Review: Simplified Dinners & Paperless Home Organization
I’ve recently had the opportunity to read – and try out the methods – from three ebooks by Mystie Winckler of Simplified Pantry. The first, Paperless Home Organization, helps you create, using tools available freely online, a paper-free recordkeeping and to-do system, using a streamlined, easy-to-follow workflow. The second and third, Simplified Dinners and Simplified Dinners Gluten Free/Dairy Free, are recipes books designed to make a busy family’s menu planning, grocery shopping, and cooking much easier and stress free.
Paperless Home Organization is an excellent introduction to digital record-keeping, and well worth the $3.99 even if you’re already using some paperless tools already, because the workflow is well-thought-out and streamlined to be as pain-free and no-thought-needed as possible.
With simple directions and plenty of screen shots, it’s very easy to follow along. First, Ms. Winckler describes the purpose, goals, and methods she used in setting up her workflow. Then, you get right to the heart of the issue, as you set up each of the tools that you’ll need – or (perhaps) modify them to be just a little more user-friendly, if they’re something you already use.
The principal tools she uses include Gmail, Google Calendar, Remember The Milk, and Evernote. Even if you’ve already tried one of these, and not been thrilled with it, I encourage you to try it again, following it according to the method she recommends. While I’ve used Gmail for years, there were tips and tricks that I’d never discovered, and my inbox is under much better control these days.
Google Calendar is also an old friend of mine, but it has seen intermittent use of my personal calendar over the years, primarily because it didn’t fit well into my pattern. (Though using it to pull in other calendars? That’s a WONDERFUL thing!) I’d always end up resorting to paper calendars because it seemed to take more time to make entries than I actually needed them for. Now that I have a tablet (though Android and iOs phones would work as well), it’s become much more central to my daily life.
Remember the Milk is one that I’d tried – and just couldn’t seem get into using as a regular habit. I still struggle a bit with it, but I must admit, it *is* getting easier as I go along – and if I were to decide at some point that it and I needed to part ways, I’d be much more confident at finding a replacement that works for me and fits well into my daily schedule.
Evernote is the biggie. I’d tried it before, and just did-not-get-what-the-big-deal-was. Seriously. I’ve had an account since shortly after they first opened – and it didn’t have much in it. It’s gotten a huge makeover these last few weeks. While I will probably still keep my primary “important documents” in my other auto-backup place, I’m working on uploading them into Evernote. (So far, around the end of my month, I still have plenty of upload space available – this is the perfect time to upload documents when you have some that you want to get in there eventually, but don’t want to run out of space early in the month, and have no desire to upgrade to a premium account.
Since Evernote works on my phone and tablet, in addition to the web and computer, we’re busy falling in love these days… the templates and suggestions that Ms. Winckler has included made it *much* easier to take that leap, and I even splurged on a title that she recommended for learning Evernote’s uses in greater detail. It’s SO nice, when I forget the library cards, and have books to stop and pick up, well, they’re right there on my phone. So is my blog schedule, and my recipes, and lists of everything from book series to card game sets that we intend to get. (It’d be a dream for yard-sales and thrift stores, and that hadn’t even occurred to me til this moment.)
Better yet, those Evernote files can be shared. Have a book series you’re looking for, and a friend that goes to lots of yard sales and used book stores, but always tells you, “I know you’re collecting those, but I didn’t know which ones you needed…” With Evernote, they can – just a simple check of that shared folder on Evernote, and ta-da! now they do.
Best of all is the price. Paperless Home Organization is just $3.99 – with the discount below, if you buy before June 3, 2013, it’s under $3. Just $3 for a simple-to-implement digital record-keeping system? That, my friends, is a deal!
Simplified Dinners isn’t just a recipe book; it’s an entire way of thinking about cooking and purchasing food. Many of us intend to create meal plans, but it’s so easy to get sidetracked while searching for recipes – besides, who can hold all those details in their head while they’re busy with their family? Between recipes and menus and sales, if it isn’t 1) written down, and 2) find-able, I know I won’t remember! As an added bonus, these recipes are easy to modify – think of them as “base” recipes, with multiple variations included – but they’re adaptable to your family’s preferences.
The structure of each recipe is written a little differently than those in a typical cookbook. First, the details of the basic process are given; these are the steps and items needed for the core recipes. Modifications follow, and the only information listed in this section of the recipe are those given for changes to the base. It makes it incredibly easy to choose a recipe that you have the main ingredients for, and then modify it to suit your needs or desires at that moment, using whatever else you have on hand. It’s easy to SEE what I mean then to describe it – if you go here, and scroll to the bottom of the page, there is a Download Sample link that will show you exactly what I mean.
The really excellent part of all this, I’ve found, is you don’t have to ignore your family’s favorite recipes – once you’re comfortable with the basic method, you should be able to create your own base for that recipe, plus variations.
Another plus – these are perfect when you’re teaching your children to cook, because they’re not just blindly following a recipe, they’re learning what food go together well, and each recipe is so simply to modify, you’ll probably discover your own favorites. (Just make sure to write them down!)
And, before I forget, what do you cook with? Simplified Dinners includes a master pantry list. If you have these staples, you’ll be able to craft any recipe in the book – and even if you’re out of quite a few, there are still many recipes you’ll be able to use right away. No expectation of – or waiting til after – a huge stocking-up shopping trip just to get started.
This book is designed to be printable – it has a limited color palette that works well in black and white. I’d recommend printing it out, right to start with, just to keep things easy. We put ours in plastic sheet protectors; I’ve learned from experience that recipe pages are likely to collect *mess*, otherwise, and I prefer easy-to-wipe-off pages. (PDF ebook – $12.99)
Simplified Dinners Gluten Free/Dairy Free is a variation of Simplified Dinners, modified to be appropriate for those who need Gluten Free or Dairy Free meals. We haven’t used any of the recipes from it – we’re still working our way through the plethora of recipes in the standard book – but I expect these will be just as easy to use and delicious. (PDF ebook – $12.99)
Simplified Pantry is offering a 30% discount to all blog readers, applicable to any – or all – of these three titles. Just enter the code TOS2013 – it’s good until June 3, 2013.