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Planning & Hosting A Large Thanksgiving Feast

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Every year I host a large Thanksgiving Feast at our home. It’s a tradition that started almost 7 years ago and it’s still going strong. We have family come in from all over the country to stay with us and help celebrate Thanksgiving. For the past few years we’ve had around 18-20 people at our annual feast but this year I think we’re going to approach the 30 people mark. I love to hostess and entertain but don’t get to do much of it during the year so I go all out on Thanksgiving! It’s a lot of work but over the years I’ve developed a system for making it all run smoothly. 

 

6 Tips For Hosting a Large Thanksgiving Feast

 

1. Make a guest list and get a firm headcount. I typically have my final head count by the first week of November and then I add 3 to my final count because we always end up with an extra body or two. Plus, it’s better to have too much food than not enough!

 

2. Plan your menu. I have a very established menu now but it took me a few years to nail it down. This is the part where you can reach out to other people for assistance if you want to. For example, my mom always brings the ham, the stuffing, and rolls. My sister is in charge of the turkey and the collard greens. That leaves the appetizers, the rest of the sides, and the desserts for me to prepare. I’m sharing my favorite recipes below!

 

3. Make a checklist. I break my checklist down by the week and I involve my family. Everyone has jobs to do. For example, I assign cleaning jobs to my kids the week of Thanksgiving. Matt is off of work the day before Thanksgiving so he has a job list too. Making a checklist is the only way to make sure you don’t forget to put clean sheets on the guest bed for any overnight guests. I’m a visual person, I need to see the list in order for everything to get done on time. 

 

4. Go disposable. Seriously, the last thing you want to do after a full day of entertaining is deal with dishes. I always use disposable plates, silverware, napkins, and cups. Now I don’t just grab the ugly generic stuff- I get the pretty ones but the point is I don’t have to wash dishes at the end of the evening. 

 

5. Start cooking the day before. There are quite a few things on my menu that can be made the day before. I will ** them down below beside the recipe so you know. All the pies are made the day before, the pumpkin crescent rolls, the cranberry sauce, the deviled eggs….it saves so much time on Thanksgiving Day. 

 

6. Create stations. In order to keep things flowing when the food comes out I create different stations around the kitchen and dining areas. I set up the plates, napkins, and silverware in one station for people to grab on their way to the food.  The food is laid out on the main dining table buffet style for people to serve themselves. Then I have the cups and beverages set up in another station for people to circle around to after getting their dinner. It keeps everyone moving in the same direction- like stations in a Kindergarten classroom. When dealing with a large crowd of hungry people it’s always best to have a system or it’ll become a free for all. 

 

 

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My Appetizers

 

Bacon Wrapped Brown Sugar Smokies

 

1 pkg Hillshire Farms Lit’l Smokies

1 pkg thick cut bacon

1 cup packed brown sugar

 

Cut each bacon slice into 3-4 pieces. Wrap each sausage with piece of bacon; secure with toothpick. Place in baking pan. Sprinkle evenly with brown sugar. Bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes or until bacon is browned and sugar melts and forms sauce.

 

Cream Cheese Sausage Balls **

 

1 lb sausage, uncooked

8 oz cream cheese, softened

1 1/4 cups Bisquick

4 oz shredded cheddar cheese

 

Preheat oven to 400. Mix ingredients until well combined. Roll into 1 inch balls. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

 

Pumpkin Crescent Rolls**

 

8 oz cream cheese, softened

15oz can pumpkin

1 can sweetened condensed milk

2 T flour

2 T cinnamon

1 t pumpkin pie spice

8 pkgs crescent rolls

1/2 cup sugar

 

Preheat oven to 375. In mixer bowl, blend cream cheese, pumpkin, sweetened condensed milk, flour and spices until combined and smooth. Unroll crescent rolls, separate and lay flat. Evenly spread 1 ½ T of pumpkin mix over dough. Roll into crescent shape and sprinkle top with sugar. Bake 11-13 minutes until golden brown.

