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Making the most of the whole bird

Thanks for your patience with my lack of posts for the last few months. With being back to full-time teaching, I don’t seem to have time to blog much. But, I am not complaining with the economy the way it is and with teaching jobs so hard to get!

Recently my husband has found a new way to save us more money and time. He has been using our freezer to make our cooking very efficient and allow us to have meals we couldn’t afford otherwise (like boneless breast recipes).

Let’s start with chicken.

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When we get chicken for Shabbos, we do not always eat the whole thing and some parts get wasted (or eaten as a not-so-healthy snack for my husband). So instead, my husband has been using all the parts of the chicken very creatively. From two chickens, he puts aside:

  • one chicken breast for a meal later,
  • the wings for a meal later,
  • the necks, back of the breast, and wing tips are saved for making soup stock and then used for soup meat,
  • and one thigh for a meal later.
  • If we are having a roasted chicken, he saves the carcass for making soups, too.

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After several weeks or months, he has enough of each part to make:

  • a boneless chicken dish (from the breasts),
  • teriyaki or barbecue chicken wings (from the wings) – pictured above,
  • chicken soup stock and chicken soup (from the necks, backs, and wing tips),
  • and smoked chicken for seasoning or chicken pieces for a stir fry (from the thighs).

Cheese:

We buy large packs of shredded cheese from Costco. The pack contains more cheese than a single meal uses. So he packages the cheese into smaller servings as soon as we get home. These get frozen in freezer bags to use later as needed. For more ways to cut down on meal costs read Stretching your dinner dime… dollar.”

Refried beans:

My husband has created the best refried beans recipe. He makes a huge batch in our largest soup pot and packages it up in large Gladware containers. (We used to be able to use the soup and salad size, but our family eats more now!) One container or two small ones makes for a great meal of burritos. They are also good to pull out when we cook for a friend with a new baby or for another occasion.

Milk:

Sometimes we stock up on milk if it is a particularly good deal or we have been given milk that is close to expiring. If we freeze it and then thaw it later, we can get a few more days out of it than if we had used it right away. For more tips on how long various foods will last, check out my post “Shelf life of your food.”

Bread:

We recently found an Entenmann’s outlet that sells Arnold and Thomas bread products as well as Entenmann’s baked goods. They have store coupon as well as a punch card. We can spend $10 and leave with 5-7 items! We keep a few out and save the rest for later. Between this and our bread maker, we our saving a ton of money on bread. This has been a big help with all four of our boys in elementary school this year!

Challah:

We always make several challahs at once. What we don’t need for that Shabbos gets frozen for later Shabbosim. To see why making your own challah is worth it moneywise, read “Making your own challah.” We have also tried canning. Read more at First canning experiment: apple butter.”

Kugels and desserts:

This is not always possible, but we try to double kugel and dessert recipes when preparing for Shabbos so we have one to freeze for later. This depends on what ingredients we have available.

How do you use your freezer to its potential? Share your tips below!

Related posts:

 

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Making lunches – a matrix of choices!

healthy gluten-free school lunch

Many of your children have probably started back to school already. Mine do not start until next Wednesday. However, with this being the first year my little boys have gone to camp, we have been making lunches for the past four weeks. (Or should I say my husband has.) It has gotten me to thinking about how to make this chore easier and to provide the most variety for my children. My husband and I typically take leftovers to work, because we can heat things up or don’t mind eating something cold if we have to. The boys on the other hand…

I used to have a list on the refrigerator of lunch choices, but it has gotten a bit out of date. So I created a new one. It mostly includes dairy options because with keeping kosher meat is expensive. There are also only certain days the kids can bring meat to their Jewish day school.

Below is my matrix of lunch choices (in green). It will be a great tool for adding to our grocery list each week. Then each day when we pack lunches, we will choose one item from each column. This way our kids will get a variety of foods and it will make sure that all of one type of food doesn’t get eaten up in a week! (I just bought a lot of Chex Mix on sale last week at Walgreens and if I let them, my kids would have it every day!) Feel free to edit this document for your needs and your kids’ tastes.

