Freezer Cooking for the new school year

There are 3 reasons I need to do bulk freezer cooking sessions for the new school year.

  1. Even though there is an increase in the number of gluten-free freezer meals at the grocery store, it is still limited and expensive. I can make my own freezer meals for a lot cheaper.
  2. I’m changing positions this year, plus going after my master’s degree. I need to have meals ready to go for those busy nights.
  3. Inflation is real. If I can get the food at a cheaper price, I’ll have it in my freezer, ready to go.

The other day I went grocery shopping for the week and to do bulk cooking. I spent $148 for 57 items which I believe is a good price. One of those items was a new colander for $10, so I spent $138 for 56 items. One of the best deals was ground beef for $2.99 a pound. I got 5.5 pounds for $16. The only issue was it was 73% ground beef. I usually like a much higher percentage of ground beef. But during inflation, I’ll take a deal when I can.

I also found ground turkey for $6 for about 3 pounds.

Here is what is on my list:

  • Chicken stew
  • Burrito bowls – I cooked up chicken like I make my tacos. I added drained black beans and corn to the mixture. Instead of using the salsa tomatoes, I used Rotel. I did it on the stove instead of the pressure cooker to cook up some cilantro-lime rice.
    In my souper cube, I layered rice, the mixture, a thin layer of salsa, cilantro, and then some shredded cheese. I froze it overnight. Then I vacuumed sealed each block for an easy freezer meal.
  • Hamburger soup
  • Turkey chili stuffed sweet potatoes.
  • Parmesan chicken meatballs – Already made and in the freezer. I have a meatball mold I bought last year from Aldi. I’ll use half for tomorrow’s dinner. The rest will be saved for another meal. (I used gluten-free oatmeal coarsely ground instead of bread crumbs.)
  • Ham and bean soup

I have also made regular meatballs, chicken fried rice, and nacho meat. The nacho meat was also a sort of a take on my taco meat. I added black beans and corn for bulk. Youngest and I taste-tested the nacho meat. He told me it was delicious.

Over the last few weeks, I also got some steak when it was on sale. I marinated the steak for future dinners.

Happy eating,
Traci

S’Mores Kits (Gluten-free option)

I eat a gluten-free diet. Three things could happen if I eat gluten.

  1. My eczema on my elbow has become irritated.
  2. I get a headache and/or tired if I have a large amount of gluten.
  3. Or my sugar drops, and I crash.

In my town, I have a local, gluten-free bakery. This past week the bakery had gluten-free graham crackers. I had to get some but knew I couldn’t eat them all right away. So I used my food saver to create a S’Mores kit.

In the kit, I put 4 graham crackers, 2 large marshmallows, and 2 blocks of chocolate. Then I used the pulse feature of my food saver to vacuum out the air in the bag. Now I have a S’Mores kit ready for summer fun. I know my treat will be safe to eat.

Happy eating,
Traci

Instant Pot Tacos

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You may noticed I’ve been on a taco kick lately. Youngest and I enjoy our tacos. Now that I’ve figured out the yummiest taco meat, I make it at least once a week.

During my weekly meal prep, I made extra of the taco meat and froze it in my Souper cubes. Yes, I got some of them and absolutely love them. This way the taco meat is ready to go if I want to eat nachos or just don’t feel like cooking.

What do I need for the recipe?

  • ground beef – I know ground beef prices are expensive. Sometimes the family packs are cheaper. Get one of those, double or triple the recipe, and then freeze for later.
  • taco seasoning – Homemade or store bought – My favorite is from a local place.
  • onion, optional – You could also add some diced up bell peppers in the taco meat.
  • salsa or fire roasted salsa style tomatoes – I found fire roasted salsa style tomatoes at my local grocery store. They add a certain flavor to the taco meat. If your store doesn’t have that type of tomatoes substitute salsa.
  • Tortillas – Flour, corn, or hard taco shells – It doesn’t matter.
  • Your favorite toppings: Cilantro, sour cream, lettuce, shredded cabbage, black beans or re-fried beans, jalapenos, tomato, cheese

Other uses for the taco meat

  • Nachos – The meat would be delicious on nachos. Yum!
  • Taco salad – Add some French, Catalina, or ranch dressing on top. Or you could skip the dressing and use salsa instead.
  • Taco fries – Doesn’t that sound delicious? Or is it just me?
  • Walking tacos – Fritos, taco meat, cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes.

