May
22
2015
3 Secrets to an Affordable Family Vacation

Posted at 8:02 AM on May 22, 2015 by I am THAT Lady: Lauren

May 22nd, 2015

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Our favorite place to vacation is Topsail Island, NC.  We always book our rental home through HomeAway and VRBO. This post is brought to you by HomeAway, to help you save on vacations too!

Summer is upon us and you may be wanting to go on a vacation this year.    We have a secret, actually 3 secrets to have an affordable family vacation. We actually just booked an entire week vacation directly on a beach for $1,700.  See how we are getting a great deal and how you can do it too!

Everyone has different ways to vacation. Some like to go to Disney, some like to be tourists, but we like to do NOTHING on our vacations.

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My family’s ideal of an affordable family vacation consists of:

A house on an ocean beach

No itinerary

Minimal touristy stuff

Most importantly, a GREAT price

In this post, I’m gonna share our favorite destination and our secrets to getting an awesome price and keeping vacation costs low!

Secret #1: For years, we’ve been using VRBO, which is part of the HomeAway family, to book our vacations. They have a database of over 190 MILLION rentals available to just about any location around the world, but our favorite destination is a simple, old, small beach town.

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Our favorite destination: Topsail Island. I actually have to give credit to my friend Colleen for turning us on to both VRBO and Topsail Island. Back in 2008 when we lived in Charlotte, our good friends rented a beach house. They had a spare room, so they invited us to stay a few days with them (we only had one kid then). We went and LOVED it. They had a gorgeous 4 bedroom house right on the beach, and when they told us the price they paid, we couldn’t believe it.

Why Topsail? It is very family friendly. There’s really just one main road that goes up and down the coast and it’s lined with houses. There are hardly any huge tourist attractions to think of, which is one of the reasons that we love it!

beach 2

What do kids want to do on vacations? Play. Swim. Splash. Run around. And what do I like to do on vacation? Relax. Read a book. Play board games. Don’t get me wrong, I love visiting awesome attractions. But with the ages of our kids, it’s almost not worth it sometimes. Have you ever taken a cranky 21 month old to an amusement park? I haven’t, and I’m not about to try.

With a small beach town, you also get cheaper prices. I actually just booked a beautiful HUGE 5 bedroom oceanfront house for $1,785 for the week! The beach is just steps away (no road to cross, it’s literally right there!) We are gonna split the cost with my sister and her family too, which brings the cost down even more. By renting an entire house instead of getting a hotel, you end up getting more than twice the square footage for the same price.

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We can’t WAIT to get back there. We had to skip 2 years (giving birth to Abby, and then traveling 12+ hours with a 12 month old wasn’t gonna happen last summer).

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Secret #2: We rent during just off-peak season. Topsail Island is in North Carolina, which has a different school schedule than up here in New York. When kids are headed back to school during the last week in August in North Carolina, rates for vacation rentals drop. And since our school doesn’t start until the Wednesday after Labor Day, that last week of summer is a great time for us to find some deals.

For example, the house I just booked for $1,785 has rates during the peak of summer at almost $4,000! Also, it gives us something to look forward to as summer goes on. Instead of the kids dreading the end of summer and having to go back to school, they now have an awesome beach vacation to look forward to all summer.

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Secret #3: Since we are renting an actual house with a full kitchen, we aren’t gonna be eating our much at all. There’s a supermarket about 5 minutes from the beach, and closer to the beach, there’s a “shack” that sells fresh fish and shrimp. Our favorite meal of the week is always a “low country boil”.

If you’ve never had this, you need to. It’s basically a pot full of shrimp, crab legs, chunks of corn on the cob, red potatoes and whatever else you think belongs – boiled with Louisiana-style seasoning. It’s SOOOO good. And again, I have to thank my friend Colleen for introducing us to the low country boil.

One more memory that I just HAVE to share… the last time we were at Topsail Island, we had the pleasure of witnessing something AWESOME. Our house in 2012 was situated right next to a sea turtle nest. And on one of the last nights we were there, they hatched! We watched as literally hundreds of baby sea turtles emerged from the sand and scuttled into the ocean. It was AMAZING. I wish I had pictures, but there was no flash photography allowed since the lights would distract them from heading towards the ocean.

