30 November 2017

Keeping House for One: The "Daily" Dilemma

Dear Lissy,
Good morning, Sweetie!  December is bringing a month of near insanity, so this will be my last letter for a little while.  We started this series by dealing with the biggest time and budget buster, meals.  I then wrote fairly long letters adapting my 2D weekly plan and 3D space & storage principles to apartment living.  Today we'll dive into the simplest but hardest facet, daily time management (4D) and apartment upkeep.

Clean As You Go
Cleaning up after yourself as you go is the simplest way to keep up with your apartment.  The requirement here is leaving yourself enough time to do a quick pick up.  If you have to leave your apartment by 7 to get to work on time, and it takes you 45 minutes to get ready, it will take 55 minutes to clean as you go -- you can't hit the snooze button 3 times.
  • After you shower and get ready, swipe down the shower with a squeegee, wipe down the sink and commode (in that order) with a disinfecting wipe, hang up or straighten bathroom items, and then leave the bathroom.  
  • Wash all your dishes after every meal, camping style.  Put the leftovers into Tupperware, wipe down the counter and appliances, and Swiffer the floor.
  • Don't leave the living area until you've picked up and straightened the room.  
  • If you're working on a craft or project, pack it away at the end of the night.
  • Leave your sleeping area neat and hang or put clothes in the hamper. 
  • Extend this principle by using your commute to either work or church to run errands. 
The same principle is true at bedtime.  If you fall asleep in front of the tv or reading in bed, and leave the apartment a mess, you're not going to have time to clean it in the morning.  Do up the dinner dishes before you relax.  Bangerang your apartment and set your things out for tomorrow before you snuggle in for the night with a book or show.
If you can train yourself to never leave a room messy, the weekly chores take almost no time at all, and can even be skipped once in a while.
Saying "Yes" is Always Saying "No"
If you say "yes" to one thing you are always saying "no" to something else.  We've taught you to value relationships over things, and to think of others.  Keeping up your own apartment, especially if you don't have a roommate, can feel selfish.  It is not.  You are an adult now--your home is an extension of your outward self, just like your clothes or personal grooming.  
A messy apartment hinders your ability to minister. A lack of discipline maintaining your space means you may slip into bad habits elsewhere:  staying up far to late reading or watching a show, eating poorly, neglecting exercise. You have less energy at work.  You may choose not to use your home to minister because it's too much trouble to clean.  Skipping church services or activities is tempting because laundry or the kitchen has reached a stage where it has to be handled. 
When you choose not to maintain your home to a level where you are able to maintain personal discipline or minister to others, you are saying "no" not just to yourself, but to your employer, your friends, and your church.  
What about last minute crises or opportunities?  Plan for them.  Set aside one evening a week for either catching up on housework, getting together with friends last minute, or just getting an early night in.  If you have to bump something to that night, it becomes your #1 priority -- no more bumping!  If the week is light, and it ends up being a truly free night, enjoy the extra time.

Finally, learn how to say no. A gentle, "I'm not available this time, but please feel free to ask me another time," or, "I'm so sorry I can't help you with that this time," is best.  Telling anyone that you're saying "no" because of housework will sound heartless -- they can't see the big picture.  Anyone who questions (Nosy Nancy) or pushes past your initial decline (Bossybutt Bob) should be given a firm:  "I'm sorry I wasn't clear:  I can't help you this time."

Routines are Your Workhorses

Establish daily routines for morning, after work, and before bed that take all of the daily tasks into account.  You don't need to put most things on your to do list -- just make them habits.  I keep these written down in plastic sleeves so I can pull them out and reboot when my routines fall apart because of busyness or sickness.

Learn to Write CEO To Do Lists

As a newlywed I worked for a demanding office.  One of the things that intrigued me was the manager's daily sheet.  Our office secretary had to go through her tickler and inbox and lay out our manager's day with appointments, meetings, and to do items all organized for him into time slots. He arrived about half an hour later than we did, and would use the sheet to stay on task all day.  If something had to be bumped, she was responsible to get it rescheduled for another day.  Unless you're in an executive position, you won't have the luxury of a personal assistant.  You can, however, create a daily sheet for yourself that will keep you running smoothly.  At this writing, Google Calendar does this seamlessly, but I'm sure there are plenty of apps and calendars that provide the same functionality.  Don't be afraid to say "let me check my schedule," or "let me add that to my schedule before I forget," and pull up your calendar on your phone.  Quickly skim 5 To-Do List Hacks to maximize your to-do list.

