Muffin Tin Mondays

Muffin Tin Mondays :: maximizingdaysblog.com - Fill a muffin tins with Veggies, Fruits, Meat, Cheese, Crackers & Condiments. No plates or silverware needed. Easy lunch that your kids will love.

Full Disclosure:  This is not my idea.

I saw it on Twin Cities Moms Blog Instagram this summer and decided to give it a try.  My kids thought I was the best mom ever (for approximately 3 minutes).

Simultaneously, I was reading Emily Ley’s A Simplified Life, and was specifically struck by the chapter on Simplified Technology.  Ley pointed out the ways that we can let social media drain us and ways to combat it.

But THIS is what social media is good for.  Ideas that we would never come up with on our own.

Snacky foods in a muffin pan is not rocket science.  But without seeing how someone else did it, we wouldn’t have Muffin Tin Mondays in our house.

And Muffin Tin Mondays are a legit thing now.  My kids look forward to it and, literally, count down the days until Monday for just this reason.  The irony is that we eat almost the exact same thing for supper on Sunday nights (lovingly called ‘Snacky Supper’ in our home), but they don’t care.  Or even realize it.

Muffin Tin Mondays aren’t just great because there are no plates or silverware, or because it’s a great way to clean out whatever scraps of food you have lying around.  They’re great because it’s a way to make the mundane things special.

Every other day of the week, we eat lunch (on plates with silverware) at our Dining Room table.  But not on Mondays.  After arriving home from pre-school pick up, the muffin tin is filled in less than 3 minutes and put on the kitchen island counter.   The kids belly up to the counter and think they are living their best life.

It’s special because we call it special.  And, sometimes, that’s all it takes.

Muffin Tin Mondays :: maximizingdaysblog.com - Fill a muffin tins with Veggies, Fruits, Meat, Cheese, Crackers & Condiments. No plates or silverware needed. Easy lunch that your kids will love.

So, what’s the equation for this rocket science meal?  For your own turn as Mom of the Year, follow this formula:

Muffin Tin Mondays

  • 2 Proteins (Sandwich meat, Summer Sausage, Nuts, Hard-Boiled Eggs, etc.)
  • 2 Veggies (Carrots, Cucumbers, Celery, Pea Pods, Broccoli, Grape Tomatoes, Avocado chunks, Pepper slices, etc.)
  • 2 Fruits (Blueberries, Grapes, Strawberries, Apple slices, Orange slices, Prunes, Cherries, Blackberries, Raspberries, Kiwi, Watermelon, Mango, etc.)
  • 3 C’s (Cheese, Crackers & Condiments)
  • *A leftover muffin well for shells, stems & pits gets you extra points

Instead of crackers, you could do mini muffins, any variety of pretzel, veggie straws….. the possibilities are endless.

Obviously, these suggestions are not an exhaustive list.  You can really do this up.  But let me say that, for us, what makes this successful is it’s simplicity.

Type ‘Muffin Tin Monday’ into the Pinterest search bar, and you’ll see exactly what we avoid.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that kind of effort and creativity.  But to try to do that every Monday would defeat the purpose for us.

So, I start with the leftover shelf in our fridge and then move down to the fruit & veggies shelf and fill the rest of the muffin wells with whatever we have in the pantry.

Bonus: What they don’t eat becomes my lunch.  It’s perfect because they almost never eat all the veggies & nuts and almost always eat all of the crackers.

Muffin Tin Mondays :: maximizingdaysblog.com - Fill a muffin tins with Veggies, Fruits, Meat, Cheese, Crackers & Condiments. No plates or silverware needed. Easy lunch that your kids will love.

What lunch hack have you found that works well in your home?

Check out other kid lunch ideas here and where those leftover and veggie spots are in my fridge here.

Finding Time to Try New Recipes

3 Ways to Find Time to Try New Recipes :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Tell me if this is you: Gets excited to find new recipes on Pinterest or in cookbooks, but feel like you make the same thing every week.

