Monday, January 21, 2013

Cheap yummy meals for a family of 4!

It's been way too long since my last blog post! I recently fed my family of 4 six meals for about $20! Here's what I did:

Day 1: a whole chicken with a bottle of Italian dressing poured all over it. Put it in the crockpot on high and let it cook all day. Debone the chicken, put the remaining chicken in the fridge.

Day 2: White beans (navy beans) and rice with 1/2 link smoked sausage. Place 1lb dry beans, sausage, salt, pepper, 6-8 cups water, and dried parsley in crock pot. Cook on high all day. Refrigerate leftovers.

Day 3: Red beans and rice with 1/2 link smoked sausage. Cook using same method as white beans.

Day 4: Combine all leftovers with rice in an oven safe casserole dish. Cover with shredded cheese and bake at 350 degrees until the cheese is melted. Separate leftovers into two ziplock bags and freeze. You will have another 2 days worth of leftover casserole.

Enjoy!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Just say NO to the Drive Thru! What's in my freezer this week?

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Wow, it's been a while since I've posted!  I have been one super busy house wife preparing some super yummy dinners to stock my freezer with!  I didn't take the time to take a great photo of my newly stocked freezer with cooked food, but I did find this quite hilarious one on Photobucket, and just had to share.  And while I'm not a domestic diva (like I tend to think I am at times...HA!), I do know a few tricks to save you from the drive-thru, especially if you're a working mom, a stay at home mom, or during sport seasons!  Now, keep in mind a few things:

  1. I cook with regular every day ingredients.
  2. Most of my recipes are super duper easy.
  3. I measure nothing.
  4. I use salt, pepper, and parsley in almost everything.
  5. These are cheap recipes (HOORAY!).
  6. I am not a health nut, but if you practice portion control, you'll be fine.  And it's still lower fat and healthier than the drive-thru.
Ok, here goes!  A run down of what's in my freezer, and how to cook it.  Enjoy!

1 Pinto beans and ham
2 Baked pork chops
3 Baked BBQ country style pork ribs
     Chicken in creamy chicken gravy
5 Leftover coca-cola ham
     Pot roast with potatoes and carrots
oHomemade waffles
8Homemade bacon, egg, and cheese biscuits
Cubed steak in gravy
2lbs. browned and seasoned ground beef
3 quarts homemade chicken broth
1Deboned whole boiled chicken
1Smothered squirrel
1Un-iced cupcakes
4lbs baked turkey bacon
5 slices Canadian bacon
1 tray food club family size lasagna
Scrambled omelet style eggs (for more egg biscuits)

RECIPES:
PINTO BEANS AND HAM:
Quick soak and cook 1lb pinto beans according to directions on package.  Add however much leftover ham, smoked sausage, pork chops, or any other salty meat you would like.  Season with salt and pepper.  Put in ziplock bag and squeeze out air.  Place in second ziplock bag, label, and put in freezer.

BAKED PORK CHOPS:
Place pork chops in big casserole dish.  Season with salt, pepper, parsley.  Cover with foil.  Bake at 350 degrees until chops are done (about 3 hours or so), then uncover and bake until just browned.  Place in ziplock bag and squeeze air out.  Place in second ziplock bag, label, and place in freezer.

BAKED BBQ COUNTRY STYLE PORK RIBS:
Place pork ribs in big casserole dish.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add worstechire sauce and BBQ sauce.  Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees (about 3 hours or so) until they are falling apart when you test them with a fork.  Place in ziplock bag.  Squeeze the air out.  Place in second ziplock bag, label, and place in freezer.

CHICKEN IN CREAMY CHICKEN GRAVY:
Spray a skillet with non stick cooking spray.  Add a handful of chopped onions, and some cut up boneless skinless chicken breasts.  Cover and smother on medium heat until chicken is done.  Uncover and add a can of cream of chicken soup, a can of evaporated milk, salt, pepper, and parsley.  Simmer on low about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Place in ziplock bag and squeeze the air out.  Place in second ziplock bag, label, and place in the freezer.  Great over rice or noodles.

COCA-COLA HAM:
Place a large bone-in spiral cut ham in the crockpot.  Add one 12oz can of cola.  Cook on high until done.

POT ROAST WITH POTATOES AND CARROTS:
Place one rump roast in the crockpot.  If frozen, add no water.  If defrosted, put a little water at the bottom of the crockpot to prevent sticking.  Quarter about 5 potatoes and place in crockpot.  Add one small bag of fresh baby carrots.  Add one can of cream of celery, one can of golden mushroom soup, salt, pepper, and a handful of chopped onions.  Cook on high until done.  Soups can be substituted for packets of instant gravy, other soups (such as cream of mushroom, French onion, etc) use whatever you have on hand for the gravy.

