Contain Me! I went to the Container Store!

Have you ever seen a 5 year old heading into the circus, cotton candy in hand, gleefully galloping towards the big top? Well, my giddiness today would have made that 5 year old look like Oscar the Grouch. I went here:

Container Store

Cue the choir and the angels singing, please! I literally jumped out of our car and ran into the store, while my husband said (distantly in the background) “please don’t stay in here for four hours.” Well, I came out relatively unscathed and only stayed in for a reasonable half an hour.  I seriously love this store. Now, you can find a lot of the items in other stores (and I must admit that you can find similar items for lower prices if you shop right). However, there is nowhere I’ve found that has such a comprehensive collection of boxes, bins, hooks, baskets, filing systems, shelves…I could go on and on.

Please note…even though the closest Container Store is 2 hours from us and I was SERIOUSLY considering doing the storage version of ‘Supermarket Sweep’, I restrained (CONTAINED!) myself to buying only things I had either been looking for or knew exactly how I would use them when I got home. Here are the few purchases I made.

-Small baskets for guests to use in the guest bathroom. We have zero drawers in our guest bathroom so I always feel bad when people have no place to put anything. I have been looking for cute and simple baskets to bring out onto the counter to contain toothbrushes, lotion, etc. I bought 2 medium size baskets and 1 small one.

Container Store Shopping (1)

These are very simple without being plain, they match our decor and they will clean up easily if anything spills inside them. I also put a paper towel in the bottom of each one just in case, though. Sidenote: I love the bags for The Container Store…a constant reminder to ‘Contain Yourself!’ Oh! And please also note the sneak peak of the flooring we are currently laying down in the whole bottom floor of our house (that is another story for another day!). But that explains why the baseboards are off in the photo.

-A plastic storage bin for the kid’s drinks in the fridge. This is the first one of these that I’ve bought, but I know I’ll be heading back as soon as I can to get more. We usually have a couple cups in the fridge for each kid (one for water or juice and one for milk) and we wash and replace them every couple days. But they are usually spread out all over the fridge and it makes it difficult to get to other items. Problem solved!

Container Store Shopping (8)

-A lid holder for the lids to all of our pots and pans. I love how our pots/pans cabinet has two pull out drawers. However, they were always a little disheveled. Here is the before of the top and bottom.

Container Store Shopping (2) Container Store Shopping (3)

I put the lid holder on the bottom and split up the pots and pans so there weren’t so many handles to deal with when I try to get something out. It looked like a constant sword fight in there before…pots versus pans. Whose handle will win????

Here are the after pics of the cabinet with the lid holder.

Container Store Shopping (4)

Container Store Shopping (5) Container Store Shopping (7)

I feel like I’ve made 3 changes that will impact daily life and make navigating our house a much more pleasant experience. The best part is I only spent $35.  Score one for The Container Store!

~Erin

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Grocery Shopping Tips

Lately, I have been trying to streamline my grocery shopping experience, from making the list to putting the food away. I have written before that I am notorious for going ‘off the list’ at the store. So my first goal is to make my lists as short as possible. This will serve a couple of purposes:

-The less time that I am in the store, the less chance I have to go ‘off the list’!

-If I have shorter lists, that means I’m making good use of the food I already have. If I am using up all of the food I have, then I am throwing less food away, thus saving money.

Ultimately I plan to have one of those cute pre-printed grocery lists which separates the food by category and makes it easier to shop. However, right now I’m working to use up some of the five thousand little notepads I have somehow managed to acquire. Seriously, the other day I found a stack of index cards, and I probably haven’t actually purchased this type of thing since making flash cards in high school. Yet, there are still stacks of them around my house. So I am using up all of those misc pieces of paper to make my lists for groceries, to-do, etc.

I also have a couple cute notepads with magnets on the back, so that is what I am currently working my way through. One is stuck to my fridge right now so it’s super easy to add items to a grocery list as I think of them. And it’s right above my Cleaning Schedule, so I’m looking at both items everyday! (please ignore the picture quality, this was a last minute photo for the post!)

My meal planning leaves something to be desired (as do my eating habits), but I’m working on it. Hopefully soon I will have posts of amazingly creative menu boards and cookbooks, filled with recipes that are at once delicious and healthy. Um…yeah….

