Time-Saving Tuesday: Laundry Tips

Since I spend way more time than I’d like to doing laundry for my family, and since organizing is in my blood (I used to be a professional organizer), I developed a few tricks for minimizing the laundry timesink.

1. I got rid of all of the laundry baskets in individual bedrooms and bathrooms. Instead, I set up three cloth hampers in the laundry room and labeled them: darks, lights, and whites. It took a little training, but now, all members of the family, even the smallest, deposit their clothes straight into the hampers and I no longer have to hunt down all of the dirty clothes. If you don’t have a laundry room, try to find another space where this will work.

2. In order to dramatically decrease the amount of time it takes to fold the whites, especially to match up all of the tiny little socks, I bought a white mesh laundry bag for each family member and color-coded each one by attaching a different color ribbon to the top of each bag. Now, everyone puts their socks—and underwear depending on color—in their personal laundry bag. I wash all of the bags together, dry them together, and then give the bags to each person to put away—except for the youngest, I put hers away.

3. I try to minimize wrinkling by following the FlyLady’s advice and taking clothes from the washer as soon as they’re done, drying them, and immediately removing them. Still, some clothes become wrinkled, and since I’m not a huge fan of ironing, I found this solution a few years ago: homemade spray de-wrinkler. Using an empty spray bottle, like the ones used for Windex, etc., add one capful of liquid fabric softener, then fill the bottle the rest of the way with water. Then, after you remove clothing from the dryer and they’re still wrinkled, just spray with this solution and let them hang for a little while. It works and is much cheaper than the commercial sprays. I’ve been using the same bottle of generic fabric softener for years.

4. I mention the FlyLady again, because before her, I was not as committed to keeping up with the laundry. However, with her method of doing one load a day—and following through with all of the steps of washing, drying, folding, AND putting away—our house is much tidier, and I’m not nearly as stressed by loads of laundry piled up in the laundry room, wrinkling in the dryer, etc. So, since putting all of the laundry away was a challenge, as my kids have gotten older, I’ve added putting their laundry away to their daily list. My husband or I still help my youngest, but the rest of us put our own laundry away.

So, if all of that was too much to read, here’s the gist:
1. Put clothes directly into labeled bins, as close to the washing machine as possible.
2. Use mesh bags to keep small items separate.
3. Use wrinkle removal spray instead of ironing when possible.
4. Have each family member put away their own clothes.


Pantry Challenge

I had another post planned for today, but since I’m a huge fan of the pantry challenge, I just had to tell you about this. As you know from an earlier post, we recently experienced an enforced pantry challenge during the power outage. And I’ve also chosen to conduct pantry challenges in years past, both to save money—and because I love a challenge.

Here’s a link to the NY Times blog about eGullet’s Forum where Steven Shaw’s story to give up shopping for a week has initiated a no-shopping challenge. Make sure to scroll down the page to read the guidelines.

I agree with Mr. Shaw that many of us in our land of plenty have stockpiles of food in our homes that we could better utilize, saving us money, time, and energy (both personal and environmental).

I also know from personal experience growing up in extreme poverty and homelessness that not everyone has surplus food. But if you do, get creative. Take the challenge. What inspiring new recipes can you come up with to nourish your family? And what will you do with the extra time and money you’ve generated by participating in the challenge?

Here are a few other links for your inspirational pleasure:

This is one of my favorite sites for all things frugal. I highly recommend the free subscription!

I used to belong to this pantry challenge Yahoo group when I had more time to spend online.

Read one family’s story and comments to give you ideas.


Mom's At-Home Retreat

This weekend, I took my first ever retreat. It wasn’t what you might think of as a retreat in the traditional sense, but it was definitely a retreat for me, and it might appeal to other busy, frugally-minded moms. Initially, I was going to attend or create a retreat for myself in some delectably warm place, far away from what I consider to be the recent frigid temperatures of my home. As a native Floridian, I consider the sun to be heavenly. However, the ice storm came the day before my birthday—when I was supposed to leave for my retreat—and so afterward, my husband and I compromised and came up with this plan.

First, I have to explain that my youngest daughter, now four years old, has never traveled well. After she was born, we quickly realized that ANY travel was out of the question. Even driving to the grocery store 20 minutes away was a nightmare, ending with her screaming in terror the whole time and me crying hysterically in response. (More on that another time.)

