My freezer challenge is DONE!

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After weeks of eating only from my freezer and pantry, I finally went to the grocery store today!

Back at the beginning of January, my freezer looked like this-

Today it looked more like this-

I still have a little bit of food including several bags of pork tenderloin,  but overall it’s pretty empty! We’ve eaten much better than I originally thought and haven’t had any completely random meals.

I’ll also be making a big batch of apple butter and canning it soon with my bags of frozen apple slices.

The Instant Pot has been helpful for several recipes involving frozen chicken. Two of my favorites were a chicken and noodles recipe and a chicken Parmesan casserole- both were really yummy!

I didn’t save as much as I hoped but still came under well under budget. Most of what I bought this month were breakfast and lunch items- we seem to go through those much quicker than meat and dinner items!

Molasses Cookies for the freezer!
Taco Night
Breakfast for Dinner!

Now that my freezer isn’t empty anymore, I’ll be spending time over the next few weeks filling it with precooked ingredients and whole freezer foods! I’m looking forward to sharing some of the recipes soon!

Happy Grocery Shopping Day!

Sausage Freezer Breakfasts

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A few months ago, I read this post over at The Lazy Genius Collective, one of my favorites blogs.  It really made me think about the how, the what, and the why I feed my people what I do in the mornings.  Now, let me issue this disclaimer:  we do NOT sit down for a hot breakfast every day.  I’m way too lazy for that.

What I do have, however, is face to face time with my kids while they eat.  They eat and we chat while I pack lunches, eat my breakfast, and get them ready to walk out the door.  (Because my husband is AWESOME and takes them to school most mornings, this is our time before they head out)

But I’m lazy.  And I like to sleep.  Which can make breakfast a problem if I want my kids to eat at home and not eat Cheerios off the floor every day.

Freezer breakfasts are one of the things that keeps our mornings on schedule and helps me maintain some sanity during the week.  During the school year, I try to keep a decent amount of frozen breakfast items available for school mornings.  On any given school morning, my family generally has the choice of:

  • Pancakes/Waffles
  • Instant oatmeal packets
  • Cereal/Toast
  • Yogurt/Fruit
  • Sausage Muffins
  • Breakfast burrito pouches
  • Muffins (homemade or from a mix- already cooked and frozen)
  • Store bought freezer breakfast items…(I may or may not have a soft spot in my heart for Jimmy Dean pancakes on a stick- don’t judge!)

I had let my breakfast stash get pretty low recently so I used my unexpected snow days the other week to stock up on two of our favorites breakfast items- sausage muffins and breakfast burritos.  I grabbed two pounds of sausage from the grocery store but the rest of the ingredients were straight from my fridge, freezer, or pantry.

Speaking of breakfast burritos, let me jump on my tortilla soapbox for a moment.

I do NOT like frozen burritos.  By the time I nuke them in the microwave to get the inside warm, the tortilla itself is tough and disgusting.  I had always avoided making burritos for the freezer for this reason.  On a random Pinterest search one day, I came across the idea of freezing only the filling and I gave it a shot soon after.  Game changed, people.  Seriously.

Now I only freeze the filling for my burritos and we LOVE eating them for breakfast.

Another breakfast favorite of ours are sausage muffins.  They’re already cooked when frozen and can be warmed up in under of a minute.

So….onto my freezer breakfast cooking session……

I started by browning and draining two pounds of sausage.

Tip: When draining meat, put it in a strainer on top of a bowl. So much less messy and awkward!  Thanks to my fine motor issues from my MS, I have difficulty handling a large skillet when I need to drain or move food from one place to another.  This little hack helps me out so much!

While the sausage cooled, I washed and diced about 7 potatoes.  I boiled them until they were soft and then put them on a baking sheet to cool.  I also scrambled about 8 eggs (roughly one per packet of filling).  Be sure not to overcook the eggs because they’ll also cook a little bit more when you microwave them later. Add a pound (or roughly two cups cooked) of cooked sausage to the potatoes with the eggs in a separate container.  Let it all cool and add seasonings (salt, pepper, etc) to mixture as your tastes prefer.

(Peppers and onions would also be a great addition to the potato mixture, but the people I feed wouldn’t be so happy about that so I leave that out.)

 

While the burrito mixture is cooling, I moved on to my sausage muffins.  This is so simple that it should be a crime.  Really.