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So that’s what we do for our summer vacations, and HomeAway and VRBO make it so easy for us. Did I mention that it’s free to use?

Are you still looking to book a summer vacation? It’s not too late! And you might be in luck! This summer, you could win a $5,000 vacation through the HomeAway Kidfluencers Contest! Simply record your kids explaining why your family should win this vacation in a 15-60 second video and submit by May 29th, and you could win an amazing vacation this summer from HomeAway!

Just upload the video to Instagram, YouTube or Vimeo, using the hashtag #HomeAwayVacation and complete the entry form here before May 29, 2015. HomeAway will select 10 finalists that will be voted on by the public from June 8 to 12 to determine the winner. For more details on the contest, head on over and check it out here.

Summer vacation concept

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of HomeAway.

 

May
20
2015
24 best things to buy at the dollar store

Posted at 8:02 AM on May 20, 2015 by I am THAT Lady: Lauren

May 20th, 2015

Not everything at the dollar store is a great deal, but many things are. Check out this list of 24 AWESOME buys at the dollar store!

There are two ways of thinking about the dollar store – either it is inexpensive junk or bargains galore. Depending on the type of shopper you are, you may avoid it because you think everything in there is poorly made or miniature size. Or you may it and buy everything you normally have on your shopping list assuming you are getting the best deal.

While there are most definitely items in the dollar stores that will break very quickly, there are also items that could be found cheaper elsewhere. I have pulled together the 24 best things to buy at the dollar store to stretch your budget and save you money.

Home Collage

Home:

  1. Cleaning supplies – Large containers of Comet, bottles of spray cleaner, and many others are a great buy.
  2. Rubber gloves – While you are cleaning, you might need gloves to protect your hands. These sell for $3 at the grocery store.
  3. Flower Pots – These normally sell for $5 or more at hardware stores.
  4. Kitchen Gadgets – You have to be careful of what you buy but I’ve been using the same set of funnels that I purchased for at a dollar store over 2 years ago. I saw name brand items that are sure to work without feeling flimsy.
  5. Organizational Items – You can find baskets, plastic shoe boxes and many other organizers to get the job done. Teachers will love these, too!
  6. Mailing Supplies – Manilla envelopes, padded envelopes and shipping labels!

Food Collage

Food:

  1. Frozen Fruit and Vegetables – The packages of these in my dollar store looked an awful lot like some name brands I know. I’m betting that $1 that they are the same thing but with a name change.
  2. Spices – You can’t beat $1 for a bottle of spices, especially if it’s one you use only at Thanksgiving like pumpkin pie spice. This way, when you toss it before the next holiday because it’s old, there is no guilt for the money spent.
  3. Foil Pans – Taking food for a potluck or to someone’s house? Buy your foil pans at the dollar store to save money and eliminate the need for returning containers.

Family Collage

Family:

  1. Hair Ties – These get lost so easily. Why spend $3 – 4 on a pack when you can get them for $1?
  2. Socks – Socks go missing frequently, buying them at the dollar store means you won’t be upset when they disappear next week.
  3. Pregnancy Tests – If you are trying for a baby and taking pregnancy tests often, you can go through a small fortune waiting for that positive result. It might seem odd but a dollar store is the best place to buy them.
  4. School Supplies – There are definitely items to avoid (pencils, glue sticks, crayons) but there are great deals to be had here, too. Binders (name brand), posterboard, trifold boards for science fair projects (I was so shocked to see that!), and notecards are just a few great buys.
  5. Craft Items – Kids love doing crafts. Stock up on beads, feathers, glitter, pipe cleaners, stickers, foam shapes and even complete craft kits that will keep the kids entertained for hours.
  6. Pets – Pet dishes for dogs and cats as well as some name brand food and treats can be found at the dollar store. There are also leashes, collars and toys as well! Skip the pet store and save yourself money.