So, for us to even think of traveling with her became a question we never asked. However, as a gift to me, my brave husband took my two daughters, (and all of the SCD food my youngest daughter would need to his dad’s house two hours away. They left on Saturday morning around 9:30 a.m. and returned Sunday afternoon around 5 p.m., in time to get the girls reestablished into their routine.

On Thursday and Friday I finished up the laundry, cleaned the parts of the house that would be important to me during my retreat, such as the bedroom, including decluttering, dusting, and sweeping. Then I did some grocery shopping for the family (while picking up a few treats for me : ) and gathered some yoga dvds, guided meditation cds, and inspirational music cds from the library and Half-Price Bookstore to add to the Eckhart Tolle books that I’ve been studying. On Friday I also prepared SCD freezer meals to replace the ones that we lost during the power outage.

On Saturday and Sunday I did yoga (I’m definitely still a novice in this area), meditated (and in this one too), read and wrote. I made sure to eat at least one of my meals each day in complete silence, attempting to be fully present, meaning that I didn’t even read, which is really hard for me to do. I wanted the whole experience to be uplifting, yet grounding at the same time, helping me to focus on what’s truly important. I ended the weekend by attending a prayer and meditation service at my church on Sunday evening, just after my family returned.

If you’re like me, and haven’t seen that many consecutive hours strung together in more years than you can remember, then you’ll understand just how amazing the silence alone made this endeavor. Of course it felt indulgent, but cleansing. Apparently, it was a weekend of dichotomies ;)

I hope you’ll create a similar opportunity for yourself. When you do, make sure to let me know what you did and how it went for you!


SCD Freezer Cooking

(For specific recipes, please click the Recipe label.)

Every year for Christmas since my mother-in-law died, my husband and I have been preparing meals for my father-in-law to put in his freezer. He doesn’t need “things,” but he loves having the food for days when he isn’t interested in cooking for himself.

This past fall, when my husband’s grandmother died, I wanted to do the same thing for his grandfather, who lives four hours away. So, I ordered aluminum containers from a restaurant supply store. In the catalog, these are listed as Meals on Wheels containers. They have three divided sections and a cardboard lid. They are perfect for our needs. Not only did we use them to make meals for my father-in-law and grandfather-in-law, we also used them to have ready-made meals available for my youngest daughter. I can’t tell you what a blessing this has been.

When it gets too complicated to make so many different kinds of foods, or when we’re having company, or going to someone’s house, I can just pop one of these in the oven for about 20 minutes, and have a complete, SCD meal ready for her. This is incredibly economical, even once I add in the cost of the containers. Plus, I really like that I’m not storing, or cooking, her food in plastic. We don’t even own a microwave anymore.

Here are some examples of SCD meals I’ve frozen:
All ingredients are homemade—except the hotdogs—and SCD compliant.

1. Turkey lasagna, green peas, bread
2. Pureed black bean soup, bread, ice cream (frozen in cupcake papers and removed before heating)
3. Pureed black bean soup, bread, peas
4. Turkey or beef hotdogs, butternut squash fries, cake
5. Beef hotdog, french-cut green beans, apple sauce
6. Fish, broccoli, applesauce
7. Veggie meatballs, mashed cauliflower, pureed chicken stew
8. Salmon muffins, mashed cauliflower, peas
9. Scrambled eggs, turkey sausage, toast
10. Pureed split pea soup with parmesan, bread, applesauce
11. Pureed split pea soup, bread, grapes (frozen in cupcake papers and removed before heating)
12. Pureed lentil soup, bread, cooked pears
13. Carrot pancakes, cooked pears, turkey sausage
14. Individual pizzas with cheese and olives, carrots, ice cream (frozen in cup cake papers and removed before heating)
15. Individual pizzas with cheese and olives, broccoli, veggie meatballs
16. Spaghetti squash with sauce, bread, veggie or soup
17. Burger-crusted pizza with bread, veggie or soup

I’m sure you noticed that all of the soups are pureed. That’s because many kids with these types of malabsorption disorders don’t tolerate chunky foods, often because of sensory processing disorder. My Vita-Mix has been the best investment I’ve made in implementing the Specific Carbohydrate Diet for my daughter. Please click on the SCD label for more SCD recipes.