Give Yourself Grace and Space to Grow Into Your New Life.

Just like learning any other complicated skill (remember learning to drive?) you're going to have some bumps and starts when you begin running a home.  If you expect a seamless transition from college to career, adjust your expectations, lickety-quick!  It takes time to figure out your own preferences and energy patterns.  
  • Do you prefer to just bang out your to do list before you sit down at night so you can relax, or do you need some crash time to recover from work?  
  • How much sleep do you need now that your schedule has normalized?  
  • How long does it take you to go from sound asleep to punching in at work?  Do you ever have to bring work projects home?
  • How long does it take to go from punching out at work to a full belly and clean kitchen at home?
  • How often do you need time with church family or friends to keep you energized and connected?  
  • How much alone time do you need to feel centered?
  • When do you like to workout?  Have your devotions? 
  • How are you and your roommate going to split up the chores?  The space? How will you handle different standards and expectations?
Not to be unkind, but you're probably going to discover the answer to these questions by making wrong choices.   Even once you've established patterns, changes at church or work or a different roommate can upend your whole rhythm.
If you have the ability, once or twice a year take one day of earned time to create a two day mini break in combo with your regular day off to go through your apartment and car and bring everything back to a good level. Turn off your mobile, crank some tunes, and get to work.  This mini break is unbumpable -- no exceptions.

Again -- for the last time -- progress is more important than perfection!  You are deeply loved by your Heavenly Father and us. Nothing you do or don't do changes that. God is more than enough, and His grace is sufficient to every need.  Even if I don't live close enough to help you through this transition, God is there.  Every answer is found in the Word -- even for something as earthly as time management and your budget.

Love you more every day,


29 November 2017

Keeping House for One: Storage

Dear Lissy,

Matt just received his 3D printer in the mail, and spirits are running high.  I can't wait to see his projects! 
In today's letter I wanted to talk to you about the biggest piece of managing a home, managing your 3D space.  Many -- ok, most -- young people out on their own don't think about how to use space and storage effectively.  The difference between an apartment that works well for you and one that feels like a flophouse is usually more about efficient storage than hours of work.  You may have a roommate, and this is where disagreements usually arise.  Make a commitment to each other to create and use storage so you're not tripping over each other's stuff. 

Wall Storage

Wall storage is usually boards (white, chalk, or cork), hooks, peg racks, shelves, and wall pockets.  Other forms exist, but usually only in specialty stores.  Wall storage is my favorite way to keep frequently used items organized.  Check your apartment lease to see what is allowable for holes in the wall.  
Wall storage has three strong benefits.  
  • Wall storage is single motion storage (you don't have to move anything to store the item you want to put away)
  • Wall storage creates storage at the exact point of use.  Training yourself to throw your coat and purse on a hook just inside the door is far easier than walking to a closet two rooms away and putting your coat on a hanger.
  • Wall storage keeps items off of floors and surfaces so wipe-down, sweeping, or vacuuming can be done in a single quick motion.  Floors, sinks, counters, and worktops can all be swiped down in seconds if you don't have to lift and replace items.


  • Clothing:  In my experience, every room in the house where clothing is removed needs a pegboard or three.  You can create a hook set with adhesive hooks if necessary, or make or buy a stand that utilizes hooks.
    • A sturdy pegboard in the entry allows single motion storage for coats and bags.  Without sufficient "hookage" coats and bags end up dumped on furniture.
    • A set of hooks  next to a dresser or closet creates a home for clothing that has been worn once, but doesn't need to hit the hamper yet, like jeans.  If it works better and you have an old dresser, install the hooks right on the side of the dresser or use a purse hook that cantilevers on the dresser top.
    • We always installed a hook on the back of your bedroom door for a bathrobe and jammies.
    • Bathroom hooks keep clothes off the floor and wrangle damp towels better than rods or bars.  Towel bars are best for hand towels and face cloths.
  • Utensils:  Any utensil used more than 2 - 3 times a week works best stored in one motion storage on the wall.  This includes everything from your toothbrush to your oven mitts.  Special clamp style hooks are available for items with long handles like brooms or shovels.  Small baskets that hook onto a hook rail are available for smaller items.  
  • Electronics:  Install hooks to hold remotes, headphones, gaming devices, and unruly wires.
  • Towels in the kitchen and bath.  I have an old fashioned hook with three long arms that rotate that holds dishtowels as well as hooks for measuring cups and spoons, frequently used utensils, and reusable shopping bags.  Magnetic hooks are available that allow fridge space to be used or over the door hangers are available for storage, too.
  • Jewelry:  A jewelry box may not be practical, but small hooks can hold necklaces and bracelets.

