Guides and How-To's Archives - Percolate Kitchen

How to Survive Cooking Your First Thanksgiving In 6 Important Steps

Thanksgiving Survival Guide | Percolate Kitchen (click to read the full post!)

Cooking your first Thanksgiving can be nervewracking. It’s a big day with SO MUCH pressure, it can feel overwhelming!

So you’re the person in charge of Thanksgiving dinner this year. Lucky you!

Except…. not. There are so many moving parts to Thanksgiving, how can you keep track of them all!?

Maybe you’re freaking out about cooking your first Thanksgiving because you’ve never cooked for these many people before?

Or, last year you cooked and it was a disaster. Cold turkey, chewy mashed potatoes (how!?), and a dinner that finally got on the table 3 hours after you meant it to.

 

Or, your mom/grandma/aunt/uncle has always cooked an AWESOME dinner but they’re not able to this year, and the pressure is on!

Or, your kitchen is teeny tiny and you have zero space for a normal week’s groceries and gadgets, let alone the amount you’ll need for MORE.  

Fear not, my busy friend. I’ve been there, I’ve burned the mashed potatoes, and I lived to tell the tale.

You will, too!

But before that, here are 6 steps I learned from the ground up that can help you survive cooking your first Thanksgiving, whether you’re new to the game or just plain freaking overwhelmed.

Before we get into the 6 steps, download your copy of the Thanksgiving Game Plan! I’ve got a FREE packet for you, with 2 cheat sheets and a checklist for your Thanksgiving prep. Leave your name and email down below and I’ll send it to you!

6 STEPS TO CONQUERING THANKSGIVING DINNER

STEP ONE: WRITE IT ALL DOWN

This is the first, and possibly the most crucial step of the whole process of Thanksgiving dinner: get it all out on paper.

Start with an enormous list; include every single thing you’ll need to remember. Just get it all out, then work backward from there, breaking the list into smaller parts.

Write your whole guest list first.

As you’re figuring out the guest list, now is the time- before you decide on the menu- to find out who’s got allergies, who’s vegan, who’s able to bring their famous pumpkin pie along, etc.

Don’t forget the kids!

For example, do you have an uncle who likes to pour gravy all over everything, even his salad? Make a quick note of that on your guest list, so you don’t forget when you’re writing out your menu.

Then, write your entire menu.

This is the fun part! Keeping those with dietary restrictions in mind, figure out the recipes you’ll be making for the big day.

Cruise Pinterest, magazines, blogs, Google, ask your friends and family on Facebook for recipe recommendations. Keep it simple, but have fun!

If a recipe is super new to you, try to fit in a ‘practice’ run in the week or so before Thanksgiving. Being familiar with a recipe helps to take the edge off the stress of cooking on the day of.

Another important tenet of writing out your menu is deciding on what you can make ahead of time and chill or freeze until Thanksgiving Day; I’ll touch on the specifics of that later in the post. But it helps to, as you’re writing out your menu for the day, make a mental note of what can be made ahead to take some of the day-of pressure off.

How do I know what to serve at Thanksgiving dinner?

If you’re drawing a blank on what a typical T-giving day menu includes, no sweat. Here’s what I always make sure to have on the big day:

  • the turkey, turkey seasoning, and stuffing/dressing
  • gravy, made with the turkey drippings and extra gravy made ahead of time with chicken stock
  • mashed potatoes
  • salad
  • 1-2 casseroles/side dishes
  • cranberry sauce
  • bread rolls/biscuits/etc

THAT’S IT. Anything else is extra. Trust me on this one. You do not need to pull out all the stops!

Write a rough timeline

This is where the dirt meets the road, my friends. Once you have the particulars like guest list and menu figured out, your timeline (or ‘game plan’) will be the single most important process of the meal- before you start cooking.

I’d wager to say it’s more important than the actual cooking. With the right game plan, your stress load will be remarkably minimized! 

The trick is to start early. 

