A more detailed blog post including pics 's coming very soon, but I wanted to go ahead and make a list here of the meals I'm gonna put together this week to prep for the next 3-4 weeks. I've been "monthly cooking" now for several years but I'm noticing that I'm putting on weight and not feeling my best. I know I feel better (and look better) when we eat more whole, healthy foods. With that in mind, my usual freezer meals need revamping. Cue Pinterest. My first step is always to peruse Pinterest and find recipes my entire family will eat. Thankfully, my children are amazing eaters and don't complain very often (that's one area Adam and I parent really well). Here is my list of meals I'll prep to make this coming week: Fajita Chicken Mongolian Beef (served over rice but I will pair mine with extra veggies) BLT's using turkey bacon (I'll eat mine in lettuce wraps) Italian Soup Turkey Burgers Chipotle Mock Chicken (using boneless, skinless thighs) Burrito Bowls BBQ chicken Fish Foil Packets (This will not be a freezer type meal) Taco Soup Homemade Chicken Nuggets Whole Roast Chicken with Veggies Honey Lime Ginger Pork Tenderloin Chili Here are some FREE Printable Freezer Labels I created so you can simply print them off and tape to your freezer bags as you're making your meals. Tomorrow night after church I'll make my grocery list compared to what we already have and grocery shop Monday morning. Then, I'll spend the rest of Monday prepping and freezing everything. All of these meals listed should last about a month since I'll be doubling/tripling them.
Dressing well doesn't mean you need to spend a fortune. I firmly believe if you're patient and shop the sales, you can look just as trendy as you'd like to for much less money. And since I'm a modest gal who's nearly 5'11", I really have to dig around the racks to find outfits or dresses that fit me well and fit into our budget. Here are my biggest tips to dress for less: (shown below are my church/date night/special days outfits. Other days I pair these items with shorts/jeans.) 1. Don't be afraid to shop Goodwill and consignment shops. (I have to be extra careful when digging around these stores as my children are HIGHLY allergic to pet hair.) If you keep in mind you're looking for any piece that'll fit you well for less than $6, you'll score some amazing deals (extra points if you can alter your own clothes to help the fit be perfect). Then you can pair these pieces with other items already in your closet.
In this pics above, the black/white chevron skirt was only $3 at Goodwill and fits perfectly both shape and length. The purple and black skirt in the 2nd pic was also $3! The beige skirt was only $4 is an awesome staple piece!! 2. Shop the clearance sections in Target. Boy, oh boy, I have found some amazing clothes on those %70 and %50 off racks. You'll know it's on clearance by the red/white sticker on the tag.
The black dress above along with the cream top were both only $13 each. For staple pieces, that's a great deal!! 3. Always pair your findings with what you already own. There's nothing better than paying NOTHING for clothes you already have but you can find new ways to pair them.
In the pics above, the Hawaiian skirt was only $3 at Goodwill while the denim top (that I've been wanting to buy for years now) was at Target for $15. I didn't mind paying that since it's a basic piece I can wear LOTS of ways. In the 2nd pic, I already had the navy blue jersey skirt so I paired it with a really pretty ruffle top I got from H n M for about $9 I think.
4. Be patient. The item just placed on display in the stores WILL come down in prices. Just give it a few weeks/months and watch for the discounts. Also, check your mail/email for coupons to sweeten the deal.
All together, these outfits cost around $78 and I can mix/match them with lots of other pieces I have already in my closet. I'm very excited to dress modestly but not frumpy. And Adam is happy I'm not spending a small fortune to look nice!! (My personal fav stores are Goodwill, Target, JCPenney and HnM).
EDIT: I want to be perfectly clear that Momma loves Jesus Christ and is more alive today with Him than she ever was here on Earth. And when I take my final breath here, after I thank/hug/bow down to/worship my Lord and Savior, I will run to her and hug her hard and never live apart from her again!
Her name was Elaine (Momma, to me) and I was infatuated with her from Day 1!! I always wanted to hold her hand, play with her hair, be near her, watch her play the piano and listen to her sing. I'm sure I was quite annoying at times but the older I got, the closer we were. We couldn't stay mad at each other for 5 seconds before apologizing and moving on. We were the absolute best of friends. (That first pic is Momma holding me and my twin around 4 weeks old) And if you think I have a southern accent, you should've heard hers. Our favorite thing to do together was to go shopping during the holidays and then eat junk food...especially milk shakes. She and I used to share the peach one from Chick Fil A.
