Simplify Your Life: Meal Planning

It all started almost 12 years ago. I was a newlywed and the only thing I knew how to cook was scrambled eggs (and “fancy” ramen, where you add in vegetables to those $0.29 packs of noodles, but I don’t think that really counts). I wanted to learn how to cook, but more importantly, I was also trying to manage our newlywed finances as well, so I wanted to learn how to cook efficiently. Thus began my love affair with meal planning.

Fast forward to the present where I find myself trying to balance work, married life and the manic whims of a precious 3-year-old. Once again, I’m in a place where meal planning is ESSENTIAL for our finances, for our health and also for our sanity.

So, how can we simplify our meals and routines? How can we reclaim peace and joy in cooking?

Do a quick Google search and you will find hundreds of websites giving you “7 Tips” here and “10 Steps” there to simplify your meal planning. Hours and hours go by, hundreds of clicks to and from sites on Pinterest, and you might still end up totally confused and unsure of how to actually get started. I’ve been meal planning now for 12+ years, and I feel like I’ve tried it all. Through it all, I’ve discovered a few successful ways to simplify our lives (& our food budget) by meal planning:

Plan One Week at a Time: Gather your family calendar and decide how many nights you can cook at home vs. take-out/going out to eat. Everyone’s schedules are “so busy” these days, so plan which nights you WILL cook…aiming for at least 3-4 per week.

If you’re really ambitious, try meal-planning for two weeks. Calendars, practices, appointments, etc., are typically set in stone for at least two weeks at a time. I am usually at my MOST efficient financially and with groceries (avoiding food waste) when I plan a couple weeks at a time. Flexibility is key, groceries can carry over, and impromptu nights out don’t matter as much because you can move that night’s meal to the next open night.

Take Stock: What items do you already have? A huge part of simplifying your meals, is simplifying your ingredient list. Try to cook 5-6 ingredient meals. Use healthy, whole ingredients when possible; simple, unprocessed and whatever produce is on sale that week.

NOTE: Taking stock of your pantry and fridge are a LOT easier to do if they are organized ahead of time. Before you get started with meal planning, take an hour to go through and organize; dispose of expired food and group by “like-items” (cans, grains, breakfast stuff, etc., in the pantry and fruit, veggies, dairy in the refrigerator). Store items in clear bins or baskets for easy visibility.

Make What You Know: Look for recipes in your comfort zone. Search by the ingredients you already have and that will help keep your plans (and your searches) simple and efficient. Pinterest can be your friend if you use specific keywords like “healthy sweet potato recipes,” “quick and easy chicken recipes,” “make ahead eggplant recipes.”

I typically start my meal plan by choosing 2-3 proteins (usually what I have stored in the freezer) and then vegetables or grains for the sides. When choosing side dishes, I try to look for recipes that call for similar ingredients. Sheet Pan Roasted Chicken with Sweet Potatoes & Onions might be on the menu one night, and then a couple days later, I might serve Roasted Sweet Potatoes with a variety of toppings, including caramelized onions and shredded chicken (leftover from the previous night).

Take your simplifying one step further by creating a framework for your week: Meatless Mondays, Tacos Tuesdays, Breakfast for Dinner, Pasta Thursdays, Pizza Fridays, etc.

Write It Out: Designate a notebook to keep your weekly menus, ingredients and shopping lists all in one place. I am a HUGE fan of paper, but also acknowledge the power of digital, so I use both. I keep a written notebook of weekly meal plans, etc., and I keep a Google Drive folder of our fan-favorite recipes. For instance, if I’m searching for a good slow-cooker recipe, I’ll start by searching my Drive folder first before I head to the black hole that is Pinterest or Google.

I also prefer to write our weekly menu on a large dry erase calendar or chalkboard calendar, so that my family knows what to look forward to throughout the week. It also alleviates the barrage of “what’s for dinner?” questioning from said family members.

Now once you choose your recipes, go through each and list out the ingredients (and quantities) needed for each. Mark the items you already have in stock, and list out the items you need to purchase.


A good way to organize your shopping list is to group your items by “Produce,” “Meat,” “Dairy,” “Pantry Items,” “Sauces,” etc. This will help transform your current grocery store mania into the the short & sweet trip we all dream of….oh, you don’t dream about the grocery store? Just me? Okay 🙂

Plan to do all your grocery shopping on ONE day of the week. This can easily be done if your shopping list is organized and thorough. Gone are the days of stopping by the grocery store every day to “just grab a couple things” and walking out with $100+ of who-knows-what.