No matter how much more time there is between now and Thanksgiving, take a few minutes and write out everything that needs to be done between now and the morning of.

This includes grocery shopping. Turkey ordering. Booze procurement. Make-ahead items. The breakdown of cooking Thanksgiving day itself.

Still feeling overwhelmed? 

I’ve got a great download that will help you – and it’s FREE! Download this ‘Game Plan’ packet that includes three helpful cheat sheets: one to help figure out your overarching gameplan, one to figure out how much food to serve, and a Thanksgiving Day checklist. 

 

STEP TWO: UTILIZE YOUR GUEST LIST

Accept the help!

I get it, I do. It’s hard accepting help. I struggle with it all the time.

But with a dinner like Thanksgiving, it’s okay to lean on people. When someone asks, “what can I bring?” be honest. Tell them!

Here are some suggestions you can ask people to bring
    booze
    desserts
    whipped cream
    ice cream
    serving dishes and spoons
    napkins, cutlery, glasses, tablecloth
    side dishes

In all actuality, everything but the turkey can be brought potluck-style by someone else.

(And technically, the turkey can be brought in from somewhere else, too!)

What about the cleanup?

Don’t forget to figure this out! Try not to make it all on you; you’ll be doing enough that day!

Add extra plastic storage containers, cling film, and ziplock bags to your grocery list so that you store leftovers and send stuff home with guests.

If someone asks how they can help, ask if they’ll chip in with cleaning and storing food after the meal. It’s a cheesy old adage, but it’s true: heavy hands really do make light work!

STEP THREE: FIGURE OUT HOW MUCH FOOD YOU’LL NEED

Check out the image below; I’ve created an easy primer for figuring out how much food you’ll need for each guest. Obviously, you can play around with this; kids will eat less, some adults will eat more.

And don’t forget the leftovers! Turkey sandwiches the day after Thanksgiving is one of my favorite parts of the holiday!

Click the image to enlarge. You can also fill in your email address in the box below the image to download this AND the gameplan primer AND a checklist for the day, all in the one go!

STEP FOUR: CREATE A GAME PLAN

What’s your Thanksgiving game plan?

Think of a football coach in this way; you need to have a full ‘game plan’ mapped out ahead of time. This is what helps you create a clear path to Thanksgiving victory.

The best way to create a ‘Cooking Your First Thanksgiving’ game plan is to start big, then whittle it down to actionable steps.

Here’s what I mean by starting big, then whittling down:

BIG THING: grocery shop

WHITTLED DOWN:

Decide on the items you’re making (don’t include the dishes guests may be bringing).

Write down every single ingredient you’ll need, then check your cupboards and fridges to see what you’ve got and what you can substitute in.

Then, write your grocery list.

Clear your fridge for the onslaught of new items you’ll be bringing home.

Bring your list to the store (aside: Somehow, I manage to forget this every year 🤦 Don’t be like me. Remember your list!)

BIG THING: Cook Thanksgiving dinner

WHITTLED DOWN:

Decide the time you want dinner to be on the table, then work backward from there: How long will the turkey take? That’s when it goes in the oven.

Other questions to help figure out your timing: How long to prep the turkey before it goes in the oven? What items can be cooked beforehand and then reheated for dinner? What can be made in the ~20 minutes while the turkey rests after it’s out of the oven?

Tip: To avoid looking at your now enormous list of clear steps and getting overwhelmed, start with the smallest, easiest things first. Not only will it feel good to cross a handful of things off your list in a short period of time, but it will get the ball rolling in a ‘snowball’ effect; more things done means more momentum for the rest.

Need help organizing your thoughts? Here’s a game plan primer to download!

Click the image to enlarge; OR, leave your name and email below and get this game plan, plus the food amounts cheat sheet I mentioned in the last step and a master checklist.

You can do this!

 

STEP FIVE: WORK THE GAME PLAN

Getting down to business on the day of Thanksgiving

Now comes the real balancing act: cooking (and reheating) everything on the day of Thanksgiving, and getting it all on the table at the same time.

