Today is supposed to be a Friday Five post, but honestly, it’s been a rough couple of weeks and I’m at a loss for what to share. First, we learned of my brother in law Patrick’s unexpected passing at the end of October. (There’s a gofundme set up for his family here.) A few days after, my Uncle John passed away, followed a few days later by my Uncle Vince.
My uncles were a big part of my life growing up, and they will be greatly missed. While trying to write a few things to be read at their funerals, one of the hardest parts was choosing what to write. I have so many happy, and silly memories of them.
Today, I think, will be spent in my craft room happy place, creating and remembering.
I love in the hoop embroidery projects. They, more than anything, are what make me wish my embroidery machine had a bigger stitch area than just 4 inches by 4 inches. Even with such a small hoop size, there’s still plenty of in the hoop projects available.
One of the easiest ITH (in the hoop) items to make are coasters. To make these peppermint coasters, all you need is fleece, one or two thread colors, stabilizer, the design file and, of course an embroidery machine. Once you see how they are made, you can easily swap out the design and colors to suit your needs. They are so simple to make, they are perfect for last minute gifts or as decor to match a party’s theme. You could also make a themed set for each month, season or holiday to decorate your home.
In the hoop peppermint coasters
Supplies to make one coaster
Two pieces of fleece cut to your machine’s hoop size
Place one piece of fleece on top of the stabilizer in the hoop. For small projects I sometimes just carefully hold it smooth while my machine stitches. You can also use a glue stick outside the stitching area to glue the fabric to the stabilizer, or pin the fabric to the stabilizer at the top and bottom, outside of the stitching area. I made the mistake of having a pin at the side, and even though it was clear of the design, it caught on my machine’s presser foot. Luckily I caught it quickly, but I will probably use a glue stick whenever possible to prevent that from happening again.
Decision Time: If you want the peppermint to show on both sides, place the other piece of the fabric under your hoop while placing it onto your machine. The bottom fabric usually stays in place on its own, but you could use a glue stick as I mentioned in the previous step. To only have the peppermint show on one side, skip to “Preparing your machine”.
Preparing your machine
If you want the peppermint on both sides, make sure the top and bobbin thread match. For a single-sided design, red or white in the bobbin is fine.
Place your hoop in your machine.
Upload the design file according to your machine’s instructions. The following steps are based on the Brother SE 400, so they may differ depending on your machine.
Resize your design, as desired. I wanted the peppermint as big as possible, so I followed the instructions for my machine to maximize the size. Mine maxed out at 7, which resulted in an overall size of about 6.5 cm. If your machine has a bigger capacity, you’ll need to decide how big you want the design .
Because I used white fleece, I chose to skip the white stitching and only stitch it in red. Again, I followed the instructions to skip to color 2, labeled red. Whatever color you choose, if you’re only sewing one color, skip to color two, because it has the outline. If you want to stitch both colors, skip this step.
Optional: Since fleece has a high loft, placing water soluble stabilizer is recommended. I’ve tried this project both ways, and I don’t see a big difference. For this tutorial, you’ll see the water soluble stabilizer in most photos.
Stitching your in the hoop coaster
Begin stitching according to your machine’s instructions.
If you are stitching both colors and want the peppermint on both sides, be sure to change the bobbin thread to match the top thread after color 1, white, is complete.
Continue stitching until the peppermint design is complete.
Stitching the border.
I like the border to match on top and bottom, so for this step I put red in the bobbin and for the top thread.
If you’re making a single-sided coaster like I did for this tutorial, now is when you add the second piece of fleece. Place it under your hoop as in the last step of “Preparing your hoop”.
On your machine, navigate to frames and select a circle frame.
Select the stitch type. I chose an over edge, blanket-type stitch.
Adjust the frame size. The frame size will determine the final size of your coaster. Make sure it is bigger than your design. Mine maxed out at 9 cm.
Stitch the border. I like a thicker look to the border, so once the border is done, I stitch it again. As long as you haven’t moved the fabric in the hoop, it will stitch directly on top of the first frame.
Finishing the coaster
Remove the project from the hoop.
