SoBo Mama's Tips & Tricks

By request of Georgina 🙂

Sometimes I just can’t find a recipe that exactly fits whatever it is I’m craving, or happen to have on hand.  That’s when some of my favorite concoctions are born. Sometimes they backfire, but this was yummy and filling.

Sausage & Potato casserole
1 package smoked sausage ( I always do beef)
1 bag frozen skillet potatoes
2 cans cream of whatever (I use potato) soup

Slice and brown the sausage.  Dump all of it in a labeled freezer bag.  On cooking day, dump the concoction in the crockpot with 1/2 cup of milk.  I also add a bag of shredded cheese – I really like cheese.  I’m sure sour cream or Greek yogurt would only make it better. Crockpot on low 6-8 hours.

If you try it, let me know what you think!

~ Katie

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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.


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

Flickr cmartin82 3177455386--BBQ bacon cheddar...

Flickr cmartin82 3177455386–BBQ bacon cheddar burger (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Avoiding the grocery as I’ve been lately, I’ve not really stuck with my menu plan.  WHich stinks, because my menu plan works really well when properly implemented.  And it totally messed me up on Wednesday at dinner time.

Once upon a time, I’d have just ordered pizza.

Instead, I started scrounging through cabinets and freezers, trying to come up with something for dinner before the boys got home from karate.  Out of milk meant no Hamburger Helper.  We’d already done a taco-type dish on Tuesday, and spaghetti Monday.  What else is quick and easy?

This is what I ended up with:

Bacon Cheeseburger Macaroni (aka The Cheaptitude Pantry is Bare)

When I browned my ground beef, I added a little Tony Chachere’s seasoning.  I could probably eat Tony’s on my cereal!  Love it.  I also used some Chicago-style steak seasoning.  Once the meat was almost completely browned, I added the package of bacon pieces.

I prepared the macaroni by the directions on the box with a few exceptions.  I add garlic salt to my water to bring it to a boil more quickly.  I also add a touch of olive oil so my pasta doesn’t stick together.

When all of that was done, I combined the meat and pasta in a pot with the butter and sour cream.  Then I stirred in the cheese.

It’s not Grandma Betty’s Mac & Cheese, but it will sustain life.  Grizzly had seconds, and I don’t think it was because he was totally starving.

Necessity is the mother of invention!  What is your favorite throw-it-together meal?

~ Katie


{February 18, 2013}   Recipe: Homemade Furniture Polish

Recipes (Photo credit: pirate johnny)

Olive oil – it’s not just for cooking in my house!

With so many amazing recipes for homemade, greener cleaners on the internet, it truly hurts my feelings to pay money for store-bought furniture polish.  Not that I’m so green, I’m just that cheap.  And I don’t like the gummy, gunky build-up.  So here is the recipe for furniture polish I’ve started using:

Homemade Furniture Polish Recipe

Mix in a sprayer bottle:

This seems like a small amount.  However, if you make a larger batch and don’t use it up right away, it gets funky floaties.  It’s gross, and your Queen of Cheaptitude threw away a perfectly cleanable spray bottle full of olive oil, lemon juice, and floaties.  It was yucky.

Sidenote: Label your spray bottle very clearly so your wonderful hubby doesn’t think it’s one of his grilling concoctions.

Do not spray directly on the furniture.  I shake the bottle really well and apply a small amount to a microfiber cleaning rag (or a repurposed t-shirt/sock/pair of drawers.) Using the rag, spread the mixture evenly over your furniture surface – a little goes a long way. Then use the dry side of your cloth to polish the surface out.

Avoid glass areas.  It’s a pain to clean off glass.

I already had all of the ingredients for this recipe in my pantry.  I even had the spray bottle, from a long ago trip to the Dollar Tree. I won’t be using my pricier, imported extra virgin olive oil for dusting in the future. (Does my coffee table care if the cleaning product has been deflowered? Just sayin’.)  The lemon juice is just store-brand.

Not that I’ve ever been much of a duster, but I’m not noticing as much dust on my furniture these days.  It’s a nice side effect!

Do you use a homemade cleaner for dusting?  What is your recipe?

~ Katie

No lie, I’m craving comfort foods these days.  If I don’t watch it, my clothes will fit again!  Last weekend, my DH invited friends over to grill, but being a manly man, didn’t think twice about a side dish, so I decided I would indulge in some comfort food.  So Monkey 2 and I got out the computer, dug through some recipes, and got out the handy-dandy crockpot.

