Thursday, June 7, 2012

Diabetic-Friendly Chocolate Eclair Cake

My husband loves sweets - ice cream, cakes, pies - but he is diabetic, so I am always on the lookout for sugar-free treats!  One of my co-workers made a delicious eclair cake for the teachers on the last day of school.  When I learned the ingredients, I knew I could adapt this one to an almost sugar-free dessert.  I tried it earlier this week, and it was a huge hit at my house!  It makes a 9X13 cake, so there is plenty for the whole family (and any company that may show up) for days!!

one box honey graham crackers
2-8 oz. tubs of Cool Whip
1 small box sugar free instant chocolate pudding (& skim milk as directed on box)
1 small box sugar free instant vanilla pudding (& skim milk as directed on box)
1 tub sugar free chocolate icing

1.  Place a single layer of graham cracker squares on the bottom of a 9X13 cake dish.
2.  Prepare choclate pudding as directed on box.  Fold one tub of Cool Whip into the prepared pudding. (Do not use the mixer.  Folding retains the fluffiness.) Spread pudding mixture over the crackers.

3.  Add another layer of crackers.

4.  Prepare vanilla pudding as directed on box.  Fold the other tub of Cool Whip into the prepared vanilla pudding.  Spread pudding mixture over the crackers.

5.  Add another layer of crackers.

6.  Remove foil from choclate icing.  Heat in microwave for 30 seconds. Stir.  Repeat this process two more times so that icing can be easily spread over the last layer of crackers.  You must move quickly so that the icing doesn't begin to harden until you have a smooth top layer.
ENJOY with a glass of skim milk!  Yum!!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Easy Chicken Pot Pie

This recipe is one that a co-worker of mine shared with me during my first year teaching.  It is so, so easy, and my family loves it!  I've shared with you several "busy mom" options for preparing the chicken for the pie.  Enjoy!

2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, COOKED
4 deep dish frozen pie shells (Thaw 2 of the shells for approx. 10 minutes.  These will serve as the top of your pies.)
16 oz. bag of frozen mixed vegetables
1 large can cream of chicken soup
Tony Chachere's seasoning, to taste

Four Options:

BOILED CHICKEN:  If you have time, you can just boil the chicken before assembling the pie.  Cut into small pieces.  Mix with vegetables and cream of chicken soup.  Season to taste.  Fill two of the pie shells with the chicken mixture.  Cover with the two thawed shells.  Cut slits in the top and bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until top crust is firm and golden brown.

CROCKPOT CHICKEN:  This is my favorite method.  In the morning, I place the chicken breasts in the crockpot with the can of cream of chicken soup.  Cook on low for 7-8 hours.  The chicken should easily tear apart before assembling the pie.  Add your vegetables and seasoning, and follow the above directions to create the pies.

CROCKPOT/FREEZER CHICKEN:  One of my blog followers suggested the following method for using pre-cooked chicken to create a fast, easy meal.   Cook boneless, skinless chicken breasts in bulk in the crockpot.  I use a can or two of chicken broth to keep them moist.  When they are fully cooked, cut or shred the meat, and separate it into meal-sized portions in freezer bags for later use.  Keep a supply of cooked chicken in the freezer at all times.  Thaw in refrigerator the night before you need the meat.  Assemble the pie  as described above.

DELI ROTISSERIE CHICKEN:  When you don't have time or forget to prepare for the meal in advance, you can run by your local grocery store on the way home from work and pick up a deli rotisserie chicken.  These usually cost between $5-$6.  Remove meat and follow the above directions to create the pies. 

These methods can be applied to any recipe that requires chicken!  It doesn't get any easier than this!

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Busy Life of a Baseball Mom

It's been almost two weeks since my last blog post.  I've had intentions of writing every evening, and somehow I just never found the time.  (My list of "writing topics" grows everyday - just wish I had more time to actually write!)  My husband has taken a new football coaching job in a town about 30 miles from our home, and it's "spring training" so I have no help in the evenings with the boys' baseball schedule.  Not that this is unfamiliar territory: I've been carrying two little boys to their practices and games since the oldest was 4 years old.  My husband's work schedule usually prevents him from helping much on week nights, especially now that he's commuting.  So between baseball and football, life is pretty busy for our family right now.  AND it's the end of the school year.  There are standardized state tests, field days, awards programs, not to mention Big B's tryouts for middle school sports.  I have to brag for a moment on Big B.  He set a goal two years ago (yes, in 4th grade) that he would make all three teams - football, basketball, and baseball - when he got to middle school.  Yesterday, he finished meeting that goal.  He will be one of only two 7th graders (about 400 kids) to play on all three teams next year!  I love that at such a young age he learned to set a goal and work hard to achieve it.  His dad is such a hard-working, goal-oriented person; I'm glad he sets such a strong example for our boys. (And it doesn't hurt that they inherited his athleticism!) 

Our love for sports  ("Sports Mania") is what makes us a Busy Family and gives me the offical title of Busy Mom!  While I normally seem to manage our lives very well, there are times (like right now), that I absolutely stink at being a busy mom.  The laundry is piled up once again ("The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly"),  the bathrooms need scrubbing, the floor needs mopping, and the yard needs mowing.  Add to the mix that I am trying to cook healthy meals to manage my husband's diabetes ("She brings him good, not harm...") and to get myself back in shape ("My Battle").  A daunting task!  We are also trying to be frugal in our grocery and gas expenses, which requires lots of advanced preparation.  All of my good ideas (such as "Meal Shortcuts for Baseball Moms") aren't helping as much as I would like them to.  However, I can breathe easier knowing that there is an end in sight...summer!

Oh summer, how I love thee!  While there have been times in my career as a public school teacher that I have complained about low wages, long hours, difficult parents, and belligerent students, I do love my job.  One thing that makes all of the headaches okay is that every year, for two whole months, I get to be a stay-at-home mom!!  I love, love, love being home with my kids.  And I have to say that I am the perfect little homemaker during the summers.  My house is clean, projects are completed, scrapbooks are up-to-date, kids are happy, all is well.  I can pack my baseball bag and head to the ball park with no worries.  Can anyone truly understand the glory of summer without baseball?  I certainly can't!

Monday, April 23, 2012

She brings him good, not harm...

