How to Organize Your College to-do List

I talked a little bit in this post about the things that are keeping me sane while working full time and going to grad school.

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This guy is definitely high on the list

I made reference to the moderately flexible schedule that I’ve come up with for my classes, given what a usual day look likes.

For some context: I work full time at the university that I attend, which is a 30 – 90 minute drive from home, depending on the weather. I am a part-time graduate student, studying Adult and Higher Education, taking two classes on campus, which is a 20 – 60 minute drive from work.

The time piece is relevant here, I think. When you consider that I usually get home around 5:40pm and try to be in bed by 10pm, I really have four hours to, not only do homework, but also have my life during the week.

Start with the Syllabi

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Duh, right? It’s the plural that’s important. I learned this in undergrad when I took six classes a semester while working close to full-time. I grab up all my syllabi and start to write out due dates, in order. There’s a lot of flipping back and forth between them, so it’s helpful to have a large area to do this.

I only write down my major projects/papers/assignments. It will keep this part a lot cleaner.

Make Notes as You Go

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As I write out the assignments, I think about the timeline. For example, I have an Adult Learner Interview part-way into the semester, so I need to conduct the interview with enough time to actually write the paper.

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I keep doing this, and try to figure out if there’s more than one step involved. For example, on March 26, I have to write a Summary of an Adult Learning Site. So I need to visit the site at least two weeks in advance, which means I need to contact sites before that to ensure I can awkwardly sit in the corner while adults learn and I take notes on how they learn. #thisisgradschool #iloveit

In retrospect, it might have been a good idea to color code assignments or classes. I may try that next semester.

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At the end, it looks something like this (aka organized chaos). Then, I take a look at the syllabi again and start to think about my life. If I have class Monday and Wednesday night, I actually need to be done with my readings by Saturday, if I want to have an actual day off.

So I write it all together, with due dates on the side, categorized by week:

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I just keep going until I’ve written out each week of the semester. I end up with something like this, except longer:

Then, I do a quick double check and slowly enter all of it into my planner, on a large sticky note:

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The left side is school stuff and the right side is home stuff.

If you read my post about a day in my life, you know that currently D and I are trying to figure out how to best shorten the list on the right side. There’s just certain things that aren’t his to take on, or don’t feel right for him to take on given where we’re at in our relationship, and we want to be careful about doing things for each other that aren’t in line with where we are.

That’s it though. Rather than assigning days, I just try to get as much done as I can Monday – Thursday so that I can have a simple weekend. I’ve found that dedicating Tuesday and the Wednesdays that I don’t physically have to go to class to doing homework means that if I get a surprise visitor or just don’t feel like doing homework during the week I’m not dead on Sunday from the amount I have to do.

Total time to complete: about an hour and a half.

A Weekday in the Life

It makes me feel like a total creeper that I love to read Day in the Life posts from bloggers but I totally do. I did a half-hearted version when I talked about what my Saturday Morning looks like. But the other day, I read this one from one of my favorite bloggers and I thought about making one about the weekday, as a way to truly reflect on where my time goes. I thought it might help me. So, hold tight! Here we go!

Note: If it’s snowing or snowed the night before, all of the morning gets bumped up about 20 minutes, except the part where I get to work around 8am.

6:30am – “Wake up. For the love of all that is good, your day will be so much better if you wake up.”

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Alarm Clock

A few months ago, I realized how much I was on my phone, so I challenged myself to leave my phone in the kitchen when I went to bed. The first step to that was buying an alarm clock. I have yet to regret it.

6:32am – “Brushing your teeth will help you wake up. Seriously.”

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Similar Kettle / Travel Mug

I usually brush my teeth while I get a cup of tea started and take my make up out of the case. By the time I’m done brushing, the tea is usually ready. I pour the hot water in and sit down to do my make up.

6:37am – “I bet you can do your make up faster today than you did yesterday.”

