Chocolate Chip Breakfast Bars – From Freezer to Oven!

Well, here we are. The school year is in full swing. Fall soccer season is knocking our (smelly) socks off. I have completely forgotten which way is up.

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I already lost track of which way is south because when people give me directions they are not allowed to use ridiculous phrases like, “Turn east and you’ll see our house on the north corner.” What kind of foreign language are they even speaking? When giving me directions, people may only use phrases like, “turn right” or “turn left” or better yet “turn toward the sign with the monkey.”

In summary, September is always a very busy month for our family, and I am extremely directionally challenged. However, as long as I do everything I can to keep our food simple, I handle myself okay in the kitchen (which, as it turns out, is located in the northeast corner of our house).

Stashing prepared food in our freezer (found when you take a south at the stove and head due west toward the toaster) is only helpful if said prepared food doesn’t get lost in the back and freezer burned. I’ve discovered a couple of tricks during the past couple of years that make freezer cooking much better for our family, and my favorite is this:

Stir together breakfast baked goods, but freeze them before baking. Pull out desired amount of said frozen goods and bake them fresh on the morning you plan to serve them.

When doing this, I get baking messes out of the way so I don’t have to measure and mix on busy school mornings. But we can still eat the goodies fresh out of the oven.

Breakfast Cookies for the Freezer

Take, for instance, my “famous” Giant Breakfast Cookies. I mix up a double batch (because why make one batch when you can make two?). I scoop the dough onto cookie sheets and freeze the cookie dough balls. Each morning when we want hot, fresh Breakfast Cookies, I simply pull out some frozen cookie dough balls and bake them while I scramble eggs and slice strawberries. We all eat a fabulous breakfast and I’ve hardly worked at all.

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I do the same with muffin batter, freezing it in muffin cups, unbaked, and pulling them out to bake as needed. Homemade Poptarts are perfect frozen unbaked as well.

The Easiest Way to Make Muffins

This is all wonderful, seeing as I must use all my energy after breakfast to try and understand what my phone means when it tells me to “head north toward Highway 2″ as I’m trying to locate a soccer field in another city. For the love of my brain cells, JUST TELL ME TO GO STRAIGHT OR TURN RIGHT. Well, anyway…

My most recent “Mix and Freeze” breakfast food discovery is this: I can mix up big batches of these Chocolate Chip Breakfast Bars, freeze them unbaked, then pull out squares and bake them as needed.

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See? I line my 8×8 inch pans with parchment paper, press in the dough, and freeze. I even freeze it in layers (though learned the hard way that it is important to keep parchment paper between the layers). Once frozen, I transfer the unbaked dough to gallon-sized freezer bags. If I think about it the night before, I’ll pull out a square to thaw in the fridge so I can bake it the next day. Otherwise, I simply pull out a frozen square in the morning, put it into a pan and bake it with a few minutes of extra baking time.

Where has this tip been my whole life? (Probably hiding somewhere between the east and the west, but of course, I could never find it.)

Chocolate Chip Breakfast Bars

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Chocolate Chip Breakfast Bars - From Freezer to Oven!
 
Author:
Serves: 24
Ingredients
  • 1 cup melted butter
  • ¾ cup sucanat or ½ cup honey
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour (I use freshly ground hard white wheat)
  • ½ cup chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Stir together melted butter and sucanat.
  2. Add eggs, baking soda, salt, and vanilla, mixing well.
  3. Stir in oats and flour until well combined.
  4. Fold in chocolate chips.
  5. Spread mixture in a 9×13 inch baking dish (or two 8x8 inch baking dishes).
  6. Bake in a 350° oven for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.
  7. To Freeze Dough: Line 8x8 inch pans with parchment paper, press in the dough, and freeze. Once frozen, transfer the unbaked dough to freezer bags. Thaw dough squares in the fridge overnight to bake the next day. Or pull out a frozen square in the morning, put it into a pan and bake it with a few minutes of extra baking time.

Make-Ahead Chocolate Chip Breakfast Bars

I highly recommend making and freezing bacon ahead so that within thirty seconds, you can serve hot, sizzly bacon with these bars. Any fruit will go with these as well, and with that, breakfast is served.