I had something of an epiphany over the weekend. It wasn't a sudden "AHA!" moment, but more of a gradual progression of ideas that led to a realization over a 24 hour period.  It all began as I was posting Meal Shortcuts for Baseball Moms Saturday morning.  As I linked recipes to each shortcut method, I began to think, "Whoa!  I sure do cook a lot of pasta!" and "Whoa!  I sure do use a lot of cheese!"  Now, I do believe firmly in my menu planning, shopping, and cooking methods, and I've always known that my meals are better alternatives than fast food, BUT I really started worrying Saturday if I am doing what is BEST for my family with the meals I prepare.

Later that afternoon, my husband began feeling "under the weather."  He was tired, with little energy and no desire to get out of the recliner.  In fact, he ended up napping on and off most of the evening.  These symptoms were certain indicators that his sugar was high.  You see, he was diagnosed with diabetes about three years ago.  He was told at the time of his diagnosis that he could manage the disease with proper diet and exercise.  Well, about a year ago, he began taking pills to control his blood sugar - still no need for insulin but in the direction he's headed, it may be just around the corner. 

Until now, I have stood firm in my belief that it isn't what he eats, but how much he eats that is the problem.  I further justified that it isn't my cooking's fault, instead it is his fault, because he doesn't exercise enough.  However, when he wasn't feeling well Saturday, my guilt began to grow.  Maybe there are things I can do.  I mean, I had already questioned my cooking earlier that day.  What if my meal choices are contributing to his downward spiral?

The slow progression toward my epiphany continued that night.  He was up watching a movie, and I went to bed.  I had trouble falling asleep, so I grabbed my Bible and decided to make my way through the book of Proverbs! (I'm a fast reader, and insomnia is sometimes my greatest enemy, so I made it through the entire book.)  When I got to Chapter 31, I took my time - carefully reading line by line.  I have read the passage of the "noble wife" every morning for years.  This time, I was led back to the first few lines about the "noble wife."

The wife of noble character, who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.
She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.
Proverbs 31:10-12 NIV

That last line weighed heavily on me:  "Am I bringing my husband "good" or "harm" through the meals I prepare?"  As I thought about my good intentions, could I honestly say that our meals do him "good"?  The overwhelming answer to this question was a resounding "NO!"  I fell asleep in prayer, asking God for guidance. 

When I woke Sunday morning, I shared my revelation with my husband.  In his usual style, he had very little to say, but he seemed deep in thought.  What was he thinking?  Did he agree with my realization? That I too had to take some responsibility because of the food I bring into our home and set on our table?  We had several hours before time for church, so I pulled out my copy of "Diabetic Cookbook for Dummies" and began reading voraciously.  Two hours later, I had made it through the first five chapters.  Apparently, there is quite a bit that I can change!

So, here's the next phase in my Busy Mom's Menu for Life!  How can I adapt my meal preparation and, really, help the entire family with a significant lifestyle change under the constraints of our busy life?  Can I create yummy, quick-n-easy meals that will allow my husband's health to improve and keep him off the path to daily insulin shots?  I believe I can, and I will do everything in my power to make this happen, so that he can have full confidence in me - knowing that I bring him GOOD, not HARM every day of his life!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Meal Shortcuts for Baseball Moms

Baseball season presents a struggle for busy moms in the area of menu planning.  With two boys playing Little League, our family may end up at the ballpark four nights a week.  This creates an issue getting a homecooked meal on the table each night.  Over the years, I have developed several methods to avoid fast food on those busy nights.  Try one or a combination of these to find what works best for your busy family.

  • SLOW COOKER MEALS - This is my favorite method!  Because of have a monthly menu already prepared, I know I have all of ingredients I need already on hand for the meal.  See Blog Beginnings: Menu Planning to learn more about creating a menu and shopping list.  I do all of the prep work the night before we need the meal.  All ingredients go into the removable pot and are refrigerated.  In the morning, place the pot into the slow cooker base, and turn it on!  A hot meal is ready when you walk in the door from work/school, and you can quickly eat, then head to the ballpark.  If there is no time to eat the meal before the games, pack healthy snacks to take to the ball park.  Put the slow cooker on "Keep Warm" and return home to a yummy meal.
               Try these slow cooker meals:
               Chicken Tortilla Soup
               Broccoli and Cheese Soup
               Chicken Alfredo
               Pork Chops and Gravy
               Chicken Quesidillas
               Meatball Subs
               Roast and Veggies

  • 30-MINUTE MEALS - The following meal ideas can be prepared from start to finish in 30 minutes or less.  These work well when you have a late evening game.  There's plenty of time to get in from work, prepare the meal, and eat before heading to a 6:30 or 7:00 game.
          Try these 30-minute meals:
          Quick and Easy Spaghetti
          Quick and Easy Pizza Puffs
          Red Beans and Rice
          Sloppy Roast Beef Po-Boys
          Quick and Easy Chili
          Beef Enchilada Casserole
          Baked Ziti Pasta

  • DELI ROTISSERIE CHICKEN - One shortcut to a quick meal is to buy pre-cooked meat.  The cheapest and yummiest way to do this is to buy a deli rotisserie chicken.  They can be found in most grocery store deli's and are relatively inexpensive (usually $5-6).  Almost any recipe that requires boiled, sauteed, or baked chicken can be adapted using this pre-cooked chicken. 
         Try this recipe:
         Chicken Salad
         Adapt these recipes using pre-cooked chicken:
         Spinach Fiesta Casserole
         Baked Chicken Spaghetti
        **I will post more ideas soon.  ANY recipe that calls for chicken can be shortened this way.

  • FREEZER MEALS:  Many of the above recipes can be prepared in advance in bulk portions, then frozen in disposable aluminum pans (before baking).  Take a pan out of the freezer the night before you need the meal.  Put it in the refrigerator to thaw over night.  That evening, bake the casserole/dish at 350 for 25-30 minutes.  Spinach fiesta casserole, baked chicken spaghetti, baked ziti pasta, and chili are a few that I have tried as frozen meals.  Most casseroles and soups can be frozen.  At one point, I was spending the first weekend of the month cooking and freezing meals.  Use this method in combination with the others to create variety in your menu.
With a little planning and advanced preparation, mealtime (even during baseball season) can be easy!

(For more "baseball mom" tips, visit my post on The Ultimate Baseball Mom's Survival Bag .)


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Southern Country Cooking...not!