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Dark Eye Shadow / Shadow Pallet / Light Eye Shadow / Brush was bought at Walgreens? like, a decade ago / Concealer / Mascara / Blush (similar) / Mirror (compact) was made by my oldest sister out of a Cover Girl powder that she hollowed out and put a Tori Amos quote on

I feel like that’s not the “normal” feeling about make up. I’m pretty minimalist when it comes to my face. Eye shadow, mascara, blush, under eye concealer and done. I don’t know if this theory holds water or not, but my mother has gorgeous skin. She’s 60 and I’ve never seen her have a breakout, uneven tones or any kind of blemish. She also has never in her life worn a full face of make up. I don’t know if the two are connected, but I’m going to roll with it, because it justifies me not having to spend the time on it. The result is usually something still tired but a little perkier looking.

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6:47am 
– “Why is my hair like this?”

I have weird hair. It’s incredibly thick (like, if I put it in two braids, one of those two is the thickness of most peoples one braid if they were to braid all their hair one time… if that makes sense…) – even the strands are thick – and coarse. It naturally curls in every which way and usually heat causes it to straighten out unless I use a crap-ton of hairspray. If I wake up late, it goes in a ponytail and I just roll with it. But, I’ve been trying really hard lately to actually do it because I feel better when I do.

7:12am – “Thank goodness I picked out my clothes the night before. Sheesh.”

There’s no picture of this because it would just be a picture of my closet. I just group four or five outfits together and that’s my version of setting out my clothes for the week. #lowkey

I always forget that I’ve picked out my clothes the night before until the point of getting dressed. I don’t always do this, but I try to. Sometimes, when I’m really on top of my game, I’ll pick out five outfits on Sunday night!  That doesn’t happen often.

I own a very limited number of work clothes (about 7-9 outfits) which helps to keep things simple if I don’t pick things out the night before. Maybe I’ll write some more about how I got to a point of a limited number of outfits. Would that be something  you’d be interested in?

7:20am – “Wallet, keys, phone, planner, lunch. Wallet, keys, phone, planner, lunch.”

Planner / Cat Clutch (similar) / Cup / Food Storage Container / Work Tote

I pack my bag in the morning. Sometimes I do it at night, but it’s almost always first thing in the morning. Depending on the day, there’s a lot of different things I might take with me. I almost always take breakfast and lunch. If it’s winter, then non-snow shoes come with for me to change into at work. School stuff and snacks are a must. On Mondays and Wednesdays this semester, I leave my house at 7:30am and get home around 9:30pm, so I usually have a decent amount of food with me.

7:25am – “I shouldn’t wake him up. But I don’t want to not say ‘I love you’ and then drive through the ice.”

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D works four jobs with unpredictable schedules (ex. one of them is snow plowing, so sometimes he doesn’t have any hours of that for two weeks; sometimes he works 40 hours in a row without sleeping) and so I do my best to respect his sleep, and he does his best to respect mine. My most favorite and D’s least favorite part of the day is when I creep into the dark bedroom and say goodbye. He’s always warm and soft feeling and so I gently tell him that I love him and to have a good day. Often, I sit on the bed and put my socks and snow boots on while I talk to him. He hates that I wake him up as it’s happening. But every evening he says thank you to me for it.

7:30am – “I’m glad I have Spotify.”

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Seriously. This is not an ad. I just really feel that way. I drive anywhere between 30 – 90 minutes to work, one way. Having good music, where I don’t have to use my hand and skip the songs, is a must.

I also try to use this time to get ready for work. I don’t make a mental to-do list. I don’t get paid to think about work when I’m not there, so I don’t do it. Instead, I sort through conversations I had the night before; what kinds of things I need to do on my lunch break; and plan out my evening. Some days, a song comes on that gets me thinking about other things and I, instead, use the time to reflect on my relationships with friends and family. It helps. A lot.

8:00-ish am – “Tell the family you’re not dead. Don’t forget.”

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I’m really lucky to work in a place that’s flexible about what time you arrive when it’s snowing out. Most of the office lives 30 minutes away, with some as far as an hour and a half. So, when the snow comes, we all just adapt if someone’s not here. Before I get out of my car, I text my mom, dad and sister and let them know I got to work safely.

Note: I never did this before I lived here. My parents didn’t really care and my sister and I talk so much that she pretty much always knows where I am. But now that I drive on windy roads through fields with strong winds and big hills, my parents are always nervous, so I send the text. 

Slightly After 8:00 am – “Knock out what you can.”

I usually start my morning slowly. I drink my tea and check my emails and knock out as many little things as I can. This doesn’t always work as planned, but it’s what I try for.