This is the step that I struggled with for years! I would find myself frantically mashing potatoes while everyone else was sitting down to dinner, privately cursing my mismanaged time.

But I’ve gathered a few tips in the meantime that will help you not make some of the same mistakes I did early on! Click the images below to enlarge. You can also pin them to save for later!

STEP SIX: HAVE A PLAN FOR CLEANUP

It’s the least fun part of the day, but don’t forget the post-Thanksgiving dinner cleanup and storage.

Having a rough idea of how this will play out will make it go much smoother and faster. I personally kind of enjoy cleaning up after Thanksgiving, although I’m usually beat after all that cooking. But it’s a nice time to reflect and chat with people on a more casual, one-to-one level.

Plus, when you’re in the kitchen you’re located at the prime advantage point for sneaking another piece of pie or a glass of wine. Score!

When people ask if they can bring something to help, sometimes I’ll tell them not to bring anything but to plan on chipping in to wash dishes.

I also make sure to always clean as I cook, which cuts down on the anxiety-inducing pile of post-dinner casserole dishes.

And lastly, I make double sure that there’s plenty of big ziplock baggies, plastic storage containers, cling film, tin foil, etc to both store food easily and send people home with leftovers.

There you have it; the Six Steps to Cooking Your First Thanksgiving!

If you’re a veteran Thanksgiving cook, or you think I forgot something- I wanna hear about it! Do you have any extra tips and tricks you wish you knew before jumping into cooking a Thanksgiving dinner? Leave a message in the comment section below!

Don’t forget to download my FREE Thanksgiving Game Plan by entering your email in the boxes below. You’ll get access to a gameplan breakdown cheat sheet, a checklist for the big day, and my food amounts cheat sheet. It’s a really helpful little packet!

Still nervous about cooking for the big day? I got your back, busy friend. Click here to buy my whole Thanksgiving meal plan, including recipes, grocery lists, cheat sheets, worksheets, storage and make-ahead ideas, and fully itemized grocery list. It’s insanely helpful and jampacked with info that will save you a TON of time planning, prepping and getting ready for Thanksgiving!

Tips and Ingredient Substitutions To Make You a Damn Better Baker

I like how she lays out really easy to follow tips and ideas to be a better baker! I saved the pdf to my phone and it's super easy to use, with ingredient substitutions and little hacks i can use when I'm baking stuff like cookies or cake. Super handy!

I like how she lays out really easy to follow tips and ideas to be a better baker! I saved the pdf to my phone and it's super easy to use, with ingredient substitutions and little hacks i can use when I'm baking stuff like cookies or cake. Super handy!

I’ll ‘fess up: baking is not my strong suit. So over the years, I’ve hoarded all the baking tips, hacks and ingredient substitutions I could find, hoping they could help me learn to be a better baker.

And you know what? They’ve helped!

I’ve gone from making horribly rock-solid cookies, sunken cakes and dirty-tasting brownies, to making deliciously airy meringues and moist, yummy cakes.

I’ll probably always be on the lookout for sneaky tricks that make me be a better baker, but I’ve gotten a heck of a lot better than I was.

I’ve been keeping most of the hacks, tips, and tricks I find stored away in a big fat Evernote file.

Because I’m me and I’m obsessed with organizing my Evernote, I’ve got every tip tagged. That way, I can quickly search something like “butter substitution” when I find myself stuck.

(Which reminds me. The image below is one of my fave baking hacks, especially for when I suddenly discover I’m short on butter!)

In any case, I’ve got the whole list of all my fave hacks, tips, ingredient substitutions right here for ya!

Keep this list handy in your back pocket and you’ll maybe be a halfway decent baker like me someday (HIGH FIVE!)

Oh, and I have a bonus for you! I created a handy-dandy little printable of my fave baking ingredient substitutions. Print it out and hang it up, save it, or even just save the pdf straight to the home screen on your phone. It might come in handy!

Just fill out your email below to grab it!