Mississippi girl, I am!  Country girl, I am not!  My husband, however, grew up as a country boy, and my amazing mother-in-law was the ultimate country cook.  My style of cooking is best described as "quick and easy."  Between my full-time teaching career and my busy little athletes' sports schedules, I have no choice but "quick and easy" if I want to feed my kids something other than McDonald's.  And I'm proud of my cooking.  I know lots of shortcuts and tricks to getting a "home-cooked" meal on the table in 30 minutes or less.  Let me add that we do not eat frozen meals or boxed dinners.  If that's your style, great!  But all three of my boys (Dad, Big B, and Little B) like "mama's cooking," not something out of a box.

Where am I going with this?  Well, last night, I got ambitious.  I decided I wanted a country meal.  All day, I craved fried pork chops, mashed potatoes and gravy, and butter beans.  So when the rain cancelled our baseball games, I got busy cooking my southern meal.  Now, I still used a few shortcuts...instant mashed potatoes, gravy mix in a little envelope, and yummy Margaret Holmes canned butter beans.  However, there are no shortcuts to fried pork chops..none at all!  I've only fried pork chops once, ever!  So I don't know what made me think I could do this, but I tried anyway. 

When I called the family to the dinner table, I was the first to take a bite of the pork chops.  I chewed and chewed and chewed.  They were over-cooked and really tough.  I immediately told my boys, "You do not have to eat this.  It won't hurt my feelings if you don't like them."  Of course, my feelings were already hurt because I had set out to try something new and failed.  My guys, however, insisted that the pork chops were just fine, and they ate them with no complaining.  I let out a sigh of relief.  Either they really did like the pork chops, or they were doing an excellent job trying not to damage my self-esteem!   I got hugs and kisses and words of thanks following the meal.  Apparently, my guys love me and appreciate me no matter what.  Even when I feel like a big failure, I know that it's ultimately the effort that I make to nurture and care for them that matters most. 

When my babies are grown, I doubt that they will remember the leather-like pork chops, but I hope they will remember that everything their Busy Mom did for them was done out of love!

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Busy Mom's Weekly Menu #2

When I published The Busy Mom's Weekly Menu #1 a few weeks ago, I had good intentions of posting a new menu each week.  Well, three weeks have gone by, and I'm just now getting around to posting Week #2.  If you are new to my blog, be sure to check out Blog Beginnings: Menu Planning to get the basics about my meal planning ideas.

Sunday:  Spinach Fiesta Casserole

Monday:  Beef Enchilada Casserole

Tuesday:  Meatball Subs

Wednesday:  Chicken Salad Sandwiches

Thursday:  Red Beans and Rice

Friday:  Eat Out

Saturday:  Lasagna

Shopping List #2

3 lbs. ground meat
2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 bag frozen meatballs
1 pkg. smoked sausage

rotisserie chicken (Buy this the day you make the chicken salad so it will be fresh.)
1/2 lb. swiss or provolone cheese

po-boy/sub rolls
12-ct. corn tortilla shells
croissants or other bread for chicken salad sandwiches

Canned Goods
1 can white queso (I usually find it at the Dollar General Store.)
1 can Rotel tomatoes
1 can enchilada sauce
1 jar medium salsa
1 can Hunt's Zesty and Spicy spaghetti sauce
1 can Hunt's Four Cheese spaghetti sauce
1 small can sliced black olives
1 small jar banana peppers
1 can Blue Runner red beans

Boxed Items
Jiffy cornbread mix
instant rice
oven-ready lasagna noodles

stick butter or margarine
shredded monterey jack cheese (2 cup bag)
shredded cheddar cheese (2 cup bag)
shredded mozzerella cheese (4 cup bag)
8 oz. sour cream
16 oz. small curd cottage cheese
parmesan cheese

green onions
fresh fruit to serve with chicken salad sandwiches

16 oz. bag spinach
chopped bell peppers
chopped onions

Seasonings and Staples
vegetable oil
1 packet taco seasoning mix
spicy brown mustard (Zatarain's Creole)
Tony Chachere's creole seasoning
garlic powder
onion powder

Chicken Salad

This recipe is for my mom's chicken salad.  It is super creamy and perfect for sandwiches.  It can also be served over a bed of lettuce with fruit and crackers.  However, I like a chunky chicken salad filled with grapes, apples, and pecans for eating with crackers.  I think this particular recipe works best as more of a spread on croissants or your other favorite bread. 

cooked rotisserie chicken (from the grocery store deli)
3 stalks green onions
3 stalks celery
1 1/2 cups mayo
1/2 cup spicy brown mustard (Zatarain's works best!)
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
Tony Chachere's creole seasoning (to taste)

1.  Remove meat from chicken.
2.  Blend chicken in food processor until smooth.  Set aside.
3.  Chop green onions and celery into small pieces.  Process until finely chopped.
4.  In mixing bowl, combine mayo, mustard, and seasonings.
5.  Combine all ingredients and refrigerate one hour before serving.

Meatball Subs

Once again, I have used the slow cooker to create an easy, yet yummy, meal.  It doesn't get any simpler than this.  Turn on the slow cooker when you come in from work and are changing clothes to head to the ballpark, and have a hot meal ready when you get home later that evening.

1 bag frozen Italian meatballs
1 can Hunt's Zesty and Spicy spaghetti sauce
provolone or swiss cheese
po-boy/sub rolls
condiments and toppings (mayo, banana peppers, sliced black olives)

1.  Line your slow cooker with a Reynold's slow cooker liner.
2.  Add meatballs and spaghetti sauce to the slow cooker.
3.  Cook on high 2-3 hours.
4. Serve on rolls with any condiments/topping you like.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Easy Lasagna

One of our favorite weekend meals is lasagna.  For years I used my mom's recipe for homemade lasagna, but it takes at least two hours from start to finish to create her masterpiece.  That kind of time commitment to create a meal isn't really my style!  Enter the picture: oven-ready lasagna noodles and Hunt's Four Cheese spaghetti sauce.  The lasagna can be assembled in about 15 minutes.  It bakes for an hour and is super yummy!! (This recipe makes enough to feed a crowd and still have leftovers.) 

1 12 oz. box oven-ready lasagna noodles
2 lbs. lean ground beef
2 cans Hunt's Four Cheese spaghetti sauce
1 16 oz. carton small curd cottage cheese
4 cups shredded mozzerella cheese
grated parmesan cheese
aluminum foil

1.  Preheat oven to 425.
2.  Brown and drain ground meat.
3.  Add spaghetti sauce to meat and heat over medium heat until warm through.
4.  Spread approximately 1/3 of the meat sauce in the bottom of a large lasagna pan.

