Sunday, July 29, 2012

Picnic at the "beach" birthday party

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Our backyard is teeny tiny but wanted to make the space I do have fun enough for my two children to grow up with a "normal" childhood. I have wanted to do a sandbox for many moons but have not had the gumption until my four year old's birthday came up. I finally decided to go for it-a sandbox that is-expanding upon this theme to a "Picnic at the Beach." It was a freaking hard project...mainly because our backyard is somewhat inaccessible. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but the end result was really great and I'm glad I decided to go for it. Never mind the fact that my kids go to bed every night with sand crusted in their hair and lining their pockets. It's their favorite thing since Thomas the Train! We hauled in huge stone pavers, (16 inches wide) then added a yard and a half  of sand. (That was 4 truckloads, a total of $40.00. Not bad.) The waves, dolphin, and whale are made from spray painted card board, and the sky is plastic table covers. I purchased some pretty sweet sandbox toys from Toys-R-Us (the best selection in my opinion.) The Adirondack chairs were from Wal-Mart for $5.00 a piece. Add a kiddie pool and some beach balls, and you have yourself a beach in the backyard! It was definitely a huge hit with my kids as well as the rest of the neighborhood!

The arbor going from our front yard to back with a sign that says "Beach Entrance."

Saturday, July 28, 2012

A Miracle for under $200: 40 Meals for 40 Nights--in one day!

Follow Me on Pinterest By the time summer rolled around I was in no mood for making dinner, especially when it came to hot stoves and so forth. Sweltering heat and slaving over the burner? No Thanks! So I came up with this nutty idea that I would make 40 meals in one day and freeze them. That way I wouldn't have to cook for the majority of the summer.  Oh, and I planned to spend only $200 for everything!

Mom and me-chopping like the wind!
Having no knowledge of what or how to freeze, I went to my favorite friend, the internets. Many of these recipes come from others' posts (don't worry, I cite my sources.) My mom, (Denise) and sister, (Lucy) decided they wanted to join me in my  endeavor. Having said that, it is possible to do 40 meals in a day, and I'm glad we did it! I don't know if I can say the same for Mom and Lucy.

Here's how I prepped for my freezer meal project:

   1) Considered all the the different meat groups, beef, chicken, pork, etc.
   2) Came up with 20 simple recipes, then doubled them. Here is what I came up with:

Freezer Meal Plan (based on 4 large servings)
(15 lbs. aprox.)
(15-20 lbs.)
(10-12 lbs.)
(10-12 lbs.)
(6 lbs.)

sweet asian chicken (for grill)
cilantro lime chicken w/ black beans and corn
beef fajitas
mu shu pork
lasagna or spaghetti
French toast casserole
sesame chicken
bbq ribs
shepherds’ pie or sloppy joes
breakfast burritos
teriyaki chicken
chicken pot pie
pot roast or French dip
shredded pork cafĂ© rio style salad or burritos
hearty beef veggie soup
*French bread sliced & buttered
divine chicken
bbq chicken sandwiches

*rice-cilantro lime rice/regular

chicken a la king

*twice baked potatoes

*Optional sides 

   3) Stocked up on meat as it went on sale. (Be careful though because you
       cannot freeze, unfreeze for prep. and then freeze again, it will be nasty.) Here is the 
       complete shopping list:

(Each meal is approx. 4-5 large portions, so you may need to adjust accordingly.)
3 red onions
1 gal milk
green beans
6 lbs. ground beef
italian seasng.
88 oz. diced tomatoes
1 loaf French bread
ginormous mixing bowls
1 very large white or yellow bag onions
10 eggs
25-35 lbs. chicken (15 lbs. frozen bags o’ chicken)
4 cans d. tom. w/chilies
soy sauce
plastic wrap
1 bunch green onions
2 pkg. butter
10-12 lbs. beef
garlic powder
24 oz. tomato paste
sesame oil
4-6 casserole tinfoil pans
6 tinfoil bread pans
5 large bags baby carrots
3 c. cottage cheese
tator tots
10-12 lbs. pork
onion soup mix
2 cream of chicken soup
olive oil
lg. freezer bags-45 or so
5 regular carrots
2 c. sharp cheese
3 pkg. pie dough or puff pastry

chili powder
cream of mushroom soup
2 c. teriyaki sauce
small bags
5 green peppers
1 carton sour cream

red pepper flakes
2 cans diced green chilies
16 oz. apple juice
tin foil
3 red peppers
1 cream cheese

sesame seeds
2 cans dr. pepper
1 c. pecans

bulk bag o’ garlic
½ c. parm. cheese

poultry seasoning
2 cans pineapple
worch. Sauce

2 c. cilantro
1 1b. sliced moz. chz

bamboo shoots
hoisin sauce

2 c. half & half

150 oz. or 3 jumbo cans chicken broth
2 c. salsa


bay leaves
2 cans mushrooms
cooking oil

8 potatoes

1 can v8
1 c. honey

1 bag limes

garlic salt
chipotle chilies in adobo sauce

4 c. broccoli

9 c. beef broth


brown sugar

1 cup spinach

dry parsley
2 cans black beans
white sugar

1 pkg. mushrooms

dry mustard

Total Cost: $175 (No silly coupons, but I did do some price/ad matching at Wallie World.)

    4) Made my base sauces: marinara meat sauce, and white sauce
    5) Browned my hamburger
    6) Cooked and shredded chicken and pork by throwing them in a crock
        pot (separately) with salt, onions, etc, to give it flavor.

Freezer Fest 12' had arrived by 8:00 am, but with most of the cooking out of the way, it was just a matter of chopping vegetables and assembling meals. Dr. Pepper-in-hand, we decided it would be easiest to each take on a meal and assemble it for all three ladies and work our way through the list.

Side note: Lucy had the idea of adding all ingredients in one large bowl, and then dividing it evenly between three gallon size freezer bags, rather than adding each ingredient separately to each baggie. Brilliant!

Another Side note: Mom suggested that next time we do this, ( wait...there will be a next time?) we should include two more of my sisters, each taking on 4 meals, (doubled) making enough for the five families in our own kitchens, then meeting for a meal exchange. The work load would be more evenly distributed as each person would come up with their own recipes and less chaos in one kitchen. The end result would be again, each person taking home 40 meals. Genius!

We slaved away until about 7:00 pm, completing each and every meal, after-which we went out to eat for a celebratory dinner. Frankly, I was surprised we ended that soon. Job well done, hit the showers.

Cilantro lime chicken

Chicken a la King

Beef fajitas

Put some mussle into it, Denise!

A little friend to help out.

Getting pans ready for chicken pot pie!

Savory Beef Stew

Teriyaki Chicken

Lovely Lucy!

Sweet Asian Chicken (for grilling)

Chicken pot pie
Hooray, a freezer full of food!

Below are some links that inspired and guided me:
1. Freezable Foods--great particularly for vegetables:

2. Interesting web-site, this woman claims to have made 46 meals in 4 hours for $95:

3.  A blogger's experience with freezer cooking:  %20meals.html

4. Another blogger's freezer cooking:

5. One more helpful freezer blog: