Sunday, October 28, 2012

Week 10

October 28th - November 3rd

Happy Halloween!  This week we enjoy the first of our holiday celebrations.  And enjoy it we will!  But, in the midst of our trick-or-treating, let's find time to maintain our progress.  November is a few short days away.

Make a batch of holiday goodies

Make one freezer meal

Buy at least one gift

Wrap and label packages

Work on holiday crafts/gifts

Polish any silver- include candle holders.  Clean glassware.  Inspect napkins, place mats, and/or tablecloths.  Launder or take them to the cleaners. 

Purchase any last minute linens

Remove Halloween decor- after Wednesday, of course!

Put up Thanksgiving decor

Do not shampoo carpet- While it is natural to want to clean your carpet prior to welcoming guests, remember that over the next few weeks there will be added foot traffic in your home, and most likely a spill or two.  Consider spot cleaning obvious stains and have the carpet shampooed when the holidays are over.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Week 9

October 21st-27th

Is it me, or does it feel like October just arrived?  And yet, here we are headed into our final full week of the month.  I have to admit that I'm saddened by the fact that this time of year is passing as quickly as it is.  We are indeed on a fast moving train headed into the holidays.  Thankfully, because we've chosen to plan ahead, that train isn't moving recklessly into the holidays.  If you've been able to keep up, you should feel like you've got a pretty good handle on your preparations.  You could potentially have six batches of goodies already prepared and in your freezer and six freezer meals ready to pop in the oven at a moment's notice.  You should also have made a noticeable dent in your gift purchasing.  Hopefully this is the case, but if not, that's okay!  Any progress is good progress.  This week we'll give ourselves a chance to catch up.  Let's do this!

Make a batch of holiday goodies- Consider how many goodies you have.  If you're not one to give away a lot of treats, you may be finished with this portion of your planning. Or, if you've decided to give away more than you feel you have, double up this week.

Make a freezer meal-This is one area  I encourage you to continue working on.  Those meals will never go to waste, regardless of how many you have.  Consider the days after Christmas.  Do you really want to make a meal on the 26th, just as you've started recovering from your holiday celebration?  What about New Years Eve?  Or, in the worst case scenario, if you have extra freezer meals through the month of January, will you regret it?  The answer is no.  Since you're already in that mode, keep going.

Buy canned food- If you no longer need any canned items for your holiday menus, consider buying at least one or two cans of food.  Local food drives will be starting any day now in preparation for Thanksgiving.  Pick up a couple next time you're at the grocery store so you're not forced to donate that year old can of garbanzo beans no one in your family (or anyone else's) will eat.

Purchase at least 1 Christmas gift- Naturally, I suggest you take advantage of sales and coupons and get as many as your budget allows.  But, again, one is better than nothing.  If you don't have a chance to go shopping this week, set aside the money you would like to spend on a gift so that in the weeks to come you can catch up without hurting your wallet.

Work on any homemade gifts or crafts- I admit, I have fallen terribly behind on this task.  This week is my week to catch up.  If I can't I'll have to consider scrapping those projects in lieu of a purchased gift and try again next year.  That's okay!

Start addressing your Christmas cards

Send invites for Thanksgiving- Evites work great for this!  It may seem premature, but a lot of people are still finalizing their plans.  Having all the info on hand will make their decision process easier.  Not to mention, an early R.S.V.P for you means you can prepare in advance for your guests.

Buy extra batteries- Be sure to check your gifts. How many parents have been there Christmas morning when your child opens a new gift and wants to play with it only to find that batteries are required and you forgot to get them?  It is a sad, sad place to be.  They don't last as long, but your local dollar store is a great place to stock up.  You can buy your copper-tops later on when you're not spending so much extra money on food and gifts.

Order or purchase your turkey- I'll admit, I've never ordered a turkey.  I'm not even sure how one goes about this.  One day, I'd like to figure that out.  But for now, check your grocery store adds.  Turkeys are beginning to go on sale.  Don't wait until the week before when prices hit rock bottom because so does the selection and you'll end up with a 24lb turkey to feed your family of 6.  Spend an extra $0.10 or $0.20 a pound to get what you want while it's available.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Halloween Treats

Here's the treat I promised.  Enjoy!

Peanut Butter Pumpkin Cookies

1 roll (16.5 oz) Pillsbury® refrigerated peanut butter cookies 
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup orange decorator sugar crystals
14 twisted butter-flavor pretzel sticks, broken in half
  • 1 Heat oven to 350°F. Spray cookie sheets with cooking spray. In medium bowl, stir cookie dough, egg yolk and flour until well mixed.
  • 2 Pour sugar crystals into small bowl. Shape dough into 28 (1-inch) balls; roll in sugar crystals. Insert 1 pretzel piece into each ball for pumpkin stem. Using toothpick or tip of teaspoon, make lines around sides for pumpkin ridges. Place balls 2 inches apart on cookie sheets.
  • 3 Bake 9 to 11 minutes or just until set in center when touched with fingertip. Cool 2 minutes; remove from cookie sheets to cooling racks. Cool completely, about 10 minutes.

