Soup: The 2nd Round

soup ingredients August 2018

Last year I decided to try only soup as freezer meals.  After some mishaps, I determined that it turned out not to be a bad deal and last fall I loved coming home from work and having a wide variety of choices in the freezer full of summer veggies. This year I decided to do the same and learn from my mistakes last year.

My biggest struggle with making this much soup at once is choosing which recipes to use. Limiting myself to only 12 soup recipes is actually difficult!  After pulling six of my favorite recipes I tried my skills out on six new recipes this year and modified two of the ones I tried before.  I’m happy to report that again I have a freezer full of amazing soup.

meatball couscous soup

I stayed under $120 for all 12 recipes and managed to get over 72 meals out of this round.  This time of year is amazing in Iowa for the local farmer’s markets and I ended up spending less on produce there than at the store. I also made my own broth and saved quite a bit of money doing that.  I did end up buying a new stock pot this year as the 6 quart size was just too small for a few of the recipes and I decided to make my own veggie broth this year and needed quite a few cups for the recipes.  Having the extra pot definitely came in handy and I got one with a ceramic liner so food didn’t stick and it was lightweight (weight becomes important when looking at 12 quart pots).

Again I spread out the process over a week since ingredients have to be added, simmered, etc. and there just isn’t enough time to do that in one day.  Not to mention that I only have so much room on the stove.  When I organize the soups I’m going to make I typically calculate which pot I’ll need to use and try to have one going in the slow cooker at the same time as one or two on the stove.

minestrone soup

 

Here are the recipes that I made this year (you’ll note some are the same as last year):

Pepper Jack Chicken Fajita

Olive Garden Pasta e Fagoli

Olive Garden Minestrone

Italian Sausage, Kale, and Tortellini

Beef, Tomato, and Macaroni

Ham, Potato, and Corn Chowder

South of the Border Corn Chowder

Beef Stroganoff

Couscous Chicken

Couscous Meatball

Meatball Veggie (I used a recipe out of a cookbook for this one, but this is close to the recipe I used)

Roasted Tomato-for this recipe I combined two recipes and made up my own.  Basically I roasted 5 pounds of tomatoes (seeded and quartered) and 2 red bell peppers (sliced) in the oven with olive oil and garlic.  Added those to some cooked, diced onions and boiling veggie broth and simmered until nice and mushy. Added in some basil then used an immersion blender to blend smooth and finished with adding a 1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream.

Roasted tomato red pepper soup

Again getting everything into the freezer took some work, but the end result was worth it!

soup in freezer August 2018

Just one of the freezers during the organizing process.

 

 

 

 

5 Ways to Use a Recipe

I made some delicious Hawaiian chicken tonight and naturally I’m left with lots of leftovers.  As I began pondering what to do with all of it I came up with these five simple ideas that I can use with this recipe.

  1. Use the leftovers as a salad topper.  I’ll be adding just a bit of bbq sauce to top mine off, but it would also be delicious with a poppy seed dressing and strawberries.
  2. Make it into sandwiches for a quick lunch.
  3. Serve it over rice.
  4. Enjoy it paired with some coleslaw.
  5. Make it into some tacos paired with a mango salsa.

The link to the recipe can be found here.  Though I should note I didn’t follow the recipe exactly.  I made it into a freezer meal and dumped the ingredients into a gallon sized bag with the chicken cut into chunks.  I also used crushed pineapple to get some extra juice so that I wouldn’t risk it drying out.chicken salad

5 Ways to Organize Your Time

5 Ways to Organize Your TimeLet’s face it, we all feel that we need more time. As I find myself in school yet again I’ve found ways in my own life to create margin so that I can not only get my assignments finished, but so that I also have time to sit back and relax. Unfortunately time isn’t something we can save up like money so how we organize our lives really does matter. Here are 5 simple things you can do to manage your time better.

