Eat at Home Habit #2 Quick and Simple Grocery Shopping Tips

We’ve been talking about 7 Habits of Eating at Home in  a brand new series for the last couple of weeks. Our goal is to make the habit of eating at home low stress and high success–without spending hours of time in the kitchen preparing or cooking food.  You can read the first habit about picking recipes that fit your schedule here. This week we’ll be focusing on some quick and simple grocery shopping tips.

I went on Facebook Live and talked about all of my favorite tips and tricks, and demoed one of our favorite 15-minute meals! If you didn’t catch that, you can view the replay here. 

Habit #2 – Keep grocery shopping quick and simple

Grocery shopping can be time-consuming and tedious sometimes. Without a plan, it’s easy to come home with much more than you intended (and go over budget) or forget essentials and hvae to make extra trips. Here are a few ideas to make grocery shopping faster:

1. Organize your list by aisle of the store

If you’re an Eat at Home Meal Plan member, this step is done for you and it’s color-coded too so you know which ingredients are for which recipe.  If you’re not a member, go through the recipes you’ve chosen to make during the week and add all the ingredients to the list in the categories you’d find them in the store.

My lists (and those we create for members) have these categories:

  • Produce
  • Canned/Dry
  • Dairy
  • Meat
  • Bread
  • Other

2. Keep a running list of things you run out of during the week

I’ve learned that the best place for me to keep this list is in my planner, but you may like keeping a piece of paper on the fridge instead.  You might also have a chalkboard or dry-erase board in the kitchen you could use.  However, you keep the list, get in the habit of adding items to it as you run low on them.

3. Shop with purpose

Once you hit the store, shop with purpose.  This means have your list in your hand, grab your cart and go.  Focus on the list and don’t get sidetracked by other items and aisles.  Move quickly through the store and check those items off your list!

4. Work from the back of the store to the front

I like to start at the back of the grocery and work my way to the front.  That makes a quick trip to the cash register when I’m finished (and less temptation to pick up one more thing) and it keeps the produce from getting crushed since it’s the last thing I add to the cart.

5. Try online ordering with store pickup

Many grocery stores now offer this, including Walmart.  I can’t sing the praises of this service enough!  It’s such a time saver. I put my Eat at Home grocery list in one tab and have the Walmart site open in another tab. Moving between the two to add the items to my cart only takes a few minutes to complete the order.

Schedule a pickup for when you’re already out doing errands.  It’s so convenient and easy! If you haven’t tried it before, you can get $10 off by signing up here.

6. Check out Amazon Pantry

The prices aren’t always comparable to in-store prices in every area, but sometimes you can snag a great deal on pantry staples and have them shipped right to your door! I haven’t tried it myself, but I have a friend who uses it regularly and it saves her time and money! You can order other household staples and fit up to 45 lbs in a box. Each month, there are featured items and if you buy five of those, you get free shipping too. She uses this to stock up on toiletry items, band-aids, and cleaning supplies as well as pantry basics. They have a nice variety of organic and gluten-free options as well. Keeping an eye out and buying things you need anyway can make Prime Pantry a great time-saving choice!

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7 Habits of Eating at Home (without spending hours planning and cooking)

Today starts a new series on developing 7 habits of eating at home that make it both feasible and simple! Over the years I’ve learned a few things that really help when trying to build the habits of eating at home instead of grabbing takeout whenever I have a hectic day and I want to share those with you in this series.

So let’s start with the core basic–actually making a plan that works for you and not against you! We want to create habits that will benefit our family and budget with home cooked meals every night, but that take in account our busy schedules so we’re not spending hours of time planning out meals and then cooking them. We discussed this topic along with how to deal with picky eaters in your meal planning in this video along with lots of helpful tips and comments from viewers.

Your Calendar and Meal Planning

One of the things that often trips us up is the common advice to choose a day of the week for certain types of meals and then rotate recipes that fit each category.  Something like this:

  • M – Italian
  • T – Tacos
  • W – Sandwiches
  • Th -…

You get the idea.  This is okay advice if all of your days and evenings have the same routine that involves you being home in time to prep and cook dinner easily.  But my life doesn’t look like that and I bet yours doesn’t either!