Week 8

October 14th-20th

We have hit the halfway mark.  If you're like me, you are instantly wondering how the last eight weeks have gone so quickly.  In just the blink of an eye we will be in the midst of the holiday season.  My hope is that you are continuing to make progress, regardless of how much, and that you are feeling more prepared and less anxious about the impending season.  Without hesitation, let's get busy this week!

Make one batch of holiday goodies

Make one freezer meal

Buy at least one holiday gift- Because we are getting closer to the season, now is an important time to begin knocking out as many gift purchases as possible.  The goal is to have your shopping complete (for the most part) and wrapped before Thanksgiving.  That may be setting the bar pretty high, but imagine the joy of accomplishing that feat!  If that seems out of reach, set a date for early December and do your best to meet that goal.

Buy at least one item from your long-term shopping list in preparation of your holiday meals. 

Wrap and label packages

Review your Halloween costume plans- make any necessary changes and finish your costume preparation.

Make a Halloween treat- this might seem trite, but it's your chance to scour those recipe books and magazines that you are always thumbing through.  There is probably at least one treat about which you've said, "I wish I would have made this" or "I bet my kids would love that".  Now is your chance.  I will post an idea if you're looking for one! :-)

Check your progress and adjust- This is considered the halfway point.  Take a look at where you are in your preparations.  Have you fallen behind on your baking or freezer meals?  This week, you may want to double up.  You don't have to get caught up on everything in one week.  Just adjust your plan to accommodate your needs.

Have fun!  The weather is cooling off and it's beginning to feel more like the holiday season.  Don't be afraid to light a fun holiday candle and throw on some Christmas music while you do your preparation.  You know you want to...

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Week 7

As I write this, the air is filled with the smell of my grandmother's fruitcake which is baking and I am looking around at the orange, black, and purple decorations that have descended upon our home.  This is my favorite time of year!  I love the Fall season when the air changes, the sun goes down a little earlier, and all the smells and flavors of baked goodness fill my home.   I love the change that it represents.  The relief from an unyielding and scorching summer heat.  The anticipation of the holiday magic that is to come.  Somehow, with the change in season, I feel my energy renewed.  It's with this rejuvenation that we forge ahead.

Here are your plans for the week:

Make a batch of holiday goodies.

Make one freezer meal.

Buy 2 canned/nonperishable items from your shopping list.  Or more if you feel so inclined.  Now is the BEST time to stock up on canned broth, pumpkin, cranberry sauce, and pie filling for all of your upcoming recipes.  It will be in high demand as the weeks progress.  It may be a few cents more since the crazy good sales haven't started yet, but it will be readily available and you won't have to fight hordes of panicked shoppers to get what you need.  Totally worth a few extra pennies!

Buy at least one Christmas gift.

Wrap & label your packages.

Work on any holiday crafts/gifts.

Finish Halloween costume preparation. Now that costumes and pumpkins have filled the stores, everyone has Halloween on the brain.  Finish getting or making any remaining parts of your costumes this week to avoid the rush.

Review your previous lists and finish anything you may have missed.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Freezer Fave!

I happened upon this little gem a year ago and I'm so glad I did!  This is one of my favorite freeze ahead meals to make for several reasons.  First of all, it's ridiculously fast and easy.  Many of the ingredients are already frozen when you assemble it.  Secondly, it's comfort food.  No two ways about it.  But the great thing is, and this is the third reason I love it, it is easy to substitute low or no fat ingredients without sacrificing taste.  Comfort food without the guilt.  Winner! 

Give it a try.  You won't be sorry!

Chicken Potato Casserole

10 oz can fat free condensed cream of chicken soup
1 cup fat free sour cream
1/4 cup milk
2 cups cooked, cubed chicken
1 1/2cups low fat shredded cheddar cheese
3 1/2 cups frozen hash brown potatoes (your favorite style), thawed*
1 1/2 cups frozen peppers and onions, thawed*
1 1/2 cups crushed potato chips (optional)**


In medium bowl, combine soup, sour cream, milk, chicken, and 3/4 cup of cheese.  Spread this mixture in a greased 2 quart baking dish.

Sprinkle hash browns and peppers and onions over the top of the casserole and press down lightly.  Sprinkle with remaining cheese and potato chips.

Bake casserole, uncovered at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes or until bubbly.  Let stand for 5-10 minutes before serving.  Serves 8.

To freeze: Assemble casserole as directed, except DO NOT thaw potatoes, peppers, or onions, and do not sprinkle with potato chips.  Wrap casserole in freezer wrap or heavy duty foil and freeze.  To thaw and bake, let thaw overnight in refrigerator.  Uncover and bake as directed.  Then top with crushed potato chips and bake 5-10 minutes longer.

*You can also substitute the hash browns, peppers, and onions with potatoes O'Brien which makes this even easier.

**I have never made this with the potato chips and haven't missed them.