Around 9:00am – “It would probably good to eat breakfast at home.”

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That’s what I tell myself every time I pull out a literal bowl of breakfast at work. I usually eat yogurt, fruit and granola. I keep the yogurt and the granola at work and just transport a mason jar of fruit back and forth.

Sometime between 11:00am and 2:00pm – “I should probably use my lunch break to eat.”

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I don’t though. I usually eat lunch around 2pm. Instead, I usually use my hour lunch break to take a walk and then do homework at my desk. I don’t really recommend this but I can’t figure out a better way to get through grad school.

My job is 50% database management, 50% putting out fires that are comprised of the very real emotions of young adults. Talking about a typical day is impossible because you never know who’s going to come in crying, who’s going to scream at you because they’re actually just scared, or if nothing at all is going to happen. I freaking love it.

5:00pm – “Maybe earlier than 5pm. Never later than 5pm though.”

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I leave work at 5:00pm. This time of year, the sun is starting to set. Depending on the weather and how much snow is on my car, I get home between 5:35pm and 6:15pm. On Mondays and Wednesdays, I drive directly downtown (about 45 minutes from the campus I work on) to the other campus to take classes until 9pm. But let’s pretend it’s a Tuesday, Thursday or Friday.

On my drive home, I usually call D to figure out what he’s doing, and spend the rest of the drive home thinking about the good pieces of the day.

5:45pm – “I know you were alone all day. I missed you so much.”

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I snuggle the cat when I get home and then I change my clothes. When I lived in Florida, I would take a shower after work. I usually didn’t wash my hair until before bed, but I had to do something to get the heat off me and it signaled that I was home. Now that it’s the opposite of 100 degrees here, I just change my clothes and put my slippers on, because slippers mean home to me.

6:00pm – “What should we make for dinner, kitten?”

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I’m pretty good about taking meat out the night before for dinner, but it doesn’t always happen. Around 6, I start figuring out dinner and set up at the dining room table to start my homework. If D is going to be there soon, I’ll start dinner (if it’s my turn) while I read. If he’s going to be working through the night, dinner is usually a grilled cheese or some applesauce. If he’s there, he usually watches TV with his headphones on while I do my homework and we eat separately. Twice a week, he does the cooking and while he cooks, I put my homework away so we can talk. Either way, whenever we’re both done, we do dishes together.

8:00pm – “If you don’t stop doing homework soon you’re going to be writing in martian.”

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I know two hours isn’t a lot of time, especially compared to what I did in undergrad, but after a full day of emotionally draining work, two hours of theory is a lot. So, instead of trying to push myself past my breaking point, I do two hours every day, except the weekends. On the weekends, I get the bulk of it done.

I clean up the kitchen table and usually one other cleaning thing – the bathroom, picking up clothes, sorting through something. I try to do one little area so that I don’t completely lose my weekend to cleaning.

8:30pm – “What about a shower? I should take a shower. I should always take a shower.”

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I freaking love showers. My sister calls the shower her “reflection chamber” and feel like that’s 100% accurate. Most of the time D and I take a shower together – sorry if that’s TMI, but it’s actually because we do some of our best talking when we’re trapped in the same tiny place together.

9:00pm – “Remember that time you wanted to start a blog?”

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Yep, that’s right. 9pm is prime blog-writing time. No. No, it’s really not. I usually sort through pictures, come up with ideas for posts, try to figure out how people actually get followers, wonder if I actually want followers, get distracted by Pinterest, plan out next weeks meals, realize I was thinking about blogging, start over again from the beginning.

9:45pm – “Remember that time you said you were going to relax more? Do that.”

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9:45 is usually when I crawl into bed, turn on Pretty Little Liars, and lie to myself about how I’m just going to finish the 20 minutes left on this episode.

11:00pm – “Honey, you said you were going to sleep at 9:30…”

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Every night, D reminds me of my constant mission to go to bed on time and how I’m not accomplishing it. Not in a mean way. He just points it out. I make an excuse. He suggests that I might be making an excuse. I huff about it. He lets it go. Then we hug and go to sleep.

I’m not a good sleeper. And as you can probably math from all of this, I usually get about five to six hours a night, which isn’t good for anyone in my life, least of all: me. I really am working on it. I got a Fitbit for Christmas and have set a reminder for 9:30 to start winding down so I can try to be in bed by 10am.

