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Freezer Cooking Recipes and Tips for Busy Moms

Freezer Cooking Recipes and Tips for Busy Moms



In a huge preventative measure (and mom-sanity saver moment) for the upcoming busyness of fall commitments, a friend and I spent a little over six hours putting together 17 freezer meals each to use in the next few months. That’s seventeen meals that just need to be pulled out and either dumped into a crockpot, or thawed the night before and then quickly popped in the oven to finish. With the addition of a few meals that I doubled and froze this past month, we’ll have plenty to choose from. (Yay!)

Cilantro Lime Chicken freezer meal

Many of you saw my pictures on Facebook and Instagram and asked if I would share recipes. Ironically, I have very few pictures of our day spent cooking, but I can assure you the kitchen was a mess, we got a LOT accomplished, and our freezers are stocked.

While we were far from being super-efficient in our entire process (there was a nursing infant and kids running in and out and asking me to feed them things like lunch – those hungry kids), we really did get a lot done and the kitchen was clean when we were done.

(happy sigh)

And really – freezer cooking did take a chunk of our time, but it was so easy overall. And fun. But please don’t tell my hubby I had fun, ok? Let him think it was grueling labor.

Freezer Cooking Tips

In the meantime, here are a few tips to consider before you begin your freezer cooking venture.

1. Plan Ahead

In the few days leading up to our freezer cooking day, a friend and I went through our recipe books, looked at favorite recipes, and picked recipes that required minimal prep (both in the prep phase and when it came time to cook it) and ones our families would enjoy. I have a kiddo that dislikes rice, so we pulled as many potato or similar recipes that we could find. My friend has a son with Celiac, so we had to make sure recipes could be easily adjusted to fix gluten issues.

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I used a simple notebook to write down recipes, ingredients needed, what we had on hand, and the order we planned to make the meals. Only after did I find these GREAT freezer cooking printables from Money Saving Mom set up almost exactly how I did my notebook planning.

(And psst – don’t plan to go grocery shopping the same day you want to do a major freezer cooking day. Cut yourself some slack and shop the day or two before.)

2. Start with a Clean Kitchen

Maybe the thought of cleaning up your kitchen pains you, but trust me. This was just a huge help in the process. All surfaces were cleaned off and ready to go before we started cooking and chopping. There wasn’t a need to move things around and figure out where to put things while our hands were covered in something.

3. Set up Stations

To make life easy on ourselves, we put all the ingredients we needed on the dining room table so we could find what we needed quickly. We also had an area where all the spices needed were already on the counter along with measuring spoons. Veggies and such were in a separate area and meat had it’s own counter space as well (to avoid any cross contamination). We also had an ‘assembly’ area where we put it all together.

Overall, that process helped out tremendously and one person could man a station during the put-together process.

4. Work in Phases

While it would have been great to cut, dice, chop and get it all done prior to assembling recipes, we had an infant on hand, kids running in and out, and also wanted to make sure all gluten issues were covered. We did try to group like recipes together (all pork, all beef, all chicken, etc…), did slice up all the peppers ahead of time, and washed potatoes and left them in the sink drainer to pull out as needed. We also browned the ground beef for a recipe before starting.

5. Clean a Little as You Go

Having piles of dirty dishes on the counter or in the sink didn’t work for us. We needed the sink to wash hands, and while I have a lot of dishes, there weren’t enough to cook on the level we did that morning.

The dishwasher was empty before we started cooking. We filled it as we worked, washed a few mixing bowls as we went along (again the gluten issue and contamination), and that helped out so much at the end when it came time for the final clean up.

Freezer Cooking Recipes

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I’ve put together a Freezer Cooking Pinterest board with all the recipes I could find online to share with you. A few of the recipes we used were ones that I have in my recipe binder or ones that I’ve pulled together over the years, so I uploaded a pdf file with those for you (see bottom of the list). Here’s a peek at what we made (links where available).

