Thursday, October 20, 2011

Roasted Tomato Soup

I don’t know what the weather has been like where you live, but I can definitely tell that Fall is here in Virginia Beach. This week has been a little warmer, but the 2 weeks prior to this week were BEAUTIFUL!! I love this time of year and the cool crisp weather that we have been experiencing!

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When it came time to plan my meals for last week, I was definitely in the mood for some yummy soups to go along with the cool weather! One of my favorite soups is tomato soup. Tomato soup with a grilled cheese sandwich is definitely one of my favorite comfort foods. I am no longer satisfied with the canned soups that I used to eat though. I have tried quite a few homemade tomato soup recipes and have finally combined them into my “go-to” homemade Roasted Tomato Soup recipe!

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First, find some beautiful red tomatoes…

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After they are stemmed and quartered, place the tomatoes in 2 casserole dishes with the garlic, oil, salt, and pepper and toss to coat.

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Roast the tomatoes in a 450 degree oven for about 40 minutes or until the tomatoes are very soft.

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Now, if you are not worried about having the little pieces of tomato skin in your soup then you can skip this next step. Personally, I can’t stand them so I am willing to take the extra step to remove the skin!

Remove the tomato skins and discard. This is actually pretty easy to do if you have roasted the tomatoes long enough. I use 2 forks and just peel back the skin…it comes right off!

Place peeled tomatoes and smashed garlic cloves in a large pot.

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Clearly, I am NOT a food photographer!

Add all remaining ingredients except for the cream in the pot with the tomatoes. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

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Use an immersion blender to puree until smooth.

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You could also place the soup into a blender to puree.

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Stir in the cream and serve! You can add some salt and pepper to taste if needed. Personally, I like to taste the sweetness of the tomatoes in the soup so I don’t add much salt.

Seriously…my mouth is watering as I am typing this!!

I love serving this along with some Pesto-Mozzarella Dippers! Yum!

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These are basically grilled cheese sandwiches using french bread, pesto, and fresh mozzarella slices!

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Click {here} to download or print this recipe.

Roasted Tomato Soup

1/4 cup olive oil

6 garlic cloves, smashed

2 teaspoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 teaspoons dry basil

1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil with herbs

5 pounds of tomatoes, stemmed and quartered

2 cups chicken broth

1/2 cup heavy cream

 

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

2. Toss tomatoes with garlic, oil, salt, and pepper to coat evenly

3. Roast in 2 casserole dishes for 40 minutes or until very soft

4. Remove peels from roasted tomatoes (optional).

5. Add all ingredients except the heavy cream into a large pot. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

6. Use immersion blender in pot or place soup into blender to puree until smooth.

7. Stir in cream and serve! Add salt and pepper to taste if needed.

 

Don’t forget about the Erasable Label giveaway. I have decided to extend the giveaway until the end of the month. I will now close the giveaway on Monday, October 31st at midnight ET!

 

Linking up with:

Serenity Now: Weekend Bloggy Reading

Keeping It Simple: Motivate Me Monday

The Girl Creative: Just Something I Whipped Up

One Tough Mother: Not So Tough Tuesdays

Monday, October 17, 2011

31 Days: Clear the Air in Your Home Part 2

Last week, I posted a few tips for how to clear the air in your home in order to create a more peaceful environment in your home. Here are some additional ways that you can work towards this goal:

Did you know that, according to the EPA, the air inside of our homes is usually more polluted than the outside air of highly industrialized cities such as Los Angeles?? Much of that “pollution”, that the EPA is referring to in that statement, is from chemicals in products that we *think* are making our homes cleaner and safer. A little over a year ago, I was surprised to discover that many of the products I had been using for years contained chemicals that were known to cause cancer (carcinogens) or affect the nervous system (neurotoxins) in many negative ways.

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In the past, when I purchased cleaning products, I was more interested in how well they worked than what warnings were on the label. Do you know that the label on the toilet cleaner that I was using instructed me to use safety glasses, goggles, a face shield, and personal protective equipment such as a *respirator* while cleaning the toilet!! What?!?!

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Just imagine how these chemicals are affecting those that have issues with allergies and asthma! Most people think that they are safe in their own homes, but I am sure that most people would make different choices about what products they brought into their homes if they knew everything about the chemicals in those products.