Carefully remove any pins.
Trim thread tails.
Tear away the tear away stabilizer.
If you used water soluble stabilizer, cut away excess.
Cut fleece as close to the outside edge of the frame stitching as possible without cutting the stitching.
To remove remaining water soluble stabilizer, gently dab with a damp cloth or, swish it in a bowl of lukewarm water until stabilizer is gone and allow coaster to air dry flat.
I know that looks like a lot, but it’s really simple. I tried to be as detailed as possible, but if anything is confusing, please don’t hesitate to ask for clarification in the comments or through email.
If you notice, in the photo of the finished coaster, there’s a flaw in the border stitching on the left. That is where a pin caught the presser foot. Luckily that was the only damage. In the future, if I use pins, I will only pin at the very top and the very bottom. I really do prefer using washable glue sticks and keeping the glue well outside any stitching. That way my needle and machine don’t get gunked up, and I don’t risk hitting pins.
Embroidery Files and Freebies
Embroidery design files and freebies from SubEarthan Cottage. All designs are scaled to fit 4×4 hoops common on home embroidery machines.
It’s been record-settingly cold this week, making me want to do nothing but sit under a blanket and drink all the hot drinks. We’re far enough south that we didn’t get any snow, but we got lots of rain. I love the rainy weather, but when it’s too cold and wet for kiddos to go outside and play, it’s a challenge. So, no snuggling under a blanket all day and no other blog posts this week.
One thing I love about the colder weather is that it makes soups and stews make sense. I love cooking soups because they’re easy, filling and can be a one pot meal. This week I worked from a list of soups for our dinners, making meal prep so easy. I think my favorite was the sausage and potato soup. My kiddos preferred the Chicken Pho.
List-style meal planning like I did this week works better for me than planning for each day. Look for a post about my method soon.
I actually did some cold-inspired sewing this week. Our old windows get a bit drafty in the winter. As a quick fix, I started with the window in the living room and sewed a quick, heavier curtain from an old cotton sheet lined with flannel. It’s not the prettiest, but it hangs hidden behind the lighter weight existing curtains on an extension rod. We can easily take it down on warmer days to let in the light. I may need to add hooks or screws for the rod to rest on, though, because our cats keep pulling it down.
I similarly covered two other windows in our bedroom. The rest will be more visible, so I’ll need to be more thoughtful with my fabric selection for them.
We early voted on Monday. I’m happy to have it done, but it’s a little strange for me. I always vote on election day, which makes the whole process seem more exciting. I’ve always thought it strange that election day isn’t a holiday. This year would be different regardless to prevent huge crowds at the polling places, but it would be nice if people were given the day off from work and school, so it’s easier and children could go to see the process. I still plan to stay up and watch election results come in, even though it could be days or weeks before all the mail-in ballots are counted and the results finalized.
Daylight savings time
Have I mentioned how much I hate daylight savings time? This weekend is one of my favorites, because we finally get to set our clocks back to what my body insists is the real time. We also get Halloween and a full moon, so the weekend could be really awesome or really interesting.
Sale and a freebie
Today and tomorrow all of my Halloween embroidery design files are on sale for $1 each, and this one is free! My fellow procrastinators can download them instantly for your last minute projects. Everyone else can get them on sale to save for next year. 😉
Sometimes throughout the week I think of things that I’d like to share with you but aren’t really worthy of a whole post. They could be things I’ve been working on, other sites I’ve discovered, shop or sale info, or general randomness. My solution is the Friday Five, where I quickly share some of those random or interesting things.
Sewing machine struggles
My Kenmore needs repair again. This time I got so frustrated with it that I packed it up and moved it off my desk. I don’t like using my Brother for anything except embroidery. I’d hate to mess up my only embroidery machine when I have another basic sewing machine. So, that leaves me with my vintage Montgomery Wards Signature. It works really well, but I’m not as familiar with all of the settings. I’m nervous about sewing anything special, because I don’t want to ruin anything by having tensions or stitch length wrong.
It’s also on the other side of my craft room from my other machines and in it’s own table. That means I have to bring everything I need over to it, rather than have it stored within reach. That all has deterred me from sewing lately.