So when I’m at the store, I use some pretty standard tricks:

-Start at the back. Get the cold stuff last. Pretty simple.

One other trick that works for me is taking my 9 month old. I put his car seat thing in the back of the grocery cart so I can’t really overdo on the purchasing, there’s just no room!

Truth be told, I love grocery shopping, I could actually stay in the store for 3 hours just looking at everything. It’s funny since I absolutely HATE to shop for pretty much anything else. It’s also funny because I’m not a great cook and don’t have a ton of recipes. Anyways, try as I might to stay on list and get through quick, it just doesn’t happen very often.

So most of my grocery organizing is actually done after I get home. I spend a decent amount of time putting away the groceries. Here’s the system:

-Take everything out of the bags and put all of the bags away.

-As I take the items out, I group them on the counter by : Fridge, Freezer, Pantry or other. This makes actually putting the food away go a little more quickly. Also, if the food is grouped, I only have to open the fridge and freezer one time instead of opening and closing the doors. It just makes life easier.

-Then I put away the freezer items first because….that makes sense. Also, we live 1/2 hour from the closest grocery store of any decent size and things are melting into piles of goop by the time I get home.

-Then I do the fridge items. Here is where I probably spend the most time. I try to buy a decent number of fruits and veggies, but if they are shoved away in that glorious little crisper drawer, they get forgotten until they crisp away into their expiration date. So I try to wash everything and if I can, give it a front and center place in the fridge. Here are two examples:

Grapes and carrots….love them! The kids love them! The husband loves them! But if they are in the drawer, they might as well have stayed at the store. So I wash them and put them in Tupperware. For the grapes, I also pull each and every grape off of the stem. This makes them easy to grab for snacks. So here is how we store them:

As I put stuff in the fridge, I try to wipe down each shelf a little. It’s the best time to do it because the fridge is most empty right before I fill it with groceries. It also ensures our fridge stays pretty cleaned out.

When it comes to the pantry items, they are pretty easy to put away because of the bins in my pantry. Everything has a designated spot so there’s no question as to where it goes. I do have several things I do to make things easier for when I’m actually using the food.

-We buy the 4 packs of the fruit cups for our oldest son so I take them out of the package so they are easy to grab.

-If I buy something like granola bars, I open the package and either fold in or tear off the top. So my son’s snacks go from this:

to this:

I find that when the groceries are organized, it so much easier to prepare food, find what you’re looking for and see what you are running out of. Also, my kids have inherited the gene from me that tells your body if you are hungry, you must go immediately from a super sweet angel into a crazy, screaming, get-me food-now-or-my-head-will-explode kind of tantrum. So it benefits me to be able to get them food quick and keep them looking like this:

So for now I will be content with my post-grocery shopping organizing techniques while I work on the meal planning. I will keep you posted!

~Erin

Dollar Deals

People say a dollar doesn’t buy you anything anymore. Well, they obviously don’t shop at the dollar store…..or the bargain section at Target…..or the dollar bins in the Walmart toy area…..or the bakery when they are trying to get rid of bread that is close to the expiration date. Let me tout the benefits of each!

Dollar Stores

I LOVE Dollar stores. Seriously, it’s an affliction. It’s too bad the closest one to me is an hour away! It’s ok though, I get there when I can. I go to dollar store for a lot of different items, however there are a few things that I think get you the best value. The first are gift bags/ wrapping paper.

Have you tried to buy a gift bag at a party store? They ask some ridiculous prices for these things! I love the dollar store because you can find some really cute ones for a buck, but you can also sometimes find several of them (a bag of bags, if you will) bunched together and you still only pay a dollar. Especially around Christmas, I go to dollar stores for my bags, wrapping paper, ribbon, gift tags and bows. SUCH a better deal.

Another thing I get there is aluminum pans for cooking.

They have all different sizes at the store I go to and have several in each package. Score!

I have also found cute fabric bins for my kid’s socks and toys there.

Dollar Stores are also a great place to go for kids coloring books, party supplies, and seasonal decorations.

Target/ Walmart Discount Sections

Now these are the classic ‘impulse purchase’ areas (especially Target who cleverly slips this section right next to the shopping carts in the front). I have found myself sucked into this section and holding 4 containers that ‘look like old fashioned popcorn bins’ on more than one occasion. Have you seen these things?