Road Trip

Vacation:

  1. Road Trip Snacks – Buy snacks for the ride. The dollar store is the best place to find those movie theater sized boxes of candy. Buy them before going to the theater as well!
  2. Coloring & Puzzle Books – Keep the kids (and yourself) occupied while you are traveling with coloring books, crossword puzzles, sudoku and more for just $1.
  3. Beach Toys -Cheaper than when you arrive in a beach town and you won’t feel bad when one gets left behind.

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Special Occasions/Seasonal:

  1. Holiday/Seasonal Decorations – Each season the store is stocked full of decorations and other items that can help you celebrate.
  2. Partyware – Plates, cups, napkins, utensils, decorations and so much more, whether it’s a birthday party or a graduation party, they’ll have plenty for you to decorate with.
  3. Weddings – If you are planning centerpieces, check out a dollar store. They have the exact items a friend of mine used on her tables- glass cylinders, glass beads, floating candles..
  4. Gift wrapping – Never spend more than $1 on a gift bag again! The same goes for bows, wrapping paper and even name brand tape.
  5. Greeting cards – Why spend $3 or more on a card that is usually thrown away?
  6. Balloons – Helium filled mylar balloons!

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The next time you are shopping, make a trip to the dollar store. Take this list along with you so you are sure to score some great deals!

Is there anything on this list that you didn’t know you could find at dollar stores? Are there items that I overlooked? What have you found to be great deals at the dollar stores?

May
18
2015
Freezer Cooking 101 – Tips and Tricks to Learn how to Freezer Cook Like a PRO!

Posted at 1:17 PM on May 18, 2015 by I am THAT Lady: Lauren

May 18th, 2015

Are you wondering how to start freezer cooking? In this freezer cooking 101 article, we talk all about how to start freezer cooking for your family!

When I first started trying to save money on groceries for my growing family I was overwhelmed at the thought of using my freezer for anything other than ice cubes and ice cream.  Sometimes even the ice cream would come out crusty and dried.  I’ve learned a lot of DOs and DON’Ts by reading some great books and scouring freezing guides for tried and true techniques.  I’m sharing it all with you now in the form of Freezer Cooking 101.

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Let’s start by looking at the supplies you’ll want to gather. You can see them all pictured above.

SUPPLIES NEEDED:

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1.) Plastic Wrap

You can use regular plastic cling wrap to individually wrap portions for freezing.  Since the portions will be placed in freezer bags they’ll be protected from the cold.  The plastic wrap serves to block out air from touching your food.  Air is what causes freezer burn on foods.  It’s best to remove all air.  More on this later.

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2.) Freezer quality zip top bags

Use freezer bags instead of other bag options.  Cheaper “storage” bags are thinner and not appropriate to protect your food from the extreme cold.  You’ll regret it.  Invest in quality freezer bags so that your hard work pays off in savings instead of disappointment at freezer burned food.

3.) Straws

We use little coffee stirrer straws to remove air from zippered bags.  More on this below in Air is Your Enemy.

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4.) Foil pans or non-aluminum baking pans

These are perfect for freezing cooked or uncooked casseroles.  They’re also perfect for gifting meals to new moms or families enduring sickness.  I buy pans that fit into gallon freezer bags.  This makes them incredibly easy to prep and freeze.

You might think that the disposable pans are a waste of money since you already own pans, but remember that the pan has to stay in the freezer with the food.  So any pans you have that you freeze will be out of commission for a while.  It’s best to buy inexpensive, disposable pans for the purpose of freezing and reheating.

Also, if you’re preparing freezer meals to be gifted, this will be perfect so that the recipient won’t have to worry about returning your dish after enjoying the meal.

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5.) Freezer Tape

You might have tried to use masking tape or painter’s tape in the past to label freezer foods.  I’ve tried it.  It doesn’t work.  It doesn’t stay sticky when it’s frozen, it doesn’t stick to foil for sealing casseroles, and it peels up over time.