Over the past month I also made Chicken Taquitos, Meatballs (for sweet and sour meatballs), Chicken Tetrazzini, and have a lasagna and ravioli on hand. Our trusty 7 quart crock pot will be helping crank out many of the meals!

Keep Track of it All!

Don’t lose some of those meals to the back of your freezer! Be sure to keep a running list and either stick it on the side of your freezer to cross off meals you use, or keep a list handy so you don’t forget.

Another huge help for me is using my master meal planner and also my monthly menu planner so that I KNOW what we have on hand. I am a huge fan of getting as much of my shopping done in one evening (with the exception of perishables) and planning meals ahead helps save me time in the long run.

That’s it for now! Hope this has helped you some!

 

What are your favorite meals to freeze ahead? Have a freezer tip to share with readers? We’d love to hear!

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How to Plan Your Homeschool Day

How to Plan Your Homeschool Day

 

While it seems intimidating, planning your homeschool day is something that can be done. Having a schedule or routine in place can help bring organization to your homeschool day and ensures that you are getting enough educational time each day as well.

Maybe you are a family who thrives on a minute by minute plan for your day, or perhaps a more laid-back approach suits your family. Some families prefer a basic outline to their day that allows more flexibility each day. Regardless of your approach, putting together an overall plan can be a help to any family.

In some ways I really dislike the term schedule. At times, it seems very rigid and confining, and over the years our homeschool day has relaxed more in style {and so have I!}. The word that really best defines our day is routine. We don’t have set time increments to work on different subject areas, but rather an overall routine that we follow each day to help us know and complete what needs to be worked on.

Creating an Outline of the Homeschool Year

A few weeks ago, I talked about setting goals for your homeschool and knowing your purpose in homeschooling. This is really the first step in your planning, because you need to know where you want to end up before you set out on your year! Throughout your planning process it is important to know what educational goals you have in mind for your children and revisit those goals periodically to make sure you are doing what needs to be done for those goals to be met.

Curious as to how I start my planning each year?  Here’s a peek at how I break down our year and get started planning in the month or two prior to school starting:

  1. Pull out a blank yearly calendar {or print off a simple one from online}. You just need a simple year-at-a-glance calendar that you can plan out an overall outline of what your school year will look like: vacation times, any special days off or field trips, co-op times, and holidays. Basically, all of the times that you know need to be blocked off your overall schedule.
  2. Figure out how many days or weeks of instruction you need to complete. Depending on the homeschool laws in your state, this could vary. We basically plan on 36 weeks of school or 180 days overall {and that includes our field trips and co-op days}. Our family tries to plan a six week on and one week off routine for school. There have been some years that this has worked out wonderfully – and other years that we have had to adapt based on life circumstances. Nothing is set in stone though, so it can always be tweaked and adjusted as needed.
  3. Know your family’s routine. During the summer months our family takes a bit of a longer break because we travel to visit family that lives a distance away, and we also like to camp together and take longer weekends to do that. We also take a longer time period off around Christmas and plan to have birthdays off for each family member. Your family might have more activities to adjust based around sports or other travel, so consider this when planning. There are families that school year round – do what works for your family!
  4. Leave a little room to breathe. I actually have a few days here and there planned in as ‘make-up’ days – or those ‘just in case something came up and we got off-track’ days. If we need to use them, we do – if not, yay!! An added break for us, or we can keep working and take a breather somewhere else. Inevitably something unexpected always comes up, so allow yourself a little extra space!

Our schedule this year looked a little something like this:

  • start beginning of August, long break for Labor Day weekend
  • on most of September and October with a break the last week of October
  • off the week of Thanksgiving
  • Off the week of Christmas
  • resume school beginning of January with a week off at the end of January
  • on most of February and March
  • week off in April
  • finish May 10th – and allow a week for testing later in the month of May

Creating a Daily Routine

Once the outline of our year was planned, I sat down with the list of subjects and curriculum that we needed to work on to generate a plan of attack. There are some subjects that we work on daily and others that only need to be worked on a few times or once a week.