 

Triple Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms

 

48 medium white mushrooms

10 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed

4 oz feta cheese, crumbled

2 oz cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

 

Using damp paper towel, wipe mushroom caps clean. Remove and discard stems. In colander, squeeze liquid out of spinach until dry. In bowl, mix spinach, feta, cream cheese and 1/4 t salt. Fill each mushroom with heaping t of spinach mix. top with parmesan cheese. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

 

Sweet & Spicy Deviled Eggs**

 

12 large eggs

1/2 cup mayo

3 T apricot preserves

1 t curry powder

1/2 t salt

1/8 t cayenne pepper

 

Place eggs in large saucepan and add cold water to cover. Bring to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 12 minutes. Drain and run under cold water. Peel and cool completely. Cut eggs in half lengthwise and gently squeeze yolks into bowl. With fork, mash yolks with remaining ingredients until smooth. Spoom mix into white halves and refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.

 

Bite Size Crab Quiches

 

1 tube large refrigerated Buttermilk biscuits

1 can crabmeat, drained

1/2 cup shredded swiss cheese

1 egg

1/2 cup milk

1/4 t salt

 

Separate each biscuit into 5 equal pieces. Press onto the bottom and up sides of 24 ungreased mini muffin cups (discard rest of dough). Fill each cup with 2 t crab and 1 t swiss cheese. In bowl, combine egg, milk and salt. Spoon 1 1/2 t into each cup. Bake at 375 for 15-20 min or until edges are golden brown. Let stand 5 minutes.

 

My Side Dishes

 

Corn Pudding Casserole

 

1 can cream corn

1 can whole kernal corn

2 eggs

8 oz sour cream

1 stick margarine

1 pkg sweet cornbread mix

1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

 

Melt butter in casserole dish. Add cream style and whole kernal corn. Add cornbread mix and sour cream. Beat 2 eggs with fork in bowl and add to mix. Stir well. Top with cheese. Bake at 350 for 1 hour, uncovered.

 

Cranberry Apricot Sauce**

 

2 bags fresh cranberries

1 cup orange juice

1 cup apricot jam

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 t ginger

1/4 lb dried apricots, finely diced

 

Stir all ingredients together in large pot and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring, until berries pop and sauce starts to thicken, about 8 minutes. Cool to room temp. Cover and chill.

 

Green Bean Casserole

 

1 can cream of mushroom soup

1/2 cup milk

1 t soy sauce

4 cups cooked, cut green beans

dash of pepper

1 1/3 cup French’s Fried Onions

 

Mix soup, milk, soy sauce, pepper, beans and 2/3 cup onions in casserole dish. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes. Stir. Sprinkle with remaining onions. Bake 5 minutes.

 

Made Ahead Party Potatoes**

 

7 1/2 cups  water

12 T unsalted butter

2 t garlic salt

2 t onion salt

2 pkgs cream cheese, cubed and softened

1 can evaporated milk

16oz sour cream

1 pkg Hungry Jack instant mashed potatoes

bacon, cooked and crumbled

 

Heat water, butter, garlic salt and onion salt to boiling. Remove from heat. Add cream cheese, evaporated milk and sour cream, stirring until cream cheese is dissolved. Stir in potato flakes, mixing until all ingredients are well combined. Spread mixture into greased baking dish. Bake at 350 for 1 hour. Top with crumbled bacon.

 

Praline Sweet Potato Casserole

 

3 cups cooked and mashed sweet potatoes

1/2 cup sugar

1 stick butter + 3 T

1 T vanilla

2 eggs

1/2 cup milk

3/4 cup pecans, coarsely chopped

1/3 cup all purpose flour

1/3 cup packed light brown sugar

1/2 t cinnamon

 

Melt stick of butter in casserole dish. Mix cooked sweet potatoes, sugar, vanilla, eggs and milk together until well combined. Pour evenly into casserole dish. In small bowl, combine pecans, flour, brown sugar and cinnamon. Add remaining 3T butter and rub in with fingers until mixture is evenly moistened and forms clumps. Sprinkle over sweet potato mixture. Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes or until topping is browned.

