Music Teacher Eats: A Week of Easy, Healthy Meals (Fall Edition)

Are you a piano teacher (or independent music teacher of any instrument?) 

Does the schedule of your occupation create obstacles in food planning/meals making you feel like you’re in a rut or frequently in “survival” mode?

Then, this post is for you!

Thanks to my good friend, Christina Whitlock, creator of the Beyond Measure Podcast, I’ve found a fun way to pull food fun into the mix a little more here!

Here’s a snippet into a text between the two of us several months ago (shared with permission 🙂 ).

Can you relate to her sentiments? 🙂

Thanks to her, I’m launching this new blog post series called “Music Teacher Eats: A Week of Easy, Healthy Meals”. You can look forward to a new edition of this series coming out at least once a season (fall, winter, spring, summer) and possibly even some holiday versions.

Before we continue, a few disclaimers:

First, I will do my best to meet Christina’s request of easy, healthy, and can be done in 30 minutes or less after teaching (assuming a little prep work has been done 🙂 – see the post: Food Prep and the Studio Schedule for more on that!)

Second, as we all know, the words “easy” and “healthy” can mean completely different things to different people. I vow to do my best to take an overall general approach to both of these words and will also keep in mind that some of you (unlike me) may be serving families with kids.

Third, all of the recipes I suggest here are ones that I have tried and love. I may not be a recipe website, but I cook A LOT and am really picky about quality recipes. Rest easy that everything I share today is a recipe worth keeping. 

Fourth, while I cook a LOT from the subscription sites America’s Test Kitchen and Milk Street, I avoided including recipes from them. (It was hard though because their recipes are soooo good!) All recipes included can be found for free online.

I hope you find something in this suggested weekly meal plan that’s new, exciting, and most importantly, useful in easing the burden of meal planning as a studio music teacher!

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Organizing Your Hardcopy Music Books

It’s finally time to talk about organizing hardcopy music books! This is a topic I’ve wanted (and I know YOU’VE wanted) me to address for a long time. I’m sorry it took long!

Organizing music – whether hardcopy or digital – is one of the biggest organizational struggles for many teachers out there. It’s understandable why; I mean, who of us doesn’t own too much music?! 🙂

Should we organize by artist, genre, title, or dare I say color? LOL (Sorry, Home Edit, not this time!) There are so many ways!

Not only that, but we need to be able to locate music quickly and maintain perspective on what we own so we don’t keep buying music we already have.

Today we’ll look at a couple of different storage solutions for storing music as well as ways of categorizing for ease of use. You’ll also get a peek into my own personal system.

Are you ready to tackle that stash of music? Here we go!

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YQA: Purging Old College Notes and Professional Magazines

This post is part of a series called Your Questions Answered that highlights questions that readers like yourself bring to me. 


Dear Amy –


I have these enormous binders from college many years ago.

I know I need to toss a lot of it, but there are definitely resources in there I don’t want to get rid of (and would love to make more easily accessible to review).

Any advice?



Hey, CW!

I would hedge a guess many-a-teachers are nodding their heads in agreement – me being one of them. Ha!

You’re beating me to this task as it’s one I’ve also had on my list for years but never seems to move up in importance. Bravo to you for tackling it!

That being said, last year I went through a similar purge of all my MTNA American Music Teacher and Clavier Companion magazines.

8 years’ worth and something like 5 magazine file boxes were weighing me down mentally. Why? Because how does someone utilize any of that information or recall what they need to from stacks (or binders) of information.

You don’t!

That’s when you decide (as we did) that enough was enough.

How did I tackle it?

A little at a time – not putting pressure on myself to use one of my days off to do it all.

I placed a small stack next to the couch and every day – either first thing in the morning during my brief quiet reading time or at the end of the day’s downtime – I would flip through one or two magazines.

It’s surprising how much I remembered what articles I enjoyed and found benefit in. (It helped that the first time I read them years ago, I folded down the page on my favorite articles. 🙂 )

Step #1 – Find a time frame that works that feels achievable, not overwhelming.

Step #2 – Flip through, skim, and determine what is most beneficial moving into the future. (Have high standards – only the best information/articles. For me, that was no more than 1 or 2 per magazine – sometimes none!)

Next, I used the Scannable app to scan the articles. (Genius Scan is another favorite app for scanning).

When you scan with Scannable, you can choose to save it in either PDF or image format into Evernote, or “send” it into another program.

So, even though Scannable is an Evernote product, you could use it to scan items and send to any of your file managers such as Google Drive or iCloud Drive.

Step #3 – Scan and save in the digital management place that works best for you.

Remember that simply saving articles digitally will not do you any more good than the physical ones if you don’t make them easily accessible – that is, easily searchable).

One of the reasons I absolutely adore Evernote is because Evernote Premium gives you additional search powers. It can search the text of PDFs as well as your handwriting on hand-written notes! I find that amazing (and incredibly helpful).

Without Evernote Premium, it will only search the titles of notes and text typed in the notes themselves.