Simplify the Prep: Try adopting the Sunday Meal Prep or Make-Ahead Meal mentality. If your busy schedule doesn’t allow much time for slicing and dicing, try to prep your meals on Saturdays or Sundays. Buy meat in bulk (also SUPER kind to your wallet) and keep your freezer stocked with favorites.

Store meal items in clear bags or containers and label them with directions for ease of use. Again, so said family members can actually start the meal preparation with or without you there. Amen and amen.



Ultimately, I could give you ALL the tips and tricks, but it’s up to YOU to figure out what will work for YOU and your family. Hopefully these steps above are simple enough to encourage and inspire you to simplify (or even start) your meal planning routine.

If you are still unsure of how to start or need help organizing your kitchen, we are here for you.

Our goal at Simplicity is to help you clear out the unnecessary in order to focus on what matters most. We are here to help you create space and balance so that you can discover a new sense of harmony in your home (especially your kitchen) and life.

Click here to make an appointment today!

Jessica Masanotti joined the Simplicity team almost 3 years ago. Her favorite space to organize is the kitchen (of course!), and she loves working with Simplicity Kids & Teens. In her spare time, she LOVES meal planning, cooking and eating all the delicious food, which she chronicles in her blog, The Freckled Fork.






Comic Relief

 Simplicity + Robin’s Rules of Order = Synergy!

Simplifying and organizing our homes and our lives are oft-cited resolves that are often unrealized. We give ourselves a pass saying we’re ‘trying’ to do it. But a thoughtful, less-is-more lifestyle can be yours. We suggest a comic approach to a serious topic.  

In a joint presentation on September 14th at Myers Park Country Club, Laurie Martin from Simplicity and Robin McCoy, author of Robin’s Rules of Order and Writings on Robin’s Rules, you’ll learn a lot about the ‘why’ and the  ‘how’. Why we have so much stuff we don’t love, use or need, and how to tame the chaos to regain control of the things we do need, use and love.

Comics hold up a mirror and reflect a lot of truths in a succinct, approachable way.  Witty or corny, pointed or gentle, they pack a punch. Comics are truth tellers in an effortless, economical way.  They do so with fewer, better words. And they unintentionally champions Robin’s Rules of Order.  And the rules are just the starting point for a thoughtful discussion of how Simplicity can help you live better with less.

So don’t despair.  We will have a lighthearted but serious discussion about showing your things who’s boss!


Charlotte Parenting Solutions

Simplicity Organizers Interviews Wendy Petricoff of Charlotte Parenting Solutions.

What is Charlotte Parenting Solutions?

Charlotte Parenting Solutions is a business created to help support parents through the journey of parenthood. My passion is making parents’ lives easier by teaching them how to use the best tools available for their family. I help parents get on the same page, figure out how and when to set limits and which consequences will work best. This is the work we do together, putting together plans that you can easily implement. My goal is to help parents to feel CALM, CONFIDENT and CREDIBLE when they are raising their children!

How long have you been a parenting coach?

I have been working with parents for 11 years! It is an incredibly rewarding job.

What types of services do you offer?

I work with parents in private sessions, in my online course Happy Parents & Thriving Kids, or if you’re local…I teach in-person workshops! I provide parents the tools and skills they need to tackle their parenting challenges. In my online workshop and private sessions we work closely together to create customized parenting plans for your family. (Yes, that means we put together consequences and I even give you scripts to use!)

How does organization play a role in having healthy and happy family members and family dynamics?

If parents aren’t organized, family stress is often magnified. Things that appear simple, like getting out the door on time end up becoming a HUGE source of frustration. When parents become emotionally escalated we often “lose it” (yelling, using sarcasm, etc.) which results in us eventually feeling guilty about our own actions. This is a cycle that becomes a repetitive pattern. In order to break this pattern parents need to learn both organizational skills as well as parenting tools. These skills are a gift to the entire family!

How are Charlotte Parenting Solutions and Simplicity Organizers connected in enhancing families’ lives?

Together we work hand in hand to help families live more peaceful, purposeful lives. Simplicity can provide a family with organizational tools and I step in to help with the implementation and follow through. As parents we are the leaders of our families. It’s our job to set limits and I teach parents how to follow through in a loving way that builds strong parent/child relationships. I believe that both Simplicity and Charlotte Parenting Solutions work in tandem to get you the skills and the CONFIDENCE you need to become a great role model for your children.