D and I have been talking a lot about what I could take off my plate and put on his to create more time in my day so I can sleep. The housework is the big conversation because right now it’s technically divided equally (in terms of a time/effort combo that we agreed on), but I’m still either not getting enough sleep or not getting enough relaxation. I’m open to suggestions! For real! I know I won’t last long at this pace!

Javi No Eye

Thanks for sticking it out, if you made it through this whole thing. I actually didn’t know a day in my life would have this many details and it was really nice to reflect on it.

Let’s Talk About Meat

Meat: one of my least favorite subjects. When I was 12 I announced to my mother that I was no longer going to eat meat. And I didn’t, for about three weeks. Eventually I caved because of a combo of not understanding what I was doing and my mother not being 100% on board.

Then, when I was 18 and in college, I mostly ate in the dining hall, and the meat was less than desirable, so I cut it out and stuck with it for about five years years until one day, I really wanted a turkey sandwich. Then I stopped again a few years later for a few years… I’ve gone back and forth like this for most of my life and learned a ton about nutrition and myself throughout the process.

Now, I eat meat two to four times a week, depending on the season. I would prefer to be meat free, but I have a series of competing GI issues that makes getting adequate protein from plants complicated, so I eat it.

I talked in this post about how I buy meat once a month, but I didn’t say much else about that. I came to that in part because of my relationship and in part because I found that I either end up spending more buying smaller quantities or I end up having more trips to the grocery store because I’d underestimated what I needed. Those last two things got old REAL quick.

So, about a year ago, I started buying it once a month and putting it in the freezer. But then I ran into two problems: 1) my freezer was full of meat and not much else and 2) defrosting things takes forever and is a pain in the tail.

And then I remembered the “book stacking method,” as my mother calls it, where you flatten everything out and stack it.

Say what?

I’m going to show you using a package of almost five pounds of chicken.

Step One: Figure Out How Many Meals You Can Get from One Package

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This is the pack of chicken I typically buy each month. It’s about 4.5 pounds and will turn into about six bags worth of meat, with each bag weighing a little over three quarters of a pound.

I’m using chicken as the example because I’ve found it’s actually the most complicated of meats.

Step Two: Label the Bags

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Every time I do this, I do it a little different. I always put the date, and sometimes I write chicken. Sometimes I write how the chicken has been cut. Usually it’s pretty easy to distinguish chicken from other meats, but since I do this every month, sometimes there’s leftover meat from the month before. So I always make sure to write the date down so that I know which bag needs to be eaten first.

I open all the bags up after they’ve been labeled so that filling them will be easier.

Step Three: Trim the Chicken

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If you like the fat on the chicken, then don’t do this. I don’t care for it so I always end up trimming it off. Rather than having to do that when I go to cook it, I go ahead and trim it off before I bag it up.

This is the most time consuming step in the whole process. You want to make sure that you’re getting all the white parts off the chicken. It should end up looking like the picture above.

Disclaimer: I’m not a spectacular chef, but I do alright. And I didn’t go to culinary school or anything like that. I’m sure there’s great ways to cut the fat off chicken that are much more precise than I do. I just know that the white parts taste yucky so I cut them off.

Keep going with it, and you’ll end up with two stacks: one of chicken and one of grossness.

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I’ve found that if I cut the plastic off the top, so just take my knife along the inside edge of the container, I end up with a good place to put the fat.

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Step Four: Cut the Chicken

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Once I have a little stack of chicken breasts, I start to cut them in different ways. Some I’ll leave at whole breasts (or I’ll cut one in half to be able to split between packages). Those will be for crock pot meals. Some I fillet and some I turn into cubes or strips to go on salad.

Since I’ve already done my meal planning when I did my grocery shopping, I have a good idea of what I’ll be using the chicken for. I’ve found it’s easier to cut ahead of time, since I’ve already got the cutting board, etc. out and I’ll have to cut it anyway to make it fit evenly into bags.

Step Five: Wash the Cutting Board

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I’ve heard many different kinds of things about using a wooden cutting board. It’s the only one I have, so it’s the one I use. I don’t put it in the dishwasher. Instead, I wash it by hand three times with dish soap and scalding hot water (I highly recommend wearing gloves if you’re not used to that). I usually also scrub it with sea salt after the first wash. I don’t actually know if it helps, but it makes me feel better.