Shelves and Wall Pockets:  

Because shelves are mini horizontal surfaces, they can quickly become cluttered.  If you plan to store an item on a shelf, put an open top container (one motion storage!) on the shelf to designate it as a home for that item:  a small dish for keys, a cup for toothbrush and toothpaste, etc.
  • Entry:  A shelf or wall pocket in the entry creates a place for incoming and outgoing mail, your keys, and any other odds and ends you don't want to forget.  At the time I'm writing this letter, a pocket that wrangles mail, keys, and other small items is available to hang over the doorknob on the inside of your entry door.  An over the door shoe bag can hold gloves, sunscreen, bug spray, and any other items that tend to congregate by the door.
  • Kitchen:  Spices work best on narrow shelves or racks rather than taking up drawer or cupboard space.  Store them in the coolest part of the kitchen.  Shelves that hang from the upper cabinets and hold a cookbook or an ipad are also available.  I have a lucite pocket that holds coupons, dry erase markers, and post it notes on the side of our fridge.
  • Bath:  Shelves by the sink and in the shower keep bottles and cans off the surfaces that need to be wiped down every day.  
  • Living Area:  Shelves are a great way to add 3D elements to your decor on the cheap.  A handful of flowers in an old bottle, pictures, or nice editions of books all make inexpensive and homey decorations.  If you need to corral a lot of books, videos, or game cases, a bookcase is usually a better choice.
  • Office Area:  Chances are your kitchen table is your office in your first apartment.  Hang a wall mounted file pocket in an unobtrusive spot to keep current papers corralled.  A filing cabinet with a cloth over it makes a great end table or night stand elsewhere in the apartment, but creates storage that requires 3 or more motions and just begs to have stuff stacked on top of it.  An open top filing box is another good solution.  Some of them have cute designs and can be stored on shelving units or on top of a filing cabinet that has a decorative cover.
  • Bedroom:  A shelf by the bed can serve the same purpose as a nightstand while taking up almost no space.  I don't recommend a shelf over the head of the bed -- falling items could be an issue.  Shelves are a nice way to add inexpensive decor in the bedroom as well. Pockets that slide between the mattress and boxspring to hold nightstand type items are also easy to make or cheap to buy.  An over the door shoe bag is a good way to corral not just shoes, but any small items.
  • Hardware organizers  Multi drawer wall mounted hardware organizers aren't attractive, but can create huge amounts of storage for small items.


White boards and cork boards create a one-motion space to store frequently needed information like a church or work calendar of events, phone numbers, etc.  Boards can also be used to hang paper ephemera (a drawing from a child) or important pieces of paper (a ticket to an event).  Both white boards and cork boards are available in magnetic formats that can be used on the side of a fridge or filing cabinet.  The sides of the fridge are also large magnetic surfaces that work well for anything that has a magnet.  If you use the front of the fridge, it will be more difficult to spray and clean quickly.


Totes come in a variety of materials (wood, leather, wicker, canvas, plastic, metal) that will match any decor and budget.  I use totes extensively to corral items that are used together:  Bible study supplies, laundry supplies, makeup, office supplies, manicure, first aid supplies, toys for child guests, guest toiletries and spare keys, car maintenance supplies, sewing supplies, gaming controls, etc.  I feel that totes function best when they are stored up off the floor or worktops.  Tote bags are dirt cheap and can be used to create go bags for the beach, hiking, etc.  Tote bags can easily be hung out of the way on the end or back walls of closets.  Keep totes cleaned, organized, and thinned down to their natural capacity as you go, or blitz through them while you listen to a favorite podcast.  
If you have a roommate, you should each have a small tote or laundry basket where the other person can put stuff you leave out.