First, I worked on an overall routine for our day. Around 8:30ish we finish up any household chores and I remind {repeatedly} that we are starting school at 9am. Around 9am, we all get together in the school room and then our day looks a little something like this:

  • Calendar and Bible time {as a group}
  • History {together}
  • Handwriting & snack
  • Break up to start independent work: the oldest three start working on subjects such as math, language, vocabulary, reading, typing, and other similar subjects.
  • Start 1:1 work with our youngest {math, science, reading, etc….} and when his work is finished, work with the next oldest or answer questions as needed. Finish most of work with the youngest two before lunch {a few of Zachary’s subjects spill over into the afternoon, including science, writing, and spelling}
  • Lunch & Break {about 45 minutes}
  • After lunch the oldest three work on science with me and then I work with any of the kids on subjects that need 1:1 help such as spelling, writing, etc.
  • Wrap up with any additional subjects as needed – such as art or Little Passports

Organizing Our School Paperwork

Organizing School Paperwork - a simple folder system that works

Something that I have found helpful over the last several years is this simple folder system for organizing our paperwork. I spend a few days in the weeks before school printing off all of the worksheets and papers we need for the year in the month before school starts, pulling all papers from workbooks and dividing every thing out for the year before the year starts. I wrote an entire post about Organizing Homeschool Paperwork that you can read to see how I do it {or bookmark for later}.

Using the Weekly Workbox Grid to Visually Organize Our Day

Weekly Workbox Grid - visual organizer for homeschool copy

I am a very visual person and the format of the weekly workbox grid {or workfolders like we use} works very well for our family. Before the school year starts, I lay out each day of the week and pull out the different subject cards for each child along with their weekly grids. The subject cards are then organized by day so that the kids and I can both see what subjects still need to be worked on that day {and they can work ahead too if they are able too}.

Workbox Weekly Grid Cards

This format has also helped me when deciding what day to work on different subjects. For example, I work on spelling with the girls on one day, but Zachary’s lesson are on an opposite day. This way I can also see if we have too many ‘heavy’ subjects planned in a day and adjust accordingly.

You can read more about the Weekly Workbox Grid here.

Plugging it into My Weekly Homeschool Planner

Homeschool Planner coiled

Once I have our routine figured out and a basic plan in place, I begin plugging things into my Weekly Homeschool Planner. I actually print a copy off each year so that I can edit {without getting distracted on my laptop during the school day} and then put it into the editable pdf file each week.

The paper copy of my planner is stored in my Homeschool Binder and stays on my desk so I can keep track of our week as we go along. If you would like to see more of my Homeschool Binder, you can take a peek at it here.

Additional Tips for Planning Your Daily Routine

  1. Plan for breaks. Don’t forget to give yourself and the kids periodic breaks in their day. Whether for snacks, lunch, or a quick ‘get the wiggles out’ break, it’s helpful to plan times to give yourself a mental break.
  2. Know your kid’s most productive times. Our children are all early risers, so it works for us to start school earlier. Your family may not function well until afternoon. Plan your day around the times that you will be most productive overall.
  3. Schedule the subjects that require more focus or tend to get put aside FIRST. When we switched our group subjects such as history and Bible to the beginning of our day, we began to accomplish SO much more. We originally would try to do them at the end of the day and they sometimes got pushed aside and lost in the shuffle. Getting them done first has helped tremendously.
  4. Add fun to your day. Puzzles, manipulatives, and other hands-on activities many times get shelved – but there is so much that can be learned from them as well. Be sure to include them throughout your week. Our solution has been adding a ‘fun jar’ that has slips of paper with all of the different manipulatives and extras from the shelves. When there is a lull in the day, the kids go pick a slip and work on that project.
  5. Be flexible and re-evaluate periodically. The plans can look great on paper, but when you try to implement them, you may find areas that need tweaking. Every month or two, be sure to adjust areas that need help – it’s all part of the process of finding that ‘groove’ for your family.
  6. Know when to wrap it up. Granted there are times that you need to stick to your guns and have your kids complete something, but have an end time in goal for each day. There are days when you will get so wrapped up in your learning and lose track of time, but some days that clock will just tick, tick, tick… If you can set a specific ‘stop’ time for each day that the kids look forward to, it can help a lot {for them and you!}.

