Sep 102013

I am thrilled to introduce you to my long-time friend, Paige Harbuck! She has encouraged me in so very many ways and just one of those is in the area of feeding your family. She is sharing a series on freezer cooking with us. Her tips will change your life! Here’s Paige…

How to Make a Month of Meals for Your Freezer What is a big cook?  If you read Hodgepodge regularly, you know about my dear friend, Tricia, and her batch cooking.  It’s a bit like a batch cook, just on a way more “produced” scale.  A big cook consists of actually making the meals and putting them in the freezer, ready to go.  All you have to do is make your list of what is in there and pull something out each morning!   It is heaven.

How to Make Freezer Meals

17 suppers and at least 10 breakfasts

Freezer Cooking With Grocery Sales

I always try to plan my big cooks around food sales.  Kroger will have boneless, skinless chicken breasts on sale regularly and I try to hit those as much as I can.  Did you know that you can thaw meat, and as long as you cook it first, you can refreeze it?  Nice trick-buy your chicken, freeze it for a couple of weeks until you are ready, and then pull it out, boil or bake it, and use it for all the cooked chicken you need in your big cook recipes!  Twice a year, a company named Zaycon Foods will run a ground beef sale.  It’s great meat and a great price-just know that you have to buy 40 pounds at a time.  Go find a friend and split! (They also run a chicken sale twice a year as well, but it usually doesn’t coincide with my big cook times-but excellent prices!!!)

Sales also extend past the meat counter.  I have yet to do a big cook without making spaghetti sauce, and with the exception of that one summer that I had a million tomatoes from my garden, I use canned.  Look for them BOGO and stock up when you can.  The same goes for fresh veggies that can be frozen.  Being from Georgia, we have access to Vidalia onions almost all summer and I’ll buy them by the 5 lb. bag and chop them all at once.  Peppers also freeze well, so when you find them on sale, buy a bunch and chop away.  Of course, if you are not into chopping your veggies, go to the frozen section-it has onions, peppers, etc. galore.

Freezer Meal Planning

My first task in big cooking is the menu planning.  Many years ago, when I found this way of stocking up, I started with a book called Once a Month Cooking by Mary Beth Langorford.

51uBblnCbfL._SY346_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_ It is nice and basic.  It gives you menus for two weeks or a month, regular, and low-fat.  It also gives you a complete shopping list as well as the order in which you prep and assemble.  The first time, I just went to my local library and picked it up-the next time, I just bought it.  It is just perfect for beginners.

51zeMCXzE8L._SX260_ A couple of years ago, I picked up a book at our book fair called Freezer Pleasers, by those Taste of Home people.  It was well worth the money I spent on it.  It is geared more toward the “cook once, eat twice” theory, and comes in handy ALL the time!

An Easy Start in Freezer Cooking

1. Remember this – start small. Look at the meals your family loves and always wants to eat.  For us, this includes meatloaf, Mexican food, and all things spaghetti-ish.  We also eat a lot of chicken, mainly because it’s ALWAYS on sale and a lot cheaper than beef.

2. Go ahead, make your menu of about 10 dishes.  That will carry you about two weeks!  (Even though there’s a massive amount of food in my freezer, I always account for the time I forget, or we just don’t want to “cook”, or cereal just sounds lovely-oh, and Fridays.)

3. The easiest thing to do the first time is just to double everything.  I plan on two meatloaves, a crock pot full of spaghetti sauce, at least 2 sets of chicken breasts in some sort of marinade, a chicken casserole, and something Mexican.  So mine would look like this:

4. After you have made your menu list, make your grocery list.  Don’t include things you already have in your fridge or pantry like spices or soups or the 12 cans of tomatoes you bought last week (oh, wait, that’s me.)  Just include the things you need.


5. Now, go to the store.  I suggest doing this early in the morning without children if possible.  You will go faster because you don’t have to worry about their 400 questions and requests AND no one wants to go to the store early.  It also gives you the whole day to work on prep.

