Dump and Go Freezer Meal: Meatball Casserole

It’s time for meal #4 for our Fill your Freezer in 7 days blog series!

This comforting recipe can become fitness friendly with the use of Barilla Protein Plus Pasta.  It’s made with lentils, chick-peas, flax and other protein rich legumes.  Our local Wal-mart and Target both carry it and occasionally Target has coupons plus sales for great stock up prices.  If your local store doesn’t have it, Prime Pantry carries it for about the same price.

Any pasta will work in this dish, even gluten free pasta, so pick what works best for your needs.

Starting with frozen meatballs makes this super fast to throw together, but I’ll include a recipe for homemade meatballs at the end, just in case you prefer to do it yourself.

Meatball Casserole

Serves 8

1 jar, 24 oz, marinara sauce

3 cups water (just fill the empty sauce jar up and shake it up)

32 oz Turkey meatballs

14 oz bow tie or penne pasta

2 cups Mozzarella Cheese

For freezer cooking, pour the marinara, water and meatballs into a gallon baggie.  Press out air and seal.  Freeze.

For Oven Baking:  Thaw bag, pour into a baking dish with dry pasta and stir to combine.  Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Top with cheese and bake uncovered for 15 minutes longer.

For Slow Cooker: Thaw bag and pour into a 4-5 quart slow cooker. Top with cheese and cook on low for 3 hours.

For Pressure Cooker: Thaw bag and pour into your instant pot.  Cook at high pressure for 5 minutes. Use quick release on the pressure.  Top with cheese and let stand a few minutes until it melts.

For Skillet: Thaw bag, Pour into a skillet.  Bring to a simmer, then cover with a lid and cook for 15 minutes.  Top with cheese and stick under the broiler until golden brown.

Homemade Meatballs

2 lbs Ground Turkey (or Beef, chicken, pork, venison, etc.)

2 eggs

1 cup Milk (Use Unsweetened Almond Milk of Dairy Free)

1 cup Italian style Bread Crumbs (Gluten Free: use Almond Meal or Gluten Free bread crumbs plus 1 tsp Italian Seasoning.)

1/4 cup parmesan cheese (Skip if Dairy Free)

2 Tbs Dried onion flakes

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

Use a mixer to combine everything together.  Roll into 1 inch balls and place on a baking sheet with a rim.  Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.

 

Dump and Go Slow Cooker or Pressure Cooker Quinoa Enchilada Casserole

It’s recipe 3 for our fill your freezer in 7 days challenge.  I hope beyond just giving you a few recipes, that I spark your imagination about how to adapt some of your favorite recipes for the freezer or even create some new flavors.

If you pre-dice your chicken, or used browned ground meat instead, this dish can be made in a skillet in just 20 minutes.  I love how in the slow cooker, it’s hands off until the end.  It’s truly a fix it and forget it situation.

This recipe is both fitness and family friendly.  To add calories and filling power, my growing kids serve theirs over a plate of tortilla chips, then top with sour cream and extra cheese.  I skip that part, then we all top it with shredded lettuce and chopped fresh tomatoes and salsa.

Be sure to rinse your quinoa before throwing it into your mix.  It removes the saponins that can taste bitter.  Since the grains are so small, I line my colander with a tea towel.

Dump and Go Quinoa Enchilada Casserole

1 lb boneless Chicken Breasts (If you bought it frozen, keep it frozen.  Thawing and refreezing raw meats changes the texture in an unappetizing way.)

1 Tbs taco seasoning mix

2 cans black beans, 15 oz each, drained and rinsed

1 chopped onion

1 cup dry quinoa, rinsed

1 can red enchilada sauce, 20 oz

1/2 cup water

Place all ingredients in a gallon baggie and freeze.  To cook, thaw just enough to be able to get everything out of the bag.  Pour into a slow cooker and cook on high for 3-4 hours, or on low for 6 hours. Shred the chicken with two forks and stir into the dish.  Top with shredded cheese, then replace the lid for a few minutes to allow it to melt.   Serve with a toppings bar.

To make in the pressure cooker, follow the directions above, except cook at high pressure for 10 minutes, following the manufacturers directions for pressure release before opening the lid.

Toppings suggestion:  Tortilla chips, shredded lettuce, fresh diced tomatoes, green onion, cilantro, sour cream, cheese, salsa, diced olives.

