready for a nap, so I finished up while he slept.

The next step will be to get some already prepared soil to fill the raised bed to the top. But today, it was time to sow the seeds. I really wanted Wyatt to at least be around while I did this. I want him to understand that we put seeds in the soil, and plants will grow from there.

Unfortunately, he can't really help much. I gave him one of the seed starters to play with, knowing that if I gave him some dirt just to feel in his hands, he would put it directly in his mouth.

So we decided to call some other little friends to help!

Zach and Julia are our friends from down the street, and I thought they would LOVE to help plant seeds. Turned out, I was right. Their nanny, Amy, brought them over to help right away.

Before they came over, I had prepared some of these planting cups from a Jiffy Seed Starter Greenhouse, following the directions. But the directions weren't very good.

But we got to planting anyway. We put little pinches of seeds into holes in the moistened soil, then covered them up! So easy and fun.

And Zach and Julia got to practice their letters by making little flags to remind us what we planted where. Today, we planted rosemary, carrots, mixed greens, green leaf lettuce, romaine, celery, broccoli, arugula, cilantro, and kale.

We planted two greenhouses today. When we got to the second one, I decided to make up my own directions. If you are going to do this, too, here is what worked the best: wet down the planting cups in the sink and place them back in the tray. In a pitcher, mix the planting soil with water until it is very saturated (start with about 2 inches of water in the pitcher and add soil, mixing with a wooden spoon, then add more water, then more soil, etc.). Then use the spoon--or your hands--to put the soil into the cups. Then we made all the planting holes at once. Then we filled the holes with seeds, covering them up as we went. This method was a lot faster.

Here is Julia putting the soil in the cups.

And here is the completed second tray. I actually made the flags for the second greenhouse. We kind of hurried because Zach said he would like to go sit on the couch until it was his turn, which Amy and I realized was code for "I'm tired."

Now the greenhouses will sit in our breakfast nook, where they will get plenty of light, until they are ready to transfer to the big garden in about 6 weeks. I kept the seed packets nearby (in a cute container from Target's Dollar Spot) to refer to. Some of them have leftover seeds that I can start again late in the season. I did a lot of lettuces for this first round because they like cooler weather. So, you can plant lettuces at the beginning and end of the growing season.

Thank you so much, Zach, Julia and Amy for helping plant the seeds! I hope you will come over often this spring and summer to help with the garden.

I hope this encourages you, anyone who is reading this, to start your own garden. I have always wanted to grow veggies, but now that Wyatt is around, I really want to do it for him. Remember that bean you planted in kindergarten? I think of this as the lesson of the bean multiplied a thousand times over. Sometimes it will live and thrive, sometimes it will shrivel and wilt. But you might get many beans out of it. And perhaps a meal as well.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Custom T's

My little man is growing like a weed! Last week, we ran out of pajamas that fit him so he had to sleep in a pumpkin costume that was too big at Halloween, so this week, I was on a mission to get him a new sleep and day wardrobe.

I was pretty proud of myself because on Monday, I found an Old Navy coupon* on the web and also got an e-mail that they were having a "stock-up sale," so I printed my coupon for $5 off a $25 purchase, and headed their way. Between the Target and Old Navy clearance racks and sale items, I ended up getting 4 pair of pants, 6 shirts and a onesie for just over fifty bucks ($55 to be exact)!

In the stash were 3 plain T's. A white one and a grey one from Old Navy were $3.49 each, and the blue one came in a 2-pak from Target for $4.90! What deals! Problem is, they are a little plain, and my sweet boy deserves more than that ;)

Transfer paper to the rescue!

I had some of this transfer paper left over from a gift we gave our nieces and nephews at Christmas. We designed and printed special T-shirts for them. It was a fun project and oh so easy! I got this paper at JoAnn's for maybe $11 for a pack of 10. Maybe that was the price. My memory could be failing me.

Anyway, when you buy the pack, it directs you to go online to use their free software to import your images to. I didn't use their software because Will is pretty design savvy, so we have Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign at home. If you are not that savvy, I suggest you use their software because before you print the images onto the special paper, you have to turn them into a mirror image, especially if there are words involved in the design. I'm pretty sure their software makes that step super-easy.

For Wyatt's new T's, I went to my favorite source for vintage graphics online, The Graphics Fairy. Click here to see it for yourself. You will not be sorry. We love western-style images, so I did a search for "gun," "cowboy," "western, " etc. and found two great images to use. I imported them into my design program and, with Will's help, turned the poster image into a mirror of itself. Then I printed it onto the transfer paper using our home ink-jet printer.

Then, following the instructions, I cut around the images, rounding off the corners.

