Category Archives for "Plan It"

meal planning

last year

Make Meal & Snack Prep a Breeze With These Helpful Tips

Hi Everyone!

We all have busy lives and no matter what you do in your life you and your family have to eat.  Having raised 4 kids, I know your days are filled and by the time dinner rolls around meal time is a challenge so I’ve put together a series of posts to help you get some meals prepared ahead of time. Today’s post contains some great tips that that will save everyone some time and help you eat healthier.

Meal prepping is an excellent way to eat healthier and lose weight. You’ll also gain other benefits such as not spending money for last minute unhealthy food choices, running back and forth from the store to find items.

Saving time is also a perk of meal prepping, and that’s something that anyone can appreciate. Preparing meals ahead of time means you’re taking a break from the daily hassle of wondering what to fix for dinner at 5:00, running out the door without breakfast and frequenting expensive restaurants or high calorie fast food for lunch.

Those vending machines for snacks can also be expensive and unhealthy. Here are some meal prep tips to help you shop, cook and divide your meals into easily manageable choices for the days or week ahead:

Choose one time per week to cook. If you can, shop and cook your meals on one particular day and time each week. This means that the oven will only be heated once, the mess of chopping and slicing meats and veggies happens only once and you’ll have time during the week for things you want and need to do. When all of my kids were at home I often referred to this book, Once A Month Cooking for some of my family’s favorite “go to” recipes that I could make ahead and freeze.

My crock pot was another of my favorite time-saving meal time tricks. Use a crock pot save’s time and effort. The Internet is bursting with slow cooker recipes that can save you time, effort and money. Or – create your own recipes by tossing in some meat, veggies and yummy spices (plus liquid) and do your own thing while it cooks.

Plan for snacks. We all love to snack between meals and that can be deadly to a diet and fitness routine. Rather than leaving your fate to the vending machines, invest in some healthy pre-planned snacks to keep all week for when hunger and cravings hit unexpectedly. Sometimes snack preparation can be as simple as just having a variety of washed fruit in the fridge. The kids always loved having apple and carrot slices I had cut up in baggies or a cut up melon in the fridge ready to eat and jars of a few different kinds of raw nuts on the shelf. Everything wasn’t always what I would consider healthy, as the kids were older having things on hand like English Muffin Pizza fixings they could put together themselves and cook in the toaster oven were easy and enjoyable.

Another good thing to keep in mind is the timeline for freshness. Some foods, such as apples, will obviously last longer than other fresh fruits and they won’t last nearly as long as store bought packets of dried fruit.

Even though fruit begins spoiling more quickly as soon as it’s  exposed to oxygen, cutting up small quantities of some fruit and veggies an placing them in the fridge for a grab and go snack are still a favorite choice of mine. Get to know your selected foods’ timeline for freshness you may need to wait for cutting or slicing until you’re ready to use them in a recipe.

Also, it’s okay to repeat meals during the days or weeks ahead. Enjoyment of your food is key here – and when you love a recipe or enjoy eating leftovers, it’s perfectly okay to make up a batch and serve it later on during the week. Doubling a recipe is a great time saver and if it’s freezable then you can easily have it again a week or two later.

It’s important to organize your refrigerator before meal prepping. You don’t want to be in a hurry to get out the door and have to rummage through the refrigerator for your carefully prepared breakfast. I find it’s most helpful to clean out all of the old stuff before I leave for my main grocery shopping trip.

These are just a few meal prep ideas. I know you’ll think of more great ideas to make meal prepping more fun and efficient as you go along. The Internet and meal prepping blogs are also good ways to see what others are doing. If you have a great meal prep tip please share it with our readers in the comments below if you want.


last year

Ten Hot Items To Shop For At A Flea Market

Shopping at a good flea market is a blast. You can get some really amazing deals. But there are a few things that are not a smart purchase at a flea market, no matter how much you may need it. Many things are great bought from a flea market. Let’s start with some of the things that are good to buy at a flea market if the price is right.

Now this is not an all-inclusive list. It’s only ten really great things to look for when you go to the flea market next.
1. Furniture – You can find some already refurbished completed pieces at a flea market, but where you’re going to get your real bargain is with something that needs a little TLC. Be careful, though. Look for furniture that is solid wood, as opposed to particle board and make sure you can fix it up with a little effort and paint and sanding.

2. Tools – Power tools and hand tools.

3. Bikes – Old vintage bikes might not be able to be salvaged as a bike again, but you can use the parts to create something really unique.

4. Home decor – Picture frames, glasses, bowls, or a table cloth. This isn’t a bad place to get a bargain on some pretty unique and possibly even antique items.

5. Books – You really never know what hidden treasures you might find amongst books. A first edition copy of A Tale of Two Cities, perhaps? Who knows, but don’t pass up looking through books.

6. Media – Really any sort of media, whether it’s old records or 8-track tapes. Make sure you check it out first, though.

7. Sports equipment – Even exercise equipment. Buying this stuff brand new can cost a fortune, so if your kid is interested in tee ball, then check out the local flea market or some tag sales to see what you can find.

8. Clothes – Vintage is in and if you’re looking for some vintage style clothing that’s the real deal, then this is a great place to find what you’re looking for. Just make sure your item does not smell of smoke (because you’ll never get that smell out no matter how many times it’s laundered or dry cleaned), and wash it before you wear it.

9. Gold and jewelry – Make sure you know what you’re looking at in this category. You can get taken for a ride, but if you know how to tell if something is really gold or really silver and not just gold or silver plated, then you might have more success.