May your mornings be pleasant, may your breakfast be tasty, and may you never tell me to head south on 6th street.

How to Cook Bacon in the Oven, Freeze, and Warm up Fast!

Recently I have discovered the amazingness of baking several pounds of bacon, freezing it for later use, then pulling it out to reheat and serve in about 2 minutes.

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Where has this tip been all my life?

I already knew how to make Bacon Bits ahead of time for ease in making salads and bacon-cheesy eggs. But strips of bacon? Well, I’d never tried making it ahead before. I will make bacon this way from now on because it is an incredible time saver!

Also, it keeps my hair from frequently smelling like bacon, so I think we can all be grateful for this delightful bonus.

How to Cook Bacon Ahead, Freeze, and Warm Up Fast

  1. Lay bacon on a a broiling rack in a single layer.
  2. Place the rack of bacon on a baking sheet to catch the grease as it bakes.
  3. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 15-30 minutes (time varies based on thickness of bacon).
  4. Pull bacon out of oven just before it has reached the crispiness level you prefer.
  5. Allow bacon to cool on paper towels.
  6. Transfer cooked and cooled bacon to a gallon-sized freezer bag. (I leave the cooked bacon on the paper towels when putting it in the freezer bags. That way I can do two-pounds at once with a paper towel in between layers of bacon.)
  7. Freeze up to three months.
  8. Rewarm bacon by taking desired amount of cooked bacon slices directly from freezer and heating them in a skillet for about 1 minute on each side.

Can you believe how easy this is?

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I recommend that you lay the bacon on a broiling rack like this and place it on a baking sheet like this. This will allow the bacon grease to drip into the pan and prevent a mess.

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Once the grease has cooled and thickened, I recommend transferring it to a jar in your fridge. Bacon grease stirred into green beans or other veggies makes for a super flavorful side dish!

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Being able to offer my family bacon with zero effort on a busy morning has been a life saver. After all, as my men will tell you, bacon is a necessity of life.

Do you usually cook bacon on the stove or in the oven? Ever tried making it ahead of time and freezing it as described above?

More Bacon Posts You’ll Want to Check Out

This post contains affiliate links.

Hey, what’s for dinner?

It’s the question of the day, right? The frustrating part is when I’m asked this question while in the middle of five other tasks…and I haven’t yet figured out the dinner plan. Ugh, sorry kids. Dinner is…something. I’ll have to get back to you on the specifics.

Enter: Simple Meals. It’s saving my brain (and many of yours too!). If you haven’t joined yet, now’s the time. Get all the details here!

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How to Make Homemade Chicken Patties for Sandwiches (Freezable!)

You want to know one of my favorite convenience foods I miss the most since switching to real food? Processed chicken patties for chicken sandwiches. (Bet you never would have guessed that, since that’s what this post is about.)

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I grew up microwaving Schwan’s chicken patties and slapping them on white buns for a quick meal or snack after a sports practice. They were yummy and easy and while I couldn’t care less about many other processed convenience items (I gave up boxed pizza rolls several years ago and never looked back) – I do miss the taste and handiness of chicken patties.

So why it’s taken me this long to figure out a recipe that resembles the beloved frozen chicken patties, I do not know. But here I am, finally learning a way to make breaded chicken patties for sandwiches. The best news is that you can make these in bulk and freeze them for a fast, convenient, ready-made meal on a busy day.

Homemade Chicken Patties for SandwichesYum

How to Make Homemade Chicken Patties for Sandwiches (Freezable!)
 
