Food I Keep in My Fridge and Freezer to Make the School Year Easier

Simple as some of the items on the following lists are, I thought it was worth sharing the basic food I keep in my fridge and freezer to make the school year easier.

Food I Keep in my Fridge and Freezer to Make Meals During the School Year Easier

Some of these require work (as in, I actually have to mix something or cook something). But many of these only require that I purchase them and sock them away to use as needed. Either way, having these foods ready to grab at all times (if possible!) means I can relax more when feeding my family during busy school days.

If you haven’t already downloaded our free Master Lunch, Breakfast, and Snack Ideas and Recipes Lists, go grab those here. Those lists are helping keep my planning to a minimum!

Master List of 100 Simple Snack Ideas

And now, the big list of food I like to keep on hand to make many of those lunches, breakfasts, and snacks!

Food/Ingredients I Keep in my Freezer

Freshly Ground Flour

Here you’ll find all the posts I’ve ever written about grinding grain in a mill. I’ve been grinding all of our flour for almost 12 years now! It’s easy, saves money, and doing this makes our baked goods taste so much better. It’s also great for our health!

If possible, I try to keep a bucket of ground Hard White Wheat (for yeast recipes) and a bucket of Soft White Wheat (for non-yeast muffins and pastries) in my freezer so I can grab it out and bake as needed!

Pastry Flour 3

Pizza Crust

I’ve recently mentioned that I’ve been buying some premade crusts from Azure Standard to keep in the freezer for quick pizza meals. My Homemade Pizza Crust is also freezable. And if you want, you can even make your own Frozen Pizza!

Make Your Own Frozen Pizza

Frozen Cookie Dough 

My boys would say that having cookie dough in the freezer is a necessity for a happy school year. I say this is great to have on hand when people come over last minute so we can bake cookies without making a big mess. Sometimes we mix up cookie dough, roll it into a tube with parchment paper and freeze it until we need it. More often, we scoop the dough onto a baking sheet and freeze the dough balls to make very quick cookies!

How to Make Refrigerator Cookie Dough

july_freezer_cooking_2

Breakfast Cookie Dough Balls

Along the same lines as the cookies I just mentioned, having these Giant Breakfast Cookie Balls in the freezer ready to pull out and bake in the morning is a huge time saver! I used to bake a double batch and freeze them as a ready-to-eat breakfast. But we’ve since learned that it’s fun to pull out a few frozen dough balls and bake them fresh as needed. It doesn’t get much better than a fresh-from-the-oven Breakfast Cookie with coffee in the morning!

Breakfast Cookies for the Freezer

Cooked Bacon

Pre-cooking bacon to store in the freezer has been awesome! I pull out a few slices to cook for each person a couple times a week, and I can have it on the table in about thirty seconds. I love this time-saving method!

how-to-cook-bacon-in-the-oven-and-freeze-it-for-quick-reheating

Hashbrowns

If I have time, the boys and I make hashbrowns to keep in the freezer. This task hasn’t been making it onto our to-do list lately though, so I was glad to find the Mr. Dell’s brand of frozen hashbrowns at our local Walmart, which contains one ingredient: Potatoes. I love having these in the freezer so I can throw together Egg and Cheese Hashbrown Waffles, Bacon Ranch Hashbrown Casserole, and Simple Hashbrown Casserole. Oh yeah. And hashbrowns. :)

hashbrowns3sm

Ground Beef

I feel like as long as we have hamburger meat in the freezer, we will never go hungry. There are so many meals a person can make with ground beef! And now that I’ve learned how to cook frozen hamburger in bulk in my Instant Pot, life just got even easier! :)

instant pot hamburger8

Boneless Chicken Thighs

Almost as versatile as hamburger meat is boneless chicken pieces! I have learned to love boneless thighs much more than boneless breasts, and as it turns out, thighs always cost less per pound! I watch for the natural brand at my store to be marked down, buy all I can, and throw them into my freezer to use in all our Simple Recipes!

ranch chicken salad1

Homemade Poptarts

No one will starve if we don’t have poptarts in our freezer, but these sure do make a fantastic and fun breakfast. My favorite way to make these is to put together a double batch but leave them unbaked in the freezer. Then I pull them out and bake just a few at a time so we can eat them hot. They are the best! I made a bunch of these before school started this year, and they’ve made mornings just a little bit simpler. :)

homemade-poptarts-for-the-freezer

Muffin Batter

This little tip is fantastic to fill your mornings with freshly baked muffins without having to get out a mixing bowl. I love having several different kinds of muffin batter in my freezer, pulling out a few of each, and baking up an assortment without going to any trouble!

