Nesting: What's In My Freezer

>> Tuesday, September 18, 2018

My in-laws were up visitng over the weekend. While I hadn't planned on it at all, I woke up Saturday morning with this INTENSE NEED to make all the freezer meals I could -- as quickly as possible. I don't really like freezer meals, truth be told. But I have had good success in the past with the dump -- raw ingredients -- freezer meals method. So you basically chop everything, put it in a bag, but you don't pre-cook. Then you freeze and thaw it out the night before you dump it into the crock pot.

I learned this method years ago from New Leaf Wellness. They have a great post with 31 vegetarian meals you can make this way. I didn't use any of those recipes -- I mostly stuck to those tried-and-true meals that we know we like. It's too risky for me to branch out and make unfamiliar fare. Anyway, the dump method is legit. I feel like it makes everything taste fresher. It's also wicked fast.

Rather than getting long-winded, I thought I would just share with you everything I was able to cram into my freezer this weekend. As far as cost, it's tricky because I had some of these ingredients on hand. I can tell you that I spent $65 at the grocery store getting produce, more beans, and some random ingredients. But I made 12 meals (some will have lunch leftovers), several batches of cookies, and a bunch of other items, like freezer waffles.


WHAT I MADE





Tikka Masala with Chickpeas, sweet potatoes, peas, etc. x 2

Note: For this recipe, I just chopped an onion and two sweet potatoes, then I added a can of drained chickpeas and a heaping cup of frozen peas. I plan to just use Aldi Tikka Masala sauce when it comes time to cook.

Irish Italian Spaghetti Sauce x 2

Note: This is a family recipe. It's a can of tomato soup, can of cream of mushroom soup, onion, some Italian spices, and traditionally some ground beef. I used Aldi "meat"balls instead. You just simmer and reduce and then use it to top spaghetti.


Note: I added a heaping helping of ginger to this mix.



Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies x 2

Note: this is a variation of the Pecan Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe above. If you're interested, I could post it. I mostly just replaced all sugar with brown sugar and did half Earth Balance, half Peanut Butter for the "butter". The rest is the same, minus pecans.


Bag of mixed veggies (kale, cauliflower, celery) to add to smoothies

Gigantic bag of frozen bananas 

36 Padsicles for the lady bits

TIPS


// My favorite storage device for an activity like this is the humble gallon freezer bag. I know they're not low waste, but they stack flat and I don't have to worry about glass breaking (I've never had an issue with it -- but it's always a possibility. I also think it's easier to thaw things that have frozen flat).

// I like to turn the top of the bag (the zipper) inside out so it stands up straight while I toss everything in the bag.

// I made two of each meal because it was easier to buy ingredients in bulk and then chop them all in an assembly line. Likewise, I found it most easy to make meals with similar ingredients (lots of carrots, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, onions, beans, etc.).

// I left out wet ingredients like vegetable stock or Aldi sauces (here's more #notsponsored posts about my Aldi love). I did put in some wetter ingredients, like tomatoes, in. There wasn't too much method to the madness, but it made sense that way. OH! And while we're on stock/broth. I actually bought a stock concentrate and put in the correct amount of that versus planning to use packaged stock/broth. When I go to make the meal, I'll just add water in the amount of stock needed.

// When you're freezing stuff like waffles, naan, cookie dough, cookies, etc., it's best to freeze them first laying flat on a baking sheet lined with parchment or some other  non-stick layer. Then once they're fully frozen you can transfer to bags.

// Try to get as much air out of the bags as possible to help prevent freezer burn. I do the fancy method of actually sucking the air out myself!

// Some of those recipes above are not crock pot recipes. But they work in the crock pot! Trust me. And several of the soups will require blending afterward. Which is annoying. I'm considering getting an immersion blender.

WHAT'S NEXT?


I don't have a clear plan. Obviously I did a lot of soups and stews already. I'm not a big casserole person. I also really don't love pasta. I know I want to make 100 pieces of homemade naan for sides or pizzas. I'd also like to whip up some Sweet potato + beet veggie burgers (x 4).

Otherwise, I'm also planning to get a few very large bags of assorted frozen fruits for smoothies, several bags of Aldi's "meat"balls, and a few convenience things. If you have suggestions or a recipe that you particularly loved, PLEASE SHARE! Space is getting short, but I'm happy to have done so much on this project in just one weekend.

If you have any questions, I'd be happy to answer them either on here (I know my comments app can be weird) or on Instagram.

