To-do List Stress

I’ve been reading a lot the past couple weeks about de-stressing your lives by saying no to more things and having a hyper-organized day.  I’ll be honest, saying “no” to outings, projects, and other optional work has never been my problem.  My problem is that I’m a procrastinator by nature.  I can only get ahead when I can justify that the extra work I do now will save me hours in the future.  I have a to-do list posted in my kitchen and have only a few things crossed off of it this month.  These things are important and need to be done but I’m having a hard time finding the time to do them.  Between enjoying my (limited) time away from work and spending some quality time with my daughter, I tend to push off the list in favor of ‘me-time’ and other leisure activities during her 1 – 2 hour nap.  I feel like I get very little done.

On the list:

Finding new doctors – I have the hardest time picking doctors, in the past the ones that I pick wind up being terrible.  Normally I find new doctors when I have to make a hospital visit and get referred to a specialist from the ER doctor.

Applying to more jobs – I thought for sure I would have a great job by now.  I gave myself a month to get a job and its been two.  I want to get paid what I’m worth and also do meaningful work that isn’t boring.  Of course replace the word boring with “offers me challenges” for interview speak.  I interview great!  I know this because most of the jobs that have had me come in for interviews offer me the position!  Right now it seems like part of my problem is getting in that process.  It might be time to work on the resume.

All the homemaker stuff – I tend to avoid doing things when my tornado of a daughter is playing because I know that as soon as I start doing something in the she will want to be held and watch what I’m doing.  I can put her in the highchair to watch me but that only buys me about 20 minutes.  I need to find more motivation to work in some of the day to day stuff into fun time with baby.

Maintaining the me time – It is so much easier for me to stick to a to-do list when I’m at work.  I have 8 hours that I’m being paid to do certain tasks, so I just do them.  What else am I going to do?  At home its a completely different story.  I’m awake for roughly 14 hours per day, and my daughter is awake normally 10 hours during the day.  So this gives me 4 hours of time to take care of things baby free.  I normally take at least 2 of those hours after she goes to sleep to decompress and do something that is fun or relaxing or just go to sleep early.  I function best on 9 or 10 hours of sleep.  I wish I could be one of those people that happily functions on 6 hours per night, but I would be a miserable human being.

I’ve gotten a great routine down for all of the craziness that is motherhood.  No I do not keep a schedule or list for these activities – I just do them.

  • 7a – Wake, answer emails, browse the net, drink coffee
  • 8a – Baby girl wakes up, we both get dressed and then eat breakfast
  • 9a – We play and I make a plan for getting out of the house (but really I’m just waiting for her to poop before we go anywhere)
  • 10a – Go out for a walk, shopping, playground, or YMCA
  • 11a – Snack for baby
  • 12:30p – Back home and play a bit more
  • 1p – Lunch for both me and baby
  • 2p – Nap for baby and normally I’m glued to my computer for 2 hours for either work and sometimes the occasional guilty internet pleasures: blogs to read or video games to play.
  • 4p or 5p – Wake from nap, snack and more playing
  • 6p or 6:30p – Prepare dinner
  • 7p – Husband gets home, we eat dinner
  • 8p – Clean up kitchen, clean up living room, bath and bedtime routine (honestly my husband has been doing most of this lately while I run around trying to fold laundry I forgot about or other things I should have gotten done earlier)
  • 8:30p – Leisure time – no chores are done after baby is in bed
  • 10p – Bedtime for mommy

As you can see this mostly revolves around eating, sleeping and playing.   I do buckle down at least 1 or 2 days during the week and keep it all business and on those days I do get a lot done.  But the rest of those days I feel guilty that I don’t cross more things off the list.  I know this is a normal feeling and that every one will have their own personal goals to meet.  Kudos for those parents that stay home AND manage to get work done.  I don’t know how you do it since I’m lucky if I get a shower in during the day 😉

 

4 Rules for Home Cooking Done Quick

A lot has happened in the past couple of months.  We decided to move out of state to live near family and enjoy a lower cost of living and better weather.  Since we’ve moved down here I have taken it upon myself to be the best wife and parent that I can be while I look for a new job.  One of the most important things that I’m maintaining with this big life transition is how we prepare meals, eat dinner as a family and do so in a healthy and time efficient way.  I prepare all of our meals from scratch but I like to imagine sometimes that I run a prepared food test kitchen.  Here are a few of my rules for doing dinner in a  healthy and efficient way.