Freeze Your Muffin Batter 3

Frozen Veggies

I have big bag of frozen peas and frozen green beans in my freezer at all times. This way, even if I haven’t made it to the store to restock our fresh veggies, we always have something green to serve with our meals. These steam up quickly, and I always add a good fat to them, which makes them healthier and tastier!

grilled chicken3

Frozen Fruit

If I have peaches, strawberries, blueberries, and/or pineapple in the freezer, I can make smoothies, slushies, or fruit cobblers very quickly. Typically I stock up on these during the summer because they are less expensive when then are in season. I don’t always buy them pre-frozen. I often buy them fresh and freeze them myself if they are a better price this way!

pineapple_mango_smoothie

Butter

But, of course. For all of the delicious, buttery reasons, I keep butter in my freezer at all times. Beef and butter, beef and butter…

beef_and_butter

Food I Keep in my Fridge

Shredded Cheese

I buy 4-pound chunks of Colby jack cheese, and sometimes mozzarella too. I have my boys shred it by running it through our food processor, which makes the job super fast! We store the shredded cheese in pyrex bowls with lids in our fridge and pull it out to use in any casserole, quesadilla, taco, scrambled egg, or anything else which calls for shredded cheese. This is, for sure, a refrigerator staple.

grating cheese2

grating cheese3

Mixed Greens

I buy a one-pound tub of these mixed greens every week so we can always have salads without any effort! Bonus: At our local Walmart, the organic greens are less expensive than the conventional!

mixed greens

Peanut Butter

I buy 5-pound bags of peanuts from Azure Standard every month and make the entire bag into about 6 pint-sized jars of peanut butter. I figure I might as well make one mess to produce 6 jars of peanut butter to have on hand, instead of making only one or two jars at a time every single week. We go through all 6 jars in a month. This homemade peanut butter is super delicious!

Super Creamy Peanut Butter

Cookie Bites

Having these No-Bake Cookie Bites, in one form or the other, in the fridge is great when any of us need a quick snack with protein and fiber. These are super low in sugar and naturally grain free. Yum, they taste good!

No-Bake Cookie Bites - Easy Recipes!

Fat Bombs

Just like the Cookie Bites, these Fat Bombs provide us with energy from good protein and fat. My husband and I like the Stevia Sweetened Fat Bombs. Our kids prefer the Honey Sweetened Fat Bombs.

fat-bombs-easy-and-delicious

Ranch Dressing

I always have a quart of Homemade Ranch Dressing in the fridge. It’s is our favorite dressing, it is easy to make, and we eat salads almost every day!

Ranch Dressing and Dip Mix

Cold Water for Javita Drinks

We almost always drink Javita coffee and tea hot, but for all of the others, I like to keep a jar of water in the fridge so that at any time, we can mix up whichever drink we need. The boys make a Rush drink for themselves before a workout. Matt drinks Flex before a hard day’s work to help with shoulder pain. All the boys and I drink Defend for an immune system boost. I drink Fiber every day to help with digestion, and surprisingly, it has helped keep me from needing to eat so often!

javita products snapshot2

Eggs

I cringe a little if we start getting low on eggs! We go through several dozen each week when we scramble or fry them for breakfast, and when we are baking. Of course, now that I have an Instant Pot, I’ve been boiling them quickly too.

eggs

Butter

Oh wait. Did I already mention butter in the freezer section of this post? Well, can I help it that I always have a nice supply in both my freezer and my fridge? This ingredient is very necessary. Very. :)

butter

What are your fridge and freezer staples?

