Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tricks for Skinny Eating

I am not skinny.  Perhaps a fat chick should not be lecturing you on ways to count calories.  :)  But I am organized, and today, I figured out a way to be more organized about my diet.  So here goes: a fat chick's tricks for skinny eating in an organized way.

Menu plan with calorie counts.  Every week, write down what you are eating for supper and estimate the calories.  I menu plan supper anyway, but by adding the estimated calorie counts, I can eat more or less during the day, depending if supper is chicken breasts (wonder how many hits I'll get on my blog for including the word breasts...tee hee) or cheeseburgers.  If you are really organized, menu plan lunch and breakfast as well.  I don't do that, but I do keep a list of suggested 200 and 300 calorie breakfasts and under 500 calorie lunches in my planner.  The other advantage of menu planning?  You save money on shopping trips (because you know what you have to buy) and you save calories by eating at home instead of eating out all the time.  (Because, let's face it, when you didn't make that turkey wrap on Friday night, you didn't order a salad.  You ordered a pizza.  You know you did.)

Example of a menu plan (half week):

Breakfasts (200 cal) - one waffle with butter/syrup and coffee, one slice of toast with smear of peanut butter and coffee, one packet of grits with sprinkle of cheese and coffee. (Note that coffee is nonnegotiable.)

Lunches (400 calories) - grilled chicken salad with dressing; chili cheese baked potato; peanut butter sandwich (just some options jotted in my planner!)

Dinner -
M  Roast Beef/Veggies 550 cals.
T Pasta and Chicken 525 cals.
W Out (Japanese - stay under 800 calories)

(You can't really tell, but half the pasta is actually peppers and half the cream sauce is fat free half and half while the rest is chicken stock.  Another trick?  Half the plate is fruit or veggies.  The chicken is baked with a bit of panko, calorie-free dried onions, and a sprinkle of hard cheese.)

Use an on-line calorie counter.  I use www.myfitnesspal.com, but any of them work.  Enter food as you eat it.  Enter your recipes, figure out how much you ACTUALLY eat per serving, and use that resource to track your calories.  On the road, most of these programs have smart phone apps.  ( I don't have a smart phone.  Yes, yes, yes.  2012 yada yada.  I keep a little planner in my bag to jot calories and other notes in while on the road.)  Enters foods as you eat them, both so you learn serving sizes and so you monitor your intake.

Know how many servings you are actually eating.  You can do this by measuring everything.  Don't worry, after a while you will learn how much one tablespoon of peanut butter is.  You can measure by sight.  (A serving of peanut butter if about the size of my thumb.  A serving of cheese is the same.  A serving of meat - 3 to 4 ounces - is the size of my palm of my hand.)  Or, you can look at how many servings come in a jar and multiply that by the number of calories in a jar, then divide by how many servings you get out of the jar.

I have trouble with my favorite peanut butter.  I always eat more than a serving.  It has 14 servings, so I now mark that on the jar.  If I eat half the jar in one sitting (OINK), I mark off seven servings:

If I get to the bottom of the jar and have not logged all the calories, I go ahead and log the rest.  My thighs will log it, so I might as well be honest with myself.  (The sad truth is that I ate an eighth serving when I dug out this jar to take a picture.  Oink oink.)

Please feel free to share your tips for organized dieting in the comments.


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Photo Tour of My Mess

I am suspicious of people who blog about housekeeping.  (I am also jealous of people with books and sponsors, but I digress.)  I suspect most of them have OCD-worthy (no judgment here, just observation) levels of compulsions to clean or REALLY MESSY HOMES.  I am OCD about writing down appointments, organizing my personal areas (like my desk or my side table), and planning my menu for the week.

But, really, if I was forced to go to confession with three priests and my grandmother was held over a blazing fire and denied chocolate was offered coconut shrimp with sweet pepper sauce as a bribe had to pick OCD or REALLY MESSY HOME, I'm number 2.  (That sounds wrong.  But works.)  My house is usually a mess.

I took pictures of it in its natural state.  (I left out the clean areas.  You don't get to see my, um, closet.  The closet got organized a month or so ago and it neat as a pin!  Everything in it's place.  The one shiny spot in my life.  Sigh.)

 I cleaned this kitchen YESTERDAY.  This picture doesn't even capture the piles of crap in the corner of the room or on top of the frig. :(  I know a lot of people are thinking, "wow, this isn't bad."  But it was spotless last night at 7 p.m. and this is JUST 12 hours later, most of which were spent sleeping!

