SoBo Mama's Tips & Tricks

{August 9, 2014}   The Recipe Binder

I am one of those people who would love to be a stay-home mom. If I could ever stay home! I get a taste during school breaks, but end up running around so much that I’m always ready to face the 8th grade again.

One of the things I love about being home is the idea of cooking. Notice, it’s the idea. I try to cook nearly every night, but often it’s something I throw together (beer pancakes and eggs, anyone?). Or, on really busy nights, a can of store brand ravioli (gasp!). I have several cookbooks and a box of recipes that I really like, but our schedule often limits my kitchen creativity.

And, honestly, how many of us really explore every recipe in a cookbook? I have one cookbook that I’ve tried several new things, but with most of my collection, I have only one or two. And what good is my recipe box if I can’t find Aunt Fran’s cocoa mix recipe when I want it?

This is where my recipe binder is coming in.  I will have a place to maintain those frequently accessed recipes, while decluttering my cabinet.  My dividers will have pretty traditional categories, with a few exceptions.  I need a divider for clipped recipes I’d like to try, as well as one for my freezer to crockpot recipes.

Where is my binder?  It’s still all in my head, totally in the planning stages.  I’ve copied and pasted all of the freezer recipes I love to a Word document and can print those any time now.  And I sold off several cookbooks in my garage sale last week.  So I’m getting there.

It’ll be a fun distraction when I should be lesson planning.

The dividers I’m planning so far include:
1. Freezer to Crockpot – this is for the recipes I’ve collected since starting to freezer cook – a lot of Sidetracked Sarah and Six Sisters.

2.  DIY Convenience Foods – breakfast burritos, oatmeal, granola bars, etc.  Things I might buy but should save money and do myself.

3.  Appetizers – I don’t do a lot of appetizers, but this is where I can include yummy dips and such.

4.  Sides, Fruits & Veggies – “Car-house” grandma’s macaroni & cheese, her applesauce, and that sort of thing.

5.  Main Courses – sorted by meats

6.  Casseroles

7.  Desserts & Snacks

8.  Beverages – grown up as well as kid-friendly! I will probably color code these….

9.   Family Favorites – tried and true things that I need quick access to regularly.  This should be near the front.

10.  Test Kitchen – recipes that I want to try.

11.  Miscellaneous

I thought about including DIY household and beauty, but I think my cleaners will better serve in my cleaning binder, and beauty stuff in my self-improvement binder.  I love a good binder.

So that is my next project, with the added bonuses of decluttering my cookbook collection and some Pinterest boards.  How do you handle recipes?

~ Katie

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The next section in my retired Home Management Binder is Meals & Menus.  With my new system, my plan is for Meals & Menus to eventually go in a separate binder, specific to the kitchen.  This section helps with meal planning, menu creation, and tracking supplies necessary to those tasks.  The things I’ve included in this section are:

  • grocery shopping lists: I have kind of a standard list I like to use and I add to it as necessary.  It’s ok to keep in the binder until I’m actually preparing to go to the store.  At that point, I need to check it against my inventories and my menu plan.  Then I’ll clip it to the front of my coupon binder and head to the store.
  • pantry inventory: I only keep the extra copies in here.  The pantry inventory has always been on the door of the pantry.
  • freezer inventor:  This works the same as the pantry inventory.
  • menu planner: I’ve tried the weekly planners in the past but I prefer to plan a month at a time.  If I pencil in generic meals/themes, they’re easy to modify and get specific later on. I love Jeepnmom‘s wipe off board on her fridge!  I could fill it in for the week and not have to hear “What’s for dinner tonight?”
  • price trackers:  This is something suggested by some other organizational sites and books, but I don’t keep up with price tracking.  For some reason the numbers stay in my head and I know I can get those chocolate chip waffles the last week of the month for $1.79/box without looking at a spreadsheet.  Sales cycles stay with me.  If you can’t remember cycles though, a price tracker is a great tool to use.  I’ll post more on that later.
  • recipes: old stand-bys (Mystery Beans), new favorites (Teresa’s Tagliatelle), and recipes to try (Peanut butter yogurt dip).  I’m in the process of decluttering cookbooks.  When menu planning, it’s best to have recipes close at hand so you know what you’re going to need.
  • kitchen appliance manuals:  I see the purpose in keeping them in a binder, nice and organized.  Right now, though, mine are in a cabinet over the stove.

I also keep basic instructions on how to use some of the every day appliances, like the toaster, microwave, etc., as the monkeys are using these things on their own now.  I need to add some cleaning checklists and maybe diagrams/pictures of where things go (Monkey #1 stacks dishes in the drainer when he’s not sure where they go!)

I’m recognizing a theme in my binder process: how to do it, where to find it, and what to do in case of _____!