Author:
Serves: 15-20 patties
Ingredients
  • 3 pounds ground chicken
  • 4 teaspoons onion powder, divided
  • 3 teaspoons garlic powder, divided
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, divided
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 cups whole grain flour (I used whole wheat, but if you need these to be gluten free, use your favorite flour choice)
  • Palm shortening or oil of choice
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl mix ground chicken, 2 teaspoons onion powder, 2 teaspoons garlic powder, and ½ teaspoon sea salt.
  2. Shape meat mixture into 15-20 patties (make them larger or smaller depending on your family's portion size needs)
  3. Beat eggs into a bowl.
  4. Pour milk into a separate bowl.
  5. In a third bowl, mix flour, 2 teaspoons onion powder, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, and ½ teaspoon sea salt.
  6. Heat palm shortening or oil on a griddle.
  7. Dip prepared meat patties in egg, then flour mixture, then milk, then flour mixture again.
  8. Place battered chicken patty into oil on the griddle.
  9. Repeat process with each chicken patty.
  10. Cook for 7-10 minutes on each side, mashing down lightly as needed.
  11. Serve right away, or cool and freeze for future use, then rewarm in a 350 degree oven until heated through.

Are you ready to see some ugly chicken patty pictures? This isn’t pretty, friends. Raw meat pressed into patties – well there’s a reason we call stuff like this “processed food.” But take great comfort in the fact that this is all made from real food and wholesome ingredients and ignore the fact that naked ground chicken pressed into a patty really just ain’t purty.

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See the patty breading process? First the egg.

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Then the flour.

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Then the milk.

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Then the flour again.

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Then comes the part where we fry the patties in oil.

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We watch in amazement as they turn into beautiful chicken patties we can’t wait to put on a bun or between two big leaves of lettuce.

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Sure, it’s thicker than the patties we grew up eating. We like it that way. That means there’s double the meat.

Homemade Chicken Patties for Sandwiches - Freezable

One of the biggest perks is that you can form your chicken patties into any size you need for your family. Have small children? Make small patties. Have teenage boys? Make the patties nice and big. Have some big eaters and small eaters? Make a variety.

The biggest win is that if you make a bunch, you’ll have yummy chicken patties ready to warm up for sandwiches on a day you don’t have time to cook!

Did you grow up eating and loving processed chicken sandwiches? 

Freezer Cooking I’ve Been Doing to Prepare for Back-to-School

With a houseful of teenage boys, it’s difficult to get ahead.

I’m talking about food in this case, although I guess the same statement is true in every area of life in a household full of kids. (I’m looking at you, Laundry Pile. Dirty Dishes. Mail. Shoe Closet.) Bah.

This is why I did some freezer cooking a few weeks ago when three outa four of our boys were still at church camp. With hardly anyone here to eat, I actually had leftovers to put in the freezer. Yay me!

I took a few pictures along the way to share with you. Take note that not all freezer cooking involves making casseroles. There are many other ways to get ahead. For instance…

I had a cheese shredding marathon:

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It only takes a few minutes and NO EFFORT to shred 8 packages of cheese when I use my food processor. I ran it through the shred piece, so now I have two big bowls of shredded cheese ready to add to everything we need for the next couple of weeks! (Yes, this will be gone by the time we start school. Whatever.)

Almost as important as shredded cheese is the double batch of frozen cookie balls I made. These won’t last long once the boys discover them, but I love that they can take out a few and bake them for an afternoon snack. I used this Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe.

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If you don’t have any of these Silicone Baking Mats,
I encourage you to read more about why I love them here!

I made two bags of our favorite Apricot Chicken. I’ll dump this into the crock pot on a busy school day. (This is a recipe from our Eat Right Away Collection. These are a must have because they save so much time!)

school food3

You know I didn’t do all of this, all on the same day, right? No way. But, there was a day I made not one but SIX batches of homemade whole wheat tortillas. That was a tortilla making record for me!

Malachi helped me use the tortillas to make 24 Lazy Dogs and 24 Meat and Cheese Burritos. We still had leftover tortillas for a few quesadillas, so I felt very accomplished that day.

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Another time, I cut and cooked 5 pounds of bacon to have on hand for salads and scrambled eggs. More on that later. :)

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I mixed up a double batch of Blueberry Muffins and froze the batter so we can bake the muffins fresh on a school morning. I love this time saving technique!

frozen muffins

Last, I made a double batch of Giant Breakfast Cookies. Instead of baking them, I froze them into unbaked cookie balls. This means we can take out a few and bake them fresh any morning we want/need them. I’ll share specifics on how to do this another day soon!

