Household Tips to Save You Time & Money

Household Tips to Save Time and Money

Must Have Items To Make Healthy Freezer Meals

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When you embark on your first freezer meal preparation, you will find yourself in need of a few simple items that will help you keep great food quality and make the process much easier to handle. Here are what we believe are Must Have Items To Make Healthy Freezer Meals. Not only are these a time saver, necessary for quality control and convenient, they are also budget friendly!

Must Have Items To Make Healthy Freezer Meals

Must Have Items To Make Healthy Freezer Meals

Proper Storage: There are 4 main ways you can store your freezer meals safely. In plastic freezer storage bags, in plastic freezer containers, disposable pans, or by utilizing a vacuum seal storage product. All 4 methods have their benefits and uses. I recommend using a combination of the four.

  • Plastic Freezer Storage Bags: Great for items that will be used within 1 month. Muffins, breakfast sandwiches, and entrees prepped for use in short order are great when stored in basic freezer storage bags.
  • Plastic Freezer containers: Great for soups, stews, chili, entrees and casseroles when used and dated well. These simple plastic storage containers keep foods safe and fresh for up to 3 months.
  • Vacuum Seal Storage System: This is perfect for meals and foods you plan to keep in your freezer for up to 1 year. The vacuum seal storage system helps prevent freezer burn, and also takes up less space than other methods. It can be a costly investment, but those who use it find it to be a wonderful choice.
  • Disposable Casserole Pans: Great for assembling casseroles and lasagnas.  Simply prepare & then freeze.  These disposable 9×13 foil pans come with a lid, but I normally add a layer of cling wrap under the lid for extra protection.  I’ve keep Mexican Lasagna in the freezer for about 3 months in these pans before without any issues.

Kitchen Scale: If you are portioning out individual servings for dietary and health reasons, this is a necessity. Food has different weight before and after cooking that can play into your overall health routine. A quality kitchen scale is great to have on hand for measuring your food to stay on track.

Quality Knives: With freezer cooking meals you will find yourself spending a lot of time 1-2 days a month doing prep. Having quality knives will help prep time go much smoother. These ceramic knives are known for their sharpness and endurance.

Proper Labeling System: Go old school with masking tape and a permanent marker or you can print something specific from your computer. Alternate methods of labeling are printables, stickers and even chalkboard labels on containers that will be reused.

In Freezer Storage Methods: If you have a chest freezer you will find the need for in freezer storage. Racks, shelving and other freezer safe storage bins is imperative to keep track of what you have and make sure foods are being rotated out as they should be.

These must have items to make healthy freezer meals are a great investment for your kitchen. Not only will they help you have the best quality food from your freezer, they are purchases that will help you stay in budget in the future. Invest in quality and you’ll be using it for years to come.

How do you organize your freezer meals?  Leave a comment with any must haves I forgot!

7 Reasons You Need To Be Making Freezer Cooking Meals

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Freezer cooking has become more and more popular over the last few years, and I’m really excited to share some helpful tips & some of my favorite freezer cooking recipes with you! Many people ask if this is really worthwhile. I sure think so and here are 7 Reasons You Need To Be Making Freezer Cooking Meals right now. Freezer meals are highly beneficial to your stress level, budget and time management.

7 Reasons You Need To Be Making Freezer Cooking Meals

7 Reasons You Need To Be Making Freezer Cooking Meals 

Budget Friendly: Freezer Cooking Meal Plans are almost always budget friendly. Not only do they include a lot of cheaper cuts of meat, fresh in season produce and common staple pantry items, they are easy to create around local sales. Your food budget can be cut in half by utilizing freezer cooking meals.

Lower Stress: Having an easy meal to grab from the freezer and throw in the Crockpot on your way out the door certainly lowers your daily stress about what to feed your family at night. It’s also great because you don’t have to think about buying groceries on your way home, or stress about budget issues from grabbing take out.

Less Waste: Since most freezer cooking meals are highly portion controlled, you’ll find yourself making just enough to feed your family the one meal. This means you will have fewer leftovers to throw out when nobody eats them later in the week. It also helps when you have picky eaters because you can easily have different freezer meal options for them than the rest of the family.

