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10 Ways to Put Time to Work for You

10 Ways to Put Time to Work for You

“Either you run the day, or the day runs you.” -Jim Rohn

If you’re looking for a walking (well . . . ticking) contradiction, time fits the bill. It’s our most precious resource—and our biggest nemesis. It’s impossible to get rid of it, but there’s never enough of it. You can’t save it up, speed it up, or slow it down. So what can you do with it? Make the most of it.

Check out these 10 tips for making time work for you.

1. Strategize It

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    You probably already sense that you get more done at certain times of day. Some people naturally feel their best and brightest in the morning, while others are just beginning to get their groove on around midnight. Put time to work for you by making a concerted effort to learn when you work most productively,then get deliberate about scheduling your most important to-do’s done during that time.

    How will you know when you’ve found your peak productivity hours? Daniel Gold, author of  Evernote: The Unofficial Guide to Capturing Everything and Getting Things Done, says you’ll know you’ve hit peak productivity hours when you’re able to work on a given task for about 90 minutes without getting distracted.

    And how do you figure that out?

    2. Track It

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      Take guesswork out of the ways you’re using your time and when you’re operating at peak capacity, by tracking it. “Patterns will show themselves if you start tracking [your time],” Gold says. What’s the best way? A tool that doesn’t use any more of your precious minutes recording tasks, adding up minutes and noting breaks.

      Mobile time tracking is an effortless way to get an easy, accurate picture of where your minutes, hours and breaks are going. TSheets Time Tracking (the top-rated mobile time tracking app on Apps.com) offers a free version for freelancers and a paid version for business (with a 14-day free trial).

      Once you have the app, all that’s left is to enter your job codes (these can be anything from “grant writing” to “lawn mowing” ), then track and switch tasks with one click from any mobile device or on the desktop. Not only will you get a more accurate view of where your minutes and hours are going (and when your peak patterns are), but you’ll have more accurate billing hours for your clients.

      3. Prioritize It

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        It might seem like a no-brainer, but one of the best ways you can make time work for you is to prioritize it. It’s easy to get bogged down by urgent, not-important tasks. Evaluating each task based on this quadrant formula from Steven Covey can help you keep a focus on the not-urgent, important tasks that so often get pushed off your plate and give you a sense of “always running, never getting anywhere” when it comes to the really important things.

        It can also be psychologically tempting to leave the big stuff until the end, telling yourself that if you can just get all those pesky “wildfires” out of the way, you’ll be able to focus on the important things. However, it’s more likely that the Quadrant III tasks will continue to pop up, while the Quadrant II tasks are left undone.

        According to psychologist Amy Morin in Psychology Today, we also procrastinate our most important to-do’s while taking the time to put out less important brushfires because, “When we categorize a deadline as being in the present, we’re likely to start working on the goal. When we decide something falls into the future category, we file it in our “someday” archives, making it easy for those goals to be neglected.”

        How to overcome the focus on urgent and non-important goals? Take a look at your non-urgent, important tasks and add a “now” component to them, so you get the ball rolling. Morin says, “Even if your goal is something that will take a long time to reach … you’re more likely to take action if you have time limits in the present. Create target dates to reach your objectives. Find something you can do this week to begin taking some type of action now.”

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        4. Focus It

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          While it’s important to look at the big picture so you know where you’re going and what your overall goals are, doing so constantly without honing in on the specifics that will get you there can leave you feeling unfocused and overwhelmed. Read: not maximizing your time. Choose just a few things per hour to accomplish, then keep your focus on them.

          The time window and number of tasks will depend on what you want to accomplish and how you break down your tasks. However, keep in mind that the key to making this tip effective is to choose bite-sized tasks (or break larger tasks into bite-sized tasks first). Instead of saying “I will contact everyone on my client list today about our new promotion,” decide you’ll contact three clients in the next half an hour, accomplish your task, and repeat.

          The buzz from setting out to accomplish–and then accomplishing these tasks is no small reward, which will keep you motivated to continue onward. As author David Nowell states in Psychology Today, “It’s a great feeling, when your head is full of 50 things you could be doing right now, to know [you’re] in exactly the right place and doing exactly the right thing right now.”