HERE ARE MY ALL-TIME FAVE BAKING HACKS AND TIPS TO MAKE YOU A DAMN BETTER BAKER:

»Take the chill away: Let your eggs and milk come to room temperature before using.

»Weight over volume: When possible, weigh your ingredients instead of using a measuring cup or spoon. It’s a lot more accurate!

»Turn them around: Rotate your baked goods in the oven halfway through baking.

MAKE LIGHT AND AIRY BISCUITS:

KEEP THAT FLOUR FRESH

»No peeking! Keep the oven door closed while your item is baking. This one I learned the hard way (it’s the number one cause of sunken cakes!)

»Make your own powdered sugar: pulse it in the food processor or blender until it’s super fine.

»Cold hands, warm heart, better bread. It’s way easier to knead with cool hands, but I tend to run hot in the best of situations (especially when I’m breakin’ a sweat kneading dough!) If my hands start to get too hot, I’ll run them under cool water for a bit. It helps the dough knead way easier.

SKIP THE FLOURED SURFACE

MIX YOUR BUTTER BETTER

That’s it! Go forth and bake like the badass you are.

Got more tips and ideas? I wanna hear them! Leave your favorites in the comments, or drop me a line on social media. My profile links are at the top of the page!

HERE’S THE DOWNLOAD LINK  TO THE PRINTABLE BAKING SUBSTITUtION AGAIN! IT’S SUPER HANDY- I HOPE YOU LOVE IT!

Is Online Grocery Shopping with Thrive Market Really Worth the Hype?

(This page contains affiliate links. Read my full disclosure.)

Like all busy city-living people, I often find myself doing my grocery shopping online… like, a lot.

What can I say? I’m a busy working mom. We walk and take the train everywhere we need to go; I don’t even own a car. I want my kids to eat healthily and not break the bank. And I’m not crazy about dragging them around the grocery store since I usually acquiesce to terrorist toddler demands for juice boxes.

 

And so, I have fallen in love with online grocery shopping. I love the ease of it, especially that I can do it at 10 pm in my pj’s while drinking a glass of wine and half-watching Netflix.

I can comparison shop much easier when I can go online grocery shopping. I find it helps me stay in my budget much better. And when I do run out of something too fast, or forget to put it on my list, I can run into a physical store, grab the thing, and get out before my 3-year-old can even say “CHEDDAR BUNNIES!”

So when I discovered Thrive Market, an online grocery store that offers organic and natural foods at drastically reduced prices compared to physical stores, I was like this:

Here are the two BIG things I love about Thrive Market:

• Their amazing prices. Seriously, I spend less on pantry items and snacks here than I did before. Like, way less. Thrive estimates I’ll save over $600 with them before the year is out!

•Their kind heart. I admit, it’s a bit of a bite spending $59.95 a year on membership, even if their prices are awesome. BUT, for every membership purchased, Thrive donates a FREE membership to a family in need. 

Honestly, that was my nail in the coffin. If my membership can help our family save money AND get quality, lower-cost organic and all natural ingredients and household goods to another family, then sign me up, man.

But of course, when you get right down to it, the best online grocery shopping experience offers great products at great prices.

Thrive offers this and more (if you don’t believe me, check out their awesome app. #lifesaver)

Guys, I’m not buying something if it’s not worth my time, dollars, or effort.

I don’t care if it’s coconut oil hand harvested by virgins and cold pressed with vintage heritage wood, if it’s eleventy jillion dollars or requires actual effort on my behalf, I’m gonna pass.

So I thought I would order a few of my favorite items (the kind that cost significantly less than eleventy jillion dollars while also making my life easier), do a quick ‘unboxing’ video, and let you see how the process works!

I ordered all these items late on Friday afternoon and they arrived on Tuesday with the regular UPS delivery. Not bad, I’d say. Amazon Prime has them beat but isn’t that the case with everything?

Here are my favorite products from Thrive, along with the approximate price structures that I found on Amazon for the same products. (not all products are on Amazon; I linked the ones I could find!)

