Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Update on Painting and Moving

The living room is painted!

The kids bedroom is painted, next we'll take up the carpet and put down an area rug.

The spare room (sewing/craft room) is painted. 

Sorry for the bad picture it's a really small room but the color turned out really nice. Now we have to figure out how to set this room up. We've decided to use it for all my random crafts and sewing that way all the dangers of sewing stuff will be safely closed up and out of reach!

We are almost done the painting, we decided to strip the wallpaper in the bathroom so we have one small painting project to do before we move in. We just have to decide what color we'll paint the living room. Any suggestions?

We are officially moving in on January 3rd, but we have started paying rent so that my family (Father, Brother, sister and her family) can stay in the house over Christmas. 

I'll be over there today putting up the Christmas tree!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Meal Preparation - Part 3 - Your Freezer

Freezing food is one of the easiest ways to make your mealtimes easier and it's one of the easiest ways to preserve food. For those like me who don't have a nice big chest freezer in the basement don't worry you can still take advantage of the freezer space you have!

What can your freezer do for you??

1. Save you time when preparing your meals

2. Always have a meal in the freezer

3. Stock up when there are great sales!

Save yourself time

One of the biggest time saver when I'm making dinner is that I usually have some of the ingredients prepared in the freezer already.

Cooked ground beef and chicken are perfect for making cassaroles or crockpot meals that require pre-cooked meat. Chopped onions, peppers and stirfry mix are all great for easy prep of recipes that you might saute or stirfry. I love having strifry veggies prepared in the freezer, then all I do is add some chicken and a splash of soy sauce, olive oil or other seasonings and make some rice and Voila! you have a quick meal! Frozen Bananas are great for making smoothies or banana bread.

Always Have a Meal in the Freezer

Many of you have heard of Once a Month Cooking (OMAC), when you take time each month to cook a bunch of meals so that you have food for the whole month. While I love the concept, it's pretty unrealistic for me with two little one's and not much storage space.

I do this a little at a time. If I'm cooking a meal like lasagna, which usually makes a 9x13 size pan I always make it in a 9x9 pan and make 2. One I will cook for that night, the other I will prepare and then freeze for another time. This can be done with many different meals and can be a lifesaver when you "forgot" about dinner. I do this with cassaroles, sauces, waffles, pancakes, and quiche.

My latest favorite way to have meals in the freezer is our Small Group's "Cooking Club" - at least that's what we call it. A friend of mine, Rebekah, started this great group and it has doubled in just 3 months! We all love it. Sometimes I think I love it the most!!

How it works: Each person cooks or prepare one meal for all people involved, (for example, instead of making 1 lasagna for yourself, make 5) then we lug our coolers to church where we exchange meals. You don't have to be as cool as us showing up at church with your Igloo cooler, you can exchange your meals wherever you'd like. The best part is that I get to stock up my freezer with 5 meals!! We do this once a month and it's perfect I always have one meal a week in the freezer, ready to go! So I go home with 5 meals for my freezer! This is a huge time saver and so simple!!

Here are a few great links about freezing meals or food exchanges:

Stock up When There are Great Sales

There are a few stores in my area that have great meat sales a few times a year. I usually use those sales to stock up on meat. This is especially a great deal because my husband works at one of these grocery stores so we get 10% off!! Ok Ok enough about our nice little discount, back to stocking up...

For those of you who know, I'm addiced to couponing - yes - addicted! This has been such a financial blessing to our family and to our friends who I've shared my "coupon experience" with.

There are times when I have come home with 10 bags of Green Giant Valley Fresh Steamers for FREE or very close to free! I also stock up on butter, bread, chicken nuggets

Sometimes I spend a few hours baking and freeze a bunch of muffins, pancakes, breads and other goodies. Doing this can be a real timesaver! I have been known to make extra cookie dough and freeze that for a quick snack. You can even make your own babyfood to freeze! (I may just do this this spring!)

C O M M E R C I A L B R E A K.......

I want to take a minute here to do an un-paid advertizement for Ziplock's new Vacuum bags.

I've used them a bunch now and I'm ready to give them my stamp of approval!

Basically it's a very inexpensive way to vacuum-seal your freezer bags. It comes with a hand operated pump and the bags are really reasonable (especially when you have coupons!)

See that tight seal on the lovely red peppers I just stocked up on last week. Beautiful - and no chance of these peppers getting any frost burn!

The Ziplock company can feel free to send me one of these starter kits to giveaway if they want to be daring enough to be my very first official giveaway!! --- anyone out there--- no---oh well it doesn't hurt to ask!

I could go on and on about all the things you can freeze but I'll save that for another day. I hope to share more details about all of this in the .

