SoBo Mama's Tips & Tricks

{November 16, 2013}   Fall Freezer Cooking Session

It has been so crazy in the House of Cheaptitude since school started back in early August.  We’ve dealt with work stress, school stress, Pioneer Woman coming back from Cuba (YAY!!!!), a death in the family, a major realignment in our social circle, and a lot of illness.  Sometimes, with so much going on, it feels like life is completely out of control.  And when life feels out of control, I lose focus.

Last week, I experienced a shift. To make a long story short, Grizz had to have his gall bladder out, and I spent three days at the hospital with him while trying to maintain the house, the monkeys, and prep for sub-of-the-day for my sweet 8th graders.  Somehow, this got me re-focused!  Go figure.  He was discharged on Friday and I spent Saturday shopping and playing in the kitchen.

Remember, when I do my groceries, I arm myself with my coupons and I hit the dollar stores along with the grocery store.

I spent a little more money than I typically would because I needed to re-stock so much, and I wasn’t being too picky about the sales.  Note – I am back to ten boxes of cereal in my pantry and paid less than $1.50 per box.  But I did have several ideas for my freezer in mind.  And I have 9 crockpot meals in my freezer.

I used several different websites to locate recipes, and modified them based on what I had on hand.  Some amazing sites I can suggest are Sidetracked Sarah (my personal favorite), Six Sisters’ Stuff (Real Chick SWEARS by their recipes), and Just A Pinch, just to name the main ones.

Unless otherwise instructed, I just dump everything in gallon-sized freezer bags and smoosh (technical term, Jack!) to mix well.  So this is what all I’ve ended up stocking now:

Potato Corn Chowder (I made 2 of these – been craving corn chowder lately)

  • 2 small bags of frozen corn
  • 1 can chicken broth
  • 1 can cream of potato soup
  • 1 can creamed corn
  • 1/2 bag of skillet potatoes (the little cubey ones)
  • cooked bacon – to taste

Most of my “canned” items came from the dollar stores.  I’m a total flop cooking bacon, so I put it on a rack in a pan and cooked in the oven at 400 degrees for 15 minutes – perfectly perfect in every way!

Freezer Beef Stew

  • 1 package of beef stew seasoning ( store brand is fine)
  • 1 package dry onion soup mix
  • 2 cans cream of mushroom
  • 1 bag frozen mixed vegetables
  • 1/2 bag skillet potatoes
  • 1 pound beef stew meat (mine was pre-cut/packaged) – I’ve actually used both antelope and deer lately, but this package is full of store-bought beef
  • 1 cup of water

Some of the sites I viewed said to brown the meat first, but I didn’t bother.  8 hours in the crockpot will cook it!

Creamy Ranch Pork Chops

  • 1 package boneless pork chops
  • 1 package ranch dressing mix
  • 1-2 cans cream of potato or cream of celery

Crockpot Chili

  • 1 lb browned ground meat
  • 1 package chili seasoning
  • 1 big can tomato sauce
  • 1 small can rotel
  • 2 cans chili beans
  • 2 cans light red kidney beans

Taco Soup

  • 1 pound browned ground meat
  • 2 cans chili beans
  • 1 bag frozen corn
  • 1 can tomato sauce
  • 1 can rotel
  • 1 package taco seasoning
  • 1 cup of water

I like to serve this with tortilla chips and lots of shredded cheese.

BBQ Chicken (for sandwiches)

  • 1 package boneless, skinless, chicken breast tenders
  • 1 bottle bbq sauce
  • water – I fill the bbq bottle with water, shake, etc.

After this is cooked, shred the chicken and serve on buns.  It’s excellent with baked beans and mashed potatoes.

Chicken & Rice Casserole

  • 1 package boneless, skinless, chicken breast tenders
  • 1 package frozen mixed vegetables
  • 1 package frozen broccoli
  • 2 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 3 cups of water
  • 1 cup grated cheese
  • minced garlic to taste

Notice I don’t include the rice in the freezer package.  I tried once and the rice got weird in my crockpot.  Honestly, give it a shot and see how it works for you.  I just cook the chicken concoction and add the rice at the end.

Tater Tot Casserole

  • 1 pound browned ground meat
  • 1 bag frozen green beans
  • 1 can cream of mushroom
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 chopped onion
  • salt & pepper to taste – I actually use garlic salt and pepper as I cook the meat.
  • 2 cups shredded cheese
  • 1 bag tater tots – keep this separate from your freezer bag

When you get ready to cook this one, spray your crockpot with a no-stick spray.  Layer your tots on the bottom and then pour your concoction over the top.  I also add some more cheese.  I’ve subbed corn for the green beans before and tend to leave out the onion because of Grizz and the monkeys.