5.  Layer lasagna noodles on top of the sauce.

6.  Spread 1/2 of the carton of cottage cheese over the lasagna noodles.

7.  Cover cottage cheese with 1/3 of meat sauce.

8.  Spread 2 cups of mozzerella over sauce.
9.  Sprinkle a generous layer of parmesan.

10.  Repeat steps 5-9: noodles, cottage cheese, meat sauce, mozzerella, parmesan.
11.  Cover pan with aluminum foil.  (Seal edges tightly to keep in moisture.)
12.  Bake for 1 hour, covered.
Uncover and enjoy!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Ultimate Baseball Mom's Survival Bag

I've been packing bags for the ballpark for the last 8 years, and I think I've now fine-tuned exactly what items a baseball mom wants to have in her bag!  First of all, you have to find the right bag.  My new favorite is the Thirty-One Organizing Utility Tote.  Check it out here.  I think it works perfectly for a baseball mom's supplies, and it's pretty darn cute too!!  Here are the essentials that every bag should have:

a towel (for wiping off dirty or wet bleachers)
a small umbrella (for those inevitable April showers)
sunscreen (Be sure to spray the kids before they start sweating!)
bug spray or wipes (a must-have in the Deep South to keep away the mosquitos and gnats)
face and hand wipes (Baby wipes or Wet-Ones work fine!)
antibacterial hand sanitizer
travel-pack of facial tissue
Dermosplast or other similar spray (for cuts, scrapes, burns, and bites)
variety of bandages
Children's Benadryl (I buy the rapid melts/meltaways of any medications that I carry in my bag.)
Jr. Tylenol

Now, depending on the ages of your other children, there are additional items you will want to include, such as small toys or coloring books/crayons to occupy little ones, and inexpensive snacks.
I buy big bags of pretzels, Goldfish crackers, etc. and separate them into snack-size bags.  The concession stand can put a strain on your budget, so coming prepared with snacks can really save you money.  Some ballparks will allow you to bring in small coolers, and others will not; I typically keep a cooler of iced Gatorades and waters in the car. 

In addition to the cooler, you may want to include a few other things in the car.  I like to pack a complete change of clothes for each kid.  You never know when they are going to leave a game covered in red dirt!  I have been known to make my boys strip down to their underwear before allowing them to get into the car.  However, I try to make sure they have extra clothes so I don't have to embarrass them that way!  I also keep folding chairs in the trunk.  Some ball parks have great bleachers and others do not.  It's best to be prepared either way.  I always use my folding chairs if we are going to be there all day.  And lastly, I keep a small blanket handy.  I am terribly cold-natured, and when the sun goes down, there is sometimes a little chill in the air during the Spring months. 

The key to a great day at the ballpark is preparation!  If you know you have everything you need, you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the games!!

P.S.  I do not recommend allowing children to bring their hand-held video games to the ballpark.  My 8-year-old lost a Nintendo DS at a tournament last year.  Same thing applies to iPods, etc.  Just my personal opinion!!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Pantry Organization

My pantry is a great source of pride for me! Yes, I know that sounds silly, but I am very particular when it comes to my groceries.  The cashiers at the grocery store often look at me funny when I sort my groceries as I put them on the checkout counter.  You see, it is much easier to put the groceries away in an organized fashion if they are bagged in an organized fashion!  No one else in the family is allowed to help put away the groceries.  Because I try to shop for the month, I have lots of food to store, and I like it done my way!  (I'm not like this about most other things; my family is encouraged to help around the house.  Just don't mess with my groceries!)

Now, my pantry is rather large, especially for an average-sized kitchen in an average-sized house.  But the principles I want to share with you can be applied no matter the size of the pantry.  The key is creating zones and sorting items into those zones.  I'm going to break down each zone for you and share ideas for items that you want to keep on hand at all times if you are working toward creating weekly (or even monthly) menus. 

Zone 1: Baking Supplies

Okay, so I don't bake that often, but the items on this shelf are staples that can be used in many aspects of cooking. Items to keep in stock:

all-purpose flour
white or yellow corn meal
pancake mix
cooking oil
olive oil
baking powder
sugar/powdered sugar/brown sugar
muffin mix

You'll notice that my coffee and coffee liners also find their home on this shelf. And of course, Cafe' du Monde beignet mix!

Zone 2:  Boxed Breakfast Items

On busy mornings, my kids can fix a quick breakfast without any help from Mom and Dad!  My sweet husband likes to cook breakfast for the kids in the morning.  He's done it for years!  There are times, however, when we need something "in a hurry" and the kids know they can go straight to this shelf.  Items include:  boxed cereal, instant oatmeal, instant grits, chocolate milk mix, and protein shake mix (for when Mom's in a hurry).

Zone 3:  Seasoning Mixes and Staples

This is probably the most "miscelleaneous" shelf in my pantry.  The basket houses envelopes and packets of the following types of items:

taco seasoning
stir fry seasoning
fajita seasoning
country gravy
pork gravy
onion soup
ranch dip/dressing

In addition to the basket full of various seasoning mixes, I also use this shelf to store extras of condiments like mayo and mustard, salsa, salad dressing, and pancake syrup.  There are also containers of bread crumbs and drink mixes.  If it doesn't fit into any other "zone," it goes here!

Zone 4:  Snacks and Crackers

These two shelves house a variety of crackers:  saltines, Ritz, Club, and our favorite - Pretzel Crisps!  These are yummy pretzel crackers that my husband and I eat with hummus or Laughing Cow cheese wedges.  They are a great low-calorie treats!  We also keep other snacks: regular pretzels, chips, microwave popcorn, and Chex Mix.  I love my baskets for keeping these snacks organized.  I took this picture right after a shopping trip, but what I also usually like to do is use snack-size ziploc bags to make baggies of these snacks in kid-sized portions.

Zone 5:  Canned Goods

I keep LOTS of canned vegetables and soups on hand at all times.  Some of my staples are:

cream of chicken soup
cream of mushroom soup
cream of celery soup
diced tomatoes
stewed tomatoes
lots and lots of ROTEL tomatoes
Margaret Holmes seasoned vegetables
Glory seasoned vegetables
alfredo sauce
spaghetti sauce (We like Hunt's Four Cheese or Zesty and Spicy.)
Blue Runner red beans
all kinds of beans (for chili, taco soup, etc.)