Here are a few things to note about freezer tape.  The tape should be specifically made for the freezer for three important reasons:

  • You should be able to write on it without the ink smudging or fading over time.
  • The tape should stay sticky and never peel up even under extreme cold and humidity.
  • The tape should adhere to aluminum, plastic, and any other paper you choose to use in your freezer.

That’s why I suggest buying tape made specifically for use in your freezer.  You can get some here.  Also, you do not need to buy a dispenser for this unless you just want to.  Freezer tape tears easily by hand.

Some people like freezer labels.  These meet two of the requirements above and would probably work great for labeling something simple like frozen meat.  The reason that I don’t prefer the stickers is because they can’t be used for sealing so I have to buy freezer tape for that already.  Also, I like to write a LOT of words on my packages (as you’ll see below).  That’s the reason I personally prefer the tape for labeling, too.  I can use as much as I need to get all my tips and directions on the package.

If I’m making a casserole that has assembly directions or multiple steps, I’ll write the instructions on an index card or print them out and tape it (with freezer tape) to the casserole.

6.) Permanent marker

We use fine tip Sharpie markers.  These are permanent.  As long as I let the writing sit untouched for 30 seconds it doesn’t smudge when I stack the packages.

7.) Freezer Inventory Sheet

You can use a notepad or a simple sheet of copy paper.  You might want to hang the inventory on your freezer with a magnetic clip or beside the freezer on a clipboard.  This is discussed more in the inventory section below.

What supplies NOT to use in the freezer and WHY:

1.) Don’t freeze in glass jars or containers.

If the contents expand then the glass will break in the freezer.  Yucky mess!  Also, glass containers take up way more space than they need to and don’t stack easily.  Let’s save the glass jars for another use.

2.) Don’t freeze in plastic ware.

Yes, the plastic container is convenient because you already own it and it’s easy to see what’s inside.  But that container will hold in the air and cause freezer burn.  Also, just like the glass containers, plastic containers waste precious freezer space and don’t stack.  Use your plastic containers for leftovers in the fridge but switch to other wrapping if you decide to freeze the leftovers.

3.) Food Handling – Safety First

  • DO wash your hands before and after handling any foods.
  • DO wash any prepping tools between recipes/foods.  For example, make sure to clean cutting boards and knives after prepping cooked or raw meats.
  • DO allow cooked foods to refrigerate and come to 40 degrees before freezing.
  • DO thaw frozen foods in the refrigerator.
  • DON’T ever freeze questionable leftovers.  If it’s smelling off now, then freezing it is NOT going to fix that.  It’s only going to come out worse when it’s thawed.
  • DON’T freeze mushy or old fruit.  You might think you could use these in a smoothy but fruit past its prime is really just that.  The only exception is bananas which are a little mushy and more brown than you like.  Overrripe bananas are great for banana breads and smoothies.  I freeze these in gallon zippered freezer bags and use them for instant ice cream by mashing them through a special attachment on my juicer!  Yum!

Taylor Food Service Thermometer Freezer Refrigerator

4.) Brrrrr!  It’s cold in there. 

Check your freezer temperature.  Your freezer should always be at 0 or below.

Don’t trust the temperature settings on your freezer or deep freeze.  Buy a thermometer for this purpose and check it each time you add or remove anything.  I like this one because it’s clearly labeled for the safe range for freezer foods.

Foods stored long term above zero degrees fahrenheit are prone to advanced quality degradation with time.

To help keep your freezer consistently cold you should keep it full.  That’s right!  A full freezer actually saves energy by keeping a consistent temperature.  Of course, a full freezer should always have plenty of room for airflow.  Don’t stuff it!

If your supplies are running low you can keep an old milk jug filled with water (about 90% full so there’s room for the water to expand as it freezes).  This hunk of ice will serve to help your freezer stay consistently cold.  In an emergency, the ice block could help to preserve your food during a power outage.

what is this mystery frozen food?

5.) Label everything.  Always. 

Label your foods with a permanent marker (we use Sharpie brand).  Write the name of the food, the date it was frozen, and the use by date if you already know it.  Why do math later when you can do it now and write it down!