Garage Organization Day With the Bremers


Part of Simplicity’s mission is to serve the Charlotte community with our gift of organization.  A few months ago at the ChariTea fundraiser event for the Charlotte Rescue Mission, Sharon Bremer mentioned that she really needed our services.  When asked what area of her home needed our services the most, she quickly said her garage. Sharon had just wrapped up her final treatment of  chemotherapy, so we decided there was no better gift to her family than the gift of organization. Soon after, we informed Sharon that our company would be coming to work alongside of her and help her organize her garage.  To understand more about our process, we asked Sharon to share about her experience working with Simplicity…

What was your reaction when Simplicity told you they were volunteering to organize your garage?  

I was overwhelmed with joy and SO surprised.  It is something I have been wanting to do for years.


Describe your garage prior to Simplicity arriving.  

Disheveled.  We have been stockpiling items for about 9 years including kids toys, camping gear, paint, old files, photos, etc…  



What feelings did you have when you came home to a driveway full of your stuff?  I could not believe that all of that “stuff” had been in our garage for so long.  I am not sure where we hid it all.


What was the process like having Simplicity work alongside of you?   

Simplicity made it easy.  When I came home everything was laid out in our driveway.  All I had to do was go through each pile and say keep, throw out, or donate.  Then they organized by section (sports, entertainment, camping, holiday, etc…) A few hours later the sweetest man, Vincent McCullough, with Trinity Painters, took our old paint to recycle and Junkluggers took the rest to donate and trash.  Simplicity lined up all the vendors and it was so such a relief to have it all completed in one day.

How long do you think it would have taken you to organize your garage on your own?

Well, with the help of Simplicity, it took 16 hours to organize the garage.  I don’t think I would ever organized like that. I think I would have given up after 2 days of going through old stuff.  It is mentally, physically, and emotionally draining, so to have a motivated and experienced team-made the entire process easy.


How has this experience impacted you and your family?  

My kids are actually keeping their toys and sports equipment organized.  Before they would throw it anywhere. Now everything has its place which saves SO much time when heading to the ball field.  Now when I go into the garage I feel at peace whereas before I felt anxious from all of the chaos. Having Simplicity organize our garage has made us realize the importance of organizing other rooms in the house to free up all the clutter.


Zest Marketplace

Have a necklace, earrings or a handbag (or two, or three, or…) that you love, can’t bear to part with, but don’t wear often? Rent it! Buy a Kentucky Derby hat for a party that you’re never going to wear again? Rent it! Hanging on to your bridal jewelry but can’t find the right occasion to wear it again? Rent it!

Zest Marketplace is a new fashion format that blends the concepts behind a consignment store and Rent the Runway. We accept fine and fashion accessories in like-new condition for game day to wedding day and every occasion in between. Our rentals are short, 4 and 8 days, to maximize the number of times your pieces can rent. Each time your piece rents, you get 25% of the fee. We keep tally and payout at then end of each quarter (which is even better than finding $20 and a peppermint in that clutch you haven’t carried in two years if you ask me!).

The next time you organize your closet, consider making a pile for Zest Marketplace in between the keep and donate piles. We come to you to pick-up, and hold on to your inventory for the duration of its stay in the market, whether that’s a finite or indefinite amount of time.    

We are always in building inventory mode so reach out when you’re ready to invest your Zest! We are online, on Instagram and on Facebook.  

Zest Marketplace is locally owned and operated by me!, Amanda Tomlinson, Charlotte-native, Carolina grad, mom to Claire and Harry and a recovering uptown employee.


2018 READ a Book, GIVE a Book Celebration!

Reading is a life skill and it is unfortunate that during the summer months, many students lose valuable literacy skills when they stop reading during their break from school. Summer reading loss negatively impacts our struggling readers, and ultimately our entire community. Children who do not have access to books or adults who can read to them are especially susceptible to falling behind over the summer.

As a result, by the end of fifth grade, these students are approximately 2 1/2 years behind their peers in terms of reading ability.

Simplicity Organizers is hosting our annual book drive in the month of May. We are encouraging the Charlotte community to donate gently used children’s books (PreK-5th Gr.) to our READ A BOOK, GIVE A BOOK celebration. 

This year we will be donating the books again to Windsor Park Elementary in hopes that every single student will be able to take home several books to read over the summer!

We would love for you to partner with us and help us reach our goal of collecting 4,000 books this May!