Lunch choices 2013

Other tips for saving money on packing lunches:

∞ Use up your leftovers when you can. This may not work as well for the kids, but the grownups can eat them!

ziploc divided container∞ Use as little packaging as possible. We use reusable water bottles, lunch bags, and as many containers as we can instead of bags. I just bought these Ziploc divided containers for my kids’ lunches and today was their first day using them. I figured it would be a great way for them to know what was their lunch food and what should be saved for snacks. We also use cloth snack bags for some items when we can. For more details, see my post Switch over your disposables.”

∞ Buy cheap water bottles. I have learned from camp that my kids lose water bottles constantly. It does not pay to buy nice ones because I cannot count on them coming back! So the dollar Spot at Target and the dollar store are my favorite places to buy water bottles. See my posts on Why I love Target! and Are ‘dollar stores’ really a good deal?

∞ Stock up on nonperishable lunch items. When you spot something on sale (and even better have a coupon, too) get a few! I got granola bars on sale at Target yesterday and had a manufacturer’s coupon and a Target coupon. This is the best way to stock up – having all three conditions! I also buy in bulk when I can through Costco and Whole Foods. See my post on “Bulk discounts.”

∞ Make as much homemade as you can. We recently got a breadmaker and my husband is enjoying figuring out the best recipes to use. It smells so good when he has a batch ready to go in the morning, With all four boys in elementary school this year, we could easily go through a loaf of bread in a day! Our next project is to experiment with some homemade snacks. See Little House Living and my posts on (More) Make your own… and Don’t buy it, make it homemade – Part 3 for recipes.

∞ Look for outlet stores. We recently found a local outlet bread store (thanks, Lori!) that saves us a ton on bread, bagels, and sandwich thins. They even have store coupons!

∞ Use your price list. Make sure you are buying things at the best price you can get. Just because something is in a larger size of is on sale, doesn’t always mean it is the best deal! To learn more, check out my post “Keeping a price list.”

∞ Check out the sales at the end of this month. Pretty soon all the back-to-school items will go on sale, which means lunch bags, containers, and the like on sale for cheap prices (check out Target, Wal-Mart, drug stores, etc. for these deals). Last summer we got the boys their current lunch bags for $3 each! I love them because they have a zipper at the top and a space for their name on the back. I also got backpacks from Lands’ End at a very deep discount last summer! Be sure to stock up on those swimsuits and rash guards while you are at it, too!

Do you have any tips for packing lunches that you would like to share? Please add them in the Comments section! Thanks Rivka H. and Jessi L, for your ideas I incorporated into the matrix.

Related posts:

 

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Financial New Year’s Resolutions

Resolutions 2012When I was in high school and college, making New Year’s Resolutions was a big deal. I used to pore over magazines coming up with plans for how I would lose weight, exercise more, etc. However, now that I have become religious, I tend to make more serious goals around Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, thinking about how I will become a better wife, mom, daughter, friend, teacher, and Jew.

With New Year’s approaching, though, I realized it might not be a bad idea to come up with some New Year’s resolutions related to our finances. My husband’s job has not turned out to be what he expected and finances have been really tough. He is looking for new work and I am hoping the new year will provide that. But in the meantime, new job or not, we need a plan to get us in better financial shape.

Here are my goals for the new year. I hope they will inspire you on your own quest to get your family set.

1) Get back to menu planning on a regular basis.

With money being so tight, my husband has become a master at creating meal plans based on whatever is in the house. We haven’t had the money to make full shopping trips and therefore have let our menu planning slide. However, it makes extra stress for him every morning to have to also figure out what to make. I want us to get back to menu planning each week regardless if we can buy two things or a loadful! See my posts on “Menu planning” and “Monthly menu planning.”

2) Keep up with our receipts.

Bill paying and entering receipts into our Quicken program are my least favorite tasks. So of course, I procrastinate. But then we are more likely to bounce or to encounter fees for paying things late. I am going to work harder at entering them every few days instead of waiting until I have several weeks worth! See my post on “Make your checkbook digital!”

3) Get our oil changed on a regular basis.