  1. Stop binging on TV shows and movies.  Here in the United States we pride ourselves when we binge watch the latest series on Netflix or have a movie marathon.  There’s nothing wrong with doing this once or twice a year, but we tend to do this too often.  Limit your time so that you can do something more productive.
  2. Multitask the healthy way.  Multitasking is not meant for all areas of our lives, sometimes we do need to give something our full attention.  However, folding laundry while watching one episode of a show is an example of two tasks that do not require undivided attention. Paying bills is an example of one task that does require more attention.
  3. Stop going to the store multiple times per week.  Before heading out to the store make a list (there are several apps for your phone) and buy what you need to last you the week.  I have a magnetic white board on my refrigerator that I write items that I will need if you don’t want to use your phone. Walking around the store takes a long time and if you’re like me there’s always a distraction that causes me to take more time.
  4. Keep a time log of how much time you are spending doing various tasks.  Sometimes it’s just a matter of cutting something out or rearranging a schedule to create more time.  Hint: social media eats up way more time than you realize.
  5. Naturally I’m a huge fan of bulk cooking food, so try a freezer meal round to save you time.  While the organization and prep takes a while, overall time saved is huge.  Not to mention that it also saves money and those extra trips to the store.

5 Minute Organization

5 minute organizationIt’s the new year and with it brings the phrase “This is the year I’m going to get organized”. As I stare at the chaotic mess in my office I’m thinking, “I do not want to invest an hour or more at a time into getting this to where it needs to be”.   Naturally that led to “What can I accomplish in 5 minutes”?  Here are some things I’ve come up with to help you get organized around the house in roughly 5 minutes.  These won’t organize your entire home so that it looks magazine perfect, but it’s a great start for those that don’t want to invest a lot of time or money into a huge project.

Bathroom Storage: Throw away anything that is expired. Dispose of medications properly (do not flush down the toilet!) and get rid of that makeup that’s been sitting around since 2004. While medication has an obvious expiration date, makeup seems to trip up a lot of us.  Check out Cosmopolitan for this great article on getting rid of expired makeup.  It’s also a good way for you to make a quick shopping list of supplies needed.

Refrigerator: No doubt you have some holiday leftovers rotting away in the back of the ‘fridge.  Grab the trash can and throw away anything that isn’t good. Once you have space you can wipe down shelves and drawers. Helpful hint: whenever I have lots of meat that I’m thawing for batch cooking I place it on a cookie sheet so that I don’t have meat juice running all over my ‘fridge.

Bedroom Closet: That shirt that you never wear anymore and you keep thinking that you need to get rid of it, pull it out. You don’t need to overhaul your entire closet in one day, I keep a plastic grocery bag handy and work on filling it up.  The same system applies to my dresser drawer, I simply work until the bag is filled up and then tackle it again the next day.

Home Office: Set a timer and start going through that stack of papers or items on your desk. You’d be amazed what you can get rid of and put away in five minutes. The key is to not just shuffle items around, papers that need to be shredded should be shredded and those that need to be filed away need to be put in the right place.

Donate Pile: Be careful with this one, as I suggested start with a small grocery bag and the next time you are running errands drop the bag off.  Anything larger that you save around the house to make one big trip may save you some gas money, but will just take up room in your home and may even lead to a larger unorganized disaster.

 

Freezer Meal Planning Part 3-Lowering Costs

After wasting time because I didn’t plan the shopping so well, I obtained all of the food necessary to begin preparing my meals. For 11 meals I came in under $100, a new low in cost. I also have lots of leftovers that I’ll be making even more meals.

I would love to provide you with a magic formula as to how I managed this, but honestly I just hit the sales at the right time. Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons bring about the lowest prices in groceries here in Iowa. The combination of Fareway, Hy Vee, and Aldi are how I keep my costs low. I also plan ahead and pick up items when they go on sale. The only thing I can’t buy ahead of time is the fresh produce, but if you time it right around the holidays most of the produce you will need goes on sale. I always buy meat on sale and then freeze it until I need it.

August is another great time to take advantage of great produce sales. Our local farmer’s markets have terrific prices. I can get three times the amount of kale that they sell in the store for the same price and it supports our local growers. I usually plan my summer freezer session to include lots of fresh produce. Sadly my winter session doesn’t have as much fresh produce as it isn’t as available, but I still fill up my meals with veggies. I try to stay away from canned vegetables unless I need tons of tomatoes. It’s easier just to buy those in cans so I don’t have to cut all of them 🙂

I love to cook so I also always have spices on hand. Aldi and Fareway have the best prices on spices with Wal Mart coming in at a close third depending on the spice. Remember when shopping to not only check price, but the quantity. Aldi’s spices run 20 cents higher, but there’s almost double the amount in the container.