Thick and Chunky Marinara for the Freezer

Thick & Chunky Marinara SauceOne of my favorite things to prep on Saturday’s is a marinara sauce. We eat a lot of pasta here and this saves me a ton of time and dishes for busy weeknights. It takes up very little room in the freezer, since it’s not a complete meal. And I have the comfort of knowing I’m providing nutritious, home-cooked, healthy food for my family.

This sauce is primarily used for spaghetti marinara and lasagna. However it makes a good chili-mac, zucchini Parmesan, eggplant Parmesan and most everything else you might serve with a beef and tomato sauce.

Thick and Chunky Marinara

This makes about 20 cups of sauce, ~5 quarts.

You will need:

  • 2 gallon-sized freezer Ziploc bags or 5 quart sized mason jars.
  • 1 tbsp olive oil or bacon grease
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 lbs. lean ground beef
  • 1 lbs. mild Italian sausage (I like the New Yorker’s brand)
  • 3 tbsp Italian seasoning blend
  • 2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 cans diced tomatoes
  • 30 ounces tomato sauce
  • pinch of sugar

Making the Delicious Food:

In a heavy-bottomed, large saucepan heat oil over medium high heat. Add onion, ground beef, Italian sausage, Italian seasoning blend, crushed red pepper flakes, pepper and salt. Saute until onions are translucent and meat is thoroughly browned.

Toss in the garlic and saute until fragrant.

Reduce heat to medium. Add diced tomatoes and let cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Now add tomato sauce and sugar. Bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to low, cover and let simmer for anywhere from 30 minutes to 4 hours, depending on how much time you have and how rich you like your sauce.

Once sauce is done remove from heat and allow to cool. Portion between containers and freeze.

This recipe costs: $10.05. That’s $0.50/serving!

Bachelorette Party – Clean, Sober and Cheap

I recently helped plan the bachelorette party for my sister in law. We were faced with a challenge though – our party had to be kid-friendly, dairy free, low budget, and sober. The bride to be didn’t drink alcohol or consume dairy products, we were all broke and there was going to be about 6 kids under the age of 5 present. 

Our party started at 5, lasting about 3 hours. We had awesome music playing on the laptop as guests arrived. We picked three games, and one back up in case something went wrong. If its a long party, you might do more. There’s a list of my favorite games below.

Our party was at dinner time so we served pizza and drinks (soda and juice), getting a dairy free pizza from Papa Murphy’s. Surprisingly delicious and soooo convenient. Other good options would be BBQ chicken sandwiches in the crockpot, spaghetti or a burrito bar.

We couldnt afford decorations. Spending about $10 at the dollar store we put together party favors with candy and cute bows. Looking to go zero waste? Get cute coffee mugs and buy bulk candy to put inside – or bulk coffee.

All you other party planners might flinch at the idea of no decorations. But they weren’t necessary – they produce waste and cost money. And none of the guests even notoced. You dont need much for a kickass party!

Games

  • Flower arrangement contest /scavenger hunt in teams (fake or real flowers) – race to see which team finds all the flowers and puts them in the vase first.
  • Cold feet – fill a bowl with ice water and some costume jewelry rings. Tournament style – first person to fish out all the rings with their feet wins the round. Continue until you have a champion.
  • Pop! The Question – two teams. Attach two inflated balloons to everyones butt. No hands, no feet. The first team to pop everyone elses balloons wins.
  • Chocolate Unicorn – tournament style. Whoever stacks the most oreos on their forehead wins the round. No help, and you can’t hold the stack with your hands. Repeat until you have a champion.
  • Kiss the Bride – team pictionary, except the artist holds a tube of lipstick in their mouth to draw. No hands.
  • Junk in the trunk – teams or individual. Fill an empty tissue box with ping pong balls. Attach the box to your butt. First person to shake out all the balls wins. No hands!
  • Blind Love – blindfold one person. Have them do someone else’s makeup. Best makeup artist wins.

Ways to Save More Money

  • Have guests bring food and drinks.
  • Don’t provide prizes or party favors.

What’s your favorite party game?

Winter Root Beef Stew (in the Crockpot)

If you’ve been reading for long you know I have a passion for teaching sustainability – be that on the farm or a city apartment, every system should be sustainable if not self sufficient.

I did not grow up with that lifestyle. I’ve had to learn the hard way, one lesson at a time. One of my more recent adventures has been learning to cook seasonally – and with local ingredients.

This is my new favorite winter recipe. You can even get locally brewed (or homemade) hard cider.