Include Specific Instructions with Each Package:  

1.) Write out how to prepare the food when thawed.

One of the reasons we freeze things is for convenience.  Keeping notes on preparation could help your teenager, mother-in-law, or another family member pitch in and make dinner.  So help them out with notes ahead of time.

Some examples of prep notes would be:

  • Chicken already marinated.  Thaw overnight.  Grill over high heat until 160 degrees internally.
  • Serve over rice.
  • Remove the plastic before baking.
  • Take out of bag before reheating.
  • Thaw in refrigerator overnight.
  • Heat in oven on 350 degrees.  Then top with cheese.
  • Precooked pasta.  Don’t overcook.  Place into boiling water for 1-2 minutes to reheat.  Serve with sauce.

2.) Keep Inventory

Post an inventory checklist near your freezer.  You’ll want to write down every time something is added to or removed from the freezer.   Also, make sure to note the date that something is added so you can make sure to use it in the optimal time period.  This would be a great place to mark the use by date also.

Inventory should also list refrigerator or pantry items that you’ll need to serve the items with.  If you need cheese and rice to serve with your chili then list that on the inventory sheet.   That way as you plan to use up your freezer stores, you can add items to your grocery list if they’re not on hand already.

Here’s some information that may be included on the inventory sheet.  You won’t need all this information for every item.  But it’s good to document in cases where uses are limited or very specific.

  • Item
  • Raw or Cooked
  • Date Added
  • Use by Date
  • Prep Steps
  • Serve with
  • Notes (These might include “Can be used frozen” or “Do NOT Thaw before baking.”)

4.) Divide into manageable portions and shapes

AKA Don’t freeze huge amounts in a big lumpy glacier.

  • Divide fresh food into individual meal portions. For example, I divide hamburger meat into 1 pound portions, and I wrap chicken breasts individually.

plastic wrapped meat horizontal

  • Wrap each portion tightly with plastic wrap.  Make sure that your pressing out any air pockets and press the meat as flat as possible.  The air causes freezer burn and makes meat taste hard and dry.  You want the portions to be flat for easy and safe defrosting.  If you are going to add a marinade then this is the step to do it.  You can use a quart sized bag instead of plastic wrap to hold the meat and marinade.  Remove the air from the bag and proceed to the next step.

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  • Place the wrapped meat in a labeled freezer bag and press the air out of the bag, as well.   This will keep the air away from the meat and make the package easier for freezing and thawing.

The bags are super easy to label and the individual portions are safer to thaw.  You can thaw as little or as much as you need.

Freeze items flat if you can.  They’ll freeze, stack, and thaw more easily this way.  Bags can be frozen flat and then stood upright or stacked.  Packages frozen flat also thaw more evenly since they’re an even thickness throughout.

To freeze individual veggies and fruit, try to flash freeze them on a parchment lined dish.  Let them freeze until solid and then combine them all in a labeled freezer bag.  No more clumpy fruit chunks!  Just nice neat individual pieces of produce ready to measure for your favorite recipe.

Best tip for freezing sauces and soups:  Pour the cooked soups/sauces into ice cube trays.  Freeze until solid and then empty into labeled plastic freezer bag.  You can thaw as little or as much as you want by removing cubes to a bowl in the refrigerator.  Make sure to remove all the air after removing portions.

5.) Keep those packages organized by date

Make sure to keep all your frozen foods organized by type and “use by” date.  Keep the oldest foods in the front for easiest reach so they get used first.  Conversely, anything added to the freezer should be placed at the bottom/back of the line so that it is used after the other packages.

bagged casserole horizontal

6.) Preparing cooked meals to freeze 

Follow recipe directions very carefully.  Sometimes ingredients are cooked, uncooked, semi-cooked, etc.  It’s important to follow these specifications to avoid raw and/or overcooked meals.

You might find that you’d like to undercook your frozen meals a little so that they don’t overcook when they’re reheated.  What I usually do to help with this is to remove baked goods from the oven about 10 – 15 minutes before the fully cooked time when I’m initially preparing the dish.  That way when it’s reheated the ingredients aren’t overcooked, burned, or mushy.  This dish undercooked initially will make a fresh tasting meal instead of a meal that tastes like leftovers.

