Freezer Cooking: Meatloaf & Precooked Chicken

I did a little freezer “cooking” a few weeks ago.  I made up a few meatloaves for the freezer, as well as one for dinner.  It really is easy to make extra (double, triple, etc.) of something that you’re already going to make anyway.  It takes very little extra time, and the bonus is that you have meals already prepped & ready to go in the freezer.  All that really needs to be done is to pull it out the evening/night before & let it thaw in the refrigerator overnight, and then it’s ready to go the next day.  This goes for any meal, whether you need to cook in the slow cooker, bake in the over, cook on the stove top, or grill.  This particular day, I was planning meatloaf, so I planned to make extra.  Here’s what I bought/used:

  • 5 lb ground beef
  • 5 cups old fashioned rolled oats
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, shredded
  • 1 medium zucchini, shredded
  • 8 oz baby bella mushrooms, chopped
  • 10 slices bacon, cooked crisp
  • 2 packets onion soup mix
  • seasonings to taste ( this time, I used smoked paprika, roasted garlic powder, onion powder, salt, & pepper)
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups BBQ sauce

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Mix everything together very well & divide into gallon freezer bags.

At this point, you can either shape it into a loaf or you can flatten it in the bag & freeze.  I like to flatten it out when I’m freezing it for a couple of reasons:  (1) It takes up less space in my freezer & (2) it takes a lot less time to thaw out because it’s not a large mass.   I use my rolling pill to lightly press it flat in the freezer bag, which also helps me to get out as much air as possible.

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The above ingredients netted me 4 meatloaves at 2.22 lbs each with 3 cups of extra veggies that I will use to make some more meatloaves.  The veggies were divided into 2 quart bags & placed in the freezer along with 3 of the meatloaves.

I also wrote the cooking instructions on the bag so that anyone in my family can prepare this meal.  To cook your meatloaf in the slow cooker:  Shape & place your meatloaf in a foil-lined slow cooker & cook on high for 4 hours, or on low for 6-8 hours, depending on your slow cooker.  Top with BBQ sauce in the last 30 minutes or so.

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This meatloaf is enough to feed my family of 5 for 1 meal.  There may or may not be leftovers.  It will depend on what sides we have & how hungry everyone is.

 

 

 

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I had also purchased a whole cut up chicken & 2 packages of split chicken breasts that were marked down, so I placed all of that in the slow cooker the night before with about 1 cup of water.  I deboned & shredded all of this meat & will divide it up into meal-size portions for the freezer to help make last minute meals go much quicker.  This really helps to cut down my cooking/baking time since the meat is already cooked & ready to go.  I leave out any seasonings so that I can season it up as I go, depending on what dishes I am making.

I also try to keep precooked ground beef on hand, but that’s a post for another day!

I hope you have enjoyed this post, & that it helps you make your meal planning, dinner preparations go a little more quickly & smoothly!

Thinking and Pondering

20130718_202339  I think I’ve still been reeling from the major changes that my family have recently gone through.  Prayers are still needed in this area, please.  Things have not changed.  We miss our daughter desperately & continue to pray that God will use whatever means necessary to open her eyes to her situation & her heart to Him.

I started to post earlier today and thought, “I really don’t have anything to say.”   Then, while I was checking in with a couple of the groups that I’m part of on FB, I started thinking about frugal living and all the things that a lot of us do on a regular basis that we might not really even think about any more.  We also tend to forget that there are others out there that are still learning (whether by choice or by necessity) ways to save money & help their families.  So, I thought that I would share some of the ones that I do on a regular basis, as well as some that I’ve become very lax in for the  last few months.

Some of the frugal things I try do regularly:

  • Keeping the heat turned down a bit in the winter time & layering up/using blankets. (By keeping the heat down, I mean keeping it between 66 – 68*.  If you’re still cold, put on another layer or grab a quilt/blanket.)  Now that it’s warming up, the heat is not needed, so the doors & windows will be opened.  The AC units will only be put in when absolutely necessary, and only used when absolutely necessary!  We have a whole house fan, so this helps us to be able to push this off until mid June, usually.
  • Cook meals at home, making enough for lunch the next day, when possible
  • Try to use up leftovers
  • Try to keep an eye on the fruits/veggies in the fridges to try to use up things before they go bad
  • Cut open toothpaste tubes when we are unable to “squeeze” any more out.  You would not BELIEVE how much is still left in those tubes!   I also cut open lotion containers/tubes & scrape the remnants into a small container to be used up.