The Recipe

As always, click on the image for a printable version of the recipe.

Taco Bake (Gluten-Free)

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Youngest and I love eating tacos. This recipe is a combination of tacos and nachos in a casserole. YUM!

You can use up those crushed tortilla chips in your cupboard/pantry for this recipe.

What you need for the recipe:
  • Ground beef
  • Onion
  • Salsa
  • Taco seasoning
  • Tortilla chips
  • Shredded cheese – Mexican blend or cheddar – You can certainly shred your own.
  • Your favorite toppings: jalepenos, cheese, cilantro, sour cream, salsa, lettuce, and tomato
Variations:

Vegetarian option: Instead of ground beef, you can either use meatless ground beef crumbles or black/ pinto beans.

In step 4: You can also add cilantro lime rice or black beans as a layer.

Recipe

Click on the photo to go to a printable recipe card.

Notes:

  • You use half of the taco seasoning in the 2 steps.
  • The layers for the taco bake are ground beef mixture, cheese, and then tortilla chips. In that order
  • It says you can feed 6. Youngest and I only got 4 servings out of the meal.

Meal Planning – 5 Tips & Tricks

Before I begin, I should be transparent. I’m good at making meal plans but not always following through.

In my house, I get the question, “What are we having for dinner?” from the boys. Sometimes Hubby will also ask me. It’s good to have an idea of what you are cooking for dinner.

Meal planning may seem daunting. It doesn’t need to be.

  1. It doesn’t need to be perfect.
    I create plans that fall through ALL the time. There are days I get home from school where I feel exhausted. At those times, I know cooking a full dinner isn’t in the cards. That’s okay. You can certainly save your plan for the next week or the week afterwards.
  1. It may seem hard at first. That is okay.
    It will be hard at first. Here are some tips to help with that.
    • Create a list of your family’s favorite meals. Refer to that list. Update that list when you discover a new family favorite.
    • Create theme nights for each day of the week.
      • Ethnic night – Mexican/ Asian/ Italian, etc . . .
      • Sandwich or Pizza Night
      • Breakfast for Dinner
      • Soup Night (Salad Night during the summer)
      • Vegetarian Night
      • Family Favorite
      • New to Us
      • Family Dinner Night
      • Crockpot/Instant Pot Night
      • Once you create your theme nights, then it may get easier to plug in meals for that night.
    • Find favorite blogs to help you with inspiration.
    • What are activities going on that might require you to have an easier meal? Or that might be the night you eat out? You know your family’s situation and schedule. Plan accordingly.
    • Meal prep on the weekend or double up a meal during the week.
      • You should only do an hour of meal prepping on Sundays. I’m using Sundays as a base but you may meal prep another day of the week. Plan for only an hour.
      • Cut up veggies for the week.
      • If you are doing something that requires cooked ground beef, cook that up.
      • Put on some music, a book on tape, trashy tv show, or a Podcast to listen/watch during your meal prep. I tell my friends that I’m going to watch a trashy tv show. You don’t actually need to watch that.
      • Use your freezer. Certain items can be frozen, so that will help with your prep times.
      • Appliances will help you. I have an Instant Pot, Ninja Air Fryer, and a crockpot. Each of those can help with my meal prep. You don’t need those appliances. Take stock in what you have and use them.
  1. Don’t plan for ALL your meals at first.
    Yes, I said it. Don’t plan for all your meals at first. If all you can do is plan for your dinners, do that. At least you know what you are going to eat for dinner.
    You need to make the meal planning and prepping work for you.
  1. Create a rotating list of breakfast/ lunch items.
    Have a list of items that you like to eat for breakfast and lunch. Keep the ingredients for those items in your fridge/ freezer/ pantry. If you like breakfast sandwiches, spend some time making those up. Place them in the freezer for a future breakfast.
    If you have that list written down, then it makes breakfast and lunch time so much simplier.