  1. Once the dish is undercooked to perfection, you can leave it uncovered when you put it in the refrigerator.  This will help it cool faster.  Once the dish is down to 40 degrees, package it for freezing.
  2. Wrap the pan tightly in plastic wrap.  Make sure to leave a little room at the top for the casserole to expand when frozen.
  3. Label contents, reheating directions, freezer date, and use by date.  You can also tape printed directions to the top if there’s too much to write on an index card.
  4. Place the foil wrapped pan into a freezer bag for protection from the cold.
  5. Write the information on your freezer inventory sheet.
  6. Place the casserole in the back of all the other precooked meals.  You’ll want to let the contents lay flat until frozen.  You can then stack on top of them or turn them on their side if that works better in your freezer space.

7.) Cool Pre-Cooked Foods Completely Before Freezing

When  you are freezing something that is pre-cooked (meat, sauce, bread, etc.) make sure that the food is completely cooled in the refrigerator before placing it in the freezer.  Putting hot food in a freezer makes the other food in your freezer thaw partially which is not good for consistency.  Also, hot food in a freezer makes the freezer have to work too hard to get back down to the right temp.  Play it safe and refrigerate cooked foods for a few hours before moving to the freezer.

How to Thaw Raw Frozen Meats:

  1. The day before you want to cook the meat, remove the frozen portion of meat from the freezer.
  2. Place the frozen meat (still in the plastic wrap but no longer in a zippered freezer bag) on a dish with a paper towel.  The paper towel will catch any condensation and juices that come from the thawing process.
  3. Put the dish in the refrigerator for about 24 hours.
  4. Use this meat just as you would fresh, raw meat in your recipe.  Make sure to remove the plastic wrap before cooking.

When I have my meal plan ready I pull out tomorrow’s dinner to thaw in the refrigerator when I’m preparing tonight’s meal.  This helps me not to forget to thaw the meat.

Frequently Asked Questions:

QUESTION: Do I need to thaw cooked meals?

Most of the time, recipes work best if they are thawed for 24 hours before reheating.  This allows the edges and outsides to not overcook since they get reheated the fastest in the oven.  Reheating frozen meals can leave cold spots in the dish that aren’t appetizing and aren’t safe to eat.

Reheated foods should reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees throughout the dish.  Make sure to test several areas to make sure that it’s thoroughly heated.

QUESTION: Freezing – Thawing – Refreezing – Is that a good idea?

In many of our Aldi meal plans, we use frozen chicken breasts to create many of the meals.  There are mixed reviews on if this will hurt the flavor or texture of the food.  In our opinion, it doesn’t change the texture of the food at all. We have made many yummy dishes freezing, thawing, and then refreeezing chicken.  You may or may not want to try it, if that is the case then start out using fresh chicken.

As I mentioned in the thawing tips, it’s best to plan the thawing schedule so that you’re only thawing out what you know you’ll use the next day.  I like to take out tomorrow’s dinner from the freezer while I’m preparing dinner for today.

QUESTION: How do you Freeze Bags Flat for Easy Storage?

  1. Let out the air as much as possible by flattening the contents.
  2. Close the zipper about 80% and let out more air through the barely open section.
  3. If you’re preparing a liquid to freeze (such as soup or sauce), you can move the contents toward the zipper opening and use your hand to slowly move out bubbles until the liquid is right at the opening.
  4. You’ve now successfully removed all the air!  Make sure to refrigerate before freezing.

This is an easy technique for removing air from liquids.

QUESTION: What about lumpy foods that won’t flatten?  Should I buy a vacuum packaging machine?

You definitely can remove more air with a vacuum machine for food preparation.  But the investment is too much for most people when they’re trying to focus on savings money on food.  So I use the straw trick.  (I know some of you have been waiting to see what I was going to do with that straw on the supply list!)