The worst part for me?  Breakfast dishes on the table.  I've taught my kids to put away the dishes in the sink (after scrapping them into the garbage a la elementary cafeteria), but no, it doesn't happen.

Other problems?

A pile of reusable bags near the trash, instead of in my car trunk where they belong.

A pile of reusable containers, barbeque sauce, and pineapples for the 30 pounds of meatballs I need to make THIS WEEK for my sister's wedding.  I just don't have the pantry space for temporary storage.

Onions and Lego Star Wars figures on the microwave.  Which one does not belong?

Coffee and sugar container empty, but new coffee and sugar cluttering up the counter.  Why didn't I refill the containers when I used the last of the coffee.

Pan from last night on the stove.  (Husband's fault, just FYI.)

Husband's crap by the door.

Gift laid out (but not in gift bag) for Godchild this weekend. 

Bathroom stuff from yesterday's shopping trip NOT put away.  I don't understand my malfunction that FORCES me to NOT QUITE finish putting away groceries and cleaning supplies.

Purse NOT where it belongs, in a basket in my living room.  When the cell phone rings, I will run around looking for it, never guessing it's in my purse (where it is supposed to be) in the kitchen (NOT where it is supposed to be).

The living room was cleaned yesterday, too.  I cannot explain the karate outfit and the folding chair behind the love seat.  And I have no explanation for an empty laundry basket or the piles of toys on the bench.  None.

Yes, my bedroom looks like this on BOTH sides of the bed.  No, the children are not allowed to have toys in my bedroom.  No, we haven't moved in the past 5 years.  No, we don't play guitar.

Why do you ask?

(Yes, that bedspread was purchased in 1996.)

 My bathroom counter, folks.  Everything on the counter has a home.  None of it is in its home.

Proof my children are, indeed, related to me.

Keep checking my blog for after pics.  {chuckles and rubs hands together}  I'll post them - someday.


Monday, June 18, 2012

Organized Camping

I took my family camping last weekend.  I'm pretty sure we brought home a frog.  I don't ACTUALLY SEE a frog, but my unpacked bags keep, well, CROAKING.  I think I might let hubby unpack.

Instead (of accidentally touching frog slime - gross), let's focus on packing and camping!  Yes, you can be organized at the camp ground.  And yes, it does make life easier.

About a week before you list, create a packing list.  It should include your normal packing list (so you don't forget to bring your meds or socks), plus anything special you need for camping.  Since we hadn't been camping in years, I googled a ton of camping packing lists and culled what I needed from those lists.  As you buy and pack items, cross them off.  But only cross items off with a single line and keep the list.  After the trip, go through and decide what worked, what you actually needed, and what you didn't even use.  Then type up a new Master Camping Packing list, using your crossed out list as a guideline, that works for your family.

In the Tent:

As soon as we arrived, we set up the tent.  Each person's sleeping bag and pillow went into the tent, lined up as if they were beds.  
Once you put up the tent, either put your suitcase with all the clothes in the trunk of the car (if you are parking near the camp site and walking to a public rest area to change clothes) or at the foot of each person's sleeping bag in the tent (if changing in the tent).  I like a separate small bag for each of us, since the kids are old enough to pick out their clothes.  We happen to all have tote bags, but if you don't, cheap reusable grocery tote bags or garbage bags are good for packing camp clothes.

For our trip, I thought we would use more clothes than usual (because we would be hot and dirty), but, in reality, we used less clothes than usual.  The thing about camping is that you are going to get dirty and stinky anyway, so why change clothes?  (Maybe the people staying with us at the campsite would disagree?  ;))  Also, we never changed into jammies.  We just slept in whatever we were wearing.  So, instead of doing the VERY STUPID THING I DID and packing two outfits per day, try packing one layered outfit per day and one single extra outfit for each family member.  The advantage of layers (we are in the Deep South, so for us it meant a tank, a t-shirt, and shorts with sandals) is that you can wear just the lightest layer when it's really hot or to sleep in and the extra layer (our t-shirts) in the cooler weather of the early morning or if it rains.  If you are like us, there will be a day when you don't wear the t-shirt, leaving you a spare top if something gets really dirty and you need to change.  In addition, I would add one extra outfit each person (for when you get caught in a thunder storm or fall into the lake).  No sleepwear is necessary since you are just wearing your clothes to sleep.  We would have had much more room in the car without the sleepwear.