Rule #1:  Use your freezer as a money saving tool and not just a place to keep frozen novelties.  I hear it a lot “why would I buy in bulk if we can’t eat it all before it goes bad?”  Your freezer stops the clock on food spoilage and allows you to take advantage of lower prices.  My two favorite times to use my freeze is when I’m buying in bulk to get a lower price per pound and when meat is on ‘manager special’ and at 20% of the normal price.  I once found chicken quarters for $0.29 per lb!  That’s insane and you know I filled my cart.

When you buy a lot of food that can be frozen make a plan to freeze it.  Do not wait until the expiration date to save the old meat from the trashcan.  You need to portion and bag the food within a day of buying it.

If you freezer is already full go through and evaluate each item that is in there. How old is it?  Can you eat it within the next month?  Is it junk food that we shouldn’t be eating anyway?  Your freezer space is valuable real estate that is there to save you time and money, make sure you are using it that way!

Rule #2:  Dinner will only take 30 minutes from prep to table.  I did this while we were both working full time and wanted to eat dinner as a family before our baby needed to go to bed.

To accomplish this 30 minute rule you need to have a game plan for dinner before you open the fridge.  This is where meal planning comes in handy.

Some of my favorite meats to cook start to finish are:

  • Porkchops – use dry seasoning or a marinade on the meat when you pull it out of the freezer.  Let it thaw in your fridge for at least 24 hours.  I always let it thaw in the dish that I plan to back it in.  1/2 inch chops will bake for 20-25 min at 350ºF.
  • Tacos – use ground turkey or beef and you can brown the meat in about 10 minutes.  Add black beans to bulk up the meal and stretch your dollar even further.  Use it twice in the week for tacos the first night and nachos a few nights later.  Very popular in our house.
  • Salmon (or any fish) – Baking or grilling can be done in under 20 minutes.  We love this marinade for salmon on the grill:  1 part soy sauce, 2 parts oil, 3 minced garlic cloves all mixed together add 1 lb raw salmon and marinade for 20 minutes.  Grill over high heat for 8 minutes turning halfway through.
  • Steak on the grill – We eat steak usually once a week.  Use your favorite dry rub, and grill for 8-10 minutes over high heat flipping once halfway through.

My favorite prepare-ahead-of-time-and-freeze meals are:

  • Meatballs with pasta – the prep kills me but I love having meatballs and pasta.  If you are not a plan-ahead type of person you can always make meat sauce instead.  Meatballs freeze really well and I’ll usually cook a large batch and we will eat it once a week for about 3 months.
  • Chicken – I rarely cook chicken during the week since it is one of those meats that cannot be rushed (or served rare).  I will usually buy whole chicks and roast them in the oven for about 2 hours, sometimes 6 birds at once.  Once the meat is cooled my husband and I will spend a little time pulling the meat off of the bones, portioning meat into freezer bags and freezing.  If I’m low on chicken stock I will take the bones from one of the birds and throw it in the crock pot and make some overnight stock (which also gets frozen).
  • Chicken Taquitos – another labor intensive meal that is completely worth making a giant batch of.  I can take these puppies from frozen and bake them for about 20 minutes and we have a tasty dinner.  We have also used these as quick appetizers when entertaining or if we have unexpected dinner guests.  Serve with sourcream and hotsauce!
  • Pulled pork – Pork shoulder is a cheap cut of meat that becomes a tasty easy meal. Use either a dry rub or a bottle of your favorite bbq sauce and cook the pork shoulder in a crock pot for 8+ hours.  Once it is done, remove the meat and shred with a fork, using a strainer add the juices from the crockpot and mix together with the meat.  Refrigerate overnight and then portion into bags to freeze.

These are just a few ideas but what is most important is to cook what you like and make sure it freezes well.  So if you find a recipe you like and want to try to make a big batch next time – take a little bit from dinner and freeze it.  After a week let it thaw out and check the quality.  Make sure you do this before you cook 10 lbs of meatballs because you wont know how it freezes until you try it.

Rule #3: Use your day off to make a big batch of side dishes, prep fresh veggies and make lunches for the week.

This can be done whether you work or stay at home.  Make something that you love eating so that you are more likely to stick with the plan instead of ditching it for fast food.  If you are not big on leftovers – do not pack them for your lunch at work.  Every Sunday I will make 4 sandwiches for my husbands lunch.  He will take a sandwich and a yogurt to work 4 of 5 days.  He will eat out with co-workers at a restaurant once a week.  Taking your lunch to work compared to eating out every day saves one person about $2000.