We need a meal plan that takes into account our schedule so that we have time to make the meals we plan on. Instead of being frustrated because meal planning never works for us, if we learn to have a new perspective and create a plan that works with our schedule instead of against it, we are sure to feel great about our successes!

eating at home habits

Rethinking Eating at Home Habits

Instead of thinking about the type of foods when planning your menu, consider the cooking method and speed of the recipes you are looking at.  This will give you much a much better success rate because your plan will fit your day and create a lot less stress and work when it comes time to getting dinner on the table.

  • Slow cooker recipes are fantastic when you have a few minutes in the morning, but no time later in the day.
  • Instant Pot or pressure cooker recipes work great for hands-off cooking that can be started later in the day. I like loading my Instant Pot around 3 pm and letting it switch to “keep warm” after the cook time is up.  Dinner’s ready and waiting for us later.
  • 15 Minute meals are best on super busy days.  Having an arsenal of these types of recipes will save you from the drive-thru.

Habit #1 – Choose a recipe that fits your day and the time you have available to cook instead of making your day fit your recipe.

If you are just joining us and would like to catch up on the other topics we’ve covered including topics planning meals around your calendar, quick and simple grocery shopping tips, stocking your freezer and more will be added here as they are posted each week.

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3 Things that Work in the Kitchen This Week – (actually, one is a fail)

1. Chili Cheese Waffle Nachos

I’ve been doing a lot of recipe testing. In fact, that’s the bulk of the cooking going on lately.  One of the recipes I tested last week was Chili Cheese Waffle Nachos.  These start with a simple skillet chili that can be used several ways.  Needless to say, this one was a hit with the family!

2. Simple Graduation Menu

One of the ironic things about writing a cookbook is it requires so much cooking that some of the normal cooking I’d do takes a back seat.

Next Saturday our third child graduates from high school.  We’ve homeschooled the kids so it always feels like a huge accomplishment to get one to graduation.  A lot of work goes into their education over the years!

We’re celebrating with a simple lunch for family and I’ve decided to give myself the gift of not cooking a thing.  I’ve ordered a sandwich tray from Costco.  To that we’ll add cut fruit, veggies, potato salad from Costco and maybe some chips.  I also ordered a cake from a friend who has the company Dailey Delights.  She shipped a cake on dry ice and I put it in the freezer when it arrived.  All I need to do is thaw!

It does seem strange to not cook for the graduation lunch, but I’m so glad I don’t have to!

3. Cooking fail – Pork roast in the Instant Pot

Yesterday afternoon I wanted to test another recipe.  This one started by cooking a pork roast and I decided to use the Instant Pot.  I’ve done this many times before, always with great results.

I set the cook time for 60 minutes, which is more than is typically called for.  I wanted the roast to be very done so I could pull the meat apart.  When the cook time was up I let the pot switch to keep warm and came back several hours later to deal with the meat.

But it wasn’t cooked all the way!  It was actually still bloody.  And because I’d left it on “keep warm”, I didn’t feel like it would be save to eat.

I’m not sure what went wrong.  Maybe the pot didn’t come to pressure?  Maybe I need to replace the seal?  If you have any ideas, I’d love to know.

What’s working in your kitchen this week?  I hope you haven’t had any cooking fails!

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Every recipe you need to throw a Kentucky Derby Party

It’s all about the Run for the Roses here in Kentucky these days! I learned this week that over 160,000 decked out gents and ladies with hats beyond your wildest imagination, show up for the big event.  And it’s not just the hats, horses and spectators that are part of the tradition, but some very specific Derby food dishes too. Between the Kentucky Oaks and the Derby itself, there are 127,000 mint juleps served at Churchill Downs! And don’t worry if you can’t make it to the Derby, there are plenty of parties going on all over the state. If you’ve never hosted a Kentucky Derby party, then maybe this is your year. Even if it’s just a special menu for the family and a few friends, I’ve got you covered today with a few favorites for your own Kentucky Derby Party. But know that once you try some of these Kentucky-inspired favorites, you may just want to serve them all year long!

The Southern Living Derby Day Party  is a guide to all things Derby party, along with a few fashion tips too!

Appetizers and Main Dishes

  • Sliders are always a great party option because they’re easy to hold, can feed a crowd and there are so many flavor options.  I love Chicken Cordon Bleu sliders, though they aren’t a traditional Derby food!
  • Kentucky Beer Cheese is pretty much exactly what its name implies and is another staple that you’ll hear about frequently here in the Commonwealth.
  • “Fried” Chicken is always a nice idea, especially when it’s a Chick-fil-a copycat chicken tender, and don’t forget your favorite dipping sauces too!