I finally decided earlier this week to try to finish some of the masks I was working on when my Kenmore broke. Those are fairly simple and I have plenty of cotton fabric, so if my machine eats it, it’s not too bad. So far I only finished one, though, due to interruptions and being slow on an unfamiliar machine.
On the subject of masks, I’m contemplating adding them to my shop, but not sure if there’s still enough demand for handmade. I keep getting requests from friends and neighbors, though, so maybe? It would be nice to have them listed so I can have a catalog of sorts to show people when asked. Thoughts?
Meal planning is hard
I had a dentist appointment last weekend that involved an extraction along with some fillings. That means that along with my usual gluten and dairy free restrictions, I’ve had to accommodate not really being able to chew. For most meals, that means planning for the family and separately for myself. I’ve also been fairly successful with losing some weight lately, so I didn’t want to get out of my healthy eating habits by living off mashed potatoes and ice cream for a week. That made it more challenging, because most of the healthy, filling foods I can think of require chewing. Luckily I’m down to only avoiding things that are crunchy or have small seeds that could get painfully stuck.
Odd shopping habits
I finally reorganized the pantry shelves this morning in an attempt to make meal planning easier. For some reason, I have four jars of salsa. Four! Three of them are the bigger jars, too, and all the same variety. I also have a ton of dried black beans, two varieties of split peas and lots of lentils. The black beans and lentils kind of make sense, but I’m the only one who likes split peas. I also thought I had black eyed peas and was planning on using them in a curry this weekend, but I don’t. At least now I know what I have and what I need.
Creative Home Projects Bundle 2020
The Creative Home Projects Bundle 2020 is only available for a few more hours. I talk more about it in this post. If you’re interested, be sure to order it before 11:59pm Eastern time tonight. For total disclosure, I do receive a small commission on bundles sold through my links. If you’re into DIY, I do think it’s worth having a look at the list of everything included and see if it’s right for you.
There’s also a 30 day money back guarantee. Before I became an affiliate, I purchased several of the bundles. I loved all except for one. Maybe it was because I already followed a lot of the authors in that bundle, but I just didn’t feel like I gained any new information from that particular bundle. I requested a refund by email within the 30 days and had it right away with no problems. I always hate guarantees or free trials that make it hard to cancel or request a refund, so I really appreciate how easy it was with Ultimate Bundles.
Hot rice packs are wonderful tools for easing muscle aches, cramps, and just comforting to use in cold weather. I prefer using a rice pack to an electric heating pad because you’re not tied to an electrical outlet.
A few years ago, though, I got rid of our microwave. I have some concerns about whether they are healthy, and we rarely used it anyway. Even if the potential health risks are exaggerated or non-existent, I don’t like having things that don’t get used taking up space. At the time, it was summer in Texas, I didn’t really miss my rice packs. Now that it’s cold, I wanted to find a way to heat them without caving and getting another microwave.
Please be cautious. I’ve seen some things that say anything other than a microwave is a fire-risk, so if you try to heat a rice pack in an oven, please never leave it unattended and use extreme caution. All appliances are different, so what works with mine may not work with yours.
Basic oven method
When researching, I found many people say to use an oven set to about 200 degrees Fahrenheit for thirty minutes. They also said to put the rice pack on a metal tray or roasting pan, and to have a pan or oven-safe dish of water alongside it to keep it from getting too dry.
I was a little concerned that I may forget about it, and my oven doesn’t have a window so keeping an eye on it would be difficult. I do have a counter-top convection oven, so that is what use. Because the door is glass, I can see in and keep an eye on things. It also has a timer that turns the unit off once time is up, so even if I get distracted I don’t have to worry about it over-heating.
I always place the rice pack on a tray and put a dish of water in with it as others have suggested. Any rice packs I heat in the oven are made with 100% cotton fabric and thread. Synthetics melt easier and burn faster, whereas cotton can withstand a pretty high heat and burns slower, so cotton seems like a safer choice.
