Meal Planning

A few years ago I read an article about meal planning. I have to be honest, when I first read the article my first thought was “why would anyone do that”. Well as the years went on, and my kids got older it started looking like a good idea. See I have three boys that play sports. So as you can imagine my life can be a bit busy. I have also put on weight mostly due to eating lots of fast food and pizza. Now I know you are probably asking what having kids and gaining weight have to do with meal planning. Between work, helping the kids with school work, and runing the kids too and from after school activities I was not eating until late if I cooked, or I was just grabbing fast food. Meal planning has helped me stick to a diet, make sure my kids eat healthy, and reduse stress by helping me manage my time better. It also fits in to my time management process. Now that you see where I am going with this article lets take a look at how I do it.


The Process

I have tried makeing lists using paper, and several note taking apps. I have downloaded templates for Microsoft OneNote but none of then work for me. The main issue was getting home to find out I did not have everything I needed to make the meal I was planning on making. Another issue was getting to the store to buy groceries and not remember my list or what I needed to buy to make the meals I want to make for the week. What is really needed to properly do meal planning is a goot app. The app needs to have more then a calendar that lists the meals you want to make on a day. The app should hold recipes, a shopping list, and have some kind of pantry function. I have tried several over the last year and finally settled on Paprika. This app meets all my requirements. It also has a Mac, IOS, and a Windows app. Parika has a decent pantry function that will keep track of what I have on hand so that I can add only what is needed to the grocery list portion of the app. I can download recipes from several websites and add a recipe directly on to meal calendar while adding the ingredients to the built in shopping list. Haveing a good meal planning app is a big part, but it is only one part of the process. You can plan meals all you want but when you have limited time you may find yourself resorting to old habits(I know I did at first). The key is to prep a head of time. I tipically plan out the weeks meals on Saturday mornings and then go shopping. On Sunday’s I prepare what I can a head of time. I cut vegetables and marinade any meat. If i am makeing a caserol or going to be using the crockpot I put it all together. Several meals (soups, some breakfast items)can be fully made and frozen, then heated up on the day you plan to serve it.

Have you tried meal planning? Do you use a different app, or do you implement it different? I would love to hear about it below in the comments.

Time Management for Busy Parents

The holidays have passed, the food coma has passed, and the New Year hangover has been cured. People are returning to work and kids are returning to school. That means dedlines for work projects, the return of homework for kids, and after school activities. After the busy season leading into the holidays and the lazy time between Christmas and the New Year; how do we get back on track? I usually take some extra time off around the holidays and use this time to reevaluate my life in general. I look at finances, short term goals, long term goals, and the systems I use to organise and manage my life. This is not a quick or easy task, but it is one I believe is necessary especially for busy parents.


Method

Setting goals for yourself is one thing. With work, chores, projects at home, kids extra curricular activities, school work, and other personal commitments the question is how to you manage completeing those goals while meeting all the other responsibilities you have? You need to have some kind of method to organize and keep track of everything. There are many books on project management and time management out there. I have read many of the books and tried many of the time management methods out there over the years. I have settled on the Getting Things Done Methodology. I will not go into detail since this is not a post about GTD but about general time management.


Tools

Once you have decided on a method you need to setect how you will apply the method, keep track of your schedule, and tasks. There are mutiple tools out there that can help with this. No one tool will meet all your needs. Unless you are going to use only paper and pencil your choice is also dependent on which devices you will be using. Some apps like Todoist have apps for multiple devices and computer operating systems. Others such as Omnifocus will only work with one platform. I use an iPhone, iPad, HP laptop with Windows 10 (for work), and a MacBook Pro (for personal computing). For notes and refrence material I use Evernote. For storing other documents such as Word and Excel files I use Microsoft OneDrive. Both of these options have apps for Windows, Mac OS, and IOS. For scheduling appointment, tracking projects, and other tasks I use Informant (formally know as Pocket Informant). Informant has IOS and Mac apps. It also has an Outlook add-on that runs on Windows. This allows me to keep track of my schedule and task list no matter where I am or what machine I am using.


What method do you use and what tools do you use? Please feel free to leave a comment.

