Thank you, Melanie Dennis!  We love having guest bloggers on The Tote Buddy blog!!


Buon Appetito! While on vacation in Italy, we stayed in a house that was near the largest grocery in town. It had four aisles, and two of those were pasta. Our refrigerator was very tiny and so we had to plan each morning what we would eat for the day. We could only buy what we could carry. Less choices, no coupons, no problem. We were on vacation and had lots of time.

Here at home. It can be a little more intimidating. Grocery stores in the U.S. are mazes of seven foot shelves with endless varieties of food. You want soda? The possibilities are sugar or diet, caffeine or no caffeine, bottles or cans, six, twelve, or a case and so on. Then, there are sales and coupons. Paper or plastic? Here are a few things you can do before you leave the house to make your trip more organized.

Know Your Store

To begin with, write your list roughly in the order of the aisles at your favorite store. Going to different stores can make you walk an extra few miles to get forgotten items. For example, my favorite store begins with dairy, then paper products, cleaners, and winds through till you get to the produce. So, when we realize we need lettuce-- I write it at the bottom of the list and yogurt goes near the top. This prevents backtracking to get items we missed.

The Basics

Make a menu of at least five or more meals you or your family like to eat. It can be as simple as mac and cheese, tacos, soup, spaghetti and chicken. Then, list the ingredients you need to make these. These are the basics that you want to have in your pantry. Build your shopping list with breakfast foods, stuff for lunches, and some snacks. More advanced: create a master list of food you use and laminate it. Place it on the fridge and highlight what you need to purchase.
Organize your Pantry (and Your Fridge)

Group like items. (Can Organizers really say this enough?) Soup always goes here on this shelf, canned fruit here, cereal here, and condiments in the fridge door. This makes it easy to see what is missing by the holes on the shelves when you take your list on a walk through the kitchen before you leave. It makes unpacking your groceries easier too.

Get your TLC-

Ready to do your shopping? Don't forget your TLC -reusable Totes, List, and Coupons!  My new favorite reusable tote holder is The Tote Buddy.  It makes it so easy and stylish to keep them at hand.  Better yet –it makes it easy to do the right thing-using less plastic bags.

-Melanie Dennis, CPO®

Neat Streak Professional Organizing


A shift in thinking was needed.  Gone are the days of glorified excess.  Where's the wisdom in driving a Hummer - the smoke stack on wheels?  Do we really need to live in a house (think mansion) with 13 bathrooms?  Is bottled water an outright scam?


Thank goodness we're all starting to see the proverbial (LED) light.  Our excess was killing us - our bank accounts, our personal energy, our 'free' time, our natural resources, our planet, us.


Electric cars are back.  Yea!  (If you haven't seen Who Killed the Electric Car, it's definitely an eye-opener.)  Wind farms are being built, farmer's markets are flourishing, and buying local is an expression that most people understand.


A shift in thinking was needed.  People are searching for new ways to do almost everything.  No need to print every document - digital files are fine.  Natural cleaning products keep chemicals out of our homes.  Disposable is almost a dirty word.


And, of course, there's the reusable bag.  There's been quite a bit of controversy about this simple little item.  There were quite a few stories in the media about the dangers of using 'bacteria laden' reusable bags.  Hmmm.  Sounds as though the plastic lobby is grasping at straws.  I don't know about you, but I can't remember the last time I put a leaking package of chicken breast in amongst my strawberries.  And, if I did find my reusable bag a bit worse for wear, thank goodness someone invented the washing machine way back when.


The benefits of using a reusable bag are many - less trash; less resources used in the manufacture, transportation, and storage of the BILLIONS of disposable plastic bags used annually in the U.S. alone; less pollution emitted from the manufacture and transportation of those BILLIONS of disposable plastic bags; less dead marine life, etc.


I think, honestly, that it all comes down to the bigger picture.  What do we want our world to look like years from now?  Do we want to put in motion practices that lead to healthy individuals and a healthy planet?  Or is money, ego, and self-interest over what's best for all, going to continue to lead us?  It's up to us - you and me.  I've chosen.  Have you?