Christmas 2015. Adam and I were getting ready to leave that evening for the hotel when I believe the Holy Spirit prompted me to go back in the house, look her in the face, and tell her everything she means to me. I will never forget that conversation. I walked over to her, placed her hands in mine, looked into her eyes and poured out my soul (and cried harder than I ever had at that point in my life). I said, "Momma, I just want you to know that you are my very best friend. I am so thankful you're the woman God picked to have me. I am so grateful you taught me about Jesus, about true faith during the hard times, about marriage, about modesty, about being a good southern hostess, about how to fix my hair, about how to forgive and about how to handle tragedy when it lurks into my life. I know that you're not perfect and now that I'm a Momma, I know how much we all screw up. But I just want you to know that's not what I remember when I think about you. I remember how much you sacrificed for all of us and how much you tried so hard to be the best Momma you could. I love you so much it hurts." She was mad at me at first for making her cry. Oh my word, she hated to cry in public. She used to say she had an ugly cry. Thinking about that makes me giggle. She apologized for all of her mistakes and I immediately shut that down knowing how satan loves to remind us of our sins. I wasn't going to allow her to think on that for a second. We should always say what we mean and mean what we say. Now, as I face my earthly life without her, I have zero regrets about how we left things. She knew without a shadow of a doubt how much she means to me. And I feel good inside knowing I allowed myself to feel the pain of saying "goodbye." I thank Jesus ALL THE TIME for impressing on my heart to go back and say those words to her. In the posts to come, I'll describe more the process of grief and how it has affected me personally. I know there aren't many bloggers my age who discuss this topic and I'd like to help people understand better how to comfort others going through grief as well.
Okay Okay. I've heard the pleas of my people. SO MANY of you have asked me to do a blog post on freezer cooking. I do this once a month (in the middle of the month I'll spend time making muffins and pancakes since our freezer gets pretty full quickly). EVERY recipe you'll see can be found on my Pinterest Board titled "Easy Cooking." Feel free to follow me and pin them all. My EASY COOKING Pinterest Board I can usually make about 24 meals in about 3 hours which includes cleaning the kitchen after I'm finished. I pick about 8-10 recipes and double them to make shopping/cooking/cleaning easier. As always, I begin with a clean kitchen. Notice the black fan in the lower right hand corner. It's 79 degrees in our house (hey, gotta save $$) in the summers here in Miami.
Then, I head to my "stash" of pre-purchased items using sales and coupons.
I then grocery shop for all the items I still need but I do so also sticking to sales and using coupons. I was able to buy everything I needed for this month's cooking only spending $175!!
I then make a quick list of the recipes we want for that month and how many I'm gonna make.
Then I begin setting everything out according to recipe.
Then I start browning my ground chicken (Pasta E Fagipoli) and browning the ground beef for the pasta sauce. Then I put the sauce on to simmer and cool while assembling other recipes.
So today I made 21 meals some of which we'll eat leftovers. We eat out about 3-4 times per month (usually either on Sat night or Sun after church). The other nights we make homemade pizza, roast chicken, or have eggs/bacon/pancakes. I then take all the meals I've made and fill in our monthly calendar. This has been KEY in helping me stay organized all month long. Plus, the children never ask me what we're having. WIN WIN!
After I'm finished I usually only have to do the dishes and empty the trash twice. That's worth it to me to have ALL our suppers done for the entire month! Then I veg out, take a long shower (I'm usually sweaty by the end of this), and relax the rest of the day knowing I'm doing a good job handling our finances and schedules.
Is there anything better than the smell of homemade muffins baking on an early Saturday morning?! My kids come running to the kitchen to see which flavor I'm going to make that day. One of my dreams as a Momma was to make things like this for my family. It saves us money, it's an easy to way to love on them and the come together very quickly.
This recipe is the base for all muffins I make at home. Strawberry, apple, raspberry, choc chip....the combos are endless. You could also add lemon flavoring to this batter as that pairs extremely well with blueberries. My children adore this recipe as the muffins come out more dense than the store-bought mixes. They like feeling full after eating one muffin instead of eating 3-4 of other brands you'll find at most grocery stores.