Immigration

Immigration seems to be a touchy subject these days. Every time someone mentions deportations or immigration laws there seems to be immediate accusations of racism. The conversation on immigration and border security has nothing to do with race and everything to do with the law. We as US citizens can not choose what laws we wish to follow. Why should non citizens be allowed to choose what laws they follow and get reworded for it?

Detention at the border

When people are caught crossing the border illegally they are arrested. Families are separated (The president recently signed and Executive Order to stop this) and children are her separately until they can be put with other family members or sponsors. The process of reuniting families or even placing the children with a sponsor can take months. While I do not agree with separating families they did illegally cross the border knowing full well they could be caught. The simple fix for this is to build the wall.

Amnesty

Amnesty is another touchy subject. While it is illegal to enter the US without a visa the majority of illegal immigrants have not broken any other laws. In my opinion those that have entered the country illegally, that have not broken any other laws should be given a path to citizenship. Perhaps pay a fine and go to the end of the line behind those who have legally started the immigration process. Those illegal immigrants that have broken other laws and committed crimes in the US should be deported and banned from ever getting citizenship.

Immigration System

Our immigration system should be fully overhauled. Chain migration should be stoped along with immigration lottery. Strict guidelines for immigration should be put in place. Once changes are made the laws need to be fully enforced.

It That includes putting an end to sanctuary cities. Any public official whether they are a mayor or police officer, that willingly refuses to assist federal authorities in detaining and deporting illegal immigrants should be arrested and prosecuted. We may not agree with all the policies and laws regarding immigration but the fact remains we must follow the laws in place. If you do not agree with the laws contact your representatives and make your thoughts know. Encourage your friends to do the same. If you representative does not push for reform and vote for laws you agree with make your displeasure know at the ballot box. That is the beauty of living in a Constitutional Republic.

I’d love to hear your thought wether you agree or disagree with me. Leave a comment in the comment section below.

School Shootings

Every time I turn on the news there seems to be reports of another school shooting. There is always someone on talking about the need for more gun control and restrictions on what guns or magazines can be purchased. How about we look at actual measures we can take, instead looking for more ways to limit the rights of law abiding citizens.

Prevention

Prevention should be the first consideration. The TSA uses metal detectors to check people and scanning machines to check bags. Why not install these in every school? Now I know there is a cost issue, but I am sure money could be raised to purchase the equipment. Each school could reduce costs by limiting the entrances people enter the building through. As for outside school activities such as football games handheld metal detectors can be used by security personnel or local police officers.

Arming Teachers

Several states have already passed measures to arm teachers. I do not see this as a bad thing. I do however think there should be some standard guidelines put in place.

Training

As a CCW holder myself I think passing a CCW course is a good start. However I think most people would feel better if there was a more rigorous training regiment and qualification requirements that must be met before a teacher can carry a concealed gun on school grounds.

Armed Trained Professionals

An alternative to training and arming teachers would be to employ already trained people. This would include off duty police officers, trained security guards, and military veterans. On duty police officers would also be a great idea but not every city and town have the resources to deploy and officer to every school in their jurisdiction.

Building the Wall

It is no secret that there are some major issues with our immigration system. There are plenty of opinions on what needs to be done to fix our immigration system. However fixing the immigration system would be a waste of money and time if we do not secure our borders. Calling those that support the wall racists, and other derogatory names will not change the fact that securing the border is the first logical step in immigration reform.

What the wall will not do

Building a wall on the border will not prevent people from entering our country legally. Foreigners enter our country everyday on boats, planes, and cars legally everyday. Some do over stay their visas and become illegal immigrants. Building the wall will not stop this from happening. That is a shortcoming of our current immigration system that does need to be addressed.

What the wall will do

Building the wall will help to stop the criminals that can not get visas to enter the country from seeking over the border. That is the whole idea of building the wall. Once the wall is built we can focus on fixing the other issues with immigrations.

What we need to do

Us as citizens need to call, write, and email our representatives letting them know we want the wall fully funded. If our representatives do not listen to us then we need vote in someone that will listen and do their job and represent our wishes.

Have something to add or simply want to say hi? Leave a comment below.