          For more tips on focus, check out this article about how successful people plan their time!

          5. Time It

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            What should you do with those bite-sized tasks you’ve set out to accomplish in a given amount of time? Make yourself accountable and stay on task by using a timer. Any stopwatch (or stopwatch app) will do, but if you’re looking for the real deal you’ll want to get yourself a little tomato-shaped timer. Why? Keep reading.

            Pomodoro means “tomato” in italian. And the Pomodoro time management principles are, as Pomodoro itself says, “at once deceptively simple to learn and life-changing to use.” It pretty much hinges on using a timer system to keep yourself on track with those segmented tasks you’ve made for yourself, with an immediate reminder that there is a NOW deadline associated with them (in the form of a timer).

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            It works by setting your tiny tomato timer to 25 minutes, then working on a given task without interruptions until the timer goes off. Then taking a 5-minute break and repeat the process. After every four pomodoros, take a longer break.

            6. Stop It

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              The human brain can only survive for about 11 days without sleep, and yet, sleep tends to be one of those things we push to the backburner in effort to make more time in the day. We work later, wake up earlier, and tell ourselves “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” But recent studies show that sacrificing sleep could ensure that day comes much sooner than you think. And even if your death isn’t on the line, the death of your productivity certainly is.

              According to Robert Oexman, Director of the Sleep to Live Institute, a sleep-deprived mind lacks focus and drive to stay on task. It’s simple: When your brain is tired and your mind is foggy, the less productive you become. Likewise, the Journal of Sleep Research claims that people tend to make smarter calls and wiser decisions after they’ve had a good night’s sleep. That’s because your brain uses your REM cycle to remove toxic proteins from its neurons–a process that can only be completed while you’re asleep. Cut that process short, or skip it entirely, and those proteins will wreak havoc on your ability to think.

              High performance coach, Cheryl Hunter, suggests changing the way you think about sleep by setting a self-imposed bedtime. This gives your mind something to aim towards and encourages you to go to bed at the same time each night–which enables you to fall asleep faster. Allowing yourself to succumb to a healthy amount of shut eye (around eight hours a night) not only increases your productivity, but all that clear thinking is guaranteed to free up some extra time.

              7. Enjoy It

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                The less you enjoy something, the more time it takes to complete. Case in point: Think of the last time you took a bite of food you didn’t like. Chances are you probably spent a lot of time pushing that food around on your plate, and an even longer time chewing it. Now think of the last time you had to do something you didn’t enjoy. You probably procrastinated, and the task took way longer than it had to.

                However, if you can inject a little enjoyment into everything you do, the job will get done much faster.

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                Do this by turning your focus to increasing the quality of the task at hand. Whether you’re cleaning the bathroom, or working on a big project at work, focusing more on doing a great job (and less on scrubbing the toilet) turns the task into a form of art. You’ll feel motivated, productive, and much happier to do it.

                8. Refocus It

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                  The average person receives more than 85 emails per day–combine that with nearly 100 texts, Facebook notifications, and instant messages, and it’s no surprise that many people have a hard time focusing. And if you’re one of them, check out these helpful apps and websites that are guaranteed to eliminate distractions and allow you to focus on the task at hand.

                  • Self-Control: This OS X application allows you to block access to certain mail servers and websites for a predetermined amount of time. So if you’re feeling distracted by your Twitter feed, you can prevent yourself from viewing the twitter page for however long you need. But here’s the caveat: If you decide you want back in, you have to wait for the timer to run out. No amount of restarting your computer, or even deleting the app can lift the block. PC users can download Freedom, a similar app.
                  • Think: It can be hard to focus on one thing at a time when you’ve got more than a handful of windows cluttering your computer screen. Think allows you to focus on one application or page at a time by “hiding” everything else under a nearly opaque backdrop. Think is currently for Mac users only, but PC users can enjoy a similar environment through Isolator.
                  • StayFocused: While many apps and websites offer to block access for certain periods of time, StayFocused, a Google Chrome extension, increases productivity by simply limiting your access. Only want to spend 30 minutes checking email? StayFocused will kick you out when your time is up and you won’t have access to those time-sucking sites for the rest of the day.