The leftovers reheat pack well in a thermos for hot lunch on the go.

Nutrition facts:  1/6 of the recipe without cheese or toppings yields: 381 Calories; 7g fat; 37g net carbs; 30g protein

 

Lime Chicken Tacos: A Freezer Meal That’s Slow Cooker and Pressure Cooker Friendly


Any meat that has to marinade makes a great freezer meal. Just don’t thaw it and refreeze it.  If your meat is already frozen, you can pour the marinade on it and put it back in the freezer.

Therea re two ways to make this into a freezer meal: 1. You can cook the meat through and then freeze it shredded and ready to serve, which saves time at the dinner time.  2. Or freezing it uncooked and in the marinade makes the freezer day prep super fast and easy. If you remember to pop it in the slow cooker or have an instant pot for faster cooking, this is a great option.

You’ll need 1 gallon freezer bag for this dish and then just your favorite taco toppings at time of serving.

I love how this dish is easily adaptable for all allergy and fitness needs.  For example, gluten free friends can use corn shells, or make a taco salad over corn chips. Keto friends can skip the honey and the shells or chips and make a big taco salad with full fat sour cream and cheese.  Dairy free friends can use avocado instead of dairy toppings.

Lime Chicken Tacos

Serves 4

1.5 lbs chicken breasts (These can be the ugly ones that are too thick or mis-shaped to grill)

1 Lime, zested and juiced

1 Tbs Olive Oil

2 Tbs Apple Cider Vinegar

1 tsp Honey

1 can, 4 oz, Green Chilies (If doubling the recipe, no need to double the chilies.  It saves money to use just 1 can while still giving great flavor.)

2 tsp Ground Cumin

2 tsp Chili Powder

1 tsp Minced garlic

A few dashes of cayenne if you like it hot

Combine everything in a Gallon size Freezer Baggie, press out the air.  Seal, Label and freeze.

To slow cook, place contents of the bag in a slow cooker and cook on high for 3 hours or on low for 6 hours. Shred with two forks and stir to coat in sauce.  Serve with a slotted spoon or tongs with your favorite taco toppings.

To Pressure cook, place contents of the bag in a pressure cooker. Add 1/4 c of water and cook at high pressure for 10 minutes.  Wait until pressure is reduced, or use quick release to bring down the pressure and remove the lid safely.  Shred chicken and stir into sauce. Serve with a slotted spoon or tongs with your favorite taco toppings.

Suggested Condiments: Tortillas 6″ or Tortilla chips, Shredded Lettuce, Diced Tomatoes, Diced Red Onion, Shredded Cheese, Sour Cream, Salsa, Guacamole

This is recipe #2 in our series, Fill your Freezer in 7 Days. Find more here.

Philly Pepper Steak Sheet Pan Freezer Meal

This delicious meal is fast to put together and cooks with hands off time.  Letting you pop it in the oven in the evening and unwind from the day’s tasks while it cooks.

You’ll use two 1 gallon freezer bags for the assembly.  The meat will marinate in the freezer, then cook up tender and flavorful.  It’s easier to slice cooked meat than raw meat, so I prefer to slice it after cooking.  If you know you’ll be too stressed to slice it at the time of cooking, slice it now, then reduce the cooking time in step 1 to 12 minutes.

If your family is on a regular diet, grab some sandwich rolls to make these into sandwiches. If you are gluten free you can serve it over brown rice, or low carb eaters can dish theirs over spaghetti squash or cauliflower rice.

This recipe is for 4 people, adjust as needed for your family:

Bag #1:

1 lb Flank Steak, or any boneless lean roast 3/4 inch thick.

2 Tbs cup Apple Cider Vinegar

1 Tbs Worcestershire Sauce

1 tsp Onion powder

1 tsp Garlic powder

1/2 tsp Salt

1/4 tsp Pepper

1/4 tsp cloves

Bag #2

2 Green Bell Peppers,Sliced

1 Onion (red or yellow), Sliced

8 oz Sliced Mushrooms

1/2 tsp Salt

1/4 tsp Pepper

Seal both bags, pressing out all the air first. Then label with the recipe name, today’s date, and the bag #.  Freeze.