If you don’t want to pay for Premium, or if you prefer to use a cloud file manager such as Google Drive or iCloud Drive to save all of your stuff, the best way around this would be to make sure you title the document thoroughly for what it’s about.

Sometimes I add additional words outside of the title – ones that I might use when searching for information on that particular topic. This will make it much more searchable in whatever digital storage place you use.

Here’s an example (from an online article/resource):

Natalie Weber has a composition resource called “The Psalms Project.” I might title the file name (or Evernote note) like this:

The Psalms Project_Composition_Composing

Otherwise, if I saved that PDF file and was looking in my digital files for a composing activity, using the word “composition” is not in the original article title.

I hope that makes sense!

If you use Evernote, you can also tag every item with a multitude of things. So I might tag that one note with the tags:

composition, bible, summer camp

Then, that one note/file will show up under each category without being duplicated in Evernote.

Step #4 – Make sure the materials you are converting to a digital format are easily searchable and thus useful.

Once you make your choice of what’s worth keeping. The last part may feel a little difficult…

Trash the rest.

It’s time.

You didn’t look at it for 10 years anyway, right?

Is it really that important?

I don’t think so.

Feel the weight lift from your shoulders? Ahhh…

Sweet relief.

Step #5 – Let it go. The trash is your friend. 

P.S. Please recycle.

P.S.S. If you’re interested in diving into all the great ways that Evernote can work for you and your business, check out the Evernote for Independent Music Teachers series here on Piano Pantry.




Please note that Piano Pantry is an affiliate for Evernote which simply means I earn a small percentage back if you sign up using my link at no extra cost to you. See all disclosures here.


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Featured on Key Ideas Podcast

Hey, friend!

I’m so excited to share with you my first podcast appearance. Yea! 🙂

The super-awesome Leila Viss started a fresh new podcast called Key Ideas a couple of months ago and I was honored to be one of her spotlights!

For a little change of pace from a typical piano pedagogy-type podcast, we talk about other good things like organization strategies and cooking!

Happy listening! 🙂

Organizing Tips for Piano Teachers with Amy Chaplin

P.S. One of the resources I share in the podcast is my favorite digital recipe manager: Paprika. I just saw they are having a big Thanksgiving/Black Friday Sale that will get you 40-50% off both the apps and desktop versions. I LOVE having the desktop version as well as the app – totally worth it!

The Perfect Teaching Table

Have you ever experienced a feeling of giddy elation over finding the “perfect” (insert: piano, piece of office furniture, studio equipment, or teaching chair)?

It’s amazing how the physical things around us affect how we move and interact in our spaces.

When I first opened my studio I remember being on the hunt for MONTHS for the perfect piece of furniture to place next to the piano to help store all the items I liked to have within arms reach such as pens, stickers, teaching tools, etc.

The one I found (and still love after 9 years) is the Graphix Open Rolling File Cabinet, Graphite


I purchased it initially from for $79, but it has also been available in the past on Amazon for $65.

Unfortunately in both places, at the time of this post, it’s unavailable. (Sorry, I didn’t share this sooner!)  I did some searching though, and currently, you can get it here: ($65) ($90) ($126)
eBay ($142)

There are lots of options for this kind of thing out there, so here are a few things I love about mine you might consider as you search for YOUR perfect teaching table.

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YQA: RSS and Your Secret Letter

This post is part of a series called Your Questions Answered that highlights questions that readers like yourself have asked of me over the last few years. 

It was posted by a reader after reading this post here on Piano Pantry: Managing Internet Content the Easy Way.


Hi, Amy!

I’m trying to set up my RSS reader so I can get my email under control.

If I add Piano Pantry to my RSS reader and unsubscribe my email, will I still get the Secret Letters?  I don’t want to mess everything up!




Hey, L!

Yea for RSS! You’re going to love it. I’m also glad to hear you’re enjoying the Secret Letters and don’t want to miss them! 🙂

That being said, if you unsubscribe from my email list, you will NOT get the Secret Letters. That’s why they’re called “Secret.” 😉 They’re not available to find anywhere online and only go to those on the email list.

RSS is about feeding new blog posts into one spot so you can visit one website and see all the new content from your favorite websites at one time.

I still stay subscribed to a lot of email lists because most of them nowadays send more than just blog post updates. To keep all of those subscriptions out of my inbox I use which I then set up to send me a Daily Digest.



It’s all so confusing!  How does one know if it’s an email list or a blog post update?  I suppose I will have to figure it out!  I’ll take a look at  My inbox is out of control at the moment.  I was doing well in the email department but somehow I got behind and now it’s a MESS!

One more question for you – how do you remember where to find something later?  It might be in the RSS reader, it might be in an email, it might have been in a Facebook group.

Do you have a way to put what you glean all in one place so you aren’t trying to remember where you saw it?  No way do I have enough brainpower to remember all that!  (I’m guessing you might say Evernote, but I still thought I’d ask!)



Hey again!

Great question and yes, it CAN be confusing!

You can’t always know until you sign up for a list, what types of emails they will be sending. If you notice a subscription is only sending you posts to your inbox (and you’re already seeing new posts in your RSS reader), then you can unsubscribe.