*Insert hand raising emoji here*

Me too.

I’m one of those people who actually enjoys cooking.  I really do.  But we are in a stage of life right now – I’m stay-at-home mom to a 3 & 5 year-old – where cooking is done out of necessity and not enjoyment.

But that desire to find new favorites and make them hasn’t gone away, so I’ve had to find ways to try those new recipes.

3 Ways to Find Time to Try New Recipes

Be Realistic

The name of my cooking game right now is speed.  How fast can I go from starting to prepare supper to on the table?

The faster, the better.

And I don’t know if it’s just me, but trying something new takes me for-ev-er.  Whatever the cook time is listed on the recipe, I double it.  I’m a slow cooker.

Give yourself permission to try something new when it’s fun for you and not when you’re feeling obligated or guilty.  Enjoying trying new recipes doesn’t mean recreating the wheel every day and utilizing a new cook book doesn’t mean finishing every recipe in it in a month.

3 Ways to Find Time to Try New Recipes :: maximizingdaysblog.com

For Mother’s Day, my husband got me the Magnolia Table cookbook.  I proceeded to read through it and flag the recipes that I want to try – of which there were about 20.

That will probably take me 2 years.

It may seem like  a long time, but if you do the math, that’s one new recipe a month, and I know that’s ambitious for me.  And it’s October, which means I’m five months behind already.

Simplify the Other Parts of the Meal

Go Big or Go Home doesn’t apply to this situation.

When you do have the time to try something new, put all of your effort into one new recipe at a time, and make the other parts of the meal as simple as possible.

For this meal, I decided to go with bagged salad and my favorite bread from my favorite bakery for the sides.

3 Ways to Find Time to Try New Recipes :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Be Strategic About When Your Cook the New Recipe

Make the new recipe on a day when you have some margin.  Don’t try to squeeze it in when you’re crunched for time and feeling the weight of getting food on the table ASAP.  Pick a weekend or a random day off.

I had one day last week where I was home taking care of my infant nephew, so I could start supper prep a little early.  And we didn’t have to be anywhere that evening.  So if making the meal took longer than the book said it would (which it always does), we wouldn’t be late for anything.

3 Ways to Find Time to Try New Recipes :: maximizingdaysblog.com

These little tricks allowed me to look forward to trying something new.  All day, I was looking forward to making something yummy (hopefully) and having an outlet for this tiny creative part of me.  And  the recipe turned out awesome and has now been added to our list of family meals.  That doesn’t always happen, but you don’t know until you try, right?

What are you ways to find time to do what you enjoy?

3 Ways to Find Time to Try New Recipes :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Perspective

Perspective :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Earlier this week, my husband went into work before the kids woke up.  Which mean that I single-parented.  I’m not good at that. (Shout out to all of you who do this EVERY DAY).

I get so discouraged when I leave the house with stuff undone (i.e. not ready for the evening when we return).  I pulled out of our driveway feeling frustrated about what didn’t get done.  But then it occurred to me to think about what did.  So, I started making a mental list, which became an actual list.

From 5:00AM-8:15AM, I did the following:

  • Snuggled hubby (TMI???)
  • Brushed teeth
  • Made bed
  • Took vitamins
  • Drank glass of lemon water
  • COFFEE
  • Did devotions
  • Prayed
  • Checked Email
  • Created game plan to help a friend declutter
  • Showered
  • Did hair & makeup
  • Packed my lunch
  • Emptied dishwasher
  • Snuggled kiddos
  • Made breakfast
  • Cleaned up 2 spills (salt & raisins)
  • Comforted a child after she fell off of her chair
  • Comforted said child’s sibling because he got his Dad’s empathy and struggles big time to see others hurting
  • Got 2 children dressed – in seasonally appropriate attire
  • Brushed 2 children’s teeth
  • Monitored 2 children’s making of their beds
  • Remembered to pack children’s blankets for nap at day care

This list is not by way of bragging.