                  9. Fuel It

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                    You know what they say, “you are what you eat.” So if you want to be more productive, you gotta stock up on snacks that increase productivity! Some foods are more obvious than others (we all know that bananas can give you that extra boost you need each morning, and green tea helps you focus), but there are a few superfoods you might not recognize.

                    • Eggplants help improve communication between brain cells and messenger molecules–which keeps your brain sharp! But you’ll only reap maximum benefits if you also eat the skin.
                    • Dark chocolate contains antioxidants that improve your focus and concentration, and milk chocolate is proven to boost your memory.
                    • Sunflower seeds are rich in B vitamins and can increase your mental processing power. They’re also shown to increase your mood–but that’s a happy side-effect.
                    • Carrots don’t really help you see in the dark, but they are a great way to fuel your brain at a steady pace all day long–allowing you to focus on important tasks at hand!

                    10. Maximize It

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                      A recent study from MIT determined that the average American spends nearly two full years of their life standing in line. From standing in line at the grocery store to standing in line for your favorite ride at an amusement park–that’s a lot of wasted time. Yet another study conducted by Vitals.com found that patients can expect to spend 21 minutes in the waiting room each time they visit their doctor or dentist. And while it can oftentimes feel like an eternity, that time adds up to wasted hours each year.

                      Maximize that time by catching up on your email, brainstorming your next big project, or jotting down a few notes that will enable you to get a head start later. Making the most of every spare second can free up veritable hours of your day.

                      Featured photo credit: pexels via pexels.com

                      More by this author

                      Dan Matthews, CPRP

                      A Certified Psychosocial Rehabilitation Practitioner with an extensive background working with clients on community-based rehabilitation.

                      Why You Can (And You Should) Quit Your Job Because of Stress 15 Ways to Stop Overthinking and Worrying About Everything How to Be More Positive: 15 Habits to Take Up How To Stop Negative Thoughts from Killing Your Confidence 17 Types of Meditation (Techniques and Basics) to Practice Mindfulness

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                      Last Updated on April 19, 2021

                      40 Healthy And Really Delicious Meals You Can Make Under $5

                      40 Healthy And Really Delicious Meals You Can Make Under $5

                      Ever had those moments where you really wanted to eat something delicious and healthy but didn’t have the financials means to do so? Whether you’re a student or parent, this compilation of 40 great, healthy, and inexpensive recipes will make every night special and help you get fit! No more meals where you have to force the food down! It’s time to make that budget your best friend and turn it into great recipes. Enjoy!

                      1. Fish Tacos in Crunchy Shells ($3.56 per serving)

                      Is there a better way to end the day than a Fish Taco dinner filled with protein and nutrients and is easy on the wallet? This recipe calls for a boys’ or girls’ night in front of a good movie or game.

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                        2. Mini-Meatball Noodle Soup ($3.43 per serving)

                        We’ve heard of the delicious spaghetti and meatballs recipes, but imagine having that same meatball goodness in a soup? It’s like Christmas in a bowl. Healthy, warm, and only $3.43 per serving.

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                          3. Spaghetti and (Vegan) Meatballs ($2.13 per serving)

                          Now it’s time to look at the traditional spaghetti and meatballs recipe, but with a little twist: vegan meatballs. This way, you can enjoy the Italian tradition without adding on the extra calories. I’m sold!

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                            4. Kabocha Squash and Lentils ($3.12 per serving)

                            Absolutely delicious way to end the day with a Kabocha Squash and lentils dinner. The beauty of this recipe is that you can actually make many other things from the mixture, from dips to full-on meals. All under $5 per serving.

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                              5. Baked Coconut Lentils ($0.91 per serving)

                              Coconuts are always a good idea, but it doesn’t have to be eaten only for dessert or breakfast. With this great recipe, you can now eat a lunch or dinner filled proteins and a coconut twist. Yum!