6. Once you get home, go ahead and wash your veggies.

7. The first thing I do is put my spaghetti sauce in the slow cooker.  It’s pretty basic-tomatoes, onions, peppers, spices-and takes about 4 hours on low to get good and wonderfully smelly.  I do not put meat in my sauce until I use it because I also like to use it for calzones, pizza, etc.

8. Once that task is taken care of, I chop-onions, peppers, celery, etc.- and grate my cheese.  I will store all of these things separately in tupperware until the next day (I don’t want to use up all my freezer bags-those are too expensive, and I am cheap).

15 in bags, 2 cooling, 51 meatballs, and 24 meat pies freezing in the freezer...that makes the total...53 dinners plus breajfasts. I am ready and my family gets to eat well plus I get to bless some others along the way I'm sure.

15 in bags, 2 cooling, 51 meatballs, and 24 meat pies freezing in the freezer…that makes the total…53 dinners plus breajfasts. I am ready and my family gets to eat well plus I get to bless some others along the way I’m sure.

9. Once my spaghetti sauce is finished and cooled, I’ll go ahead and measure it into quart baggies, label it (PLEASE don’t forget to label what and the date-you WILL forget), and put it in my freezer flat.

10. Then I usually put a big roast in the slow cooker for overnight.

The next day (trust me, you want to break it up if it’s a lot), I start my assembly and freezing.  Do all “like” items together-chicken first, then beef, then whatever.

Depending on how many meals you do, it can take you a couple of hours to all day.


I use freezer bags for everything.  Casseroles fit better in gallons (usually because of the noodles), but meat and sauces are fine in quarts.  If you do a lasagna or something similar, line your pan with foil, then fill and freeze.  When it’s totally frozen, you can remove the foil with the food and now you have your dish back!  Remember to label and date everything with a sharpie.

Hope you’ll follow this series!  Next up-breakfast foods that freeze!

Paige Paige is a mom of two high schoolers and an elementary teacher of many for 21 years. Always frugal and practical she takes the common sense route.  But most of all she loves the Lord, thankful beyond measure for His grace and mercy, and His ability to turn a career girl into a woman that knows her home is the most important place to be.


Aug 272013

We welcome Amy Waters to our group of authors here at Habits for a Happy Home. You may remember her from when she shared her wonderful gift idea using the Jesse Tree Advent. We look forward to her sharing with us each month now…

What Are You Hungering and Thirsting For? (+ Sauerkraut recipe) www.habitsforahappyhome.comWhat are you hungering and thirsting for?

Have you ever made an idol out of something good? I know that I have. Healthy eating was my idol and an area I can easily fall back into. I used to collect books about health and food and recipes and spend hours reading them or on the internet trying to find the secret to ultimate health. But God has been gracious and stuck with me and drawn me back to Him. He has shown me the well of the Water of Life (in prayer) and the Bread of His Presence (His word).

I am reminded of the story of the Exodus. As the people were leaving they were showered with gifts of gold and silver, and articles of clothing. [ Exodus 12:35-36] Yet, in the end they used many of these items in the making of the golden calf. [Exodus 32:1-14] The people were bored with waiting on Moses and God and used his blessing to make an idol.

In times when I have gotten tired of praying and reading God’s word I have entertained myself in other ways. Healthy eating and all that entails are one of my areas of weakness. It drew me away from my family and my God and made somewhat of a fanatic of me. My husband hated taking me out to eat or to the grocery store. I was always reading those labels and asking what was in a recipe.

God has shown me my error and now I am not the terror of the dinner table. We enjoy eating out and, yes, there are things I avoid. But, only the things I know will really cause me immediate physical distress. So, while I avoid wheat, I also don’t feel the need to beat people over the head trying to convince them they should avoid it.