Frugal things that I really need to get back into the habit of doing more regularly:

  • Keep a better eye on the contents of the refrigerators
  • Cook more meals from home (I’ve allowed my schedule to dictate whether we end up grabbing fast food instead of my dictating my schedule & making sure that I have something quick & easy to fix or throw in the Crock Pot before leaving for the day.
  • Can more foods on a regular basis (whether it be foods that require pressure/water bath canning or dry canning, or even vacuum-sealing foods).
  • Now that the weather is turning nice again, I need to get back to hanging ALL laundry out to dry

Here is a list of some frugal activities that I need to complete:

  • Finish making my cloth napkins that are already cut out & ready to be sewn together
  • Go through each room of our home & purge
  • Get the garden ready for planting

I know that there’s more, but this is what’s coming to mind.  One thing that I plan to try to accomplish VERY soon is to can more beans.  We are almost completely out of my canned beans.  This is not a hard job, it’s just very time consuming.  And, I haven’t had enough time to accomplish this from start to finish.

I’d love for you to share some of your favorite frugal activities in the comments with me!  Let’s share & help each other possibly learn new frugal ways!

How I Get the Most Out of Swagbucks

Swagbucks2  I have been a member of Swagbucks for many years, but have only recently (like, in the last few months), finally figured out how to really earn Swagbucks AND  meet my daily goal (set by Swagbucks each day).  For a while, their daily goals were just too high and it was just too hard to really get any Swagbucks each day, so it would take me quite a while to be able to earn a $5 Amazon GC, which was the best deal that they had.  I remember getting very frustrated some days, and I really just did not do a whole lot with them because of that.

When they did their latest revamp a little while back, it became quite a bit easier to earn Swagbucks, thus enabling me to earn more GCs!  I will be honest in saying that I still did not take full advantage of earning them like I could for a while, but, for the last several months, I’ve been able to meet the maximum $5 Amazon GCs that I could earn a month (a total of 5) and still have Swagbucks left to spend!

But, I’ve recently figured out quite a few more tips & tricks that I would like to share with you so that you, too, can make the most of your time and earnings.

Here’s how I manage an average of 100 Swagbucks per day (it does vary a bit – sometimes more, sometimes less):

The easiest 5 Swagbucks you can earn each day are from your “To Do List,”  which is located on the left hand side of the screen:

* DailyCrave (opens in a new window & has 2 short videos for you to like/dislike & then awards you 1 SB)

*Swagbutton (Download & use the Swagbucks toolbar for 1 SB – the toolbar also alerts you to active Swag Codes!)

*Daily Poll (Give your opinion on the daily poll for 1 SB)

*NOSO offers (Click through the ads to the end to earn 2 SB)

*SB Search Engine:  Do at least 3 searches a day – one in the morning,  one in the afternoon, and one in the evening.  You will usually earn SBs in at least 2 out of the 3 searches. (Make sure that you have Swagbucks set as your default search engine.  If you are not using the SB search engine for your searches, you are wasting your time)

*Games:  You can earn 2SB for every two days you play with a maximum of 10 SB per day.  As a busy, homeschooling mom, I do not have time to sit & play games all day, but I can play a few quick games of Swagarsaurus Run or Swag Jump.  These two take very little time & can be done throughout the day.  Just remember 10 games equals 10 SB (2 Sb for every 2 games played, not 1 SB after every game).

*Surveys:  These are very hit & miss.  I do not qualify every day, but I seem to have better luck with the Gold Surveys.  These can easily be located in the top left corner after  participating in the Daily Poll.  Even if you do not qualify, you can get a maximum of 5 SB for not qualifying for 5 surveys.  So, this is hit or miss, but I have had fairly decent luck the last couple of weeks with these.  (I do seem to have more luck qualifying for surveys early in the morning.)

There are also Profile questions that can be found on the right hand side of the survey page, but these questions are definitely random.  When you see them, answer them & begin to fill up the meter for a chance at more SB (10 SB, I think, when it’s  full).

*Main Page: On the main (home) Swagbucks page, there are many opportunities to earn more SB.  My favorites for this are: Take a Discovery Break (JunGroup) (2 SB), nGage (2 SB), and Earn 2 Swag Bucks  (earn 1 – 2 SB easily by interacting with their ads). These can be done multiple times throughout the day, and they really help to rack up SB.  But, know that they do not work well on iPads.