Don't forget a dirty clothes' bag!  Tuck it in the corner of the tent and be diligent about clothes going INTO the bag.

We also brought a tent bag, containing sun screen, bug spray, matches in a ziploc, fire starters (cotton balls and petroleum jelly) in a ziploc, the tent light (a NECESSITY), the tent fan (we didn't use it), and the mallet for putting the tent up.  We SHOULD HAVE brought a small shovel for the fire, but didn't.
Specialty Gear:

If you are going to leave the immediate camping area for any reason, put everything that is leaving with you in one place.  We don't fish or take long hikes, but since we do go swimming, bathing suits and floaties/life jackets go in a backpack.  (A backpack is good for portability.)

Consider how you will use the toiletries.  I like to brush my teeth at the tent (because I do it so often during the day), so my toothbrush and hair brush went with my clothes at the foot of my sleeping bag.  But the kids do much better at the public rest area (complete with bathrooms and simple showers).  So from now on, minimal toiletries (toothpaste, toothbrush, soap that can double as shampoo, one ziplocked wash cloth per person, flip flops) go in ONE bag and we ALL take the trip to the showers at the same time. 

Assigned Camp Chairs/Spots:

When we arrived at the campground, we assigned each person a spot - a soft folding chair with those little cup holders on the arms.  This trick solved a lot of problems.  (Bonus: they serve as a time out spot!)  If you don't bring chairs (say, on a hiking trip), draw a circle in the sand or ground for each person.  In front of the chairs, write your names in the ground/leaves/sand/rocks.
Towels can do double or triple duty.  They make a decent pillow in a pinch.  They work for swimming and for showering.  The trick is to get each family member to keep their towel clean, dry, and reasonably easy to find. If you drape the towel over the assigned chair, it can dry out and be ready the next time you need it.  

We also assigned each person a water bottle or thermos.  Keeping the water bottle in the cup holder whenever it wasn't in use (and rinsing it with water to keep it clean) meant no need for disposables or lots of drinks.

Each person got a flashlight, and, you guessed it, had to keep it in their chairs when not in use.

Books went in ziplocs under the chairs, as did any personal toys (we brought almost nothing for this short trip) and sticks for roasting marshmallows and weenies!

A tupperware container filled with silverware can also be placed under the chair for use when eating.  That way, each person only needs one set of eating utensils and can use this container as a plate or bowl (rinsing it between uses, of course).

Food and Drink:

Next time, I'm learning from my mistake (over packed food and didn't prep it).  I am prepping food in advance.  Steaks will be frozen in their marinade and veggies will be pre-chopped.  (They will defrost in the ice chest.)  Peanut butter sandwiches will be made and put in containers.  Breakfast will be simple and pre-rinsed (fruit) and pre-measured (cereal).  I will plan a menu, instead of just bringing a bunch of food.

We did better with water.  A gallon a day for every two people was plenty to drink and to rinse eating containers.  Empty gallons can be filled at the stream for putting out the fire at night.  For the kids, as a treat, we brought single serving packets of sugar-free koolaid mixes.  They loved making their own drinks!

Each person can pick ONE snack food and bring it to share. One can of pringles, one bag of cookies, one container of fruit, and one box of crackers would have been plenty, even if we stayed two more days. We don't do much junk food at home, so I went a little crazy this time and brought too much.

I put all the dry food in a clothes basket:

And I covered it with a changing table cover, which doubles as a food prep area at the campsite:

Finally, don't be STUPID LIKE ME and forget all the alcohol on the kitchen counter.  On the plus side, I can now drink the alcohol until the frog hiding in the luggage doesn't bother me anymore!


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Paper Towel Cooking

I'm making creole style red beans and rice.  Yes, I know it's not Monday.  Just because I live in Louisiana does not mean I have to cook on Mondays!  Stop with your stereotypes.  I'm not doing laundry, either!  (It's hot.  And I am wearing a tank top and bare feet and have my hair up in a bun.  Oh, and some country music might be playing in the background.  There is a watermelon on my counter and some tomatoes ripening on my windowsill.  But don't stereotype, people.)