Click here to download our Read a Book, Give a Book Flyer

Books can be dropped off at Windsor Park Elementary, My Gym or One Hott Mama Maternity

or email Simplicity to find a book drop off location near you:

Ballantyne, Barclay Downs, Cotswold, Dilworth, Matthews, Myers Park & Southpark

Simplicity Organizers


Windsor Park Elementary

3910 Sudbury Road 28205


Simplicity + The Junkluggers = A Win Win for Customers in Charlotte

Ready to reclaim your home? Whether your garage is overflowing with clutter, your basement is packed with boxes, or your attic is in disarray, The Junkluggers of Charlotte has partnered with Simplicity bringing world-class junk removal and professional organizing to homes and businesses in the Charlotte area.

The Junkluggers of Charlotte provides an environmentally-friendly alternative, saving tons of junk from landfills each year by donating on average 50% of the items they remove to local charities and recycling centers. When an item is donated on a customer’s behalf, Junkluggers will provide a tax-deductible receipt within 14 business days.

Serving Simplicity Clients

Our services match perfectly with what Simplicity does best; organize. After Simplicity has gone through your home or business we act as the “clean-up crew.” Our trucks arrive onsite removing items ready to be donated, recycled, or disposed of. The Junkluggers are dedicated to making sure your items are taken care of and bless the community.

Besides our 5-Star rating, Simplicity customers can trust The Junkluggers for their junk removal needs for many reasons, including:

  1. Free, no-obligation estimates. Simply call our office at (980) 288-5848 or book online for a free, in-person junk removal estimate.
  2. We’re on time. We’ll arrive within the two-hour appointment window you choose, and if we don’t, you’ll get a discount of up to 10% based on our arrival time.
  3. We price by volume and guarantee our estimates. When our fully insured Luggers arrive, just point out what needs to be removed, and they’ll provide you with an estimate that guarantees you won’t pay more than the quoted price. Even better, if your items take up less than expected, you’ll pay the lower price!
  4. We remove & load your items. If you accept the estimate, we’ll get started right away. Our luggers will lift and haul away your items safely, taking great care to protect your property from damage.
  5. We recycle & donate. At The Junkluggers, we’re dedicated to eco-friendly junk removal, and will donate or recycle whenever possible. We know how to safely recycle, donate, and dispose of e-waste from old printers, appliances and TV’s. We provide tax-deductible receipts within 14 days for anything we can donate on your behalf.

Our crews can also provide muscle (hourly labor) for jobs that require heavy lifting, staging furniture, or emptying of attics and basements.

About The Junkluggers

Founded in 2016, The Junkluggers of Charlotte is family owned and operated by Bryan Rainey and his two sons, Caleb and Josh. Currently serving Myers Park, Dilworth, Ballantyne, Concord, Statesville, Davidson, Huntersville, Lake Norman, Fort Mill and the surrounding Charlotte areas.

The Junkluggers® of Charlotte

1-800-LUG-JUNK (584-5865)



Five Simple Tips for Organizing your Playroom

Keep in Mind that “Less Is More”

When setting up a playroom or kid-centric area, it’s important to consider the concept that “less is more.” I always think of the 80-20 Rule. According to Anne Steppe, professional organizer and member of the Simplicity team, 80 percent of the time, your children are playing with only 20 percent of their toys. This should give you insight into just how many things kids have that they don’t even play with. Keep this in mind when choosing the amount of toys to keep in a playroom at any given time.

Label Bins with Pictures as well as Words

Labeling toy bins is an obvious organizational plus, but including a picture of each bin’s contents (on both ends) offers an added bonus. This allows even young children to know where items belong and makes it easier for them to put things away during cleanup. It helps them develop a sense of maintaining order — a great habit they will use for years to come in other areas of their lives.

Label the Back of Puzzle Pieces

My kids love puzzles, but whenever they played with different puzzles at the same time, the pieces always got mixed up. This made it hard for them to finish the puzzles, which was always frustrating. On top of that, when it came time to clean up, it was usually quite difficult to figure out which pieces went with each puzzle. The solution for this is simple. For each puzzle, place an identifying mark — a colored dot, a number, a simple shape — on the back of each piece. This makes it easy to know which pieces belong with each particular puzzle.

Store Bins Containing Small Toys or Figurines Out of Reach

Instead of allowing your child easy access to bins containing little toys or pieces, which inevitably end up being dumped out and often mixed up with other toys, keep these bins out of reach. You should be the one to manage them. I always tell my kids that I will take down a new bin once the current toys they are playing with have been cleaned up. This helps prevent kids from dumping a ton of toys on the floor, which creates a messy, confusing atmosphere that makes it difficult to play effectively.