Finally, I ironed them on! You aren't supposed to do it on the ironing board, so I did it on the tile floor of our basement. When the transfer was cooled completely, I peeled back the paper...

Ta-da! Cute custom shirts! I love the way the cowboy turned out. It is less orange than the original image which gives it a vintage look.

As soon a Wyatt wakes up from his nap, I'll put him in one of these shirts right away! He was sooooo grumpy before I put him down. We tried to read "The Grumpy Ladybug" but he was too grumpy to get through it. Poor thing. He had a rough night last night because we decided to do a self-clean on the oven after he had gone to bed. After about an hour, the whole downstairs was filled with nasty-smelling smoke, so we scooped him out of bed and went to a friend's house so he wouldn't have to breathe the nasty fumes. After about an hour and half, I had to wake him up again to take him home. He took it well last night (he's a pretty easy-going kid), but the disruption of his sleep really showed this morning. But I'm sure his new T-shirt will cheer him up!

Oh yeah! I think it did! He's a cute model, but not a very cooperative one...

While this is a quick and easy project for kid's T's, I may make one for myself using a whole sheet of transfer paper and this image I saw on Graphics Fairy when I was looking for stuff for Wyatt. Isn't that the most beautiful tree you've ever seen? It reminds me of the big oak trees in Texas, where I'm from.

Well, have fun making your own shirts and shopping for deals!

*So, I think Old Navy puts out a coupon every couple of weeks that you can print from online. I can't seem to find exactly where I found mine, but it may have been their Facebook page. Poke around with a Google search to find yours. I know it is part of their weekly ad that I found as a pdf. I actually printed 2 in case my total was over $50. When I checked out, they did say that I was allowed to split my transaction and use both coupons if that was the case. Turned out, my subtotal was just under $50 ($47-something). One reason for that was that I had asked the Mgr. about helping me find footed pajamas that I saw online. They didn't have any, but I did see some pants that were $14.50 that were on sale online for $10. I said something to the Mgr. and she checked the price for me, said they weren't on sale in-store, but would give them to me for $10 if I liked them! Obviously, I took her up on that offer. This is what Will calls the "nice person discount." If you ask nicely, really just inquiring, you can usually get a bit of a discount. It pays to be polite!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Spicing it Up!

The other night I was making tacos for dinner. I usually don't buy the packets of taco seasoning because I make my own that has less sodium and helps use up all those spices in the cupboard that I paid a whole lot for without spending an extra $1.50 on a packet of something I already have.

Unfortunately, I was a little short of cumin, the essential Mexican food spice, while I compiled the mix I found here.

Also, for a "quick" dinner, it took seemingly forever for me to locate all the spices on my rack. Sometimes I wondered if I even had the spice in question. I have a lot of spices. Three racks, actually. Here are two of them.

The next day, I decided to do something about it: I made a list of spices.

I opened Google documents from my laptop, which sat on the counter right below my spices, and I typed them all into a spreadsheet. I used Excel so that after I typed them all in, I could sort them into an alphabetized list. If there was a spice that came in two forms (i.e. ground cloves and whole cloves) I put the name of the spice first (i.e. cloves-ground) so they would be next to each other in the list.

I printed it out (I actually cut and pasted the list into a Word doc because if you print from Google docs you get all the lines, etc.) and taped it to the inside of the cabinet door. I probably could have gone a little further and made it very pretty with a cute graphic or something, but I'll save that for another day.

Also, I could have been a real nerd and alphabetized my spaces as they sat on my racks, but that was too much, too.

But now, before I go to the store, I can check my recipe against the list of spices I have so I know if I need to buy a new one, and perhaps more importantly, know if I DO NOT need to buy it. While making the list, I actually discovered that I had multiples of many spices, including 3 nutmegs--and I hate nutmeg! Oh, the irony!

P.S This was actually one of the organizing things I planned to do in January. At least I got around to it!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Jewelry Display Tutorial

I had the intention of making these frames to hold my jewelry a looooong time ago, but didn't get around to it until the New Year. Now I'm just getting around to telling you how to do it.

Aren't the frames pretty? I think they elevate even the simplest of jewelry into works of art! And the project is so easy, I think it took 15 minutes at the most.

Here's how I did it.
First, I got all my supplies. You will need:
  • however many frames you want (I got mine at Hobby Lobby. If you shop there, DO NOT BUY THEM FULL PRICE! They go on sale every couple of weeks. Look for "open back ready-made frames 50% off)
  • fabric
  • foam-core
  • box cutter or x-acto knife
  • packing tape
  • ruler
  • push pins
  • your favorite dog to keep you company

First, measure your frame opening and use a knife to cut a piece of foam-core that same size. If you have not cut foam-core before, the best technique is to use a ruler as a straight edge and make several shallow cuts with the knife. Do not try to cut through it all at once or you will not get a smooth edge. you will want to use 4-5 passes with the knife to do it.