There are also several other click through ads on the main SB page that will give you 1 SB when you complete the required activity.  Most only take a few seconds to complete.

*Swagbucks Videos:  Fill the SB TV meter for a chance to win a maximum of 150 SB per day!  You can only watch each video once per day.

If you have an iPad, they have a SBTV mobile app that allows you earn up to 30 SB perday!  I’ve found that by downloading the SB mobile App & allowing videos to autoplay, I can earn these fairly effortlessly.  (I have done this & left it to play while I go about my daily routines, or even when I’m getting ready for bed at night.) Some of the videos I’ve enjoyed, some are not my cup of tea, but I play them anyway.  (Anything that is not family-friendly is not played in my home, but I’ve not really had an issue with SB, so I don’t think that this will be an issue for anyone.)

*Coupons:  Swagbucks has links to print of coupons.  You do earn SB just for printing off coupons (usually 10 SB for printing off a minimum of 10 coupons), but you can also earn SB by actually using them, so I try to only print off coupons that I know I or my family/friends need/will use.  It does take a few weeks for these SB to be credited to your account, but I’ve never had any issues with them.

*Shopping:  Swagbucks has a many links to online retailers that, if you go through them, you can earn so many SB per dollar spent at that particular site.  For example, if you were to need printer ink, make sure to click on the Staples link to earn 5 SB per dollar spent!  It does take a few weeks for these SB to be credited to your account, but I’ve never had any issues with them.

I have also used SB when booking a hotel stay.  I managed to rack up several SB that way!  If you’re going to be shopping online, you might as well earn something for your time and money spent, right?

Yes, these activities do take a little time, but you can work on them throughout the day when you are already on the computer.  The only thing that you need to be mindful of are the searches.  Make sure that you do one early in the morning, one sometime after lunch to mid afternoon, and another in the late evening before going to bed.  I do not always earn SB at each search time, but the majority of the time, I do.

Also, if you meet the minimum daily goal that they set for you each day, you will get bonus Swagbucks at the beginning of the next month, up to 300 SB!! This really helps towards earning your next GC.  So, it really does pay to try to at least meet the minimum daily goal each day.  I do have a goal that I set for myself each day, but I also know that some days, the minimum is the best that I can do.

These are the ways that manage to earn my SB, and how I managed to earn enough for a $25 Amazon GC this month (2200 SB)! I used to always cash them in for the $5 Amazon GC (450 SB each), up to 5 per month), but they recently increased the amount to 500 Sb per $5 Amazon GC.  AND, this month, they have the $25 Amazon GC marked down to 2200 SB, which is the better deal, so that’s what I saved up for!

One other tip that I have is, if you are on Facebook, make sure to “Like” the Swagbucks Facebook Page.  Here, you can find out the latest news, codes, etc.

I hope these ways will help you earn more Swagbucks.  After all, if you’re going to be searching online anyway, you might as well try to earn a little something for  your time, right?

Swagbucks1  If you haven’t join Swagbucks already but would like to, please consider using my referral link.  If you sign up through my referral link, yes will earn Swagbucks when you earn them, but so will your friends that sign up under you!  That’s the beauty of Swagbucks.  It’s a win-win for all!

If you have any questions that I have not answered here, please feel free to leave them in the comments and I will try my best to answer them for you!

What to do with 30 bunches of organic celery?

Last month, Azure Standard had a box of organic celery on sale for $11.25 ($12.21 w/tax).  Each box was guaranteed to contain at least 30 bunches of celery, which is what I received.  So, each bunch of Organic celery cost me $0.41/each.  So, what did I do with ALL. THAT. CELERY?

Well,  I started by chopping it up.  I had two bowls full.  Each bowl contained 15 bunches of chopped up celery.

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1 of 2 bowls full of organic chopped celery (15 bunches).

Then, I loaded them onto my Excalibur Dehyrator trays and dehydrated them! I filled my dehydrator twice and turned two huge bowl fulls into this:

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Two half gallon canning jars full of dehydrated celery!  I will end up grinding some of this up into a powder to go into my vegetable powder mix that I keep on hand, but I will leave most of it as is for now.  It will be used soups & stews in the coming months, especially in the winter.  While celery is easily accessible all year long and not overly expensive (usually running around $0.97 to $1.30/bunch), buying organic can cost even more.  But, at $0.41/bunch, I now have plenty on hand whenever I need some for a dish.