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I’m hoping to make a triple or quadruple batch of this Real Food “Velveeta” and Rotel Dip for the freezer during the next few days. That will be great to have on hand for Nachos, Spicy Mac and Cheese, or Simple Taco Soup.

Now your turn! Have you done any freezer cooking lately? What have you been making in an effort to get ahead before school starts?

How to Freeze Apple Pie Filling – Easy!

When it comes to making and preserving Apple Pie Filling, you have a few choices. You can can it (can can, can you do the can can, can you…). You can freeze it, which I will describe here today. Or (and this is by far the most novel idea of them all) you can put the filling directly into a pie crust and bake it immediately.

apples

It all comes down to how much freezer space you have, how much pantry space you have, if you love canning produce, if you have plenty of jars, or if you really just want to eat an apple pie after dinner on this very day.

But really most of it comes down to apples. You can’t do any of this if you don’t have apples.

So…do you have apples? I have apples. This year I decided that the easiest way for me to preserve Apple Pie Filling is to freeze it.

If you want to can apple pie filling so that you can store it in your pantry, you can learn how to do that here. You should know that I break out in a sweat every single time I type the word p-a-n-t-r-y. I re-read it four hundred and eighty times to make sure I didn’t leave out the “r” because that would bring a whole new unintended meaning to my sentence.

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Here’s how to freeze apple pie filling:

1. Wash, core, and slice apples into a large bowl. I leave the peeling on. (Once again I sweat and make sure I added the “l” to p-e-e-l-i-n-g.)
2. Stir in 1/4 cup sucanat or brown sugar plus 1 teaspoon cinnamon per every 5-6 apples.
3. Transfer mixture to quart-sized freezer bags, 3-4 cups of apple pie filling per bag.
4. Label the bag and freeze it for up to a year.

How to Freeze Apple Pie Filling

When you’re ready to make an apple pie, simply thaw and dump the contents into an unbaked pie crust, then proceed as you normally would to make an apple pie. Here’s my Whole Wheat Pie Crust recipe. Even easier, use the filling to make an Apple Crisp or a Salted Caramel Apple Crisp.

It’s wonderful having prepared apple pie filling in your freezer, and yes, even in your pantrrrrrrry.

How’s your apple supply? Have you been able to get your hands on plenty of good apples this year? 

Busy Morning Breakfasts That Can Be Made Ahead of Time

I am so messed up on breakfasts right now. Our second son started taking a college class on MWF and he has to be on campus at 8:00. Color me late to this “get your kids out the door for school on time” game, but well, that’s exactly what I am. We work from home and we’ve home-schooled forever, so getting out the door to church with combed hair on Sundays has been our only morning schedule struggle. On school days, we usually eat while beginning our Bible time and school time in our jammies a few minutes after we wake the kids. Now, if you can possibly imagine, I must actually be dressed and have breakfast on the table by 7:20.

Yes, I’m sure most of you can possibly imagine, and many of you are thinking, “Really, girl? 7:20 am is practically mid-afternoon at our house.” God bless all of you early morning head-out-the-door-to-work-and-school friends. I have some recipes to share with you. We shall all eat well together…at whatever time each of us considers to be early.

Busy Morning Breakfasts That Can Be Made Ahead of Time

Busy Morning Breakfasts That Can Be Made Ahead of Time

My goal this week was to prep breakfast foods and put them into the freezer so that I’ll be perfectly organized and never have to think again. Scratch that. My goal this week is simply to prep some breakfast foods and put them in the freezer. I’ll never be perfectly organized and in typical mom-life fashion, I found myself having to think straight and answer difficult questions like “are my soccer socks clean?” just a few minutes ago.

Here are my favorite breakfast foods to put into the freezer. They save time, money, and brain – my favorite things to save.

1. Hashbrowns and Hashbrown Patties

I’ll be baking a few pounds of potatoes this week to shred and put into the freezer. Fry up some eggs with these, serve with fruit – done. Everyone loves these and thinks you’re wonderful when you make these. It is fun when everyone thinks you’re wonderful.