 

Whiskey Glazed Carrots

 

1 stick butter

2-3 lbs baby carrots

1/2 cup whiskey

1 cup brown sugar

1 t salt

1/4 t pepper

 

Melt 1 T butter in large skillet over high heat. Add carrots in 2 batches, cooking 60-90 seconds each. Remove from skillet. Pour in whiskey and allow to evaporate for 30 seconds. Reduce heat to medium and add remaining butter. When butter melts, sprinkle brown sugar over top. Stir together then add carrots to skillet. Cover and continue cooking for 5 minutes. Remove lid and add salt and pepper. Continue cooking for additonal 5 minutes until sauce thickens. Serve immediately.

 

My Desserts

 

Dark Rum Pecan Pie**

 

1 cup sugar

3 T butter, melted

2 cups pecan halves

3 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup dark corn syrup

2 t dark rum

1 frozen pie shell

 

Mix sugar and butter until well combined. Add pecans, eggs, corn syrup, and rum; stir until combined. Pour mixture into pie shell. Bake at 375 for 10 minutes. Reduce temp to 350 and bake 35-40 minutes longer or until filling is set around edge but center jiggles slightly. Cool completely.

 

Pumpkin Streusal Pie**

 

1 can pumpkin

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1 large eggs

1 t cinnamon

1/2 t ginger

1/2 t nutmeg

1/2 t salt

9″ unbaked pie crust

Streusal topping:

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup flour

1/4 cup cold butter (no substitutes)

 

Heat oven to 425. Whisk pumpkin, sweetened condensed milk, eggs, spices and salt in bowl until smooth. Pour into crust. Bake 15 minutes. Reduce oven temp to 350 and bake 30 minutes. Combine 1/2 cup packed brown sugar and 1/2 cup flour in bowl. Cut in 1/4 cup cold butter until mix resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle evenly over top of pie and bake an additional 10 minutes.

 

Sweet Potato Pie**

 

2 cups mashed sweet potatoes

4 oz cream cheese, softened

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup half and half

4 T butter, melted

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 t vanilla

1/2 t cinnamon

9″ unbaked pie crust

 

In bowl, with mixer on medium speed, beat sweet potatoes and cream cheese until smooth. Add sugar and half and half; beat 5 minutes or until sugar dissolves. Add butter, eggs, vanilla and cinnamon; beat until blended. Pour mixture into pie shell. Bake at 350 for 1 hour or until filling is puffed and set around edges but center jiggles slightly.

 

Turtle Cheesecake **

 

Apple Crumb Pie**

 

7-8 medium apples, peeled & sliced

1/3 cup flour

3/4 cup sugar

pinch salt

dash of lemon juice

1 t cinnamon

9″ unbaked refrigerated pie crust

crumb topping:

1 stick butter, cold

1/2 cup brown sugar

2/3 cup flour

1 t cinnamon

 

Combine apples with flour, salt, sugar, cinnamon and lemon juice in medium bowl. Gently stir until apples are well coated. Pour into pie crust. Combine topping ingredients and mix until resembles coarse sand. Spread over top of pie. Bake at 325 for 1 hour 20 minutes.

 

 Of course, these are just the recipes for the dishes I prepare each year. For beverages we try to keep it simple- sweet tea, apple cider, red and white wines, and a few varieties of soda. I really do enjoy hosting our large gathering every year. It’s a lot of work but it’s also so much fun. It’s the one time of the year when both sides of our families come together in one place to celebrate. 