  • The Kentucky Hot Brown Bake is a new twist on one of the first sandwiches you’ll be introduced to here in the bluegrass. It doesn’t take but a few bites to see why the combination of turkey, bacon, tomato and cheesy goodness is such a popular request!
  • Country Ham & Biscuits are a classic and this recipe from myrecipes.com suggests offering mustard blends and flavored butter to make them even tastier.

  • And what’s a derby without a spectacular hat? This Derby Cheese Hat from myrecipes.com uses cheese rounds and is sure to be crowned the favorite hat of the entire Derby when served with an assortment of crackers and maybe even some special jams and jellies.

Side Dishes

  • Scooped and chilled Watermelon always seems to be a favorite for any meal, or snack for that matter, as the weather gets warmer. It’s just as refreshing as a glass of water, but has much more flavor! If you feel adventurous, kick it up a notch with a bit of chili powder!
  • My Layered Coleslaw uses coleslaw instead of lettuce and makes for a crispier version of the traditional seven-layer salad.
  • These Goat Cheese Biscuits were inspired by those served at Table Fifty-Two in Chicago and are such a delightful combination of herbs and goat cheese inside and buttery Parmesan topping.

Desserts

  • These Sweet Tea popsicles have all the refreshing flavor of an Arnold Palmer, but in a popsicle. Perfect for a warm race day!

  • You obviously can’t have a Derby party without a Hat shaped Cake, and with its fresh flowers and ribbon embellishments, you don’t even have to be an expert cake decorator.
  • To round out the dessert section how about some Red Velvet “Run for the Roses” cupcakes? This recipe was originally created for one of Kentucky’s other great loves, the UK Wildcats. Simply switch out the blue food coloring for red and voila, you have “Run for the Roses” cupcakes!
  • Individual pies make in mini pie pans or even hand pies are great for large gatherings when you don’t want to be too fussy about place settings and all that formality.

  • Did you know that the name “Derby Pie” is actually copyrighted? It’s true! When a friend gave me her Kentucky Nut Pie version I just had to try it. It was definitely a winner in our house and disappeared in no time!
  • There are lots of recipes for Bourbon balls and those are a big deal here in Kentucky. I’ve heard of several people who include a Kentucky Bourbon Trail tour while they are here for the derby. One of the favorite places for such treats in town is Old Kentucky Chocolates. It’s a good idea to include a few pre-made menu items sometimes when you’re throwing a party, so why not some of these!

Beverages

  • Mint Juleps are another Derby tradition, and if bourbon is your thing, Southern Living has this  Mint Julep Sweet Tea recipe. If, on the other hand, bourbon isn’t your thing then you can leave that out and enjoy a sweet mint tea.

  • Kids of all ages are sure to enjoy these Frozen Pink Lemonades Of course if pink lemonade isn’t their favorite flavor or color, then just replace it with their favorite tea, juice or soft drink.

In case you haven’t marked your calendar yet, post time for the Derby is scheduled for 6:34 pm, Eastern time. Be sure to fill your plate with goodies before that, because if you step out for 2 minutes you’ll likely miss the entire thing!\

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Over 30 Easy Recipes for Delicious Picnic Food

Did you know that April 23 happens to be National Picnic Day? It seems fitting that it would fall just a week after Easter when we’re all quite ready to get outside and enjoy a bit of warm sunshine and a slower pace. I’m not sure what your picnic traditions include, or if you even have any but, there’s just something special about a picnic. It’s not that the food is fancier than most days, it’s the change of scenery and being in the middle of the budding and blooming color all around us. Just to make it easier for you to celebrate, I’ve gathered up over 30 recipes for delicious (and easy!) picnic food for you to try with your family.

To get you started, you’ll find 6 Tips and Menu Ideas for a Day at the Zoo or Park that may include several picnic opportunities. If you are traveling and need some ideas for picnicking on the road, this post could help, too!  Some of these sandwiches are often served hot, but I think they’d be fine cold, or the meat could be put in a thermal container to keep it warm. Others could be made at home and wrapped up to take with you, like the Hawaiian BBQ or Chicken Bacon Ranch Sandwiches.