Take a pound of the cooked sausage, four beaten eggs, a cup of Bisquick baking mix, and a cup of cheddar cheese and mix it together.  Fill a greased muffin tin with the mixture and cook at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

The End.

See, I told you it was easy!

While my sausage muffins were cooking, I packaged up my burrito pouches.  I added a spoonful of the potato/sausage mixture to a sandwich bag, put a some of the scrambled eggs on top and topped it with a handful of cheese.  I also roll over the top of the bag so the mixture would freeze in a block shape.

My goal was to package the burritos before the timer went off for the sausage muffins and I even had time to clean up the kitchen before taking them out to cool!  Start to finish, I had both of these recipes ready for the freezer in about an hour.

Both recipes are also incredibly easy to reheat.  The burrito filling needs to be removed from the bag and warmed in the microwave for 1-2 minutes and then added to a warm tortilla. (My husband’s burrito secret is to put a tortilla on top of the filling for the last 20 seconds or so in the microwave.)  We also usually add extra cheese and taco sauce to ours. The sausage muffins take around 45 seconds-1 minute to warm depending on the number of them that you’re reheating.

Hopefully, this inspires you to create some freezer breakfast items for your family!  I promise it’s well worth the time and effort on those weekday mornings!

A tale of meatloaf and leftover chicken

This past weekend, I was pretty much out of commission. Other than a Saturday morning trip to urgent care, I pretty much kept myself and my nasty sinus infection contained in the house. My sweet husband cooked and cleaned on Saturday and even cooked another meal of tenderloin from our post- Christmas stash.

By Sunday morning, I was feeling better but not feeling like cooking a big meal yet. In the freezer I found a bag of four mini meat loaves (meatloaf frozen in a muffin tin but uncooked) and four bone-in chicken thighs. Neither was enough for a full meal but I figured we could piece meal (pun intended) together enough for a decent lunch for the four of us. (Even though I really just wanted to text my husband and have him bring home takeout after church!)

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But I resisted the temptation for takeout and pulled out my trusty Instant Pot.

Seriously, I love this thing! I threw the four completely frozen chicken thighs (because I am not feeling well enough to plan ahead) in with a couple of cups of water and cooked on high pressure for 25 minutes. While it was cooking, I took the four muffin tins meatloaves and put them in a greased muffin tin and cooked at 350 degrees for roughly 30 minutes (until cooked through).

So back to my chicken- when it finished in the instant pot, I took it out, shredded it, and added my favorite BBQ sauce and warmed it up in the oven with my meatloaf.

So what did we end up eating for lunch this past Sunday? The shredded chicken was added to slider buns (also from the freezer) for mini BBQ sandwiches for my husband and myself and the girls ate meatloaf with leftover mashed potatoes from the previous night’s tenderloin dinner. Add in some leftover side dishes from the fridge, chips, and fruit and you’ve got yourself a meal!

While it was far from a gourmet meal, it was frugal, from the freezer, and easy to prepare. As I head into this last week or so of my freezer challenge, our meals are going to get a bit more “random” and require more creativity on my part. But when I use my extra grocery money to restock my freezer, it’ll totally be worth it!

Freezer Pancakes

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We had a couple of inches of snow last week and in the south that means one thing- multiple days out of school! (I know you Northerners probably think that’s crazy but alas, it’s true.) So I used my unexpected days out of work to stock my freezer with several easy breakfast foods.

My first (and easiest) freezer food was simply extra pancakes from today’s breakfast. Use whatever pancake recipe you want, double or triple your recipe, and freeze it.

After we ate breakfast and all the extra pancakes had cooled, I put them in a single layer on my favorite baking sheet and flash froze them for about an hour.

After they were frozen just enough, I put them in a gallon sized bag and labeled it. Again, you whatever recipe you want (I usually just make Bisquick pancakes). When you’re ready to eat them, take whatever amount of pancakes you want and reheat in a toaster or microwave.

I also freeze waffles the same way. The key is just to flash freeze them so they won’t stick together when you take them out of the bag. Freezer pancakes are definitely one of our favorite ways to eat a hot breakfast in a hurry,

What are your favorite easy breakfasts?