I try to keep "like" items together, but I've heard of people who take their canned goods organization to the extreme and alphabetize their vegetables!  I'm NOT that crazy!!!

Zone 6:  Boxed Items

I keep two different groups of boxed goods on this shelf.  To the right, you'll notice all kinds of pasta.  I also keep a supply of instant rice and instant mashed potatoes on hand at all times.  To the left are "supplies":  freezer and storage bags of all sizes, aluminum foil, plastic wrap, waxed paper, and slow cooker liners. (A MUST HAVE for using the slow cooker!)

Zone 7:  Paper/Plastic Products

One of my goals as a busy mom is to have my family sit down for meals together despite our busy schedule.  So I use lots of shortcuts and smart ideas to get meals on the table quickly.  Many times, though, we have to eat and run!  So, we often use paper and plastic plates, bowls, cups, and flatware.  I know not everyone is going to agree with me on this one.  I do own a dishwasher and I do use it, but there are just times that I have to prioritize.  After a late ballgame, washing dishes (or even loading the dishwasher) sometimes takes a back seat to more important things, like making sure uniforms are washed for the next day or reading my 8-year-old a bedtime story.  I pick my battles!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Busy Mom's Weekly Menu #1

For those of you who are new to my blog, let me share with you my mission:  to chronicle my successes and failures at leading an organized life as a busy mom!  Now, this blog began a few months ago with me sharing menu ideas.  Check out Blog Beginnings: Menu Planning to get the full story!  I will reiterate that these meal ideas are not for the gourmet cook or the woman with two hours to cook every night.  Most of my ideas are 30 minute meals or slow cooker meals.  They are home-cooked alternatives to fast-food!!  So here goes a meal plan for the coming week, followed by a shopping list for the week:

Sunday:  Pork Chops and Gravy

Monday:  Tacos

Tuesday:  Spaghetti

Wednesday:  Club Sandwiches

Thursday:  Roast and Veggies

Friday:  Eat Out

Saturday:  Baked Chicken Spaghetti

Weekly Shopping List #1

Canned/Bottled Goods
1 can chicken broth
1 can cream of chicken soup
2 cans seasoned veggies of choice (to go with pork chops)
1 bottle medium salsa
1 can Hunt's Four Cheese Spaghetti Sauce
2 cans Rotel tomatoes
1 small can sliced black olives (optional for chicken spaghetti)
1 can sliced mushrooms (optional for chicken spaghetti)

Seasonings and Staples
1 pkg. dry pork gravy mix
1 pkg. onion soup mix
1 pkg. taco seasoning mix
2 pkg. McCormick's pot roast seasoning
Italian seasoning
honey mustard

4-6 center cut pork chops
2 lbs. lean ground meat (93/7)
1 pkg. bacon
sirloin tip roast
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Boxed Goods
instant rice
12 ct. taco shells
1 pkg. angel hair pasta
1 pkg. spaghetti

2 bags Dole Ultimate Caesar Salad Mix
3 large potatoes
small bag baby carrots

sour cream
shredded cheddar cheese
parmesan cheese
2 - 8oz. Velveeta cheese

Frozen Goods
2 boxes sliced garlic bread
1 small bag frozen seasoning blend (chopped onions, bell peppers, & celery)

sliced whole wheat bread
chips (to go with club sandwiches)

(Buy larger quantities of meat and cheese if you want sandwiches for lunches, not just for the club sandwiches on Wednesday evening.)
1/2 lb. sliced cajun turkey
1/2 lb. sliced honey ham
1/4 lb. sliced swiss
1/4 lb. sliced American or cheddar

Roast and Veggies

I prepare this roast in the slow cooker.  It's super easy and absolutely delicious!

sirloin tip roast
3-4 large potatoes, cut into chunks
small bag of baby carrots
2 pks. McCormick's pot roast seasoning

1.  Line a large slow cooker with a Reynold's slow cooker liner.
2.  Add roast, potatoes, and carrots.
3.  Add water to seasoning mix as directed on package.  Pour over roast and veggies.
4.  Cook on low for 7-8 hours.  Serve over rice.

Quick n Easy Spaghetti

Here's an easy way to prepare spaghetti in less than 30 minutes:


1 lb. lean ground beef
1 can Hunt's Four Cheese Spaghetti Sauce
1 can Rotel tomatoes
2 tsp Italian seasoning
angel hair pasta
Dole Ultimate Caesar salad mix
garlic bread

1.  Brown and drain ground meat.
2.  Return meat to pan and add spaghetti sauce, Rotel, and seasoning.  Simmer.
3.  Prepare angel hair pasta as directed on package.
4.  Heat garlic bread and prepare salad.

Sports Mania

     Since I started this blog in October, my purpose has continued to evolve from meal ideas and menu planning to home organization ideas and tips to personal reflections on the life of a busy mom. While I have to believe that there are many other moms out there who are just like me, I'm sure there are others who don't relate at all (or at least some who think we are crazy for leading such a "busy life"). But we wouldn't have it any other way! We are a family of sports fanatics. My husband has coached high school football for 13 years and even spent a year as a graduate assistant coach at a Division I university.  My two boys (Big B and Little B) began their sports careers playing soccer at the age of four.  Since Big B was four years old, we have never taken a season off. When he was younger, he participated in soccer, swim team, baseball, and basketball. Later we added football to the mix.  In addition to football, basketball, and baseball, Little B has even tried karate and tennis!

