Monday, February 29, 2016

Time Saving Tips: Meal Time

Throughout the years I have found several meal time saving tips that have really helped me save some time in the kitchen. When my husband and I come home from work sometimes the last thing we want to think about is what to fix for dinner. I am by no means an expert, but these are some items that I have found helpful and that I use from time to time or on a regular basis.
  1. Meal plan. This is one thing that was a goal of ours this year and it is has helped tremendously so we don't waste as much food and don't fallback on completely unhealthy meal choices on a regular basis. I am not saying this never happens because our weeks and schedules often change, but we make healthy choices on a more regular basis now.
  2. Crockpot meals. Wow! this is a total time saver. We have had and used a crockpot for years, but ever since Bry gave me the Healthy Slow Cooker Revolution cookbook for Christmas, this year so far we have used it a ton and the meals are good! 
  3. Buy frozen cubed food products. I first saw these products (pictured above) at HEB several months ago and have since seen them at various stores throughout Houston. Since I shop all over for clients, I have come to find out that Wal-Mart and Trader Joe's also sell these products. I am sure there places do to I just haven't seen them there yet. The bad thing is they are not made in the USA. They are made in Israel. I have popped these into various dishes from stir fry to sauté veggies. They are a complete time saver.
  4. Buy frozen fruits / veggies. I always keep a handful or frozen fruits / veggies on hand for things that I need to whip up in a pinch or moments when I just don't have time to prepare something. My go frozen fruits are organic strawberries, organic mixed berries and organic bananas. My go to frozen veggies are organic spinach, organic peas (I think Whole Foods has the best tasting ones), frozen green beans.  Although you don't have to get organic, I prefer that for my family and it really isn't much more cost wise when it comes to the frozen items. 
  5. Wash and Chop. When you get home from the grocery or farmers market wash and chop items right away. By doing this you will save so much time during the week and it is such a time saver when cooking meals.
  6. Squeezable containers. One thing my aunts had recently and we knew we "needed" it was squeezable sour cream. Wow, this stuff is great. The sour cream container doesn't get all gunky and it makes it super easy to put on tacos, baked potatoes, etc. 
  7. Buy pre-chopped / pre-peeled items. When you don't have time and are willing to pay a little extra you can buy pre-chopped items. I really dislike chopping onions (I have onion goggles my brother in law gave me one year for Christmas), so most of the times I have Bry do it. If I am in a pinch and need something specific for a meal and don't feel like chopping, slicing or whatever I buy the pre-chopped items. Yesterday we were having family over for fajitas and had car troubles before we went to the store and I knew I would not have the time or desire to chop or clean cilantro so I bought it pre-chopped. I recently discovered Trader Joe's pre-peeled garlic and love it since I use garlic pretty often.
  8. Juice fruits. In order to get me to drink more water later I have been juicing lemons and putting them into ice trays, which I talked about in a previous post recently. We also juice a ton of other items, which really come in handy. I really like having orange juice on hand and freeze it in gallon size freezer bags for when we have guest and can whip up mimosas in the morning. 
  9. Freeze meals. Throughout the year I cook extra and freeze meals for days we just don't have time. This is big time saver. One of my favorite things that I really like to cook and freeze is stuffed peppers because I think they taste so good after they are been frozen. It's like the flavor just really sets in.
  10. Buy frozen meals. We always have store bought frozen meals on hand as well. We buy frozen meals almost exclusively from Trader Joe's now because their frozen food is really good. Our go to items are their vegetable fried rice and any of their frozen asian food. We also keep frozen Trader Joe's appetizers on hand because sometimes on the weekends we will have an appetizer night or if unexpected guest drop by we can whip something up real quick. Also, we really like to have Costco cheese pizzas on hand because they are delicious. 
  11. Restaurant food. Every now and then I will pick up something from a restaurant if it is something I know I want to eat or if I know I have people coming over and don't want to cook. Since this can be costly, I don't do it often. 
  12. Apps. There are so many items out there that can help with saving time when it comes to groceries and meals like Instacart, Favor and Grubhub. My clients and I have used some of these services. I usually only use it for meal delivery when I can't leave a clients place. I am paying a premium, which I don't like to do on a regular basis. 
  13. Hire help. I help people all the time with grocery shopping, picking up meals from restaurants, recipe research, etc. Hire me ;) or someone in your area to help you save some time. Some of my clients have chefs who pre-make meals for them or come into their homes and cook for them. If it is in your budget, it may be something you want to consider if you just have absolutely no time or the disposable income.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Green Your Valentine's Day

Do you have plans for Valentine's Day? There are several small steps you can do to make your Valentine's Day a little more eco. Here are some of my tips:
  • Get outside! This year Valentine's Day is on a Sunday, so it will be the perfect time to get outside, weather permitting.  Whether this is picnicking outside, taking a bike ride together going for a walk, gardening, planting a tree, etc., try to soak up some of the fresh air. 
  • Visit farmers markets. If you are located in Houston visit farmers markets that are open during Valentine's weekend or day like Urban Harvest farmers market or East End farmers market. Farmers markets are also a great place to buy local gifts, like candles, plants, jewelry, etc. Here are a list of farmers markets in Houston:
  • Eat local. If you plan on going out to eat, choose places that source food locally or have eco building materials. Houston has such a great restaurant scene that you are bound to find something that has green aspects. You can also cook something at home, its romantic and special.
  • Buy fair trade products. If you plan on buying chocolates or goodies for your partner, choose fair trade items. Most grocery stores sell fair trade chocolate or check out Ten Thousand Villages in Houston that has many different fair trade products. 
  • Buy plants or flowers from a local grower. Instead of buying a bouquet of flowers from the local grocery store, opt to buy a plant that will last a lot longer. Check out local farmers markets for florists and plant growers.
  • Buy organic / biodynamic wine or liquor. If you can, choose to buy organic and / or biodynamic wine or liquor that you can find at the grocery store or other speciality stores. There are many affordable options out there under $25. Whole Foods and Spec's are some of my favorite places to look for alcoholic drinks. 
  • Shop local and / or eco. 
    • If you plan on buying jewelry, consider getting conflict free diamonds, jewelry made with recycled metals or vintage jewelry. Try
    • If you are going for a day of pampering, consider using eco products like Tata Harper or going to an eco salon like Organic Spa Houston or Milk + Honey (they are currently not open, but have pop up shop with eco products) . 
    • Visit local shops that sell items from local makers / artists like Manready Mercantile, Cactus Music and Space Montrose.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Client Busy Mama, Baby Closet Organization: Before & After

Last month I got a chance to organize two little girls closets and loved every second of it. Everything was so tiny and cute. I don't always get permission to photograph projects, so I was happy I got to photograph these closets. I really should have brought the good camera along, but only had my iPhone with me. A little back story, the two little girls closets I did one was a baby & one was a toddler. The one below is the baby's closet. I will do a part 2 for the toddler closet. There were a lot of hand me downs that's why you see several boxes labeled with months on them. I sorted the clothing and arranged by size & type in various sections. This closet was also used for additional storage.