Lunch meals that can be prepped at the beginning of the week:

Sandwiches – Deli meat and cheese will hold up nicely for about 5 or 6 days.  Make sure to skip the tomato, pickles and other veggies as it tends to not keep as well.  If you love lettuce on your sandwich, throw it on the morning that you plan to eat the sandwich.

Leftovers – I’m a leftover lover.  If dinner was great (and it usually is!) I have no problem packing a container with the extras and eating it for lunch.

Salads – Every once in a while, usually a couple months before our summer vacation, my husband and I will start eating a little bit less bread and a little bit more veggies.  We will make salads for each of us for the whole week with fresh veggies, hard boiled eggs, and cooked chicken (from the freezer).  Make sure to either add salad dressing the morning that you are going to eat it or put it in a separate container.

For more ideas check out reddit’s meal prep sunday section.

Rule #4:  Make this plan your own.  Everyone has a plan that works but usually it works because they created that plan for their own situation.  My recipes and meal plan will not work for everyone because of taste preferences or food allergies.  What is important is you take things once step, one recipe, one batch of food at a time.  See what works and doesn’t work for your family.  No one goes from spending an hour in the kitchen every day to half of that without some planning, experimenting, and practice.

  • First find one meal that makes it to your table on a weekly basis.
  • Next think of ways to simplify the preparation of that meal.  What can be prepped and then frozen, what can be cooked ahead of time, etc.
  • Then make a batch and see how much time you save with the ahead of time prep.

Start by having 2 meals a week that are quick to prepare, then make it 3 and then 4.  At the moment we plan for 6 nights of at home meals and allow one to be either a night out or a cooking experiment (sometimes I need to switch things up with something fancy).  Figure out with works for you and keep at it!  Soon you will be saving money and finding more time on your hands.

Why we are not buying toys for a year

 

NOT BUYING TOYS

I wanted to share with you all that we have no plans to buy our daughter toys for a whole year.  She was born in the fall and we brought her home hoping that we could handle being new parents.  I tried to hold off on purchasing small things, knowing that we would get gifts from our friends and family.  My husband and I discussed not purchasing toys for our daughter until she was older.  We figured that we would be just adding to the clutter while feeding our own consumerism itch.  We have stuck to this plan for the most part only caving and purchasing a small toy to use up the balance of a gift card.  Before you call me a monster for neglecting my child – think about this; how many toys does your child get from grandparents, friends and relatives?  If it’s anything like my family, you will get more than enough.  My daughter is 9 months old and has 7 toys, some are soft and some play music and she has played with all of them.  At this rate by the time she is 5 years old and wants specific things she’ll probably have over 60 toys.

OK the first image is a bit dramatic - my daughter loves her toys
OK the first image is a bit dramatic – my daughter loves her toys

My plan for toy management:

I’m not a heartless ice queen and know that having something to play with is extremely important for a child.  I was a kid once and have fond memories of playing with marbles and stuffed animals.  Keep in mind that I am a minimalist.  This isn’t some journey or life changing step by step program that I’m taking – it is simply who I am.  Less is more: less things = less time spent cleaning = more time for leisure.  I get rid of the things that I do not use.  I plan on doing the same thing for all of my child’s possessions.  Of course I’m not going to go straight from ‘you haven’t touched this doll in months’ to ‘time to donate all of your toys.’

My plan for keeping the toys under control is to keep 10 toys readily available for play.  The rest will be tucked away in small storage bins ready to be rotated in when a toy that is in use becomes disregarded.  When my daughter gets bored of a toy I’ll put it away and pull out one that she hasn’t seen for a while or once she is able to communicate what she wants to play with she will have her choice of what to keep out and what to put away.  

This toy sings "open up your wallet" etc, etc, I tease my husband that pretty soon our daughter will be batting her eyelashes and asking daddy for money :)
This toy sings “open up your wallet” etc, etc, I tease my husband that pretty soon our daughter will be batting her eyelashes and asking daddy for money 🙂

At the moment there are a few places around my house that toys are kept.  We keep one toy in the parent (our) bedroom – this is because we will hangout in this room as I get ready for work, a few toys are kept in the living room since this is where we spend most of our leisure time, a few toys are kept in the nursery (calling it a nursery makes me feel a little bit like Mary Poppins) these are mostly to entertain during the mornings where I have to run around like a crazy person and feel guilty popping the baby in the crib for 5-10 minutes, so I give her 4 toys to play with – what’s funny is she usually opts to chew on her blanket instead of playing with the stuffed animals or plastic books.  I did keep a toy or two in the kitchen but she really likes playing with measuring cups and plastic container so I moved the toys away and have been rotating Tupperware and other utensils that are baby safe.