I’ve had this cutting board for eight or nine years (when an awesome friend gave it to me for my birthday) and I have yet to get sick using it, so I think whatever I’m doing is probably just fine.

Step Six: Bag and Flatten the Chicken

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First, I put all the chicken into the bags they’re supposed to go into using one hand. So, keep one hand for bagging and one hand for touching chicken, or get someone to help you. Then, I wash my hands.

Once my hands are clean, I hold the top of the bag and hit the bottom on the counter a few times to settle the chicken to the bottom. Then, I lay it on the counter and press it into the corners of the bag. With full chicken breasts, I don’t do that. I just let them be what they are. But with everything else, I make it as flat as possible and then seal the bag.

Step Seven: Repeat Step Six

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I keep going with this process until I’ve filled all the bags.

Each month I also buy pork chops, steaks and ground beef. I tend to buy the small pack of pork chops that has six in it and only two steaks. Those are already cut and typically already trimmed so I just put two in each bag and place them so they’re lying next to each other when the bag is flat on the counter.

For ground beef, I usually buy over three pounds and make four bags. Once the meat is in the bags, It’s pretty easy to just flatten out.

Step Eight: Admire Your Handiwork

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A) It felt really weird to take a picture of the inside of my freezer and B) that’s basically taking up no space. Each bag stacks on top of the other. It’s pretty easy to tell from the colors which meat is which so pulling it out takes two seconds, rather than sifting through packages and floppy bags.

And, best of all, I’ve found that it takes about 10 minutes in cold water to defrost chicken, ground beef  & pork chops (steaks take longer because they’re thicker). It used to take almost half an hour! And, if I’m really on top of my game and pull it out the night before and it’s guaranteed to be defrosted by the time I get home from work.

I never thought I’d reach a point in my life where I was doing this or thinking about this. I got overwhelmed a while ago by the amount of food in the house that was coming in when I started shopping monthly. I was frustrated all the time by the freezer and the process of having to wait to defrost what I was going to eat.

This kind of prep (I guess it’s prep?) takes me about 15 – 25 minutes. That’s it. But making this change has saved me money, space and both cooking time and emotional time.

How to Plan a Grocery Trip

Usually on Saturday morning I do laundry and go grocery shopping. My Saturday morning has been halted a little bit by a combo of D having my keys (which let me into the laundry room and into my car) and my mother letting me know she’s not sure what I’ll be bringing for Thanksgiving dinner.

So I decided I’d use to the time to plan both my weekly and my monthly grocery trip.

A Little Background

I didn’t start doing grocery shopping this way until about a year ago. When I lived in Florida, I went once a week, bought what I needed and went home. Often I ended up going more than once a week because I forgot things. Typically I spent somewhere between $40-$80, depending on the week and if I needed shampoo, cleaning supplies, etc.

About a year ago, though, I noticed my grocery bill was through the roof and I couldn’t figure out why. So I did a very rough audit of my grocery shopping. I had started eating meat occasionally when I moved back to South Florida. And I often told D there was “more than enough” for him to have dinner with me, not accounting for how often I saved money by eating leftovers for lunch.

Plate / Glass Container / Bowl

So we talked about it. And decided that, once a month, he would buy meats and pantry/freezer items, and once a week I would buy perishables. We’ve found that this a) keeps us on budget because the desire to keep our relationship balanced forces us to look at the number and b) means that my dread for grocery shopping is turned into 20 minutes once a week, and 1-2 fun hours with him once a month.

How I Plan It

I talked a little bit in this post about using the sale ads and coupons to determine my groceries. That’s more true for the monthly list than the weekly. Week-to-week, there are certain things I know are going to be consumed: milk, fruit, vegetables, cheese and crackers. So, I’m more likely to just go to the produce section and look at the prices than to look at the ads. My baseline of what I get is so low (usually about $30) that if I decide to splurge on a super exciting dinner or need to buy both wet and dry cat food it doesn’t really break the bank.

But the monthly trip is a much more involved process.