Additional Ingredients: Provolone Cheese Slices and Sandwich Buns or Rice.

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a rimmed sheet pan with parchment paper for easy clean up.  Place the steak in the middle and bake for 20 minutes (30 if it is still frozen.)

2. Spread the contents of bag #2 evenly around the outside of the steak. I doubled my recipe so I had to put veggies on top of the steak too.  Bake 15-20 minutes longer or until veggies reach desired tenderness.  Remove steak to a cutting board and cut into slices.  Return to the baking sheet and use tongs to stir it into the veggie mixture.

3. Top all with Cheese slices and bake for another 10 minutes or until cheese is gooey.  Serve on buns or over rice.

Picky Eater Ideas: Not everyone is a fan of peppers, onions and mushrooms.  You can substitute any vegetable for them including broccoli florets, zucchini strips, or Long green beans.

Do you have tips for helping kids eat their veggies?

 

Fill Your Freezer in 7 Days

I have a love/hate relationship with freezer cooking.  I love the idea of healthy, budget friendly, ready to warm up and serve food at my fingertips.  This run through the field of blooming tulips vision of freezer cooking has left me falling on my face in a surprise pile of cow dung every time.  There are some definite tripping hazards that I’d like to prevent before we get started.

#1: Cooking sessions that take ALL DAY, completely wear you out, and destroy your kitchen.    Honestly my freezer cooking sessions (all 2 of them) have been so draining that the pain did not outweigh the benefits.  It took years before I was willing to try it again.

#2 Meals that are so thick and so frozen solid that if you do not remember to thaw them out ahead of time (overnight in the fridge is NOT long enough) that it will take 3 hours to heat them through.  At that point the edges will be burned and the middle will be sort of warm.  Bon Appetit!   I use freezer meals for emergencies and I don’t always think to thaw in advance.

#3 Picky Eaters! It’s a big letdown when you’re standing in your perfectly clean kitchen, feeling like Martha Stewart with your freezer meal fresh out of the oven, and then have your family decide they don’t like it.

To make this viable a few things have to happen:

  1.  We need healthy recipes our families already love or are sure to love.
  2. We need the meals to thaw quickly or cook quickly without thawing.
  3. We need the cooking session to be SHORT!  Ideally less than 3 hours.
  4. We need minimal mess when we get done
  5. Plus we need not to tie up our good pans in the freezer, have room to store these meals in our freezer, and not pack them in containers that will leach toxic substances into our foods.

Here are a few Suggestions to make this go better:

  1. Skip the foil pans.  Aluminum will leach into the food and it does it at an accelerated rate as it’s heated.  If you can’t avoid the aluminum pan or foil, place a parchment paper (preferably unbleached) barrier between the aluminum and your food first.
  2. While plastics can also leach hormone disrupting chemicals into your food, they are less likely to do it at super cold temperatures.  Even BPA free plastics are harmful.  When public outcry demanded the removal of BPA, the plastic industry had to find a substitute to keep plastics from getting brittle.  They chose BPS which has the same hormone disrupting properties as BPA.  I still choose gallon freezer bags for my freezer cooking, I just make sure my food is cooled completely before I bag it and remove food from the bag before reheating. For heating, glass; stainless steel; and silicone pans are your safest bet.
  3. To make freezer cooking sessions short, I focus on dump recipes in the following categories:

Sheet Pan Suppers

Slow Cooker Meals

Instant Pot Meals

& One Skillet Meals

These meals all fit into freezer bags and take up the least amount of freezer room as possible, thaw easily, and require a minimum of prep time.  They are almost all meals-in-one needing no side dishes or just a tossed salad or bread and butter to round them out.

Tomorrow, I’ll be back with our first dump and go freezer recipe: Sheet Pan Pepper Cheese-Steak.

Does your family have favorite recipes that are sheet pan suppers, slow cooker meals, instant pot meals, or one skillet meals?  Have you had any experience with freezer cooking?  How did it go?  Send us your tips!

 

Makeover Strawberry Pretzel Salad

Strawberry Pretzel Salad is more dessert than salad, and it’s one of my favorites.

The original recipe is packed full of sugar, excess butter, artificial coloring, and hydrogenated fats.