Yesterday, I drove about an hour to go visit a couple of stores that have recently added The Tote Buddy to their shelves.  I was thinking it'd be crazy-fun to see MY creation for sale ON A SHELF for the very first time!  I have to admit that this has been a day that I've been looking forward to for almost two years now.  I've worked really hard to get The Tote Buddy our there - I've tweeted, updated, commented, followed, friended, liked, posted, etc. 'til I found myself dreaming in 140 characters!  Have you found yourself packaging thoughts into twitter 'bites' like me?  Definitely a signal to unplug, but I digress.

During the drive, I was all but picturing a flashing neon sign welcoming me at the store as though I were a head of state or Gary Vee or Tim Ferris or someone!  I could barely contain the jitters and excitement.  And, I know we're not talking Target or Whole Foods, here, but it was still momentous for me.  After all, just two short years ago I considered myself to be pretty much a 'nobody', since I never really thought I had done anything worth mentioning.  I've been a housewife and a stay-at-home mom for most of my life thus far, and the idea of creating a product that was actually available in a store for sale!  Well, I was beyond excited, to say the least.

Fast forward to my first stop, which was Latitude 33 Bookshop in Laguna Beach, CA.  When I walked inside I felt as though I was stepping into a cozy living room.  A fireplace in the corner would have made it picture perfect.  I introduced myself to Jessica, the woman behind the counter, who also turned out to be the shop 'buyer'.  She's the one who had placed the order for The Tote Buddy and the one I had come to say hello to.  We talked for a bit, discussing the recent rains, the sluggish economy, the recent 'Day Without a Plastic Bag' day, and possible future Tote Buddy promotions.  She was adorable and sweet and kind enough to humor me with a photo of herself next to The Tote Buddy display...


My next stop was the Children's Orchard store in San Juan Capistrano.  If you're not familiar with Children's Orchard, it's a national chain of children's clothing and goods resale shops.  It's the perfect place to bring your kids' outgrown clothing, toys, car seats, playpens, etc. and buy the next size up!  A great way to support local families and reduce the load on our planet by buying pre-used items - always a good thing.

Anyway, Debbie at the San Juan Capistrano Children's Orchard store was such a delight.  We talked for quite awhile about her business and entrepreneurism and G.I. Joe (don't ask) and everything in between!  It was an absolute pleasure.  She, too, humored me with a photo near The Tote Buddy display in her store...


On my drive home I found myself smiling.  I was happy to have seen The Tote Buddy on the shelves and for the feeling of accomplishment, which was not a familiar feeling.  But, most of all, I was smiling because I had just met two amazing women.  And it was meeting them and our easy conversation that had made the day feel fulfilling.  I had started the day thinking about me, but was ending the day thinking about them and how I could help them be more successful.  My mind was racing with ways that I could help get the word out about their businesses - tweeting, blogging, updating, posting, liking, and on and on.  It felt as though I couldn't get home fast enough, as my mind raced with ideas.

And isn't that the way it works?  We start out focused on ourselves, thinking that will bring us joy, but in the end our greatest joy truly does come from helping others.

It's Christmas day and I just wanted to say how grateful I am for all of the amazing people I have had the pleasure of connecting with this year!

So many extremely friendly customers who have been so kind as to share my product and mission with their friends and family; brilliant professionals who have helped me to grow as a business owner and person (Jay of, Guy of, Emily of, Saul of, Owen of, Britt of, Greg of, Kim of; and, lastly, I am so very grateful to have discovered how truly magnificent life is when you share your heart with others.

Thank you to ALL of you who have shared your heart with me!

Let's face it, we ALL want to do our best. It's human nature, isn't it? And when it comes to living on this beautiful planet of ours, we try to do the right thing to assure its (and our!) survival.

Some of us are more aware than others, though almost everyone alive today knows that conserving resources is important. But, how far you go to live consciously is ultimately up to you.