Simple Lasagna Casserole (Instructions for Instant Pot or Crock Pot!)

This Simple Lasagna Casserole makes it possible for me to offer this proclamation: If life gets any easier, we will all have to find new hobbies. 

lasagna casserole1

Just kidding. No doubt we all have plenty to fill our days. It’s just that all these Simple Meals take so little time and energy to prepare, we are all shocking ourselves with how quickly we can put a delicious, real food meal on the table!

Prep time for this Simple Lasagna Casserole recipe takes a tiny 5 minutes. Cook time in the Instant Pot takes another 5 minutes. Good grief, I barely have time to get out salad fixings, plates, and forks before my Instant Pot beeps to tell me that dinner is ready.

On the other hand, sometimes it’s nice to start dinner ahead of time, leave, and come back to it a few hours later. That’s where the Crock Pot comes in. I can start this casserole cooking in my crock pot (which also takes only 5 minutes of effort), walk away, do a load of laundry, answer a dozen emails, leave the house, scream for my boys at a soccer game, and come home to a ready-made dinner.

lasagna casserole2

NOTE: One of the tricks to making this meal so fast and easy to put together is having Cooked Hamburger Meat already prepared and ready to stir into this dish. If you have an Instant Pot, I highly recommend cooking it this way to get ahead on your hamburger. If you don’t have an Instant Pot, I still recommend cooking hamburger meat ahead of time on the stove-top, then freezing it in meal size portions to make dinner prep easier!

Cook Time Options for Simple Lasagna Casserole

Instant Pot: 5 minutes
Crock Pot: 3-4 hours

Simple Lasagna Casserole (Instructions for Instant Pot and Crock Pot!)
 
Author:
Serves: 6-8
Ingredients
  • 16-ounces UNCOOKED whole grain pasta, any shape
  • 1 pound cooked hamburger meat
  • 50-ounces spaghetti sauce
  • 1 cup water
  • 16-ounces cottage cheese
  • Sea salt to taste
  • 2 cups shredded cheese (your favorite)
Instructions
  1. Stir uncooked pasta, spaghetti sauce, water, cooked meat, sea salt, and cottage cheese in a crock pot or instant pot. Cook as follows:
  2. Crock Pot: Cook on low for 3-4 hours.
  3. Instant Pot: Cook on Manual at high pressure for 5 minutes.
  4. Once time is up for either Crock Pot or Instant Pot, stir mixture and top with cheese, covering dish so the cheese will melt.
  5. Serve!

Simple Lasagna Casserole for Instant Pot or Crock Pot

More Simple Recipes

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It’s Not Too Late! Join our 30-Day Real Food Money Saving Challenge!

It’s time for the 30-Day Real Food Money Saving Challenge! It’s FREE. It’s fun. It’ll save you money. It’ll encourage you to eat right. (And by eat right, I mean spread butter on your bread and pour sweet cream on your peaches. This is the good kind of eatin’!)

We’ve got a whole slew of participants, but we still need more! For everyone who is interested in eating real food and saving money too, this is for you!

Take the 30 Day Challenge

Throughout the month of September, I’ll send out quick and easy real food money saving tips to everyone who signs up to take part in the fun. Should you choose to accept each challenge, you’ll be on your way to filling your table with simple real foods while keeping extra money in your wallet.

This 30-Day Challenge is FREE!

Yep. There’s no cost to join. The tips are fun and practical no matter where you live and what your grocery store options are!

This isn’t about couponing. This is simply about making the most of your grocery dollars while putting great, real food on the table.

Ready to join?!

All you have to do is:

Sign up to take the 30-Day Real~Food~Money~Saving Challenge here.


Throughout the month of September, I’ll send out quick and easy real food money saving tips. Should you choose to accept each challenge, you’ll be on your way to filling your table with simple real foods while keeping extra money in your wallet.

Let the 30-Day Real Food Money Saving Challenge begin!

Join here. 