So 9 meals in the freezer and I was feeling productive and nested for a bit.  I also have a huge new stash of aluminum cans for projects….

And I’m totally excited today because my Aunt Sus messaged me her cookie clay recipe for salt dough ornaments. So much more fun than grading papers or cleaning the house!

What is your nesting routine as the temperatures drop?

~ Katie





{November 16, 2013}   Teaching: Perception vs Reality

Thanks to my state’s adoption of the Common Core, everything I’ve learned to do in my teaching career is out the window.  Well, not really. They tossed out the curriculum (I disliked it, anyway) and have left us to our own devices to develop our units. Not wanting to reinvent the wheel, I used the sample unit from the state for my first 9 weeks. Yikes! I have a great bunch of kids this year, but turd, meet punchbowl!

My favorite unit last year was the Mystery. I worked really hard last year to make it work, and am determined to use it this year. I’ve been told to check out the unit plan for a parish close by, and was less than impressed, so I’m on my own. Part of Common Core is integrating a variety of types of texts with an anchor piece, all centered on themes.

Perception versus reality. I think it’s ideal for mysteries.

So this week I’ve begun to lay groundwork, trying to encourage higher order thinking while engaging my not-so-cooperative 8th graders. A few PowerPoint presentations and teachertube videos later, we’re preparing to explore Plato’s Allegory of the Cave.

Um, yeah. This will go over well.

The point I’m trying to make to the kids is that we base the truth on the information we have. If all we see is shadows, we accept the shadows as real, when in fact they’re a copy of something else. Right?

I’m struggling.

This appears to be one of those weeks where the teacher has become the student. As I prepared my lesson plans and materials, I realized that this series of lessons really applies to my own life. I tend to take things at face value until the underlying factors (ha – a math word!) are pointed out. My concept of reality is very much based on partial truths.

But if you find enough partial truths in enough places from enough sources, can you piece them all together into a quilt of reality?

I think the answer to that is no. I say no because even to partial truths are based in perception, which is individual. We bring our own background experiences and knowledge to our truths. Grizzly and I can be looking at exactly the same thing but see two completely different things.

So I ask my students, what is real? How do we determine what is real? On what can we base reality if we only ever have part of the truth? Are things ever what they appear?

I’m teaching them that some questions can’t be answered. These 13 year olds want black and white, concrete, right or wrong. I’m trying to teach them about shades of grey, that situations are fluid, and things are sometimes both right and wrong. Is it working? Maybe not, but I’m stimulating some thought. And I’m learning a lot, myself.

~ Katie

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My old Grizzly is kind of like Jase Robertson. Not by way of facial fur, or the love of hunting, but the way neither is inclined to keep up with a wedding band. Every few years, I kick a little bit of a fuss about it, only to be reminded that he’s not a jewelry kind of man. And it gets pushed aside for a few more years.

This year, as we approached our 15th anniversary, Grizzly decided he could tolerate a ring. As long as it’s titanium with camouflage.


I googled and with some creative saving could manage it. However, who knows what size ring he wears? And he certainly wasn’t in a rush to be sized.

His other idea was a ring tattoo. Which, I’m fairly certain, is why he was in no hurry to get to the jeweler.

Anyone who knows me knows I’m not a huge fan of tattoos. But we have been married 15 years. So I reached out to Chris Thomas at the Golden Lotus to see if we could make it happen.

What does all this have to do with a zoo, you wonder?

Chris’s shop is in Little Rock.

No sooner had I shared my idea with Grizzly than he was setting up his appointment.

But he wanted to get his value from the long drive and arranged for an additional tattoo he’s wanted. Leaving the monkeys and me with about 3 hours to kill in Little Rock.

Which is how we ended up at the zoo Saturday.

Here are some of the details:

Admission: $10 adults 12 and up, $8 for monkeys under 12. (Dadgum Monkey 1 for looking his age). They do offer military discounts, and kids under a certain age are free.

Parking: $2, assessed when you pay your admission.

Food: there is a “restaurant” of sorts, as well as other vendors along the walkway.  You can also purchase drinks and snacks in the souvenir stand.

The zoo itself is divided into several areas, and I think we saw pretty much everything. The monkeys particularly loved seeing animals from Nigeria, as that is where the CrazyMathLady relocated.

As I finish this post 2 1/2 months after the trip, I don’t recall all I wanted to share, but it was an awesome, inexpensive trip.


~ Katie

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