They are so cute, but really? I have to then pry them from my hands and convince myself that I need no such thing! Anyways, be careful when you wander into these sections. However, you can find some great items. I have found perfect stocking stuffers for the kids here. I have found frisbees for the dogs here. I have found those socks that are so soft you feel like you’re stepping into a cloud here. If you are careful, you can great deals without buying unnecessary items. And in the Walmart toy section, they have a little area with cheap toys. These are perfect for my 3 year old’s prize basket. When he gets a certain number of stickers, he gets something special. Sometimes it’s a popsicle, sometimes it’s a cartoon, sometimes it’s a toy from this basket:

Silly little things, really. But to a 3 year old, the best prizes ever! And nothing in the basket ever costs over $1.00.

Bakery at Your Grocery Store

My husband and I buy the bread from the bakery at the grocery store because it tastes soooo much better. The Italian loaves we get are only $1.60 at their highest price. However, if they have some at the end of the day, they will discount them. Otherwise they have to throw them out. There are also entire stores dedicated to ‘almost expired’ bakery items. I don’t have one near me anymore, but in Arizona I used to go to one all the time. It was great….breads, pastries, bagels, desserts….all over half off.  And when you buy these items, you are not only saving money; you are keeping the items out of the trash!

Now I am not advocating buying items just because they are a dollar. That is how we all get too much stuff! What I am advocating is planning ahead, considering your options and buying certain items in bulk because you know you will use them.

So don’t listen to those people complaining about the dollar. It can still go far!

~Erin

Where did July go?

So it has been almost two weeks since I posted something. It is aaaahmazing how quickly time goes by. We got to Georgia and then it’s been a whirlwind ever since. We spent almost the whole two weeks working every day (regular work and then the big Atlanta Gift Show). By the time I got home each night, I was so exhausted and still had a ton of other work stuff to catch up on. However, I did have a couple free hours here and there to do a few other things!

My sister-in-law and I have been running around preparing for the arrival of her first baby! We’ve been creating registries and also making the obligatory trips to both Target and Ikea. I LOVE these two stores. They are great for so many things, but one of the best things you can find at them is storage. We bought a Closetmaid Shelf at Target:

She is going to set it up and then decide how many of the cubicles she wants to put fabric bins in. Have I mentioned before that I am obsessed with Closetmaid shelves? I’m not sure that I have. We seriously have them everywhere in our house. We have a bunch of the 2 cubicle units and some have fabric drawers and some don’t.

-We have one unit in our mudroom to hold shoes.

-We have 2 stacked in our living room for toys. Three of the shelves have fabric bins and one is for books. We just secured the two units together so they don’t topple over. We have a full crew of kids and dogs in our house and I’m amazed that there are actually items we don’t have to screw into the wall. It’s craziness!

-I have another unit with drawers in the guest room closet. Right now, these bins are filled with toys since this room is also our playroom. My future plan is to completely redo the guest room. I am going to buy two more bins that just stay empty and when guests come, I will take the toy bins out and put in the empty ones so guests have a place to store things and unpack a little.

Speaking of the guest room, I found some great inspiration at Ikea!

May I introduce…..the Lidan baskets!

These things are so absolutely cool. They are made of a soft pliable material so that you can actually change the shape slightly. However, they are still strong enough to hold a variety of items and I think they would be great for both a bedroom and a bathroom. Here’s an inspiration picture I found using the sets of 4 baskets:

I am just picturing these awesome little creations holding hand towels and potpourri in the bathroom, magazines and extra blankets in the guest room.  Loving it! One disappointment though. I didn’t buy them because I thought I would run the idea by my husband and then just pop on over to the online store and order them. (Big ‘wrong answer’ buzzer sound) They don’t sell them online, you can only get them in the store! I guess I’ll be scurrying back to downtown Atlanta before we head back to Colorado. 🙂

I think it will be worth it though. They have the look and feel of something you might find at a boutique type home store, but without the high price tag. I love that kind of find.

Here is another item that is making me think outside the box for the guest room:

This is the Malin Band throw blanket (sadly also available only in stores) and it’s making me want to expand on my original thoughts for the guest room. I don’t think I ever would have chosen the colors green, teal and gray for our little Colorado mountain house, but the colors on this blanket were so rich and calming, I’m thinking I could ‘throw’ a little seaside into the mountains. What do you think?

~Erin