SoBo Mama's Tips & Tricks











{August 30, 2014}   Recipe: Make Ahead Breakfast

In the House of Cheaptitude, we consume enough instant oatmeal to sink the Titanic again. If we breakfast out, usually two out of four of us will eat breakfast burritos. And if there are breakfast bars of any kind in the house? Forget about it.

It may not seem like a huge financial burden, but a box of oatmeal packets is at least $1.89 at my beloved Brookshire’s, and contains only 8-10 packs. Even the little monkey eats 2 packs at a time. Breakfast burritos, at the grocery, are over a dollar each. This kind of thing adds up quickly. And don’t get me started on all of the weird fake stuff that’s in them. I like my fake stuff as much as the next chick, but I can probably make it a little healthier myself.

A couple of weeks ago, I consulted my good friend Google and found all kinds of recipes for all of these convenience foods. I actually whipped up the oatmeal packets and breakfast burritos.

Easy Breakfast Burritos
12 eggs
1 pkg ground sausage or bacon
1 bag shredded cheese
The man-sized flour tortillas

I actually made some sausage, some bacon, and some cheese-free. I started out by frying the meat. Then I scrambled in some eggs. Sprinkle cheese over the tortillas. Add the egg mixture and wrap the tortilla tightly. Bake in the oven for a few minutes, just long enough for the burritos to hold their shape. Flash freeze (30 or so minutes) seam side down. Wrap individually in plastic wrap. I was able to fit about 6 in each gallon freezer bag. I labeled with the date, type, and heating instructions. Microwaving on high for 30-60 seconds works for my microwave oven, and covering with a damp paper towel keeps the tortillas soft. They’ve been a total hit. And cheaper than Sonic!

I had *planned* to make granola bars, but ran out of oats.

DIY Instant Oatmeal Packets

snack sized zip bags
2 containers quick oats
1 teaspoon salt
1 – 1½ cups brown sugar
1 cup powdered creamer (I used hazelnut flavor from the Dollar Tree!)

Dump 1 container of oats into a large bowl. Add the other container of oats to a food processor or a blender. Blend until almost powdery, then pour into the large bowl. Stir well. Add the remainjng ingredients to your large bowl. Mix well until everything is combined.

Measure ½ cup of the oatmeal mixture into each snack sized plastic baggie and seal. This is when I added dried bananas, dried blueberries, even gummy fruit snacks. The add-in possibilities are endless!

Prep and microwave just like the store-bought variety.

According to some recipes, powdered milk can be used, but has a tendency to begin to mold (ugh!). I like the flavored creamers from the dollar store anyway.

So at the beginning of school I had thirty breakfast burritos in the freezer and thirty packs of oatmeal. I spent around $15 for everything. Not bad!

What money saving ideas do you have for breakfast?

~ Katie

Posted from WordPress for Android

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{July 30, 2014}   Kitchen Adventures

I’ve been trying for the past few weeks to get my house clean/organized enough to take the annual back to school hit.  I have huge piles of *stuff* for my garage sale this weekend. I have multiple binders started. And, as of this morning, I really needed to go to the grocery.

Monkey #2 ate sweet peas for breakfast.

The 4-legged monkey had spaghetti.

I used a paper towel as a coffee filter.

Hmmm.

So, this morning since the fridge was mostly empty, I took all the shelves and bins out and cleaned them.  Most of the bins fit in the dishwasher. The 3 main shelves, cold cut bin, and crispers went through the kitchen sink. Dawn dish soap is amazing for degunking and defunking all of the spills “Ida Noe” creates in my fridge. The great big bottom shelf that gets so funky? It doesn’t fit anywhere and I thought I might have to clean it on the back deck. Instead, I took it to the  Monkeys’ bath. And realized they don’t have a hosey-shower head anymore. Oops. It worked, though. I love love love baking soda. And vinegar. And a clean fridge.

I’m beyond ready for a freezer session, so I pulled up a few favorite recipes and began planning.  But I knew I was low on ground meat (come on, deer season!) and wouldn’t be going to Albertsons yet (chicken breasts for CHEAP!).

Plan in place, list made, the monkeys and I loaded up, and armed with my coupon binder and reusable bags, headed out to restock some groceries. My grocery list was short and basic – focused around making breakfast ahead. My plan was instant oatmeal packets (we go through a TON of instant oatmeal!), granola bars as a healthier snack option, and breakfast burritos.

3 stores and a hundred dollars later….

My pantry and fridge are restocked.

I forgot cheese for the burritos.

I only had enough oatmeal for my oatmeal packs.