If the contents are solid and lumpy and you just can’t push the air out, you can use the straw trick.  Follow these simple steps:

  1. Close the freezer bag about 95% and then insert a clean straw just below the zipper closure.
  2. Lay the bag flat and draw out the air by sucking gently on the straw.
  3. I use a tiny coffee stirrer to remove the air from mine.  It’s tiny and doesn’t let a lot of air back in.
  4. After removing the air, quickly place your hand over the zipper opening trapping the “vacuum” inside.
  5. Firmly press down on the opening while removing the straw.  Then press shut.
  6. You’ve done it!  Make sure to refrigerate before freezing.

I’m working on another post about what foods freeze well and which ones don’t.  Do you have any freezer prep tips for us?  What is your best advice for freezing foods?

freezer cooking 101 Facebook

May
16
2015
ALDI Meal Plan – Grilling Edition

Posted at 10:28 AM on May 16, 2015 by I am THAT Lady: Mark

May 16th, 2015

Get out your grill and prepare for a fun season of outdoor cooking with this grilling meal plan!

Get out your grill and prepare for a fun season of outdoor cooking with this Grilling ALDI Meal Plan! Every recipe included in this meal plan is BRAND NEW. Amazing grilling recipes PLUS amazing side dish recipes!

For around $155 at ALDI, you will have enough food to prepare 20 meals on the grill, including side dishes/vegetables. We surveyed our loyal readers a couple months ago about our ALDI Meal Plans, and here’s what we found:

  • You want a grilling meal plan ideal for the summer
  • You love freezer cooking, but want it even easier
  • More fresh vegetables
  • Low carbohydrates
  • All new recipes

Screen Shot 2015-05-16 at 10.10.30 AM

It took A LOT of work, but this plan accomplishes all of that! Every meal has at least a pound of meat (beef, chicken, pork, salmon, turkey) and an awesome side dish. Oh, and the printable pack is AWESOME with this plan! Here’s why:

  • Instructions to prepare marinades and freeze with the meat
  • Side dishes have their own pages that correspond to the main dish recipes
  • To ensure fresh vegetables, there are 2 smaller shopping trips after the initial trip to get more vegetables

As always, this meal plan is designed around a family of four. So if your family is bigger or smaller, you will need to adjust amounts accordingly.

If you eat gluten free, this is very easily adaptable. If you eat paleo, this is very easily adaptable. If you are a vegan… well, grilled meat is the main attraction here, so it won’t be as easily adapted (but I’m not opposed to creating a vegetarian meal plan in the future).

Prepped Meals

This is sort of a hybrid freezer cooking plan… here’s why. Firstly, because this meal plan provides fresh vegetables for most of the sides, they aren’t conducive to freezing. Most of the main dishes will be prepped and then frozen, but you will still need to prepare an easy side dish when you cook the meal. Secondly, there are 2 fish meals (tilapia and salmon). Since the fish filets come frozen and vacuum sealed, it would be best to thaw only when you are preparing the meal to cook.

But still – this is a HUGE time saver. Now granted I am kinda fast in the kitchen, but it seriously only took me an hour to prepare 16 main dishes. And the kitchen wasn’t that bad afterward (at least that’s what Mark said).

Here are the dishes:

Note – if you get the printable pack (highly recommended) – you will get the recipe side dishes for FREE! I’ve never included bonus recipes like that before.

And here’s the shopping list:

