Thursday, May 23, 2013

Simplified Pantry (Schoolhouse Review)

I received three different books from Simplified Pantry to review:

Simplified Dinners
Simplified Dinners Gluten Free/Dairy Free
Paperless Home Organization

Simplified Dinners ($12.99) teaches the reader to feed her family “simply, healthfully, and frugally.” It is a shopping and cooking plan that enables the reader to cook nutritious, home cooked meals without spending huge amounts of time, energy, or money doing so. Frankly, Simplified Dinners showcases the method I already use for preparing meals, so I think it’s a great method!

I try to keep a well stocked pantry at all times, replenishing supplies when they run low or buying large quantities of basics when they are on sale. Most of my cooking is based on these ingredients, so I am always prepared to make a number of different dishes with what I have on hand.

I often read the advice to sit down once a week to make a menu for the week, then to make a shopping list based on those meals. (Or the more frugal advice is to use the sale ads for the week to help plan the menu around sales.) This always sounded like a lot of work to me!  I use the sales to restock my kitchen, but don’t have to plan meals a week ahead of time in order to buy the necessary ingredients because I already have them. And I hate running to the store to buy that one ingredient that I’m out of!

Simplified Dinners starts out with a Master Pantry List—meats, spices, canned goods, etc. The rest of the book includes a variety of delicious recipes all based around the master pantry list. I actually had all but 4 or 5 of the ingredients already, which I picked up on my next shopping trip (except for bell peppers, which we don’t like).  The very last page is a Menu planning form.

The included recipes include slow-cooker dishes, salads, vegetables, pasta dishes, soups, taco bars, and more.

The first week, we tried the Savory Beef Roast recipe. I liked it better than my usual pot roast recipe, so it’s a keeper! The Potato Hash and roasted vegetables were good, too.

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Since we don’t need gluten-free or dairy-free recipes, I didn’t use that cookbook, but I can imagine that it would be quite helpful for many people.

It’s hard for me NOT to recommend this style of shopping and cooking, since that’s what I already use, but I did find Simplified Dinners to be a great starting place (and cook book) for those who want to save money and time in the kitchen and grocery store. 

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I was the most excited about Paperless Home Organization($3.99). Since I bought my Kindle Fire last November, I’ve been trying to use it as an organizational tool, with marginal success. I’ve used calendars and planners in the past, but, since it seemed that electronic organization had the potential to be even more useful, I wanted to give it a try. I’ve struggled to find the best apps for the job, though.

Paperless Home Organization (PDF or Kindle) provides inspiration for “going paperless” and presents a great plan for coordinating to-do lists and calendars, and for corralling all those documents related to home management.

The plan focuses on just a few apps:

  • Gmail: I picked up some great tips on filtering messages in order to clean out my inbox
  • Remember the Milk: I love this app! It makes list making and scheduling so easy.
  • Google Calendar
  • Evernote: Great for organizing everything else—scanned documents, passwords, addresses, websites, etc., as well as for backing up data in the “cloud.”  I’m feeling more confident with Evernote, although I have a long way to go before I’ve learned everything I can do with it.

The author, Mystie Winkler, does a great job of explaining her system and teaching the reader how to coordinate these programs and apps to work well together. I’m not ready to go completely paperless yet (i.e. scanning everything in my file cabinet and throwing out the paper copies), but I am now using electronics to organize my calendar, and am scanning or saving electronic copies of many of my receipts and saving information from websites and magazines in Evernote for easy access when I need them. I even figured out how to set my scanner to scan files directly into a folder on my computer that syncs with Evernote. Now, I’m looking for things to scan in because it’s so easy!

I’ve gotten into the habit of checking my electronic calendar and to-do list every morning and finding it easy to manage my schedule this way.

If you are like I was, looking for a “plan” to get you more organized electronically, I highly recommend Paperless Home Organization.

Simplified Pantry is offering 30% off when you enter TOS2013 at checkout. This discount will work on any or all of the eBooks, from May 20 through June 3rd.

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I received a free copy of this product in exchange for my honest review.

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