Shopping locally and in season is more work. So to make it easier on you I’ve got a good recipe for you in winter and it’s super easy to make. And if you want it in the summer? Well it makes a good freezer meal too!

Feeds 4- 6 people

You Will Need:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 lbs. Beef roast, cubed
  • 4 medium yellow potatoes
  • 2 parsnips, chopped
  • 1 turnip, chopped
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 4 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 ribs of celery, chopped
  • 2 tbsp worcestershire
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 can hard cider (I used Angry Orchard)
  • 4 – 6 cups beef broth (enough to cover)

Prepare

Put olive oil in the bottom of the crockpot. Then add garlic cloves and worcestershire. Place beef on top. Then add paprika, salt and pepper. Next the vegetables – potatoes, parsnips, turnips, carrots, celery and onions.

Pour the cider in. Then add broth until all the vegetables are covered.

Cook

Cover the crockpot with lid. Set to cook on high for 6 to 8 hours. All the alcohol will have cooked out.

Serve

Serve hot, with crusty peasant bread and a leafy green salad for best deliciousness.

Freeze It

Put all ingredients except cider and broth in a 2 gallon freezer bag. Freeze for up to 3 months. When ready to prepare, dump still frozen in crockpot, top with cider and broth and cook high 8- 10 hours. It will be slightly mushier.

Budget Version

Omit cider. Replace broth with water. Double onion, carrot and celery. Omit parsnips and turnip. Add 1/2 cup applesauce.

I hope you e joy this recipe. Don’t be afraid to experiment!

Chicken Pot Pie

I had serious doubts about this recipe at first. I was just throwing things together, trying to come up with something edible and packed full of veggies. And while this definitely isn’t a traditional pot pie, trust me – you’ll never go back to Marie Calendars again.

Makes 6 servings; 1 13×9 casserole dish

You Will Need:

  • 1 tbsp + Bacon grease (or butter)
  • 1 large onion
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1.25 lbs chicken meat, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 tbsp + Poultry seasoning blend
  • Handful of celery leaves (or 2 ribs)
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 3 cups  1/2 inch diced potatoes
  • 1 ear of corn kernels (or half a can)
  • 1 20oz can condensed cream of chicken
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 pie crust boxes (4 crusts)
  • Garlic salt

In a large pot melt 1 tbsp bacon grease over medium high heat. Add onions and garlic, stirring often, until translucent.

Add cubed chicken, poultry seasoning, celery innards, carrots and potatoes. Stir occassionally, until chicken is cooked all the way through.

Reduce to low heat. Add corn, cream of chicken, and salt and pepper to taste. Thoroughly combine.

Preheat oven to 400.

Grease 13×9 glass pan with bacon grease.

Use two crusts for the bottom – prick with a fork and bake for 10 minutes.

Reduce oven to 350.

Pour filling over baked crust. Top with remaining two crusts. Poke with a fork.

Sprinkle garlic salt and poultry seasoning over crust. Cover with tinfoil.

Bake for 30 minutes.

Remove tinfoil. Bake 10-15 minutes until crust is golden.

Serve warm and enjoy 🙂

Top 20 Dairy Free Recipes

Disclaimer: All off-site recipes linked to may not be mine, but I have personally tested and enjoyed the recipes myself. Some my husband even likes. 
After a month of “maternity leave” from the website, I’m back and with all sorts of new content for you guys. Keep an eye out for baby DIY projects, more freezer meals and breastfeeding-friendly recipes.
Speaking of breastfeeding recipes – we discovered in the first two weeks that my little Pudge is highly allergic to dairy. So I have had to remove dairy from my diet for the foreseeable future so that I can continue to provide him with the best nutrition.
And while I have a history of this lifestyle – I was actually vegan for four years – the transition to just dairy free is extremely easy. You probably already eat quite a few foods that meet the requirement and others that can be converted with little to no effort.
For a little inspiration and community support to all ya’ll lacto-avoiders out there, here’s my top 20 favorite dairy free recipes.

Dinner Recipes

Lunch Recipes

Breakfast Recipes

Dessert and Snack Recipes

What are your favorite dairy free recipes? Comment below!

Vegan Spiced Strawberry Oatmeal

I’m a huge morning person if you haven’t noticed yet. Which for me includes eating a gigantic, filling breakfast. As a result of my budget, oatmeal has become my crutch. Not only is it healthy, convenient, easy and packed with protein (11 grams in each cup) – but it’s also sweet, luxurious and pretty! Everyone else thinks oatmeal is pretty, too, right?