Real Food Groceries I Buy at Aldi

I am often asked what groceries I buy and where I buy them. Obviously we do not all have the same grocery store options because we all live on different parts of the globe! (And how fun is it that we all connect here in one community!)

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I decided to write a small series of posts to share what groceries I purchase from each of my favorite stores – either online, co-op, or from an brick and mortar grocery store where I actually have to wear clothes and shoes to do my shopping. Not that I shop online without clothes on. I think that might have come out wrong. Well, anyway…

First stop: Aldi

Real Food Groceries I Buy at Aldi

We live just over an hour away from the nearest Aldi. It doesn’t make sense for me to drive there often, even though I love many of the groceries they offer! I make it there only once every three months now, and as you can imagine, I stock up on my favorites while I’m there!

groceries feb 172

I’ve definitely found that not all of the food Aldi offers is of the highest quality. But they do carry many real food items that I trust, so I skip their processed junk food aisles and grab their good food options for great prices!

Real Food Groceries I Buy At Aldi

  • Simply Nature Organic Salsa – We go through loads of salsa at our house!
  • Rotel Diced Tomatoes and Green Chilies (knock off) – So I can always and forever make this Real Food “Velveeta” and Rotel Dip. :)
  • Simply Nature Organic Black Beans
  • Simply Nature Pasta Sauce
  • 100% Grass Fed Beef – We buy a half-cow every year from local farming friends. But we go through a lot of ground beef at our house so I buy hamburger at Aldi whenever I’m there. It costs about $5.65 per pound which is a great price for the quality!
  • Cream Cheese – They carry this for the best price I’ve seen consistently (only $0.79 each!!), but unfortunately they don’t always have it in stock!
  • Butter – Usually this is priced at $2.50 or less per pound, which is much cheaper than my local options.
  • Brown Sugar – I keep brown sugar on hand at home for baking (since it’s cheaper than sucanat and as far as our bodies are concerned, sugar is sugar!). Aldi almost always has the lowest price.

Real Food Groceries I Buy at Aldi…sometimes

  • Produce – Often the Aldi closest to me doesn’t have great quality produce. They have great prices on produce, though, so usually I use their prices to price-match at my local Wal-mart.
  • 100% Whole Wheat Bread – It’s not full of the greatest ingredients, but I do like having a few loaves stashed in my freezer for busy travel days.
  • 100% Fruit Pouches – My boys like their fruit squeeze pouches, which tend to be a little bit less expensive at Aldi most of the time. Sometimes I’ll grab a few boxes while I’m there so we can take them to soccer or basketball games.
  • Sliced Cheese – I often check the quality and price on Colby jack and pepper jack slices if we need them for sandwiches on the road or grilled cheese at home.
  • Lunch Meat or Hot Dogs – Sometimes they have a “Never Any” brand or a nitrite-free hotdog that I’ll take advantage of while I’m there. I’m not a huge fan of these as the quality is still kind of so-so, but if we need them and I want to avoid an additional trip to another store on my way home, I get these.
  • A special treat to take home to the kids – Sometimes I’ll grab a pouch of granola or something else that I know my boys will like. I’ve discovered that my kids are not too old to become excited when Mom gets home from the store!

Real Food Groceries I Buy at Aldi

Do you shop at Aldi? What groceries do you frequently buy there?

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Psst!

Lilla Rose is having a wonderful Fall Sale, this FridaySunday! 40% off retiring styles, and 10-20% off select styles! Check out the gorgeous leaf-themed Flexi, U-Pins, bobbies, and hair sticks for September, “Maple!”
This sale can also be combined with the monthly special of a free large shaped U-Pin with any $50 purchase! Sale starts Friday, Sept. 1 at 7 AM Pacific time, and ends at midnightSunday, Sept. 3.
Sept Sale 2017

Take the 30 Day Real Food Money Saving Challenge!

Guess what we’re going to do together in September? We’re going to eat sweet, crisp apples and save money. We’re going to sprinkle cinnamon on everything and save money. We’re going to take a leap into the fall season together, and take on simple real food challenges that will help us all save some grocery cash!