I saw some opportunities for nutritional improvement without sacrificing much flavor.  I started by reducing the amount of butter by half…and honestly it still was plenty.  I also cut the sweetener amounts way down and then substituted Truvia or Erythritol for the sugar.  I got rid of the hydrogenated fats by swapping out the whipped topping for protein rich Greek yogurt. And ditched a pile of sugar and artificial food coloring by using homemade gelatin from light cranberry juice that was colored with vegetable powder instead of box gelatin colored with food dye. This healthier version is worthy of potluck suppers.

Healthier Strawberry Pretzel Salad

2 cups (about 5 oz) roughly chopped pretzels (gluten free work too)

6 Tbs butter, melted

3 Tbs Erythritol or Truvia

8 oz Neufchatel Cream Cheese

8 oz Unsweetened Greek Yogurt

1/2 cup Erythritol or Truvia

1 lb fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced

2 cups Low Calorie Cranberry Juice, look for an aspartame free variety.  I got mine from Aldi and it has 5 calories per cup.

1 Tbs plain Gelatin

  1.  Sprinkle gelatin over 1 cup of cranberry juice.  Let stand for 1 minute.  Microwave on high for 1 minute or until dissolved.  Stir in the remaining cup of cold juice and chill until thickened.  (About 30 minutes to an hour.)
  2. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Stir together pretzels, melted butter and 3 Tbs sweetener. Press evenly into the bottom of a glass 9×13 pan.  Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden.  Cool to room temperature.
  3. Beat together cream cheese, Greek Yogurt and sweetener until smooth.  Spread over cooled crust.
  4. Top cream layer with sliced strawberries, then pour thickened gelatin over all.  Chill for 3 hours or until set.Note: If you don’t let the gelatin thicken before pouring, it will sink to the bottom and make your crust soggy. I learned from experience

It makes 8 generous servings each with 262 calories; 16g fat; 20g net carbs and 8g protein.  I enjoy a piece for breakfast, or a snack, or both.

For the same size serving, the original recipe has 510 calories; 29g fat; 57g net carbs and 4g protein.

Have you given a favorite recipe a healthier makeover?  I’d love to hear about it.

This post contains amazon affiliate links.  Linking to the products that I personally use in my home. If you choose to purchase anything through one of these links, I will receive a small commission.

Grab and Go Muesli Breakfast Cookies

I’m constantly on the lookout for ways to simplify our lives, and if it makes us healthier too, it’s a double win.  Breakfast cookies are one of those double wins and are easy to grab and eat for a healthy breakfast on the go or an after school snack on the way to music lessons or sports practice.

I made these Muesli breakfast cookies last week for the Fit Mama meal plan and it was instant love. I had three the first day, one at breakfast and at each of my snack times. Inspiration for the recipe came from Sweet as Honey and I tweaked it to simplify the number of ingredients and to fit into the macro nutrition profile I needed for the Fit Mama plan.
I can imagine all sorts of different variations just by changing the type of dried fruit and seeds or nuts added.  Different fruit options include: dried blueberries, golden raisins, apricots, cherries, strawberries, apples, dates, bananas, mango, papaya, pineapple, prunes. Prunes are shockingly delicious despite their old person stereotype and taste sweeter than dates without as many active carbs . Nuts and seeds might also include macadamia nuts, almonds, pecans, walnuts, pistachios, cashews, filberts, or cacao nibs.

I love dried fruits and nuts so much that it’s easy for me to overdo it and gain weight on them even though they are healthy foods.  By baking them into these cookies, there’s instant portion control.

After dropping the dough onto the sheets, you’ll want to use a silicone spatula to flatten and shape them into cookies.

Something you need to know about these is that they are HEALTHY and they taste like it.  They aren’t super sweet, just sweet enough to be pleasant.  More the sweetness of a piece of honey wheat bread instead of the sweetness of a chocolate chip cookie.

For that reason, I’m going to share the small recipe first.  It makes 4 large single serving cookies, enough for your family to taste them before you waste large amounts of ingredients.

I found everything except the unsweetened coconut at Aldi.  I also chose to use Great Value Sugar Free Syrup from Wal-mart instead of honey to keep the macros in fat burning zone. If I were making these for kids, I would use honey or real maple syrup as listed.