And so you say, “ Why is there a healthy recipe here after all this talk?” Well, because it is one of my favorites. It’s easy and children can help make it and it is good for you. And so I humbly offer up to you:

Lacto-fermented Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut recipe by Amy W. at

Lacto-fermented Sauerkraut Recipe

You will need:

  • 1 Qt sized canning jar with lid
  • 1TBSP salt
  • 1 medium cabbage
  • 1 TBSP carraway seed
  • 4 TBSP liquid whey, just drain some plain yogurt through a fine mesh strainer and the liquid you get is whey.

Cut the cabbage head in quarters and then slice as thin as you can. Place in a large bowl with the salt, carraway seeds and whey. Use a meat mallet or anything blunt to pound the cabbage until it is juicy. I take a break and clean up or let small energetic folks who wander through the kitchen have a turn. Then transfer to the canning jar, tamping down as you go. Fill to about 1 inch below neck of jar. If juice is not completely covering the kraut then add some water. Put the lid on and leave some where warmish (70 degrees) for 3-6 days. Usually it will start to bubble and rise about day three and the then taper off by day six. Then put in the refrigerator for a few days before eating. Store in the refrigerator. I use sauerkraut as a condiment. It’s fun in place of pickles or other sour elements.

You can add other things to your kraut like: and onion, juniper berries, garlic, apple, seaweed and you can use purple cabbage.

There are many other foods that can be fermented. Fermenting is a pre-canning era way of preserving foods and increases the probiotics in the food. So, yes, its really healthy and I hope you enjoy it.

I was a hopeless waste that The King rescued and restored.  I know I came late to you Lord and I am ever grateful for your everlasting love and patience. Married at 33 to my dear hubby Kenneth.  We lived through six years of childlessness and all that that entails.  Christmas 2000 I gave my heart to my King and he miraculously healed me and I became pregnant. Now I am a stay at home, homeschooling mama to the evidence of Jesus’ incredible mercy! I love to sew and cook.  I love the great outdoors.  I love my church and my homeschool group.  And my kitchen is frequently overtaken with costumes for our drama troupe.  It currently looks like a wedding boutique! Finally saved! ~by Amy Waters

Watermelon Popsicles Recipe

 Posted by on July 23, 2013  1 Response »
Jul 232013

Do you love watermelon as much as I do?  Well, we discovered another yummy way to eat it!  I try to keep my family eating as healthy as possible. . .and in summertime, that means making our own popsicles.  My four-year-old asked (a few times) for watermelon popsicles; so I finally tried to make them, and they are the most beloved popsicle flavor so far!

Watermelon Popsicles Recipe at

I only have twelve popsicle molds; so a quarter of a watermelon was more than enough.  The sweeter your melon, the better it will be, of course.

 Just cube it all up, and throw it in your blender.

Now, if you have a Vitamix or a blender of that quality, you might not need to add any water, but my little Osterizer needs a little help with liquids; so I added a little water. . .

Like our very fancy lid? When you lose your blender lid, a plastic storage container lid will suffice 🙂  We’re fancy that way around here.  If you find your liquid needs a little more sweetness, you could always add in a little honey.

 Line up your molds, and start pouring!  I got my popsicle molds from IKEA.

Pop them (carefully) into the freezer when you’re done. . .

and a few hours later you have this yumminess!


  ~ Written by Amy @ JerAmy 

The Habit of Cooking Dinner

 Posted by on April 23, 2013  3 Responses »
Apr 232013

A few months ago I made it a goal of mine to cook dinner for my family more often.  I knew I had become lazy in the kitchen when my afternoon telephone conversations with my husband sounded something like this…

Him: What are we doing for dinner tonight?
Me: I made meatloaf and mashed potatoes!
Him:  You actually cooked?!


I had let our busy lifestyle become an excuse for me not to cook.  It was affecting my relationship with him, our family time together at the dinner table, and our finances.  I knew it was time to make a change and that is what I did!  Continue reading »

Dec 102012

I have struggled with my weight for 10+ years and have been on many diets and programs, none of which were successful in the long term.  I decided in January to make big lifestyle changes.  I have changed the way I think about food and am much more active.  In less than a year, I have lost 38 pounds, lowered my heart rate, lowered my cholesterol, lessened  my fatigue, improved my GI issues and improved my overall health greatly!

