Archive for the ‘Time Savers’ Category

As Grace and I were eating our Taco Bell tonight……I was thinking that it will be so nice for me to have more time to cook and bake for our meals once I quit working and am able to be an “official” Piano Teacher.  I like eating out once in awhile, but I confess, like most Americans, Grace and I eat out more than we need to (another great way to save $$$ Beth, …..eat at home more often!)  We do spend a lot of time in the kitchen on the weekends, and we eat several home cooked meals a week, it’s just that especially lately, it’s much easier for us to eat out than it is for me to work, teach piano, pick up Grace, go home, cook, clean up the kitchen, run the dishwasher, do laundry and clean the house.  I’d much rather grab something quick on the way home and head outside to play with Grace. 🙂

Here are some of my favorite kitchen tips and timesavers.

#1 When baking chicken: Cover the pan with foil, bake your chicken, then roll up the foil and toss it away instead having to soak and scrub the chicken goo off of the pan. (This is my very favorite kitchen trick!)

#2 Save old banannas, put them in the freezer and use them to make bananna muffins. (Yum!) Or bananna bread, if you prefer it.

#3 Here’s a tip to make any kind of breakfast muffin even better.  Mix cinnamon and sugar together in a coffee cup.  Put your muffin batter in the muffin pans and then sprinkle the tops with the cinnamon and sugar mix before putting them in the oven.  (I use this on almost any muffin I make and it adds just the right touch.)

#4 When making chocolate chip cookies, MELT the butter and add it to the mixture.  I’d never done this before, but I had a recipe that said to melt it first………the best chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever made.  I mentioned this to a friend and she said she always melts her butter for chocolate chip cookies.  They are YUMMY!

#5 Cut pancakes with a pizza cutter.

#6 Have a pair of dedicated “Kitchen Scissors” and use them to cut pizza, green pepper, green onions, celery, etc.

#7 When you buy ground hamburger meat, seperate it into 1lb portions, wrap with plastic wrap and foil.  That way, you don’t have to thaw it out and seperate what you need from it.  Better yet, make your raw hamburger into hamburger patties, freeze and then put in freezer bags.  This way, if you’re making hamburgers, they are ready to go.  If you need to brown the meat, it thaws and browns much faster because it’s in smaller chunks.

#8 Make holiday cookie dough (sugar cookies, gingerbread, etc) ahead of time, wrap in plastic wrap and foil, and freeze it until you’re ready to bake it if you don’t have time to mix from scratch and bake it all in the same day. 

#9 Cut bacon strips in half (across) before frying them to make them more manageable and to help them fry more evenly.  (I hate burnt bacon, and pieces of chewy fat in my bacon, so to get them just right, I cut the strips in half.)

#10 Add a pinch of salt to the water before boiling corn, peas, broccoli, and  carrots to give them a great flavor without having to add any butter to them.

#11 Boil the water BEFORE putting pasta in to cook.  If you put the pasta in the water and bring it to a boil, the pasta ends up mushier. 

#12 Make your own syrup by boiling 1 cup of water and while it’s boiling, stir in 1/2 cup of  white sugar, let it dilute while stirring, and add 1/2 cup and stir in 3 more times (a total of 2 cups of sugar)  Add maple flavoring and you have your very own home made syrup!

#13 If you run out of brown sugar, make your own by mixing white sugar with molasses.

#14 If what you’re making is to salty, add a liittle bit of sugar.  If it’s too sugary, add a little bit of salt.

#15 Add chocolate chips to your bananna bread. (delicious!)

Feel free to add your favorite tips to this list!


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Grace and I don’t have very much time together right now.  The only time that we really get to be together is from 6-10pm and that includes dinner, bath and getting ready for bed.  We’re also together all day Saturday and Sunday (my personal favorite days of the week…can you guess why? 🙂 ) So, I like to make every moment we’re together profitable.  When I’m not at work, we do EVERYTHING together and have lots of fun along the way.  Since children learn the majority of everything from their parent(s), I feel it’s important for ME to use every opportunity I can to teach Grace the basics.  Here are some of the fun things we do to help us learn while we’re having fun.