I discovered this particularly awesome combination while scrounging for food in our under-stocked pantry. It’s crazy how much I procrastinate shopping when I work at the grocery store! Anyways, I was impressed enough to share this with you all. This recipe provides two servings of about 1 1/2 cups very thick cooked oatmeal. I could eat the whole batch to be honest ._.

But for normal people – it will feed two hugry adults.

Ingredients

1 cup rolled oats

1 cup water

1 cup rice/almond milk (or more if you like thin oatmeal)

1 pinch of salt

2-4 tbsp pumpkin pie spice (to taste)

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1 tbsp honey

2 cups chopped fresh or frozen strawberries (the riper the better; feel free to experiment with other berries)

1 tsp vanilla extract

 

The Oatmeal

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan, except rolled oats. Cook until boiling, stirring occasionally.

When water is at a rolling boil add oats. Cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring constantly.

Remove from heat and serve warm for best taste.

 

As I always say in my recipes, I encourage you to play around with the spices and maybe try some cool toppings. Whipped cashew cream would be phenomenal on this. So would an extra kick of grated fresh ginger with sliced almonds. Ooh. Or walnuts!

Experiment on!

The Ideal Morning + Tropical Chia Breakfast “Pudding”

You know those super organized people who pack their lunch, prepare breakfast and clean the house before bed so that the morning goes as smoothly as possible? I deeply desire to be one of those people.

Unfortunately I’m a morning person – which means when bedtime is coming up I’m already exhausted.

I am a firm believer in the power of starting your day off right. But you gotta work with what you got. And I would much rather wake up at 5am and cook breakfast than stay up until 11pm prepping it. I know – I’m weird.

On a few rare occasions, especially as I’ve fallen more and more in love with meal prep and freezer meals (zero waste as often as possible), I manage to get breakfast ready ahead of time. Sometimes.

This cool recipe you can make 24 hours ahead of time (I haven’t waited longer than that, let me know if you can resist the deliciousness that long). Or the night before. But it needs to refrigerate for at least four hours so please plan ahead appropriately.

This also makes for a good “dessert”. But come on – you’re supposed to eat dessert for breakfast anyways, right?

 

Ingredients

1 cup coconut milk

1/4 cup chia seeds

1/4 cup maple syrup

1 tbsp melted coconut oil

Chopped mango, kiwi, pineapple and sliced almonds for topping. Flaked coconut would be good too. Mix and match as you please.

 

The Pudding

Mix all ingredients, including your toppings, in a jar.

Let sit un-refrigerated for about an hour.

Shake it really good than refrigerate for 4+ hours.

When ready to eat just shake it and dig in.

 

See, wasn’t that easy?

Chia pudding is a total cheater breakfast. 🙂

Meal Prep: Breakfast Jars 2 Ways

Not everyone has the time for a serious meal prep session. A great alternative I’ve found is when I make the time to cook a real breakfast I just make doubles – I set the uneaten portion aside for tomorrow or later in the week. Some things, like pancakes, can be frozen. If you don’t mind eating the same thing a lot you could make a whole week of breakfasts with just one morning and one recipe.

Below are two of my favorite breakfast prep recipes, husband approved!

Peaches and cream oatmeal

Makes 4 jars:

1 29oz can peaches (I used canned in syrup; if you don’t you might need to add more sweetener) – save the juices

2 cups of heavy cream or cashew milk/coconut cream

2 cups of rolled oats

1 tbsp cinnamon

2 tsp ginger (ground)

1 tbsp vanilla extract

1/4 cup honey or 1/2 cup brown sugar

1 tbsp butter or coconut oil

Preparation:

You’ll notice there’s a lot of choices on the ingredients. You can make these clean and vegan or cheap and wholesome. Or just make use of what you have on hand. I like to keep my food flexible because my cupboards never quite look the same.

In a saucepan bring milk and a pinch of salt to a quick boil. Toss in oats immediately and remove from heat.

In a small saucepan pour whole can of peaches, juices and all, sugar, cinnamon, ginger and butter. Cook on medium high until it starts to form a sweet, thick syrup. Taste – it should be a little bit too sweet and strong. Remove from heat. Stir in cooked oats and vanilla extract.

Eat and Store:

Separate into four jars while still hot. Refrigerate immediately until ready to eat – or eat it hot.

 

Blueberry Banana Parfaits

Makes 4:

24oz blueberry greek yogurt

1 cup cranberry-almond granola (or your favorite)

1 cup blueberries, fresh

2 bananas, cut into cubes

Preparation:

Layer ingredients equally among 4 jars. I suggest starting with a granola layer but that’s just because I like my granola soft.