Maximizing Traditional Storage

Apartments are notoriously stingy on traditional built-in storage.  The key to using closets, drawers, and cabinets well is "containerizing" and labeling the area. Closets, drawers, and cabinets are at least two motion storage, and can often be three or four.  This mental block means the item gets left out or thrown into a clutter casserole inside the storage area.  While expensive, beautiful options abound, I usually opt for cardboard boxes or flimsy plastic baskets inside drawers, cabinets, and closets. 
  • A closet functions best when it is containerized into three zones:  A floor storage unit (a shoe rack in a bedroom closet, for instance), high and low hanging rods, and an upper shelf that holds labeled storage boxes.  
  • Keep an OPEN TOP hamper where you normally undress (bedroom or bathroom)  You should be able to toss clothes into your hamper from where you undress.  Fun fact:  This was a big sticking point with me as a newlywed.  We had covers on our hampers growing up, and I thought open tops were gross.  Daddy made it very clear he was happy to always use an open top, but that if I insisted on a lid, he would just throw his clothes in the general vicinity.  I don't think I've picked up his clothes off the floor more than once or twice in 25 years. 
  • Use trays or dishes to create easy, open-top organization for items that live on horizontal spaces like a table or dresser top.
  • Unless they are very small and only hold one type of item, drawers need plastic or cardboard dividers or they become default "junk" drawers.  
  • Fit undivided cabinets with drawer units or shelved cabinets with open top plastic tote boxes that can be slid on and off the shelves. Obviously some areas in the kitchen don't need containers, but a host of shelf organizers are available to keep everything from dishes to cans corralled if you have the extra $ and a small space.
  • Only purchase furniture that has storage capabilities:  an end table with shelves or drawers, a bed frame with drawers and a bookcase, etc.  Most of your furniture will be hand me downs at first, but as you invest, make wise choices.
  • Utilize rolling underbed storage if you have a bed frame, or a rolling set of plastic drawers under a table.
  • For more information on this concept, look at Julia Morgenstern's book, Organizing from the Inside Out.
  • Organize your car to reflect how you use it.  Passenger seat or back of the seat organizers are available if you're on the road a lot. Trunk organizers are expensive, but milk crates work well.


You can have a professional organizer come in and invest thousands of dollars in every organizational unit under the sun, but it won't work if you don't put things away as soon as you're done using them.   
  • Equalizing, or picking up, is why I dramatically prefer hooks, shelves, and other open top, one motion, store-it-where-you-use-it storage. 
  • Don't "over-organize." You don't need a separate divider for every item, just for every type of item.  In my baking drawer I have a divider for measuring cups and spoons, one for KitchenAid attachments, one for small hand tools (bench scrapers, pastry brushes, scoops), and one at the way back for sharp or infrequently used small tools (apple corer, donut cutter).
  • Train yourself not to leave a room with stuff out of place.  Take 10 seconds before you leave a room to drop or hang everything in it's place, and you'll find keeping house a snap.  It's perfectly fine to tell a friend who drops by and wants you to go out with them "give me 5 minutes to put my things away, and I'll be ready to go."
  • If items tend to travel from room to room (I'm looking at you drinking glasses and snack dishes!), immediately bring them back where they belong as you leave the room.  Apartments are small.  You can afford to loop to the kitchen and swish your snack dishes and water glass out before heading to bed.
  • Keep a decent sized OPEN TOP trash bin in every room.  It's a pain in the neck to walk to a separate room to throw away a wrapper or Kleenex, and they'll end up on the floor or another horizontal surface.
  • Twice a year go through room by room and discard, sell, or give away items you no longer use or those weird gifts and purchases you never used.

Why Bother?

Organizing your 3-D space will create a sense of peace and cut your cleaning time down to 30 minutes a week or less. You'll be able to invite a friend in at a moment's notice, or minister to someone in your church or neighborhood. If you have excellent storage -- stuff management -- you'll be far less likely to succumb to buying stuff, too.  Finally, you're unlikely to stay in your first apartment for more than a couple of years.  Packing to move is a snap if you're well organized and a nightmare if you're not.
Remember the feeling of going to Grammy's house on the lake?  There's always a deep sense of peace, not just because of her sweet spirit, but because she keeps her place free of clutter.  She dusts, vacuums, and mops weekly or biweekly, but her home feels wonderful because she's faithful about keeping it neat.