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Catching Up

>> Thursday, September 6, 2018

I basically took the last month completely off from writing -- had you noticed? I was trying to rest up as much as possible before today. The start of school. The start of true cross-country season (it's been going on with practices for the last month). The final countdown in my pregnancy (I'm 32.5 weeks!). It's all a little overwhelming. But I used the time wisely. I worked a lot this summer (freelance-wise AND with nesting projects). It feels good, but I'd be lying if I told you I'm happy to be back in the normal swing of things.

Here's what's up -- with a dose of cuteness from when Eloise was just five days old.


School


Ada starts first grade today. She's incredibly excited and apprehensive all at the same time. I don't blame her because I'm notoriously anxious with good and bad energy during big transitions. She enjoys being home in the summers and getting down time, but I think she's going to love being back in a routine with her friends. I'm having some feelings this year because usually I try to help out in the school a bit and pop in from time to time, but I am not sure how that will work with a new baby and a toddler. I suppose we'll see!

I may have already mentioned that Eloise is starting "school" this year as well. I have enrolled her in a program that meets two mornings each week for 2.5 hours each morning. It's more for me than her, obviously. But I do hope she gains some feelings of comfort being out and about with other adults and kids. She starts next Tuesday. I didn't send Ada to preschool until she was closer to three, so I'm really hoping for a smooth transition. Again, I guess we'll see what happens.


Pregnancy


I think I'm in denial that I'm this far along already. This pregnancy actually went by quite quickly for me, in a start contrast to the extreme anxiety that plagued my pregnancy with Eloise. With her, every second seemed to just tick by so slowly. This time around, I haven't had any complaints physically until more recently. And those are only the "normal" third trimester woes. I've been incredibly fortunate in that regard . . . and I feel like it's a very good note to leave my childbearing years on. That said, I have started getting a bit nervous for birth. Both how it will happen/when it will happen and the actual physical act.

I have a doctor appointment on Friday complete with an ultrasound. Questions I have regard delayed cord clamping (something I've never specifically requested, but I think maybe has been done automatically by my midwives in the past) and timing for when to come in during labor (because my water broke first last time and I have this fear of not recognizing I'm having contractions until it's too late). I keep hearing that third babies are total wildcards, so while I want to believe this baby will arrive neatly like her sisters early in the 38th week, I'm trying to prepare myself for anything.

Work


Freelancing is winding down for me and I have lots of mixed feelings about it. I'm trying to lighten the load in preparation for the baby . . . but I actually like working and I always fear that taking time off will mean I lose jobs or can't find work when I'm ready. In the past, I really lucked into my gigs. As I've become more entrenched as a mom versus a freelancer, my connections have somewhat faded. And my professional mojo is definitely not what it used to be. Right now I'm not sure how I envision working with having three kids and little childcare. In my head, I can see being back at writing very lightly once the baby is three months old . . . ramping up to more "normal" levels when Stephen is home for the summer.

Do any of you work similar gigs? I used to try to make early mornings and nap times work, but I am seeing that that's definitely not going to fly when I have two little ones with different nap schedules and breastfeeding -- as well as a school-aged kid who needs me during the early mornings and late afternoons. I imagine I'll have to make blocks of time for work when Stephen is home and I can physically get out of the house. This is, of course, provided work is still available when I'm ready to return.


Simplification


I dropped my microblogging, and I am hoping to return back to that series now. My goal is to write twice a week. Bonus points if I get to it more often, but no pressure if not. We left off with simple cleaning tricks and how I was possibly considering hiring someone to come once a month to help out. I've dropped that idea because preschool costs money and, well, there's only so much money. What's actually really simplified my cleaning process and made a huge difference at this stage isn't the most eco-friendly thing in the world. But I bought a huge pack of Seventh Generation Disinfecting Wipes. I just go around the house attacking everything with those. It's so easy and everything is so clean.

I don't necessarily want to continue using disposable wipes forever, but right now it's what I need to get a handle on things. Otherwise, we've organized things so well (and it's taken SO long) that I can get the entire house tidy AND clean in about an hour. This may be longer or shorter than it takes you, but it's liberating. Before, just getting all the clutter in some random holding place (usually laundry baskets stashed in the 4th bedroom) took forever. Then I never quite got to the cleaning.

Another random bit of information is that I did all the Christmas shopping for the girls in August this year. My family thinks I'm a bit crazy, but it feels good to have that out of the way.


What's Up Next?


Alright! Thanks for catching up with me. I'll return back to the simplify series again soon. If you have anything you'd like me to cover sooner rather than later, let me know. A few of you requested hearing about our back-to-school routine and how we manage all that. So, I think that's what I'll cover next. Otherwise, I need to power through the rest of the week, power through the first long XC meet on Saturday, and keep on with my to-do list to prepare for Baby E!