My Favorite Things- January 2018

January has been a crazy month in our house!  Between sickness and weather school closures/delays, we haven’t had two weeks that were “normal”.  Even in the middle of all the crazy, there have definitely been some things that have kept us happy and sane.  Here’s some current products/apps/random things that I’m loving right now and that are keeping the Ravenscrafts going!

None of these are sponsored (they’re all things I use and love on a weekly basis), but there are some affiliate links below that I may earn a small commission from.

Chick Fil A One App:   

I have a CFA problem. It’s a real addiction.  In fact, I got in my car the other day and this is where Google Maps was predicting I was going.  Note:  I was NOT going there.  Promise.

I’ve loved Chick Fil A for years but right now their app is what’s keeping me coming back so frequently.  I’m earning free treats for ordering and paying from the app AND it reminds me to use my calendar rewards.  And they’re thoughtful, polite, and they bring my food to my table while my kids play.  Win.Win.Win.

Aluminum baking sheets:  A few months ago, I replaced all my cookie sheets with these baking sheets.  I can do everything from roast chicken to bake cookies on these bad boys.

Side story- my mom makes some incredible sausage balls that I frequently will ask her to make for me to take to different occasions where I need an appetizer.  She loved my baking sheets so much that’d she’d make the sausage balls, freeze them, and then come to my house to cook them.  

The pans themselves are great but I also have one of these cooking mats for each pan.  It helps with cleanup and is perfect for baking cookies.

Weighted Blanket:

I got a weighted blanket for Christmas and it has been just as great as I hoped for!  I have some fairly significant nerve pain in my arms and legs and the weighted blanket has helped out so much!  As a special ed teacher, this is something I’ve used many times with children with autism but I’d recently also been reading about the benefits for those with multiple sclerosis.  It’s something I’d also recommend for those with restless legs or anxiety.  While they’re certainly not inexpensive, they’re so worth it!

Pork Tenderloin: My in-laws made A LOT of canned pork tenderloin for Christmas gifts and Bobby and I received not only some canned tenderloin but several bags of sliced frozen pork tenderloin.  Breaded tenderloin sandwiches are one of Bobby’s favorite foods and are much more common at mid-western restaurants.  We breaded and fried our first package of tenderloin from the freezer and it was great!  We’re excited to try out different cooking methods with the remaining tenderloin as we keep going on our freezer and pantry challenge!

Boogie Boards:

I mentioned these boogie boards the other week but I really can’t say enough great things about them.  We were out at a restaurant and my girls were drawing on them and even the waitress couldn’t get over how great they were! (And the girls were thrilled to show her how they worked!) 🙂

They’re not a tablet but a LCD screen e-writer with a stylus that erases with the touch of a button.  I also bought my girls a neoprene sleeve and an extra stylus, and I’m happy that I did.  While I originally bought them for our Christmas road trip, the boards have stayed in my purse and are being used on a daily basis.

That’s all my favorite things for today-what do you use and love right now?

Freezer Challenge Update #2

For the last few days, we’ve been focused on eating exclusively from the pantry and freezer stash.  While I definitely got off to a rough start with it, we’ve eaten at home the last two nights. Here’s the scoop on what’s been on our table the last few days.

Thursday- Breaded Pork Tenderloin

Y’all- this was SO good!  My in-laws made a huge batch of canned tenderloin as Christmas gifts and we scored some canned tenderloin as well as several bags of sliced frozen tenderloin.  We thawed a package of the sliced tenderloin, breaded it with flour and egg, fried in a cast iron skillet, and made gravy with the drippings.  And when I saw we,  I mean my husband because he is the official gravy maker in our house.  I have zero skill in this area.  ZERO.

Friday- Taco Soup with chicken

This recipe used up the last of my cooked and shredded chicken (which was the oldest food in the freezer and needed to be used up).  What I love about this recipe is that’s it’s a “dump in the slow cooker and forget about it” recipe.  I just put the ingredients below into my slow cooker this morning and didn’t think about it again until dinner time. Win!

Not pictured: packet of ranch dressing seasonings.

Slowly but surely we’re plugging through our freezer stash.  My goal is to eat dinner next week using only freezer and pantry items and buy as few lunch and breakfast items as possible.  That should free up a decent amount of my grocery budget to restock the freezer over the next few weeks.  I have about 8 possible meal ideas ready for next week- hopefully I’ll stay on track this time! 🙂