Who’s with me?

Take the 30 Day Challenge

It’s simple, actually. Would you expect anything less? 

All you have to do is:

Sign up to take the 30-Day Real~Food~Money~Saving Challenge here.


Throughout the month of September, I’ll send out quick and easy real food money saving tips. Should you choose to accept each challenge, you’ll be on your way to filling your table with simple real foods while keeping extra money in your wallet.

It’s a win-win!

Take the 30 Day Real Food Money Saving Challenge

As we settle into a new school year, I can’t think of a better time to focus on eating real food and saving money.

We’ll share some of the most basic, family friendly ways to save grocery money. And we’ll take the fear out of switching to a real food diet. Not only that, we’ll find out why eating real food actually tastes incredible and hmmm…is it possible that we can do all of this without increasing our grocery budget?

As a mom of four teenage sons who has made the switch from processed to whole foods, I can attest to the fact that eating real food has saved us grocery money. Tip #9 will actually share one simple way we save $1,000 every year by eating real food. True story!

I can’t wait to share all these fun tips and to extend challenges for your family to enjoy with me.

Are you ready?

Sign up to take our 30-Day Real~Food~Money~Saving Challenge!

As a thank you for joining us, we’ll give you a free copy of Heavenly Homemaker’s Top 10 Money Saving Recipes.

Top 10 Money Saving Recipes

 

Let the 30-Day Real~Food~Money~Saving Challenge begin!

Bonus points if you tell your friends about it. Friends don’t let friends pay too much money for groceries (or eat margarine), am I right? :)

Whole Wheat Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffin Recipe

This Whole Wheat Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffin recipe has become a favorite at our house, especially as we’ve kicked off a new school year!

oatmeal chocolate chip muffins

Our kids are forever on the run this year as two of the three boys still at home are taking a variety of music lessons, college classes, and even a couple classes at our local high school.

Oh hey, I haven’t told you yet! Nebraska has changed their home school laws which had been very limiting as to the extracurricular activities our kids could participate in at the public school. As of this year, the only eligibility requirement for participation in public school activities is that home school students take two classes at the public school. Boom. We’re in. Our boys are incredibly excited to play high school soccer this spring!!

This means our high school senior and sophomore guys have quite a crazy schedule to juggle. They are back and forth and forth and back…and it’s a good thing they are responsible and that God made coffee.

Gone are the days of starting our day leisurely at the breakfast table together. We’ve moved our family Bible reading up to a much earlier start time so that we can still make it a priority. And instead of rolling out of bed just in time to head down for breakfast and Bible time together, the older boys have to be actually ready to walk out the door wearing actual clothes and actual shoes.

It’s working, and it’s working beautifully. God knows what we need and He continually provides. While our two high schoolers are running to and fro and doing all their home or college studies in between their public school classes, our 7th grader and I have a little extra quiet time to read his History and Science lessons together.

So now you know a little about our new adventures this year. But what you really wanted to read about today is this Whole Wheat Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffin recipe. Am I right?

This recipe makes a big tray full of hearty muffins that are filling, but also delicious (because…chocolate chips and butter). They taste fabulous with a cup of coffee and of course, there’s some great fresh fruit available this time of year and we are taking full advantage! So without further ado…

Whole Wheat Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffin Recipe

Whole Wheat Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffins
 
Author:
Serves: 16-18
Ingredients
  • 2½ cups whole wheat flour (I use freshly ground soft white wheat)
  • 1½ cups rolled oats
  • ⅓-1/2 cup sucanat, honey, or brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1½ cups milk
  • ½ cup melted butter or coconut oil
  • ½ cup chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, stir together flour, oats, sucanat, baking powder, and salt.
  2. Add eggs, milk, and butter, stirring until just combined.
  3. Fold in chocolate chips.
  4. Scoop batter into 16-18 prepared muffin tins.
  5. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 15-20 minutes or until muffins are golden brown.

Whole Wheat Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffins

Make them Dairy Free: Use coconut oil instead of butter and coconut milk instead of regular.
Make them Gluten Free: Use your favorite gluten free flour instead of whole wheat and gluten free oats instead of regular.