I figured out the blender does a great job of grinding oatmeal. Food processor? Not so much. I’m pretty sure my 30 snack sized baggies of instant oatmeal saved us several dollars. There are a bajillion recipes online, if you check with our good buddy, Google. I modified a recipe to fit what I had and what I wanted (no artificial sweeteners in the House of Cheaptitude!) and actually made 4 or 5 varieties as a test batch. So far, so good, considering Monkey 1 has tried them all. After a few more tweaks, I’ll post the recipe.

Breakfast burritos are also popular in my house, but it hurts my feelings to spend so much money at Sonic, especially when they jack up my order every time. It seemed like an easy enough process. A little time-consuming since people had special requests, but I put together 30 for the freezer. Again, Monkey 1 has been the official taster, and says they’re really good. He says the tortilla gets hard in the microwave but I think a damp paper towel during heating can resolve that. I think bigger shells would have been better, also, but I was taking advantage of a good sale.

And I had enough leftover fruit snacks, etc., for trail mix.

It’s not perfect, but I feel like I accomplished a little bit. With school just a few days away, at least I know everyone will have the option for hot breakfast for a while.

I still need a massive freezer day.

What new things are you trying in the kitchen this summer?

~ Katie

Posted from WordPress for Android



{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

 

 

 



My Grandpa makes the best meatloaf, hands-down.  Hot dogs, too, but that’s another blog.  I don’t know exactly how he does it, but Grandpa’s meatloaf has always been one of my favorite meals to share at their house.  Even if Gram makes me have a no-thank you helping of asparagus (hairy-grass).

I know I’ve asked him before how to make it.  Gram accuses me of calling for recipes and not writing anything down, but honestly, it’s just never the same.  It’s like Christmas fudge, or beer batter pancakes: Grandpa does it the best.

But I believe I must’ve come up with a pretty good version.  Monkey #2, who tends to be a little on the picky side (gets it from her daddy), has been requesting meatloaf sandwiches every day after school this week.

Quick and Easy Meatloaf

    • 1 pound ground meat, thawed (I used venison – it’s what’s on hand!)
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 envelope dry onion soup mix
    • 1 1/2 C bread crumbs (I like the Italian ones – Gramp may do Ritz Crackers!)
    • 2 eggs
    • 1/3 C ketchup (or bbq sauce)
    • 2/3 C water
    • A dash of Italian seasoning

Mix the whole mess together really well.  Form into a loaf shape and place on a flat pan, or use a loaf pan, and cook at 350 for one hour.

I don’t top mine with sauce of any kind.

I would serve with whatever veggies are in season, or at least what’s available at a good price.  Everyone knows how cheap frugal I am!  I love potatoes but rice is a biggie in Louisiana, so maybe rice and brown gravy would be a good side.

I actually have a special meatloaf pan that drains the grease away.  Handy dandy, but I actually didn’t have any grease this last time because I used deer.  Please note, using deer will result in a drier meatloaf.  I think Grandpa usually uses a half and half mixture of burger and venison, or even pork and venison.

For the Freezer:  I would prepare the meatloaf the same way except I’d cook in a muffin tin to create individual servings – ideal for a snacktastic monkey.  This will also cut down on the baking time.  I’ll update when I have that figured out specifically, or if one of my amazing readers figures it out, please let me know!  Allow to cool, then put the individual meatloaf muffins in zip-top sandwich baggies.  All of the baggies can be put in a gallon freezer bag, labeled with re-heating instructions.  I think the microwave for 2 minutes on high would be perfect.  I’d freeze as flat as possible, just because I love my stack of bags in the freezer.

 



My local grocery, Brookshire’s, every few weeks offers what they call “The Real Big Deal.”  Basically, you pay the full price for one thing (a bag of chicken breasts, a brisket, etc.) and they throw in some goodies “for free.”  Unless I will use EVERYTHING in the deal, I usually don’t fool with it.  The deal tends to cost anywhere from $9-13, and that’s a chunk from my $50 budget. I have no use for paper plates or fish sticks.

However.

Last week, “The Real Big Deal” was built around a package of chicken breasts.  Boneless, skinless chicken breasts.

Which is the basis for about 65% of the freezer-to-crockpot recipes I package.

With a $10 package of chicken, Brookshire’s included a bottle of store brand marinade, a package of taco seasoning, a 5 lb. bag of potatoes, a can of baked beans, I think, and I honestly cannot recall what else!  It was good, though.

The potatoes were used with a meatloaf Sunday and a roast on Tuesday.

The beans are in the pantry until Grizzly grills (my birthday is coming up soon!) or Monkey #2 asks sweetly.

The taco seasoning was added to ground meat, which I fried the other day and packaged for the freezer.

With one half of the package of chicken, I put together a crockpot Ranch chicken baggie.  The rest of it stumped me, though.