       Because of my husband's coaching schedule, he has rarely been able to help with the boys' sports practices. This "busy mom" has been responsible for most of the kids' after-school activities for the last 8 years!! But, that's all about to change. We are entering a new phase of our sports' life!  Yesterday, Big B completed his physical to be eligible for middle school sports. In just a few weeks, he will participate in middle school spring training for football. And guess what? That makes him Daddy's responsibility, not mine! He will go to practice right after school, then walk on over to the high school field to meet his dad. No longer do I have to run him to practice, sit there for hours watching his every move, and get him home again. Daddy gets to take over! No longer will I have to juggle two different practices on two different fields, (sometimes) in two different towns. For the next four years, I can focus on Little B's sports. Of course, I'll still be Big B's #1 fan at games, but practices are no longer my job!
      The realization that we were beginning this new phase of life is somewhat bittersweet. I am thrilled for Big B, who is passionate about his sports and can't wait to play for the middle school. I can't wait for him to put on that middle school football uniform and try to earn his place as the 7th grade quarterback. I am looking forward to spending more time with Little B!  BUT...this new phase also means that my babies are growing up. How did it happen so fast? Seems like they were just going through the terrible two's! (That's a whole 'nother talk show! There's a reason that Little B had toddler nicknames like "The Tiny Tornado," "Mr. Destructo," and "The Holy Terror.")
     We are now one step closer to the teen years, high school graduation, college, and an empty nest! (Yes, I know I'm projecting far into the future, but it is moving so fast.) What will I do when they are all grown up? Our lives revolve around their sports. Of course, I'll still have my husband's high school games, so that will fill a little of the void, but what will I do the rest of the time? Will I know what to do with myself when there are no practices and games? I've said on many occasions that I'll have to pick up a few hobbies when they are gone. Maybe I'll pull the sewing machine out of the attic, learn to quilt, exercise more? Will I miss the hustle and bustle? Of course I will! As hectic as our lives sometimes are, I love my role as a sports mom. The excitement and anticipation before a big game, the cheers and the thrills when the score gets close, the joys of victory and the agony of defeat! Have I mentioned that I was captain of the cheerleaders and "Most School Spirited" in high school? Some people never change...I love it! That's why I know how much I'll miss it when their sports days are done. For now, I have to savor every minute of it! 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Organizing Kids' Closets

Ok, lately I've shared with you some of my past struggles and my recent messes (LAUNDRY!!!), but tonight I wanted to share with you one of my successes:  my kids' bedrooms, particularly their closets!  I've heard other moms talk about the never-ending piles of toys and the dreaded task of locating clothes and shoes amid the mess.  I know this can be a source of stress and tension in a busy family. However, I believe that an organized approach to a kid's room - especially the closet - can save you time and eliminate these headaches! 
Step 1: Clothes
As with any closet, clothes should be sorted into a system that makes sense for the child. For example, if the child wears school uniforms, all of the uniform pieces should hang together neatly in a designated place in the closet. All of my boys' uniforms are sorted into sections for khacki shorts, khacki pants, and polo shirts. 
Additionally, short sleeve shirts go together, as do blue jeans, button-downs, jackets and sweatshirts, etc. I established a system in my kids' closets years ago.  When the boys were as young as five or six, they helped put their clothes away in the proper locations. My 8-yr-old, who is learning to fold and hang up his own clothes without much help from me, knows exactly where everything should go because I modeled this system for him as he helped me when he was younger.  Why does this matter? I do NOTHING to help my 8 and 12 yr olds get ready for school in the morning. Because their closets and dressers are organized, they can find everything they need and get ready without my help. They have done this for years, not because they are naturally independent, but because they have been trained to be independent. And the organization certainly helps!
Step 2: Toys
As early in my children's lives as I can remember, I began using clear plastic tubs (Sterilite or Rubbermaid from Walmart) to sort their toys. As a 2-3 year old, my oldest son could put his toys away with only a little prompting from me. Why? Because everything had a place where it belonged. There was a box for blocks, a box for Little People, a box for Rescue Heroes, and the list goes on and on. Of course, he couldn't read to put them away based upon a word label. So, I found clip art, coloring books pages, or photos representing the contents of each box and decoupaged the pictures onto the boxes.  The super heroes box had a pictures of Spiderman, the Power Rangers box had a pictures of the Red Ranger, and so on.   As they were learning to read, I added word labels to the boxes. Now, most of the pictures are gone and the words remain. 

When they were young, I tried to encourage them to take out only a few boxes at a time. (I tried to stick to the one box at a time rule at first, but I decided that it would inhibit creativity if the "Cowboys and Indians" couldn't play in the Lincoln Log houses, and the Lego guys couldn't ride in a fire truck.) For the most part, they knew that they had to clean up the first mess before making a new one. Now that they are older, it doesn't take much prompting from me to have a clean room in no time. If my 8-yr.-old lets his room get out of control, I do have to give him "steps"; for example, I tell him to pick up the Legos, and I check back in a few minutes. Then I tell him to pick up the Hot Wheels cars, and I check back in a few minutes. I continue with this process until everything is put away.
This system of organization is now so ingrained in my kids that they can make sure that friends help them clean up when we have company. Last month we had a Super Bowl party, and several of our friends brought their pre-schoolers with them. When it was time to clean up, the moms and kids helped and we were able to straighten everything up in a matter of minutes, again, because everything has a place to call home! All of the toy boxes fit neatly in the closet and can be "out of sight" when necessary. Now, at ages 8 & 12, the boys have very little trouble keeping a clean room.   Every night, the oldest cleans his room while the youngest takes his shower and vice versa. This insures that the rooms don't get out of control after days of neglect.  However, even when we slip up and let things go wild for a few days, the organization systems we have in place help us to quickly restore order!!  My kids' closets are definitely one of my success stories!!!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly

     I have many good things in my life:  my husband, my kids, my teaching career!  At times, there are bad things too: lack of sleep, not enough time in the day, adult acne!  But, there is one area of my life that is just down-right ugly:  LAUNDRY!  I have to believe that I am not alone.  Surely, other folks out there feel the same way.  You see, when David and I first got married, we made the deal that he would do the dishes if I would do the laundry.  It seemed like a fair deal at the moment...but that was before two busy little boys.  Even at my very best, when I am keeping up with all of my housework on a daily basis, it takes a minimum of two loads of laundry a day to keep up with my family's dirty duds.  The busy football coach husband often wears two set of clothes a day.  Oftentimes, he leaves dirty clothes in the locker room and brings home a pile all at once, easily getting me off-track with my daily wash. The busy boys have school uniforms, play clothes, and sports uniforms.  When there are multiple games and practices in the course of the week, uniforms and sports gear must be washed daily.  Even this busy mom wears one set of dress clothes to work, then comes home and changes into comfy exercise clothes for the evening rat race.  Don't forget about sheets, towels, and wash cloths!  Laundry is certainly a never-ending battle for me. 