Need some protein with your muffin and fruit? So do we! Eggs are always great. And check out this great method for cooking bacon and freezing it for fast breakfast protein!

Tell me about your school year. Are you off to a good start?

How to Cook 5 Pounds of Frozen Hamburger Meat in an Instant Pot in 30 Minutes (and what to do with it)

This is, hands down, my favorite Instant Pot trick so far! I will forevermore cook frozen hamburger meat an Instant Pot as it saves loads of time and I don’t have to thaw, babysit, or stir my meat to get it ready to add to dishes. Wait till you see how easy this is!

instant pot hamburger8

How to Cook Frozen Hamburger Meat in an Instant Pot

Step One: Get hamburger meat out of the freezer.

(But whatever you do, don’t plan ahead. No way, no how! Don’t thaw your meat because life is too short to spend time thinking about details like this.)

Step Two: Pour 1 cup of water into the bottom of the pot under the trivet. (Very important detail!)

Step Three: Put chunks of frozen meat onto the metal trivet inside the pot. Stand them up like soldiers so they’ll cook more evenly.

instant pot hamburger6

Step Four: Put the lid on your Instant Pot. Close the venting valve so it will seal.

Step Five: Set the Instant Pot to 30 minutes on high pressure on Manual Mode.

Step Six: Come back when the machine beeps as if to say, “Your hard work is done. I hope you enjoyed your nap.”

Step Seven: Carefully release the pressure and use a meat thermometer to be sure the internal temp is at least 160 degrees.

Step Eight: Transfer the cooked meat to a big bowl and use a sturdy utensil to break it apart. (I have this “Meat Masher” and love it for this job!)

Now you’ve got five pounds of cooked hamburger to use any way you need! See my big list below of great options!

instant pot hamburger7

Note: What to do with the water and grease at the bottom of your Instant Pot?

If I had one complaint about this meat-cooking method, it would be that all the grease drips to the bottom, leaving the meat a bit dry. What can I say? I may be the only one on the planet who wants to keep a little fat in my meat! So I use a ladle to drizzle some of the water/grease back into the meat after I’ve broken it apart.

How to Cook 5 Pounds of Frozen Hamburger in an Instant Pot

Now I’ve got some great recipes and ideas to share for using your cooked hamburger meat!

33 Recipes for your Cooked Hamburger Meat

Divide your cooked meat into 1-pound portions in freezer bags, freeze, then pull them out to use as needed for quick and Simple Meals! Or divide your meat into separate bowls and start building some of these great meals to make your meal time ridiculously easy!

Have you tried cooking frozen hamburger in an Instant Pot? What are your favorite meals that include hamburger meat?

Master List of Simple Lunch Box Ideas

Here it is! The Master List of Simple Lunch Box Ideas!

I know many of you send lunches with your kids for school and/or pack lunches for yourself or your spouse for work. Here’s hoping this list offers you some fun variety and nourishment that goes far beyond a sandwich! :)

todays lunch

Hopefully you already grabbed the Master Lists of Simple Lunch, Breakfast, and Snack Ideas. I’m covering my fridge with these lists to make our transition from summer break to a school schedule a little bit easier. If you haven’t already, be sure to download all these handy lists here!

Now for today’s list:

The Master List of Simple Lunch Box Ideas

Simple Lunch Box Ideas

Your Real Food Master Simple Lunch Box Ideas List

You can download this entire list here. But I’ll share it all on this post for reference also. I also recommend that you pin it so you can find it quickly as needed!

strawberry

 

Meaty Recipes for your Lunchbox

If at home, we eat many of these hot. But in a packed lunch, we don’t mind eating them cold!

Food You Can Heat and Pack in a Thermos

LgTHermos

NOTE: Here’s a fantastic thermos option that comes in all kinds of fun varieties and patterns. It’s stainless steel inside and out. It keeps cold food cold for 7 hours and hot food hot for 5 hours! Check out your options here. 