Muesli Breakfast Cookies, Small Recipe

3/4 cup Old Fashioned Rolled Oats

1/4 cup Unsweetened Coconut Flakes

1/4 cup Whole Wheat Flour or Almond Meal

1/4 cup Craisins

2 Tbs Pepitas (Shelled pumpkin seeds)

2 Tbs Sunflower Seeds

2 Tbs Fresh Ground Flax Meal

1 Egg

1/4 cup honey or real maple syrup

2 tbs melted coconut oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine all ingredients in the order given and shape by 1/3 cupfuls into 4 large cookies onto prepared baking sheets. Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool completely before moving so they don’t fall apart. Enjoy with your favorite warm beverage.

They are also really good frosted with Natural Peanut Butter.

Muesli Breakfast Cookies, Family Size Recipe

3 cups Old Fashioned Oats

1 cup Unsweetened Coconut Flakes

1 cup Whole Wheat Flour or Almond Meal

1 cup Craisins

1/2 cup Pepitas

1/2 cup Sunflower Seeds

1/2 cup Ground Flax Meal

4 eggs

1 cup Honey or Maple Syrup

1/2 cup Coconut Oil, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine all ingredients in the order given and shape by 1/3 cupfuls into 16 large cookies onto prepared baking sheets. Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool completely before moving so they don’t fall apart. Enjoy with your favorite warm beverage.

Made with Sugar Free Syrup instead of honey, each cookie contains: 270 calories; 16g fat; 24g net carbs; 7g protein.

The batter is moist enough that I think I could stir in some vanilla protein powder for extra sweetness plus protein.  If I try it out, I’ll update with the results.

Do you ever have call for grab and go breakfasts? What’s your favorite?

 

Makeover Monday: Angela’s Kitchen

It feels a little silly writing a kitchen makeover post for myself, when we just gutted and redid our home about 4 years ago.  My mom is having a hard time imagining that I would consider painting 4 year old cabinets, when she wouldn’t dream of painting her 40 year old cabinets.  I can see her point, though I don’t share the guilt over painting good wood that she feels.

The kitchen in 2012 when we bought our house.  The door you see straight ahead is the old pantry, which I loved but removed anyway.  The blue top and gray bottom is the old dining room, which became the new kitchen.  Right through the doorway on the left, we cut an arched doorway in the dining room wall to create the entrance to the new laundry room and pantry. 

The kitchen in 2014 with the camera standing about 10 feet to the right, but pointing the same direction.  We removed several walls, and pushed the kitchen to the old dining room area making a large open space. Since this photo was taken, we’ve added the fridge cabinets, and crown molding.  Both tables are folding tables being useful while we save up for real furniture. 

A good friend told me, “Don’t ever feel guilty about painting something you hate.”  And while I definitely don’t hate my cabinets, I don’t love them either.  We ordered from CabinetGiant.com, because of their amazing prices and great quality and because we didn’t have an IKEA at the time or any hope of one coming soon.  (So glad to be wrong about that one.)  The doors, when they arrived, didn’t match the sample. They were much more yellow based in tone when we were expecting a brighter white with some glazing depth.   At the time, I had been without a kitchen for a solid year, cooking on an electric skillet and in a crock pot for a family of 8, and never eating out.  I also had a couple of toddlers, while trying to homeschool a struggling fourth grader, and teaching part time at a private school.  I was undone. Yellow cabinets were the least of my worries, so we put them in.

The kitchen today, quieted and the folding table island removed.  The thing that glares at me most about it, is the overwhelming amount of brown wood.  When we designed this kitchen, I thought the floors would be enough lighter than the cabinet lowers that it would be ok, but it’s not my favorite. 

It took me 2 years to even notice the cabinets clashed with my wall color.  At first glance it would be easier to repaint the walls than the cabinets.  The challenge is, the entire 5,000 square foot house is painted Behr Silver Drop and it’s all open concept, which means I’d have to paint the whole house to change the kitchen color. Painting cabinets started to sound easier.  Add the fact that I’ve never liked the cabinet color, and it’s a no brainer.

The whole kitchen was a compromise.  We live in the midwest, where decorating trends are a good 5-10 years behind the coastal states. So we were still enjoying the end of the Tuscan Beige era. I craved a bright white kitchen, but my husband had been dreaming of finally being able to afford a rich Tuscan Beige kitchen like we had seen in the nicer parts of town.  I didn’t hate that look, while he definitely seemed to dislike the white shaker style I preferred, so I compromised.