Of course my baby is still a baby and doesn’t really care how many toys she has, as long as she is entertained.  As she gets older we will see how my practices work.  I’m striving to keep it minimal as opposed to keeping it organized.  Less toys means that it is easy for my daughter to pick them up every night – complicated organization means that mommy gets to spend time sorting and organizing children’s toys.  And I can definitely think of better ways to spend my time.  Not to downplay the importance of a great organization system but keeping the house clean should be easy or it won’t happen, at least for me.  If I had to take my dirty clothes down stairs every time I was done wearing something, then my floor would be covered in dirty clothing.  Instead I keep a laundry basket and our dirty clothes (mostly) live there until it is time for laundry.  Some people have the willpower to spend the extra time every night doing chores but I am not one of them.  I spend my predetermined amount of time on household chores and if things don’t get done in that X amount of minutes then I leave it alone and then think about ways to make chores more efficient.  No one should need to spend an hour ever night to keep their house in order – if you do then you need to spend a little time revamping your system.

 

August Meal Plan

Aug Meal Plan

My method of meal planning is a simple one.  We stock up on meat when it’s on sale and freeze the bulk of it.  Once a month I pull everything out of the freezer and take inventory and create a meal plan for the month based on what we have on hand.  I prefer this method to creating a plan and then buying the ingredients since it allows me to take advantage of deep discounts and save even more money than shopping around a recipe.  We know what kind of meats that we like and what tends to be inexpensive, so our meals are a rotation of favorite recipes with a couple experiments sprinkled in a few times a month.  I use a small magnetic white board to keep track of what is in the freezer and pantry.   I haven’t had chicken stock for the past month and it has really limited my sauce recipes.  I made some chicken stock this morning and froze 2 more bags of chicken bones for later use.  It stinks running out of ingredients but it also teaches us to plan a little bit better.Freezer and pantry inventory
Our freezer is getting a little bit low, so I filled some of the gaps with sausage that I bought yesterday.  I’ll be working a lot harder to stock up this month so we can utilize our freezer space.  Empty space in the freezer is an opportunity to cook something delicious so that we can have more time during the week to do the things that we want to do instead of spending time cooking dinner.  I was planning to buy a pork shoulder to make pulled pork but the selection at the supermarket wasn’t too appealing.  I’ll check next week or when I go to BJs, the price the beat for pork shoulder is $1.29 per lb which is what the discount grocery store near my house sells it for.

Aug Meal Plan

We mostly stick to our meal plan but there are times when I cook something in a big batch to freeze and its easier to also eat that for dinner.  I made a giant batch of meatballs last month and we ended it up eating them that night.  We also will flip around nights that we grill if the weather is looking bad on our normal Saturday steak night.  You don’t have to stick to a meal plan perfectly for it to save you time and money.  Being a little bit flexible helps us to stick to our meal planning long term.  All I ask is when changing the plan to allow at least one day so that the meat can thaw in the fridge instead of trying to microwave a brick of solid, raw meat into a workable product…the microwave is for heating food and not so much for defrosting raw meat.  I’m not a fan of the edges being cooked and the center being frozen.

I don’t plan out what we are having for our side dishes ahead of time.  Sides normally consist of a vegetable and a starch.

Vegetables:  Fresh veggies from that week at the grocery store or farmers market, frozen veggies if we need something quick

Starch: Rice, barley, potatoes or pasta

Here is what our meal plan looked like at the end of July.  We had about a week of vacation that helped us keep the food bill lower than normal.  We got take out once and ate dinner out one night during the month.  By sticking with the routine we are able to save a ton of money without compromising what we eat.  Not only does it save us money by meal planning but it saves us a ton of time during the week.  We both work full time, so we try to make as much time for family after we get home and before bed time.  Making it easy for yourself will help you stick with meal planning long term.

July Meal Plan 2

Why I make my own baby food

Homemade Baby food

Baby food seemed like one of those things that you just have to buy, because how else would your baby get solid foods?  When my baby was ready to start exploring solids, which we knew because she started opening her mouth like a baby bird when ever we were eating, I started out with a couple of jars of the pureed baby food.  I spent about $0.80 per 2 oz jar or $0.40 per oz of blended green beans.  They didn’t taste that good.  You might think that I’m weird for tasting the baby food, but I don’t want to feed my daughter anything that I’m not willing to at least try.  Anyway, after the first couple jars of food I started to see all of the empty jars in our future, and all of the money that we’d be wasting on expensive blended vegetables.  I started to do a little research on how to make your own baby food.  I was surprised to see that it was quite simple to put a meal for baby together with the equipment that I already had.