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                                6. Easy Marinated Roasted Chicken ($3.40 per serving)

                                We love chicken and at less than $5 per serving, we are in heaven with this recipe. Add some vegetables and rice on the side and you’ve got yourself a full meal!

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                                  7. Organic Greens and Goat Cheese Gratin ($2.36 per serving)

                                  This is absolutely divine. You get in your healthy greens and your fat macros with this great recipe. Takes only a few minutes to make and it’s easy on the wallet. Bon Appetite!

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                                    8. Beef Pot Roast ($3.22 per serving)

                                    One word: perfect. This meal will warm your insides and fill you up with the high protein content.

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                                      9. Fajita-Style Quesadillas ($0.43 per serving)

                                      If you want to eat Mexican tonight but want to stay in your budget, this Quesadilla recipe is your best friend. It’s tasty and filled with healthy ingredients for less than a dollar per serving.

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                                        10. Fish Tostadas with Chili Lime Cream ($2.82 per serving)

                                        Another great lunch idea for the busy days ahead. Prep this in the morning or the night before and you’ve got yourself a healthy and cheap lunch meal!

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                                          11. Beef and Black Bean Chili ($1.36 per serving)

                                          Might not look like much, but this amazing chili is actually extremely healthy for you. The protein from the beef and the carbs from the black beans will fill you up in no time, and keep you full for a long period of time. Delicious and warm, just right for the winter!

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                                            12. Crispy Fish and Peppers ($2.18 per serving)

                                            Amazing recipe for anyone looking to change up their meals while keeping their macros in check and not going overboard on spending. Satisfies your crunch tooth (see what I did there?) and gives you all the protein you need to stay full and lean.

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                                              13. Vegetarian Gumbo ($1.50 per serving)

                                              You have the perfect macro mix here with the carbs, fats, and proteins. At less than $5 per serving, you’ve got yourself a meal that will last for the whole week!

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                                                14. Mexican White Bean Soup ($0.99 per serving)

                                                With the cold weather creeping in, it’s not a surprise that soups are coming back in style. This great Mexican White Bean Soup dish will keep you warm for winter without making a hole in your pocket.

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                                                  15. Black Beans with Mango & Cilantro ($0.38 per serving)

                                                  Mangoes make every dish a little bit sweeter, which is why we absolutely love this recipe. A normal rice and bean dish might be a little meh, but add the sugary taste of mangoes and you’ve got yourself a party!

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                                                    16. Bean Burritos ($0.71 per serving)

                                                    If you’re having people over tonight and don’t want to spend too much time or money on food, this dish is a great option! You can even cut up the burritos into pieces and make finger foods while everyone’s watching the game or gossiping.

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                                                      17. Five-Spice Beef Kabobs ($2.43 per serving)

                                                      The spices in this recipes add a delicious twist to the beef kabobs, which is definitely worth trying!

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                                                        18. Cornmeal Crusted Pork ($1.92 per serving)

                                                        If you like the fried crunch but want to opt for a healthier alternative, cornmeal is your man. This healthy recipe will satisfy all your fried desires without making you pop open your pant’s button.

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                                                          19. Chicken, Tomato & Cucumber Dinner Salad ($2.57 per serving)

                                                          Easy to do, extremely healthy, and super delicious. A must-try!

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                                                            20. Lentil Soup with Beef and Red Pepper ($1.90 per serving)

                                                            I can’t believe how cheap this meal is, especially for all the nutrients it contains. You can make a big pot on Sunday night and divide it into small portions to last you a whole week.

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                                                              21. Smoky Mushroom Stroganoff ($1.90 per serving)

                                                              Craving pasta but not sure what to top it off with? How about smoky mushrooms with a twist?

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                                                                22. White Bean Tuna Salad ($1.36 per serving)

                                                                You can add this White Bean Tuna Salad in your sandwich or just eat it as-is for a quick lunch on a busy day.

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                                                                  23. Sausage Eggwiches ($0.80 per serving)

                                                                  Who says you have to eat fast food to get an eggwich? This delicious recipe will give you an amazingly healthy eggwich for less than a dollar per portion. Can you say Breakfast?

