Tech Tips

How to keep your email organized.

farrel-nobel-103393.jpgWe’ve all been there. Sorting and sifting through email after email to find that one important piece information that could make or break your presentation. Searching through newsletters and special offers to find the real deal just to find…more junk. It can be overwhelming and highly frustrating. Here are some tips to do email the right way:

1) Unsubscribe. First and foremost, let’s get rid of some of that unnecessary clutter by unsubscribing from companies you don’t give a crap about anymore. Just like Marie Kondo recommends: if it doesn’t bring you joy, get rid of it. Go through each of your recent emails or deleted emails and scroll to the very bottom of the email…click UNSUBSCRIBE. Due to the CAN-SPAM act of 2003, companies must include this in the footer of their emails. They also are required to comply with customer opt-outs within 10 business days. If the company doesn’t honor your request, you can report them here.

2) Use folders. Just like your dresser needs drawers, your email inbox needs folders to stay organized. My folders are organized by topic such as “Inter-Office Mail, Client Correspondence, Travel Arrangements, and Resumes.” Others choose to organize by the person who sent the email. Whatever way you choose, folders will make searching faster and easier because it will only need to index your one folder opposed to your entire 10 year old inbox.

3) Use rules. This may sound advanced, but trust me it’s as easy as a couple clicks. When you set up an inbox rule, you’re basically telling the email where to route itself. First, you select a template such as “Move messages from someone to a folder.” Then, you select the conditions such as “From people or public group.” Lastly, edit the rule description by clicking on the underlined value to assign the person and the folder. Most email software such as Gmail or Outlook have a simple wizard to filter and re-route your mail to folders. You know that email you get from Amazon every time you order something? That little guy deserves his own rule and folder.

4) Use subjects that you can easily search. You can’t make others use searchable subjects, but you’ll be able to track down your own emails a lot faster with effective keywords in your subject. Instead of “Question” as the subject, use specific keywords related to whatever your question is about in the subject. Your boss will also appreciate subjects such as “Phone Call: Client’s Name” when you take messages.

5) Respond immediately. My inbox is always clear of emails because I either respond immediately, sort it into a folder, or mark it with a flag if it requires follow-up. Responding quickly not only helps you be more efficient and on top of things, your clients will appreciate a rapid response. Even if you can’t answer their question right away, the client will appreciate a simple “let me find out for you” response. If you don’t respond, they’ll just assume you’re ignoring them or…you’re dead.

6) Use flags. If I have to follow up on an email later, perhaps a week or a month later, I will mark the email with a flag. I will even take it a step further and assign it a date in the to-do bar. That way it won’t get lost in my inbox, and I’ll be able to follow-up with that client as I promised. I also use the to-bar for mundane tasks like “Change air freshener” or “Check supplies.”

7) Check junk. Keep your junk or clutter folders clear too. Some client emails may be sent to this folder erroneously. A lot of companies are also using email for invoicing. These invoices sometimes end up in my junk folder because of a email scam tactic that involves fake invoices and corrupt attachments. Periodically cleaning out your junk folder will help avoid any late charges or lost business.

For step-by-step instructions, check out Microsoft and Google‘s in-depth technical guides.



How to shop for groceries.


I didn’t get my driver’s license until I was 17, and I’m pretty sure my mom forced me into getting it so I could go on grocery runs for the family. She was so adamant about me passing the exam that we practiced in an empty lot for hours parking and stopping and three-point-turning until I got it perfect. It was probably the day after that DMV lady took my picture that my mom slapped $40 and a grocery list in my hands.

We would review the list thoroughly. My mom is by no means one of those super duper particular moms, but the grocery list…we reviewed.

“Make sure you get the generic brand on that one, but get the name brand on that one…and I need 8 of those…”

She would mark her quantities with Roman numerals just in case we needed to add another later.

So I learned how to shop at a fairly young age, but I perfected the art of grocery shopping when I learned how to be frugal (probably another topic for another day). Here are my quick steps on grocery shopping when you are just starting out on your own:

1) Prepare. Before you can make your list, you have to plan ahead. What would you like your next day, week, month look like as far as food in your pantry. If you are like me when I lived off of $100 a month for groceries, I would plan one grocery trip per week with the same items in each trip. Ramen noodles, pork chops, bread, canned tuna, eggs. It got us through the month because we planned it out that way. Now that I have a more feasible budget, I still plan one grocery trip per week, but a couple of the trips are for meal prep. When I first started out with meal prep, It took me a while to select 5 dishes that I could stand over and over for two weeks, but after 2 years of this, it’s like riding a bike now. Once you select your 5 dishes for dinner meal prep, think about what you want for breakfast, lunch, snacks, and drinks. Then, you are ready to make Your List.

2) Make your list. You can use your notes app on your phone. I love how you can add little check boxes on the iPhone. Or, you can use plain ol’ notebook paper. Divide your list into categories: Produce, Pantry, Meat, Fridge, and Other. If you are meal prepping, I highly recommend Dropbox for all your recipes.