 
Shared with Craft-o-Maniac Monday, Motivate Me Monday, Monday Funday, Better Mom Mondays, Made By You Monday, Make the Scene Monday, Give Me The Goods, Project Inspired, Mix It Up Monday, Show Me What Ya Got, Anti-Procrastination Tuesday, From Dream to Reality, One Project At A Time, Tutorials and Tips, Tuesday Treasures, Whatever Goes Wednesday, The Inspiration Exchange, Thursdays Are Your Days, The Party Bunch, Link Party Palooza, Strut Your Stuff Saturday, That DIY Party, Inspire Me Please, Work It Wednesday, Nifty Thrifty Tuesday, Take a Look Tuesday, Live Laugh Linky, The Weekly Creative, Wow Us Wednesday

 

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A Fun Family Halloween Night

We had a great Halloween last night! My sister came with her fiance and little boy and we noshed on pizza and beer before heading out to trick or treat in our neighborhood. The kids were so excited- it’s so much fun watching them be so into Halloween because I know it’s not going to last forever. Ty even decided to come with us and I’m pretty sure this will be the last year he goes trick or treating with the family. It sad to think about one more tradition ending but I guess it’s all part of them growing up. 

 

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This year we had a pirate princess, a dinosaur, a kitty cat, and a disgruntled businessman. The disgruntled businessman started out as an undead zombie businessman but he didn’t like the make up so he washed it off. Ty’s wearing one of Matt’s old work suits and the fact that it fits him pretty well makes me sniffle.  I took a ton of pictures, some with the good camera and some with my iPhone so prepare yourself for photo overload. 

 

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I must say, it’s getting much easier to take pictures of all of them together now. They’re old enough to stand still and actually look at the camera! Matt and I watched my sister wrestle with their little guy, who will be 2 in December, all night and high-fived each other repeatedly that we are done with that stage! Ha!

 

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We made the same loop around our neighborhood that we’ve made for the last 8 years and most of the homeowners are the same so it’s fun to see them each year. They’ve watched our kids grow up in the neighborhood and it just feels so familiar and homey to us. 

 

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 And I have to say, it’s so nice going trick or treating with older kids. All 4 of mine were able to walk, follow directions, go up to the houses on their own, carry their own candy buckets…I like this stage. Matt and I watched my sister chase my nephew all night long and exchanged more high-fives along the way. Ha!

 

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It was a long night and we saw a bunch of friends from the neighborhood as we walked through the streets. It’s so fun to see the same families and kids every year and watch them grow up. 

 

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The kids had fun, we had fun, and they got a whole lot of candy! But you can tell it’s time to head for home when one loses his head and the other has a perma-scowl on her face. 

 

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The kids were exhausted and after consuming about 5 pounds of candy, they passed out in sugar comas for the night. Matt and I rounded off the evening with a bottle of wine and Paranormal Activity 4 on Netflix. It was a great Halloween! 

 

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Ghost Bowling Halloween Party Game

 This post is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group™ and Cottonelle, but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #CottonelleTarget http://cmp.ly/3/8vNxcO

 

I am in charge of planning a game station this year for Mase’s Kindergarten class Halloween festival. Finding a game that will appeal to a bunch of 5 year old’s while also taking into account their limited attention span is always a bit of a challenge. The teacher requested that the game not involve candy and would allow for some physical activity. Clearly she is a very smart lady. 

 

After discarding all the games from previous year such as Halloween Bingo and Pin the broom on the witch, I nailed down a fun idea that fit the teacher’s criteria. I tested it out on my kids and their friends at our annual neighborhood Fall Festival this weekend. We love our neighborhood Fall Festival, it’s something we look forward to every year and I was excited to be able to contribute this year. Knowing how many kids I would have to entertain I chose a game that was easy enough to be fun for the little kids and inexpensive enough to not bust my limited budget. 

 

 

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Ghost bowling could not be any easier to set up and the kids had so much fun. All you need to do is grab a 12 or 20-roll pack of Cottonelle Triple Roll toilet paper while shopping at Target. There is even a great coupon you can print out to use at a Target near you for a free box of Kleenex tissues with the purchase of a 12 roll or larger Triple Roll pack of Cottonelle while supplies last. 