Homemade Hashbrown Patties

2. Muffin Batter

You knew I would say this one. I can’t help it. Making and freezing muffin batter saves so much time. Not to mention dirty dishes. Deliver me from dirty dishes.

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3. Cooked Turkey Sausage and Prepared Biscuits

I can make biscuits and gravy sooooo fast when I do this. My family is always amazed. Let’s just let them keep thinking that I am incredible to pull this off. Add the above mentioned Hashbrowns to this meal and you can picture my kids breaking into a lively Mom is Our Favorite Person in the Whole World dance (not really).

Freezer Biscuit Tutorial

4. Oatmeal Cups

You wouldn’t think that this would save time, but it truly does. At least it saves brain. That’s worth a whole lot.

frozen oatmeal3

5. Giant Breakfast Cookies

Best thing to pull out of the freezer for breakfast…ever.

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6. Pancake Muffins

Yep. My newest favorite. I cannot get over how easy these are.

Easy Pancake Muffins

7. Quick Breads

Find our favorite quick bread recipes here. I usually double or triple a batch. If I allow them to cool completely, then wrap them well before freezing them, quick breads thaw and serve well. It is so very nice to pull a prepared loaf or two out of the freezer to go with breakfast in the morning.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

If you freeze nothing else to save yourself time, brain, and money (while also eating healthy, because you are just that awesome) – make and freeze some of these breakfast foods. It will make your morning routine so much easier. Pick the recipe that looks the easiest to you – then go for it!

What are your favorite breakfast foods to prep ahead? Have any new ideas for me? What time to you eat breakfast at your house?

How Does Prepping 5 Meals in 20 Minutes Sound?

You might remember how a couple of weeks ago I made 7 Chicken Slow Cooker Meals in 30 Minutes. Well, the next day I made 5 Beef Slow Cooker Meals in just 20 minutes. It is too fun.

This is the easiest, fastest, most fun freezer cooking I’ve ever done. Plus, these freezer meals keep saving my neck on busy days. I just pull a bag out of the freezer and throw the contents into the crock pot. I add some veggies to the table in the evening, and we are set.

Here are a few pictures of my 5 beef meals in 20 minutes prep. They aren’t pretty, but at least it’s better than looking at pictures of mannequins in my office. (Ain’t that the truth.)

5 Meals in 20 Minutes

First I took my printed copy of Eat Right Away: Slow Cooker Beef Edition and put the ingredients for the Hawaiian Beef and Rice directly into the crock pot. That would be for dinner that day – you know, since I was so busy spending another 17 minutes making 4 more meals. Obviously, I was exhausted after that and couldn’t possibly think about cooking our evening meal.

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Next, I labeled freezer bags and started filling them with ingredients for the other four packet recipes.

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This process is so fascinating to witness. Lookie at the meat with Onion Soup Mix and other ingredients splashed into a bag. Ooh. Aah.

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A grand total of 20 minutes later, dinner was in the crock pot and four other meals were ready for the freezer.

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Read about our Eat Right Away Packets here.

We’ve got four packets (a total of 20 recipes!) all organized and ready for you to work with! I cannot tell you how great these are to work with. Actually, I guess I did just tell you. Go get your packets. They’ll save you time and money!

30 Day Back-to-School Real Food Menu Plan

30-Day Back-to-School Real Food Menu Plan time!
30 Day Real Food Menu Plan

I’m excited to share that I’ve made a list of one entire month’s worth of real food meals – breakfast, lunch, and dinner/supper. Why? Because school is just about to begin (or already did for some of you).

I personally thought it would be valuable to avoid thinking about how to feed the hungry school children since I will, of course, be joyously reading for hours each day with my offspring about the adventures of Lewis and Clark and having fabulous discussions about planets, galaxies, and Ralph Moody. During the times I’m not joyously reading, I will be joyful at a soccer field or in a car dropping or picking up a kid from a music lesson. I will be way too joyful to think about meal planning.

Assuming you also have much joy during the back-to-school season – I thought maybe you’d like this resource too.