    Since I’m a teacher, I need to have an idea of lunch items that can be eaten quickly between interruptions. That’s just a fact of life when I’m at work. So I’ve created a list of food that is easy for me to eat. I don’t need to create a meal plan for work days because I already know what I’m going to eat.
  1. You can plan to eat out.
    You don’t need to be a super person and cook ALL of your meals at home. There are times you can plan to eat out. Hubby and I like to go to local restaurants for dates. I can plan for those dinners or lunches.
    Last week, I put on the menu for us to eat breakfast for dinner. Then a friend asked me out to dinner. Since we were on break, I was able to changed the breakfast for dinner to lunchtime. We still followed the menu but just flipped some things around.

I hope these tips will help you plan your meals.

Happy eating,
Traci

Air Fryer Bacon (Gluten-free and easy)

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My mother-in-law got each family a Ninja Air Fryer for Christmas. Oh, my goodness is that appliance a dream. Oldest and I have put it through the paces in the last week. He has made French toast, French fries, and hamburgers in the fryer. I’ve made some sheet pan meals, bacon, and toast in it.

A goal of mine was to make perfect bacon in the air fryer. If you have an oven that has a convection setting, you can certainly use that feature.

You can certainly make a big batch of bacon as part of your meal prepping for the week.

What you need:
  • Pork Bacon – I’ve not attempted to use turkey bacon for this recipe.
  • Air Fryer
What you can use the bacon for:
  • BLTs
  • Sandwiches – Youngest and Hubby both have used the bacon for one of the meats on their sandwiches.
  • Just eat it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snack.
  • Salads – BLT salad or Cobb salad

Recipe (Click on the photo for a printable version of the recipe card.)

Shelf-Stable Lunch Ideas

I’ve been going to a dietician for the past 6 months because I was having health issues. Even though my weight is stable, I’m losing fat percentage which is good. Yeah for progress!

When I met with her yesterday, she asked me what I needed help with and I told her shelf-stable lunch ideas so that I can keep those in my classroom. My life changed once again where I’m leaving for work 15 minutes earlier than normal. On days I’m running behind, I won’t have to worry about packing a lunch because I know I’ll have something already at work.

Here’s the formula for lunch:

Protein/ Healthy Fat + Carb/ Fruit + Veggies

Protein Sources:

  • Beef / Turkey Meat Sticks (EPIC, chomps, Thrive Market has a good turkey one.)
  • Peanut butter / Nut butter – Get squeezy packets if you don’t a whole entire jar in your workspace.
  • Trail Mix – Make your own, so you don’t have chocolate or other sweets in your mix.
  • Tuna / Salmon packets
  • Almonds
  • Roasted chickpeas
  • Jerky
  • Protein bars
  • Pumpkin Seeds

Healthy Fats

  • Peanut butter / Nut butter – Get squeezy packets if you don’t a whole entire jar in your workspace.
  • Trail Mix – Make your own, so you don’t have chocolate or other sweets in your mix.
  • Almonds or other nuts

Carbs

  • That’s It Bars – I tried the apple/cherry one yesterday. It’s not bad.
  • Fruit leather
  • Larabars
  • Kind bars
  • Squeezy applesauce / unsweetened applesauce cups – Keep a container of cinnamon in your workspace.
  • Crackers
  • Popcorn – I love the Safe & Fair chocolate drizzled kettle corn.
  • Rice rollers
  • Rice cakes
  • Fruit cups (juice – not heavy syrup)
  • Granola – Be careful that it’s not full of sugary goodness. Make your own.
  • Freeze dried fruit
  • 90 second rice packets

She also suggested I keep shelf-stable fruit and veggies in my classroom. Ideas are apples, oranges, mini peppers, and carrots.