If you have been following this blog for any time at all, then you have probably heard me rave about the Shaklee products that I use!

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I have been using them for a little over a year now and I will never switch back to anything else! Not only do they work better than most cleaning products that I have used in the past, but I know that they are safe for my family!!

Many people choose to make their own cleaning products in order avoid harsh chemicals and that is great. I found that the Shaklee products are even more cost-effective than using homemade cleaning products though!

Check out this cost-comparison sheet:

Get Clean Cost Comparison 2009 -- MN

{Click image to enlarge}

Do you make your own cleaning products? Have you found any safe cleaning products that you swear by?

Don’t forget to enter the giveaway for the Erasable Freezer Labels!! Giveaway ends Friday, October 21st!!

31 Days: Meal Planning

How far ahead do you plan your meals? I know some people that plan their meals out months in advance and others that don’t really plan meals at all and just head to the store with an “idea” of what meals they plan to make for the week. I plan my meals out only 1-2 weeks at a time and only shop for 1 weeks meals at a time. Here is my process:

First, I look at my planner for the week ahead to determine how many meals I need to plan for. There are some weeks that we are going to a party one night and therefore don’t need to cook a meal that night. Sometimes Rarely, we have a Parents Night Out for dinner which means I don’t need to plan a big meal for that evening.

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Between Pinterest, blogs, and magazines, I am constantly coming across recipes that I would like to try. If I find the recipes in magazines, I cut them out and file them in my file box until I get a chance to try them.

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I have a folder designated for each type of recipe: main dish, breakfast, desserts, snacks/appetizers…

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Once I have tried the recipe and decide that I would like to make it again, I find a more permanent place to keep it. Sometimes I find a link for it online and save it in my Pinterest account. Other times, I actually type it up and save it in my Tastebook account. Eventually, I will get around to ordering one of the cookbooks from Tastebook with all of my favorite recipes that I have saved!

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If I come across a recipe that I would like to try out the next week, I write it down on my meal planning sheet.

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As you can see, I don’t have the days of the week pre-printed on this form. I simply write down the meals that I would like for the week along with side dishes, any meals/snacks that are needed for parties or church activities, etc. I also plan for school lunches at this time as well.

Sometimes I make my grocery list as I add meals to the form. Other times I just refer to the meal form on Thursdays when I make my grocery list.

Next, I look at the coming week to decide which meals will be on which day of the week. I take our schedule into consideration when doing this. For instance, my girls go to AWANA on Wednesday nights. I make a point not to plan a meal for that night that is going to take a lot of time to prepare. I also try to plan meals at the beginning of the week that have ingredients that will spoil quickly. So…if I have a meal that requires fresh green beans, I will make that meal ASAP in order to avoid the green beans going bad.

For the most part, planning out my meals this way has helped avoid the chaos at dinner time…you know… “what are we having for dinner???” There still are evenings when I decide I don’t want to make what I had planned for that evening…or I realize that I am missing one of the ingredients for that nights meal. Those instances are few and far between though.

How do you plan your meals? What are your favorite sources for great recipes?

Don’t forget to enter the giveaway for the Erasable Freezer Labels!! Giveaway ends Friday, October 21st!!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

31 Days: Waste Less Food…and a Giveaway!

Edited to add: I will be extending the giveaway until the end of the month. I will now close the giveaway on Monday, October 31st at midnight ET!!

As I mentioned in the past, I feel like one of the most important ways to create a peaceful home is to have systems in place. I will be focusing on meal prep for a few posts.

Pantry:

First of all, when I unload the groceries, I write the expiration date on the top of any cans that I purchased.

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This helps me quickly take an inventory to see which items need to be used up soon. I will then plan a meal around that item.

Fridge:

When I open a container or package of something but don’t use it all, I always refer to StillTasty!

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You can browse by category or just search for the item. It will then tell you how long you can keep the open container in the fridge or in the freezer. It will also list tips for the best way to store or freeze the item. It’s fabulous!

I then use that info to determine the “expiration” date of the item that I opened. For instance, if I open sour cream, but don’t use it all, StillTasty tells me that it will be good for 2 weeks. I look on the calendar, and write the date that is 2 weeks away.

Every Thursday, I try to go through the fridge and get rid of any items that are expired or leftovers that have been in there too long. I can also see which items need to be used soon.