*Note since Amazon prices change on the reg, I used a little system here. $ is anything under $5, $$ is between $5 and 15, and $$$ is above $15)

(all links below are affiliate links, just so you’re aware!)

Want to see the unboxing of my snack haul in action?

Watch the video below!

That’s it! If you have ANY questions about WHY Thrive Market is the best organic online grocery store, the total bee’s knees, and why I think you’ll adore it, drop me a message!

Happy shopping!

7 Easy Steps for Meal Plan Beginners

Meal plan beginners can have it rough- figuring out how to start can be overwhelming! Here are 7 tips to get you started where you need to be.

Meal planning and meal prep can feel overwhelming if you’re new to it, and believe me, I’ve been there! Here are 7 easy steps any meal planning beginner can sink their teeth into, without feeling totally lost in the process.

When I first started out meal planning, I was confused. I felt ‘tied down’ to some random list of recipes that I had arbitrarily decided on earlier that week.

I’d write my meal plan on Saturday, and then by the time I got to Wednesday I would just throw the whole thing out the window and pick up the phone for takeout.

 

But alas, our budget is not to be trifled with, and this whole meal plan disaster thing wasn’t doing me any favors in the wallet or waistline. So I sat my butt down, and I read everything I could on meal planning, and eventually, I crafted myself an awesome little plan that worked gangbusters for our family.

Are you new to meal planning, like I once was? It can feel archaic, and boring, I know, but that’s only if you’re using yo’ momma’s old school meal plan, and let me tell you: it’s a new century, bud, and meal planning has come up along with it.

However, I also know that once there’s a solid plan in place, meal planning for beginners can usually just mean following a certain strategy of steps.

And before you know it: you go from a meal planning beginner to a Master Meal Planner.

Meal Planning Queen, if you prefer.

Meal Planning Messiah.

(Too far? Ok; we’ll stick with ‘master’)

 

But don’t take my word for it! I checked in with 6 other awesome bloggers and asked their advice for how to start meal planning if you’re new to it, what steps should you take first, and what to do once you’ve started to pull together a plan.

They’ve all got awesome advice, some have handy printables, and they’re all in your corner.

Here’s what they have to say!

If you’re a meal planning beginner, start with the basics.

(Yep, the first one is ME!) this is one of my favorite posts about meal planning on this site (and I have quite a few!). I break it down, step by step, how I started meal planning and what you can do to get your feet wet, too. Read: My Top Three Meal Planning Basics

Even if the recipes says it’s 30 minutes, figure out the real amount of time it will take.

Shelley, from Two Healthy Kitchens, knows the pain we’ve all felt when dealing with a “super quick omg!” recipe: it doesn’t always take the amount of time it says it will. So, figure out how to “read” a recipe right, work that into your timeframe, and you’ll have a better idea how to plan appropriately. Read: Estimating REAL Prep Times

If you hate writing meal plans, try theme nights.

I love this take from Tracy at Simple Living Country Gal. She says to keep a “go-to” list that she can refer to whenever she’s pressed for time. Don’t have a list written out? Ask your family’s input- they might remind you of a dish you can make super quick! Read: Make Dinner Time Easier Without a Meal Plan

You Might Also Like These Other Meal Planning Posts!

Get your kitchen in order to make things run smoother

Jenny, at the Jenny Evolution, has a great list here of how to get your ducks in a row before you even put pen to paper; after all- what good is a meal plan if you can’t find your ingredients or cookware? Read: Easy Meal Planning For Busy Moms

Get your kitchen in order to make things run smoother

Jenny, at the Jenny Evolution, has a great list here of how to get your ducks in a row before you even put pen to paper; after all- what good is a meal plan if you can’t find your ingredients or cookware? Read: Easy Meal Planning For Busy Moms

Start with an easy-to-follow printable to write your meal plan on

Lena, from What Mommy Does, knows the basics of meal planning starts with actually writing the dang thing! I love her simple, easy-to-use meal planning printable with clearly defined spaces. Just click to save and download! Read: Free Printable Weekly Planning Template

When it comes to accommodating different family members, roll with it.