I always think of car maintenance last. When we don’t have much money, I think we can’t possibly afford to spend money on the car. Well, that thinking got us into big trouble this past year. We have neglected to change the oil on our van, for probably years. As a result, the engine died completely. After several hundred dollars of repairs the auto repair shop thought could fix the problem, we had to get a whole new engine. The repairs were then several thousand. It was the most expensive and embarrassing mistake we have ever made. I guess I should take my own advice. See my post on “Pay now to save later” and “What does an oil change cost?”

4) Really watching our budget.

During my husband’s trial period at his new job (when they were paying him a base), we were doing a bit better financially. I started a new routine that really helped us budget better. I virtually set aside a certain amount for our monthly and irregular expenses each half of the month. Then whenever we spent money in those categories, I would debit it from that amount/transaction. I knew how much we had left to spend in those categories by what amount was left in that transaction. It really helped us stay under our budget for the month on categories that we have more control of.

What are your financial New Year’s resolutions? Please share in the Comments section.

 

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Seasoning shortcuts

I have gotten a few requests for the actual recipes that I mentioned in my post earlier this week on “Don’t buy it, make it homemade – Part 3.”  I thought I would share three seasoning recipes from my favorite saving money book series, “The Tightwad Gazette.” These books are what started me on my journey to save on my family’s expenses. There are three volumes in this series and one complete version with the best tips from all three.

TACO SEASONING MIX

♦ 4 t. chili powder
♦ 3 t. cumin
♦ 3 1/3 t. paprika
♦ 2 t. onion powder
♦ 2 t. garlic powder
♦ 1/8 – 1/4 t. cayenne pepper

* This recipe is twice as strong as store-bought, so use half as much as your recipe calls for.

ONION SOUP MIX

♦ 3/4 c. instant minced onion
♦ 4 t. onion powder
♦ 1/3 c. beef bouillon powder
♦ 1/4 t. celery seed, crushed
♦ 1/4 t. sugar

* To use, add 2 T. to 1 C. boiling water; it makes a stronger flavored mix than a regular mix.

SEASONED SALT

♦ 8 T. salt
♦ 3 T. pepper
♦ 2 T. paprika
♦ 1/2 T. onion powder
♦ 1/2 T. garlic powder

I also have two recipes for making your own chocolate syrup and pancake syrup. However, since we have not tried them yet, I will save them for another time!

To read more about saving money by making foods from scratch, see my posts:

 

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Time to get ready for the 2012 High Holidays!

Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) is just 17 days away and I am realizing it is time to start our preparations. As I have mentioned before in my posts on getting ready for Pesach (Passover), I have a checklist to help me get ready for each holiday. It really helps me not forget anything that needs to be done and it gives me a timeline to do them. It also reminds me of things that have worked and not worked from past years.

Here is my High Holiday prep checklist, which includes Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot. You may want to adapt it to your needs and to include the following things which we do not do:

  • Holiday cards (we send ours our around Chanukah/Christmas)
  • Babysitting arrangements (either at shul (temple) or at home, for whatever days you want to go to shul to daven (pray))

I store this file on my computer, but also have a copy in my Holiday Prep binder, which has preparations lists for all the Jewish holidays. I have separate binders for Chanukah/Christmas and Pesach, since those two involve a lot more preparations!

When planning our menus, I like to type them, too, so that I can print them out and put them on our refrigerator. Then my husband highlights items as he cooks them! I can’t wait to try some new recipes and hope the New Year brings us some better mazel!

Related posts (sorry – there are a lot!):

If you have any tips about how you successfully get ready for the holidays, please share them below!

 

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Don’t buy it, make it homemade – Part 3

Homemade Chili Powder

Several months ago I wrote about how we have tried over the years to make a few things from scratch versus buying premade (see my posts “Making your own challah” and “(More) Make your own”). Keeping kosher already encourages us to do this since sometimes there is not a store-bought version available or it is very expensive. This has not become an everyday habit for us, but there are some things we do make on a regular basis:

∞ Birthday cakes and cupcakes – No store-bought sheet cakes for us; this way is cheaper and we can personalize the treat more to the honoree.

∞ Bread crumbs – My husband saves the leftover bread from Shabbos and it gets ground into bread crumbs to use later in recipes. See my post “Recipe favorites: Crumb chicken” for one way we use bread crumbs.