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                                                                    24. Baja-Cali Black Bean Salad ($1.17 per serving)

                                                                    Great snack to add to a movie-night with friends. You don’t have to use chemically-processed salsas anymore, you can now use this homemade salad for your chip dips.

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                                                                      25. Gnocchi, Sweet Corn & Arugula in Cream Sauce ($2.24 per serving)

                                                                      Italians always knew how to make carbs look good! This delicious Gnocchi recipe will give your lunch a whole new meaning. Easy to make and only $2.24 per serving.

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                                                                        26. Vegetable Lasagna ($1.73 per serving)

                                                                        If you were looking for a healthy lasagna, you’ve just found it. At under $5 per serving, you can fill yourself up right away without putting on the extra calories.

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                                                                          27. Fajita-Ranch Chicken Wraps ($2.05 per serving)

                                                                          Don’t know what to make for lunch this week? How about delicious chicken wraps with a healthy ranch? This recipe will make all your lunches, even the quick ones, healthy and colorful.

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                                                                            28. Quinoa with Pan Roasted Brussels Sprouts ($1.24 per serving)

                                                                            A dish that has quinoa and brussel sprouts can’t be unhealthy, it just can’t, which is why this dish is one to keep in the books. Easy to make, healthy, and will keep you full for a long period of time.

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                                                                              29. Butternut Squash Chili ($1.04 per serving)

                                                                              You don’t need meat to make chili now that you have this recipe! It’s 100% healthy, filling, and smells absolutely delicious.

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                                                                                30. Fast Shrimp Bisque ($2.03 per serving)

                                                                                Seafood doesn’t have to be expensive if you know how to do it right, and this fast shrimp bisque is a great recipe to try if you’re in the mood for some seafood!

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                                                                                  31. Chicken-Noodle Casserole ($0.98 per serving)

                                                                                  Looks divine doesn’t it? This super easy to make dish will satisfy all your taste buds without burning a hole in your wallet or adding a few extra numbers on the scale.

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                                                                                    32. Burrito Cups ($1.18 per serving)

                                                                                    Entertaining someone tonight and don’t know what to make as appetizers? These burrito cups are a great alternative to chips or other greasy finger foods. All you need to enjoy it is a spoon and a cup.

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                                                                                      33. Lemon-Dill Shrimp & Pasta ($2.45 per serving)

                                                                                      Another impressive shrimp recipe under $5 per serving. The lemon-dill twist adds a great taste to the dish.

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                                                                                        34. Potato Frittata ($0.87 per serving)

                                                                                        If you want to eat potatoes for breakfast but still want it to be healthy, this is the recipe for you. At under a dollar per serving, this potato frittata will make you see potatoes in a whole new light.

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                                                                                          35. Grilled Pork and Pineapple ($2.67 per serving)

                                                                                          Meat and fruits? Oh, yes. The juiciness of the pork mixed with the liquid sugar in the pineapple will make you wish you knew about it sooner.

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                                                                                            36. Greek Honey-Lemon Pork Chops ($2.15 per serving)

                                                                                            Another splendid recipe mixing sweet and salty for a healthy meal. Easy to make and absolutely mouthwatering.

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                                                                                              37. Jamaican Pork Stir-Fry ($2 per serving)

                                                                                              You can add this healthy stir-fry to any dish as a side or amply enjoy it as-is for lunch or dinner. You can even make a wrap sandwich out of it if you’re in a rush to eat.

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                                                                                                38. Herbed Salmon ($2.49 per serving)

                                                                                                Salmon contains a healthy dose of fats that will boost your metabolism, lower inflammation, and make you happier. At under $5 per serving, need I say more?

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                                                                                                  39. Five-Spice Pork Kabobs ($1.96 per serving)

                                                                                                  Exquisite recipe under $5 per serving that will most definitely awe everyone at your dinner party.

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                                                                                                    40. Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Mango-Black Bean Salsa ($1.24 per serving)

                                                                                                    You don’t have to eat sweet potatoes alone anymore with this flavorful recipe.

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                                                                                                      Featured photo credit: Featured Photo Credit: 5 Dollar Dinners via 5dollardinners.com

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