Monthly Archives: October 2013

Clean Up Meals Fast

supper fast

For years after dinner clean-up took me longer then I’d like to admit. I’d either take an embarrassingly long time cleaning every night or quick pile the food covered dishes by the sink and

face the crusted over chaos the next day…or 3 days later.

After watching more experienced mothers, reading blogs, and figuring out a couple things on my own, meal clean up has gotten a lot faster – and much more consistent.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

1. Make 3 piles before you leave the table.

  • Refrigerated

I put this pile away first in case I get called away. That way at least the food is safely being refrigerated if I don’t make it back to my clean-up for a while.

If you have a hard time organizing, don’t organize the food twice!!!

To keep food from having to be relocated to the kitchen, organized, and then loaded into containers, I dispose of the relocation and organizations steps and put the food into containers right at the table. The majority of my bakeware is multi-purpose. It has glass lids for baking as well as plastic lids for storing. If I cooked with a stove-top pan, I grab a  container from the kitchen and scoop the food in at the table.

  • Throw-Away 

Again, don’t relocate garbage to the kitchen. Position a trash can between the dining room and kitchen and get rid of it right away.

  • To Be Washed

Pile up dishes with silverware all on top and drop them all into the sink. Even if you don’t have time to wash the food off right away, getting water on them will stop time consuming crusting.

2. Cut Down on Condiment Clean-up

  • Keep them in an easy-to transport tray

Consider an easy-to-wipe box or tray in your frig or with common condiments. Grab the box before meals. Put it back when you’re done. 6 items moved in the time it takes to move one.

  • Keep them at the table

Salt and Pepper, Butter, and many other condiments could be kept in a tray in the center of the table.

  • Make sure you only bring what you need

My kids love ketchup. They also love ranch dressing. (IE: They are normal kids). I am also one of those soft parents who will give them 1/4 cup of a condiment on top of their 6 green beans to help them eat the food they don’t like.

I only get those condiments if one of them is struggling to eat the food, and then I only bring one. Why make more mess then necessary?

3. Limit items at table

  • Silverware

Not rocket science, but it only dawned on me this past year of marriage that if we’re just having soup – just give everyone spoons. No reason to deal with other utensils.

It gets back to priorities. There is a place and time to be proper and use perfect ettiquette, but for us, if we’re not having a formal dinner, less utensils means less stress, less mess, and more time.

  • Serving Dishes

I’ve gotten really into using one skillet or casserole dish if possible.

For Skillet: Cook meat first. Set aside. Cook the rest. Add meat back in. Mixed or in separate piles, you can then just bring one serving dish to the table.

For Casserole: Layer food in casserole dish. (Because I cook most of my meals one day a week, I like having one dish per meal to layer the meat and sides in.)

Mexican: Layers of beans, corn, cheese, made-ahead hamburger, and then topped with either cornbread (and then cooked for 30minutes), or after cooking – chips or lettuce.

Chinese: Layers of rice topped with any vegetables and meat.

Mashed potatoes topped with meat and gravy.

Noodles topped or mixed with anything.


4. Consider Paper PlatesThis summer we are preparing to move and doing multiple house projects. I felt guilty, but I bought a massive pack of styrofoam plates, and it does seem to cut down the clean-up significantly!!

I keep a garbage can next to our dining room table, stack the plates and any throw-away food bits and napkins, and throw them away without ever having to carry them anywhere. :-)

I was so inspired that I bought a package of bowls to use for the plethora of cereals we’re using up before the move. Though breakfast still requires several dishes, breakfast clean-up is taking me about 2 minutes. :-)

5. Everybody takes just one dish into the kitchen

We have a 3 year old, a 2 year old, and a 1 year old, but if they are just responsible for taking their dish and cup into the kitchen, it does help cut down time.

So Those are the tips that have cut my meal clean-up down to about 10%. Do you have any other tips?

Organizing During Transitions

transition time is considered any period of time that comes right after a large life change.

Life change is a move, career change, birth of a baby, death of a loved one, marriage etc.
transitionMany people going through a transition time become more interested in decluttering and organizing; this is becausetransition times make us feel like we are not in control, and organizing and decluttering makes us feel like we are in control.

This is a great time to get motivated and make changes, but because of the emotional and physical upheaval involved in such drastic changes, people often struggle when they actually start pairing down stuff.

At the moment we are expecting baby #4 in 5 short weeks! So spurred by this upcoming transition, I’m feeling very motivated to cut any and all extras! Here are some thoughts I have on approaching transitions.

                                                                Approaching Transitions and Decluttering

Enjoy and relish your victories. A big reason you may be organizing now, during a time of upheaval, is to get some control. Stop a minute and be proud of yourself then! You just took FOUR big boxes to Goodwill! You did a good deed and got more control over your closets. Even reward yourself with a frappe coffee drink!. :-) (I love finding reasons to get frappes!!)

Recognize that you may be thinking more clearly in a few months. If there are items that you blank out on and simply don’t know whether not you should get rid of them, just put them in a box and mark them “to go through in three  or six months (set a date on your calendar), when your life settles down a bit. I found that a two years after marriage and year after our first child, I was able to get rid of many more items. I had a better grasp then of our family’s goals and values.

