Setting Up For Success Part Three

I’ve been craving something I haven’t had in a while. What comes to mind is a luscious cheesy pasta combination with wonderful flavor and Comfort Food embedded into the title.

I found myself browsing recipes and searching grocery ads and fretting and fussing until it hit me. I already have what I’ve been craving and it is in my freezer.

Insert Head Slap moment here. 🙂

If you have been following along on this series, and I sincerely hope you have, you will have inventoried your pantry, reviewed your food list or if you have no food list, you’ve prepared one.

Why a “Food List”?

Many of us tend to operate on a simple basis of routine. Monday is Slow Cooker Meal, Tuesday is tacos, Wednesday might be pasta, Thursday is left overs and Friday is eating out…or in depending. You get my drift.

We all get terribly bored with what we are eating, but few ever really stop to consider (a) what we are eating and (b) what we like to eat. Toss in a diet (ugh) food list and you get a better idea of the upheaval of the zen like rhythm of our eating life.

By preparing a Food List, you not only see what you like, but you also get an opportunity to build multiple meals out of the foods you like.

Like chicken? Have you baked, roasted, oven fried, boiled, poached, or sauteed it? Do you use it in casseroles, soups, as taco filling, for fajitas, or as an addition to other foods just because? Have you batch cooked chicken and stored in in the freezer for when you need it?

I hear a few “Ah ha!”s out there.

I try to keep broccoli in my freezer. I love it, it is easy to prepare and very versatile. I also have a fondness (okay, love) for cheese tortellini that can become an obsession depending upon mood. Put the two together and … enjoy. Also, if you get down to basics, cheese tortellini is just a different version of mac and cheese. Think about it.

I also try to keep several types of dried pasta on hand along with cheese (I’m sensing a pattern here…) and a sauce or two. Tomato sauce and I have begun to have issues and I have found myself not reaching for it as much. In years past, however, it was a favorite – and inexpensive – menu item. Spaghetti and garlic bread, anyone?

I love getting large amounts of meats, cooking it up or splitting it off and freezing for later use. I put flats of boneless chicken into the slow cooker or the oven and let it cook until done, moist, tender and useful for lots of things. Ground meats can be separated into patties, browned some with various seasonings, packaged and frozen for further use. I’ve heard some folks buy turkeys in off season, cook and debone the meat for freezing. Not sure I’m up to that, but the frugal in me likes the idea.

I rarely buy fresh fruit or veg because I’m notorious for not eating it fast enough. However, give me frozen and I’m a happy camper. It is inexpensive, processed at peak of flavor and takes up little space.

By having these items in my pantry, I can put together quick and easy meals with little hassle. If I choose, I can go further and put together dump meals that can be packaged, frozen and put into the slow cooker when I want rather than have to run around gathering ingredients at the last minute.

This all begins with knowing what you like to eat, what you will, or will not, give up, and how much effort and space you have to put into the process.

My suggestion for you this week it to collect all the recipes your family likes and put them in one place. Note the ingredients you need for them – this will be put on a pantry need list. You don’t need to make a huge project of this; it can be done as you put together your weekly menu or shopping list.

In fact, this could be a project that might go for a while because food changes over the seasons. You might be thinking apple crisp today, totally forgetting strawberries or peach pie or salad greens that won’t be available for a few months yet.

As you collect your recipes, if you aren’t already doing so, create a menu that will incorporate these items and save it.

As you repeat the process every week, biweekly, monthly, whatever, you will be creating a Meal Plan that will be usable all year round. You will have a collection of recipes that your family loves that will be easy to maintain.

Queue Head Slap Moment. 🙂

Have a great week – let me know how this process is working for you.

Setting up For Success. Part 2

Welcome Back!

If you are like me, you’ve seen a lot of commercials for gyms and weight loss programs in the past few weeks. They seem to appear in droves in January, don’t they? <sigh>

No matter.

One thing I have noticed a lot this year is the propensity of the idea of Easing Into The New Year from various bloggers and vloggers. Have you seen it, too?

Frankly, I think it is a welcome respite from the frantic urging to lose more, spend more, do more, ad infinitum that’s more exhausting than just going about life, right?