A lot of the veggies I’m buying are around $0.99 per lb and will make about 16 oz of food or $0.06.  If my baby is eating 8 to 12 oz of food per day this means that we save $2.72 to $4.08 per day or $81.60 to $122.40 per month.

What you need:

Food – We started with sweet potato, green beans, and peas when she was about 5 to 6 months old.  Now that she is around 8 months old we also give her lentils, zucchini, yellow squash, barley, potatoes, beans, and yogurt.zucchini

Something to cook the food in – a pot with boiling water, a steamer basket or the microwave has been used for several of our different baby food preparation sessions.

Something to process the food – You can use a food mill, food processor, or blender.  I have a Nutra-bullet because – hey I like smoothies (and other blended drinks) so this is what gets used to blend the baby food 90% of the time, mainly because it’s easier clean up than the food processor.  You can smash the food with a fork if you have a truly minimalist kitchen, you might need to peal your veggies if you’re using that method.

Zucchini waiting to be blended

Something to store the food in – We have little glass dishes that hold about 4 oz of food.  I like using the glass dishes because they’re safer to microwave than plastic and you can easily see what is in them.  I also freeze extra baby food in ice cube trays so that I only need to make baby food once every 2 or 3 weeks.  I like being efficient with my time and think batch cooking is a life saver.

Baby food in ice cube trays

Things that I’m figuring out while feeding my daughter:

I’m not afraid to give my baby texture.  I’m a believer that exposing a child to a variety of different colors, flavors and textures will help them keep an open mind in the future.  We shall see how my theory works out since I’m mostly flying by the seat of my pants right now as a first time parent.  I hear that kids don’t get picky about food  till they’re about one year old – so we shall see 🙂  Right now we mix shredded chicken into vegetables, we have lentils with chopped up carrots, onion and celery (which she loves) and I’m starting to chop foods into small bits instead of blending everything.

Gagging will happen, this is different from choking.  I don’t leave my baby unsupervised while she’s eating.  But if she starts to gag a little bit I let her work through it and only hook a finger in her mouth if it goes on more than a few seconds.  I try to stay calm when things like this happen so that I don’t startle my child.

Before we started feeding solids I wanted to try baby led weening.  As we all know, things don’t always happen as planned.  My baby doesn’t really put things in her mouth, which is awesome when there is dirt on the floor but not so awesome when I want her to put some beans in her mouth.  So we are using a spoon and when she gets tired of the spoon, and wrestles it away from us to happily bash on the high chair tray, she eats food from our fingers.  This is more of a ‘go-with-the-flow’ technique than any sort of baby feeding method.  It’s working for us so we’ll continue to flow.

Holiday Wreath for under 5

Wreath pin
Nothing makes your home look more festive than some holiday decorations. A classic way to show your holiday spirit is with a fancy pants wreath for your front door or window. I wanted to create a wreath that could be easily modified for the season. I chose red and white for this wreath because those are two colors that will sync up with Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Memorial Day & 4th of July. I picked up all of the materials for this wreath at the dollar store but you can find similar prices on Amazon.

Materials:

10 yards of Decorative Mesh Ribbon 6 inches wide, or 5 yards of 2 different colors

1 Wire Wreath Frame

3-6 yards of foil garland

 

 

Step 1: Take your wire frame and paint it the same color as the lightest deco mesh that you are using. This reduces the appearance of the wire through the mesh. Spray paint is easiest but you can also use craft paint.

wire wreath

Step 2: Once the paint is dry cut 10 inch pieces of either embroidery or crochet thread and tie the strings to the wire frame. Use a color that matches one of the colors of your mesh ribbonYou want to alternate using the inner and outer parts of the frame to allow the colors to spread.

Step 3: Take the end of your deco mesh and thread your string through the end. Tie it securely against the wire frame.

Step 4: Gather the deco mesh and pinch it to create a loop in the ribbon.

pinch

Step 5: Tie the ribbon to the metal frame using a square knot.

20160703_143932

Step 6: Continue gathering the ribbon and securing it along the metal frame. For this wreath we used an alternating pattern going from the inner > middle > outer > middle > inner > etc

start gathering

Step 7: Once you have gone around the wreath frame secure the other end of the mesh ribbon by threading the string through the ends of the ribbon. Repeat with your other colors. For this wreath we went around about 4 times.

coming together

Step 8: Once you are finished tying on your ribbon, clip the excess string.