I look forward to seeing your first place.  A huge learning curve usually accompanies your first time housekeeping, so I'll come over and help you anytime you want, judgment free.  I love you and want you to have a comfortable, homey home to refresh your own spirit and minister to others.



28 November 2017

Keeping House for One: Weekly Plan (2D)

Dear Lissy,
Artic air has hit! Temps are in the teens, and we have the stove running at full speed.  I'm having a hard time keeping you focused on school because you're taking Liz out for a mint hot chocolate and donut to celebrate her birthday and then heading to the holiday fair at the hospital where you volunteer.
We've talked before about 2D (planning your week), 3D (organizing your physical space to work for you), and 4D (daily time management) homemaking principles.  These three dimensions allow you to keep your home in a manner that reflects your personality and allows you to minister to others.  Your 2D plan will look very different while you're working full time and living in an apartment.

The weekly plan

The weekly plan is designed to give you a rhythm that allows you to keep everything current:  meals, laundry, bills, appointments and errands, cleaning, etc.  Generally for single apartment dwellers working a full time job and active in their church, you'll be looking at a few hours at the beginning or end of each day.  Schedule your energy, not your time!

  • Make a list of weekly tasks.
    • Errands:  bank (most banking is online, but you still need to review accounts at least once a week), dry cleaner (arrange for pick up and drop off at your workplace if available), library (30 minutes)
    • Appointments:  Not used every week, but good to have a scheduled block for haircuts, eye appointments, doctor and dentist appointments, oil changes/tire rotations, etc.  Try to find businesses that offer evening hours if you work a day shift so you don't have to use earned time.
    • Grocery shopping (30-45 minutes with a list.)
    • Food prep (Most full-time workers don't have time to prepare 21 meals a week.  They spend 2 hours or so prepping for 14 or more meals.)
    • Cleaning -- Clutter should be picked up daily, and bathroom and kitchen wiped down after every use.  This is the window washing, doorknobs/lightswitch disinfecting, dusting, vacuuming, mopping end of cleaning that we do once a week.  An apartment should be able to be zipped through in 45 minutes or less if you've kept it picked up.  We'll talk about dishes/kitchen maintenance when we cover 4D, but if that's an area that you struggle, set aside time a couple of times a week to get the kitchen back to "ground zero."
    • Bills, Correspondence, computer/mobile maintenance (20 minutes)
    • Laundry day (unless you have a w/d in your apartment)(2 hours)
    • Trash to curb, wash out trash cans (10 minutes)
    • Church prep: Sunday School, meals, Bible study lessons etc. (1 hour)
    • Manicure/Pedicure (10 minutes/30 minutes if polishing)
    • Clean out and restock purse, work, workout, and church bags (15 minutes)
    • Car cleanout, vacuum, and fluid/tire check (20 minutes)
    • Emergency Regroup:  Set aside at least an hour a week to get caught up so that you have the ability to minister to a friend in need or just go out for a cup of coffee.
  • Map out work and church commitments on a weekly calendar.  
    •  Include unofficial as well as scheduled events.  If you and a coworker regularly go to the gym after work, that needs to be accounted for.
    • Right now Google calendar is free and works well for this purpose.
  • Block out time for sleep (including night time routine) and getting ready for work/church (including morning routine).
  • During the remaining time, when is your physical energy highest?  For me this was usually late morning through dinner on my day off and after dinner on days I worked.
  • During the remaining time, when is your mental energy highest? For me this was, and is, usually after 9 pm or before work in the early morning.
  • Plot your tasks into the spaces each day where they most naturally fit.  
    • Grocery shopping and other errands are usually easiest to do on the way home from work or church.  Don't forget to check Sunday School lesson plans before shopping in case you need a weird craft or snack item.
    • Cleaning is nice to schedule toward the end of the week so you can have friends in on the weekend.
    • Use laundromat time to clean and check your vehicle, manicure your nails, or even clean out and organize your bags and purse. 
    • Many of these weekly tasks can be reduced to minutes if you keep picked up as you go:  empty the car every time you get out, don't let your apartment get cluttered, pay bills on auto and process mail daily, prepping extra food every time you cook, taking an extra minute to set up filing systems on your computer, etc.  I'll cover this in more detail in my next post about making your space work for your lifestyle.
  • Post your weekly schedule on a whiteboard or a cute printable somewhere in your apartment where you'll see it every day.   
    • In Victorian times, every household had a large chalkboard in the kitchen with the weekly tasks painted onto a weekly grid and space below to write on daily tasks in chalk.  Borrow their idea by using Sharpie or vinyl letters on a whiteboard that's divided into weekly squares.
    •  Set recurring task lists to pop up on your computer or mobile using an app.
    • Avoid having your weekly schedule as a document in your computer or a notebook where you can just ignore it UNLESS you decide to do a CEO sheet (single printed half sheet with schedule, to-dos, and notes you print every morning to run your day -- optional part of 4D management)
The weekly tasks are vital to perform in a few minutes each week, because they become a big problem if left undone.  This list may look like a lot, but it accounts for very little time if good storage systems and daily pickup are part of your routine.  Call or email me if you struggle -- the weekly plan is the difference between a well-run home and a hot mess.  An old New England saying comes to mind "There is but an hour a day between a good huswif and a bad one."