     Well, as of last night, I had officially lost the battle.  We have hit the peak of our "busy season" -- the one point of the year where two sports overlap.  Basketball season hasn't ended, yet baseball tryouts and practices have begun!  This overlap only lasts 2-3 weeks each Spring, but it is crazy nonetheless.  We have stayed so busy during the last week and a half, that the laundry started to pile up.  At times, I managed to sneak in a load here and there, but it was wash, dry, and DUMP!  Yes, many of the clothes were clean; however, the piles quickly began to take over the living room...climaxing to the point that my living room looked like this:

     Now, I had a plan to deal with this mess.  My kids go to church youth group for two hours on Wednesday nights.  Normally, my husband and I have a dinner date during that time, but I asked him to take a raincheck and decided to spend the evening washing and drying the dirty clothes that remained, and folding, hanging, and putting away the clean clothes.  What happened next caused me to laugh in order not to cry!  You southern folks will understand when I say that "everybody and their mama" showed up at my house!!!  Friends, neighbors, my father-in-law, the list goes on and on...  You can only imagine my humiliation at all these people seeing my mess.  I pride myself on having a nice, clean house, especially when I know that company's coming.  But instead, I had a messy house and no idea that company was coming!  Fortunately, it turned out to be a nice evening, mess and all.  We love visiting with family and friends, and now they all know that I'm only human (as if they didn't know this before)!!! 
   This afternoon, the entire family teamed up to get the laundry finished.  There isn't a single dirty piece of clothing in the house.  So for this moment, I have won the battle of the laundry.  Maybe I've learned my lesson about laundry, maybe there won't be a next time, maybe I'll keep it up for a while...or maybe not!  Only time will tell.  For now, laundry is on the "good" list.  Who knows how long that will last??

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

"My mama would be proud of you..."

Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
"Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all."
Proverbs 31: 28-29

     Picture for a moment Aunt Bea from the Andy Griffith Show: motherly, caring, nurturing, always taking care of others, never selfish, but fiesty enough when necessary!  This was my mother-in-law.  She was one of the most amazing women I've ever known, and I miss her terribly even though it's been over ten years since we lost her to cancer.  Sadly, the deep appreciation I have for her wasn't fully realized until many years after her death.  She was 38 when my husband was born, and although she had previously worked outside the home, she then took on the role of stay-at-home mom and full-time housewife, a position she proudly maintained for the remainder of her life. 
     When I first married David, I was in graduate school and just completing my first year of teaching.  I had big career plans and no intentions of ever sitting around the house all day. (Stay-at-home moms, don't throw anything at me yet!  That was simply my perception at the age of 22!!!  I, too, spent several years at home when my kids were little.  I know how much work it is!)  At that point in time, I was the least "domestic" woman on the face of the Earth.  I didn't know how to cook or clean or do anything that an "old-fashioned" housewife should do.  That was partially my fault:  In 8th grade, I petitioned the junior high school administration so that girls wouldn't have to take home ec!  It was also partially my mom's fault:  She did absolutely EVERYTHING for us!  She had good intentions, but I was actually handicapped by the lack of independence.
  Back to my mother-in-law...she loved me dearly.  I have no doubt about that.  But (and let me preface this statement by saying that she NEVER made me feel this way; it was all in my head) I never felt like I would be good enough for David because I wasn't her.  I didn't know how to "take care of him" the way she always had.  Again, let me paint a picture for you:  a spotless house, no piles of dirty laundry, an amazing meal on the table EVERY DAY when my father-in-law walked in the door from work, the list goes on and on.  I saw those tasks - the cooking and cleaning - as CHORES, things to be dreaded.  I didn't know how to do those things, nor did I care to learn.  Now, 15 years later, I know that those things were expressions of her LOVE for her husband and children.  She took pleasure in taking care of her boys!
     Most important to my mother-in-law, however, was not the house or the meals.  Most important was the sense of HOME that she created.  It was a place everyone wanted to visit.  You were always welcome.  There was an overwhelming sense of peace and tranquility the moment you walked in the door.    It was something I had never known.  I had lived in a tumultuous household, often full of chaos and confusion.  My in-laws' home was a sanctuary.  Unlike the housework, however, this sanctuary was something that I wanted, something I worked hard to try to create, sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing, but always trying. 
    It's taken nearly 15 years to reach the point where I am today.  Where I feel like the effort to create a "home" is really materializing.   My kids (even the pre-teen) love being at home and tell me often how they have such a great life!  I've even had a change of heart about the cooking and cleaning over the years.  I came to the realization that my husband also saw some of those little things as MY expression of love for him and our boys.  It was the kind of love he was raised on: selfless, serving, giving LOVE!  As I embraced that fact, I began to take pleasure in preparing meals for my family.  No, I still don't like the dirty laundry or the stinky toilets, but I have a better attitude about doing those things for my family when I remember that I do those things out of LOVE. 
    Last week, I received the ultimate complement from my husband.  "My mama would be proud of you," he said gently.  No words could have meant more.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Cheesy Potato Soup

I haven't made potato soup in a while.  We've had a very mild winter here in South Mississippi, and I just haven't felt like eating soup...until this past weekend when we actually had temps in the 20's!!  I had a little challenge this time with my potato soup thanks to my 12 year old.  You see, he ate potato soup at his friend's house about two weeks ago, and he was certain that the other mom's soup was better than mine!  I set out to prove him wrong.  After he took the first bite, he said, "Hmm...I still think hers is a little better!" Then, he proceeded to eat THREE full bowls of soup!!  Even though he wouldn't admit it, I think I won hands down!

4 cups potatoes, cubed
4 cups water
2 cups milk
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup margarine
2 large onions, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup carrots, sliced
3 cups cheddar cheese
green onion, chopped (optional)
crumbled bacon (optional)
salt and pepper, to taste

1.  In large pot, boil potatoes in 4 cups water.  Do not drain.
2.  While potatoes are boiling, combine milk, flour, and margarine over medium heat.  Stir regularly until heated through.
3.  Add milk mixture to boiled potatoes and water.  Add onions, celery, and carrots.  Return to boil.  Reduce heat and simmer 10-15 minutes.
4.  Add cheese and stir until thoroughly melted.  Salt and Pepper, to taste.  Garnish with crumbled bacon and green onions.  Serve hot.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Look at how far I've come...

