My Story: Simple Organization

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As a married, working mom, I always have a lot to do. I'm a great multi-tasker with a good memory, as many women are, but some things got the better of me. After looking at patterns, I determined that my life would be easier if I did just a couple things differently on the road to getting organized, which included keeping a running grocery list, planning a menu, deciding what to wear the night before, and preparing lunches the night before.

Things I do all week:

Keep a running grocery list. When I find I am out of something, I write it on a list on the fridge. This sounds simple, but I would often make a mental note, not a written one, and I would usually forget something. If I am at work and think of something, I jot it down and then add it to the list at home or I may even call the answering machine to leave a message for myself. This, as well as checking inventory in my pantry, has eliminated the need for guessing at what we need.

Make a weekly menu using the food ads, and then shop for it. Like most working women, I often thought about what to make for dinner on the way home from work. Talk about multi-tasking! I used to think about what ingredients I had available, how I could combine them and then guess if I had all the ingredients I needed at home. If I thought I needed something, I'd stop at the store on the way home from work. When I got home, I would often find I already had the items I stopped for in my pantry or fridge or didn't have some other ingredient I wished I had picked up. I now use the running grocery list and add to it. I make a weekly menu covering Sunday through Friday based on the food ads and shop for that menu. I shop on Saturday, picking up everything I need for the week. I'll pick up other items if I need them and they're on sale or if I can use them the next week. Now every day, I know what I am making for dinner. I also maintain the flexibility to shift menus to accommodate my family, tastes or leftover food. For leftovers, I skip a day so the same thing isn't served two days in a row. This has virtually eliminated after-work stops at the store, saving time and frivolous spending on extras at the store or through eating out because dinner wasn't planned. We now eat out because we want to, not because we have to. I plan a dinner out every other week. My goal is to go to the store just once a week.

Things I do daily during the work week:

Decide what to wear the night before.

Make lunches the night before. My husband and I both took lunches to work when I made them. Now I make lunches the night before. I can do them while I am making dinner and then they are out of the way. They are in bags in the refrigerator and ready to go. No need to drag out the ham and mayo in the morning to make sandwiches for the day. This has saved money on eating lunches out too.

Just using these few strategies has made a big difference for me. I have extra time in the morning, more time after work, less frustration and less wasted time and money. I'm not saying I am perfect and never forget anything at the store, but I am making a habit of doing these things and it has made a difference. This has also had the added benefit of saving gas because I don't make unwanted trips to the store or going out for lunch. My last tank of gas lasted three weeks! Identify what things cause you frustration and then find a practical way you can reduce it or eliminate it.

"My Story" is a regular feature of The Dollar Stretcher. If you have a story that could help save time or money, please send it by

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