Cutting the Cord

Paying bills sucks. No one likes to pay bills.  It is even worse when you feel the bill is just too high for what you are getting..  Have you ever been sitting there watching tv and ask yourself why am I paying so much when there is never anything on?  I used to ask that at least once a month. There have always been ways to reduce your cable bill if you are willing to spend the time to do it.  Sometimes you could call and say you were canceling to see if you could get them to give you a deal.  I did this with U-Verse for a couple of years.  You could actually switch to another provider that was running a promotion for new customers only.  I did this every year for a while going between AT&T U-Verse and Time Warner Cable.  Doing this I could usually keep my bill below $200 a month, but it was always a pain to switch.

 

I have looked into cutting the cord several times over the years, but I just didn’t see a way to do it and still be able to watch the shows I like to watch.  A little over a year ago I had U-Verse again and my promotion ended taking my bill over $200 a month.   So I started looking into cutting the cord again.  I figured between Hulu, Amazon, and Netflix there are millions of shows and movies to watch, and I remembered that you could watch most shows on their networks website the next day or in some cases a week after they aired.   However when I went to verify it I found most networks started requiring you to log in with an account from a TV provider.    At that point I gave up again and called Time Warner to see what they could do for me.  I got a pretty good package that included 200 or so channels 100MBs internet, HBO, Showtime, and MAX for $130 a month.  I was happy with that so I gave  up on cutting the cord.

 

When my promotional period ended this time I did not want to deal with switching again.  I also did not want to start paying a $200+ cable bill.  Luckily I had been researching alternatives for a client that was building a new building.  Now I know that Direct TV is technically a TV provider, but their Direct TV Now is a streaming only service with no contract.  While I was researching them they ran a special that if you paid for 3 months in advance you would get a brand new Apple 4k TV.  I already had an Apple TV but I had just bought a brand new 4k TV for the living room, so I figured worse case I cancel the service after 3 months and still get a new Apple 4k TV out of it.   After only watching tv through the Direct TV NOW app for 2 weeks I called Spectrum and canceled my TV service.  I kept the internet obviously.  I still have Netflix but I now pay $70 for my internet service(I replaced the provided modem with one of my own.  Who wants to pay an extra $6 to rent a modem?) and $48 per month for the Direct TV Now service.  It would only be $35 per month but I added HBO for $5 per month and Stars/Encore for $8 per month.  It was cheaper to add it in to the Direct TV Now than it would be just subscribing to their respective streaming subscriptions.  I have to say that I am happy with the choice.

Have you cut the cord or are you considering it?  Let me know in the comments below.

The New Year New You Fallacy

Every year around January everyone starts talking about their New Years Resolution.  I always hear people spouting the “New Year New You” mantra.  While improving yourself is always a good thing the new years resolution is almost always an exercise in failure.  In 2013 Forbes published and article quoting University of Scranton research that states “just 8% of people actually keep their goals”.   Another article published by US News in 2016 states that 80% of people will fail at keeping to their resolution.  I believe most people do truly plan to keep their resolution, but changing habits is not easy to do.  There are many self help books out there that can point you in the right direction but if you lack the will to make the change you will fail.  So how does one succeed in keeping their new years resolution?

  1. Set many small goals not one over all resolution.
    1. Instead of I will get in shape this year,  You set goal one as i will go to the gym 5 days this week
    2. Next you set the goal I will go to the gym 5 days a week every week this month and so on.
  2. Stick to it.
    1. To stick to your resolutions you need to make the steps a habit.
    2. You can only make it a habit by doing the step when you are supposed to
  3. Don’t give up.

Number 3 is probably the most important.  It is difficult to make a new good habit, as well as change or stop a bad habit.  If you miss a gym day or cheat on your diet it is not the end of the world.  Everyone fails from time to time.  Just get back to it the next day.  Eventually you’ll reach your goal.  If your goal was like the example above going to the gym will become a habit.  Once that happens you can set your next goal and it should be easier to achieve.

We are now entering the second week of February if you have given up on your resolution give my steps a try to see if it helps.

Questions, suggestions, or just want to say hi drop a line in the comments below.