Take control in your main living areas first. If you are feeling claustrophobia from all the clutter, then clear the main areas first. Store the kitchen utensils and appliances that counter but you only use once a month in the closet and take down decorations that are sitting on coffee tables and end tables. The wider open space will make you feel more in control, and later, you can take them back out.

So if you are in a transition, realize what’s going on. This may be a good time to organize, but it may also be a time to just get into the new groove. Both are okay.

- Verity

Homemade Yogurt Bites and Apple Sauce Drops

My 18 month old is obsessed with yogurt bites. Have you seen those in the baby section at stores? Unfortunately, the bags are small and typically cost a minimum of $1.99 each! I also was concerned about their natural nutritional value considering that they really are a processed food of sorts. One day I saw something on Pinterest that made me think of another option. Why not make my own!?drops

To make yogurt bites or apple sauce drops simply snip a tiny corner off of a Ziploc bag. I did find that Ziploc works far better than fold top, though maybe you would be less messy than I am! Spoon a few tablespoons of yogurt or apple sauce or baby food into the bag, seal it and gently squeeze it toward your corner. Then dollop away!

For freezer space, I found that using a toaster oven tray lined with wax paper or parchment paper worked best. You could experiment around and see what works for you!


    Once you have your tray filled with cute little dots, simply place it in the freezer. Since the drops are so small, it really only needs an hour—perfect for a post nap snack! My daughter LOVES the fact that they are frozen and cool in her mouth. The one downside is that they do thaw quickly, so I only give her a small pile at a time and always on a plate. I just pop them off with a big spatula.We have done various flavors of yogurt, apple sauce and leftover fruit baby foods. My toddlers love that they are always different and it’s a fun way to eat fruit!

It was another one of those shopping trips.

The type where everything seems to be going okay. You are completely in control and then something happens…


For us it was about 8 feet from the register. (We were on the home stretch! That close!)

This was when the 8 month old pooped her diaper. She hates, hates being poopy.

But we were EIGHT feet from the register.

Always optimistic, I headed through the line in hopes of checking out quickly and then going to the bathroom with my cart full of paid for groceries and 3 squirming children.

Like it was going to be quick.

This was when the two year old discovered the candy!

“Put it back with its friends” I told her. She did. Only to find another bar to hold up a moment later. “Put it back with its friends too.” I echoed.

The three year old was sitting amidst the groceries and to my relief began loading the conveyer belt full of them.

I was one handed now – giving in to the eight month old who was swinging over my arm because she didn’t want to sit in her poop.

Still semi- under control.

We were doing okay until the three year old found a head of cabbage that did not have a produce bag.

“Oh no!!!” He burst out “It doesn’t have a bag!! Mama! We need to get a bag!”

“No, it’s okay. It will be okay without a bag today.”

This was too much for him. I lost my helper at that moment.

And my voice seemed to sound like a constant stream.

“Put it back with its friends.It really will be okay without a bag. The lady will put it in a bag. Oh! I have some coupons!! Here they are! Put that candy back with its friends too! Oh. I meant to buy those stamps with a different credit card. Can you take them off now? Oh, you can’t? Okay. That’s okay I guess. They all go back with their friends!! Now, see? Now she put it in a bag! It’s all better! Okay guys! Hold on to the cart!! Now we are all going to walk forward! You need to hold on too! Hurry!”

We finally were done. (Only needing to round up the two year old twice who today discovered the wonderful game of duck around the corner and see if Mama notices). She did come every time she was called, but it was hard to look calm and collected with an increasingly frustrated poopy baby hanging in mid-air and an OCD preschooler who suddenly had passionate opinions about the buying process of our vegetables.

After the bathroom, I got in the car exhausted. Control was gone.

All three were crying because it was 12:14, and they were hungry. The Ramen noodles I’d promised the 3 year old had somehow been missed in the rush, and he, who had been so good and helpful for the shopping trip, was deeply disappointed and feeling quite betrayed.

Before I could cry too, there was a knock on the window.

It was a woman around my age.

“I just wanted to say I’m so impressed with you.” she said.

She waved into the car at the three red-faced kids, and they all simultaneously stopped crying to watch her.

Getting out for a moment to talk to her, I was deeply encouraged by her kind words.

I got back in the quiet car feeling greatly lightened.

And driving home, I reflected on the trip. We’ve had many frustrating shopping trips, and it was easy to be discouraged that we had had yet another. However, I was not.

I realized that:

The 3 year old had done a great job obeying and helping today.

The 2 year old needed to work on not touching and not running, but she also obeyed when told to put items back and to come.

And someone gave me a compliment. :-) :-) :-)

So if you are a tired Mom: There is hope! It feels like the struggle with their little selfish hearts is endless, but it’s not. They have victories, and when they gain victory in one area the old struggles are replaced with different struggles. That is part of growth Then you help them through those too. Don’t let this be discouraging. Focus on the victories. Praise them for them, and realize that they will gain victory over the new areas of struggle.

And if you are not a tired Mom at this time in your life and you see a Mom who is trying really hard somewhere, tell her she is doing a good job. Momhood is pretty thankless. Chances are you will make her month.

That kind stranger made mine. :-)

- Verity