Feel free to make any substitutes needed for food allergies or health requirements.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray muffin tins (this recipe usually yields about 18 smaller muffins or 12 large ones).
1/2 cup butter melted
1 tbsp vanilla
1 cup milk (I use almond milk)
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup blueberries (any berry would work or you can sub choc chips as well)
Mix wet ingredients and then incorporate dry ones. Don't over-mix the batter. Fill muffin tins 1/2 or 3/4 full depending on desired size of muffin. Then bake for about 18-25 minutes (depending on size) or until done on the inside and golden brown. Place on cooling rack immediately out of the oven. While they are cooling, this is when I clean the kitchen.
Since our son, Ethan, can't tolerate eggs or cheese, he really is limited to his breakfast options. We are trying to stay away from cereals as they provide very little, if any, nutrition to the children. Muffins are his favorite and we ALWAYS have bananas that need to be used instead of trashed.
These muffins freeze extremely well and taste just as fresh/yummy. Either defrost overnight on the counter (keep covered) or reheat in the microwave about 20 seconds.
Preheat oven to 350.
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tbsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 cup semi-sweet choc chips ( I use the mini's)
5 1/2 tbsp butter melted
3 over-ripe bananas
Combine wet ingredients and bananas. (I use our Kitchen Aid mixer since it mashes the bananas very quickly and effortlessly.
Then mix in dry ingredients leaving the choc chips until last. Gently fold those in.
Spray muffin tin and fill 2/3 with batter.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 18-20 minutes or until done.
My family LOVES a Saturday morning trip out for breakfast and Erick always asks for one of the fast food places that serves sandwiches. (Ethan isn't a fan as eggs/cheese make him sick). I decided it was time to make them in bulk since Adam and I love them, too. But I needed a recipe that was healthy, quick and easy. My favorite part about making these is that Adam can warm it up (from freezer, warm for 1 minute) and head off to work. Erick gets the extra protein he needs and I get to enjoy a fresh breakfast sandwich without worrying about the calorie content.
I used turkey bacon, thinly sliced sharp cheddar, 100 calories muffins, and large eggs. Each sandwich is 245 calories and tastes AMAZING!
Start by cooking your turkey bacon while the eggs are baking in an extra large muffin tin. This will give your eggs the perfect shape for muffins.
I sprayed the muffin tin and then sprinkled a little salt/pepper on top of the eggs.
Baked them at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes. When they finish, allow them to COMPLETELY cool on a rack before assembling sandwiches. This will prevent them becoming mushy when re-heating.
Once turkey bacon is finished and completely cooled, off you can begin assembling.
When all of your sandwiches are completed, wrap tightly and securely using clear wrap and then freeze. They will keep for about 3-4 weeks. Ours never last that long.
One of the ways we've begun really saving is doing all haircuts at home. The boys are still quite okay with Adam cutting their hair (it's so dang hot and humid here in Miami that we keep it short). I have recently begun cutting Libby's. Hers is so straight that I just trim the ends and that's it. We'll keep this up until the children are really asking for formal haircuts. At that point, I plan on hiring girls from church that are much more skilled than we are. For now, this works.
Because I have curly hair, I can also cut my own (I'll get it professionally done once a year for re-shaping). I also color my own. I know, I know!! But I'll start getting that professionally done with we meet a couple more financial goals.
One of the best ways for us to save money is for me to start making things from scratch. We go through lots of pancakes, muffins, and bread. I got into a bad habit of buying the pre-mixes. Sure, they are cheap enough, but we have financial goals and the budget had to be cut. I began searching on Pinterest for ways to make my own baked goods from scratch. Turns out, it's actually cheaper to make things the way MawMaw (Grandmother) did.
So now, I make muffins and pancakes enough to freeze in between finding cereals on really great sales. We tend to rotate between bakes goods and cereals for breakfasts since they need to be fast and fit the budget. (My kids HATE oatmeal no matter what I do and I don't have time to cook per their schedules). This is also how I use up bananas that are over-ripe.
I have also begun making my own chicken broth from the left overs when I cook whole chickens. IT IS BETTER THAN ANY STORE-BOUGHT, I promise you! It freezes very well. Just make sure you leave room for it to expand. Don't ask me how I know this. ;-)
I then use this broth to cook our rice in or for soup. It came in handy this weekend when I came down with the summer cold that's been going around. Oh my word it was sooooo good!