Great For Food Allergies & Dietary Restrictions: There are tons of freezer cooking meal recipes and plans out there for all the most common food allergies and dietary restrictions. No more guesswork on what you can make that won’t bother a family member. These meals are satisfying to everyone while being safe to eat as well.

Portion Control & Healthier: Since freezer meals are often cooked or reheated in your Crockpot or favorite slow cooker, they tend to be much healthier overall. You can easily adapt recipes to include healthier options. On top of that, you have the portion control of smaller serving sizes that will help you from over indulging.

Easy For Kids To Help With: Busy moms know that having kids help in the kitchen can end up a fiasco at times. Freezer cooking meals give you an easy way to get kids involved. All they have to do is pick out what they want from the freezer, defrost and reheat to temperature. This takes away the prep mess and cleanup that comes from having them cook something from scratch for the family.

Always Have Something Ready: There will be days when you don’t feel well, are running late or things just aren’t going as planned. Freezer cooking meals provide you with an always ready option for dinner. This keeps you in budget and away from takeout, and far less stressed about what you will feed your family.

Each family is different in their needs, so many may find even more reasons you need to be making freezer cooking meals. For some it is simply a time management issue. For others it is the ease of having kids help out throughout the week. For me it has a lot to do with budget help. Whatever the reason, it’s time to dive head first into the world of freezer cooking meals!

Have you ever tried freezer cooking?  If so, share your struggles & tips in a comment below!

How to Can Your Own Chicken Tutorial

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Last week, we talked about the benefits of canning & a brief overview of the different canning methods. This week Tina (an avid canner) is going to show you how to can your own chicken!

How To Can Your Own Chicken Tutorial
HOME CANNING CHICKEN:
Home canned chicken is great to have on hand for a quick meal such as chicken tacos, soups, casseroles and any recipe calling for chicken. The best time to can chicken is when you find it on sale. You also want to make sure you buy enough to fill your pressure canner since no matter how many jars you process, you will need to run the canner for for the full process time.

FIRST THINGS FIRST:
To can any meat, you need to have a pressure canner. Meat CAN NOT be processed in a  water bath canner. Those are only used for high acid fruits & veggies.

Recommended Pressure Canners:

NOTE: If you are using a used canner or one that had been sitting, make sure you take the canner to your local extension office to make sure it is functioning properly before home canning.

Now that you have your canner, there are a few more basic supplies you will want for home canning:

Let’s get started:

Put your rings and lids in a pan of hot water on the stove or you can also put them in a crockpot of hot water. This softens the seal on the lids.

Choose fresh, good quality chicken (approx. 1 lb will fit in each pint jar). So, if your canner can fit 24 jars, you would want just over 24 lbs of chicken. Keep in mind, after you trim off any unwanted fat from the chicken you will have less than your original 24 lbs so make adjustments for that.

Wash and rinse out your jars so they will be ready. You won’t need to sterilize the jars since you will be using a pressure canner. Inspect jars for cracks, chips or imperfections. Even the smallest chip or imperfection can cause your jars to not seal or even break in the canner.

Add 1/2 tsp. salt to each jar

Remove any fat or unwanted pieces on the chicken (we used chicken breast). Then cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes and place in jars (using jar funnel if you have one). LIGHTLY tap the chicken down into the jar and leaving 1 1/4 inch head space. You don’t want to pack it down tightly however, you can lightly tap it down since it shrinks when you process it.

Once all your jars are filled, take a wet cloth and wipe the rim of each jar to make sure it is clean and to double check for any imperfections on the rim.

Now it is time to get your lids and rings that have been soaking in the hot water. Using your lid lifer, pull out a lid and a ring for your first jar. Put the lid on the jar gasket side down, then screw on the ring finger tight. Now, give the ring one more SMALL little turn about 2 inches. If the ring is too loose, liquid can escape the jar. If you put it too tight, air won’t be able to vent during processing. REPEAT this process until all of your jars have a lid and ring.

NOTE: This tutorial shows the “Raw Pack” method (raw chicken) without adding any liquid. The chicken will create its own broth as it processes.