How to Repurpose A Lard Bucket, otherwise known as “My New Egg Bucket”

I had an empty lard bucket that I wanted to do something with, and then I had a brilliant idea!

All you need is:

Krylon Paint for plastics (I used black and red)

An empty bucket

A few stick-on letters

A little time!

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Start by removing the lid and handle from the bucket.

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Next, give it a good washing in hot soapy water.  You’ll probably need to wash it a few times.  Once it’s nice and clean, allow to completely dry.

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Take outside and spray paint desired color.  You will probably need to paint a darker bottom to hide all the colored inks in the bucket itself.  I used black as the bottom coat on mine.  I also painted my lid and handle black.   Once dry, I placed the letters where I wanted them & began painting my second color.  I painted both the inside & outside of my bucket red.

Once it was completely dry, I brought it inside & reattached the handle.

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I also made this little “cushion” to go in the bottom of the bucket to keep the eggs from making contact with bottom of the bucket – hopefully to keep down on any “accidental” cracking of the eggs.

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Voila!  My new egg bucket! I love it!

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I may just have to make a few more of these as I come across empty buckets!

 

This post is linked to:

Heritage Homesteaders

My Next Adventure…..

It really does help to know your meat processor! Or, in our case, his son!  He has been such a blessing to us, and he’s a wealth of information!  When we began discussing having a cow processed last fall, we found out that most people do not save the soup bones, liver, heart, tongue, or suet from their cows.  If you ask, he will save the soup bones & suet for you – FREE!  How amazing is that?!  (He will also save the lard from pigs when they get them in!)

I recently put in a request for some lard/suet, and yesterday, I picked up 3 boxes full of suet (beef fat)!

Beef fat!

Beef fat – 2 of the 3 boxes I picked up!

Here, you can see what it looks like!  Isn’t it beautiful?!  I can’t wait to render it down into tallow very soon.

Frozen Beef Fat (Suet)

Frozen Beef Fat (Suet)

*A tip we received from his son (my sweet husband works with him) is to save some of the best suet & keep it in the freezer.  When we want to make hamburgers, pull it out and & grate some over the top of of the ground beef!  That is an awesome idea!  This keeps the lean hamburger meat from falling apart on the grill.

If you’ve ever had hamburgers fall apart while grilling them, it’s probably because they did not have enough fat in them to hold them together.  Some fat is okay for you.  There is no reason to cut it all out of your diet.  Your body needs some healthy fats and, believe it or not, lard & tallow are good fats – just like butter!  Yes, you can have too much of a good thing.  Moderation is the key!

Stay tuned for my new adventure into rendering tallow!  Blog post coming as soon as I get a chance to get this done.

This post has been linked to:

Heritage Homesteaders

Chicken Chick Blog Hop

Homestead Blog Hop

Oak Hill Homestead

Frugal Happenings – Week of: 03/09 – 03/15

I’m not going to give a day-by-day breakdown this time because I did not keep up with it this week. We were just too busy!

I can honestly say that this week has not been the most frugal.  Between needing to buy the necessary materials to get the lawnmower ready, buying the necessary items to clean the main coop, buying the chicks, all the chicken feed, etc. it’s been a pretty spendy week.  But, it’s nice to know that we can do so much ourselves.

By doing the necessary lawnmower  repairs & fluid changes ourselves, it not only saves us money now, but it saves us money in the long run by keeping the mower in good condition.

I’m praying that the dozen chicks we bought will yield several pullets, which in turns means more layers & more eggs!

By cleaning the coop, it helps to ensure healthy, happy chickens!

I was given 4 roosters that were a little over a  year old.  We brought them home Tuesday evening & then took them out on Wednesday. These were free food for my family.  I chose to can these up & make stock with them.  For the stock, I used veggie peels/scraps that I had saved in the freezer to add more flavor to stock.

While I had my canner out, I also canned up an assortment of dried beans!  I haven’t done this in quite some time, so it will be nice to have these on hand when I need to fix a quick dinner.  I’d like to do some more in the future as time allows.

This week, I ended up canning:

7 quarts chicken from the 4 chickens

26 quarts of beans

2 pints of chicken that I removed from the bones I used for chicken stock

12 quarts chicken stock

I still need to make beef stock, but it’ll have to wait until I have an open day – probably another weekend!