Hearty Dips for Chips

wide mouth jars

Pack these dips in small wide-mouth jars with a bag of tortilla chips to go with them!

Hearty Salads

SaladCOntainer

Fun Ideas to Add to Your Lunchbox

granola cups2

Now let’s look at good fruit and veggie add-ons.  I listed apples and carrots first, because those are a given.  But wait till you see all the other fun options to give your lunch box some life!

COntainers

  • Apples
  • Carrots
  • Bananas
  • Clementines
  • Oranges
  • Applesauce
  • Peach Cups (100% juice)
  • Grapes
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Sweet Peppers
  • Side Salad
  • Blueberries
  • Sliced Strawberries
  • Raspberries
  • Blackberries
  • Sliced cucumbers
  • Celery
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Pears

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Psssst! I LOVE silicone cups like this to make Fat Bombs  and Muffins. But how about also using them in lunchboxes to separate food items from one another! This 28-pack is deeply discounted right now!

SiliconCups28

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Master List of Simple Lunch Box Ideas

Free Printable Lunchbox Cards for you

Find FREE printable Lunch Box Cards HERE and HERE.

HHM-Encouragement-Cards-preview1

Awesome Lunchboxes and Containers

Here are some really cool lunchbox options, as well as containers that work great to send food to work and school!

This Rubbermaid Salad Container comes with a blue ice freezer pack that snaps directly onto the food containers to keep your lunch cold. They are BPA free and very versitile!

SaladCOntainer

Here’s another one that can be used for all kinds of foods!

COntainers

If you prefer Stainless Steel, this one is a little pricier but super durable.

MetalContainer

As for lunchboxes, this one is Double Decker so you can keep cold food cold and hot food hot! (P.S. I love this pink one!)

DOubleDeckerLunchbox

This simple insulated lunch bag has all kinds of fun print patterns for kids to pick from. The price is great too!

Pattern lunchbox

Or let your kids choose from these fun varieties of insulated zip up bags!

IceCreamLunchbox

PlanesLunchbox

Would you like to make this Master List of Simple Lunchbox Ideas even simpler?

Sign up here* to receive the entire Master List of Simple Lunchbox Ideas in a free downloadable document! Then you can keep it handy on your computer or print it and put it on your fridge as a super handy reference! You’ll also receive our free Master Lunch, Breakfast, and Snack lists!

*If you’re already on our email list, go ahead and sign up with your email list anyway. This makes it easier for me to get the list to you and you won’t receive double email. You’ll be automatically redirected to a page with the free lists to download!

What are your favorite foods to add to a lunchbox?

All the Groceries I Bought for the Beginning of the School Year (Brace Yourself)

Stocking up is one thing. This time I think I might have gone just a tiny bit crazy. Are you ready to see all the groceries I thought I surely must have to help us survive the beginning of the school year?

groceries august2

Oh, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

I have decided that I got into this crazy BUY ALL THE FOOD mode for three reasons:

  1. My boys had been at church camps or mission trips a good part of the summer and I had not purchased many groceries for the past three months. I was making up for lost time, perhaps? Or maybe I had gone through withdrawal and needed a bulk grocery fix.
  2. I had a chance to go to Lincoln where there is an Aldi. I had to stock up on all my Aldi favorites to help get me through until the next time I have a chance to go there.
  3. I seem to think that if I can have every single food item in stock at my house, I can more easily get through the first couple of weeks of school. Apparently Geometry is more fun when there is plenty of spaghetti sauce in the house.

groceries august4

Most of my thinking is logical, I believe. I have been doing this Fall Semester thing for how many years now? Sixteen? The fall doesn’t just bring the start of school. It also brings soccer season in which my husband is gone much of the time because he is assistant coach of our local college team. The older boys ref games, and our youngest plays on two teams. The fall is simply BUSY and if I can just have enough tuna on hand, then all of life will be easier.

Sure, I live five minutes from a grocery store. But I live three seconds from my storage room that houses all the tuna, so I’d rather go there on a busy day.

