Best of Back to School

Have your kiddos started school yet? I know it is the last week of summer for some, but for the rest of us, we’re diving into the year! My oldest has just started kindergarten!

As a newbie to this back to school season (on the parents side), I am sharing a few of my favorite back to school posts!

Rentrée / Back to schoolsource Olivier Bacquet

In fact now that the kiddos are back-to-school, you hopefully have a little extra time to get started on a few projects. Like making cookies for breakfast, yes please!

How are you preparing for back to school? Are you as excited as I am to welcome in the fall season?

Recipe Round-up

I still remember the thrill of getting a glimpse into someone’s school binder. That tiny peek into my peers world was fun then and it’s still a delight now. Though these days, the peeks are to gather inspiration and ideas. For example, a recipe binder can tell you a lot about a person. I’ve shared how a few others organize their recipes; and a look at my own various recipe binder updates, so it’s no wonder that today I am jumping with joy over our guest poster, Jill.

On her own blog, Order Up Organizing, Jill shares step-by-step instructions to create your own recipe binder. And today she was kind enough to share that info with Space for Living readers. Not only does Jill help others organize their kitchens, she is also a registered dietitian, which means meal planning is her specialty! Welcome Jill!

Imagine you’re thumbing through the latest issue of Real Simple and you see a recipe that you’re interested in trying. What do you do? Do you fold over the corner of the page, so you’ll remember to come back to it and add the magazine to the growing pile in the corner? Do you tear out the page and hope it ends up in the stack of disorganized clippings in your pantry? Are you very disciplined and immediately grab a recipe card and create a new addition to your alphabetized recipe box? Or do you scan the recipe to be included in your computer-based recipe organizer?

If the system you’ve been using has not been working for you, I have a solution that does not require extreme discipline—just a couple of hours to get it set up.

1. Gather all of the recipes you’ve been collecting.

Remember those printed from the internet and cut from magazines or food containers. If the recipes in the magazines have not been marked yet, take some time to go through them and mark those you’d like to try.

2. Gather all the tools you’ll need for the project:

  • Binder
  • Sheet Protectors
  • Paper (note: the paper should be standard size to fit in sheet protectors)
  • Scissors or other Paper Cutter
  • Glue
  • Ruler (if you’re particular about square edges)
  • Dividers
  • Labels & Marker (or label maker, if you prefer)
  • Pen
  • Sticky Notes
  • Trash Can
  • A Snack (all of the delicious recipes can spark a craving)

3. Sort recipes into piles by categories.

Choose categories that will make it easiest for you to find the recipe you’re looking for. Some ideas may be:

  • Ethnicity of Dish: Italian, Irish, Mexican, etc.
  • Type of Gathering: family, entertaining, etc.
  • Holidays: Thanksgiving, Fourth of July, etc.
  • Seasons: Summer, Winter, etc.
  • Type of Dish: Salads, Sandwiches, Soups, Casseroles, etc.

If you’re stuck on categories, check out some cookbooks or online recipe collections for ideas. For this project, the categories were:

  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Vegetarian
  • Other Meats
  • Sides
  • Desserts
  • Appetizers
  • Bread

4. Tackle each category, one at a time.

Cut the recipe from the page, if necessary, and glue it to a sheet of paper. My scrapbooking friends would surely get caught up in this step, however, if function is your focus, simply attach the recipe to the sheet securely and slide into a sheet protector. Some things to consider:

  • How many recipes per page?
  • Do you want recipes on both the front and back of each page?
  • Is alphabetizing worth the time?
  • Will you develop an index?

5. Add the sleeves into the binder with dividers between categories.

It may be necessary to slide your dividers into a sheet protector with a slice in the side to allow the tab to extend past the pages. At this point, you may also find you have enough in one category to create a separate binder designated to that category.

6. Store items needed for efficient use of the binder.

Store a pen and a sticky note pad in the binder so you can add notes to recipes (i.e. too much salt, cook five minutes longer, omit onions) or label which ones you have tried. Keep extra paper and sleeves in the binder to make adding additional recipes a quick task.

7. Enjoy your newly organized recipe system by planning this week’s meals.

Evaluate your recipe book on a regular basis. Purge recipes you didn’t enjoy or ones that don’t meet your preferences anymore. You may decide to establish a one-in/one-out rule to keep the collection within the size of the binder.

This quick project paves the way for a system that will reduce the amount of clutter in your home while providing you tools for exploring your cooking skills. Remember to recycle your magazines or share them with others. Maybe someone at work has different tastes and would appreciate the recipes you’ve opted to leave out of your recipe binder.

How do you organize your recipes? Which categories help you locate the recipe you’re looking for?

Jill Hively is a registered dietitian and meal planning consultant in Apex, North Carolina. In her workbook Jumpstart Your Family’s Meal Plan, she encourages families to head back to the dining room table one grocery list at a time. To learn more about Jill’s meal planning philosophy (and her slight obsession with food safety), visit


Thanks Jill for sharing your detailed tutorial. It couldn’t have come at a better time because I am about to give my own recipe binder a quick overhaul (Has anyone else seen Fork over Knives?!). The sheet protectors make for an easy and quick switcheroo.

3 Tips for making Dinnertime a Breeze


Happy Tip Tuesday! Today, I am sharing a few tips I learned the hard way.  My mom made it look so easy to get dinner on the table. While I was growing up, she did it every day and she had 4 kids. Now that I have 2 of my own little ones, I have discovered the crazy and very real time deemed the “witching hour.”  Who knew babies and toddlers go crazy from 4-5:30pm!

A plan for your meals is the first step to make your evening go smoother.  Once you have your Meal Plan covered, here are 3 tips that I found to take a little witch out of the witching hour:

1. Plan for Multiple Interruptions

Instead of planning enough time for one interruption, plan enough time for 2-3 interruptions.  Try to have a set time when you start dinner, no matter what you’re making.  A consistent start time that leaves you some wiggle room will help offset problems when inevitably something goes wrong.  That wiggle room is crucial, especially when you have preschoolers running around while you are trying to focus on getting dinner on the table.

When I leave myself enough time, I don’t get as frustrated when the interruptions happen.  One night last week, I had both girls pee on the bathroom floor (they have both been potty trained for a while, mind you) and one of my daughters decided to scribble with a purple dry erase marker on almost every surface in their room.

2. Prep in the morning after breakfast, after lunch or even the night before.

Think about what you are having tomorrow night for dinner while prepping for tonight’s meal.  What can you do more of now to make tomorrow’s meal easier? Could you grate more cheese, throw a squash in the oven while the casserole is cooking, chop carrots for 2 nights from now?  If you are home for lunch and chopping some type of fruit or veggie, it is easy to reuse the knife to chop whatever veggies you are having for dinner later that night.

3. Fill the sink with water while cooking

This is not a new concept, but it is amazing what a difference it can make in your prep and clean-up. While you are eating dinner pans can soak. And when you’re done eating, clear the table right into the sink while you are putting away food, or making lunches for tomorrow. Your plates are soaking and then can go right in the dishwasher or get hand washed with less elbow grease needed. A simple step can make a big difference.

Of course none of this will get that marker off of the wall, but it will keep you much calmer as you scrub.

What are your best tips to help get dinner on the table? Do you have any witching hour stories of your own? Any freezer meal/once-a-month cooking mammas?


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