Then a blessing hit us, that I couldn’t see at the time.  We lost our life savings to a foundation repair which meant we couldn’t finish the kitchen. If that hadn’t happened, I definitely would have selected granite countertops that I would have hated in just a couple of years, and been stuck for decades because of the huge investment.  Instead we spent about $200 on hardwood plywood that we painted and sealed with marine poly.  They have served us for 4 years, though the seams split early on and the marine finish wore off after a few months of daily washing and they are now stained and showing signs of water damage.

I painted the plywood countertops a medium gray, hoping to bring the kitchen into the current decade, but instead it just drew attention to the fact that it didn’t harmonize.  It was a good lesson to me that if I can’t afford to fix the glaring problem, it’s better to work WITH it, then to ignore it or fight against it.

It’s finally time for us to finish the kitchen!  (Our bedroom comes first on the project list, but I like to decide on finishes far in advance so I have time to research prices and wait for sales.) Here’s our to do list:

  1. Break up all the dark wood
  2. Replace my double sink, with a huge single apron front sink.
  3. Install Countertops
  4. Install a backsplash
  5. Install a range hood
  6. Build an island with a sink.
  7. Choose counter-stools for the island
  8. To paint or not paint the contrasting crown molding.

I also may need to change the island pendant lights, but didn’t focus on that with this photoshop plan.

First, I tried navy paint on the lower cabinets and white crown, which I LOVE.  It broke up all the wood, but when I installed a white island, it gave the same affect without the need to paint all the lowers.  I’m all for less work, lol.

Here’s the same look with brown cabinets and brown crown.  I like this ok, but the stools (which I love the shape of) fight against the other wood tones and don’t relate to anything in the room. As much as I like the wood lowers better with the new whiter uppers, I still loved the navy more.  The original navy view felt a little too white, too sterile.  So I tried switching out the range hood for reclaimed wood.

I like how the reclaimed wood had parts of the dark wood color from the floors, but brought in lighter wood tones too.  Then I thought I’d switch out these expensive stools that didn’t quite blend with the floors, with some low profile stools for 1/3 of the cost.

They are ok, but I’m going to look for a third option in a color that’s a perfect blend of the two, a lighter wood like the hood, that plays nicely with the redder floor tones.

The last thing I wanted to try was painting the crown navy to match the lowers instead of white to match the uppers.  The risk is making the room feel short again. It’s 18 feet wide, so short ceilings are a minor issue.

While I like this, I think I like the open airy feeling of crown that matches the upper cabinets better.

This exercise has me itching to paint right now.  I’ve had the upper cabinet paint on hand for over a year already. But I promised myself I’d finish some of the other projects I started and didn’t finish, like painting the foyer, first.

If this were your kitchen, what finishes would you pick?

Sources:

Navy Paint Color: Behr Starless Night

White Cabinet Color: Behr White Pepper

Island turned legs: Etsy Design59Furniture

Backsplash: 3×6 Mohawk gloss white subway tile

Countertop: Not sure on our final choice, but we are looking at Marble look quartz options.  I’m afraid the cost will be impossible.  I haven’t eliminated the possibility of a good laminate.

 

 

How to Save Money on Printer Ink

I bought something in November that has changed my life.  It sounds dramatic, but I mean it.  I no longer have anxiety about printing things…in full color…as much as I want. Printable art for my walls?  Yes please!  Full color planners?  Yay!  Color meal plans and crochet patterns?  Yes and yes.

I used to hold myself back and if I had to print, I’d do 4 pages in one so that the print was so tiny I could barely read it.  And of course it was grayscale, draft quality.  We had previously purchased a printer from Costco, and made sure that it used the Costco refillable ink cartridges to try to save on printing costs.  Even then, with my crazy miserly printing habits, we were spending about $30 a month on ink.

Then in November, I bought a new printer.  My old one was working just fine. In fact, I sold it yesterday, from a Facebook Marketplace ad, to a grateful woman who had just bought a new pack of ink and opened it before her printer quit.  It was a win-win.