I started with 200 degrees Fahrenheit for 20-30 minutes. It worked, but I needed it hotter. I upped it to 300-325 degrees for 15-20 minutes. At that temperature, sometimes I have to let it cool for a minute or wrap it in a towel, but it works better for me than the lower temperature. I tend to push the limit with heat, though, so 200 degrees for thirty minutes is probably plenty for most.
Probably safer method
One other method I’ve seen is to preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, TURN IT OFF, and place the rice pack (on a tray with heatproof dish of water next to it) in the preheated oven. I haven’t tried this yet, but having the oven hot but turned off seems like it would minimize any risk of the rice pack overheating and burning. If I didn’t have the convection oven, I would probably use this method.
The standard microwave method
Using a microwave is still the recommended method. To heat rice packs in the microwave, warm it in the microwave in 15 second intervals until you reach the desired temperature. Some people recommend placing a cup of water in the microwave as well.
Whether you use a microwave or an oven, be mindful that they can vary in power. ALWAYS test the temperature of the rice pack before using and never leave the microwave or oven unattended while heating. You should never use heat packs on individuals who are unable to let you know if it feels too warm on their skin.
Don’t forget! The Creative Home Projects Bundle is on sale this week. I talked more about it in my post yesterday. If you order your bundle before midnight tonight (Tuesday, October 20, 2020, ET), you’ll get a free early bird bonus KiwiCo box one month subscription. Click on the banner below to get yours! Sale ends Friday at 11:59pm ET.
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Affiliate disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through any of the links on this page, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. All the statements contained in this post are my honest opinions of the product, the Creative Home Projects Bundle 2020.
Between sewing machine troubles and children keeping me busy, I haven’t had much time for crafting lately. Even when I do have a few spare moments, my brain is so focused on everything else that I don’t know where to begin, which is unfortunate. Crafting is a great way to destress, and we all need ways to unplug and destress, now more than ever!
But that’s not all….Crafting and DIY projects give you the chance to learn new skills, do something with your hands, and beautify your home. With Christmas right around the corner, now is a great time to get started on unique handmade gifts as well.
Do you want to spend more time creating?
My friends at Ultimate Bundles have curated a brand new bundle to help.
It’s called the Creative Home Projects Bundle. It has resources inside to help you master beautiful hand lettering, create vinyl crafts with your favorite cutting machine, repaint your cabinets, furniture and walls, make one-of-a-kind jewelry, improve your sewing, refashioning ideas, upcycling and so much more!
When you buy the Creative Home Projects Bundle, you’ll get access to:
9 workbooks & printable packs
14 tutorials & templates
The creators behind all 64 resources are makers who are passionate about creativity, helping you make your life more beautiful, and teaching you new artistic pursuits!
And best of all, you can get the entire package for just $19.97.
What I’m Loving in the Bundle
I’m especially excited about the Easy Refashions for Every Season ebook by Elizabeth Farr and the printable Upcycled T-Shirt Romper and Dress Sewing Pattern by Heather Paulsen. There’s also the Fun & Easy Halloween Crafts by Stephanie Gilbert ebook. With COVID-19 concerns, Halloween will probably look different this year. Hopefully Gilbert’s book will give me ideas for activities to make it more fun for the kiddos.
This was originally posted in 2017. With the Instant Pot Prime Day discount, I thought it might be useful to re-share for all the electric pressure cooker newbies.
Last Christmas my lovely parents bought us an 8 qt. GoWise Pressure cooker that I have used almost daily ever since. This is the exact one I have:
With all the sales happening, and the Instant Pot craze still going strong, I know lots of people will be getting an electric pressure cooker and then wondering what to do with it. At least that’s what I did. Now that I’ve used mine for a while, I have some favorite uses for it to share with newbies. I have never used an official Instant Pot, so I can’t say how they compare. They should work about the same, though, so if you have an Instant Pot or other similar electric pressure cooker you should be able to enjoy all this awesomeness, too.
10 Reasons I Love My Electric Pressure Cooker (Instant Pot)
Easy Instant Pot Boiled eggs:
Boiled eggs on the stovetop are easy, unless you’re getting ready for work or school or have young children or are otherwise easily distracted. Then you either burn them or undercook them. Peeling them also is hit or miss. Sometimes the shell comes off easily, other times it takes half the egg white with it.