Rachel, at The Mashup Mom, touches on a pain point I think a lot of us have: what to do when your entire family isn’t down with the same eating schedule, diets, or preferences. She spells out steps you can take to mitigate the mess of trying to figure out what to feed everyone.. when everyone has different food needs! Read: How to Modify a Meal Plan for Your Family

Skip the processed stuff and work real food into your meal plan.

Elaina, from The Rising Spoon, has a list of 10 ways you can make sure your meal plan isn’t full of over-processed junk; without taking tons of time out of your week! I love her tip for leftovers (which are my fave, too!) Read: Ten Meal Planning Tips for Beginners Using Real Food

There you have it: 7 awesome tips for meal planning beginners, all designed to help you get groovin’ on your meal planning schedule!

Which was your favorite? I’m excited to get digging into my meal planning routine now!

If you want to take a peek into what I’m cooking each week, then join my brand new member community: Busy Mamas Cooking In Tiny Kitchens!

Each week I add in my own family meal plan so you can see what I’m cookin’ Also get access to what others are cooking, swap recipes, vent about picky eaters, and more.

Leave your info below to join, and I hope to see you there!

Heck yes, that sounds awesome!

Sign me up to the Meal Plan Buddies weekly email, and get your free weekly meal plan, grocery lists, and more.

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9 Simple Ways You Can Organize a Tiny Kitchen

My tiny rental kitchen drives me insane lately! I feel like i can never get good kitchen organization going and i never can find things when I need them. I like how she lays out a bunch of different ideas here so you can find something that works for your tiny space, on a budget and diy.

The pain of organizing a tiny kitchen something I know all too well.

Since moving out of my parent’s house, I’ve lived in approximately 15 homes; exactly one of those had a big, spacious kitchen. The rest have all been…. eclectic.

Maybe ‘itsy-bitsy’ is a more appropriate word?

In any case, I’m no stranger to figuring out tiny kitchen organization and working with mini amounts of counter space, itty-bitty cabinets, and fridges that would feel at home in a college dorm.

And yet – I’ve worked as a freelance, at-home recipe tester, and recipe developer for almost 7 years now, all within a tiny kitchen. I’ve cooked full Thanksgiving dinners for 15 with only 3 feet of counter space

I’ve never been one to let a tiny kitchen area get in the way of my cooking.

And you know what? Kitchen organization simply comes down to being creatively utilizing what you already have!

So with that, I’ve scoured the interwebs to come up with 9 of the coolest ideas I could find for organizing your small kitchen space, without hiring a contractor or storing pots and pans in your bedroom.

Make sure to click on each photo and description to check out the full posts so you can get all the juicy details.

 

FOLLOW MY KITCHEN ORGANIZATION IDEAS BOARD ON PINTEREST FOR EVEN MORE GREAT DIY AND STORAGE IDEAS! 

GET ON TOP OF ALL THINGS KITCHEN

ORGANIZATION WITH THIS SIMPLE EBOOK

Make the Most of Your Kitchen

A few months ago, I wrote a series of posts demonstrating how you can ‘make the most of your kitchen’. It doesn’t matter if you’ve got a huge farmhouse kitchen, or just a wall with a fridge, a stove, and a small counter; with a few tips, the right appliances, and some simple know-how, I’ll show you how you can make any small kitchen organization ‘hack’ work for your space.

I’ve compiled the posts and their accompanying recipes (there are 22!) into this simple, free ebook – click to check it out here and download it to your phone for easy reading!

PREP INGREDIENTS BEFOREHAND

AND CLEAN & ORGANIZE AS YOU GO

Tips to Keep Plastic Containers Organized In The Kitchen

Ellen over at Confessions of an Overworked Mom put together a great post about best practices for storing your plastic and glass food containers. It’s good to know I’m not the only one who sometimes finds storage options of our food containers to be the bane of my existence!