My new printer qualifies for instant ink. For $10 a month, I can print up to 300 FULL COLOR or black and white pages.  The printer is connected to wifi and tells HP when I’m running low on ink and they just send me a new cartridge at no additional charge.   I’m saving $20 a month, plus I never have to go on an emergency ink run and pay full price because the refill place can’t get it done in time.

If I go over my 300 pages (which I did last month) They will give me another 25 pages for just $1. Any unused pages will roll-over to the next month, so there’s no worry of waste.  They also send an envelope to mail back the used cartridges for recycling.

I can log in any time I’m curious about how many pages I’ve used, and check it out.  I haven’t even gotten to the best part yet.  If you use my link, you can try it for free!  PLUS if you buy a new printer that comes with a free trial of the instant ink, the offer is stackable with my free month link for you.  I started in November and won’t pay for ink until MAY!

You might already have a printer that qualifies, look for it here.  If not, these two printers are my favorites:

This one is an all in one printer with fax, scan, copy, and a top load document feeder.  It’s the one I bought and it makes very good quality prints.

This one is a little less expensive, without the automatic top feed option.

I hope this serves you!  I’m off to go print my planner pages and fit mama meal plans for next week (in full color!)

Disclaimer: This post contains amazon affiliate links.  If you choose to purchase anything through one of those links, I will earn a small commission.

I also have an affiliate with instant ink, so if you sign up for a free month with my link, I get a free month too.  As an instant ink customer, you will get an affiliate link to share with your friends as well.

 

 

Our Most Popular Posts from 2017

I was shocked when I looked up our most popular posts from 2017.  I still get the most comments on our 3 ingredient Biscuits and Gravy recipe than on any other post.  Which kind of makes me cringe, because it’s the unhealthiest recipe on the site–eeek!  It has been in the top 10 since I wrote it and still holds strong at the #2 favorite post.  What’s #1?  It’s a post for homemade eggrolls (totally delicious) that lost it’s photos a year ago, and yet people still come and get the recipe.  I just added taking new photos to the top of my to do list to improve the user experience on this most loved post.  I also want to buy an air fryer and try them out in that.  Here’s the full top 10.

#1  With 6 you Get….Eggrolls
#2  3 Ingredient Slow Cooker Biscuits and Gravy

#3  5 Favorite Chicken Marinades

#4  Plywood Countertops (We still have these!  Though they are looking really rough.  I’m totally paralyzed in picking out real counters and designing the island that needs to go in first.)

#5 Homemade Wallpaper Paste

#6 Simple Green vs Mean Green (Comparing the dollar store brand with the name brand)

#7 Getting Stains out of Stored Clothes

#8 First Steps to reducing your grocery costs

#9 When My Life Changed in 4 Weeks My master bedroom makeover that went from Hoarders Monthly to BHG worthy in 4 weeks

#10 How to Make Homemade Fortified Almond Milk 

#11 Feeding 8 on a 4 Person Budget (This post only missed 10th place by 20 readers, so I thought it should make the cut too.)

I’ve been working behind the scenes on several projects, like reformatting the Fit Mama Meal plans to make them easier to use (I’m really proud of the new look!) I’m applying some of those principles to a new Family meal plan template, yet to be released.  Plus researching and testing freezer meals for a challenge we’re about to do together.  (Who wants to fill their freezer?!!!)

It all takes a ton of time, but makes me really look lazy to my friends who only get glimpses of what I do through the public blog.   I’m only half lazy, lol.  I definitely still waste too much time getting sucked into facebook or online window shopping.

Also, we’ve had a parenting crisis that reinforced my goals to get offline in the afternoons and evenings so that I could be present with my teenagers in a greater way.  It’s not my place to make the specific details about our issues public right now, but I wanted to be upfront that we are having them and if you are too, to help you not feel alone.  In my limited and flawed parenting experience I’m still convinced that the secret to raising happy, mentally healthy kids, is a close relationship with them. That relationship can only be built with TIME spent together, when they feel safe to express themselves in a respectful way without fear of ridicule.  So that’s what we’re doing, and praying A LOT.

While I finish prepping for our freezer meal challenge, take a few minutes and help me serve you better.  What type of freezer meal recipes are you most interested in?  Also, could you leave a comment and tell me your experience with freezer cooking, what you liked, and what didn’t work for you?