If I have the basics in my room, I can just grab supplemental items in the morning. It makes it easier for me to get going in the morning.

Here are some of the basics I can grab in the morning.

  • Pb3 packets
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Hummus
  • Cheese Sticks
  • Yogurt

Here is a previous post about lunch ideas.

Happy eating,
Traci

Chicken Wings in the Air Fryer (GF, DF, W30)

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I love chicken wings. If you were to ask me what my comfort food is currently, I would tell you chicken wings without a doubt. Getting them at a restaurant is often expensive, so it’s more economical to make them at home coated with your favorite seasoning and covered with your favorite barbecue sauce.

My favorite seasoning is from a local shop. Rosebuds is located at the 2nd Street Market, a local farmer’s market/ artisan shop. My seasoning is the Campfire Rub which reminds me of cooking over an actual campfire. Yum!

I just get a bottle of honey barbecue sauce from Aldi. Youngest and I just like a basic barbecue sauce. I also like a Carolina type of barbecue sauce.

I’m not good at explaining how to cut up the chicken wings. I know I’m not the best at it. So I did what I do best, I googled how to cut up the chicken wings properly. Click here for the directions and then return to my blog for the recipe.


What to Serve with the chicken wings

Salad (greens, veggie or fruit, topping) with a dressing

Cooked frozen or canned veggies

Chips, French fries, or Tater Tots – Our favorite is the seasoned Tater Tots from Alexa foods.

Celery or carrots with ranch or bleu cheese – Classic choice

Applesauce

Macaroni and cheese


Similiar Recipes

BBQ ribs

Apricot BBQ wings

Ranch chicken legs


Chicken Wings

Stars of the recipe

  • 1 – 1 lb. chicken wings split
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. your favorite spice

Directions

  1. Preheat your Air Fryer to 425 degrees.
  2. Combine the split chicken wings, olive oil, and spices. In a sealed container or gallon sized bag.
  3. Shake to distribute the spices and olive oil onto the chicken wings.
  4. Put into the Air Fryer in a single layer.
  5. Cook for 15 minutes or until the internal temperature is 165 degrees.
  6. Enjoy with your favorite barbecue sauce.

Notes:

Here is the link to how to split your chicken wings.

Bramble Beans in the Instant Pot

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Jump to what to serve with the recipe
SIMILAR Recipes

Last week, I put bramble beans on our menu but didn’t have time to meal prep. So when it came time to cook the recipe, I had to change up how I was going to cook the meal. I decided to make it in my Instant Pot instead of the crockpot. It was easy to do.


So what do you serve with the bramble beans?

A simple side dish would be either a salad or frozen/ canned veggies warmed up.

Roasted veggies

Cornbread, biscuits, or rolls – Simple and delicious

Applesauce or baked apples


Similar Recipes

Sloppy Joes (Crockpot)

Sloppy Joes

Philly Cheesesteak Sloppy Joes

Sloppy Joe French fries

Beenie Weenies


Bramble Beans

Stars of the recipe:

  • 2 – 15 oz. cans of pork and beans
  • 1 – 15 oz. can of kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 lb. hamburger, browned
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 c. ketchup
  • 2 Tbsp. mustard
  • 2 Tbsp. vinegar
  • 4 Tbsp. brown sugar

Steps:

  1. Turn on the Instant Pot to sauté.
  2. Place the hamburger and diced onion in the Instant Pot. Cook until the onion is transparent and the hamburger is no longer pink.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients.
  4. Manual set the Instant Pot to 15 minutes. (Make sure you have the vent is closed.)
  5. Quick release the vent once it is cooked.
  6. Enjoy!

Note: You may need to add about a quarter cup of water since you are using the Instant Pot.

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