∞ Canning – I would love to try more canning as well, because although it is time-consuming, you do get a lot and save so much! Check out our first attempt in my post “First canning experiment: Apple butter.”

∞ Croutons and Caesar dressing (as I have mentioned in my post “Stretching your dinner dime… dollar”) – This is one of our favorite meals and much easier and cheaper than finding a kosher store-bought version.

∞ Desserts – Especially for Shabbos, unless we have a cheap boxed cake mix.

∞ Refried beans – We love these and eat them often. The recipe makes a big batch, so we freeze it and it is good for several meals (burritos or enchiladas). See my husband’s recipe here: Refried Beans recipe.

∞ Salad dressing – We love the Good Seasons packets, but occasionally branch out into homemade recipes.

∞ Salsa, pico de gallo, and guacamole – Mexican is one of our favorite cuisine types and we eat it at least once a week. My husband has become a master at creating his own dips that the family loves! I had never liked guacamole before trying his!

∞ Taco seasoning – Until we found taco-flavored soy meat and later a taco seasoning mix at Sam’s Club, we used to always make our own taco seasoning. It was easy and could be stored along with our other spices.

Next year, when all our boys will be at elementary school, we are definitely going to start making our own bread. We will easily go through a loaf in two days with packing lunches!

As part of my quest to find new things to make homemade, here are some resources I found today:

Please share your homemade experiments with us all in the Comments Section!

 

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New series: Highlights from my favorite cookbook

This week I was very excited to get in touch with my favorite cookbook author, Sarah Fritschner. She has written many cookbooks and worked as a food writer for several newspapers, most recently as the food editor for the Louisville Times and Courier-Journal. Since 2009, she has served as the coordinator for the Louisville Farm to Table, created to bring together area farmers and their locally-grown foods with Louisville consumers in their homes, schools, restaurants, and workplaces, bolstering the local food economy.

My favorite cookbook of hers is “Vegetarian Express Lane Cookbook,” We use it several times a week and love the simple, easy-to-prepare recipes that involve 10 ingredients or less. The cookbook includes recipes for main dishes, sides, desserts, soups, pizzas, and more. We eat vegetarian on most weekdays (due to cost mostly, but it does benefit our health, too) and so this cookbook has become indispensable!

I originally bought this cookbook back in college when I had often thought about going vegetarian. Who would have guessed it would be my favorite cookbook for my family of six? We have had this book so long and used it so often, that the pages are turning yellow and we have many post-it flags to mark our favorites! Unfortunately, it is out-of-print. However, you can get it used from various sellers on Amazon, or possibly from your local library.

Since starting this blog, I have wanted to share some of the recipes from this cookbook. Thankfully, I got permission this week from the author to do this! So starting next week, I hope to feature one recipe a week from this great cookbook. I will include pictures of the finished recipes, too!

For more ideas on menu planning and great recipes, check out my posts:

 

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Back to school: Jewish learning resources

Normally at this time of year, I am starting to get things ready for the school year and setting up my classroom. However, this will be my second year working for the Child Abuse Prevention Program at Jewish Family & Children’s Service. I don’t need to get my own classroom ready, but it is always great to find good resources for my own children. It is so helpful to have websites to go to for accessing holiday ideas, projects, information sheets, etc. for different things my children are studying.

For this post, I wanted to provide Jewish resources that you could use whether you are a parent, homeschooler, or teacher. You might even find them helpful for your own reference if you have no children at all! While this post will not save you money, it will sure save you time and energy when you want to find an activity or idea!

Chinuch.org

This is one of my favorite Jewish resources. I used it a lot when I taught preschool as well as third grade. I also found some great additions and activities for our family seder last year. You can search for materials based on age (early childhood, elementary, middle school, high school, special education, administration, or kiruv) or by topic (which includes Torah, Hebrew language, Interactive classroom, Yamim Tovim, Halacha/Dinim, Arts and Crafts, and more). This site, which is sponsored by Torah Mesorah and the Avi Chai Foundation, allows educators to upload and share a variety of resources with other educators and parents. The resources often include not just instructions, but typed resources (or pdfs) ready to copy or change as needed. Many include photos as well. Additional resources include clip art, forums, audio/video, Olomeinu archives, and more. Their database grows daily!

