organizing

Organized Grocery Shopping

I love grocery shopping. I love heading into the store with an empty basket and walking through the produce section to see all the delicious fruits and vegetables. I love wandering the aisles and imagining all the things I could make with the ingredients there. I fill my reusable bags full of healthy food and vibrant colors with my head held high.

Unless of course my kids are with me – in which case I’m buying everything on my list and getting the hell out of there as quickly as possible.

Since I only get to go grocery shopping alone about once every three months, you can bet I’m getting in, getting the things on my list and getting out as quickly as I can. Blissful browsing and hunting for that package of tamarind paste is just gonna have to wait.

Thankfully, there are ways organize your trip to save time and reduce stress – because organized grocery shopping is efficient grocery shopping. I feel like I’ve developed a pretty solid strategy and since it works so well for me I figured I’d share it with you.

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So here, without further ado, are my organized grocery shopping tips:

Know your store. I always shop at the same store and I know it well. I know the fastest and most efficient way to make my way through the store so that I can get the things I need quickly. Produce first, then the bakery, meats & cheese, dry goods, dairy, frozen foods and cleaning supplies.

Here’s a little drawing of how my favorite grocery store is laid out.

Grocery Store Layout

Have an organized list. I use two separate lists for keeping track of what I need. I have a list on a chalkboard in my kitchen (it’s not a real chalkboard – it’s a frame from Target with black paper inside that I write on with chalkboard markers) that I use on a daily basis.

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As I notice something that I need to purchase I write it on the chalkboard.

When I’m planning our meals for the week I use a list I created in Remember the Milk. First I sit down and add everything I need for our meals for that week, then I add anything I wrote on the chalkboard. At that point I erase chalkboard and have it ready for the next week.

Remember the Milk is my FAVORITE list making service. It’s cloud based and multi-platform so I can add stuff to my grocery list no matter where I am.

In Remember the Milk each item has four different priority options and I use those to keep my grocery list organized. I divided my grocery store into four sections and assigned each section a priority level. Every time I enter an item on my grocery list I assign it a priority setting depending on where it’s located in the store.

Priority 1 = Produce
Priority 2 = Seafood, Bakery, Deli, Meat & Cheese
Priority 3 = Dry Goods
No Priority = Dairy, Frozen Food, Cleaning Supplies & Pharmacy

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My grocery list is set to sort items based on priority so all the items in my list are grouped by where they are located in the store.

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As I walk through the store I make sure every item in that location is checked off before I move onto the next section. This eliminates a lot of walking back and forth which saves time. My goal is to hit each section once and not go back.

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Keep your basket organized. I use a smaller hand held basket inside the larger shopping cart to neatly stack produce. The smaller basket keeps the easily bruised produce from getting squished in the cart and it leaves the real estate in the buggy open for larger, heavier items like flour or laundry detergent so I’m not constantly rearranging stuff.

The carts at my grocery store have a smaller space in the top of the front and I use that for cold items.

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By organizing your cart by food type you can unload it by type at checkout. When you unload by type you make it easier for the person bagging the groceries to keep like items together making the checkout process faster. That’s a win for you and the grocery store!

Though grocery shopping is still a chore at least by being organized I’ve made it as painless as it can be. Yes, most of the time the kids fight and scream and sometimes cry but at least I have a plan and that’s a good place to start!

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The Benefits of Labeling & My Favorite Labeling Tools

You know that feeling right after you clean out a drawer or a closet and it looks clean and happy? It just seems that the world’s stress is being relieved simply by reorganizing your pens or cleaning out your pantry.

Eventually though the inevitable happens. Stuff gets shoved in all willy nilly. Nothing goes back where you had it. You forget which shelf the peanut butter goes on so you just shove it in an any available space. Your hard won organization is gone.

*sad face*

So how do you keep the organizational peace? How do you keep the chaos from returning from a previously organized space?

Labels.

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I know. You think you don’t need labels.