Getting the canner ready:

We used the Presto 01781 23-Quart Pressure Canner and Cooker for our chicken (love this canner) and we added 3 quarts of water to the bottom of our canner as indicated in our instruction manual. That is the amount of water needed to pressure can our chicken. If you have a different canner, check the booklet for the amount of water needed. It is usually about 2-3 inches.

double stack jarsAdd jars to the canner (the canner we used, double stacks pint jars). Fit lid onto the canner WITH OUT PUTTING ON THE WEIGHT. Turn to med/high heat. Watch for a steady stream of steam to start coming from the vent pipe. Start a timer for 10 minutes. You need to allow your pressure canner to steam for 10 minutes before you begin to pressurize.

Now that your weight is on your canner, keep it on med/high heat and the pressure will begin to build. Once you get it to the desired pressure (see info below based on your elevation) start your timer for 75 minutes. You will need to regulate the heat to keep your canner at the desired pressure for the ENTIRE 75 minutes. If you dip below the desired pressure, you need to start that 75 minute time all over again. Quart jars would need processed for 90 minutes. I recommend canning chicken in pint jars.

Pressure (lbs) needed for canning chicken:

0-2000 ft elevation: 11 lbs for 75 minutes PINTS
2001-4000 ft elevation: 12 lbs for 75 minutes PINTS
4001-6000 ft elevation: 13 lbs for 75 minutes PINTS
6001-8000 ft can using parachute and use 14 lbs for 75 minutes PINTS

canner

Once the timer goes off for the 75 minutes: Turn off the heat source. Let the pressure on the canner drop to ZERO before you remove the weight. Once the pressure is at ZERO, remove the weight. The cool down time is calculated into the processing time so removing that weight early allowing steam to escape can result in an unsafe product and can also cause a steam burn.

Wait about 5 minutes after removing the weight before cracking the lid open (open away from you so you don’t get steam burned). Cracking the lid and letting it sit on the canner for a few minutes allows the canner to slowly adjust. If you just rip that lid off the sudden temperature change can cause jar to bubble over. After about 5 minutes, carefully remove the lid and give it 5 more minutes before removing the jars. You might start hearing the jars “ping” as they start sealing.

Remove jars carefully with the jar lifter onto a cutting board. Allow the jars to cool completely for 12-24 hours.

After the 12-24 hours you can inspect the seal for each jar. Begin by pushing down on the center of each lid. If the lid springs up when you release your finger, it did not seal and that product will need to be used or refrigerated. It is not “canned” but it is cooked and ready to eat. It is possible a small particle of food got under the lid and caused it to not seal.

cutting board

The jars that DID properly seal, remove the ring and wash the lid and jar to remove any food residue. Dry the jars and store them in a cool, dark, dry place. It is recommended to store jars without the rings.

Don’t be intimidated to start canning. After a few times, you will have the hang of it.  Save money and store up healthy food for your family!

The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving is a must have reference book to have if you plan on doing regular home canning.

DISCLAIMER: These are basic canning instructions. Raking in the Savings is not responsible for the safety of the final product. Home canning is safe if the correct processing procedures are followed. If you suspect a spoiled home canned item, DO NOT TASTE THE PRODUCT. Contact your local county extension office for further instructions.

Canning Your Own Food: Is It Worth It?

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Many people want to can their own food but get overwhelmed when they start looking into it & want to know if canning your own food is worth it. It can seem like a huge expense to get started, but can save you a lot of money in the long run. Plus, you’ll know exactly what you are eating and can adjust to your own preferences!

Canning Your Own Food: Is It Worth It?

When you first start canning, like most new things, you will spend more time doing it.  After a few canning sessions, you’ll be shocked at how little time you actually spend in the kitchen! [Read more…]

Create a Spring Cleaning Action Plan

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Create A Spring Cleaning Action Plan

Over the next few weeks, we’re going to be talking about spring cleaning.  For some people, this is just a really deep clean. For me, it’s a chance to reorganize (or get organized), purge clutter, and make my house shine. Before we dive in, let’s create an action plan and make sure we have everything we need. [Read more…]