Without a doubt, one of the most common questions I receive day after day is, “How do you do it?”  Most of the time I suppose this question is in reference to how I balance being a mom, wife, working full time, cooking for our family, and writing this blog.  It’s a very difficult question to answer because the first thing that comes to mind is always, “I just do.”  I want to do all of these things and maintain this balance in my life, so I make it happen.  Of course it helps that we have to eat every day and it just so happens that my favorite hobby aside from spending time with my kids is making something delicious in the kitchen, taking pictures of it, and eventually sharing it with all of you.  But really, I have no secret strategies.  I’m just motivated and very organized.  I plan, plan, plan and then I stick to my plan.  In the same way that I’m sure my Thanksgiving planning strategies appear neurotic to some, it actually keeps all of this manageable.

I’ve already discussed my meal planning strategies but I know some of you are interested in where I gain recipe inspiration and how I keep straight all of the things I want to try from cookbooks, magazines, blogs, etc.  Well, here – let me show you!

I don’t subscribe to a lot of food magazines but even the few I do subscribe to can quickly accumulate and take up space on our shelves.  Not to mention that it never fails, when the time comes that I actually need a recipe I had dog-earred some time ago, it is nowhere to be found.  I flip through page after page without success.  Well, no more.  I have since created this handy-dandy spreadsheet and it has made a world of difference.  Each time I read a food magazine, I go ahead and dog-ear the pages with recipes I want to try.  Then when I have a moment, I enter the recipes into the spreadsheet as you see above to include the recipe name, the year and month of the issue, and the page number.  This has made it SO much easier to find what I am looking for.  Every few months I try to go through and do a quick recycling purge of any issues I have saved that no longer contain recipes I want to try.  You might also like to add a column to include the category of dish (appetizer, entree, dessert, etc.) but I haven’t felt the need for that yet.

As you can see from the tabs at the bottom of the spreadsheet, I have expanded this list to include not only magazine recipes but also to catalog recipes of interest in within my ever-growing cookbook collection.  When I am planning a weekly menu or a menu for entertaining, it makes it so much easier to have this quick reference at my fingertips and not need to page through every cookbook I own for inspiration.

So, that covers cookbooks and magazines, but what about the huge number of blogs I follow?   Oh, Google Reader, how I love thee.  Google Reader is one of many available feed readers that allows you to subscribe to blogs you are interested in following.  When a blog you follow has a new post, you can tell by the bolding of that blog’s name in the list with the number of new entries listed alongside.  I have a habit of sort of saving up entries and then have a big blog reading session with my dessert after the kids are in bed.  It makes me happy.

But wait, it gets better!  Not only does Google Reader make it incredibly easy to keep tabs on multiple blogs, you can star the posts you are interested in.  In my case, I star recipes I either want to try or sometimes just as inspiration for my own creations.  The search function is great.  You can easily search all the blogs you follow, only starred posts, or even just the content of a specific blog.  I do still try to visit most of the blogs I read and leave them comments as often as I can to show fellow bloggers some love.

And finally, one last little tip in how I keep my life in general organized.  Another fabulous creation from the Google peeps, Google Calendar.  Reasons I love it:

1. You can create multiple (color-coded) calendars and display them one at a time or all together.
2. You can add tasks with little check boxes (seen here).  I love checking things off my lists, and this definitely helps me get everything accomplished.
3. You can access it wherever you have internet (so basically anywhere).
4. You can share the calendars with others so they can stay in the loop, and allow them editing privileges if you like.

The example seen here is my actual to-do list for this week, including lots of prep for our holiday party this weekend.  I also like to include any advance prep for our dinners later in the week so that there is less to do when I get home from work and need to get dinner on the table.  Little things done ahead of time can really make a big difference in the long run.

I hope this post has been helpful to those of you who were interested.