  • I taught Grace to count by counting the stairs everytime we go up and down them (she can count to 15 on her own now.)
  • Singing the ABC’s in the car or in the tub.
  • When I dress her I say “It’s time to put your LEFT arm in”  or “Let’s put on your RIGHT shoe.” (she’s pretty good at Left and Right now.)
  • When she’s getting dressed I talk about the color her pants, shirt, shoes are.
  • We also talk about colors when playing with toys “can you hand me the YELLOW block?”  “Where is the RED ball?”
  • We play DORA Dominos together, this helps her learn to match things.
  • In the grocery store, we talk about the fruit and veggies we are seeing as we go through the produce section.
  • When we’re reading books about animals, we talk about the sounds they make.
  • We mix up cookie dough from scratch (once in awhile, not every day 🙂 ) and Grace helps measure and pour things in.  I also have her “stir” the dry ingredients.

I am amazed at how much she knows just by using every day things as teaching opportunities.  We’re also working on spelling her name to the tune of BINGO.  We sing…..

“There was a mommy had a babe and Gracie was her name-o,
And Gracie was her name-o!”

What are some ideas that your family does to make learning fun and effortless?

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The two things that I like to work on the most are saving money and saving time…..most single moms don’t have very much of either one to go around, so every little bit helps right?

I’ve already talked a little bit about ways I save money, so here come my ideas for saving time.

First of all, I like to do big projects in little steps…..if a project that I need to do around the house takes 2 hours, it will NEVER get done.  I can’t remember the last time I had 2 hours all at the same time, so I break things down into small 10 or 15 minute steps.  For instance, I love to make homemade cookie dough, bake and decorate cookies with Grace (baking is a great way to teach Science and Math while having fun.)  But I NEVER have time to make the dough, bake and decorate at the same time, so here’s how I break it into small steps.

  • Make sure I have the ingredients on hand, if not, buy them the next time I go to Wal-Mart.
  • That same week-Mix up the dough together (then divide into 2 parts, wrap in plastic wrap and foil, place in the freezer.)
  • The next week-Set out the dough in the morning, roll out and cut out shapes together, and bake cookies. (while they are baking, I usually make the frosting.)
  • The next afternoon-Decorate

Using this method, I get my project accomplished, but I also get the other things done that I need to accomplish that day.  If I had to do it all in the same day, I’d have to buy the dough or better yet, buy the cookies you just slice and bake…..but that’s no fun.  This way, we have fun without the project consuming our day. (plus, Grace doesn’t have the attention span to work on cookies for 2 or more hours at a time.)

I use the same method when I clean closets, one day, I go through Grace’s shoes, a couple of days later, I go through her toys, the next day I might clean out her clothes.  Again, I use little chunks of time to accomplish big projects.

Other things I do to save time is I ALWAYS have a Wal-Mart list.  When we’re low on something, it goes on my Wal-Mart list right away and I get it the next time I go (I only go to Wal-Mart twice a month.)  Otherwise, if it’s not on the list, I forget to get it and then I not only waste time, but I end up paying more because I’m not going to run to Wal-Mart for just one thing. (you can use this idea with any store.)

When I open the last of something, it goes on my Wal-Mart list.  This way, we never run out.

When I’m walking through a room on my way to the kitchen, garage, or laundry room and I see something that goes in one of those places, I take it with me so I don’t have to make extra trips through the house to clean up.

I put dishes right in the dishwasher…….they don’t sit in the sink until there’s a load ready, as I’m cooking or using dishes, they get rinsed and are put straight into the dishwasher.  As soon as it’s full, I run it.  This way, I don’t have to stand there and load the dishwasher. 

Anything that is going with me to work or church goes by the front door the night before, or if I can, I load it into the car the night before…..things I’m taking someone, things to go to the Post Office, my Piano Lessons bag, Library books,  etc….otherwise I’ll forget to take it with me.

Clothes get picked out at night before we go to bed, so we can get up and get dressed right away.  I’m not a morning person, so if I have to choose my clothes in the morning, it will take me an hour just to decide what to wear.

I try to work on several things at once, and I believe in letting machines do the work for you, so for instance, I’ll start the washer, start the dishwasher, and be printing out a report while I’m starting dinner, also while I’m cooking, I set the table, sort the mail and clean things up in the kitchen as I go.  Sometimes I also clean out the fridge while dinner is cooking.  You just have to make sure that you don’t forget the dinner!

I keep a litter bag in my car and try to throw straw wrappers and receipts I don’t need in it right away, I also use time waiting in line in the drive thru at the bank or when I’m ordering lunch to clean out my purse and throw away wrappers, receipts, notes, etc.

What are your favorite time savers?  Please share!

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