If you want your granola crunchy, layer the yogurt on the bottom, the banana chunks, the blueberries, then the granola.

Eat and Store:

Refrigerate until ready to eat.

For a lower calorie/carbohydrate version:

To save on calories, use plain yogurt and replace the granola with a muesli blend.

I hope you enjoy these recipes. What’s your favorite breakfast on the go?

$50 Meal Plan: Week One

This week we’re eating…

Dinner:
Monday – Chicken-pesto pasta.
Tuesday – Oven roasted chicken with stuffing and peas.
Wednesday – Baked sausage dogs with sauerkraut and baked asparagus.
Thursday – Dairy-free bacon and onion fritatta (easier/quicker than a quiche).
Friday – Grilled ham sandwiches on rye with caramelized onions and baked carrot fries (mine will be dairy-free).
Saturday – Zupa Toscana soup (just like olive gardens; so freaking amazing).

Lunch: Burritos, ham sandwiches, and baked potatoes. Yum.

Breakfast: Muffins and apples; yogurt and bananas; cereal.

Snacks: Crackers, peaches, bananas, mandarin oranges, carrots, cucumber slices, pickles, yogurt and granola, juice, coffee and tea.

I bought over two week’s worth of groceries this time at an awesome new discount store I hadn’t been to and over-shopped a little. I spent ~$109 (without any coupons!).

Items Purchased: Tortillas (40 ct.), 3 boxes of crackers, 1 whole chicken, red wine vinegar, 2 lbs. Of butter, garlic salt, dairy-free chocolate muffins, cranberry juice, apple juice, granola bars (48 ct), olive oil, spam, 3 jars of peaches, 3 lbs. Of organic yams, dairy-free non-hydrogenated butter spread, 2 lbs of bratwurst, 1 lbs. Of sliced ham, 2 boxes of organic pasta, 1 32 oz jar of mini pickles, sauerkraut in a jar, hot dog buns, 3 lbs. Of mini avocados, 1 lbs. Of baby spinach, 1 lbs. Of chopped kale, 1 lbs. Raw sunflower seeds, half gallon cashew milk, 1 lbs. Of Italian sausage, 2 lbs. Smoked sausages, almond yogurt (dairy free), 2 dairy-free almond coffee creamers, 1 cucumber, 1 bundle of asparagus, 1 lbs. Brown rice, 1 bottle watermelon juice, 3 lbs. Mandarin oranges, 3 lbs. Bananas, 4 lbs. Unbleached cane sugar, 5 lbs. Carrots.

Meal Prep

I ventured way out of my comfort zone with meal prep this week. But I’m really enjoying what I did.

I have 6 days of breakfast – 6 dairy-free chocolate muffins and 6 baggies of apple slices.

6 days of lunch – 4 sweet potato chipotle burritos (vegan), 1 sweet potato bowl with asparagus, and I’ve got a random ham sandwich – because meal prep doesn’t have to be perfect 🙂

On that ham sandwich is homemade sprouted lentils! These were so exciting. A little more time consuming, because I had to rinse them every day (and actually remember they existed) but they were so worth it. Sprouted lentils are like a nutritional bomb, and it cost me $0.15 to make 2 cups worth (about $3 at the grocery store).

Joseph doesn’t work this week so he gets to eat leftovers and ramen (his own choice, mind you).

I would have packed more except I had to throw out most of my Tupperware. So I’ve got like 2 jars and a bento box to my name right now. I bought some jarred peaches though so my jar collection will swing back up quite nicely here shortly.

On a side note, I’m proud to announce I’ve started transitioning to dairy-free. My husband, Joseph, will still have milk with his cereal. But everything else is leaving, unfortunately even the butter for now. I’m hoping to bring it back but I’m slowly eliminating things as I figure out all of my food allergies.

I have really severe eczema and so to isolate the causes of these rashes every two week’s I’m eliminating one potential irritant. I’ve eliminated soda already – which I must say I feel wonderful now and my skin improved within 3 DAYS. But I still have a full rash on my face. Dairy is going to take me at least two week’s before it’s even out of my house, because I refuse to throw food away and I can’t afford to give it away. So next up in May I will be removing soy products (which includes vegetable oil).

I’m also trying to get pregnant so any potential environmental dangers are slowly being removed. As I do my research and eliminate things I’ll post about this as well.

Oh, it’s going to be an adventure.

How are you making your meals healthier?