RSS isn’t so much about completely getting rid of all of your newsletter subscriptions as it is giving you a place to read website content in one location rather than relying on your time in your email to be when you see and read new content.

As far as saving and retrieving your favorite articles for later, Feedly (my RSS Reader), allows you to save (and search) articles – so that’s one good option. You can also send articles from Feedly directly into Evernote.

I try to be very picky about saving too many blog articles, but if I do, you are correct – I save them into Evernote then tag that note by whatever it’s about such as “group lessons” “apps” “lesson planning” etc.

The search function of programs like Feedly and Evernote is really great so you really don’t have to get super caught up in labeling and tagging articles too much. Just type a keyword into the search box and it will usually find it.


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Consider subscribing to the Piano Pantry email list. You’ll get my once-a-month “Secret Letter” which includes what’s been going on in my studio that month, new posts on the blog, books I’m reading, favorite Instagram posts, and other fun things like that. 

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My Top 6 “Buy It Again” Office Products from Amazon

As the years go on, the number of items I purchase on Amazon has slowly increased. With the current times, for many, it has increased exponentially.

If you’ve never done so, it’s kind of fun to go back through your Amazon order history and see how it grows and evolves from year to year and even decade to decade!

My first Amazon purchase was one item in December 2003. After that, it’s quite fascinating to see how it would stay consistent for several years but increased quickly.

2005 – 2012:  8-10 orders per year
2013 – 2014:  20-25 orders per year
2015 – 2018:  30-40 orders per year
2019:  60 orders
2020: 41 orders (thus far = by August)

Amazon is really good about not only letting you know how often you’ve purchased a product…

…they also make it really easy to “Buy It Again” directly from your order history page.

Today I want to share with you six items I’ve found myself buying for my piano studio again and again on Amazon.

Perhaps not surprisingly, they are all consumable office supplies!

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Get Organized!: Bills, Expenses, and Receipts

Don’t get too excited, I’m not about to give you all kinds of financial advice on saving money or doing taxes as an independent music teacher. (I figure we have our dear Wendy Stevens at Compose Create who has shared a lot of great stuff like that over the years. 🙂 )

I’m going to stick with my strength and talk to you today about organizing and managing your incoming bills, expenses, and receipts. Yea!

Let me introduce you to the best thing that has happened to me in our daily financial management process and that’s my file folder system.

It’s not complicated and it makes ALL. THE. DIFFERENCE.

Isn’t she beautiful? 🙂

First, a little back history on the straw that broke the camel’s back and made me come up with this system.



My husband and I have used Quicken for years and love it. If you’re not familiar with the program, it’s like a check register for all your finances in one place including loans, 401k’s, credit card bills, checking, and savings accounts. We manage both our personal and my business finances through this.

Budgeting has been important to us through our entire marriage and Quicken has a lot of tools to help you track expenses and manage a budget properly. If you keep up with it on a regular basis, keeping expenses categorized makes life a whole lot easier when it comes time to do taxes as well.

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Book Review – Atomic Habits by James Clear

If you enjoy self-improvement and are looking to build some good habits into your life, then consider picking up James Clear’s famous book Atomic Habits: An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones.

When this book first came out, I immediately put it into my Amazon shopping cart. A year later I finally purchased it, and a year after that I finally got around to reading it. (That’s par for the course for me. LOL) Of course, as soon as I read it I kicked myself for not reading it sooner.

In this post, I’ll share with you one big reason why I love this book, seven of the most impactful points I took away, and a few habits I’ve built both in my piano studio and personal life.


One Big Reason I Love This Book

One big thing I love about this book actually has a lot to do with its layout. 

Every chapter has a summary at the end that highlighted 6 major points to take away. This was an incredibly helpful visual recap. I tried to force myself to highlight just one or two of those points in order to focus my takeaways even more.

At the end of the book, he even provides bonus chapters for how you can apply these principles to business and to parenting.

Application, application, application. Check!


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Help Your Students “Enable Original Sound” on Zoom With This Email Template

You know how sometimes in life you’re told about something that you know you should do but at the moment, you just can’t bring yourself to mentally mess with it?

That’s how I was when we started using Zoom for our online lessons.

Teachers in Facebook groups were mentioning the importance of the “Enable Original Sound” setting to help with sound quality but I was just trying to wrap my head around getting myself set up online to pay it any mind.

Then two or three weeks of lessons went by and I was DONE with the garble. It was time to upgrade our sound.

Do I kick myself a little for not dealing with this sooner? Yep. But, oh, well, I’m over it now.

Through all of this, I have to say one thing all my studio families have been mentioning in our evaluation meetings this week, was the quality of my communication throughout this whole process. They felt the instructions were incredibly helpful and easy to follow.

That’s part of our job! Quality communication.

To spell things out as clear and easy as possible, I gave my step-by-step instructions using screenshots. It doesn’t get easier than that!

Teachers: You have my permission to copy and paste this entire email and use these images to send to your studio families (if you don’t mind having my mug shot! LOL).

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