In the electric pressure cooker, I can put a dozen eggs in the steamer basket with a little water, push the button for eggs (mine has 1,3, and 5 minute settings for soft, medium and hard), and forget about it. The end result is perfectly cooked eggs that peel so easily my two year old can do it.
Even in the microwave, I have a hard time getting potatoes and sweet potatoes to cook properly. It seems like I always have to restart it a few times to finally get them done. With the pressure cooker, I set it for 15-17 minutes depending on how soft I want them, and they are always done. I’m trying to quit using my microwave all together, too, so the pressure cooker is definitely the faster option compares to the oven.
Slow cooker recipes:
Anything you’d make in a crockpot can be cooked in the pressure cooker. You can either use the slow cooker setting, or, if you forgot about cooking dinner until after lunch, you can cook it under pressure and have it done in an hour or less.
Not only that, but, unlike with a slow cooker, you can use the sauté setting to brown meats or anything that needs browning first. That means more flavor with fewer dirty dishes.
If I forget to presoak dry beans, I’ll put them in my pressure cooker for five minutes to do a quick presoak, drain, and add back to the pot along with the seasonings and broth or cooking water, then cook using the bean setting. It’s possible to skip the presoak entirely and go straight to cooking, if I’m short on time, but I prefer to presoak when I can.
If I get them cooking early enough in the day, I’ll switch to the slow cooker setting after they’ve cooked with pressure. That gives them the super yummy, second day flavor on day one.
Stews, soups and curries:
Browning meats and onions in the pot add flavor, and you can use the pressure then slow cook trick to further develop the flavor.
Smaller meats like chicken breasts, vegetables and rice can be put into separate heat-proof containers and steam cooked at the same time. I usually cook too much at once to do that, but when it works out, it is handy and doesn’t heat up the kitchen like using the oven. Easy All in One Electric Pressure Cooker Meal
It cooks rice even better than my little rice cooker, and I don’t risk burning it like I do on the stovetop. (There’s lots of distractions here, people.) I don’t use it much for rice, though, since I usually cook curries and things I serve with rice in the pressure cooker. Whenever my rice cooker dies, though, I’m seriously considering a second, smaller pressure cooker as a replacement.
I haven’t quite perfected yogurt with any method yet, but so far, the best I’ve made is in jars on the trivet in the pressure cooker. It is still a little runny, but it works well for smoothies.
Baking in an Instant Pot:
I’ve only done this once, but thought I’d mention it. You can bake cakes and breads in it by setting the bread or cake pan on the trivet and adding water to the pot for steam. This helps keep the bread or cake moist, which is especially handy for baking with gluten or grain-free flours.
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No matter what our budget looks like, food is always a part of it. You have to eat, right? There are many thoughts on the best way to save on food. These are the things that work for me.
Eat at home
This one is probably the most important. If you eat out, regardless of whether it’s a dine-in or fast food restaurant, you are going to spend more than if you cook and eat at home. It’s fine to splurge once in a while, but if you’re looking to save, eating at home gives you the most bang for your buck.
Buy mostly ingredients
Prepackaged foods are sometimes quicker, but they are usually more expensive per serving. If it’s a choice between eating out and eating convenience foods from the grocery, it’s still usually cheaper than eating out, so if it’s a choice between KFC or a deli rotisserie chicken, bagged salad and prepackaged dinner rolls, the deli chicken is probably the cheaper and healthier option.
There are some convenience items that I find helpful, especially when life gets hectic. Jarred sauces, bouillon and frozen potatoes in various forms are things that I like to have on hand to help me get a meal on the table quickly. When there’s not time to make the sauce from scratch or I don’t have homemade broth on hand those can make it easy to still throw something together. They’re also usually fairly inexpensive, so I feel they are budget friendly convenience choices.