25 November 2017

Keeping House for One: Meals

Dear Lissy,

Your oldest brother just landed a sweet job, and rented his first apartment.  Daddy and I love his new church,workplace, and home!  As he and I have talked through the logistics of being on your ownsome, I realized I had a hole in my homemaking posts to you:  Keeping a home for one.  The simple fact is that a full time job and faithfulness to a local church fill a week.  The margin around those responsibilities is generally at times that your energy will be low.  So how do you keep an apartment neat and homey, eat nutritious meals, and keep up with the paperwork?  Let's start with a simplified version of what we've learned for a larger home that keeps the life, budget, and energy levels of a single person in mind. 

We'll begin with meals, because that was my biggest challenge as a newlywed. I made the all-or-nothing mistake:  we either had nutritious homemade meals or hit Checkers for burgers, fries, and milkshakes.  The better choice would have been to eat easy meals 3-4 times a week, homemade meals 2-3 times a week, and planned in an occasional splurge out.  I also made the colossal mistake of being "too tired to do dishes right now" and ended up with a dishpan full of gross slimy dishes to deal with every couple of days.  Yuck!  Now I would recommend a hearty supply of paper goods for days you know you don't have the energy to clean the kitchen.  Even if you don't take time to do the dishes, scrape, rinse, and stack instead of soaking.

  • Basic Breakfast(2-3x/wk):  Ready to eat, but can be a sugar bomb or budget buster if you're not careful.
    • Yogurt and granola
    • Cold cereal
    • Protein bar
    • Bagel with cream cheese
  • Better Breakfast(3-4x/wk):  Has to be prepared, but generally cheap and healthy.  Make several days at once on a slow morning so you have one prep and cleanup.
    • Scrambled egg and sausage burrito (make 4 at once, wrap and save 3)
    • Hard boiled eggs and muffins from mix (make 6 of each once, wrap and save 4 for later)
    • Smoothie:  Make up bags to store in freezer with all ingredients, blend at breakfast.
  • Splurge (1x/wk):  Convenience store, donut shop, fast food, diner.


  • Basic Lunch(3-4x/wk):  Fast and easy, but can be a fat bomb or budget buster.  Most items can be made at home inexpensively, or purchased at a grocery store for a few extra $
    • Sandwich, chips, fruit, snack
    • Crackers/pretzels and fresh veg with hummus
    • Salad or wrap
    • Meal replacement bar or shake
  • Better Lunch(2-3x/wk):  Leftovers! If you have access to a microwave, dinner leftovers make an nutritious and inexpensive lunch.
  • Splurge (1x/wk):  Convenience store, sandwich shops, fast food, cafe, food truck.


