Home Organization – Freezer Inventory

I received an email from my aunt yesterday letting me know that our pig was ready and was headed to the butcher.  When I went down stairs to look in our deep freeze I knew I was in trouble.  We have 2 have large freezers in our basement and there was definitely not room for ½ a hog or the 14 whole chickens I have stashed in a freezer at the home farm that I need to get moved over here. 

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Luckily for me, the Handyman decided that since it was so cold outside that he would forgo his outside projects in favor of helping me unload, defrost and reorganize our freezers.  Yeah!  If you have ever emptied a deep freeze, you know it’s a lot of work!

We purchase our meat farm direct and we usually purchase a side of beef and a side of pork at a time.  Our chicken comes from a local Amish farmer.  When the chickens are ready, we purchase in bulk. This fall we purchased 24 whole chickens.  We freeze a couple hundred quarts of fruits and vegetables every summer and fall.  In addition, last year I started doing the majority of our grocery shopping once a month, so for us the freezers are an integral part of our food storage. Unfortunately what I have learned is it that if I don’t keep track of what is in my freezers, things get really scary in there.  Not only is it frustrating because I can’t find what I want and I end up wasting time looking for it but food ends up staying in the freezer too long and gets freezer burnt and needs to be discarded.  When this happens I am not being a good steward of my time or resources.

One way to keep track of what is in the freezer is a freezer inventory sheet. There are dozens of freezer inventory sheets available online that you can print and keep by your freezer or in your home management notebook. What I would really like is to find an app I can use.  There are several out there but,  so far no luck finding one I really like.  Does anyone have any suggestions? For now I am using this printable form from Faithful Provisions.   It very simple and allows me the flexibility I need.

I ended up hauling up several loads of food to cook today.  I processed some of last year’s tomatoes into marinara sauce, roasted a few chickens, started a few pots of stock and made a batch of brownies  from a mix I made awhile back. It was a busy day in the kitchen but it was nice and toasty warm and it sure smelled good!

If your freezer is in need of attention here are a few tips.

*Unload everything from your freezer, defrost if necessary before putting anything back in.

*Store like items together, meats, vegetables, freezer meals…..

*Check package expiration dates before your put items back in. You can find FDA guidelines for safe freezer storage here.  If it is questionable…throw it away.  Yes, I know I hate to waste things too but go ahead…throw it away already!

*Check package condition. Is the packaging in good shape? If the package has been damaged, throw the item away or repackage it if it can be salvaged.  Package items in flat containers or lay bags flat in the freezer.  The bags will stack more easily and the contents will thaw more quickly when you need them.

*Use freezer bags or freezer containers to extend the life of the product.  Remove as much air as possible from the package before sealing.

* Label, label, label.  Label each package with a Sharpie including the contents and the date. You can find some really cute printable labels.  Here are some really cute labels from Oh My Veggies.

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* Keep your inventory log handy to enter items as you put them back in and as you take them out.

Taking the time to take care of your freezer can save you so much time, frustration and money in the long run.  Its definately worth the effort.

 

Linking back to Housewife How-Tos.

Gluten Free Chicken and Rice soup with mushrooms

Today I wanted  to share with you one of the recipes I made last week at the beginning of my adventure in sugar free living

Gluten Free Chicken and Rice soup with mushrooms

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  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 1 Crockpot roasted chicken or  2 cups chopped chicken
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 1 package mushrooms
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 small onion chopped
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp ground pepper
  • 1 tsp salt

Begin cooking brown rice with 2 cups of chicken stock.  (Brown rice can take 40-50 minutes to cook)

If using a Crockpot roasted chicken, remove chicken from Crockpot, debone chicken and strain chicken broth.  (You can return the chicken bones to the Crockpot to make a batch a chicken stock)

Clean and slice mushrooms.  Saute mushrooms in a large skillet with butter and minced garlic.  Add 2 cups of chicken stock, onion, celery, carrots and peas.  Cook on medium until cooked through.  

Transfer contents of skillet to a large pot.  Add additional 2 cups chicken stock, chicken, salt, pepper, seasoning and cooked brown rice.  Cook until heated through.

Adventures in Sugar free living

Early this year I decided that one of the ways I wanted to improve my overall health was to reduce the amount of sugar I eat.  I know that for me the best way to stay away from any particular vice is cold turkey.  So, 2 weeks ago I removed nearly all sugar from my diet.