Silly, Joni! I’m the only one who puts anything away. I don’t need labels. I know where everything goes!

You’re wrong. If you’re going to take the time to organize a space – be it a junk drawer or your refrigerator – you need to label it to make sure that everyone in the household is accountable to putting things back in the proper place. Including you.

It doesn’t take much to label something. A sticky note and a pen go a long way. If you want to get fancy you can purchase a label maker.

I bought my label maker at Wal-Mart several years ago (here’s the Amazon link for one that is similar). It’s not one of those fancy ones with special fonts that comes with it’s own case but it’s compact and refill tape is cheap and easy to find.

You can get the tape in white plastic, white paper and clear plastic. White plastic tends to be may favorite for high contrast and easily readability but I use clear when I want to put the label on top of something else.

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The type of label I use depends a lot on the intended use of the space. I’ll use my label maker for stuff I know needs to be easy to read and whose contents won’t likely change.

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I’ll use chalkboard vinyl and chalkboard markers for labels that may change. The vinyl can be cut to any shape and the chalkboard marker can be wiped off the vinyl and rewritten as your needs change. No need to remove the label.

For example, the kids’ dresser drawers are labeled with chalkboard vinyl/markers because as the seasons change we may need to rework the use of drawer space. I don’t have to remove the label, just wipe it clean and rewrite.

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I also use chalkboard vinyl and markers on my spice tins.

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I didn’t appreciate the power of a label until very recently. For a while I thought that labels were for everyone else because obviously I would remember where stuff goes (since I put it there) but I quickly learned that the labels work just as well for me. There’s something about a label that forces you to be less lazy and more proactive when putting things away.

Yes, even us organizational types have a lazy streak.

Labeling holds you and your entire household accountable to the contents of a container. If you want to make sure the pens always go back in the same place, no matter who is putting them away, a label is the way to go.

Want to dip your toes in the pool but don’t have a lot of time? Start with a small project like a particularly messy dresser drawer. Once you see how easy and efficient labeling is you’ll be labeling everything.

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Watch out kids! You’re next!

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organizing the laundry

Organizing the Laundry

organizing the laundryLaundry. No one likes doing laundry.  It’s a pain. It takes forever. It’s never finished. Folding laundry might be the most universally hated household chore in existence.

Fortunately, doing laundry doesn’t have to be the monster we make it out to be. By organizing the laundry and doing it with purpose we can keep keep the laundry monster out of the hamper.

Do laundry often.

As odd as it sounds I’m telling you to do this chore that you hate – more often.

Why? Because laundry that is done often really isn’t that bad. Washing often means smaller loads and smaller loads dry faster, are less daunting and quicker to fold. By washing frequently you give stains less time to set and you don’t need as many clothes.

When you wait until you’re out of clothes, you’re forcing yourself to tackle the laundry all at once because ALL MY UNDERWEAR AND SOCKS ARE DIRTY! You’ve backed yourself into a laundry corner that involves being stuck at home all weekend while you wash, dry and fold 10 loads of laundry all at once. Because if all YOUR socks are dirty, most likely so are everyone else’s.

Remember when I said that intentional living was going to be mentioned often on this blog? Intentional living means being proactive, not reactive. No more putting out fires. Let’s keep the fires from starting in the first place.

When you do laundry before it becomes urgent, you’re choosing to solve a problem before it even becomes one saving yourself the stress of a minor-crisis. If you’re going to be stressed save it for something important, don’t waste it on laundry.

Sort as you go.

Get a sorting hamper and sort as you wear your clothes. By sorting clothes as you go, you can do laundry through out the week, doing a little bit every day. We have a three bin laundry hamper so we sort into three piles: colors, whites and nice clothes. I labeled the bins so it’s clear to everyone in the house what goes in which bin.

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I bought this hamper about 12 years ago and it shows. It’s stained and fraying on the sides. I’ve had to repair it several times but I love it and it works great so I’m sticking with it. When the canvas finally gives out I will probably attempt to make a new one. I love it that much.