Rotate/Purge Toys Every Few Months

Kids’ interests and abilities change frequently and they may quickly outgrow their toys. What was appropriate a few months ago soon becomes too easy or boring for them. Typically, this results in a bunch of toys gathering dust and taking up valuable space in your playroom. For this reason, every few months, flip the toys, keeping those that are most appropriate in rotation. Kids will then enjoy their toys more, playing with them more eagerly and effectively. And when it comes time to purge toys from the playroom, let your kids help. Along with having them play a role in the cleanup, this allows them to realize how many things they haven’t been playing with that could be shared with other children.

By Jess O’Roarke, Simplicity Organizer


Stress, anxiety, regret – these words too often describe our lives in today’s modern culture. We are overwhelmed by clutter in our calendars, our homes, and even in our wants and needs.

At the end of 2017 I read “Enough – Discovering Joy Through Simplicity and Generosity” by Adam Hamilton. Realizing when we have enough and living in a place of simplicity and generosity are in stark contrast to how our society works today. We live in a continuous state of consumerism and we are constantly told we need more, bigger, and better.

When is enough ENOUGH?

In his book, Hamilton discusses how chasing the “American Dream” has resulted in many of us living beyond our means and drowning in credit card debt. “A key part of experiencing financial and spiritual freedom is found in simplicity and in exercising restraint.” What if we started 2018 by being wise with our finances?

Much of our desire for more, or the newest, or the best comes from a deep struggle with discontentment.  Adam outlines four keys to how you can cultivate contentment:

  1. Make it a habit to look on the bright side or find the silver lining in your circumstances. There is always something positive to focus on.
  2. Ask yourself, “How long will this make me happy?” Too often you may buy something, thinking it will make you happy, only to find that the happiness lasted about as long as it took to open the box. Try asking that question before you make a purchase. It’s amazing how often you will change your mind.
  3. Develop a grateful heart – gratitude is essential if you are to be content. In every situation you can either complain or be grateful, focus on the disappointments or give thanks for the blessings.
  4. Ask yourself, “Where does my soul find true satisfaction?” Contrary to what the world would have you believe, the longing of your soul cannot be satisfied by shopping in a mall or online.

Rather than focusing all of our energy on the now and seeking only pleasure from our material things, we need to find that magical place where we spend wisely and we are living within our means. Please don’t misunderstand because I’m not saying don’t buy things, don’t go out to eat, don’t have fun. I am saying make a budget, stick to it, be smart with your finances in 2018, and be thankful for everything you have. Choose to live more simply, to be more generous, and to enjoy life and the people you love.  

Adam also suggests ways to simplify and make financial goals easier to accomplish:

  1. Set a goal of reducing your consumption and choose to live below your means. Imagine small changes that will reduce your trash and require fewer trips to the gas station!  
  2. Before making a purchase, ask yourself “Do I really need this?” and “Why do I want this?” This will help you discover the true motive behind your desire to buy something. Also, practice the 24-hour rule: wait 24 hours before making a purchase that is not a necessity.
  3. Use something up before buying something new. Take good care of the things you buy and use them until they are empty, broken or worn-out.
  4. Plan low-cost entertainment – simple and cheap – that enriches your life. You don’t always have to spend money to have fun.
  5. Ask yourself, “Are there major changes that would allow me to simplify my life?” What things in your life are causing you stress? Is it time to downsize? Are there things you pay for every month but never use? These questions can apply to your home, possessions, job and activities.

When striving to simplify our lives and our finances, we need to remember that less is often more. Having less definitely reduces the stress and the financial burdens in our lives. Let’s start 2018 with thankful hearts, focused on living simply and being generous because the most important things in life aren’t things.  We have been blessed so that we can bless others.  

By Melissa Stultz, Simplicity Organizers

Create a Timeline for Your Decluttering Plan

Have a list of every room that needs to be decluttered. Looking at this list, create a realistic timeline for completing each project. Give yourself at least one day to complete each room. If you’re decluttering multiple days in a row, give yourself a day off once a week to complete other tasks, relax and avoid getting burnt out. Allow yourself at least 30 minutes to complete the subsections of each room on that list.

“Stacks and piles didn’t appear overnight. It took time to accumulate. Getting organized takes time too! Estimate how long you think an area will take and then time yourself. Remember success breeds success. Start small and experience the joy of being organized!” – Laurie Martin

For the full article with more decluttering tips click here.