Last week I talked about getting ready to make changes. I’ll bet you were surprised to discover that I did not, and do not, propose to jump into the deep end. Let’s just say that a few too many years of experience has taught me that, for most of us, that might not be a good idea…

If you took my suggestion and inventoried your pantry, etc., you now have an idea what you already have and can now start to build on that.

One of the things I always found overwhelming when starting a weight loss program was all the stuff I already had. I was raised to be frugal, so tossing out good food just wasn’t an option. Give it away? Possible, but unlikely as what I had on hand wasn’t what food pantries looked for.

When given the inevitable food list, I found myself at a loss because what came with the food list were recipes I wasn’t all that excited to try (I’d have to go out and buy more stuff rather than use what I had), not to mention the foods on the list that didn’t exactly entice me to begin with.

Have you been there, too? Are you there now?

Here’s a thought: Take out that list and give it a good look over. Note those things you already eat. Here are a few items on my list:

  • Chicken
  • Pork
  • Vegetables
  • Fruit

Here are a few of my eating options:

Chicken – baked, broiled, boiled, oven fried, grilled

Pork – roasted

Vegetables – broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, zucchini, snap peas, potatoes (baked, boiled, roasted)

Fruit – fresh, frozen, canned

What I’ve discovered is that I love simple food as much, if not more, than the fancy stuff.

So, I can steam a veg to add to a piece of chicken cooked pretty much any way I want and add a salad and some fruit to the meal.

I can also make a simple casserole using most of the foods on my list along with a low fat version of a cream soup.

I can also gussie it up a bit by adding a bread alongside or on top.

Now, take a look at your food list and compare it to your pantry inventory and see how much overlap you find.

For this next week, take it one step at a time. Cook simply. Find meal ideas that appeal without requiring a lot of effort (unless, of course, you would like to make a bit of effort). Ease into the week by not making it an Olympic event. 🙂

Now, take a deep breath and let it out slowly. This might not be as difficult as you thought, right?

Let me know what you discover by commenting or emailing.

Have a great week!

Getting ready to dive into preparation for 2020.

Yeah, that sounds pretty much like I’m feeling today. Raring to go, but not wanting to get up and actually go.

Are you looking for ways to set yourself up for success in your endeavors to eat well and get healthier? Do you want to find ways to make your budget stretch while not feeling deprived at the table?

Not sure where, or how, to start?

Why don’t we do it together?

Starting with the February OrangePlaidCat Newsletter, I will be giving you recipes, meal ideas, tips and tricks that you can use to help you achieve success.


The best way to to join in is to sign up for the newsletter – free – which comes out on the first of every month. To do that, click on the NEWSLETTER tab and sign up.


So, what are you waiting for? Sign up now!

Food the Enemy? Part 2

As we move into the Holiday Season with all the various Get Togethers, Parties, Family Meals and such, I have a few thoughts about how to survive and, possibly, flourish.

As I’ve said before, “diet” is a word I hate to use. It implies, among other things, a temporary situation, a punishment, a deprivation, something to be either avoided or circumvented as much as possible.

Is it any wonder, then, that when you announce that you are embarking on a <cough> “diet” people around you automatically begin wondering (privately, one would hope) how quickly ‘that’ will end?

If we are being honest, it is not just other people who are wondering that, it is us.

Trying to lose weight, maintain a healthy lifestyle or tackle allergies or other medical issues is a huge undertaking on its own. Adding holiday eating to the mix only increases the stress.

Some folks never quite ‘get’ that allergies or other medical issues are real things. Others just don’t think it important during the holidays. It can be handled ‘later’.

As you contemplate maneuvering through the potential mine field of holiday eating, think about the following:

Do The Best You Can

Nothing is guaranteed to be perfect and there will always be something unexpected that could sideline you.

Don’t Expect Perfection and Plan Accordingly

If you are going to someone’s home for a meal, presumably you already have an idea of the way they cook. If you have food allergies, I urge you to have a conversation with the cook in advance so you both know what to expect. No one wants to have to contemplate an unexpected trip to the emergency room during a holiday.

If the issue relates more to a healthier eating style, you may be able to ask the cook what they are planning or offer to bring something along. Many cooks would appreciate help getting the meal on the table.