Pita Pockets Make Perfect Picnic Food

One of the best perks of these recipes is that the meats can be cooked in the crock pot and they all freeze well, which means if you make up an extra large batch now, you’ll be ready for weeks of impromptu picnics. And let’s face it, there are literally endless ways to fill pita pockets

  • Greek Chicken Pitas from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe.
  • These Greek Pita Sandwiches start with meatballs and just get better and better from there.
  • Chicken Gyros from Kate’s Recipe Box.
  • Beef Gyros are a great way to serve steak on a picnic.
  • We enjoy serving our Beef Shwarma with a cucumber-yogurt sauce instead of the traditional tahini sauce.
  • You can prep and freeze the meat for these Chicken Broccoli Picnic Pitas and add all the veggies to be served in the pita as a chicken salad. A perfectly tasty and tidy picnic option.

Shredded Meat Sandwiches are easy to make ahead and so filling

Chicken Salads & Sandwiches are always a hit

  • My Peach Chutney Chicken Salad Sandwich uses cooked chicken and a delightful combination of ingredients that taste great and come together quickly.

Summer Picnic Classics never fail to impress

  • Slow Cooker Beer Brats are a classic summer grill idea with only 2 ingredients that can actually be made in the slow cooker.
  • 70s Fried Baloney Sandwich and other such sandwiches are sure to make the kids happy with their classic simplicity.
  • Gina’s Club Sandwiches were named for my sister, and as you would imagine, it’s a tasty club sandwich for any day of the week, especially if a picnic is involved.
  • Tomato Sandwiches are perfect when those fresh tomatoes start showing up in the garden or your local farmer’s market. Nothing says summer like a thick sliced juicy fresh tomato.
  • The secret to these PBJ on Depression Era Bread is the tasty Depression Era Bread. It just takes the classic PBJ up a notch or two.
  • These Egg Salad Sandwiches are a classic recipe that includes how to boil the eggs, and a great little item to have the kids help whip up.

  • Loaded Hot Dogs can be made with 3-ingredient “Cheater Chili” and a little slaw.

Classics with a Twist keep things fun and interesting

Roulades, Frittata Bites & Chicken Legs are too good to pass up

  • These Ham & Swiss Roulades from Carmella at Assortment Blog are made using handmade or store-bought pizza dough and can be filled with a variety of meats and cheeses based on what sort of mood you’re in.
  • This Bacon Spinach Frittata Bites recipe from Jessica at Life as a Mom would be perfect for a breakfast picnic with some fresh fruit because picnics aren’t just for lunch and dinner!
  • Chili Sauce Chicken Legs are a tasty warm option that is easy to eat and slightly messy in a good way, making them perfect picnic food.

And there you have it, over 30 recipes for celebrating National Picnic Day on April 23 or any day you like!

Do you have a favorite picnic food? What about a favorite picnic spot, whether it’s one you go to now or one you enjoyed as a child?

3 Things that Work in the Kitchen This Week – April 17

1.  Turkey in the Pressure Cooker – for sandwiches instead of the freezer

The other day on Facebook Live, I showed how to make a turkey breast (or boneless turkey breast roast, in this case) in the Instant Pot.  My intention was to put the meat in the freezer to use for recipes.  We ended up using it for sandwiches and things though.  Mia and I got home late from a soccer game the night I made the turkey.  It was waiting for us, since I’d left it on “keep warm” all day.

We sliced and chopped some of the meat and served it over quick quinoa and brown rice (more on that below), topped with shredded cheddar, salsa, lettuce and sour cream.  Yum!  The rest of the turkey got sliced and put in the fridge.  It made for great sandwiches over the next few days.

2. Quick Quinoa and Brown Rice combo

I know I shared this a few weeks ago, but I’m sharing again because these packets are so good and versatile.  This isn’t sponsored in any way, I’m just sharing a product I love.

I will say that for a family meal, this is not the way to go.  But for 1-2 people that need a quick, nutritious meal these packets are great.  They only have 2 servings in each packet and they cost $2.something  at the grocery.  I picked up a 6-pack at Costco the other day for $10 something. Cheaper but still kind of pricey.

But a 90 second spin through the microwave to have a great base for leftover meat, veggies, eggs, cheese etc – you can’t beat that.