  • Basic Dinner (3-4x/week):  Bowls. Make these up one evening and store the leftovers for the rest of the week.
    • Cook off 2 cups rice, 1# noodles, or 4 baked potatoes.  Store 3 portions in container in fridge, save out 1 for dinner.
    • Cook off 4 portions of meat.  This can be 4 of the same or varied. Slice/Chop and store 3 portions, save 1 out for dinner.  A rotisserie chicken is an easy way to do this without a lot of time or mess if you have a busy week.  Scrambled hamburger also is fast and lends itself well to Mexican and Italian sauces.
    • Buy 1# total of frozen veg.  I keep a several bags of different types of frozen veg in the freezer. 
    • Buy 3 - 4 different jarred sauces that you like:  Chinese, Salsa/Taco Sauce, Gravy, Spaghetti/Alfredo, etc.  These are generally found in the center aisles of the store.
    • Assemble as needed:  1 cup starch, 1 portion (4-6 oz) meat, 4 oz veg, and enough sauce to make it yummy. Microwave in a bowl. Add shredded cheese, olives, etc. if desired.
    Better Dinner (2-3x/week):  On nights you don't have an after dinner commitment, make a fresh hot meal for 4, and use leftovers for lunch.  This meal will be a main, veg or salad, good bread, and a light dessert like pudding or jello.  
    • Make a soup or casserole and you'll have lunch leftovers for the rest of the week.  
    • Try a new cooking technique -- maybe a frittata.  
    • Meatloaf or meatballs feed an army, but also freeze well for nights you don't feel like cooking.  
  • Splurge(1x/wk):  Order in a pizza, or go out with a friend!


One of the biggest mistakes you can make when you live alone is not planning for snacks.  You will snack if you live alone! The key is finding snacks that don't sabotage your health goals, and planning for a few splurges.
  • Basic Snacks:  Healthy snacks that provide a good amount of munchy pleasure and meet nutritional goals are essential.
    • Cut up veggies and dip (Baby carrots, black olives, celery, cherry tomatoes, broccoli crowns, etc.)
    • Fruit:  Clementines, apples, bananas, grapes, fruit cups
    • Wasa bread or other whole grain cracker and cream cheese or hummus.
    • Popcorn (invest in an air popper -- microwave popcorn is expensive and unhealthy!) 
  • Splurge Snacks:  Everyone loves a treat!  The secret is to buy just a week's worth at the grocery store and avoid the convenience store trap.  If snacks are a real temptation, use 7 gallon ziplocs, and split the goodies up by day as soon as you get home. You can put a plastic spoon into a bag to portion out ice cream or pudding.
    • One week supply of individual serving size bags or cans of chips.  Most grocery stores have these available either near the deli or checkout.  Avoid family sized bags -- once they're open, they're hard to resist.
    • Six pack of 100 calorie mini cans or even 12 oz cans of soda.  
    • Small candy bars come in a flat pack of 5 or 6 pieces for around $1, minis in a bag for about $3.
    • Ice cream cups or bars (don't do the half gallon thing as a single person!) 
    • Granola bars
    • Pudding or jello cups

 Kitchen Management and Grocery Shopping

Grocery shop one day a week with a list and a budget.  We usually went after church midweek when the store was slowIf money is available, ordering online for pick up may be worth your time.  Hitting a fast food restaurant once costs more than the service charge at most grocery stores.

Put away groceries as soon as you get home.

Commit to keeping the kitchen clean as you go. If you don't keep any other area of your home clean, commit to the kitchen.  Clean as you go, and always leave the kitchen shiny clean.  Even now, I go through spurts of restaurant clean and "that can totally wait until morning".  I have never regretted staying up a few extra minutes to clean the kitchen, and it's even better if I clean as I go so there's never a Swedish Chef level mess to begin with.  I have the best "luck" if I remember the Flylady mantra of keeping my sink shiny 24/7.  The rest of the apartment may look like a bomb went off, but the sink stays shiny!

Clean your fridge out every week the night before trash day.

Progress, not Perfection!  I've said this in at least 50 posts on this blog.  There's no such thing as a "perfect" week.  Do the best you can with the time, energy, and $ God has provided.  If you end up eating a Snickers and Combos for lunch once in a while, so be it.  If you have to bleach the dishes you left in the sink for 2 days, do it, and move on.  Another writer I love puts it this way:  "Something is better than nothing, but always aim for more."

I can't wait to visit your first apartment someday!