The last time that I was lucky enough to go to The Container Store, I found these awesome labels!

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These erasable food storage labels can go in the freezer, dishwasher, and microwave and not fall off! Just write the contents of the container on the label with a fine tip permanent marker. Before you put the container in the dishwasher, just erase the label with a white eraser or some rubbing alcohol. (I already have rubbing alcohol close by since I use it for my daily checklists.) Easy, right?

These labels have definitely made it easier to identify which leftovers are in the fridge and how long they have been in there. My husband usually ends up taking some leftovers to work for lunch, so now he can clearly see his choices rather than guessing what is in the black tupperware container.

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I can also label the food that is for my daughter’s lunch the next day so that he doesn’t accidentally eat it. (yes…that has happened twice this year!)

I also placed a label on one of the other things that I picked up at The Container Store…my Bacon Stay Fresh Container.

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I used to keep the extra bacon in a freezer bag, but now I don’t have to keep wasting bags.  A reusable container is a much better option.

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Freezer:

My husband just bought us a Foodsaver machine off of Craigslist. I love it! It definitely cuts down on food waste since it keeps things from getting freezer-burned.

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I’ve just scratched the surface of my freezing capabilities with it though. Any tips??

Giveaway

So…who would like to win some erasable food storage labels? I have 2 packages of labels to give away. Each package contains 70 assorted size labels. This giveaway is open to US residents only. I will close the giveaway on Friday, October 21st at midnight ET.  Monday, October 31st at midnight ET.

1. Comment on this post letting me know your best tip for food storage…or preventing food waste.

2. Become a follower of A Home Made by Kiki via Google Friend Connect in the sidebar and comment on this post letting me know that you did. If you are already a follower, just let me know in the comments.

3. Become a fan of A Home Made by Kiki on Facebook and let me know in the comments. If you are already a fan, just let me know in the comments.

4. Blog about this giveaway or post about it on Facebook and link to this post in your post/FB status. Provide the link to your post in the comments. You can re-post the giveaway once a day while the giveaway is open for additional entries.

31 Days: Clear the Air in Your Home Part 1

The weather here in Virginia Beach has been GORGEOUS for the past couple of weeks! I love this weather because I can turn off the air conditioner and open the windows. I don’t know what it is about opening the windows, but it always makes me want to clean and declutter!

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This year, one of the first things that I cleaned after I opened the windows was the window screens. I usually hose off the window screens every couple of months or so and then wash the exterior of the windows, but this time I wanted to make sure I did a really thorough cleaning.

Every spring, we experience the “annual pollen event”…

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A fine layer of greenish yellow pollen covers everything! When the windows of my house are opened, the breeze from the outside will blow any remaining pollen and dust off of the screen and into my house. I wanted to prevent any additional allergens from entering our house so I took down every single screen on both levels of our house and laid them out in the yard…

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I filled a bucket with some water and Basic H2

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It probably only took me about 30 minutes to wash all of the screens. I washed the tracks as well as the actual screen material. There was quite a bit of build up on the tracks of the screens.

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It was great to know that it was no longer blowing into my house whenever I had the windows open!

I also washed out the tracks on the actual window frames as well as the screens before putting the screens back onto the windows.

Another important step in clearing the air in your house is to make sure that you air intake filters are changed frequently. I am usually pretty good about replacing the filters every couple of months as needed, but I hadn’t changed the current ones since June! Yikes! I like to change both air filters in our home at the same time. I purchased one for the upstairs, but they were sold out of the size I needed for the downstairs. I just kept forgetting to buy one for downstairs. Ugh!

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I know…gross!

Every time I replace the filter, I write the date on the edge in order to keep track of how long it has been in there.

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I also have a post-it tab that I put in my planner to remind me to check the air filter each month.

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(This last time, I just kept moving the tab a week forward every time I came across it thinking that I would go out and buy an air filter that week…oops!)

Poor home air quality can aggravate allergies and asthma, particularly children’s allergies. Change your filter for your family’s health. Changing your filter when needed also extends the life of your HVAC system and reduces your energy bill!

Another way to keep the air in your home clean, is to use a vacuum that has a HEPA filter on it. I just ordered a new one for my vacuum.

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It definitely feels more peaceful in my home when I know the air is cleaner.

What other techniques do you use to breathe easier in your home?