Ellen has a few simple tips for what to look for in storage options, what to keep and throw away, and the best ways you can store those food containers without losing your mind or being buried under plastic lids.

What Is Mise en Place? Preparing Your Kitchen

Shelley from TwoHealthyKitchens is a woman after my own heart. I learned the importance of mise en place while in cooking school and it’s still a habit that I’m glad to have; it makes cooking meals so much easier and faster.

I love Shelley’s words: ” In the 15 years that I’ve had kids, I have rarely cooked an uninterrupted meal. Plan on it – and embrace mise en place as the key to cooking sanity.” Hear, hear, girlfriend! Mise en place is a total sanity saver. Check out the rest of Shelley’s post here. 

 

How to Clean Your Oven (Without Using the Self Cleaning Feature) 

Jessica at AllSheCooks has broken it down here, with tips on how to clean your oven the right way, without using the self-cleaning oven feature.

I too have fallen victim to the self-cleaning oven dream; that is until I used the feature at my mother’s house and her kitchen filled with smoke. Whoops!

Make sure to also check out her tips for cleaning the top of a gas stove; especially those hard to clean hob grates!

USE DIY STORAGE IDEAS FOR KIDS’ SNACKS

AND PANTRY ITEMS

Stocking a Kid Pantry

This idea from Christina at the ShirleyJourney is so smart, it’s the first idea on this list that I plan on fully implementing right away. She’s taken a small bathroom cupboard and turned it into a kid’s snack center! What’s more, she has a great idea for making sure her 4-year-old doesn’t blow through the snacks in a day; I’m thinking I may have to take her up on that idea as well.

She’s taken a small bathroom cupboard and turned it into a kid’s snack center! What’s more, she has a great idea for making sure that even with free access to his snacks, her 4-year-old doesn’t blow through the whole stash in a day; I’m thinking I may have to take her up on that idea as well. What’s more, it helps solve the small kitchen organization problem by moving some of the snacks from the cupboard and into their own designated area.

Organize Your Pantry: Tips From Readers 

Nicole from MomSavesMoney asked her readers how they organize their pantry… and they had some great ideas! I never knew all the ways you could use an over-the-door shoe organizer, but clearly, it’s smart.

However, my all-time fave idea on this list is from her reader Nikki S.: her meal planning idea is cheap and genius! Simply organize your dry goods items in dollar store tubs designated for each day of the week…. it’s so smart. Click through to the post to see what I mean.

Secrets Big Families Use to Stay Organized in the Kitchen 

Sarah from Must Have Mom has what is possibly the cutest kitchen in Minnesota.

She’s put together a handful of great ideas for a kitchen command center, keeping all-important garbage bags at the ready, a menu board, I’m loving her super smart way she keeps from having to wash a thousand kids’ cups every day.

DIY Drawer Organizers 

If you’re like me, you probably have a crapton of Amazon boxes lying around. Or cereal boxes. Or diaper boxes! Damjana from AppleGreenCottage has such a cute, cheap (free!) idea for turning your old cardboard boxes into free drawer organizers and drawer dividers.

These would be handy for keeping a junk drawer or random utensil drawer a little less haphazard!

DIY Spice Rack Without Using Counter Space 

Leanna from Faeries and Fauna Craft Co has put together this crazy-helpful DIY tutorial for building a spice rack on the inside door of your pantry! I love that this means you can just glance at your spices without having to dig around.

There you have it; 9 super easy ways to organize your small kitchen and pantry spaces like the boss you are.

Honestly, I thought I was kind of on top of my own kitchen organization, but after finding all these ideas, I’m pretty sure I’ve got more work to do! Don’t forget to follow my Kitchen Organization board on Pinterest, and if you’ve got some great kitchen organization ideas that the world needs to know about, I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Pick and Choose Chart for Kid’s Packed Lunches

Use these ideas to get your kid's packed lunch ideas flowing! Pick one thing from each section for each lunch packed and be sure your kids cover their food groups and enjoy their lunch at the same time. There's even space to add in your own favorites!