3) Clip coupons. It doesn’t matter how much money I make now or in the future, I will always look for a good deal. My coupon clipping doesn’t take a lot of time. I just browse through my local grocery store’s digital coupon list, clip the ones I need, and make little notes on my List to remind me to pick that certain brand, amount, size, etc. I also check Ibotta for cash back deals. I don’t use coupons as an excuse to buy things I don’t need.

2) Shop for exactly what you need. You make be tempted to grab extra items along the way, but STAY FOCUSED! We are on a mission with this list. Think of it as a quest and the quest giver only needs exactly what’s on the list. It’s okay to get yourself a little treat every now and then, but limit it to one item. Stick to generic brands whenever possible except when it comes to non-grocery items like pet food and laundry soap. Check the price tags for the fine printed “price per” line. It will break down the price to help you decide between the 12 double rolls versus the 24 regular rolls of paper towels. Math is hard.

3) Arrange your cart. My trip through the grocery store is as follows: produce, cans, meat, more dried goods, non-grocery items, dairy. Your cans should be on the bottom with produce on top. Meat towards to front of the cart in individual plastic baggies so you don’t get juices everywhere and cross-contaminate. Heavy and non-grocery items underneath the cart.

4) Be kind and patient with others. When I walk into the store, I take a deep breathe and repeat my “be patient” mantra. Otherwise, my entire experience in the store is filled with a lot of sighing and rolling my eyes at slow people.

5) Arrange your items on the conveyer belt. Your cashier and bagger will appreciate it, plus it will make unloading at your house more seamless. Group the fridge items together, then dried, then non-food, then super heavy items. During the checkout process, make light conversation and don’t talk on your cell phone. Remember to get out those coupons ahead of time, too!

6) Load your own car. As much as a large tip to the bagger would make their day, it’s best to take your own items to the car to get some exercise. It’s good for you! Put your eggs and bread in the front seat so they don’t get smooshed along with that candy bar prize that you got for yourself (yeah, I saw you slipping that one in from the checkout line!).

7) Scan your receipt. As soon as you get in the car, scan your receipt with the Ibotta app. If you wait until you get home, you’ll either forget or lose the receipt. Every little bit of savings helps!

8) Put away & organize. I don’t keep things in my pantry or fridge that I’m not going to use in the immediate future, unless it’s a spice or special ingredient. Extra impulse buys, or leftover items from that diet you tried once should either be eaten soon, or thrown out. This will help reduce clutter and help your sanity in the long run.

Make sure to check out my Meal Prep guide for what to do once you actually get the food home.


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How to prep your meals.


I have been a meal prepper since 2013, and a hardcore meal prepper since 2015. What’s the difference? Not much really. Anyone can meal prep. You just need music and a few hours on a Sunday (or whatever day you choose…could be a Wednesday if you fancy). You have to eat to live so I will most likely overemphasize the food thing. Here are my quick tips for meal prep:

1) You can be a regular meal prepper where you just prep & plan for the week ahead or maybe just the next day. Any planning will help in the long run. OR! Go hardcore meal prepper. Prep for the next two week or month with easy-to-freeze & store healthy meals. This is mainly for dinner, but you can do freezer friendly breakfast & lunch too.

2) Why do this? a) It’s cheaper. You can prep 20 dinners for around $100. $5 per meal. b) You have complete control. Put the ingredients in that you like and are healthy, leave out the rest. c) You will waste less. d) It’s healthier, duh! e) It saves SO MUCH TIME f) It is so amazing to come home & not have to worry about dinner.

3) How do I start? Look for recipes that will be freezer friendly & hold together well when thawed (plus be healthy!) Pick about 5 recipes that will divide into 4 portions and create a grocery list. Try to pick recipes with overlapping ingredients like olive oil, chicken broth, etc.

4) How do I cook 5 recipes in a day? Don’t be scared. It’s easier than you think. My meal prep time is my zen time. Put on music. Kick everyone out of the kitchen. You have options for how to start: a) Cook one recipe at a time. I did this at first so I could get the hang of it. b) Prep everything then cook. Chop veggies and set aside, arrange by recipe, and cook everything. You might have more dishes from this method c) Just do it. This is what I do. I just kinda start a couple recipes. One in the oven, one in the crock pot, one on the stove, and go from there. There is less stress with this method (and less overthinking)

5) Other tips. a) Slow cooker is your friend b) Roast stuff and cook grains first. Your groove will be thrown off if you are waiting on rice to cook for 40 minutes. c) Clean as you go. No, you don’t need to scrub and put it in the dishwasher. Do a quick wash with your dish wand and use for the next dish. d) Freeze ASAP. The quicker the foods freeze, the smaller the ice crystals, and the less damage on the food in the thawing process. e) HAVE FUN. Seriously, this is 5 hours of pure bliss. This is ME time. Have some fun with it.

6) What can’t I freeze? Veggies with high water content (lettuce, cucumbers) eggs, fruit, and salads.

7) What containers do I use? These OR These!

8) What about reheating? On Sunday, remove about 5 meals (multiply by the amount of people you are feeding) from the freezer & transfer to your fridge to defrost slowly. General rule of thumb: reheat it how you cooked it. (Soups in a sauce pan, roasts in the oven, etc)

9) Is this worth it? Yes, 3-5 hours on a Sunday for stress-free weeknights is SO WORTH IT.


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