Can you think of anything else that needs to go with a kitchen section in a Home Management binder?

~ Katie



{February 22, 2013}   Weekend Projects
Mt. Washmore

Mt. Washmore (Photo credit: Birdies100)

It’s Friday! It’s sad how forward I look to my weekends lately.  It seems, though, that’s the only time I can get anything accomplished.

Last weekend was a dead loss. I got very little done, which makes me a bit blue.  Some of my projects have been pushed off to this weekend to make up for it.

  • All of my grades are in the computer already – not necessarily a good thing, because most of my kiddos chose not to turn in their assignments. But it frees me up some. I still need to plan for next week, and write some tests, but that shouldn’t be too time-consuming.
  • My kitchen needs some serious attention.  A week of competition prep has left a disaster in its wake.  And my sweet hubby forgot to bring home dishwasher detergent.  I so don’t want to leave the house that I am considering hand washing the dishes.
  • I do plan to do the computer swap, tonight, so that I can clean the kitchen. It’s funny how that one thing keeps me from even going in the kitchen.  It has to get done. DONE – Ok, so it was this morning…..
  • The ugly stool.  Ah, me….
  • Mt. Washmore is calling my name, pretty impatiently.  I’ve been wearing clothes that I haven’t worn in quite a while – and adding some to my “donate” pile as I realize how truly awful they look on me.  Something isn’t right with the dryer right now, so I’m hesitant to even fool with it.  But it has to be done.  Have I mentioned how desperately I still want a clothesline?
  • My bedroom needs straightening, as does my bathroom.  Somebody has been rained out from work most of the week and leaves a mess behind.
  • I have to call Jeepnmom tomorrow and see how she and Mechanic Man are faring.  Poor thing – she’s jacked up her back and he has double pneumonia!  I know she’s going stir-crazy.  I halfway anticipate a call from her at 5 AM, telling me to clean a drawer.  (Note to Bec:  I’ve been drinking coffee since three this afternoon, will be up late, and already have a plan for the next drawer.  Wait till 7 your time, please!)
  • Work on my management binder.  I’m preparing everything on the computer so that when I have ink, I can just print it all out!

It’s a long list but I’m thinking not as ambitious as usual.  How does your weekend look?

~ Katie

Jeepnmom reads every one of my posts.  How do I know this?  She called me this morning and said it was time to clean out a drawer.

I don’t think that was a project for today.  Only because we’ve been bestest friends for almost 30 years did I do what I was told.

Cleaning out the kitchen drawers is not my favorite thing to do.  They’re convenient, so a lot of junk gets chunked in them. Car House Grandma has the first yellow drawer (or second?).  In the House of Cheaptitude, they’re all junk drawers.

In order to do this and do this right, I needed to have a plan.  Part 1 involves talking to Bec while I work, to make the task less icky.  Part 2 involves cleaning/organizing in order.  I’m starting with a drawer on the end of the kitchen, closest to the utility “room,” and plan to work counter-clockwise around the room till it’s done.

So the first drawer looked like this:

This is the "before" picture.  What a wreck!

This is the “before” picture. What a wreck!

I completely emptied the entire drawer onto my kitchen counter and started sorting.  I’m in disbelief over what all was crammed in that thing.  A multitude of lighters (no wonder I never can find any! They’re in the junk drawers!); enough red pens to get through the rest of the school year; birthday candles for the years 1, 4, 7, as well as some yummy Yankee Candle votives; several utility knives; Shoe Glue; Post-It pads; and so on.  Do you see the disposable camera in the picture?  It’s been a hot minute since I’ve bought one of those!

I made 3 piles: put away, throw away, and donate.  I threw several things away.  All of the tools and oddball nuts/nails found their way to the garage.  The miscellaneous, unidentified keys are on Grizzly’s dresser for him to figure.  Craft supplies (markers and paint) are put away with the craft things.  Votives joined the other candles in my stockpile, an the birthday candles are in a Ziploc in my baking pantry.  I wasn’t sure what to do with the Shoe Glue (I like Gorilla Glue better) so it’s living in the laundry cabinet next to the shoe polish for now.  I added some USB cords to the Goodwill bag and then sorted things that actually belong in that drawer using little baskets.

This is how it looks now:

This is how it looks after my phone call.  Not bad, IMO.

This is how it looks after my phone call. Not bad, IMO.

I didn’t spend a penny to do this, as much as I love shopping for little organizer things. Everything was already on hand!  I think it’ll be more functional after this.  I should be able to find post-its, Scotch tape, and nail clippers when I need to from now on.  I’m almost inspired to tackle another today, but my phone isn’t holding a charge these days…

Do you have “junk drawers” in your home?  How can you better use that real estate?