Overall, the planning process will take a little bit of preparation and time at the beginning, but will help SO much over the course of the year! With each year that goes by, the process goes more quickly too as we already have a basic routine in place and know more of what to expect from our days and the curriculum we are using.

Give yourself grace when planning. You won’t get it perfect – and it’s ok! And remember that schedules are great, but the best part about homeschooling is that we have this amazing time to spend with our kids and have FUN learning together – and that is the most important thing!

What planning tip would you give to other homeschool moms? Is there something that has helped you along the way? Leave a comment and share!

Homeschool Basics

This post is a part of the Homeschool Basics series. Be sure to read the other posts if you are just joining in. For the record, I am not an expert. I’m a homeschool mom who is sharing what she’s learned so far along the way with her own family.

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Homeschool Classroom Video Tour

When I initially shared that we were finishing off an area for our homeschool classroom a year and a half ago, I posted a short video clip of the ‘in progress’ work. Since then I’ve shared pictures of the room, but many of you have asked for a video tour. Sometimes pictures are helpful, but a video can really help give you a little more perspective.

Each video will have short blurbs telling more about the pieces and there will be links at the end of this post as well. Feel free to ask any questions in the comments!

Would you like a tour? This is the closest that I can give you to a personal visit right now, so grab a cup of coffee, pull up a chair, and spend some time with me. We love our schoolroom and are glad that you are here for a visit.

Come on in!

Homeschool Room Tour {Part 1}

 

Homeschool Room Tour {Part 2}

 

Things You See in the Video {in order seen}:

Note: Ikea keeps changing location on their links, but names are provided for the various items we are using.

Other Helpful Posts

Phew!! If you stuck around for it all – let me know if you have any questions!! Leave a comment and I’d be happy to answer you!

 

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Weekly Homeschool Planner ‘Get Organized’ Sale!

weekly-homeschool-planner-buy-now

Need a little mid-year organizational help for your homeschool day? The Weekly Homeschool Planner is on sale for $12 {that’s a savings of $8!}! Just use the code ORGANIZE13 at checkout. Click the “Add to Cart” button at the end of this post to take advantage of the sale price from December 27, 2012 to December 31, 2012.

Already purchased the Weekly Homeschool Planner? Then become an affiliate so you get a 25% commission using your affiliate link when you share the planner with others!

Can you help spread the word? Tweet about it, post about it, and share it on Facebook with your friends ~ hurry! The sale ends at midnight on Monday, December 31, 2012!

Homeschool Planner coiled

Grab the pdf editable Weekly Homeschool Planner for $12!

Add to Cart

* This is an editable pdf file that you can save to your computer and use year after year. To learn more about the Weekly Homeschool Planner, click HERE.

 

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Simple Snack Basket Help

Snack Basket Idea-1

I’m not sure how things go in your family, but typically when one {or more} of our kids disappear to get their mid-morning snack, they tend to meander around the house and sometimes ‘forget’ to return {ahem}. With our schoolroom being a bit away from the kitchen {and out of earshot}, I put together a snack basket that we keep in the schoolroom near my desk – keeping the snacks {and the kids} handy.

Snack Basket Idea-6

This may also have helped cut down on two certain little boys {who shall remain nameless}, from digging into the various boxes of snacks and cereal…or the s’mores marshmallows that they find in the pantry.

Snack Basket Idea-2

Each week I load up the basket with a variety of snacks that the kids like: trail mix, crackers, pretzels, fruit, a special treat, granola bars, etc… The snacks are bagged in the small snack-size Ziploc bags or a Tupperware container. We reuse the bags and containers each week, but this has saved me a HUGE amount of time during the week.

Just a simple idea, but I wanted to share a little something that has helped us out these last six weeks. What timesavers and helps have you found to help your week run a little more smoothly?

 

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