It is the tool that I use to give myself perspective.

I left the house focused on the dirty dishes that covered the counter, and underneath those dishes is a pile of crumbs.  Below those counters are floors filled with crumbs.  And next to those counters are pans with scrambled egg remnants that are going to be a bugger to scrub off.

It’s so easy (for me) to focus on what isn’t done.  But there are days when I need to give myself some grace and change my perspective.  I’m learning to have eyes to see what should be celebrated and not just what should be fixed.

SaveSave

Currently….

Currently :: maximizingdaysblog.com

I Am Currently…..

Wearing

All of the same things that I wore last year.  Boring, I know.

But I shop for the current season at the end of it because that’s when stuff is cheap.  For instance, I bought this sweater in April or May on clearance and it’s been sitting in a drawer with the tags on since then.  I wore it on Sunday for the first time, and loved it.

Reading

Grace Not Perfection by Emily Ley.

I  said last month that I was reading this, but hadn’t actually started it yet.  I’ve since finished it and am now re-reading it.   This time through, I’m soaking it all in and taking the time to think through the practical changes that I can make to hold myself to a standard of grace, not perfection.

I got all mushy talking about it here.

Eating

Chicken Pot Pie.

I got this recipe from a friend via The Pioneer Woman.  My friend made it for a group of us and I am proclaimed pot pie dislike-er.  No more.

I made it a few weeks ago on the first “cold”(ish) day and have it on our menu again this week.  You can make the filling ahead of time, substitute a packaged pie crust and add a bagged salad for a delicious meal.

Watching

Ocean’s 8.

The hubby and me have started a new thing where we pick one night each week and designate it “Home Date Night.”  After the kids go to bed, we put away our phones, walk away from to-do lists and spend the two hours before it’s our bed time doing something together.  We take turns planning it and last week was my husband’s turn.

He nailed it.

He got home late, but made up for it with (store-bought) cheesecake, sparkling grape juice (neither of us like wine) & Ocean’s 8.

In our 7 years of marriage, I can count on one hand how many movies we’ve watched, so this was a big deal.  He remembered a conversation from a while ago where I saw a preview for the movie and mentioned that I thought it looked interesting.  He tucked that little nugget away, and cashed it in last week.

We are both big Ocean’s 11 fans.  Ocean’s 12 & 13, not so much.  In our opinion, Ocean’s 8 wasn’t as entertaining as Ocean’s 11, but was better than Ocean’s 12 or 13.

Loving

The new Simplified Line at Office Depot & Target.  I haven’t purchased anything (YET), but I have been looking at all the goods online.

If you like the idea of a Simplified Planner, but don’t want to spend that much money, these more cost-effective options may be just what you’re looking for.  And, ooooh, the accessories…..

Thinking

That it’s time to purchase a giant bag of the really good Halloween candy and stash it in my desk drawer.

Kitchen Cleaning in Less Than 20 Minutes

Kitchen Cleaning in Less Than 20 Minutes :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Once a week, I clean our kitchen.  And for the 62 minutes after I’m finished when we’re not in it, all is right with the world.

Having a scheduled time to do this each week is what allows me to walk away from a stove covered in grease and a microwave caked in exploded food.  Because I know that it won’t be like that indefinitely.  Having this routine provides the simultaneous freedom of not being held captive by mess or the guilt to clean the mess.

But as much as I love having a clean kitchen, actually doing it is not my favorite task.  So I’ve had to find a way to do it quickly and get the most reward for the least amount of work. #storyofmylife

Weekly Kitchen Cleaning in a Flash

Wash out the sink

Scrub & rinse the sink.  Put the drains in the dishwasher.