Step 9: Attach one end of your foil garland to the back of your metal wreath frame.

finishing touch

Step 10: Wrap the foil garland around the wreath and attach the other end to the metal wreath frame.
finished wreath

The Best Baked Dairy Free Meatballs

Meatball recipe

Do you love the ideas of freezer meals but get tired of eating out of your crockpot? Lucky for you there are so many different main dishes that you can freeze for those nights when you would rather spend the time you normally spend cooking, doing something else – like spending time with your family, reading a book or taking a hot bath ***catching Pokemon XD.

Every 3 weeks I make a big batch of one of our go-to meal to stick in the freezer. Normally that batch will last us about 3 months with us eating it once a week. I normally keep a stock of chicken taquitos, pulled pork, and meat balls in our freezer for some minimal effort meals. What would you do if you had 3 nights during the week where you could have a homemade meal on the table in 5 minutes? I know that if I’m cooking from scratch it normally takes me about 45 minutes to put a meal together. So this saves me a few hours per week by having something ready to go.

I want to accomplish 3 things when I make a big batch of food. First I want these meals to save me money so that means that it needs to be from reasonably priced ingredients. Second these meals has to save me time and this is accomplished by making things that will last a while in the freezer. Third, this meal needs to be relatively healthy and taste good. I make almost everything from scratch and that includes my chicken stock and sauces.

We all see the crazy deals that you can get on ground beef when it comes in the plastic sleeve. It’s normally a very high fat ratio and around $2.50 per lb or less. I’m going to show you an easy way to use that 5 lb meat log and stock your freezer at the same time.  If you have ever tried the store bought frozen meatballs you know that they’re not as good as the homemade version.  This recipe is super easy and doesn’t require skillet cooking.  Just roll the meatballs out and bake!  Don’t be afraid of the 27% fat ratio – repeat this mantra: Fat = flavor.

Here is the log of ground beef. Don't be afraid - it's here to save you money!
Here is the log of ground beef. Don’t be afraid – it’s here to save you money!

Prep and cook time: About 2 hours depending on how fast you roll balls.
Yields: 160 meatballs or about 32 servings

Ingredients:
5lbs ground beef – for ultimate value buy the tube or meat log, sometimes found in the freezer section
2 large onions
3 eggs
1 cup bread crumbs
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon basil
1 tablespoon cumin
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons steak or bbq sauce (optional)

Instructions:
Dice the onions finely and place in a large bowl – probably the biggest bowl in your kitchen. In a pinch, you can use a stock pot for mixing if you don’t have a big bowl.
Add all of the ingredients to the bowl except for the meat. Mix so that the spices are evenly distributed
Add your ground beef and mix with your hand until the mixtures is even and uniform. This should take you about 3 to 4 minutes of mixing. If you mix your meat too much it could make your meatballs tough.
In a small skillet over medium heat cook about 1 teaspoon of the meat mixture for about 5 minutes. Allow to cool and taste for seasoning. Add additional seasonings if needed. This step is super important when making big batches of food. You want to make sure that the food is up to snuff so that it doesn’t turn into a freezer fossil.
Using a spoon, create meatballs a little bit bigger than 1 inch in diameter, they will shrink by about 20%. To create the balls, take about 2 tablespoons of meat mix and roll it gently between around in the palms of your hands. Place on a baking sheet leaving about an inch between each meatball
Bake at 350 for 15-17 minutes.

Meatball ingredients

Add all of the ingredients to the bowl except for the meat.
Add all of the ingredients to the bowl except for the meat.
Mix so that the spices are evenly distributed
Mix so that the spices are evenly distributed
Mix your ingredients for about 3 to 4 minutes
Add the meat and mix your ingredients for about 3 to 4 minutes.
Roll your meatball just a little bit bigger than 1 inch across. They will shrink when cooked
Roll your meatball just a little bit bigger than 1 inch across. They will shrink when cooked
To create the balls, take about 2 tablespoons of meat mix and roll it gently between around in the palms of your hands
To create the balls, take about 2 tablespoons of meat mix and roll it gently between around in the palms of your hands
These guys are ready to bake! Who has time to pan fry meatballs?
These guys are ready to bake! Who has time to pan fry meatballs?
All done! These meatballs are ready to add to your favorite ball friendly meal.
All done! These meatballs are ready to add to your favorite ball friendly meal.