Create a laundry schedule.

Plan it according to how you wear your clothes. I have 4 categories of laundry. The three mentioned above and kitchen laundry.  I do one category of laundry each day Monday through Thursday. My number one goal is to have all the laundry done during the work week so I can do something fun on Friday and relax a bit on the weekend.

Sunday: I go upstairs and get the kid’s laundry hampers. I then sort all their clothes in with our clothes so I’ve got laundry prepped for the week. Hampers are then taken back upstairs.

Monday: I wash all the colors on Monday. Sometimes it’s one load, sometimes it’s two. It just depends on how busy we were over the weekend and how many sets of clothes we went through. By washing colors on Monday I make sure that the kids and I have plenty to wear throughout the week and the stinkies from the weekend don’t rot in the hamper.

Tuesday: I wash all the whites. Sometimes one load, sometimes two. It all depends.

Wednesday: Kitchen laundry/catchup from Monday & Tuesday if we were busy. Kitchen laundry is generally a very small load so I try to use this day to do any catch up from Monday and Tuesday if we were busy and I didn’t get a chance to finish my loads those days.

Thursday: Nice clothes, which get divided up into 3 separate loads: light, dark and denim By doing nice clothes on Thursday, my hubby has plenty of clothes to choose from on Monday morning. (He wears jeans on Friday).

Treat stains on the spot.

Find a good stain remover that allows you to pre-treat and leave on the garment (not all pre-treaters allowing letting the garment to set. My favorite is Shout Advance Gel. I keep a spray bottle of this stuff in the sock drawer of my dresser so Jason and I can easily treat our clothes before they even go in the hamper. I also keep a bottle in Alvy’s room (on a very high shelf) so I can do the same when I’m changing him.

Let it go. 

No matter how much laundry gets shoved in the hamper when that category is done for the week, it is DONE. Big fat check mark. Don’t touch it again until the next week. When your spouse comes home and throws a towel in the whites, which you just finished putting away don’t stare daggers his/her way, just take a deep breath. That towel will be there next week.

The same goes for the kid’s clothes. Anything that goes into the hampers after they’ve been emptied on Sunday will have to wait until the next week.

When you start a category, FINISH it.

When I say finish it I mean FINISH IT, including folding it and putting it away before you go to bed. When you wake up in the morning you don’t want to start you day with a pile of laundry staring you in the face. Once you’re behind, you’re BEHIND and catching up is tough. I generally try to start all my loads before noon because I know that if it goes in after noon then most likely it won’t get finished before I go to bed.

Have a folding routine. 

Since folding laundry is right next to having a root canal on my list of things I’d like to do on any given day, I do everything I can to make it as easy as possible.

I fold laundry on our bed. It’s a big flat space and is perfect for spreading everything out. It’s also easy to put away mine and Jason’s clothes if I’m already in the bedroom.

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I dump the basket full of laundry in the center of the bed. My husband and I have two kids, a boy and a girl which means we have two males and two females in our household so I break up our piles by gender. When I fold I always put the girl’s clothes on the left side of the bed and the boys clothes on the right.  Towels and linens go on my dresser behind me. Folding is much faster if you’re not constantly searching for random piles.

If you don’t have an even boy/girl split you can divide up your piles by age or order of bedrooms. It’s totally up to you. The takeaway here is that when you’re not constantly searching for stacks of clothes folding will go much faster.

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For clothes that need to be hung, I take them out of the dryer immediately and lay them out on our bed in stacks by type of item. I’ll stack up all the shirts, all the shorts and all the pants. Then I count how many hangers I need and come back to put them on hangers. After everything is on hangers I put them in the closet.

I know what you’re thinking, well you stay at home all day so you have a the time to get laundry done. Yes, that’s partially true but even if you work outside the home you can still get one load of laundry done every day. Put it in the washer before you leave for work, put it in the dryer as soon as you get home and fold/put it away after dinner.

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