Why have I seen more success this time?  Instead of making an  empty plan to lose weight, I made a resolution to the Lord to get healthier and take better care of myself.  I could not do this on my own, He has kept me strong through it all.  I still have a long road ahead of me, but I am well on my way to making myself the “temple” that I believe God has called me to be!  It is not about being skinny or perfect, it is about being all that you can be so that you can do what God is calling you to do!

Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.  1 Corinthians 6:19-20

 I am committed to staying successful with my lifestyle changes during the month of December, my biggest struggle when it comes to weight loss.  What can I say, I love Christmas cookies!  But I love the Lord more and I want to share some of my ideas for eating healthy during the holidays for anyone else looking to improve or maintain their health.   Let me put a disclaimer out there that I am not a weight loss or health expert.  I am just a wife and mom who has struggled with weight and I want to share my ideas and strategies with you.

Prayer is the most important thing. When temptations get strong and you think you “need” that extra piece of pie…get on your knees and pray!  Prayer has gotten me through many cravings and temptations over the last year.   You will be amazed at how quickly God can refocus you and remind you of your priorities.

Do NOT deny yourself an occasional treat! If you have a favorite cookie or food that you can’t imagine Christmas without, then indulge, a little!  As long as you don’t splurge and only occasionally indulge, you can enjoy your favorites.  If you don’t allow yourself an occasional treat, you are setting yourself up to fail.

Learn to use substitutes while baking/cooking.  Some of my favorites are:

  • Use egg whites as a whole egg substitute if possible.  This works for many of my recipes.  You may also consider using an egg substitute in your recipes.  I made egg salad this week using only the egg whites and it was delicious!
  • Use applesauce instead of oil in your baking.  This cuts out much of the fat.  The result is a more cake-like brownie.  If you like a fudgy brownies, here is a great recipe for brownies that are made with black beans.  It may not sound good, but the brownies are delicious and healthy!
  • Instead of cream to thicken, use pureed potatoes.
  • Use dried fruit instead of chocolate chips.
  • Instead of sugary frosting, top it with fresh fruit and a little powdered sugar.

As you are baking or cooking, chew gum. This will help you resist the temptation to snack while you are busy in the kitchen.  Many times we don’t even realize we are snacking and can take in hundreds of calories just “tasting” things.  If you are chewing gum, you will avoid this.

Roast a turkey breast instead of a whole turkey.

When having a meal, be careful of all of the trimmings. Things like gravy, whipped topping, nuts, cheese, butter, etc. can add extra calories without filling you up.  You want to be satisfied when you leave the dinner party, not stuffed!  My mom makes a delicious sweet potato casserole for Thanksgiving dinner, but the topping is loaded with nuts and butter!  I just scooped my serving underneath the nuts and I was able to enjoy the sweet potatoes without all of the extra fat!  And of course, there is always someone willing to take the topping you left behind!

When you go to a Christmas dinner, wear snug-fitting clothes, not those pants you wore to Thanksgiving dinner because you know they will stretch as you fill your tummy.  If you are wearing something a little more fitted, you will be more aware of how much you are eating.  Trust me, this works!  Also, be picky about what you eat.  If it is not something you love, don’t eat it!  Save your calories for foods you love.

A good way to stay active and moving during the holidays, park at the back of the mall parking lot. This will have you taking some extra steps and it also reduces the stress of trying to find a perfect parking spot.  Do not use the escalators or elevators, take the stairs!  You will be amazed at how less crowded the stairs are in the mall this time of year. You will burn a few extra calories and by the time you would have gotten on the elevator, you are already at your next stop!

And if you feel like you just can’t fit your exercise routine in during the holidays, don’t stress, be encouraged…30 minutes of gift wrapping burns approximately 45 calories and 1 hour of light baking burns over 150 calories!

What are some of your favorite strategies to healthy eating and staying active during the holidays?

~ by Heidi, Heidi’s Miscellany