And why, for my marinade, did I choose teriyaki??  I don’t know if I even like teriyaki.  I honestly didn’t have a recipe for this.  This is a “Cheaptitude is the Mother of Invention” recipe, but I think it’ll be super yummy.  And that $10 I spent on chicken has gotten us through several meals already!

Easy Freezer-to-Crockpot Teriyaki Chicken & Veggies

  • 4-5 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (could probably work with a pound or two of chicken tenders!)
  • 1/2 16 oz. bag frozen cut broccoli
  • 1 bottle store-brand teriyaki marinade

Place the chicken breasts in a 1 gallon zip-top freezer bag.  Add broccoli.  Empty entire bottle of marinade into baggie.  Some of the marinade, like a barbecue sauce, will stick to the sides of the bottle.  Add a little water to the bottle, swish around, and add that liquid, too.  Squish the bag around till all of the contents are mixed up nicely.  Flatten as much as possible, and slide into your freezer till you’re ready.

Labeling:  I added instructions to my baggie, in case Grizzly decides to crockpot, stating to crockpot on low 6-8 hours and serve with rice.

On cook day, if it looks necessary, I might add some chicken broth so there is enough liquid.  I also might add green peas and carrots to the rice.

This recipe is untested, as of yet, but I’m sure it will be fine.  When I googled for teriyaki chicken recipes, I was traumatized at all of the ingredients and work involved.  I’m all about some cooking, but I’m also all about inexpensive and easy. most of this crockpot meal came from a “Real Big Deal” and the rest from my freezer and pantry.

What culinary creations have you come up with lately?  Have you developed any surprisingly good dishes while “making do?”

~ Katie



{December 1, 2012}   Your Friend, Your Freezer

Refrigerator

 

The price of disorganization is high.  You end up with late charges on bills that aren’t paid on time, often leading to higher interest.  You duplicate purchases that you don’t intend.  Your spaces are not used to their fullest potential.

 

I’ve been there.

 

On my journey to the land of cheaptitude, I’ve really started to focus on my home.  If my home is running smoothly, everything else seems to fall in line.  For my home to run smoothly, I need the most bang for my buck.  This includes all of those spaces in my house, my real estate.  Today’s focus is the freezer.

 

My freezers are a vital component to my home.  If one stopped working today, I would find a way to replace it within a few hours because I am so dependent on these spaces.  That being said, it does no good to have freezer space if you don’t have a clue what is in there.  A disorganized freezer, like anything else, is a money-sucking waste of space.

 

My freezers are actually pretty organized.  They haven’t always been, and I understand how easily they can become a hot mess.  If you don’t have a deep-freeze, limited to just your fridge-freezer, you have to be much more conscientious about how you use the space.

 

I remember the days of breast milk bags piled next to hamburger patties.  I’ve come a long way since then.

 

I’ll begin with the set-up on my fridge freezer.  As it is in the house, in the kitchen, and more easily accessible, the only things I keep in it are my freezer-to-crockpot meals, one of each frozen veggie (I try not to buy canned anymore, unless it’s something like kidney beans), and basically anything I might use in the immediate future.  I will not keep more than one package of waffles or pancakes in the freezer in the house.  With the exception of my crockpot meals, I duplicate nothing in this freezer.  First, if it’s easily accessible, it disappears really quickly (ice cream, waffles, yogurt)  Second, I just don’t feel that it maximizes my space.  Any frozen stockpiling is in the deep freeze in the garage.

 

I used to have the most wonderful chest deep-freeze.  I think the reason I prefer that style is because that is what my grandparents always had.  Also, I could get more bang for my buck – space!  When we moved to our new house, we ended up with the fridge-style deep freeze, and I’m not crazy about it.  Most of our meat is game, processed locally, and the ground meat comes in little round packages that don’t stack well.  I have to use baskets on the shelves of the freezer to keep the meat from falling out every time the door opens, and as much as I love baskets/containers/organizing products, I’d prefer just to have my stuff sitting on the shelf.

 

I’m adapting, after 5 years.

 

  • I have dedicated one shelf of the deep freeze to bread and frozen pizza.  My maintenance number for bread is 6, so I keep 2 stacks three high on the top shelf.  My pizzas stand up like books on the rest of the shelf.
  • The next shelf holds a dish pan full of rolls of ground meat.  There are some roasts, back strap, etc. stacked in the small space next to the bin.
  • I keep veggies and other frozen dinners in the shelves in the door.
  • At the bottom of the freezer I keep juice pouches, water bottles, etc.  I do this for 2 reasons.  First, a full freezer runs more efficiently and stays frozen longer in a power outage.  Second, it saves me from buying cold packs for the monkeys’ lunches.

 

I used to use tracking forms, also, and am trying to figure out how to upload them.  With tracking forms, I always knew what was in the freezer, how many I had on hand, and so on.