 Then, cut a piece of your fabric and wrap one side of the foam-core like a present. Use the packing tape to secure the fabric to the back of the foam-core.

Pop the covered foam-core in the frame. Tape each corner of the frame diagonally to keep it in place. It's hard to see the tape in the picture, but it goes diagonally over the foam-core in each corner of the frame.

You're done! Now, place push pins (I used clear ones) wherever you would like to hang your jewelry.

Lean your frames against the wall above a dresser like I did, or hang them directly on the wall!

I created a pretty vignette with the frames and a necklace holder my mom gave me for Christmas. The necklace holder is pretty utilitarian, but looks fancy when paired with the frames. I added a lily-shaped dish I had on hand to hold small items like earrings, and just laid out some of my chunky bracelets to complete the look!

Have fun making your own!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Common Sense

Last week I received a very flattering phone call. The Gap, where I worked a few hours a week before I had Wyatt, called to ask if I would like to come back. Just a shift or two a week, they said. Their problem is that they are going through a management transition and "they needed someone they could trust, someone who knows what they were doing." I guess that was me.

I thought about their offer and was flattered that they called. I said I would likely do it, but that I would need to talk it over with my husband. I made a tentative appointment to come in and fill out the paperwork, but left an "out," telling them that if anything happened to change my decision in the meantime, I'd give them a call.

Over the weekend, Will and I did talk about it. We were both wishy-washy about it, but I almost liked the idea for three reasons. 1) It would provide me with an opportunity to spend some adult time away from taking care of a baby. (When you are a stay-at-home mom, you see, it is extremely difficult to find time to concentrate solely on one thing. It is near impossible to plan to spend a defined amount of uninterrupted time on one specific task. As soon as you are "in the zone," the nap is inevitably over and you are back to thinking about several things at once, feeling guilty that you are not 100% focused on your child because you are upset that you didn't get to finish folding the clothes or something else that was seemingly quick and easy before your angel came along. So, a job away from home, even a poorly paying one that takes up a scant four hours a week, would actually be a great "break.") 2) The job is super easy and sometimes enjoyable; and 3) Hello? Discount! Then Will and I tabled the conversation.

That tentative appointment with Gap was this morning. But yesterday afternoon, I banged my head.

Literally, on the door frame of my 4-Runner as I was reaching over Wyatt to get something out of the opposite side of the car. It hurt so badly that I held my head for almost a minute, and another lady in the parking lot stopped to ask me if I was okay.

I thought I was fine, but the initial headache persisted through the evening and I thought I felt a bit nauseous and dizzy, like the way my post C-section pain meds made me feel. I mentioned it to Will, but felt okay enough to go to bed and trust myself to wake up, which is a big concern about head injuries.

At 2:30am we got an exciting phone call that woke us up. Our friend and neighbor was going into labor and Will left to be at their house with their now older daughter while they went to the hospital. I ended up staying awake to watch TV because I was still a little dizzy with a dull headache. I started to worry very badly about that bang on my head-worried so much that it caused me to have some tummy issues as well. Worried that that seemingly no-big-deal bump was going to turn into a Natasha Richardson situation (Google it), worried that I was about to die of a brain hemmorage, worried that my sweet son would grow up without a mommy and my amazing husband would grow old without a wife ('cause he's already pledged never to marry again). I called the doctor to find out if I needed to go to the hospital.

No, she said, it doesn't sound emergent, but we would most definitely like to see you in the morning.
The worry continued until today's Doctor visit. I had called the Gap to postpone our meeting. The Doc had some good news: my neurological tests were all normal, and the pressure I felt inside my head was internal bruising. In short, a mild concussion. I may feel "not like myself" for a few days and that's actually normal. Relief. But I knew I had to discuss this Gap thing with Will again so I would know weather or not to call off the meeting for good.

Will and I had lunch together and talked about it a little more. His take: I was likely taking the easy way out by accepting the job. It would be a terrible waste of time for the money (10 bucks/hr), and doesn't really represent my passion, which is the real estate staging business that I have been trying to buid for the past year, with some actual success in my pocket. Taking that job would give me an unintentional excuse to neglect my efforts to build my business. "You're better and more talented than that," he told me.

I never believe me when I say those words to myself. I always get sucked in and flattered by someone telling me that I'm good at a job like that-a job I am too talented for, too educated for, and too smart to take.