If you are doing the cooking, you have control over what goes into the meal. You can make adjustments that meet dietary needs as you see fit.

I’ve also found that if you want to make some calorie adjustments, unless you announce it in advance, hardly anyone will notice that Granny’s Special Dish just might be a little less caloric than normal. Shocking, but true. 🙂

Don’t Let A Lapse Become Permanent

The biggest, most important <cough> “rule” for holiday eating – or eating anytime – is simply this: If you fall off your eating plan or binge on something special once or twice, don’t beat yourself up over it and don’t make it a permanent change.

In other words; it’s okay to have that moment of extra something as long as you don’t use the moment as an excuse to make it a new life change.

Each day is a new start. What you did yesterday should not impact what you do today or tomorrow. So if you went a bit overboard with the dips and chips yesterday, today you start fresh.

Expect To Be Off Plan – and Plan For It

If you do your meal planning in advance, and you know when you are going to have (or likely to have) holiday treats, include that into your plan.

Even if the holiday treats don’t happen, or you don’t eat as much as you thought you would, you are already on your game because you’ve made room in your plan for them.

Look at the rest of your meals and see if you might tweak them to accommodate potential treat issues. You never know when that cookie tray will arrive at work, right?

Don’t Beat Yourself Up

Before you start in on a game of Kick Me, reflect a bit. Did you go out of your way to go off your plan or was it just a minor infraction? What can you do better this coming week? Is it worth making yourself miserable over?

As a general rule, I find the 80/20 guideline to be helpful. That means 80% of the time I follow my plan and the remaining 20% I get to go a bit wild.

I’m not feeling deprived and it gives me motivation to stick with my plan.

When you change your vocabulary, you can change the way you think. “Diet” is temporary. “Lifestyle” is a long term, permanent way of living.

During the holidays you will find many opportunities to go back to “dieting” but I think you will find that you prefer your “lifestyle” and will instinctively move toward it.

You might think I’m crazy, but you might be surprised.

In any event, I know you’ve got this.

Tackling UFOs

R U Stuck Creatively?

In the crafting world “UFO” means Unfinished Objects. Usually a quilt or large project that has been left to sit for various reasons.

In the rest of the world, I think UFO refers to those things on a seemingly unending To Do List that never seem to get done.

I’m guilty of this. Big (or maybe not so big) projects that I really need to do simply to answer a question or two, let alone resolve a cleaning issue. Cleaning out and inventorying my pantry, for example.

I can have a better handle on meal planning when I know what I have on hand and what I need to purchase.

Recharge your creative batteries!

I’m beginning to think that one of the biggest hurdles to moving forward with Change is tackling the left overs and clearing the decks.

There are always the general day-to-day things that we do simply to keep moving; food, dishes, laundry, trash, etc. But even within those tasks are tasks that keep being pushed to the “I’ll do it later” stack.

More than just clearing the decks, however, tackling UFOs opens up space to be creative. It gets rid of those things that are preventing you from trying new things.

Lots of us get stuck in the rut of “I can’t start anything new until I finish all my pending stuff.” or some such.

Could this be considered self-sabotage?

Can’t start the New Eating Plan until all the old food is eaten.

Can’t start the New Craft Project until all the old projects are done.

Can’t find a New Series to Watch until I’ve caught up with all the old ones.

A few years ago I spent a couple of weeks away from home recovering from surgery. As such, my regular TV schedule was put by the wayside and I lost momentum with several series. Turns out, I had the opportunity to catch up, but didn’t.

Recently, for various reasons, my TV viewing schedule has been put on the sidelines, not because I can’t, but because I don’t want to keep up.

If you’ve been with me for any length of time, you know how dedicated I can be to those few shows I keep up with. This change has been unsettling and interesting.

I’ve spent time focusing on classes, checking out new videographers, exploring topics I had previously had only a passing interest in.

As a result of this, I’ve rekindled an interest in a craft I’d put aside and am now contemplating tackling again. I gathered new material to use when I’m ready. I’ve added information that I can use later.

By clearing out my “I have to do this” list, I made room for the “I might want to do this” list.

To put it another way, by cleaning out the closet, I’ve made room for new things.