3.  Money Saving Mom is hosting an Eat at Home Challenge

I’m so excited to partner with Crystal from Money Saving Mom for an Eat at Home Challenge.  Crystal will be on Facebook Live every morning this week, cooking from the Eat at Home Slow Cooker Plan.  We’d love to have you join in!

3 Things That Work – in the kitchen and other stuff

1. Lunch – From PB&J to Quinoa

Lately I’ve been reaching for the peanut butter and jelly at lunch time at least four times a week and probably more often than that.  It’s easy to fix and I love it.  Maybe it’s partly all the recipe testing I’ve been doing too.  Maybe my taste buds are tired?  More likely I just don’t want to spend time considering the options, so I grab my comfort food stand-by.

After quite a few days of this though, I decided I needed something a bit healthier.  I found a bag of quinoa and brown rice in the pantry that only needed to be microwaved for 90 seconds.

I’ve had this in the pantry for quite a while now.  There’s only two servings in the bag, so it’s not great for a family (I don’t remember how much it cost).  For lunch it was perfect!  The taste is great. Ninety seconds in the microwave is pretty easy to do.

I topped it with cheddar cheese, a fried egg and a little spinach I threw in the skillet while the egg cooked.  I had the spinach in the freezer for smoothies and it was easy to grab a handful and toss into the skillet.  I wasn’t sure how this combo would taste, but it was actually very good.  If you like this type of thing, it would also make a good breakfast.

I’m pretty sure I won’t be giving up PB&J any time soon though.  After all, it’s the secret weapon of many NBA players and teams.

2.  Lower grocery bill and losing weight! An email from a member.

I got an email the other day from Brooke B., one of our Eat at Home Meal Plan members.  I asked if I could share her email with you and she graciously said yes.

I am loving the plans! They have significantly reduced my grocery bill & my husband and I are continuing to lose weight while using the Whole Foods plan and we’re not eating the same stuff all the time! So happy I signed up for the menu plans! We were spending between $120-$150 per week on our grocery bill and now we spend between $60-$80 per week. One meal from the meal plans make 4 servings for us so we always have lunch for the following day. It’s great! ~~ Brooke B.

3.  Winning cookbook recipe tests

I’ve been doing a lot of cookbook work, testing many recipes each week.  We’ve had quite a few winners, including:

  • A salmon sheet pan dinner
  • Skillet chicken pot pie that everyone raved over
  • A to-die-for soup that gives an amazing spin to traditional corn chowder

We’re still a long way from a finished cookbook, but I’m already so excited to share these recipes with you!  I think that your family will love them!  Over the next couple of months I may be asking for your help to test some recipes, so if you’re interested in that, be sure to get on my email list. (You can enter your email on the form that’s below this blog post or the one on the homepage.)

Watching and Reading:

Reading:

  • The Sun is also a Star by Nicola Yoon – this young adult novel was a quick read that kept the pages turning.  I loved the ending!
  • 20,000 Days and Counting by Robert D. Smith – I read this short book a few years ago and thought it was good. Recently I bought the audio version and it is great! Get a copy of this one for yourself. You won’t be sorry! (Side note: I’ve lived 18,093 days and counting as of this writing.)

Watching:

  • Midnight in Paris – This movie with Owen Wilson and directed by Woody Allen was so fun since we’d just been to Paris last summer!  It’s on Netflix streaming right now.  It’s a little quirky, but not as much as most Woody Allen movies.  It’s more whimsical, with plenty of scenes from Paris, some fun time travel and lots of references to artists and writers.
  • Beauty and the Beast – We went to see this last weekend and it’s gorgeous.  Wonderful scenery and music and just so much fun.

What’s working in your kitchen this week and what have you been reading and watching?  Share in the comments!

The Little Things – Giveaway

Last Tuesday I went to Nashville and got to meet someone who has made a huge difference in my business and life.  I’ve talked about Andy Andrews and his books on my blog before a couple of times. Over a year ago, I joined his Unshakeable Entrepreneur program and I can’t say enough about how wonderful it’s been.  I’ve learned so much and it’s had a huge impact on my business.

On Tuesday Andy and his team hosted an UE event in Nashville.  Everyone had a chance to meet Andy.  He spoke and did a Q&A.  We heard Jimmy Yeary sing a few songs for us.  And we got to meet many other UE members and hear about their businesses.  This was by far the best business event I’ve ever been to.