Kitchen Cleaning in Less Than 20 Minutes :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Wipe Down Surfaces

The verb “wipe down” is very carefully chosen to describe this task.  I use a Norwex EnviroCloth for all of my kitchen cleaning (except the sink…… although as I’m typing this, I’m not sure why….).  Using this cloth means that water and the cloth are the only two tools I need to clean my entire kitchen.  No messing with multiple bottles, sprays, rinsing and all the stuff that takes time that I don’t want to spend on cleaning.

In our kitchen, surfaces include: Window ledge, Faucet, Countertops, Backsplash and Appliance fronts.

Start at the top and work your way down.  Our window ledge is above the countertop, so that get’s wiped off first and the dirt from the ledge is pushed on to the counter.  When the counters are wiped off, everything gets pushed to the floor.

For the countertops, anything siting on the countertop is moved (another reason to keep kitchen counters clear!) and wiped underneath, then moved back.

Our appliances are stainless steel and the Norwex rag works great for those too.  It works best if the rag is rung out well and, truthfully, the Norwex Polish Rag works best on stainless steel because it doesn’t leave streaks.  Oh well.  We live here.  Streaks and all.

Kitchen Cleaning in Less Than 20 Minutes :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Wipe Down Stove Top

For a gas stove, remove the grates & burner tops and wipe off all of the hardened food.  I scrub what will come off with the EnviroCloth and call it good.  Once or twice a year, when I deep clean the kitchen, I will scrub the grates (with a specific cleaner that is made for the ceramic) and use a more abrasive cleaner for the stubborn spots on the stove top.

Kitchen Cleaning in Less Than 20 Minutes :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Clean Microwave

This is my favorite hack.  Before wiping anything else down, cut up 1-2 lemons and put them in a microwave-safe bowl (or measuring cup) and fill it with water.  Put it in the microwave for 5 minutes.  The steam loosens caked on food and the lemon smells divine.

Remove the lemon water and wipe out the microwave – remembering to start at the top and work down so that you don’t have to repeat cleaning a surface.

Kitchen Cleaning in Less Than 20 Minutes :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Kitchen Cleaning in Less Than 20 Minutes :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Wipe Down Refrigerator Shelves

This is not a full clean out of your fridge.  Just move stuff around as you wipe to get most of the surfaces.  Good enough is good enough in this case.

Wipe Floor Mat

We have a Wellness Mat in front of our kitchen sink that gets picked up off the floor one time a week and this is it.  Once I have no more uses for my rag, the floor mat is the last item that rag cleans.  The Wellness Mat is a non-porous material, so it cleans very easily.  If you have a different kind of mat in front of your sink that requires laundering to get it clean, toss it in the washing machine.

Clean the Garbage Disposal

Remember the lemon water that cleaned your microwave?  It’s not done working yet.  Pour the contents into the disposal and run for a long time with lots of cold water.  The lemons deodorize any residual food smells.  For extra credit, toss in a few ice cubes to sharpen the disposal blades.

Kitchen Cleaning in Less Than 20 Minutes :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Clean Floors

Now that everything that used to sit on a surface in your kitchen has been wiped on to your floors, it’s time to take care of that.  Sweep (or, in our case, vacuum) the floors.  This is part of my daily cleaning, but on kitchen-cleaning day, if I’m feeling particularly ambitious, I will bust out the crevice tool and get in those hard to reach nooks and crannies.

Kitchen Cleaning in Less Than 20 Minutes :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Total, this takes 20 minutes (if I’m not interrupted – which almost never happens).

The kitchen is 90% clean when I’m done which is good enough for me for everyday life.  This routine has helped me find the balance between taking care of what we have and maintaining it, but not being a slave to a perfectly clean kitchen.

I enjoy being in our kitchen and cooking a meal for my family.  And when I make a huge mess, I do the dishes and wait until Monday morning to take care of the rest.

Kitchen Cleaning in Less Than 20 Minutes :: maximizingdaysblog.com

If you’re feeling ambitious and want to deep clean your refrigerator, start here.  Or, get the inspiration for a cleaning routine here.