Saturday, October 8, 2011

31 Days: A Peaceful Heart

I’m taking a break today from the long posts that I have been writing Here are a few quotes to think about as we start the weekend:

If there is to be peace in the world,
There must be peace in the nations.


If there is to be peace in the nations,
There must be peace in the cities.


If there is to be peace in the cities,
There must be peace between neighbors.


If there is to be peace between neighbors,
There must be peace in the home.


If there is to be peace in the home,
There must be peace in the heart.


-- Lao Tzu (570-490 B.C.)

 

In some of my recent posts, I have emphasized how important I think it is to take care of yourself as one of the first steps toward creating a peaceful home. So…how do you create peace in your heart as a step toward creating peace in your home?

Be Thankful!

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The next time you find yourself stressed out or frustrated about something…traffic, housework, poor customer service…try to think of at least one thing that you are thankful for. These thoughts will produce joy and happiness in your day.

Relax!

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Take some time to do something that you enjoy! I touched on a few suggestions for relaxation when I talked about how to handle stress.

Simplify!

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Get rid of the things that are unnecessary in your life. They will just weigh you down mentally! I’m not only talking about physical items…but also commitments, activities, etc..

How do you create peace in your heart?

Friday, October 7, 2011

31 Days: Take Care of Yourself First

Do you know how the flight attendants instruct you to place your oxygen mask on before placing one on your child…in case of an emergency?

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Well, that thought process can be used for moms on a day to day basis as well. We all know that when the mom isn’t feeling well, things don’t go as planned! Take care of yourself first so that you will feel up to everything that will go on in your busy day!

One of the most common complaints from moms around the world is that they don’t have enough energy! This isn’t surprising considering all of the ways that energy is depleted from our bodies:

  • lack of sleep
  • stress
  • refined carbohydrates
  • sugar
  • 2 year-olds
  • teenagers
  • LIFE

All of these things (OK…maybe not technically the 2 year olds and teenagers) deplete B vitamins which are essential for energy production in our cells!

B vitamins are some of the most essential vitamins to maintain the body’s normal function.

  • Essential for brain and nervous system
  • Convert food into energy
  • Form protective antibodies and healthy red blood cells
  • Reduce risk of heart disease
  • Have a profound effect on mood and emotions

Since the B vitamins are water-soluble, the body does not store them. Instead, your body excretes B vitamins constantly throughout the day.

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I recently started taking, in addition to my morning multivitamin/multimineral tablet, a B complex tablet at noon and another at 3pm. This keeps a constant flow of vitamin B in my body throughout the day and keeps me energized. I have noticed such a difference in my energy level since I started doing this!!

Also, since I don’t have time to get sick, I take a Vitamin C tablet as well. I buy the chewable kind so that my girls can take one each day in addition to their multivitamin.

One area that I definitely need to work on is drinking more water.

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I am really bad about this! I am a nurse so I know the importance of getting enough fluids in our bodies…therefore, I do not have an excuse!

I try to make sure that my kids have healthy lunches and snacks during the day, but I need to be careful about the snacks that I choose too.

These are just a few of the areas that we need to focus on in order to take care of ourselves and stay healthy for our families.

If you are looking for an amazing multivitamin/multinutrient tablet, check out Vitalizer! You are guaranteed to feel better in 30 days or you will get a full refund! I can absolutely tell the difference in my energy level and how I feel if I forget to take my Vitalizer for a couple of days! It’s amazing! You will also receive a free Shaklee membership when you order Vitalizer. What a great deal!

What are some steps that you take to make sure that you are feeling your best in order to tackle the day?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

31 Days: Smooth Morning Routines

I am writing this post today because of the fact that we had anything BUT a smooth morning yesterday. Weekday mornings usually go pretty smoothly so I definitely notice it when they don’t. Yesterday morning was not even close to my goal of having a peaceful home!

Here are some examples of what NOT to do:

  1. Do not forget to wash out the bento-style lunch box the night before!
  2. Do not forget to look ahead at what lunch is planned for the next day before you go to bed!
  3. Do not forget to set your daughter’s school clothes out the night before!
  4. Do not decide to snooze your alarm so many times that your first grader misses the bus and you have to drive her to school.
  5. Do not forget to put all folders and school necessities in your daughter’s backpack the night before.

Are you getting a sense of what my morning was like?? I guess I needed a good reminder of why I do the things that I do to prepare for each morning.