I’ll post a picture as soon as I get an opportunity to restock the freezer due to the power outage.


Power Outage: SCD Food Dilemmas

My youngest daughter has a carbohydrate malabsorption disorder and requires a specialized diet, called the Specific Carbohydrate Diet. She’s been on this diet for almost a year, so thankfully, I’ve figured out the sometimes complicated challenge of what she can eat. And so, I felt proud that we had been able to stock the freezer with appropriate foods for her. Because the foods can be time consuming and expensive to prepare, I was pleased with the system I had set up to do an SCD version of freezer cooking.

Obviously, as I’m learning from Eckhart Tolle, my pride was misplaced:)During the five days without power, most of her specialized food in the upstairs freezer thawed, but did not spoil. Even though it was too much for her to eat, the four of us transitioned to her food during and after the storm so that it wouldn’t all go to waste. All of her individual meals were perfectly suited to cook directly on the open propane flame.

I gave the packages of organic, free-range turkey to two of my neighbors, while we ate the homemade SCD turkey sausages and meatballs that were stored in the freezer. Much to the dismay of some of my vegetarian friends, yes, after 23 years of being vegetarian, even I ate the turkey. Given my commitment to our Dave Ramsey plan, I was not about to let that food go to waste.

In all honesty, even the “loss” of the food turned out great. The most perishable items in the upstairs freezer, aside from the turkey, which I mentioned we ate or gave away, and the fish, which we’ve been eating since the power came back on, were tv-dinner type meals; the old fashioned kind. Well, not exactly old fashioned since they contained only homemade, SCD ingredients.


The Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover: A proven system for feeding your family for less

Some of the references and jargon in this document are based on the teachings of the FlyLady and Dave Ramsey. If you are not familiar with them, I strongly recommend that you check them out.

I developed this system when I was facilitating a Financial Peace small group. When I explained that I cut our family’s grocery budget from $600 to $250 per month, one of the students commented that I could do that only because I am a stay-at-home mom. That certainly gives me leave to focus my time differently. However, everyone can benefit from conscious efforts to improve ourselves, so I wanted to offer a few tips for an easy system that allows you to feed your family more healthfully and for less money, even in these challenging economic times.

The System
I have broken these suggestions down into 3 levels, from Level 1: Bargain Belle, the simplest, to Level 3: Super Saver, the most time intensive, to allow you to choose the options that best fit your time and budget needs.

For instance, a single parent whose time and budget are severely limited may choose to implement options only from Level 1: Bargain Belle, whereas someone who Dave Ramsey might describe as gazelle intense may choose all three levels simultaneously.

To save the most money, select tasks from all three levels. Together they are a system and the more you choose to do the more money you will save. Remember, the goal is Financial Peace, and once you attain freedom from financial constraints you can choose to spend more freely, but then again, you may find that simpler is better—and healthier.

For those of you familiar with the FlyLady, you will recognize that I have broken tasks down into 15-minute segments wherever that’s possible. As the FlyLady says, don’t say you don’t have 15 minutes. If you look carefully at your day, you will find it. If you watch TV, you can do many of these tasks during commercials. For me, having a spirited four-year-old most often means that a task that should take a half-hour can easily take three, because I have to break it down into segments.

If you work outside the home, carve 15 minute chunks from your day during lunch breaks, downtime if your job has any, or after the kids go to bed.

For the Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover Warm Up click here.

For the Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover Part I click here.

For the Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover Part II click here.

For the Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover Part III click here.

For the Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover Part IV click here.

For the Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover Part V click here.

For the Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover Part VI click here.

For the Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover Part VII click here.

For the Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover Part VIII click here.

For the Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover Part IX click here.

For the Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover Part X click here.

For the Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover Part XI click here.

For the Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover Part XII click here.

For the Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover Motivation click here.

For the Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover Part XIII click here.


About LivingLaVidaMama

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Formerly, I've worked in publishing and been a medical student. Currently, I'm a freelance writer and copy editor, and full-time mom with two exceptional daughters. LivingLaVidaMama focuses on intentional frugality and the Specific Carbohydrate Diet that has dramatically improved my younger daughter's autistic-like symptoms. Contact me at MadForWriting at windstream.net