For Storage: allow to cool to room temperature and then put in plastic storage bags. Refrigerate overnight and then lay flat in the freezer. The meat balls should be in 1 row and not stacked on top of each other. This allows you to pull only what you need out of the freezer instead of needing to thaw out the whole bag. These keep in the freezer for 3+ months.

Once your meatballs are cooled put them in storage bags in a single layer
Once your meatballs are cooled put them in storage bags in a single layer

This is the best part about having frozen meat balls. To use them in a meal, place the frozen meatballs on a plate in a circle. Use the defrost setting on your microwave for about 7 minutes for 8 oz of meat. Your mileage may vary depending on your microwave. At this point they are hot and ready to eat and can be added to your dish.

Some of my favorite ways to eat meatballs:
Spaghetti and red sauce
Spaghetti and mushroom cream sauce
Meatball subs or sandwiches
Meatballs with veggies and mashed potatoes

So how much does my 32 servings of meatballs cost?

These are the prices that I got when I picked everything up at Aldi
5lbs ground beef log – $9.99
2 Onions – $0.50 (at $.99 per lb)
3 Eggs – $0.25
1 cup bread crumbs – $0.25
Pepper – $1.20
Salt – $0.06
Cumin – $0.80
Oregano – $0.60
Basil – $0.60
Worcestershire Sauce – $1.40
Steak Sauce – $.10

Total = $15.75
This works out to $0.49 per serving of meatballs. It might be a little bit less expensive than this since I used Amazon prices for the spices. I buy the store brand for spices and almost always get the bulk containers.

So that’s my meatball story, what are some of your favorite foods to batch cook and freeze?

Scatter-brained and need more hours in the day

I’ve been all over the place lately.  I have so many projects and goals that it’s hard to keep up with myself.

What I really want to do is put on a cape and organize and clean my whole house, own my own bookkeeping/consulting business, earn my CMA, cook dinner every night all while spending time with my family for a couple hours every day.  I’m trying really hard to establish some good habits but the list is pretty overwhelming and I feel like it shouldn’t feel overwhelming.  I wish I could just take a couple weeks off from work and focus on all the things that I want to be doing.  While financially that’s an option, it is pretty hard to walk away from a job that I like with no other income stream to replace the paycheck.

Organizing – I’m on a mission to reorganize the areas of my house that are not functioning very well.  I’m starting with my kitchen which is likely the biggest project.  I find myself walking around in circles, collecting everything I need to chop veggies so this stuff needs to be located together.

Cleaning – I’m in maintenance mode right now.  Dishes and laundry are being done but I haven’t done a deep cleaning project in a couple weeks and I feel the pressure to fit one into the schedule.  I have a long list of things that I want to do in this area.

Becoming a business owner – I’ve been reading every self help book under the sun in this category.  I understand business and accounting, which is the field I want to work in for myself.  But I need to find clients!  This is proving to be the hardest part.  How do you find people willing to give you a shot?  I’ve tried mailing out flyers and advertising on craigslist.  I’m trying to do this around my 9-5 day job and I’m feeling a bit discouraged.

CMA certification – I’m a procrastinator.  I always have been and probably always will be.  I have 12 weeks before I sit for part 1 of the exam and while I don’t want to waste the $410 it costs to sit for the exam I’m having a hard time squeezing study time into my schedule.  I have 1 hour scheduled 3 times a week on my google calendar and I just need to stick to it.

Renovation – I set a deadline for my little renovation project of the end of August and it is fast approaching.  I feel like we haven’t made any progress in this area besides selling a few things from craigslist and Facebook from the yard sale pile.

And for the positives:  I’m loving how organized I’ve been keeping our food stuff.  Meal planning has given me so much time during the week.  I subscribed to our Sunday paper to get the coupons.  I’m reading a couple books about couponing and while it is very informative, I think I’ll just figure out my own method for shopping and not worry so much about trying to get my groceries for free.  I would love to spend more time on this, but if I can save $10-$50 by spending an hour messing with shopping lists and coupons then I’ll be happy.  I don’t want to have crazy stock piles of deodorant and toilet paper, I am a minimalist after all!  Next month I’m going to try to cut down my grocery trips even more.  There are a lot of things that I can buy a month’s worth at once and then just go to the store for the sales, fresh produce, and milk.  If you want to see my grocery list from last week you can find it here.  Being a minimalist isn’t just about having less stuff, but also about maximizing your efficiency.  Every time I go to the store it takes time away from something else.  Reclaiming some of that time is the goal, even if it means that I’ll have 6 cans of olives in my pantry to last us the month.  I’m a bit obsessed with my groceries, can you tell?