For the first week I consumed zero refined sugars and very little natural sugar including no fruit, dairy, or high sugar vegetables.  I have to tell you that first week was Not pretty. I didn’t realize the extent to which I would actually experience sugar “withdrawal.” My symptoms included headaches, stomach upset, and extreme fatigue.  The sugar cravings were actually mostly gone after the first 2 or 3 days.  I elected to avoid any sugar substitutes, natural or otherwise.  Kate from Modern Alternative Mom had also suggested adding fats to my diet to help curb the sugar cravings and I think that also really helped.  By day 6 I was beginning to feel a little better and I was definitely enjoying watching the number go down each day on the scale.  During the first week I also didn’t drink coffee but instead drank lots of water with lemon and herbal tea. One of my favorite new foods that I discovered during week 1 was Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Mighty Tasty Hot Cereal. Yummy!

Beginning on day 8 I began adding fruit and dairy back in starting with a morning smoothie.  Our local Aldi store began offering an organic line and I able to pick up 32 oz containers of organic yogurt for $2.99 and 12 oz packages of frozen organic whole strawberries for $2.39. Score!! Needless to say I stocked up.  If you have an Aldi near you, you might want to check it out.  I am really enjoying the new Simply Nature products.  Week two was much easier and I’m feeling so much better.  I added a bit of maple syrup to my morning hot cereal and some honey to my tea.  Unsweetened coffee really isn’t cutting it for me so I’m looking for some alternatives for making homemade creamer that is naturally sweetened.

I am very pleased with how the last 2 weeks have gone.  I haven’t been craving sugar and haven’t had a problem passing it up.  However, last night on day 14 I decided to have a small serving of ice cream with the family.  First let me say that it was Breyers ice cream, so not organic, but definitely much more natural than many other brands, no artificial flavors or colors but indeed full of sugar.  My body was not happy; it was not pleasant.  One of my concerns is how I can balance eating a low sugar diet, and still be able to occasionally enjoy a “normal” treat or dessert without feeling awful later. I’m not sure yet how to make that work.  Until I figure it out I will definitely be avoiding all refined sugars.

Over the next week I’ll share some of the new recipes I’ve tried over the past two weeks including GF Chicken and Rice soup with mushrooms, GF sweet potato pancakes, enchillada soup and a few others.

Best Yet Granola

Thursday I had the opportunity to get away for the afternoon and do some shopping at a new bulk food store.  We sent the afternoon exploring a few other stores in Richland county as well including Planktown Market, Planktown Hardware and County Fabrics.  While at Plankton Market I was able to pick up the remaining ingredients I need to make a big batch of granola.  This was a new recipe I put together from several other recipes.  That’s one of the best things about granola, you can add, subtract and substitute until your heart’s content.  I made several variations but I think this combination turned out especially well, so I thought I would share it. This is a great recipe to let the little ones help with.  They love helping to measure the ingredients and of course all the stirring.

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Best Yet Granola

  • 8 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup raw wheat germ
  • 1 cup ground flaxseed
  • 1 t. salt
  • ¾ cup raw honey
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 1 cup coconut oil
  • 1 T cinnamon
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • ¾ cup sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup slivered almonds
  • 1 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 2 cups unsweetened coconut
  • ½ dried cranberries or raisins

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together oats, wheat germ, ground flaxseed, seeds and nuts.  In a medium saucepan, mix honey, maple syrup, salt, coconut oil, cinnamon and vanilla, bring just to a boil.  Pour syrup over oat mixture, stir until well coated. Pour granola out on 2 large baking sheets lined with parchment paper or well greased. Bake for 10 minutes.  Stir granola adding coconut.  Return to oven for an additional 10 minutes.  Remove from oven, spread out to cool.  Once cool mix in cranberries or raisins.

This granola is delicious by itself as a snack, with milk or served over yogurt.