I used to cut my veggies for my meals and then try to clean up all the little flecks of garlic, thin onion skins, and tear-inducing onion juice.  One day, it occurred to me - use a paper towel for the part you are throwing away.

(Okay, this probably occurred to you ages ago.  Or you use a scrap bowl.  Whatever.  I'm SHARING in case someone else needs to know!  :))

Clean up is so much quicker and easier.

Yes, the arm in this picture is hairy.  Shush.  I'm Cajun.

A damp paper towel under the salt and pepper shakers during refill is also a miracle worker.  (Dampen it so the salt sticks to it and doesn't fall off.)

Yes, I am a 1/2 sheet paper towel chick.  If you reuse/recycle, a huge bowl or plate or a large kitchen towel can catch the scraps.

Oh, and when you are about to run out of something, like salt, put it on next week's grocery list right away when you figure out you are low on supplies.  If your planner has a set spot in your kitchen, it's always available for list making.


Monday, June 11, 2012

The Everyday

The hardest part of staying organized is the everyday.  Today, for example, was full of surprises.  We got ready to go to free summer movie.  (By the way. Legends of the Guardians is too violent for a 3 year old.  And a 37 year old.  Oops.)  I had feed the kids breakfast and supervised the getting dressed, hair, shoes, and teeth.  I had a back packed, complete with mints for me and gummy somethings for the kids, so that we didn't have to buy popcorn.  (Popcorn that the 3 year old is ALLERGIC to, which is oh-so-much-fun.  {rolls eyes})   We were meeting someone, but no problem.  Easy peasy!

And then my coffee spilled.


All over the island, on the paperwork, and creeping towards my new Nook, the 3DS, and the library books.

I cleaned it up, but was 15 minutes late for meeting our friends at the movies.  Also, I am still finding coffee that dripped into odd little spots.

Then, once we got home, ate and cleaned up after lunch, and put the preschooler to bed, it was only two hours before my husband gets home from work.  Everyday this moment arrives - the one where I stop and think that I need to put laundry away and clean the kitchen and start supper, because this is my job.  But it happens, everyday, at the same time that I want nothing more than to watch tv (damn Oprah for giving up her talk show right as I decided to stay home) and read a good book.  Also, the 3 year old naps in my bedroom, which really makes it hard to clean in the dirtiest part of the house without waking him.  And I know I am going grocery shopping and cooking supper after husband gets home to watch the kids, so I know my day isn't ending.

The everyday.  That is the hardest part about this being organized thing.  My planner has appointments all day long, a checklist of daily goals that never get reached, and no room for down time.  I need to get a handle on this.  And I'm kind of clueless as to how.


Sunday, June 10, 2012

How to Purge

I'm attached to my stuff.  Really attached.  Get your slimy hands off my netbook, my planner, my Nook, and my purse!  Do not touch my scarf collection.  I don't have much stuff, but I really value what I do have, more than I like to admit.  So when my friend said she would turn to me to purge her stuff before her big move (to her new house with her new husband!!!), I laughed.  Me, purge?  Ha ha!

Really, though, I purge on the way into the house.  I try not to buy something until I've wished (at home) that I had it at least three times.  (For example, if I put on the same dress three times, but never wear it out of the house, because I need brown shoes with it, I buy brown shoes.  And I have this FABULOUS casual purse that is cross body, but I can't wear it with dressier outfits.  I constantly wish I had a purse like it, but in a dressier material.  If I ever find that, I'm buying it.)

When I bring something home, I try to get rid of something that I never use.  New purse?  Get rid of one that I never use.  New shirt?  Get rid of the t-shirt that has shrunk enough that it doesn't cover my belly.

I have two places to get rid of things.  One is the trash.  If the shirt is shrunken, it goes there.  I have a permanent goodwill box (in the form of a lined trashcan in my laundry closet) that I put goodwill items in.  When the trashcan gets full, I put the trash bag in the trunk of my car and deliver it to goodwill and reline the can.  Having a permanent, convenient spot for give away items really helps.

I used to save stuff for certain people.  I no longer do that unless it is VERY special, like my kid's homemade Baptism outfit.  If you save stuff for certain people, it halts the purging process to much.  After going through the long process of contacting someone, getting the goods to them, and holding it until I saw them, I gave up.  Now it goes to trash or goodwill.  That's it.

Gifts go to goodwill immediately if I'm never going to use them.  I figure that someone will really appreciate "buying" a gift still in the box from the goodwill store.