Don’t look now, but I’m absolutely not going to stick with these lists entirely. I’ll use it as a reference and guide. This is 30 days worth of real food meals at a quick glance to ease us all back into a school routine. Now that is JOY!

30-Day Back-to-School Real Food Menu Plan

We’ll begin with breakfast, head into lunch (for the homeschoolers among us), then land on dinner/supper. As much as possible, I plan to (or already) have foods prepped ahead and put into the freezer so that all I have to do is pull them out and thaw/cook/serve. Everything else will be easy to put together. Scrambling eggs takes no time at all. Right? Right.

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30 Real Food Breakfast Ideas (always served with fruit and often served with some sort of additional protein)

  1. Fried eggs on toast
  2. Scrambled cheesy eggs
  3. Breakfast Burritos
  4. Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffins
  5. Easy Breakfast Casserole
  6. Dark Chocolate Almond Granola
  7. Giant Breakfast Cookies
  8. Instant Oatmeal Packets
  9. Pancake and Sausage Muffins
  10. Whole Wheat Waffles
  11. Coconut Flour Muffins
  12. Quick Mix Pancakes
  13. Homemade Poptarts
  14. Raspberry Oatmeal Bars
  15. Peanut Butter Snack Bars
  16. Peanut Butter Breakfast Cake
  17. Coconut Fudge Bars
  18. Cream Cheese Pumpkin Muffins
  19. Quick Mix Biscuits
  20. Low Sugar Carrot Cake
  21. Lemon Bread
  22. Ham and Egg Breakfast Bowls
  23. Grape Nuts Cereal
  24. Crepes
  25. Breakfast Cake Muffins
  26. Honey Cinnamon Muffins
  27. Oatmeal Breakfast Bars
  28. Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Muffins
  29. Strawberry Cream Muffins
  30. Peanut Butter Pancakes

Muffin Tip: Make muffin batter ahead and put it into the freezer like this so that you can easily bake them fresh as needed in the mornings!

Tuna Melts on Spinach

30 Real Food Lunch Ideas (always served with 2-4 fruits and veggies. If I’m serving salad, I usually serve some sort of bread to fill my men)

  1. Tuna Salad
  2. Tuna Melts on Spinach
  3. Pasta Salad Bar
  4. Meat and Cheese Burritos
  5. Easy Noodle Stir Fry
  6. Ham and Cheese Pasta Salad
  7. Pizza Boats
  8. Baked Potatoes in the Crock Pot with whatever toppings we have available
  9. Homemade pizza (crusts already made – boys build/bake their own)
  10. Spanish Rice
  11. Taco Salad
  12. Easy Cheesy Bean Dip with chips
  13. Chicken Tacos
  14. Black Bean Chicken Nachos
  15. BLT Chopped Salad
  16. BLT Wraps
  17. Bacon, Egg, and Avocado Salad
  18. Grilled Cheese Sandwiches (with turkey or ham if I have some)
  19. Scrambled Egg Sandwiches
  20. Creamy Mac and Cheese
  21. Healthier Cheese Dip with chips
  22. Real Food Meat and Velveeta Dip with chips
  23. Taco Quesadillas
  24. Tuna Casserole
  25. Chicken Burritos
  26. Plain Quesadillas
  27. Hamburger Patties
  28. Beef Summer Sausage with cheese and crackers
  29. Corn Dog Muffins
  30. Cheesy Salsa Burgers (from Eat Right Away: Beef Edition)

Grilled BBQ Chicken

Dinner/Supper (always served with 2-4 fruits and veggies)