 

Linking to Get Real Frugal Fridays

Changing up the “school day” for the Preschoolers

Over the past few months I have been struggling with schooling for the littles in our house.  Rose will be 5 next month and Mowgli will be 3 shortly there after.  Up until this point I have been trying to do worksheet type activities with Rose and some days it works and some days it doesn’t.  More days than not she just wants to do the “cutting pages” and Mowgli gets mad if he doesn’t get included as well.  I remember talking with a friend about how much they love Five in a Row.  So, I decided maybe it is time to try something new.  Last week we  started with the book The Salamander Room.  The kids loved it!  I read the story and then we did activities each day that related to the story.  We talked about family relationships, animal classifications, habitats, weather, did colors and counting and lots of art.  While the kids were doing their art project each day I just read from other books about salamanders and showed them pictures.  They were having so much fun that Sunshine has decided that she needs to join the little kids for their art project each day.

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So for now I am going to try using  Five in a Row with the little kids.  We will continue to do our daily board and Letter of the Week, which we all love. I have a list of things I want to accomlish, but I want to make sure I am making it more FUN and less SCHOOL for them at this point. If that means we dont get  everything done that I had planned but they had great learning experiences with what we did get done, Im okay with that. (Okay, Im trying to be okay with that.)

Today I also found this really cool cookbook from the 70’s at a thrift shop.  It called ABC Cookery and is written by Sunny Courington Stephens.  For each letter there is a simple recipe to make.  The best part is there are a lot of sensory activities included with each one.  For instance one recipe calls for oil, the book suggests having the child rub some oil between his fingers and describe to you how it feels.   I”m really excited to add this to our Letter of the week activities. It will be another activity we can all do together.  Plus you have got to love the great 70’s era pictures.  (Disclaimer***I did notice that, many of the recipes call for margarine or squeezable margarine….ewwww! We will be modifying some of the recipes)

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This week we are reading, Climbing Kansas Mountain by George Shannon. Ill let you know how it goes.

This little piggy went to market…..

We recently added 2 new critters to the zoo.  We have been talking for sometime about raising a couple of pigs but thought we would wait until spring to get  them started.  Unfortunately the Handyman has a habit of spending a lot of time on Craigslist and he came across these little  ladies for 30.00 for the pair.  They have been selling for about 40.00-50.00 a piece.  They are healthy and have adjusted well to their new home.  They are currently in the barn with the goats but we would like to move them because they are making a horrible mess with the water.  Luckily I have an uncle who is a small dairy farmer and has raised in the past, so we have been able to ask him some questions.   I am hoping they do okay, we don’t know a darn thing about raising pigs. 

I have been doing some research on Guinea Hogs.  From what I can see they aren’t cheap to buy.  I do feel  there is value in raising the heritage breeds and helping to keep  genetic  diversity alive as much as possible.  The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy website has a ton of information if you are interested in learning more.  But from what I have read, if we found somewhere to get them they seem  to be a good fit for a homestead.  They are supposed to be really good foragers and they finish at less than 200 pounds which would make them ideal for home butchering.  I guess if we are going to even think about that, we need to start looking into getting some more equipment.  I don’t think a  knife, kitchen shears and meat grinder on the Kitchen aid is going to do it.  These 2 will definitely be going to a butcher.  I guess we will see how they do and then decide if we want to go for round 2.  There is always so much to do  and so much to learn.  Never a dull moment for sure!

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DIY Lego Trays

One of the gifts The Handyman made for the children for Christmas was Lego building trays with storage.  I  was inspired by Somewhat Simples Plan.  Each of the children got Legos this Christmas.  Sunshine got Legos from the Girls Lego Friends line.  Rose got pink Duplo Princess Sets and Mowgli got a Duplo Zoo set and Dinosaur Train Mega Bloks. That doesn’t include the sets they got from grandparents! I was more than a little concerned about storage for all of these block.  If you have never stepped on a Lego with bare feet, let me assure you that it is not fun!

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The Handyman used the gray Lego baseplate for Sunshines tray and the Duplo baseplates for the little ones trays. It occurred to me that by adjusting the size of the tray just a little, they would sit on top of the IKEA VESSLA rolling storage crates, which would be a great place to store Legos.

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The other great thing about these trays is that the  children can keep their creations together when its time to put Legos away.  To make the trays a little more versatile and to sit down on the crate, The Handyman dadoed the plywood base into the frame. He then added an outdoor carpet to the other side of the tray, making it a great place to play a hundred other games, blocks and puzzles. 

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One of the things I need to do yet is add the felt circles.  I can see that they will be critical to protecting both trays and floors.

The kids all love their new Legos and trays!  I love that they have a quick easy way to keep them cleaned up!