I may be new to the ‘kid’s packed lunch scene’, but it doesn’t mean I’m full of fresh ideas as to what I’m supposed to pack!

“Will she eat this? Is this even healthy? Wait, am I including enough food groups?” Seriously, packing a kids’ lunch shouldn’t be this dang stressful. And yet it’s one of my most dreaded chores.

My kids aren’t school age yet (my son is 1 and my daughter is 3) but three days a week, they go to a babysitter/daycare situation from 9-5, and they bring a packed lunch with them on those days.

I do this so I can actually get, you know, work done.

I send them off (despite working from home) so that I can actually work, instead of, say, losing my mind or temper or plonking them in front of the T.V. for eight straight hours. It’s a win-win for everyone, and they absolutely adore their babysitter.

I make their packed lunches the night before, while I’m cleaning up after dinner but before I put leftovers away. I find that if I try to cram in packed lunch prep in the morning, I usually forget something – plus, it’s way too stressful! We have enough morning time battles to fight, such as trying to brush my daughter’s hair without her running away from me. Ain’t nobody got time to deal with lunch making, too.

Use these ideas to get your kid's packed lunch ideas flowing! Pick one thing from each section for each lunch packed and be sure your kids cover their food groups and enjoy their lunch at the same time. There's even space to add in your own favorites!(click the image to pin straight to Pinterest!)

I’ve picked up a few tips and tricks along the way regarding these packed lunches:

  • Try to only have one food group item at a time (so, say- one piece of fruit, one vegetable, protein, etc)
  • Cheese sticks are my very best friend
  • Those reusable baby food pouches I bought too many of when my daughter was just getting into solids? Those are the perfect vehicle for applesauce.
  • My daughter tends to try more things at the babysitter’s house, so this is prime time to add in things like green beans, roasted broccoli, dried apricots, etc. She lives by the credo, “If it’s from mom, it’s gross. If it’s from the babysitter, I should try it!” So, I totally take advantage of this.
  • Leftovers are my other bff after cheese sticks. The nights before the kids go to the babysitter, I try to cook a dinner that is easily ‘leftover-able”. This saves me time and money, stretching a meal out this way!

Want some great ideas for a simple recipe you can make at home that works fabulously in kids’ packed lunches?

Check out this Facebook Live I did, where I made 15-Minute Peanut Satay Chicken Skewers and Broccoli Pesto Pasta.

Percolate Kitchen on Facebook Live: 2 Easy Back to School Packed Lunch Ideas

( Plus, I share my faaaaavorite reusable food containers, from Kids Konserve. They’re leakproof and practically indestructible! )

But wait! I went one step further, and created this handy little ‘Pick and Choose Packed Lunch’ cheat sheet for you! 🙌

Guys, this takes SO MUCH of the thought process out of planning and packing kid’s lunches. Add in a few extra options that your kid’s like; make it personal to you and your family.

Then, when it’s time to take care of the kid’s packed lunch, just pick one item from each section on the chart. Add it to the lunchbox, zip that sucker up, and toss it in the fridge or backpack.

It could.

Not.

Be.

Easier.

Well, easier if you had like, a maid to do this stuff for you. But you know what I mean.

Anyway, the download’s FREE!! No strings attached, no email to hand over. Just click and save and go about your merry little lunch-packing way.

Enjoy the school year!

Click here for the straight-up pdf version. Or, click the image below to download!

Use these ideas to get your kid's packed lunch ideas flowing! Pick one thing from each section for each lunch packed and be sure your kids cover their food groups and enjoy their lunch at the same time. There's even space to add in your own favorites!

You might also like: 

 How To Cook ‘Family Meal; Just Like a Chef 

3 Reasons Why You Need Better Kitchen Organization

The 5 Minute Meal Plan (Quick Cooking Tips #1)