HOMEMADE WAFFLES:
Follow the directions on the back of the box of any kind of pancake/waffle mix.  Allow the waffles to cool, then place two waffles in a quart size freezer bag and squeeze the air out.  I can usually make 12 quart size bags of two waffles each with two batches of mix.  Place in toaster 1-2 cycles to defrost and eat.

TURKEY BACON:
Place turkey bacon on a cookie sheet lined with foil for easy clean up.  Cook for 15 minutes at 350 degrees.

HOMEMADE BACON, EGG, AND CHEESE BISCUITS:
Bake a can of jumbo biscuits or make homemade biscuits.  While the biscuits are baking, scramble a bunch of eggs and add a splash of skim milk, salt, pepper, and parsley.  Cook them like you would an omelet so that they stay together (a GT EXPRESS cooker is great for this).  You should already have baked turkey bacon made.  Grab some sliced cheese.  Let everything cool.  Then assemble the biscuits.  Cut the biscuits in half all the way, then layer egg, bacon, and ½ slice of cheese (you will want to cut your eggs to fit on the biscuit and cut your bacon in half also to fit).  Wrap tightly with wax paper and secure with a piece of scotch tape.  Put each assembled biscuit in a small ziplock bag (I use sandwich size) and use a straw to suck out the air.  Place up to 8 assembled bagged biscuits in a gallon ziplock bag and label.  Place in freezer.  Microwave in wax paper to re-heat

CUBED STEAK IN GRAVY:
Make a roux (1/2 cup oil, ½ cup flour and brown until caramel color, stirring constantly.  Add lots of salt or it will taste like glue) and a handful of chopped onions.  Add in water slowly until the thickness is what you want.  Throw in cut up browned cubed steak (or eye of round, or whatever you have on hand).  I should have mentioned, you will want to brown your meat while your roux is going. Cook on medium to low until the meat is done and tender.  Throw in a can of tomato soup for an extra zing if you would like anytime during the cooking.  Great with rice!  Once again, place in a ziplock bag and squeeze the air out.  Place in a second ziplock bag and label.  Place in the freezer.

BROWNED/SEASONED GROUND BEEF:
Place however many pounds of ground beef/turkey/pork you have in a skillet.  Add a handful of chopped onions per pound.  Season with salt and pepper and brown.  Drain grease if you have any.  We use very, very lean ground beef or ground turkey so there usually isn’t any grease.  Allow to cool then separate into 1lb portions and place in quart size bags.  Squeeze out air and place in freezer.  Be sure to label with a sharpie marker.  I love to keep this on hand just in case I want to throw a quick spaghetti or a box of hamburger helper together.  Also great to add to canned soups you may find on clearance to beef them up a little.  Add to rice for “dirty rice” and add a can of cream of mushroom.  Possibilities are endless.

WHOLE CHICKEN:
Place a frozen whole chicken in a big stock pot and add salt and water.  Boil until the chicken is falling off the bone.  Use tongs to get the chicken out of the broth.  Place a strainer over a big pot or container to extract chicken pieces from the broth.  Allow broth to cool a bit, then place broth in quart size ziplock bags, squeeze out air, seal, label, and place in freezer.  Homemade broth is great for all sorts of things, and you won’t  have to buy any at the store.  Next, allow the chicken to cool.  Debone chicken, place in quart size ziplock bags, squeeze out air, seal, and label.  Place in freezer.  You can whip up all sorts of quick chicken dishes or add to canned soups in a pinch.

SMOTHERED SQUIRREL:
Ok, this may sound a bit strange to most folks.  Here’s the deal, my husband squirrel hunts.  He also cleans his squirrels and soaks them in water for a few hours to get the blood out.  Then we place the squirrels in ziplock bags in the freezer.  After we get a few, I put them in a cast iron skillet with a bit of vegetable oil and a handful of chopped onions.  Season with salt and pepper, then put them on a medium-low fire and let them smother down.  Don’t cook them too long, they’ll be tough.  Squirrel done right tastes a lot like chicken, so these are great to eat by themselves or throw in a soup or gumbo.