If you are stuck, in whatever version of “creativity” you prefer, maybe you need to consider that not all projects left unfinished need to be “finished” and that you can give yourself permission to either hand them off or leave them be and go on to the next.

Keep It Simple

How to Keep Your Interest Without Becoming Overwhelmed

I love the excitement of finding some thing new that I want to try or read or watch or… Well, you get the idea. 🙂

The problem is, life has a way of interrupting the excitement and sometimes I lose track of that Wonderful Whatever to the point where I forget what made me excited about it in the first place.

I love history, films, music, TV, books, and loads of other things.

My crafting is pretty simple – I’ve been known to put a project down for years (really) only to pick it up and finally finish it. That is one reason my crafting has to be simple. Complicated projects could be sidelined for so long as to be unfinishable.

I love to crochet, but I do it so infrequently I have to relearn every single time. Really.

I’m also the person who jumps in a few yards ahead of where I probably should start.

I started my first quilting projects not by sewing simple squares together, but sewing hand cut half hexagons and triangles.

I dare add that my foray into sewing was a (thankfully) brief project for Home Economics class in High School that didn’t exactly work out. <cough>

Back to the quilting, while jumping into the middle, if not the deep end, of the pool might not be the best idea ever, I did learn a lot. And I gained quite a few tools. And fabric.

My card making is, deliberately, not high end. I have loads of paper, tools, embellishments, etc., and I enjoy the process, but I am still learning.

I love to cook and bake, but as I’m only feeding me, my major creativity tends to be … tampered a bit. I like being able to wear a smaller size than I used to. 🙂

What I love about watching DIY and How To videos is not just the fascination with the various projects but the rekindling of excitement for a process.

If you are hesitant about starting a new project, or if yourself stuck might I suggest a thought?

Start small.

You may want to dive in and create the most amazing 15 layer wedding cake that you can see in your imagination, but if you have little to no actual baking experience…maybe that might be a project best done in future.

I find scratch baking easy and enjoyable, but that’s me. I also know my limitations. While 15 layers could be a showstopper, I might actually start out with 2 just to see how the recipe works and if I need to do a bit of tweaking.

Those triangles and half hexagons I mentioned will soon be re-cut into new, smaller, shapes that I can use for other blocks in other projects.

Odd note about one of those fabric lines; by the time I finished cutting all those half hexagons I was mortally sick of the fabric. Sad, but true. When I pulled it out of the drawer recently, however, I found I loved it once again. The colors are beautiful, the patterns lovely and I was excited to think about how I would use it.

These days I’m less inclined (let alone interested) in making a full sized quilt and more interested in table runners, mug rugs and the like.

If you need to regain your excitement for anything, start slow, revisit what caught your attention and take smaller steps. Build on what you learn so when you face those 15 layers of cake with buttercream frosting it won’t be such a huge undertaking.

Life really is more about the journey rather than the destination. Take the time to enjoy the trip.

A Gameplan for Pretty Much Everything

It = Holiday meals, decorations, presents, whatever.

This is the time of year when people tend to start getting a bit crazy trying to either keep up with [fill in the blank] or satisfy other people’s expectations.

Sound familiar?

All this year, the recurring theme I’ve heard is “You Do You”. And, do you know what? I think there is something to be celebrated for that.

You Do You means you choose what you want to do, see, wear, make, etc. If you choose to follow family traditions, great. However, if you want to strike out on your own and try new things, why not? There is nothing wrong with expanding the envelope, shall we say? There is also nothing wrong with adding new things into old traditions. How do you think those traditions became traditions in the first place?

So, as you start thinking about your holiday preparations, if you come across a thought that starts with something like “I wish we could…” stop and think about why it can, or can’t, be done.

You might find out that some people feel a bit left out because one side (or group) has “always” done the whatever.

You might find that by sharing or letting someone else do it, you have more time to enjoy the process or the holiday or the whatever.

You Do You can carry over into non holiday things, too. Bottom line: Don’t be afraid to try and make yourself happy. Learn a few things, try new things, do (or don’t) new things. Get rid of old ideas that no longer work. Sort of like cleaning out your mental closet. The goal is to create a life that is enjoyable and comfortable.