I will be sharing my entire meal planning process next week, but I will take a few minutes to touch on how meal planning affects school lunches.

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One of the most important things to me right now is making sure that my girls develop healthy eating habits. I will share more about the type of lunches that I send with my first grader next week as well. I try to look at my menu plan to see what lunch is planned for the following day. I will complete any prep work that can be done the night before…cut carrots, wash grapes, put drink in the fridge, etc… At this point, I don’t find it necessary to make sandwiches the night before. Some people make sandwiches the night before and other people even make a week’s worth of sandwiches and freeze them. These people usually have more kids in school than I do though.

In addition to finishing up lunch prep the night before, I also try to lay out my daughter’s school clothes, make sure everything is in her backpack, set out the vitamins as a reminder to give them to the girls the next morning (This isn’t usually a problem thought since both of them love taking their vitamins. My 3 year old tries to convince me that I didn’t giver hers to her in the morning so that she can have more.), and make sure that everything is ready for any errands I have to run the next day.

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My daughter knows that there is no watching TV on school mornings and pretty much knows what is expected of her in order to get ready for school. Now, that doesn’t mean that I don’t have to remind her to stay on track with getting ready…it wouldn’t be a normal day if she didn’t get distracted with something every step of the way!

For the most part, this school year has gone pretty smoothly if I just take these small steps each evening. It really doesn’t take that long at all! A rushed morning definitely sets a bad tone for the rest of the day!

What steps do you take to make sure that your morning/day runs smoothly?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

31 Days: Are Coupons Worth the Effort?

One of my “techniques” for creating a peaceful home (something I am always actively striving for) is to have systems in place for some of the monotonous things that need to get done each week. Once you find a system that works, you will save time on those tasks!

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One of the hardest things for me to keep up with is the paperwork! Mail, homework papers, coupons, receipts, etc… It can become overwhelming very easily. Just yesterday, I had to take some time to sort through quite a few piles of papers to get my desk back in decent shape!

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Today I am going to share my “system” for handling coupons. I have been couponing for a couple of years now. Over the past few months, I haven’t been as dedicated as I was previously, but I still use coupons on a regular basis.

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First of all, let’s talk about the coupons that I receive in my Sunday paper. Depending on the week, I usually receive between 1 and 4 coupon inserts with my paper each week. In the past, I have picked up extra papers on the weeks that included 4 inserts, but I haven’t done that in a while. According to my “daily schedule”, I sort all of my coupons on Monday. There are some Mondays that I just don’t get to it so the following weeks I will have 2 weeks of sorting to do. If I keep up with it, it really doesn’t take very long at all!

There are about a million ways that you can sort your coupons. I have chosen to keep my coupon inserts intact (without clipping every single coupon) and to file them in an expandable file folder. I definitely don’t have the time to sit around and cut out every single coupon and file it away.

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With each insert, I:

  • write the date on the front of the insert

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  • quickly browse through to look for coupons that I always use or that are really great coupons that I definitely want to use before it expires…I only clip those coupons!
  • file the insert in the expandable file by week

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I place the coupons that I just clipped into my coupon file (which goes with me to the store)…

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I have a section in my file for each section of the grocery store:

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  1. Condiments
  2. Breakfast
  3. Pantry
  4. Fridge/Freezer
  5. Non-food (i.e. batteries)
  6. Cleaners
  7. Paper products (napkins, paper plates, etc…)
  8. Dental Care
  9. Beauty (shampoo/conditioner, lotion, deodorant, etc…
  10. Health
  11. Pet Care
  12. Baby

What about coupons that come in the mail, or from tearpads in the store? Throughout the week, I place them in the “coupons” folder of my desktop basket along with store ads/flyers….

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When I go through the coupon file each week to file the coupons, I either place them in the file mentioned above or into a larger file folder (the purple one below).

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This larger file contains a section for each store…Target, home stores (BB&B, Office Depot, Harris Teeter, etc…) I keep the ads in here as well as coupons that are only available to be used at that particular store.

I keep the 2 file folders and all of my other coupon paraphernalia in my brand new Thirty-One gifts utility organizer. Love it!

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So…how about you? Do you use coupons when you grocery shop?

Have you missed any of the other posts for the “31 Days to a Peaceful Home?” You can find them all on the index page.