 

Do you prefer a pretty, empty freezer?  Is that more organized than one that is full?

 

~Katie

 

Freezer Inventory Form

 

 



Last night while DH and our friends watched the Notre Dame game, I cuddled up in my favorite chair with a blank calendar.  After all, how can I suggest menu-planning as a money-saving tip if I don’t practice it myself?  I filled in the calendar (in pencil) with family favorites and some great recipes from a wonderful website I’ve pinned (4 weeks of freezer-to-crock pot recipes and grocery lists – FREE!)  In no time, I had built a menu plan.

After planning my menu, I started putting together my grocery list.  Looking at the list, I figured it would be about $200, which is approximately what I budget, but I had no room left for cleaning supplies or toilet paper.  I justified it by telling myself 1. Most of my cleaning supplies are recipes that don’t cost much, except my Soft Scrub, to which I’m addicted, and 2. some things would last more than the month I’ve planned.

This morning, while DH and the monkeys were in the woods, I perused my Brookshire’s and CVS SmartPhone apps.  CVS has some decent deals, and I missed the good deals at Brookshire’s.  But for my groceries, I would have to go to the grocery store and save CVS (TOILET PAPER) for another day.  I cleaned out my coupon binder, as some coupons are close to expiration and some expired yesterday, and started matching coupons to my list.

Please note – If I find a better deal without the coupon, the coupon gets put away!

My original plan had been to go to the grocery when I first got up this morning, but there was frost on my car and I was feeling lazy, so I watched a movie while I double checked recipes and made breakfast for the hungry hunters.

I finally went to the store at 10:45.  And spent about and hour and a half shopping.  Partly because I love grocery shopping, and partly because I was making such a haul.  By the time it was said and done, I spent $156.21, had $7.65 in coupon savings (bought lots of off-brand today), and $33.61 in store card savings for a total of 23% savings. I did not purchase a pork roast (needed for pulled pork sandwiches) or a ham, both of which were on my list.  This was not a shining coupon day for me.

However.

I bought a lot of things that were not on the list.  DH’s friend Jamie asked me last night to make chili today, and I had nothing but some ground antelope – no beans or seasoning.  There was a sale on yogurt that I had coupons for and the monkeys love.  We didn’t have to have blueberry pancakes, but it gives everyone a change from cereal.  I bought 7 boxes of cereal today, one off-brand, but 6 of them were 3/$6 AND I had a coupon for $1.50 off four.  My Chef Michael’s dog food coupon had expired and the canine kid loves poultry, so I used a good coupon on some canned food that was on sale.  All in all, I had 117 items on my receipt.

The way couponing works best is to match your coupons to your sales and STICK TO THE LIST.  My menu plan is only dinners, and I probably could have done the grocery trip for $60.  But it’s been a while since I’ve been to the store, so I felt like we needed the extras.  And my cereal comfort zone is 12 boxes, which I’m in the process of rebuilding…

After putting up the groceries, I started the chili.I started out with the two alarm kit from the store, but didn’t exactly follow the directions.  This is the way I made it:

  • 1 lb browned ground beef
  • 1 lb ground browned antelope
  • Two Alarm chili kit – follow the directions to begin
  • 2 8 oz. cans of tomato sauce – usually I use my homemade red sauce, but didn’t can any this summer 😦
  • 4 cans chili beans
  • 3 cans kidney beans

I use the biggest pot I have and let it simmer all afternoon.  After DH, Jamie, and Danna all had healthy servings, I filled 3 quart-sized freezer bags.  When I use them later on, I will add some more beans, and maybe some rice.  I can also use one of the packages for chili dogs on a Monday night!

While the chili was cooking, I also made quart packages of chicken and dumplings (2 quarts) and chicken rice casserole (3 quarts) for the crock pot.  I’ll have to add cheese to the chicken and rice when I cook it, and I’ve learned to cook the rice separately or it has the texture of grits.  The quart packages may not work really well in my crock pot, but it’s worth a try.  The recipes I started with from www.sidetrackedsarah.com are just too much for my family.  They fill gallon bags to the brim and I end up with leftovers for days upon days.  Of course, she feeds a family of eight, not four.  So I’ve modified her recipes a little to suit my family.  And her recipes are terribly inexpensive to make, especially if you happen to have plenty of deer, antelope, wild hog, etc. in the freezer.  They take no time to throw together and you just dump them in the crock pot in the morning.  Easy peasy.

Another mess in the kitchen means it was another productive day.  Right?

Do you have any good freezer to crock pot recipes?  We’re having taco soup tomorrow.  And probably Tuesday. And Wednesday….darned gallon bags!

~ Katie

 



et cetera
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