But what do I tell my friend?  She already has the stuff and she is ready to move.  How do you do purge stuff you already own and didn't intend to get rid off?

I suggest that she and her daughter each get a large box to use as their special boxes.  They can even decorate them!  If they love something that they haven't used in the last year, it goes in the special box.  Otherwise, they should use the one year test.  If they haven't used it in the last year, it goes.  The ONLY exception, other than whatever they can fit in the special box, is anything that is used regularly, but that hasn't been used in a year.  (I have a black dress that I wear to funerals, for example.  I only use it when someone dies, but I ALWAYS use it when someone dies.  I also have a couple of serving platters that I only use when I host Thanksgiving, about every third year.  But I ALWAYS use them when I host Thanksgiving.)

Everything else goes to goodwill (if it's in perfect condition) or the trash!

Also, and I'm probably an awful friend for saying this, but I'm glad I'm not moving right now!  :)


Friday, June 8, 2012

Why I Write It Down

My apologies if this post is a little disjointed.  I am recovering from a minor surgery and not sure all the drugs are out of my system yet.  Funny how drugs can affect someone's thinking.  Just say no.  :) Now, on to today's topic.

The blogger at Simple Organized Living wrote a fantastic post about why she writes everything down.  Go read it when you get a chance.  :)  http://www.simpleorganizedliving.com/2012/06/04/why-i-write-everything-down-and-how-i-do-it/. She makes good points.

My reason for writing things down is simple (and not the same as the Simple Organized Living blogger).  I forget everything.

My ACT score is amazing, I made good grades in school, and I never forgot my homework.  I show up, on time, for play dates - and bring a packed healthy snack and enough change to pay for admission.  I am considered by most people to be hyper responsible.  In reality, my brain is one of those big silver colanders that lets everything just slip right through.  Spaghetti all over the sink.  (Dammit.  Now I have to write down "clean the sink.")  I have a really bad memory.  I don't encode things that I think or hear very well.  However, I encode things that I write down.  Once I write a fact down, I remember it.  And if I don't, it's in my planner.  So writing down is mandatory for me.  My ACT score?  Mostly a component of actually taking notes, even in math class.  Oh, and I read REALLY fast.

So I write down my daily chores, so that I don't have to think about it.  I write a list of all the errands that I need to run, another of things that need to be done on a computer, another of general to dos, and another of things that can only be done at home.  I write food on the shopping list when we are close to running out.  I write down appointments and notes from doctor visits and writing ideas and steps to job applications.  I write down gift ideas and what gifts I've given.  I write down bills due and bills paid.  About the only thing I don't write down is the stuff that I am going to do instantly.

Archival information of stuff that already happened is a major part of my write-it-down philosophy.  For some, this sounds like a huge waste of time.  But it has saved me so many times and is such a good habit that I truly encourage everyone to start writing things down.  For me, the hardest is writing down things that already happened.  I never used to keep old task lists, calendars, or doctor's notes, but now that I do, it is such valuable information.  I find that I have to look back in my calendar all the time.  Did the insomnia start when a new med started?  I can check.  When did I last see the dentist?  I can check.  What did the teacher say to work on with my kid this summer?  See notes from our last parent/teacher conference.  Archival writing in a planner is something many people don't do (although the blogger Laurie at http://www.plannerisms.com once explained that it's quite a trend in Europe), but it really helps me keep track of things and remember them, and it only takes a minute in each instance.

Dedicate one day to writing down not just what you have to do/attend/buy, but also make notes about your day.  Check off that you paid the mortgage and jot the check number right next to it, right there on the task list.  Note the call to your sister where you discussed that you would buy dad's Father's Day gift, along with the budget for the gift and an errand task to buy the gift.  Later, when you buy exactly what you discussed, there won't be any misunderstandings.  Log how much you spend each day.  That's a big one for giving you perspective.  When you call the insurance about the wreck (into an old ladies air conditioner...shut up, that a/c jumped right out in front of my car!), jot notes of who you talked to and when.

You don't need a fancy filing system for most of this.  Just jot it right on your weekly calendar.  (I am making a separate page for a spending journal and for the car accident.)  You don't need to log every single thing, but make logs of the easy stuff to log or particularly important and I bet you will use at least one of those log entries in the next month.  If you rely on just one log a day in the future, it'll be worth the effort 365 times in the next year!