 

 

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I used a black sharpie to draw the ghost faces on 10 of the rolls of toilet paper, stacked them up in a pyramid, and let the kids roll a small sized pumpkin as a bowling ball. You might need to cut the stem off of your pumpkin in order for it to roll in a straight line.  The kids were excited to help me set up the game. A cheap black vinyl tablecloth for the back drop helped contain the game so when the pumpkin crashed through the toilet paper ghost pins I didn’t have to chase any of it down the yard.

 

 

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Watching the little kids giggle and shriek as they tried their hardest to knock down all of the toilet paper ghosts was hysterical. Zoey went first and I soon discovered the key to keeping everyone engaged and happy was to have the smaller kids line up closer to the pins while the older kids moved further back to roll the pumpkin. 

 

 

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The game is so easy to set up that I was able to put the kids in charge of re-stacking the pins after every person took their turn. They took this job very seriously and carefully stacked the toilet paper ghost pins in a perfect pyramid formation. They were having so much fun that they even took turns willingly without being asked. 

 

 

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Soon even the big kids wanted to get involved.  You know a game must be fun when the 8 and 13 year old are begging for a turn with all their friends!  The 13 year old refused all attempts to be photographed enjoying himself but I managed to catch the 8 year old having fun. Oh and when I say big kids I am totally including the husband in that. He took a few turns and had a great time….even if the 5 year old threw more strikes than he did. Ha!

 

 

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I can’t wait to see Mase’s little Kindergarten friends playing Ghost Bowling this week! Can you imagine all the cuteness? If you’re having a Halloween party or throwing a fall carnival and need a last minute game to entertain the kids, you should try Ghost Bowling! Cheap to put together, easy to set up, and tons of giggles for everyone. 

 

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5 Habits Of Highly Organized Families

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In my quest to become one of these highly organized families I spent the last few months studying families we know who are super organized and always seem to have it together. These families astound me- many kids, homeschooling, active in the community…I want to be one of those families. So I started asking questions and working towards making changes in my own family. I’m sure some of those moms I pestered with questions thought I was off my rocker but they were very gracious and gave me some tips. I’ve already implemented some of them and I’m still working on others.

 

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1. The Family Command Center & Master Calendar. This was the number one thing mentioned by every single mom I talked to. They all have master calendars large enough to keep track of every family member’s activities. Some even color code each person’s activities with colorful sharpie markers- I really should start doing that too. One mom told me “If it’s not on the calendar it does not exist”. They also have family command centers to keep everything organized and easy to find. 

 

 2. The One-Touch Rule. I’ve heard of this before and always thought it was a good idea but never made a conscious effort to follow it. The One-Touch rule means you only touch an item one time. For example- you see your kid’s jacket lying on the floor. Instead of picking it up and moving it to the couch you take the extra minute to walk it to the front closet to hang it up. Or you see your daughter’s doll on the table. Instead of putting it on the stairs to take up to her room later you walk it up and put it away right then. I always thought it seemed counterproductive and quite frankly, like a lot of work. Since implementing this rule in our house I’ve been amazed at the difference in how picked up and clean the house has remained. 

 

3. Utilizing a Cleaning Schedule & Kid’s Chore Routine. This was huge for me. By creating a daily cleaning routine the housework never piles up and becomes this albatross around my neck. It makes it easy for me to whip through a room every morning and get the work done quickly. Giving the kids chores not only teaches them responsibility, it also shows them how to work together and function as part of a family unit. Plus, the kids doing the smaller chores frees up mom to take on the bigger projects. 

 

4. Limit Your Commitments. As one mom told me “there’s a fine line between being involved and being over-involved.” She was right. Lately I’ve found myself tired and stressed out with projects and time constraints pushing on me from all sides. I had to let go of a few projects and committees so I could focus on the ones that really matter to me and focus on my family. Being able to take a walk to the neighborhood playground for half an hour after dinner instead of rushing off to a meeting makes for a happier family and a more connected mom.