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Less Waste // What we're trying

>> Monday, August 27, 2018

House cleaning has been going in cycles. But the simple tricks are definitely helping. Still, it seems like no matter what we do, we get one area clean . . . move to the next . . . and then it just starts all over. Obviously this is what happens, but why is it so darned frustrating? I've turned my nesting to things that we need to check off the list before baby comes, like cleaning car seats and getting our van setup for three kids versus two. I also made a quadruple batch of naan bread for our freezer yesterday afternoon.

But today I wanted to share a quick post because some of you have requested it. For my birthday this year, I decided to get more serious about lowering our waste. I bought a few things that have actually helped quite a bit! And I get lots of questions about what they are, where I got them, and if they're working, so I figured I'd just give you the low-down here.


Silpat Mat


We do a lot of baking in our house, and -- as a result -- I go through a lot of parchment paper. I had used a Silpat Mat years ago but then ruined it doing so very high heat baking (bagels on 550+ degrees). One of my friends posted a picture of hers and I decided to give it another try. It's a silicone baking mat that you can use up to 480 degrees F. I use it every single day! So, as long as you don't bake really high temps (consider getting a pizza stone for that), I'd highly recommend this mat.

Cloth Bags


I have expanded our fleet of cloth zippered bags for snacks and lunches. So much better than using countless Zip-Lock bags that are used for five seconds for Cheerio's or pretzels and then tossed in the trash. They're cute, too. C'mon, you know they are. Mine are from Planet Wise and BumKins. I tend to get the sandwich size bags, but I may get some of the small snack baggies too.

I also see that Planet Wise now makes clear baggies, and I love that idea for more everyday things in my fridge.

Which leads to . . .

Silicone Bags


Then I needed reusable bags for all the refrigerated stuff -- leftover chickpeas, opened cheeses, stray avocados, etc. -- and I've always had such a hard time figuring out what to do. I did the whole beeswax wrap thing for a while and it worked OK. But I never totally got on board. Then I found these Silicone Bags . . . and they are MAGIC. They're the product I'm most enthusiastic about because they work really well and things don't spill. They're also very thick and you can use them for freezing, steaming, cooking, and even Sous Vide (which I don't have). But still, cool.

Also -- Amazon has many similar bags for sale, but the ones I got (and linked to) seem to have the best reviews. I have read it matters which ones you get. I have used mine daily for over a month and have absolutely no tearing or other issues.


Bowl Covers


Lots of baking, again, leads to lots of plastic wrap usage. I was using tea towels as well, but decided to up my game and get some proper bowl covers. I got two different types of sets. One that's breathable -- Earth Bunny 100% cotton -- and one that's more like wet bag material -- Wegreeco. Of the two, I actually use the Wegreeco (less expensive) more because it's air-tight in the fridge and helps create a nice moist rising environment for breads. But the fabric ones let air through and are good for popping over baked goods like muffins. Stephen also uses the largest one to put over his kombucha brew.

Each set came with a large, medium, and small. And they are all currently in use! I toss the Earth Bunny in with the wash and rise the Wegreeco out in the sink and let air-dry.

Lunch Box


Every year I cheap out on lunch boxes. And every year I am frustrated because I find myself packing the same old thing over and over again for lack of proper storage options. I decided to indulge in a YumBox Bento Box  for Ada after seeing a snack-sized box in person at an L.L. Bean outlet this summer. I actually bought the snack box on the spot because it was so well made and really seems to be a tight seal. Ada's has five compartments and the specific design I got for her labels different food groups so that she can get involved with packing her own lunch.

She's really excited about this box, and I will report back on how it works from week to week. I read countless bento box reviews and this one consistently gets the highest ratings from parents. I may even want to get a second one, but they are $30, so I'll wait and see if just one will work for now.

Silicone Straws


The most awesome thing of all? The straws we're using now. I had used metal straws was liked them OK . . . and kind of cringed at the thought of glass straws. But I happened to find Silikids silicone straws at Target on clearance once day. Brilliant. They've been a total game-changer. They come in different sizes so they fit all our cups. I immediately went and bought another set on Amazon. I also got a few of their silicone cup toppers because all my Boon cup toppers have torn. These ones seem like they'll last a lot longer. I just rinse them out ASAP and let them dry standing up in our grass drying mat.

I'll be back soon with some thoughts on sending Eloise to "school" this fall and more nesting notes. It's getting crazy over here. In a good way.

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