Lets take a minute to focus on what we have been doing well in our lives.  What are some accomplishments that you have made in the past few weeks?

6/12 – 6/18 Grocery List

We are going into the third week of the month.  There are some great deals on produce this week.  My daughter is seven months old today and is a lover of zucchini.  I blended up 2 whole zucchini for her and that gave me 10 servings.  I’ll try some yellow squash for her this week as well.  I’ll freeze the extra in ice cubes for later.  There is a great deal on lamb chops at Stop & Shop for $5.99 per lb which is a great price.  I’m not going to get any since our freezer is too full for any more meat and even though it’s a great price, we don’t really need to be eating expensive meat.  If you live in the Connecticut area feel free to copy my shopping list 🙂

We are visiting the in laws today and my MIL graciously offered me her coupons from the Sunday paper after I told her how excited I was that for the first time, I got a red plum ad in my local paper.  The baby decided to sleep in this beautiful Sunday morning so that gave me some much appreciated leisure time.  I flipped through the ads and clipped the coupons that I thought we might use.  This got me thinking about those extreme coupons get shows that I have watched on occasion and swore that those people are crazy.  Is couponing a slippery slope to over spending?  I’ve been out of dish soap for about a week, so I bought a bottle yesterday and also have it on my shopping list for this Saturday since I saw it in the grocery store ad.  BUT now I see a coupon for the same brand that is on sale but only if you buy two.  So do I stock up a little and have 3 bottles of dish soap under my kitchen sink in order to take advantage of the savings?  I would spend $3 instead of $2 but get twice as much.  It’s a no brainier right?  

Now I’m seriously considering getting a subscription to the Sunday paper just for the coupons but I feel like it would be such a waste.  My free local paper supplies us with enough paper to light the grill as often as we do already so the extra paper would just add to waste/recycling.  I’m trying to reduce the garbage that we’re creating so this action would run contrary to that.  On the other side, I found 2 coupons on items that I was already going to buy.  $3 off optifree contact solution and $1 off the dish soap.  That pays for the paper right?  On the other other side, couponing is a time commitment and I’m not sure that I’ll have an extra hour to flip through, clip, and match to sales each week like I did this morning.  It’s a lot to consider.  Here is my grocery list for the week:

6/12 Sunday – Geissler’s, driving distance: 7.2 miles roundtrip

Cherrios – $1.67
1 lbs Green Pepper – $.99
1 gallon milk – $2.49
1 lbs nectarines – $0.99
1 lbs tomatoes – $0.99
2 lbs yellow squash – $1.98
2 lbs zucchini – $1.98

Total = $11.09

6/12 Sunday – Shoprite, driving distance: stopping on the way home from in laws

40 oz optifree contact solution – $11.39 (with coupon)
24oz Palmolive dish soap – $3 (with coupon)
30 eggs – $1.77
Luigi’s Italian Ice – $0.88 (with coupon)
3 lbs onions – $0.99
10 oz A1 steak sauce – $2.88 

Total = 22.90

It’s amazing how small our grocery bill is when I’m not buying meat every week.  I’m used to spending at least $100 a week (we are in a pretty high cost of living area).  I can’t wait to get 6 months of grocery data to compare to how I used to grocery shop a year ago.  And yes, I do realize how nerdy I sound.  Happy Shopping!

Homemade Coffee Creamer

We all want to know what we are putting in our bodies.  I’ve been buying flavored coffee creamer for ages and recently ran out.  My grocery trip isn’t until later this week so I started researching how to make a homemade version of my coffee creamer.  Found that all of the recipes that were out there were some variation of milk, half and half, heavy cream and/or sweetened condensed milk.

I happened to have a can of sweetened condensed milk in my pantry from when I planned to make a pie last year for Thanksgiving.  I had my baby a bit earlier than planned so my cooking plans were detoured.  When I saw that I could use this in a recipe that wasn’t a pie I was pretty thrilled.  Any chance to use up a pantry fossil makes me happy.  I made this with what I had on hand.

Homemade Coffee Creamer

Ingredients:

1 part sweetened condensed milk
1 part heavy cream
1 part whole milk

Instructions:

Combine and mix well, I used my blender but you could put it in a container and shake it or stir.  Store in the fridge.

Coffee and homemade creamer

My morning is better with coffee!  I hope you all have a great day!