 

5. Break Large Jobs into Small Increments. Putting off bigger jobs because they are time intensive is something I do often but then they never get done. Breaking up the job by setting a timer for 10-15 minutes and doing as much as you can until the timer goes off is a great way to tackle big jobs. I did this with my Magazine Reference Binder– well, I’m still doing this with my magazine binder project. It’s nice to see some progress and I know the job is getting done even if it’s getting done slower than I would like. 

 

You can see all the posts in my 31 Day Series HERE. New posts are added daily.

 
Shared with Craft-o-Maniac Monday, Motivate Me Monday, Monday Funday, Better Mom Mondays, Made By You Monday, Make the Scene Monday, Give Me The Goods, Project Inspired, Mix It Up Monday, Show Me What Ya Got, Anti-Procrastination Tuesday, From Dream to Reality, One Project At A Time, Tutorials and Tips, Tuesday Treasures, Whatever Goes Wednesday, The Inspiration Exchange, Thursdays Are Your Days, The Party Bunch, Link Party Palooza, Strut Your Stuff Saturday, That DIY Party, Inspire Me Please, Work It Wednesday, Nifty Thrifty Tuesday, Take a Look Tuesday, Live Laugh Linky, The Weekly Creative, Wow Us Wednesday

 

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Organize Household Bills The Easy Way

Household Bills. The source of 99.9% of my stress. The most hated of all the chores in the house. The bane of my existence…you get the idea. Every month Matt and I look at each other and wonder why there seem to be more bills than the previous month. Bills come in the mail and get tossed in the drawer immediately because I’m in the middle of something else. Then a couple of times a month Matt will panic and remember the bills stuck in the drawer and scramble to get them all scheduled to pay online. This system we have going on….not so much a system. A couple of months ago we got a final notice from the power company because somehow that bill slipped through the cracks of our “flawless” system- not just once but apparently two months in a row. That vein in Matt’s forehead was throbbing. Something had to give.

 

Enter my Household Management Binder. I dedicated an entire section to Bill Paying. I knew I needed a simple system that could be done quickly and easily or it would never happen on a regular basis. I took a good look at the problem areas in our bill paying not-really-a system and found the main flaws were tossing the bills in the drawer and forgetting to schedule them. I started planning our new system around fixing those issues.

 

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I found a great monthly bill tracker online for free and printed it out. I love that it’s two side-by-side sheets so nothing is cramped and everything is easy to see. I dug out every bill from the previous three months and listed them all on the bill tracker in order of due date.  Most of our bills have set monthly due dates that never change and the few that do not I listed the earliest date it was due in the previous 6 months. 

 

Now when a bill comes in the house it gets opened immediately. I double check the due date with what is listed in my on the monthly bill tracker sheet and make a notation if it’s changed. Beside that particular month’s box I write the amount due. Then I file the bill right away in the household file in my Everyday File Box

 

Matt and I sit down twice a month now- on the 1st and the 15th usually- and schedule every bill for online payment. On the 1st we schedule every bill due before the 15th and on the 15th we schedule every bill due before the last day of that month. We check them off the monthly bill tracker as soon as we schedule them so we can see that every bill has been paid. We’ve been using this system for a few months now and I’m pleased to say we haven’t had one late bill and no utility companies have threatened to turn off our services. I guess that means it’s working!  

 

I also printed out a bill info sheet and listed every single account we have with all the important information. Now if we have an issue or a question about a bill we can easily see the number to call and our account number. We schedule our bills to pay through our bank’s online payment system but we manage some of our accounts online still so I listed the web address and log in information for those accounts on this sheet. 

 

It feels so good to get this part of our lives organized once and for all! I feel like a genuine adult now. Ha!

 

You can see all the posts in my 31 Day Series HERE. New posts are added daily. 

 

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