Buy in bulk where it makes sense
Don’t buy a ton of perishables like fresh fruit just because it’s on sale. If you have time to prep and freeze or can the fruit, then go for it. Things like canned goods, freezer staples and shelf stable items are great for buying in bulk, if you have the room. We have a small chest freezer, so I’m able to buy fruit on sale to freeze for smoothies or desserts and an extra ham or turkey when they are on sale for under $1 per pound around the holidays.
I also buy basmati rice in 20 lb bags because we prefer it over other types of rice and it is so much cheaper that way. To keep it fresh and manageable, I keep a small container of it in the cupboard and the rest goes into the freezer.
It’s easy to have one or two grocery stores or box stores where you do all of your shopping. If you have farmer’s markets, discount groceries or ethnic groceries in your area, you may find better deals on some items.
For starters, if you have an Aldi nearby and haven’t given them a try, please do. I’ve found them to have a good selection of staples and they have a good guarantee on everything they sell. You won’t find many name-brands at Aldi, but with their guarantee, it’s worth trying and seeing if you like their store brands. They also carry a lot of gluten-free options, as well as dairy-free milk alternatives and a dairy-free mozarella cheese.
I also frequently shop a local Vietnamese grocery store. They have tons of fresh greens and other produce at really good prices. I also get a lot of specialty items, like things for making pho or sushi for sometimes half the cost or less of what I would pay at Kroger or Walmart. Bulk spices and rice are also cheaper there. For gluten-free pasta, rice noodles from there are cheaper than gluten-free options from Kroger and Walmart.
Find a method of meal planning that works for you.
Some people do really well with having every meal, every day planned out to every last detail. I prefer something more flexible that allows for changes based on last minute plans or whatever is on sale that week or whatever leftovers we need to eat. Regardless of the type of meal planner you are, have some sort of game plan in place.
Meal planning is one area where I need to improve, but I do have a basic game plan for meals that I’ll post on at a later date.
While you’re planning, don’t forget lunch. Leftovers are quick and easy lunches, so if you’re planning a dinner that reheats well, make enough for lunch the next day.
Keep staples for one or two quick meals on hand always
This is important in case you forget to plan, or something doesn’t work out with your plan. Whether it’s spaghetti and premade sauce, eggs, fruit and toast or some other meal you can throw together in under thirty minutes, keep the ingredients on hand for one or two backups that you like. Having a backup option makes it easier to eat at home when you might otherwise be tempted to eat out.
Eat real food
If you have to change your eating habits due to health or personal beliefs, it’s easy to try to substitute faux or “free” foods tailored to that diet. Price-wise though, it’s better to adapt your diet with real foods. Rather than faux meat burgers, try grilling portobello mushrooms or making your own patties with chickpeas. Instead of gluten free pasta, substitute rice or potatoes. Instead of diet drinks, flavor water, tea or soda water with fruit.
If you’re really craving cheese and you’re dairy free or bread and you’re gluten free, go ahead and splurge on the dairy or gluten free options. If you’re on a plant-based diet but desperately want something like a real burger, go for one of the faux meat patties. Just try to keep those splurges to a minimum and you’ll save money.
Find recipes for soups, stews and beans that you like
Soups, stews and beans are usually cheap, filling and can be a one pot meal. Having a few recipes you like and keeping the ingredients on hand can really help save money on food. They also are easy to make in bulk and usually freeze well, so making a bunch and having it for lunch or in the freezer for nights that dinner plans don’t work out helps prevent eating out. I love crock pots or pressure cookers for making soups and stews. It’s absolutely not necessary to run out and buy a slow cooker or pressure cooker, but if it’s something you’ve been considering, I love my electric pressure cooker for so many things.
Many people eat gluten free (g-free), either by choice or need. For those with celiac, eliminating gluten is an absolute necessity. Others find that, for one reason or another, they feel better when they avoid it. In my case, I kind of accidentally discovered that joint pain in my hands and feet go away and I’m less brain foggy when I avoid gluten. Other family members suffer from breakouts and rashes that flare whenever they eat something with gluten. I strongly believe that if you feel bad after eating something, you should probably stop eating it, so we do our best to avoid gluten all together.
Eliminating something that is such a big part of your diet is daunting at first, but there are a few things that can make the transition easier and less expensive. These tips focus on gluten, but many will also help if you need to eliminate other foods.
