SoBo Mama's Tips & Tricks











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.

 

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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

 



{November 23, 2012}   Meal Planning
A delicious-looking meal

A delicious-looking meal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My best friend of about 30 years has massive OCD.  She calls it something else.  Her doctor calls it something else.  I call it OCD.

I like to organize, and I know that disorganization is costly, but I’m not obsessed to the point my BFF is.

Her to-do lists have to-do lists.

At one point when she and I were attempting to get on track, she told me about her family’s meal planning adventures.  I remember she had themes each night – “Toothpick Tuesday” scared me.  I had visions of one of the monkeys being stabbed.

I do not sit down with a calendar and plan out our meals.  My kids (the monkeys) are 8 and 12 and can fix toast or cereal for breakfast.  They eat school lunches, I pack  a PB sandwich each day, and I honestly have no clue what my DH (dear husband) does for lunch.  I believe he eats a lot of convenience store cuisine….Not healthy, but I can’t really fix it if he won’t meet me halfway.

Dinner is a different story.  I could sit down and plan it out, but I really don’t.  I have a general idea of what we’ll do each night and it’s based on our crazy schedules.

  • Monday – either the crock pot or something super quick and easy.  I have faculty and department meetings on Monday afternoons.  DH has pool Monday evenings.  Dinner has to be ready almost as soon as we walk in.
  • Tuesday – tacos, spaghetti, etc.  I have a little more time Tuesdays.  Monkey 1 goes to the math tutor while Monkey 2 is at Running Club, so it’s close to 4 when we get home.
  • Wednesday – if DH is home, it’s usually a grill night.  I’ve had monster hot dog cravings lately, but the only way I’ll eat them is off the grill or from a New Orleans street vendor.  Monkey 1 has our church’s version of Sunday School on Wednesdays and he eats there, so it’s just the three of us.  If we’re not grilling, it’s a frozen pizza night.
  • Thursday – Monkey 1 is again at tutoring and at this point in the week, we’re definitely on a crock pot meal.  I’m exhausted by Thursday.  But I try to keep freezer-to-crockpot meals on hand so I can throw something in the crock pot on my way out the door and it’s ready when we get home.
  • Friday – DH has pool again, so we usually go eat somewhere.
  • Saturday – we grill or I cook.  Many times, our friends down the street are grilling and we go eat with them.
  • Sunday – the monkeys are with my mother-in-law most Sundays.  DH is usually with his friends watching football or he’s hunting in the woods, so Sunday is a grab and go kind of day filled with leftovers.

Would it make more sense to actually plan meals ahead?  Of course it would.  Would it save me a bunch of money?  Of course it would.  Have I gotten to that point yet?  Maybe.

If you google Once A Month Cooking, Freezer Cooking, and Meal Planning, you’ll find all kinds of websites trying to sell you memberships for their meal-planning services.  It’s up to you how you spend your money, but I’m not buying a service when I have the resources I need in my kitchen.  Except an operational oven, which is a whole other blog post.

If I were scheduling meals out, I would start by taking inventory of my pantry and cold storage.  I could probably do a lot with what I already have.  Then I would go through my recipes, pull a few favorites, and build a list based on what I need to make those things.  I’d double my batches so I can freeze some meals.  And while I poke fun at Beca’s theme night meal planning, she always knew what they’d be having.  Just like every Wednesday I could plug-in frozen pizza.  Thursday is a crock pot meal.  Monday probably is , too.

Meal planning is a lot less intimidating now that I look at it in black and white.  I can combine my menu plan with my coupons.  And planning ahead saves money, so why not try it?

So maybe meal planning is the next step in my pursuit of ultimate cheaptitude.  Pinterest and Google are fabulous resources for this type of things – be sure to check them out.  I’ll let you know how my meal planning goes.  You let me know what you find!
~ Katie



et cetera
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