     My husband and I will celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary this summer!  I was lying in bed tonight thinking about those early days of marriage, and I felt compelled to get up, grab my laptop, and share a few of those thoughts with you.  When we were first married, we rented a little house full of charm and character.  It was such a "cute" house that I signed the lease on it before David had even seen it.  Bad idea!  We soon learned that this charming old house was full of flaws.  For one thing, it had no central heat.  There were two wall-mounted heaters:  one in the kitchen and one in the bedroom.  These were supposed to heat the entire house, but they certainly didn't! 
     Now you have to understand that I am terribly cold-natured, so waking up to a cold house every morning was torture for me.   However, my sweet husband - still in a state of newlywed bliss - would get up every morning before me, walk across the cold house, and turn on a small space heater in the bathroom.  He would wake me when the bathroom was warm and toasty so that I could get my shower in comfort.  I know that may seem like a small gesture, but it was one done out of love.
    I had so many dreams in those early years of the kind of wife and mother I would be, but for many, many years, I felt like I had fallen short of those high expectations.  There have been many times that I have felt like a complete failure as a woman, and I felt alone, like all other women knew what they were doing and I was the only one who ever struggled.  As women, I think we sometimes alienate each other by putting on a false front, refusing to show any weakness, therefore making other women feel inferior.  I felt that way for years, sometimes spending weeks, even months at a time, in a state of deep depression. 
    Years ago, I made a copy of the Proverbs 31 passage about the noble wife and placed it in my "Mommy Notebook" that I use to keep schedules, menus, grocery shopping lists - all the things that help my house run smoothly.  I have read the passage every morning since my boys were little.  But for a very long time, instead of seeing the verses as an source of encouragement, they often served as a reminder of all that I wasn't!  You see, no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't see how I could ever become that kind of woman.  I felt like a failure!
     However, something changed in me last summer, about the time of our 14th anniversary.  God opened my eyes to an entirely different perspective of my role as a wife and mother, and my role as a Godly woman.  I had seen that "noble wife" as an unattainable goal, but God revealed to me that those verses of scripture were meant to serve as a guide for the JOURNEY toward becoming all that He created me to be.   Most importantly, He opened my eyes to the fact that I couldn't do this alone.  Only HE could lead me on this journey.  We can never become that kind of woman on our own.  Only HE can lead us toward that ideal. 
     Amazingly, as I began to accept this truth in my heart, my entire life began to change.  I had lived the previous two years with sometimes unbearable depression; but I began to awaken to the blessings in my life and a joy that only God can provide!  My marriage had suffered; but where old love had died, new love grew!  I had often felt unproductive and ineffectual; but everything I had tried to accomplish over the years suddenly began to "click."  Over the past 8 months, I have felt more capable and confident than I have in years.  I am a better wife, mother, homemaker, and teacher.  And I know, more now than ever before, that God is in control of my life and only He can help me become all that He wants me to be!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Quick n Easy Pizza Puffs

Looking for an easy meal that kids will love?  Try these!

Here's what you'll need:
Pillsbury Pizza Crust (refrigerated roll)
1 pkg. pepperoni
1 cup mozzarella
1/2 jar pizza sauce

1.  Roll out pizza dough.  Cut into four sections.
2.  Chop pepperonis into small pieces. (I've also simply cut them into quarters or halves, but little pieces work better.)

3.  Mix pepperoni pieces, sauce, and cheese.  Spoon mixture onto dough, and pull dough around the mixture to make a ball.
4.  Bake according to pizza dough directions.  My oven takes a little longer...check regularly and bake until golden brown!

5.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and catalina dressing.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Master Closet Organizing

In this project, my client wanted an organizing facelift for her amazing master closet! Because of a lack of clear organization, the beauty of this closet was hidden. You will notice in this first "before" picture that her shelves held a variety of different types of items. It was difficult for her to find what she needed because her belongings did not have a specific "home" in the closet. She had the right idea with the large basket under the shelves; however, it had been filled with a wide variety of pieces: winter gloves, bathing suits, summer cover-ups, hats, gloves, and more. Additional hats were stored on the shelves, and many paperwork items were mixed in here and there.

In the "after" picture from this same viewpoint, you'll see that I started by removing the items from the basket and making the basket the permanent home for nothing but her extensive collection of hats! The items that had been on the two shelves under the window were sorted. Many of them were boxed and included in her hall closet. (See previous blog about the "junk" closet makeover.) Other odds and ends were placed in cute baskets on the shelves that previously housed hats. Clothing pieces that had been placed amidst the hats were neatly folded and placed in the canvas baskets beneath the window. Both sets of baskets were found at Wal-mart and were relatively inexpensive. Be sure to measure your space to make sure the baskets will fit BEFORE you purchase them. As I sorted through the closet contents, I found many different purses and handbags - all in different locations in the room. I found a great hanging purse file at Bed, Bath, and Beyond for $7.99 and used it to house the purses. The pockets are large enough to fit most bags. 
These next "before" shots reveal her hanging clothes. Because they were not organized in any way, it was difficult for the owner to find what she needed AND she was unable to get a good picture of what she actually owned. When clothes are all mixed up like this, you may find yourself buying pieces you don't really need or forgetting about some of your old favorites!

I began by sorting the clothes by style. All of the strapless shirts were hung together, as were the sleeveless shirts, the short sleeve shirts, long sleeve shirts, and sweaters. Pants, shorts, and skirts were done the same way. Then, within each category, I sorted by color. For example, all of the client's black pants were hung together. When I finished, she realized that she had over 10 pairs of black pants. Now she's ready to purge and will have great yard sale items! I also used all new hangers to create a sense of continuity and visual order in the closet. These white plastic hangers are only $1.17 for a ten-pack at Target. Replacing your hangers may be something that you don't want to budget for all at once, but you can buy a pack a week and have a nice, neat closet in no time at all. 

So, what happened to all the items that were overflowing in the large basket on the floor? I actually sorted them into four medium-sized wooden baskets that we placed on the shelf above the hanging clothes. These baskets came with liners we had monogrammed so the contents would be easy to find: winter accessories, swim suits, cover-ups, and summer bandanas and accessories. This part of the project was the biggest expense because they were high quality baskets and we had the additional cost of monogramming. However, they were a needed element to make the project complete. If you are on a tight budget, try to shop around and look for sales and clearance items. Occasionally, stores like Michael's will have 40% off sales. If you are patient, you can find good deals!
Whatever your budget and whatever the size of your closet, you can use these basic concepts to create order instead of clothing chaos!