Start with real foods
Processed foods often have hidden fillers and ingredients, and specialty gluten free foods are expensive. In contrast, fruits, vegetables, meat, nuts, beans, eggs and dairy are naturally gluten free in their pure forms. Rice is a grain that does not contain gluten. Starting from scratch with real food ingredients that you know naturally don’t have gluten is often easier and definitely cheaper than scrutinizing food labels and buying special gluten free versions of normally wheat based foods.
Go simple with seasonings
For the most part, single herbs and spices are gluten free. Certain spice blends may have gluten, though. Making your own blends is the safest bet, but if you have a spice blend you love, most manufacturer websites list whether their products contain gluten.
While not technically an herb or spice, most soy sauce contains gluten. La Choy is a major brand that is made without gluten. Bragg’s liquid aminos are another form of g-free soy sauce.
Most vinegar is g-free. Malt vinegar is not. You’ll also want to check the label on flavored vinegar to be sure.
Cooking oils don’t have gluten unless seasoned with something containing gluten.
Find your current gluten free staples
Look at the foods that currently stock your pantry. What things that you buy are already gluten free? For us, we usually keep a box or two of cereal around for snacking or a quick breakfast. Most cereals are made with wheat and therefore have gluten, but some that we already bought, like Honey Nut Cheerios, Lucky Charms and Rice Chex are gluten free. Knowing that, I can continue to keep a box or two of cereal we already liked on hand.
Likewise, we keep tortilla chips on hand for snacking or nachos. Most tortilla chips don’t have gluten and inexpensive. Since gluten free crackers are both hard to find and usually expensive, tortilla chips are an easy cracker substitute as well.
Look for the easy substitute
Like substituting tortilla chips for crackers, there are other easy swaps. Corn tortillas usually don’t have gluten and can be substituted for flour tortillas. Rice is often a good substitute for pasta, or substitute rice noodles. If you have an Asian grocery nearby, you can usually find rice noodles there for cheaper than a mainstream supermarket, as well as leafy greens and spices for cheap.
Make it yourself
It’s fairly easy to find gluten-free flour now, so making your own gluten free cookies, pizza crusts, pancakes, breads, etc. is a good option. I love Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1 gluten free flour. With it, I can continue to make my favorite deserts just by substituting it for wheat flour. There are other good gluten free flours on the market, too. The most important thing is to know if it is blended to be an exact 1 to 1 substitute or if you need to add something like xanthan gum to give it the stretchiness and rise that you usually get from gluten. For example, Bob’s Red Mill has an All Purpose Gluten Free Flour that is not the 1 to 1 blend. It is a little denser and does not have xanthan gum already blended. I like blending it with tapioca flour, which adds some stretchiness. That works well for things like gluten free flour tortillas. For things that need to rise, though, like cakes or breads, I also add xanthan gum if I’m using the all purpose and not the 1 to 1 blend.
When buying gluten free, shop around
Sometimes you really just want to get some gluten free penne pasta or a g-free bagel. More and more grocery stores regularly stock g-free pastas, breads and desserts, but they can be pricey. If you find them on sale, stock up and freeze the extras. Alternative grocery stores sometimes offer better prices, too. Aldi has a decent selection of g-free breads, pastas, and baking mixes at a lower price than most other stores. I even found some gluten free donuts there recently.
Locally, we have a surplus/discount/closeout grocery store called Town Talk. They frequently have udi’s bread in the range of two loaves for $3.00. I periodically stop in and stock up when I can.
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Whether it’s a new project, work, or just daily life, sometimes it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Maybe you’re struggling to find balance while juggling work, home life and new schooling situations. Maybe a task seems too huge or unpleasant to tackle. It could be that you’re unsure of how a project will turn out, so fear keeps you from making the first move. Maybe there’s just so many other things on your plate that you find yourself too mentally or physically exhausted to tackle that one thing. Here’s a few ideas to get unstuck and moving forward again.