UNICED CUPCAKES:
Now, this was super easy.  I had a box of cake mix, made cupcakes according to the directions.  Allowed the cupcakes to cool, then individually wrapped them in saran wrap, and placed them in a gallon ziplock bag.  Sucked the air out with a straw, and finished sealing the bag.  Label that bad boy, stick it in the freezer.  I did the same thing with a pan of brownies, intending to freeze them, but my husband decided to take them to drill this weekend.  All is good, though.  Those puppies are individually wrapped so they’ll stay fresh for him all weekend, he won’t be visiting the local 7-11 for snacks, and if there are any leftovers, I can still freeze the remaining.

I believe the rest is self explanatory.  Yes, I do have a frozen lasagna in the freezer that’s not homemade.  My grocery store had a deal where if you buy the lasagna, you got some other stuff free, so I always get the “buy this item, get a bunch of free stuff” deals.  I have frozen French fries and chicken nuggets in there too, I have two small children, and I love to spoil them rotten!! J

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Living on one income in a two income world.



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How does one go about living on one dependable income in what seems to be a two income world?  It's not easy.  Budget, budget, budget, and cut every corner possible.  Hmmm, sounds like prison, right?  WRONG!  It takes some adjusting and getting used to, but it can be done, and fun!

Our family primarily lives on my husband's income.  I sell on various internet sites to supplement, but that is our "extra" cash to pay extra on a bill or two.  Before marrying my husband, I always worked at least one (sometimes two) full time job(s).  When I was pregnant for our first child, we decided to ditch my income so that I could be a stay at home mom.  It hasn't been easy, but here are a few pointers as to why (and how) we did it.


  1. Daycare:  We didn't want to put our child in daycare, which costs approximately $400 per month (I've heard it's a lot more in some areas) and deal with constantly having a sick child.  With me staying home, we were in the doctor's office about twice a year, usually for a check up.
  2. Diapers:  Now, at first we used disposables.  This put a major strain on our budget, so we switched to those fancy all in one cloth diapers.  While they were expensive to buy, we saved a load of cash every month.  My favorite brand is Fuzzi Bunz.  No plastic pants needed, just snap em on and you're good to go.
  3. Meals:  We hardly ever eat out.  I've taught myself how to cook some really tasty meals, and having my kids 11 months apart, I'm in love with my crock pot.  When the babies were little, instead of those expensive jar baby foods, I simply took my cooked meals and ran them through one of those mini chopper food processors.
  4. Telephone costs:  We both have cell phones, but living out in the boonies, signal is not all that great.  We have a very basic local line (we live too far out for vonage).  If I want to talk to someone long distance, I usually send them a text that says something like "hey, call me at home when you get a chance".
  5. Couponing:  Ok, so I'm not one of those "extreme" couponers, but I do use coupons here and there.  I use A LOT of online coupons and deal sites, but I also use manufacturers coupons for everyday items.  One of my best coupon tips is for Dawn dishwashing liquid.  Proctor and gamble will put a coupon for $1 off 1 dawn dishwashing liquid in the sunday paper.  The original formula Dawn is usually on the bottom shelf of Wal-Mart for 0.97 cents.  Viola!  Free dawn!  And guess what?  The cheap original formula works JUST AS GOOD as the "new and improved" stuff.
Now, that's pretty much the main stuff in a nutshell.  I will post more tips as I think of them, but that's the basic 5 we started with.  Do you have tips?  Questions?  Need more tips?  Please leave a comment, I'll be happy to help you!!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

What's the big deal about Swagbucks?

You may have seen some of your friends post things about Swagbucks on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media.  One of my facebook fans asked me to blog about this website, and how what to do with all those Swagbucks.

Swagbucks is a 100% free website that rewards you for searching the internet, completing surveys, printing out coupons, answering daily polls, and so much more.  I have been using their website for two years and LOVE it!  You will not earn swagbucks for every search, you will win some here and there.  "Swagbucks" are virtual "dollars" that are added to your account for random searches on the Swagbucks homepage.  You can then trade in your "swagbucks" for merchandise, wallpapers for your electronics, and e-gift cards.

Here's a brief "tutorial" on how to get some Swagbucks!!

  1. Sign up here for your FREE Swagbucks account.
  2. Click the "Take a Tour" link and watch the video
  3. Visit the "Earn" section and start racking up the Swagbucks!
  4. Once you get enough Swagbucks in your account, simply visit the "redeem" section and "cash" them in!
This is a very easy way to cut your expenses for birthdays and holidays.  I redeem my Swagbucks once a year for Amazon e-gift cards for Christmas presents.  Swagbucks never expire!!