Well, speaking of tuna, I bought 24 cans. But after all the buying and loading and unloading, I found myself not particularly excited about setting up a tuna photo-shoot. I think we can all agree that tuna stacked on a table is not terribly thrilling to see. So I left them in the bags under the bagels. Be amazed.

groceries august5

If you think 24 cans of tuna is excessive (it’s not), you might be even more impressed that I got 24 packages of cream cheese. Dude, I was at Aldi and they were only $0.79 each. I will likely not make it back to Aldi for a couple of months, so I filled a cooler. With cream cheese. Who wants to be my best friend now?

groceries august3

The most fun grocery event of this month was definitely the day my Amazon Subscribe and Save order arrived. The bill for this order was not pretty, though I did get good deals on each case I ordered.

groceries august8

groceries august9

Pasta for days. And also Kleenex.

Here’s what I got this time around:

TIP! If you want to be kept up to date on great Amazon deals I find, sign up to be a member of our Savings Club. It’s free!

groceries august17

If you’re hungry and you know it, clap your hands. I think it is clear that no one will starve at our house during the next few weeks, though you can be sure that we will go through this food faster than one thinks should be reasonable.

Your Turn! Tell me about the crazy things you do before a school year starts!

Simple Hashbrown Casserole (Instructions for Instant Pot, Crock Pot, or Oven!)

Hooray! Simple Hashbrown Casserole is my first (of many?!) Instant Pot recipes to share. But guess what else?

instant pot hashbrown casserole2

I’m well aware that not everyone has an Instant Pot, so I’m also providing instructions for baking this in an oven. Not only that, because there are times we might need a slower cooking option (like, if we need to get dinner started, then head out to ball games, then come home to a cooked meal) – so I’m also including Crock Pot cooking instructions!

As best I can, I will provide all these options each (or most of the) time I share an Instant Pot recipe. Here’s a quick glance at cooking times for this Simple Hashbrown Casserole so you can make your best plan on the day you make this.

Cook Time Options for Simple Hashbrown Casserole

Instant Pot: 15 minutes
Oven: 1 hour
Crock Pot: 3-6 hours, depending on low or hi setting

instant pot hashbrown casserole

You need just five ingredients to make this recipe! One of the ingredients is this Homemade Ranch Dressing Mix, which I love to have on hand at all times. Another ingredient is cooked meat. This time I made hamburger meat in my Instant Pot and I can’t wait to tell you about it! This is the easiest meat-cooking method there is – and possibly my “if you get an Instant Pot for no other reason, this is it!” shout out. I’ll share about this meat-cooking method soon!

You might remember a variation of this new simple recipe: Bacon Ranch Hashbrown Casserole. You can most certainly make that recipe in your Instant Pot or Crock Pot following these instructions! And if you don’t love the “ranch” flavor this calls for, simply sub it out for any spices you like! Truly this recipe is most forgiving, and allows you to make it with any meat you prefer or have on hand, so you can create it to your family’s taste!

And then there’s the variety of cooking methods that allow you to make this no matter how busy your day, so I think we can all agree that this recipe wins the “Cooks Choice Award!”

Simple Hashbrown Casserole

Simple Hashbrown Casserole (Instructions for Instant Pot, Crock Pot, or Oven!)
 
Author:
Serves: 6-8
Ingredients
  • 1 pound cooked meat (hamburger, ham, bacon, sausage, or any of your choosing!)
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar or Colby jack cheese
  • 3 cups sour cream
  • 3 Tablespoons Ranch Dressing Mix
  • 1 bag of frozen shredded hashbrowns
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, stir together cooked meat, shredded cheese, sour cream, and ranch dressing mix.
  2. Fold in frozen hashbrowns until all ingredients are well combined.
  3. Instant Pot Method: Cook for 15 minutes on manual mode, hi pressure.
  4. Oven Baking: Bake uncovered in a 350° oven for 45-60 minutes or until casserole is lightly browned and bubbly.
  5. Crock Pot Method: Cook on low for 6 hours or on hi for 3 hours.

Simple Hashbrown Casserole (for Instant Pot, Crock Pot, or Oven)

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