  1. Cheesy Salsa Enchiladas
  2. Grilled Barbeque Chicken
  3. Italian Cream Cheese Chicken
  4. Mongolian Beef (from Eat Right Away: Slow Cooker Beef Edition)
  5. Quick Mix Pancakes with Scrambled Eggs and Bacon
  6. Barbecue Cranberry Chicken (from Eat Right Away: Slow Cooker Chicken Edition)
  7. Sloppy Joes
  8. Cheeseburger Macaroni
  9. Easy Apricot Chicken (from Eat Right Away: Chicken Edition)
  10. Turkey Sausage and Red Bean Stew
  11. Taco Potatoes
  12. Beefy Enchilada Bake
  13. Baked Ziti (from Eat Right Away: Beef Edition)
  14. Baked Three Cheese Chicken Pasta
  15. Garden Veggie Chicken Skillet
  16. Spaghetti
  17. Bacon Cheeseburger Casserole (from Make-Ahead Meals and Snacks)
  18. Popcorn Chicken
  19. Bacon-Wrapped Individual Meatloaves (from Eat Right Away: Beef Edition)
  20. Italian Pasta Bake
  21. Salmon Patties
  22. Teriyaki Chicken and Veggies
  23. Grilled Salmon
  24. Grilled Burgers
  25. Fiesta Chicken
  26. Sour Cream Enchiladas (from Make-Ahead Meals and Snacks)
  27. Creamy Chicken and Rice Casserole
  28. Lamb Chops
  29. Hawaiian Beef and Rice (from Eat Right Away: Slow Cooker Beef Edition)
  30. Grilled Steak

30 Day Real Food Back-to-School Menu Plan

You can pin or bookmark this page for quick reference. Or better yet:

Learning Resources and Freebies Made Easy

Today you can download this FREE 30-Day Real Food Menu Plan Resource to keep handy during this busy time of year! Not only that, we’re always offering free printable learning resources you won’t want to miss!

Sign Up to Download the 30-Day Real Food Menu Plan Resource

 

From Frosty Freezers to Defrosted Freezers to Full Freezers

It may not look like much of a difference to you when you see my pictures, but trust me on this one. My freezers were completely disorganized and full of frost. I didn’t know what I had in there, much less where anything was.

Before I show you my before and after pictures, let’s establish this right away: No one ever accused me of not having enough food on hand. No one ever said, “Laura I think you should really consider buying more than one pound of meat at a time.” No one ever said, “Have you ever considered buying in bulk?”

“I sure hope the Coppingers can find something to eat today,” said no one ever. I’m thankful for the abundance, and you’ll read more about how we afford full freezers below.

Instead, this is what people say:

“If ever there is a food crisis, we will go to Laura’s house.” and “What are you guys, carnivores?!” and also “I would never have time to do all that freezer cooking.”

That final statement always makes me bang my head on my freezer since time is something I often feel that I am severely lacking and freezer cooking is what saves my meals (and ironically, my time).

So how do we afford to buy so much at once? True statement: We can’t afford not to.

Buying meat, cheese, nuts, grains, and butter in bulk and when we find good deals is the only way to feed a family full of teenage boys (and guests) without breaking our bank. If it’s a good price, I buy a cartful – which is a lot of cost upfront but saves $1,000’s in the long run.

How do I find time to do freezer cooking? I make time, spending an additional two hours or so here and there to save a dozen or more hours of cooking later. Or my favorite tip of all, when I’m making one casserole to eat at dinner, I typically make an additional one or two while I’m at it. Same effort, same amount of dishes, twice or three times the eats. It only makes sense.

So let’s take a look now at my freezers, and then let’s encourage Laura not to buy any more meat for a while. Seriously.

First I will show you (because I love splashing my disorganizational skills all over the internet) my two frost-filled, haphazard freezers in which one can only hope to reach in to grab a chicken and actually come away with a chicken.

Freezer #1

freezer1

Freezer #2

freezer2

Operation defrost and reorganize the freezers began Saturday afternoon.

Half the fun of this project was actually discovering that I had over 12 prepared freezer meals scattered all over the place. Thinking a better idea would be to put them all one one shelf so I’d know just where to look, I…you know, put them all on one shelf so I’d know just where to look. Brilliance. I’ll be saving these meals for the first few weeks of school/soccer season. This is what sanity is made of.