Overwhelmed? These 10 tips will help
When you’re really anxious or don’t know where to begin, doing a brain dump helps. Grab a pen and paper and just write out everything on your mind. Don’t think about it, don’t worry about complete sentences or cohesive ideas, just get everything out on paper. When your done, look it over. Is there a theme to what you wrote, some repeated word or idea or area of focus? Use that to help you determine your next move.
Make a list
Making a list of what needs to be done creates focus. It also takes the pressure off of yourself to remember everything. Once it’s written down, you’re free to focus on one task at a time. Because it’s all written down, you don’t have to keep a running list of everything in your head. As you complete a task, mark it off. Focus on your list getting shorter, not how much is still left to do.
Break it down
If a task seems too big, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Breaking it down into smaller tasks makes it more manageable. For example, if you need to clean the house for company, don’t look at the whole task of cleaning the house. Take it room by room. If that still seems too big, list specific tasks within each room. Don’t say “Clean the kitchen”, have individual tasks like wiping down counters, sweeping the floor, mopping the floor, etc. listed separately.
Some tasks come with a deadline or are more important than others. If there’s a deadline, make a note of that deadline on your list and mark it somehow to make it stand out. If it’s something that is high priority, regardless of a specific deadline, make note of that, too. I like to draw a star next to high priority tasks, and highlight or double star things with a deadline.
Be realistic about what you can accomplish in a day and set goals accordingly. If there are specific tasks that have to be done first, then set your goals around those. Otherwise, your goals could be something like marking off five tasks each day. If you meet your goal, good for you! Do you have the time, energy and desire to mark off a few more? Go for it! Didn’t meet your goal? See if you need to re-evaluate your expectations so as not to get overwhelmed and discouraged. If it was simply a case of other obligations taking too much time, try again tomorrow.
If you have something that needs to be done at a certain time, like an appointment at noon or starting dinner at five pm, set an alarm in plenty of time to stop and get ready. When I have an appointment or event coming up later in the day, it’s hard for me to focus on other tasks, even when I have plenty of time. Knowing that I have an alarm to remind me when I need to stop makes it a little easier.
Set a timer
Setting a timer is useful in a few ways. First, if you find yourself completely unmotivated, pick a task and set a timer for five, ten or fifteen minutes, whatever seems manageable. You can do anything for five minutes. Pick a task and see how much you can accomplish in that time. When the timer goes off, give yourself permission to stop for a break or switch to a a different task. I often find that when the time is up, I’m so close to finishing that task that I want to keep working.
You can also use a timer to break up a bigger task into smaller chunks of time. Give yourself thirty minutes or an hour to work on a bigger job. When your time is up, stop and take a break or give yourself a five to fifteen minute window to knock out a few quick tasks. This helps you keep the little things from snowballing while you work on a big project.
Finally, setting a timer helps with time management. Everyone needs a break now and then, but it’s easy to allow a quick break to turn into an hour of getting off task. Decide how long of a break you want, set a timer and stick to it.
If timers work for you, you may want to checkout Flylady. I’ve used that method of home organization in the past and found it really helpful. It’s particularly helpful with establishing routines and taking everything in “baby steps” so you don’t get overwhelmed with the process.
Do you ever find yourself doing nothing just waiting for something. Things like waiting tem minutes for dinner in the oven or sitting on hold on a phone call. Use waiting time that’s often wasted to knock easy tasks off your list.
Just do it
Sometimes there’s a task that I put off because I find it really unpleasant. Usually that leads to putting off other things, because that task is hanging over my head. Often it’s something simple like making a phone call to set up an appointment. There’s no way around getting some things done, so give yourself a minute to stress if you need and jump in. Once it’s done, you can mark it off your list and wonder why you put it off for so long. If it really was that bad, at least it’s done.
Sometimes your accomplishments are their own reward, and sometimes not so much. Give yourself little incentives, even if it’s just ten minutes of playing a game, or a cup of tea and your favorite show. Knowing that something enjoyable comes after something unpleasant is motivating, especially after a “Just do it” task.
Not everything is as easy as just make a list and do it, but when you’re feeling overwhelmed, using these strategies where they do apply can help free up energy for dealing with the more difficult problems life throws at you.
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