10. Toys – Be very careful in the area, though. You probably don’t want to buy toys for very young children to play with from a flea market or yard sale, especially if you think it was made earlier than the 1980s or it wasn’t made in the United States. You don’t want a child getting lead poisoning from playing with these older toys. But when it comes to collector’s items, this is a great place to find some old-fashioned toys.

Now that you know what to buy at a flea market or yard sale, here are the things you definitely do not want to buy. Some may seem very obvious to you, some maybe not so much.
Ten Things Not to Buy at a Flea Market

1. Bathing suit and underwear – Unless the underwear items are sealed in their original package and the bathing suit has tags still on it, do not buy these items at a flea market. You just never know where they’ve been.

2. Hair ties – Whether it’s a pony tail holder or a bobby pin, just buy these new. They’re not that expensive to begin with.

3. Bike helmet – Unless you don’t plan on using it for its intended purpose, you just don’t know if it has been in an accident before. Don’t risk it.

4. Car seats – Same as with bike helmets. If a car seat has been involved in a motor vehicle accident, even if it’s minor and the child wasn’t in the seat, the manufacturers recommend replacing it because they can’t guarantee that it did not sustain any cracks or damage to its shell.

5. Small kitchen appliances – With can openers, toasters, coffee makers, just buy new. These likely don’t work or don’t work well and it’s just not worth trying to repair.

6. Mattresses – This is just something you really should buy new. A used mattress could be infested with bed bugs or just simply be too worn for it to be worth the savings.

7. Tires – There are things about tires that unless you are a tire specialist, you just might not see. So again, unless you are using them for something besides their intended use, then go to a tire specialist to buy tires.

8. Cribs – Due to ever-changing regulations meant to make cribs a safe sleep space, purchasing a used crib to use with your baby could pose a danger to your child. While a vintage baby crib might be a great find, you should only buy one if you don’t intend on using it with a baby.

9. A breast pump – Yes, pumps are expensive, but the flea market is not the place you want to get one. This is a product much like underwear that you simply must buy new.

10. A toothbrush – It goes without saying why.

So there you have it – the do’s and don’ts of flea market shopping.

last year

The Art of Flea Market Haggling

ladies shoppping at a flea market

“I never pay full price”, that’s my daughter’s moto. Every time I see her she has a deal to tell me about and she always knows just where to go to find the sale racks. If you are shopping at a big brand store or a mall the only way to get a deal is a good sale or coupons you just can’t negotiate the price. What the sticker price says is what you pay, unless they have one of those “we’ll beat any competitors’ price” policies.

Flea markets and yard sales are a whole different ball game, though. You are kind of expected to haggle. In some countries it’s even considered rude if you don’t haggle, and there is a real art to it. Most flea market vendors are master at their craft and most likely have been haggling with customers for years so it can be intimidating going in there and trying to get the best price possible. You’ve probably heard lots of different tips from people on how to haggle, but here’s a pretty standard negotiating deals list.

1. Know your product. Know what something is worth going into it and know what it’s going to take to make that item worth every penny. If you plan on selling an item for profit, then you’ll want to know your profit margin. If it’s for your own personal use, then know how much you’re willing to put into it to make it great.

2. Be charming. Strike up a conversation with the vendor. Learn what his (or her) likes and dislikes are and even where he gets his stuff. This might also help you in determining the value of a piece you have got your eye on without letting him know you’ve got your eye on something.

3. Keep your poker face. You never want to tip your hand in a negotiation. Play it cool – even if this is the item you have been looking all over for, don’t let anyone know how desperate you are for this piece.

4. Be respectful, though. Don’t tell someone his item is a piece of junk. You can say how much you admire a piece or like it without tipping your hand. When you hear a price, ask what his bottom line is. If it’s still too steep, then tell him, “It is a beautiful piece; I’m sure someone will pay that for it.” Then he should ask you what your highest price is. You give him a number and he’ll either offer you a counter or tell you that for cash it’s yours at that price.

5. While not insulting the vendor, don’t be afraid to point out why you might not go as high as he would like. Remember to be respectful and say how much you do love the piece, but tell him that you’re concerned at the expense to you in repairing the scratches or any broken parts you notice. Let him know that while you do believe it’s well worth what he’s asking, in order for you to make it the piece you want you’ll have to put some additional work into it which is going to cost you x amount of dollars to do.

6. Get something for free. Dealers at flea markets are often just looking to push the merchandise, either to make room for newer stuff or because it’s a place they have to tear down and pack up at the end of the day to go to another location. The less they leave with, most likely the happier they will be. So if you plan on buying more than one thing from a vendor, then don’t be afraid to say, “Hey, will you throw that box of baseball memorabilia and make it an even amount?”

7. Bid low, but not too low. Start out with a conservative starting price in your negotiations, but don’t be insulting because that will turn a vendor off to you right away.

8. Patience really is a virtue. Good things do come to those who wait. And if you’re willing and able to wait then at the end of the day, if the item still hasn’t sold the vendor might be more willing to give you a better deal. This of course is a gamble – you have to hope no one else purchases the item before the end of the day.

9. Use cash. While vendors might accept check, they certainly do prefer cash. So make it clear that you will be paying with cash, but of course that means you must have that amount of cash on you right then and there.

10. Have fun. If you take it too seriously, then you’ll never be able to enjoy your finds. And you can’t get upset if a vendor doesn’t accept your negotiation. There will be other items and other vendors; it doesn’t have to be that one.

Follow these ten steps when you negotiate at your next flea market and you might be surprised at the amazing deals you end up walking away with.