Planning Essentials

It doesn’t really take many items to plan the monthly shop. There are certain things I know we’re going to buy: meat, potatoes, frozen vegetables, pop and quick freezer meals. That usually brings the cost close to half. So the other half is spent on “special” items (chips, cookies, spices, etc.). It’s the other half that’s hard to figure out.

Planner & Pen

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When I first started trying to figure out how to feed myself, I lived by the Meal Plan Printable made by Jen over at iHeartOrganizing. I still use it when I know I’m going to have a super busy week. But, typically, I just write a meal on a sticky note and put it in my planner. Since I’m just one person (with a plus one), I’ve found this to be a better method.

There are some standard meals I know I’ll make each month, but I try to add in two or three new ones. I know that doesn’t sound like much but I only cook 2-3 times a week. My standard meals are…

  • Tacos
  • Chicken Noodle Soup Casserole
  • Cheesy Chicken and Rice
  • Shake n’ Bake Chicken & Salad
  • Baked Pork Chops, Mashed Potatoes, Salad
  • Shepherds Pie
  • Taco Pasta
  • Steak, Green Beans, Mashed Potatoes
  • Breakfast for dinner

My main goal is to spend no more than 30 minutes standing in the kitchen, which is how these made the cut. I will work on actually writing down the step-by-step for each of these because who doesn’t need more 30 minute meals?

Slippers (similar here)

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I actually do a lot of walking while I’m trying to figure out the groceries. Okay, not like, a lot, but I’m back and forth between the kitchen table and the pantry probably 20 times.

But that’s really only half of why I wear these.

I’m what you’d call an emotional dresser. My clothes make me feel a certain way and certain clothes make me feel different than others. Slippers automatically mean home to me. I don’t often wear them anywhere else (except maybe at a family members house). So I wear them while I’m making the grocery list because it makes it feel more like a cozy activity and less like homework.

I decided a long time ago that whatever I can do to make this process more relaxing and less task-feeling, I’m going to do.

Notepads & Pen

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You could probably just use one notepad. I don’t though. I like to have one for the monthly shop and one for the things I know I’ll end up writing down that are actually for the weekly trip. I like to use this size of sticky note because it’s long enough to accommodate most of what I need, but it’s also small enough that I don’t get carried away. Also, the sticky part lets me prop it up on the cart baby-basket-thing.

Knowledge Base

There are some things you have to know and ways you have to mentally prep yourself if you’re going to plan out a month worth of groceries, at least, that’s how it is for me.

  • How much money do you have? I run my budget before starting this list. And I rank the list in order of expense so that if the cap is hit, the things that aren’t bought are easy to pick up if there’s extra at the end of a weekly shop.
  • How much meat are you (& whomever else you’re shopping for) going to eat? In this house, if D is eating, I make a pound of meat. I probably eat 1/6th of that, he eats about 3/4 (per the doctor), and the rest is my lunch for the next day. If he’s not, there probably won’t be meat. So, having a good idea about your schedule is key.
  • On average how much are you going to cook? This one is my achilles heel. Some weeks, I cook every night. Other weeks, not at all. I’ve found that, on average, I cook 2-3 times a week; D cooks about the same. So we’re eating a meal at home almost every night of the week. Before we were together, my answer was twice a month. So what I brought in groceries was a lot different.
    • If you don’t know how to figure that out, audit your grocery list. I think I’ll make a post about that.
  • Be prepared to list more things than you think you need. Every single month when I sit down to write this list, I find myself overwhelmed by how many things are written down. Then I remember that it’s for the whole month and it calms me down a little bit.
  • It’s okay to write vague ideas. Last shopping trip, I wrote down “frozen snacks.” What does that mean? It means snacks that are frozen – pizza rolls, tater tots, french fries, etc. I don’t need to list all of them out. I wasn’t going to get all of them. I just think it’s good to have a frozen snack on hand and when I got to the store, I bought the “frozen snacks” that were on sale.
  • You’re the only one that knows what you need. I once wrote “26lb. Granola” on a shopping list and judged myself really hard for it. Who the heck needs that much granola? Well, two people who eat it every day for a month need that much. It happens every week that I write something down and I’m like, “What is my life???” and then I remember, it’s mine. Then I keep going.

Where Are You Gonna Put It?

I don’t actually recommend doing a big monthly shop for non-perishables if you don’t have storage space for it. Prior to getting a bakers rack, if I had more than one box of pasta in the house, I was just annoyed every time I walked into my kitchen.