Organized Jewish Home

I have mentioned this blog before, as it has some great resources and articles. The author is a homeschooling Orthodox mom who writes about many topics of interest to frum families: menu planning, holiday preparations, activities for kids, organization, recipes, and more. She posts resources for each parsha that are particularly helpful if you homeschool or if your children attend a public school and you want to supplement their Jewish learning. She also has a “Shalom Bayit Book” that is somewhat similar to my Family Control Journal. See my post on “Starting a Family Control Journal.” Check it out and let her know I sent you!

Central Agency for Jewish Education, St. Louis (CAJE)

This is the website for our local Jewish education agency. They have a section for Teacher Resources that is helpful for families as well. It includes Beginning of the Year materials, board games, Shabbat materials, holiday materials, Hebrew letter review materials, Hebrew prayer materials, links to other teacher resources, and early childhood resources. I can’t wait to use some of the Hebrew ideas and board games with my own children!

Related posts:

Do you know of any other great Jewish education resources? Please share them in the Comments section!

 
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Posted by on August 9, 2012 in Email and online tips, Family ideas

 

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Shabbos Shortcuts

Shabbat Candles Deutsch: SchabbatkerzenThere are many times we are down to the wire in preparing for Shabbos. Here are a few tricks and tips that have served us well.

No time to cook a chicken dish?

Grill! My husband loves grilled chicken and if you are using an electric grill it cooks much faster than a regular recipe in the oven. For us, it frees up the oven so we can cook other things, which ultimately means Shabbos cooking in less time. Plus, in the summer, grilling means the house gets heated up less from cooking in the oven. 

Need a dessert in a hurry?

We love Rice Krispy Treats (click on the title for a kosher recipe from CookKosher). We can eat a pan in one Shabbos! Using store brand cereal and the marshmallow fluff, they are cheap, quick, and yummy!

Out of Shabbos candles?

Tea lights work well in a pinch. They won’t burn as long and certainly don’t look as nice. However, when we are out (or can’t afford a new box of candles), these work well. I set them right on top of my candlesticks.

Need an extra dish?

Pull one out of the freezer. If we can, when we make kugels, we make two and freeze one. The second gets made in a disposable aluminum pan, so it is easy to put in the freezer. Be sure to put it in a freezer bag, too, to avoid freezer burn and the foil coming off the top!

Another quick idea is to open a can or frozen package of vegetables. It may not be the fanciest side dish, but certainly for us and the kids, it works.

For more Shabbos tips, see my posts:

* Do you have other shortcuts or easy recipes you like to use when you are out of time getting ready for Shabbos? Please share them here!

 

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Earth Tip: Buy organic and local

A single week's fruits and vegetables from com...

As part of my “Countdown to Earth Day” series, I wanted to highlight even more ways that you can take actions to help our planet. Today’s tip is to buy organic and locally produced foods.

Now, I realize that buying organic can sometimes be more costly than other choices. We used to buy almost everything organic, but have had to cut back drastically with the current economy and our current salaries. If you have to pick a few to buy, check out this article: “The New Dirty Dozen: 12 Foods to Eat Organic.”

However, as we continue to promote the demand for these products, eventually prices will come down. Even buying one or two items each week can make a difference. There are many advantages to buying organic and local (to list just a few):

  • Fresher food for your families
  • No chemicals, pesticides, etc.
  • Less travel time for products from farm to market (which produces less pollution)
  • Protects our ecosystem
  • Promotes fair treatment of farm laborers and humane treatment of animals
  • Focus on sustainable life for farmers
  • Helps local businesses stay in business

To find out where to get locally grown or organic food in your area, here are two resources:

Eat Well Guide:

This is a free online directory for anyone who wants locally grown and sustainably produced food in the United States and Canada. It lists thousands of family farms, restaurants, farmer’s markets, grocery stores, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs, U-pick orchards, and more. You can search in a variety of ways: by location, keyword, category, or product.

Local Harvest:

This is another directory geared for just the United States. They maintain a directory of small farms, farmer’s markets, and other local food sources. Their website also features an online store, a forum, a listing of events, blogs, and a newsletter. It is a great resource for learning about ways to get involved, how to use your “local harvest,” and more.

 

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