If you have a business, get on the email list so you’ll know when Unshakeable Entrepreneur opens again!

Andy has a new book out that is fantastic!  It’s called The Little Things – Why You Really Should Sweat the Small Stuff, but I promise that it will impact you in a big way.  I’ve read through it once and I’m starting it again.  It’s that good.  I’ve heard the audio book is outstanding too.

Giveaway! Giveaway is closed now.

I’m giving away 5 copies of The Little Things to five winners.  To enter, tell me in the comments if you’ve ever read one of Andy Andrews’ books before and if so, which one.

Winners will be drawn and notified by email on March 29.  US residents only.

No matter what, make sure you get yourself a copy of The Little Things!

 

New! Breakfast Plans are Here!

 

 

So many people have been asking for Breakfast Meal Plans, so we got busy and created them for you!  I did a survey of Eat at Home Meal Plan members to find out what types of things were important in getting breakfast for the family every day and we really tried to incorporate those wish list items.

We’ve pulled together 12 weeks of breakfasts that are perfect for springtime.

We aimed for quick and easy and/or make ahead and freezer friendly.

We included some grab and go meals, for quick mornings.

Protein was important to a lot of people, so we added a “protein of the week” option that can be mixed and matched with all the breakfasts on the menu.

We also added a “fruit of the week” option to give a bit more interest to the meals.  Mix and match the fruit, meat and meals any way you like!

There are some meals that work well for slower weekend mornings – meaning you can linger over the table, but you don’t have to spend a lot of time doing the cooking.

To celebrate I have a special code to use for a discount – enter the code BREAKFAST at checkout. The code is only good through March 23!

If you’re looking for help and ideas for breakfast, check them out!  I hope you love them 🙂

Click here for more info on Eat at Home Breakfast Meal Plans!

 

 

3 Things That Work in the Kitchen This Week – March 13

I realize I haven’t posted on the blog in quite a while now.  It’s not that I haven’t been working or cooking. In fact, my world has mostly shrunk to the kitchen and my desk.  I’ve been doing a lot of recipe testing for the cookbook. I’ve learned that a great recipe makes me think this whole process is going to be fun and easy, while a dud of a recipe makes me feel like I’m an imposter who will never be able to write a single decent recipe, let alone a whole book full.   I swing freely between those two mindsets.  The good news is that I have created some really good recipes that I know you’ll love.

I’ve also been working on Eat at Home Breakfast Plans.  These should launch very soon, hopefully this week.  Breakfast plans were requested by many Eat at Home Meal Plan members. We’ll be rolling out 12 weeks of plans that include quick and easy recipes, freezer friendly recipes, prep-ahead steps and more.

Let’s get to what’s working in the kitchen:

1.  Amazon ordering for little things

I’m really glad I live in the age of Amazon, because I hate running errands.  This week I placed an order for a new pancake spatula, because our old one started melting plastic on the griddle.  Plastic swirled pancakes aren’t very appetizing.

I also ordered refill sponges for our Dawn dishwashing wand (calling it a wand makes it sound a lot more magical than it really is).

For some reason, I haven’t been able to find those refill sponges in the stores. Rather than continuing to look in various places, I just ordered a couple from Amazon.

Do you use Amazon for little things like that?

2. Hint, hint…

In other news, Mother Teresa now gives us all a guilt trip if we don’t wash our own dishes.  Apparently, some people in this family have no qualms about living with guilt.  The truth is though, we all pitch in for dish duty and life with no dishwasher is still fine.  Even while writing a cookbook.

3.  15 minutes of decluttering a day

I’ve been slowly working my way through the kitchen, decluttering cabinets and even the fridge and freezer.  I do one or two shelves each evening.  It’s not much, but it’s quick to do and makes me feel like I’ve really accomplished something.  My plan is to stick with this and work my way through the whole house.  It’s going to take a while, but I’ll get there.

Notable things I’ve gotten rid of:  An old 40 cup coffee percolator that I’ve had for ages and only used once or twice.  A vacuum belt to a vacuum we no longer own.  A jar of marshmallow cream of questionable age. And a lot of other things.

We now have several empty shelves and things are much more organized.

What’s working in your kitchen this week?