Let me know what intrests you the most and I'll be sure to discuss those topics first! Be sure you click on COMMENT below to leave me a comment!!

I'd love to know what your best trick for freezing food or your favorite meal to freeze is? Leave me a comment below!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Meal Preparation - Part 2 - Starting a Stockpile

I had discussed in the previous post that I like to have a good stockpile of food on hand. I think that it really helps when you're on a tight budget. Because of the move I've decided to focus on having a good size stockpile of food in our new place. This includes canned goods, frozen meats and prepared meals. I think that stockpiling food is becoming a more common thing because of the uncertainty with our economy. That is not why I'm stockpiling. I'm doing it because I want to save money!

What should I have in my stockpile?

It depends what you eat. Don't stock up on black olives and artichoke hearts if you don't like them or if you don’t have a recipe for those ingredients. I usually have a bunch of casserole and crockpot recipes that use the items that I have in my stockpile. Usually I only have to get meat (unless it's in the freezer) and some kind of side/starch.

Here is a good example of what could be in your stockpile:

Assorted Pastas
Cream of soups (mushroom, Cream of chicken, Cream of celery)
Canned Fruits
Spaghetti Sauce
Enchilada Sauce
Canned Veggies - Corn, green beans, olives, Carrots
Tomato Sauce
Diced Tomatoes
Stewed Tomatoes
Tomato Paste
Dry Milk
Condensed Milk
Evaporated Milk
Black Beans
Kidney Beans
Northern Beans
Chick Peas
Pinto Beans

I usually have an extra one of each of the following so I don't have a melt down when I use the last drop or when I grab the mayo and realize that the bottle had been put back in the fridge empty!

Soy Sauce
BBQ sauce

In the next post I'll discuss what's in the freezer!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Meal Preparation - Part 1 - Menu planning

Because of the craziness of packing, stripping wallpaper and painting I've noticed a common problem - What's for dinner?

When life is normal I've found that the most time and money saving thing I do for our family is plan our meals. I'm usually pretty organized with meal planning but this has fallen to the wayside these last few weeks and I'm determined to get back on track. I thought I'd do my first mini-series on Meal Preparation and Food Stockpiling. If you have any specific questions please leave a comment and I'll try to address them.

Meal Preparation - Part 1 - Menu planning

This is a pretty easy place to start but it is crucial! When I didn't plan my meals I would just go to the store meander through each aisle and just throw whatever looked yummy. This wasn't the best plan for our wallet so I had to make a change. The way I do meal planning is simple. I keep it simple so that I don't get overwhelmed and quit.

There are many ways to do this, some people like to look at the weekly flyer and plan their meals based on what's on sale, some just sit down with their cookbooks and pick what they want to eat that week, I plan based on what I have on hand and I try to roll one meal over to the next day (more about this later). I've found that this saves us a lot of money and time, and for me TIME IS MONEY!!


Always take a quick look in your fridge, cabinets and freezer to see what meals you might have that are already prepared for that week. Jot down all the meals that you have already prepared in the freezer. I try to plan around 2 meals using items that I already have. For example I usually have plenty of crushed tomatoes, cream of chicken, cream of mushroom, beans, rice and frozen chicken around. With these ingredients I could make a few different dinners: Etoufee, chicken and rice casserole or chicken enchiladas. I would only have to pick up a few items to make these meals and it wouldn't add much to our grocery bill.

Another good tip when planning your meals is to buy meat in bulk or whole. For example a whole chicken can be roasted and enjoyed with potatoes and veggies, then the leftover meat can be made into soup or a casserole the next day. The same goes for roasts and meats like sausage. I try to make more than I need for that first meal so I have enough for the next day. For example this week I cooked up some Italian sausages. Day 1: Spaghetti with sausage- Day 2: Homemade sausage and onion pizza. I even chopped a little into an omelet for breakfast!

On to the Planning

I usually plan my menus one week at a time. To get started grab a notebook, scrap paper or your computer - you may want to grab your cookbooks or recipes box too.

First write down the meals that you can make from items you already have. Jot down a few more meals that you'd like to have . Like I said above there are many ways to do this and you can pick the way that works for you. I do check the sales ads in the paper before I plan my meals. If there is a great deal on whole chickens I'll plan my meals around that. I also take in to consideration the different seasonal veggies that are available

Flip the paper over. Write down the ingredients that you need to make those meals. Remember to plan your lunches and snacks. Go to your pantry, cross off all the items that you already have. What is left is your grocery list (aside from your staples, milk, bread etc.) Now jump in the car (don't forget your coupons!!) and head to the grocery store. Stay tuned for Part 2 - Starting a stockpile.