So it was decided. This time, I will finally show that I am too smart for the job. So it was 'no' to the Gap, and 'yes' to enabling me to dedicate four uninterrupted hours one evening a week--even if I spend it at a Starbucks on a laptop--to the business I have invested so much in already. A business that allows me to use my talents for design to contribute to our family's finances. A business that allows me to take my child with me to work when I need to. I job I can respect myself for doing, without being embarrassed to tell someone what I do.

I'm glad I got some sense knocked into me.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Menu and Grocery List Download

Happy New Year!

Haven't posted in awhile, but don't think that means I haven't been busy. I've done so much stuff--some of it I photographed, some I did not, but just haven't had the time to upload.

Also, I am aware that the name of my blog is missing from the top. I am working on a new graphic for you to enjoy!

My goal for the month of January is to get organized--with 31 little (and I mean LITTLE) projects that I can do daily, and share with you, to get my life a little more organized.

Today's project is actually something that I have done for awhile, but never formally created a document to help me organize our menus for the week and the grocery shopping that goes along with it.

There are many benefits to planning a weekly menu. Most importantly, if you have planned a menu and have ingredients on hand for those meals, there is no last-minute trip to the store or wondering "what's for dinner?"

I plan meals for each of the 5 weeknights, plus any event I know is going to happen (like cookie or cake baking, or knowing that we will be needing a weekend picnic lunch when we go see our horses) and that's it.  Inevitably something happens on one of the weeknights when I don't cook, and that is the meal I push to the weekend and we usually go out on a weekend night. I like to jot down a few things for lunch, although it's usually leftovers. I also make the Bambino's baby food. Usually I just make him whatever veggie is extra from one of our meals (like if I buy a bag of baby carrots for a salad I usually steam some for him), but I also write down a new "recipe" for him to try each week so he gets a variety of tastes. Finally, I love to cook brunch on the weekends, so I make sure I have eggs and the like on hand to do that, too.

Speaking of brunch, another thing I should do (and this is for convenience and money savings) is bake some muffins or something else portable to have for Cowboy to take for his breakfasts. Those Panera bills really add up!

When planning our weekly meals, I sit down with a small pile of recipe books or magazines (I have a subscription to Cooking Light, which I love). With a blank sheet of paper in hand, I write a letter for each day of the week in a column and write down the recipe I have chosen for each night, along with the reference to the recipe book and page number. One of my quirks is that I use the letter "R" to represent Thursday. I don't know where I saw that, it's just what I do :-). As I identify recipes I plan to use, I also write down all the ingredients in a categorized list below. This helps me get through the grocery store as quickly as possible without having to do too much backtracking, though it is usually inevitable.

I created a Word document to help me do this more effectively. You can view the googledoc version here. My plan is to save these sheets that I create in a notebook, so that I can later grab a sheet at the beginning of a different week (maybe a month or so later) and my menu and grocery list has already been "created." My personal problem with this plan is that I like to try new things all the time, so I am not sure I will ALWAYS grab an old weekly menu, but it is a great plan to have saved them so that in a pinch, you can save oodles of time in a busy week.

I have heard of sytems where you have a repeat timeline: one I have seen is where you actually plan 2 weeks worth of menus at once then repeat them 2 weeks later to end out your month. This means you only menu plan 12 times a year! Another system I have heard of is having 8 weekly menus that you rotate all year. Plan only 8 times a year! I also know people who have 10 standard meals that they just cook over and over again and that's about it. This is especially great for people to love to clip coupons (which I wish I was better at), because they know what they will use and always need. Admittedly, my system is not so great for cuponing. I always buy what I need rather than making from what I have. Also, my personal cook philosophy leans toward about 90% of "whole foods," that is, items that are very minimally processed. I have found that coupons are usually for processed foods like Velveeta and the like (not that I don't enjoy a good Velveeta-infused Mac N Cheese every now and then). My personal grocery list is majority produce.

In a perfect world, I will save all 52 weeks this year and then have a whole year's worth of menus to use next year! There is actually a book that does this for you, called Saving Dinner. Here is the link to it on Barnes and Noble. This is the book that encouraged me to plan weekly menus and lists. It is a great resource to have, for sure. They are all healthy menus and are a great starting point for anyone who is interested in getting into cooking for your family. I used it for about a year, then started planning on my own.

I have read other blogs about menu planning, and think that many of them are great ideas, but I know that this plan works best for me personally. My advice to you is try out a system. If it doesn't work for you, try out a different one, or adapt it to fit your personal preference.

Have fun finding new things to cook and getting in and out of the store in record time!

I don't feel like I have elaborated enough on exactly how I use my system or what other options are available. If you have any questions or need clarification, ask in the comments section and I will respond.