I put all the chicken on the top shelf, all the beef on the second shelf, all the butter in the door, and all the frozen fruits and veggies on aisle 4.

freezer4

Freezer #2 then only contained only our lamb meat, nuts, and a couple packs of cheese.  But wait. There’s more.

freezer5

On Tuesday, Matt picked up the grass-fed beef we had ordered from local farmer friends. Did we need to order beef right now? No, we still had some. But our friend’s cows were ready right now…and later would be too late. Saying no now would have made us run out of beef before next spring/summer, so we ordered before we needed it. I think we’re set on beef for a while. Although we will go through this faster than many would think. You’ve seen teenagers eat, right?

freezer6

In other freezer cooking news, I made a batch of Whole Wheat Pizza Crusts for an easy lunch once school starts. I also cooked 3 pounds of hamburger meat (seeing as I had some to cook). We’ll use it on the pizzas and for other easy meals.

pizza crust for freezer

I have more to share about how I used my Eat Right Away Beef and Chicken Slow Cooker Editions (my fav so far!) to make many meals in a tiny amount of time – but that’s another post for another day.

I also planned to make a bunch of muffin batter for the freezer, but I am completely out of eggs (and beef is a poor substitute). We will be getting several dozen eggs today from our friend with chickens, then the muffin-batter-for-the-freezer plans will commence.

So now you tell me about your freezer(s). And about your beef. And about your eggs. And about your experiences in watching teenagers eat.

The First Thing I Did When I Got Home From Camp – Plus What I’ll Be Up to This Week

I bet you can guess. What’s the first thing I did the moment I got out of the van after being at camp for two weeks?

Okay fine. I went potty. But after that? Well, yes I started a load of laundry. But then??? Well I filled a glass of water to make sure I was hydrated.

But none of those count. What’s the really first thing I did after being away from my kitchen for two weeks?

groceries725Home from camp!

Ahhhhh, yes. I made a big price-matching list and headed to the store. The fridge was all but empty, we’re craving more fresh produce, and I’ve missed cooking. I loved the break (especially from the dishes!) – but I am so excited about being back in my kitchen!

I must admit that our three teenage boys are still at camp for another week and a half which means that I might have over-purchased just a wee bit. All you see in the picture up there? That’s just for Matt, Malachi (age 10), and me. We’re that hungry for freggies. I couldn’t hold back.

Case in point: Matt washed one of the containers of blueberries as soon as I gave him permission (aka, as soon as I got a picture taken – it’s a food blogger thing). I snagged a few of the berries as I scrubbed refrigerator shelves and put away groceries. A few minutes later, Matt appeared with the blueberry container and a grin. The blueberries were almost completely gone. The guy ate an entire pint (minus the 17 little berries I ate) in about 5 minutes. We’re craving this stuff, I tell ya.

Cravings aside, I would not have gotten 6 pounds of strawberries and 6 pints of blueberries for just the three of us – but I was able to price match them for just $1.00 each. Who can pass up filling the cart when they’re only a buck?? If we can’t finish them before they go bad, we’ll just freeze them for muffins and smoothies. It’s too easy.

So here’s what I’m thinking. I’m thinking that while I still just have one boy at home and therefore don’t need to prep large meals – I’m going to do some freezer cooking this week. My list is too long, which means I won’t likely get around to all of this since I have so much other work to catch up on after being away for two weeks. But here’s my crazy-lady list nonetheless:

1. Defrost the freezer.

We’re getting a quarter of grass-fed beef this week, so that along with putting prepped food in the freezer means I need to get rid of the terrible ice build up I’ve been ignoring for way too long.

2. Make a few batches of Strawberry and Blueberry Cream Muffins – freezing the batter to bake fresh later. (Read more about this wonderful freezer tip here.)

3. Work through my Eat Right Away Beef and Chicken Slow Cooker Editions to get easy meals in the freezer ready for upcoming school/soccer/busy days.

4. Make Whole Wheat Pizza Crusts for the freezer so the boys can quickly make their own pizzas on busy days.

5. Make and freeze Chicken Fried Steak Strips with the beef we’re picking up from the butcher.

6. Stop making this list before I become overwhelmed.

There are too many great freezer cooking ideas. I made myself stop adding to the list so I don’t overwhelm myself. I’ll take pictures of my progress throughout the week and share an update with you soon!

What are you going to be doing this week?