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Write your list anyway. You may find that many things can be frozen, or at you’re willing to find spots for your favorite cereal that went on sale. I day dream about having a beautiful pantry with beautiful containers holding all the sweet food items. But I live in an apartment and have student loans. So, for now, I’m making do with what I’ve got.

Shop the Sale Ads and Coupons

I’m not a couponer. I will never be one. But, you know that little coupon flyer that comes in the mail? Usually there’s a coupon for dish soap and batteries. I clip that. I always need dish soap and I don’t often need batteries but when I do I find their price overwhelming.

The Sale Ads are really where it’s at. Your grocery store probably puts theirs online (most do). Flip through it. What kind of long-lasting tubers and legumes are on sale? Cereal? Pasta? Chips? Don’t write it down if it’s something you don’t like. But if it’s something you do like that last a long time, write it down.

I usually start with the sale ad, then go through the pantry to see what’s missing, and then I use my grocery stores app to clip coupons for what I already wrote down.

It seems counterintuitive to clip coupons last. I know. What I found is that if I clip them first, I buy stuff I don’t like. Or I see the actual price of the stuff the coupon is for and I don’t buy it and I end up with a million expired coupons floating around my life.

That’s it

Use your planner/calendar/agenda book.
Make it a relaxing activity.
Try a fun meal every now and then.
Trust what you know about yourself.
Clip coupons last.

Here’s a little example of what a monthly grocery shopping list looks like for me:

Grocery List

How Did I Get Here?

I don’t believe that we can understand right now without understanding what came before it. A thousand trees have lead me to this place, and a thousand bouts of deep laughter.

Family

Those tiniest of feet are mine

I grew up in a coastal town in South Florida with five of the best people I’ve ever met: my mother, my father and my three older sisters. Each of us is very much our own, and very much part of each other.

college

I spent my college years studying Literature and Religion at a large state college in North Florida. I went for college and stayed for the trees and the amazing job I had working with college students & non-profits.

many houses

With a high population of college students, the city I lived in was incredibly transitory – meaning I moved 11 times in the eight years I lived there. My ability to swiftly load a minivan with boxes and move a couch on top of my car are two of the things of which I am most proud.

grateful

A lot of things happened when I turned 24 and I moved back home to be with and help my parents. I took a number of jobs – ghost writing, working with a publisher, marketing a real estate company & tutoring college students – all at once. It was a blissful nine months of risk-taking, beaching and helping the family prepare to move north, to Michigan!

Campus

As much as I grew up in South Florida, I grew up in Michigan. My mother is from here; three of the four of us were born here; and I spent every summer from the time we moved (when I was 2) until I was 21 here. I’ve been living here since 2015. At first I stayed in my parents house with one of my sisters and her husband and my parents. I worked in a hotel for a few months before beginning work at a university that’s tucked into the trees.

And then Javier and I moved again, to a little apartment six minutes from my mom and dad!

Mudbog

In June of 2016, I jumped as far out of my comfort zone as I could come  up with and went to a mud bog (where big trucks go into the mud and try not to get stuck). While I was there, I met a tall, quiet man who I still can’t get enough of.

I don’t super-love trucks, can’t eat twelve tacos in one sitting, and often can’t get out of the details of my own brain. None of those things are true for him, and because of that, I think we balance each other out pretty well.

 

After a million moves, a million jobs, a million cities and ideas, I’m finally holding still. I work full time and am a part-time masters student. Between those two things and the rest of life, I’ve learned to thrive on structure. I love lists, meal prep, cleaning plans – anything that can be put in order or give my life order.

But that’s not always realistic. Sometimes you have to move again. Sometimes you can’t afford curtains and have to figure something else out. Sometimes you turn your back for one minute and the cat is on your kitchen counter eating the corn, or has laid down where you’re supposed to be working.

That’s life. It’s messy. It doesn’t always have clean lines and perfectly made beds and end tables that match. I struggle with that. And while I don’t think I’ll ever hit the point where I’m 100% comfortable wearing pajamas to a cook-out, I am learning how to get right with it. And the learning is messy. So I thought I’d try to write it all down – successes and failures – to help me to remember to trust the process and that life is about living, not arranging.