I’ve been googling recipes for potato soups a lot lately, particularly crockpot ones using hashbrowns.  Well, the recipe we came up with took some bits from here, dabs from there, and turned out a delicious concoction!  And I think it cost less than $5 to make, served 6 people  and there were leftovers!

1 – 26 – 32 ounce bag frozen southern style hash browns (I used cubed)
1 – cup unflavored yogurt
1 – 10.5 oz can cream of chicken soup
1/4 – cup onion, chopped fine
2 – cups shredded cheddar cheese (it was one package from my grocery!)
1/2 – cup butter, melted
salt and pepper, to taste (about 1/4 teaspoon each)

In a large bowl stir together the spices, yogurt, onion, shredded cheese and melted butter. Mix to combine. Spray your slow cooker with nonstick spray.  Open your hashbrowns and empty into the crockpot.  Spoon the combined ingredients into the crock on top of the potatoes and combine.  Cover and cook on high for 3-4 hours or until done. On the sides, you may find it crispy and the casserole will bubble – YUM!

I also had a slice of bacon that I cut up and put in the casserole.  The only problem is that it was maple-flavored and sweetened my casserole dramatically.

Do you have a comfort food that’s particularly appealing right now?

~ Katie

{November 23, 2012}   Making Do With What You Have

a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, top slice ...

I don’t know too many kids who don’t like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  With droughts, salmonella outbreaks, flooding, freezes, etc., the price of peanut butter in my local grocery has gone up almost two dollars a jar in the past year, and jelly is steadily increasing.

Thankfully, my Rhonda Belle thinks ahead.  2 years ago for Christmas, she and Papa Mac gave me a Ball Canning Starter Kit.  She wants me to be more self-sufficient.  I started out with red sauce and moved on to a variety of apple products.  Rhonda Belle’s friend “Mother Earth” has been an invaluable resource as I’ve been learning to can.  Not only does canning save me money, but this way I know what is in the products in my pantry.  I definitely prefer chemical-free, preservative-free foods in my pantry.

Part of being self-sufficient is making do with what you’ve got.  And I am running low on jelly.  Thankfully, one of my sweet 8th graders and his mama gave me a pretty container full of Satsumas (thank you, Jamie, for the identification!) and I realized there was a good chance they’d spoil before the monkeys ate them all.

Using my handy-dandy Pampered Chef citrus juicer (not the best option, as much as I love a Pampered Chef gadget!), I spent over an hour on Monday juicing and straining my little orangey friends.  They are chock-full of seeds, which I have saved to replant at some point.  And I put the juice in the fridge till I knew what I’d do with it.

Motivation visited me today.  I ran jelly jars through the dishwasher and got myself together.  I found a recipe online, got my supplies situated, and got to work.  This is the recipe I used:

Easy Satsuma Jelly

  • 4 cups Satsuma juice
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 5 cups sugar – I’m going to try to decrease the sugar next time
  • 1 package Sure Jell

Combine your juices in a pot.  Slowly add the Sure Jell, stirring constantly.  Bring it to a rolling boil.  Boil for one minute, continuing to stir.  After one minute, add the sugar and bring it back to a boil.  Again, boil one minute and then remove from the heat.  Fill your jars and process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes.

Easy peasy!  I already had most products on hand, so I spent no extra money on this project.  The jars I use again and again.  The orangey things were a gift.   The pectin I purchase by the jar, and actually got it free at Kroger with a coupon.  Sugar was under $2 for a 4 pound bag.  I’m not a math person, but I think I’m under $1/jar.

And I love all of those pretty jars lined up in my pantry.

I still have blueberries in the freezer from a berry picking trip in June.  I’m thinking blueberry champagne (still got a bottle from New Year‘s!) jelly.  What do you think?

If you’re new to canning, I highly recommend the Ball Canning Discovery kit, or the Ball Fresh Preserving Kit.  Also, The Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving is great for beginners.  Follow the recipes or you’ll have a bit of a mess on your hands.  I’ve had to remake a few batches of jelly because I used recipes that looked great online but didn’t work out.

I’d love to hear your experiences!

~ Katie

et cetera
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