~ Katie

By the way, Gram’s yellow drawers have not been yellow in my lifetime but it’s still called the yellow drawer.  Go figure.





{February 2, 2013}   One Drawer at a Time

As mommies, we learn to multi-task.  When my good friend Shanna (Independent Pampered Chef Consultant and the ingenious owner of Rolling Rehab, LLC – amazing physical therapy service!) calls me, I am 99.9% certain she is scrubbing a toilet.  She tells me chores are easier when combined with something pleasant.  And as mommies, we are fantastic at multi-tasking.

As a teacher, I’ve gotten even better at multi-tasking.  I can cram a sandwich down my throat while making parent phone calls during lunch duty guiding 11-14 year olds to the playing field as I plan next week’s lessons in a 25 minute period.

Today as I was scrubbing down countertops in preparation for tonight’s family get-together (resulting from my never-ending cheaptitude), I realized the kitchen drawers are a train wreck.  There are band-aids in with lighters, taper candles, and post-it pads in a drawer I thought was designated for dish cloths.  How, in my organizational quest, have I missed these hidey-holes?

Drawers can be both a blessing and a curse.  Great for storage, but they can quickly turn into black holes of wasted space!   My kitchen drawers suffer from “out of sight, out of mind.”  Time to re-think my organization plan.

Drawers are valuable real estate, just like any other storage area in the house.  Every drawer should have a purpose.  I thought mine did, but……

In my kitchen, I have 6 drawers, 5 of which are fully functional.  (My silverware drawer needs a face replacement, but that’s a Grizzly-do!)  The 2 drawers by the cook top are already designated.  One is full of silverware; the other has my cutting boards and other random cooking gadgets. On the other side of my galley-style kitchen, we have problems.  4 black holes are attracting every bit of junk under my kitchen counters.

My plan to de-junk those drawers is simple.  I love love love to talk on the phone.  Now when I call my bff, Jeepnmom, I will empty a drawer and sort through the miscellaneous crap.  Since we talk at least once a week, the drawers should be processed by March.  I like the pile method – put away, throw away, give away, and sell.  I have so many little baskets from my other re-purposing activities, this should work out well.  Once the drawers are de-cluttered, I can go back through and set purposes for each of them.

The more I think about it, the more enthusiastic I’m getting about this project.  I’ve considered purchasing drawer organizers from Lowe’s or the dollar stores, but my cheaptitude won’t allow it.  I have some boxes from ordering checks that I think would work well and I love clean tuna fish cans for organizing a drawer.  And the drawers are lined, but I’m thinking of sprucing the drawer liners up, too.  I have a laminator and tons of scrapbook paper, which would make them easily wipable.

So what is your next project?  What has inspired you this weekend?

~ Katie

{January 5, 2013}   Making Progress

2:30 Saturday…I’m sitting on the couch with “reality” tv playing.  Mt. Washmore, freshly cleaned and piled in baskets, stares at me as I drain my third pot of coffee so far today.  The kitchen isn’t clean by a longshot.  The living room is a wreck.

But I see progress.

My utility room is straightened.  I’ve organized the cabinets in there.  The tops of the appliances are clean.  And my old friend, Precious, gave me a brilliant idea for my nonfunctional dryer: store my orphan sock baskets! Woo hoo!  Easy access when I’m emptying the working dryer!  (thanks, girl!)  I repurposed a cake pan lid to line the bottom of the cabinet underneath my store-bought detergents (Scent-Away for hunting clothes) and moved my Kleenex stockpile to the hall closet, along with some random candles, empty plug-ins, and store-bought room sprays (thank you, amazing coupons!)  A few cleaning things have relocated to the cabinet under the kitchen sink, which is still pretty organized.

All that is left in the utility room is to pull out the appliances and clean from behind them (ugh), which for some reason takes the power of She-ra.

Part of why I’m drinking coffee and watching Bravo TV.

The problem with cleaning a room is that another room takes a beating.  My kitchen is the next room past the utility, so guess where things landed in the de-cluttering process?  Thankfully, I filled another donation bag as well as the waste basket.  But the kitchen counters still took a hit.

Monkey 1 unloaded the dishwasher for me and I’ve already started another load.

I put away everything from one countertop and wiped it down.  All I need to do to that counter still is restock the towel basket and empty the dish drainer.

Things left to do:

  • Clean out “junk” drawers
  • Clear counters
  • Clear table
  • Clear top of fridge
  • Wipe down surfaces
  • Sweep floor
  • Mop

I’ll get to it.  I may even post “after” pictures.

I’m realizing my house may not be clean by the time I go back to school.  But I’m making progress.  That’s got to count for something.

~ Katie


et cetera
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