Search & Win

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Adventures in Turkey Pot Pie

Too much leftover turkey? Put it in a homemade pot pie! You will need:

1. Leftover turkey (1-2 C)
2. About 10-12 oz turkey broth, chicken broth, or a can of cream of chicken soup will do in a pinch.
3. 1/4 C sour cream
4. Leftover mixed veggies (1 C), or 1 C thawed frozen veggies, or canned veggies
5. 1 small onion, chopped
6. 1 C pioneer baking mix
7. 1/2 C milk
8. 1 egg

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix all ingredients except the baking mix, egg, and milk in a deep dish pie plate or large cast iron skillet. Combine baking mix, milk, and egg in a separate bowl and mix until blended. Pour over mixture in skillet. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

This is a great way to re-use leftovers. I've done similar recipes with leftover beef soups, chicken, etc. Use your imagination and have fun!!


Saturday, January 14, 2012

Make money dressing your children


Dressing your children in beautiful name brand clothing doesn't have to cost a fortune.  Matter of fact, you can actually MAKE money off of your kids name brand clothing.

The above image is of a dress that I bought for my daughter at a thrift store.  The bow was a hand me down.  This particular dress is a dress from the popular children's boutique store, Strasburg and would have cost a fortune new.  I purchased it for $3.99 at a local thrift store and she wore it a couple of times to church.

Fast forward to next year.  The dress was too small, so I put it in my eBay store for sale.  I sold this dress and hair bow for $15.00 plus shipping.  Not a huge profit, but after eBay and PayPal fees, I made about $8.00 on this one dress.  You can view the completed listing here:  http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&rd=1&item=190590444561#ht_2123wt_1110

Now, just imagine if you have a closet full of clothing.  I make enough money selling my children's used clothing on eBay to pay a bill or two.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Frugal Weight Loss For a New You in this New Year

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2012!!  Many have resolved to lose weight in 2012, that's awesome!!  You don't have to spend a lot of money to achieve your goals.  I am not a doctor, dietitian, or weight loss professional.  I am, however, a stay at home mom, and a former weight loss counselor.  I used to feel HORRIBLE about the amount my former company charged their clients to put them on a weight loss program.  I will tell you how to reach a HEALTHY goal weight without going to classes, meetings, weigh in's, etc.

1.  Cut your portion size in HALF.  This is easy to do by applying a few tricks:

  • Instead of eating on a big plate, switch to a salad plate.
  • If you order in the drive through, throw out HALF of your meal BEFORE you start to eat.
2.  Eat protein for breakfast.  If you don't normally eat breakfast, Adkins shakes are a great breakfast meal because they are full of protein and are low carb...and they taste great too!

3.  Cut your carbohydrate intake.  Here are a few tricks:
  • Switch from white bread to 100% whole wheat bread.
  • Switch from regular pasta to wheat pasta.
  • Switch from Sugar to Splenda.
4.  Drink 64oz of water per day.  Don't over do the water, you will get bloated.  If you don't like to drink plain water, MIO water enhancer is wonderful, and has zero anything (sugar, calories, etc).  You can find MIO at Wal-Mart, Target, and most grocery stores.

5.  Don't eat a heavy starch with a heavy protein.  Here's a good rule of thumb:  Red with green, white with white.
  • If you want potatoes, eat it with a light protein such as chicken or fish.
  • If you want a steak, eat it with vegetables.
6.  If you have a craving, don't deny yourself, just watch your portion size.  I, personally, am addicted to french fries.  If I'm craving fries, I allow myself a "kid meal" portion in the drive through and eat it mid-day.  Not to say you should do this every day, but every now and then is perfectly fine.

7.  STAY AWAY from bananas and pears until you get the weight off.  These two fruits have a lot of natural sugars.  Once you get to your goal weight, resume eating these.

8.  Switch your milk to skim cow milk or low fat soy or almond milk.

9.  No carbonated drinks or juice.

10.  If you crave sweets for an afternoon pick me up, etc....have two sugar free hard candies.  Make them last.

11.  Don't eat within 1 hour of bed time and try to cook at home.  If you're a mom of small kids, try not to eat their leftovers (come on, we all do it).

12.  Get outside and do some exercise, go for a walk, ride a bike, play with your kids, etc.  Have fun with it, you're more likely to stick to it.

You should expect to lose between 1/2 pound and 1 1/2 pounds per week.  Some weeks will be more, some will be less.  You will hit plateaus, don't get discouraged.  Get plenty of sleep (6-8 hours) per night if you can.

I hope this helps you attain your goals!!  Have a great new year!!