Week 1

  • (1) Tuscan Garden Italian Dressing, 16 oz, @$1.29 each
  • (1) Tuscan Garden Large Pitted Olives, 12 oz., @$0.99 each
  • (1) Casa Mamita Salsa, 24 oz, @$1.69 each
  • (1) Fusia Soy Sauce, 15 oz, @$1.19 each
  • (2) Happy Farms Cheddar Cheese, 8 oz, @$1.79 each
  • (1) Happy Farms Feta Cheese, .25 lb, @$1.99 each
  • (2) Priano Fresh Mozzarella Cheese, 16 oz, @$3.29 each
  • (1) Asparagus, @$2.99 each
  • (1) Corn on the Cob, 4 pk, @$1.49 each
  • (1) Grape Tomatoes, @$1.99 each
  • (1) Green Onions, 6 oz., @$0.89 each
  • (1) Lemons, 5 pack, @$1.99 each
  • (1) Multi-Colored Peppers, 3-pack, @$3.69 each
  • (1) Mushrooms, Baby Bella 8 oz. package, @$1.69 each
  • (1) Onions (bag of 8), @$1.99 each
  • (1) Red Potatoes, 5 lb bag, @$2.89 each
  • (1) Romaine Lettuce, @$1.99 each
  • (1) Sweet Potatoes – Bag, @$2.49 each
  • (2) Kirkwood Chicken, fresh 2.5 lb. package, @$6.98 each
  • (1) Chicken Drumsticks, 2.5 lbs., @$2.98 each
  • (1) Chicken Thighs, 4 lb. package, @$4.76 each
  • (2) Fit & Active Ground Turkey, 1.2 lbs package, @$2.99 each
  • (4) Top Round Steak, 1.2 lb package, @$7.43 each
  • (1) Pork Loin, 4 lbs. each, @$9.96 each
  • (1) Sirloin Tip Steak – 2.00 lb Package, @$11.38 each
  • (2) Dakota Pride Black Beans, 15 oz, @$0.59 each
  • (2) Happy Harvest Corn (can), 15.25 oz, @$0.49 each
  • (1) Benita Flour Tortillas, 20 ct, @$1.49 each
  • (2) Dakota Pride Garbanzo Beans, 15 oz. can, @$0.59 each
  • (2) Happy Harvest Sliced Pineapple, 20 oz can, @$0.89 each
  • (1) Steak Sauce, @$0.95 each
  • (1) Season’s Choice Frozen Green Beans, 16 oz., @$1.69 each
  • (1) Sea Queen Salmon Filets, frozen 2 lbs., @$7.49 each
  • (1) Sea Queen Tilapia filets, 2 lb, @$5.49 each
  • (1) Basil Pesto, @$1.69 each
  • (2) L’oven Fresh Hamburger Buns, @$0.89 each

Week 2

  • (1) Corn on the Cob, 4 pk, @$1.49 each
  • (1) Grape Tomatoes, @$1.99 each
  • (1) Green Peppers, 3-pack, @$1.99 each
  • (1) Lemons, 5 pack, @$1.99 each
  • (1) Multi-Colored Peppers, 3-pack, @$3.69 each
  • (1) Mushrooms, Baby Bella 8 oz. package, @$1.69 each
  • (1) Red Potatoes, 5 lb bag, @$2.89 each
  • (1) Romaine Lettuce, @$1.99 each
  • (2) Summer Squash, @Local Prices

Week 3

  • (1) Grape Tomatoes, @$1.99 each

Grilling Collage with Button

We have prepared an AWESOME printable pack for you that will make both your shopping trip and your preparation as easy as possible! It includes:

  • Detailed preparation instructions
  • Detailed shopping list organized by store section
  • All recipes
  • Calendar with recipe designed to optimize vegetable freshness
  • List of pantry items
  • FREE fresh vegetable BONUS side dish recipes
  • As always – only $2.97! And you will be emailed an immediate download.

Screen Shot 2015-05-16 at 10.10.30 AM

Make sure to check out our other ALDI Meal Plans too!

Grilling Meals FB

 

May
15
2015
11 Cheap Ridiculously Healthy Foods You Should Be Buying

Posted at 10:54 AM on May 15, 2015 by I am THAT Lady: Lauren

May 15th, 2015
Is it impossible to eat healthy without breaking the bank? It definitely isn’t if you are crafty with your shopping! One of the most common mistakes shoppers make are buying healthy foods that are not easy to translate into multiple dishes. Cooki
May
13
2015
13 Secrets You Don’t Know About Aldi

Posted at 8:30 AM on May 13, 2015 by I am THAT Lady: Lauren

May 13th, 2015
It is no secret that my favorite place to grocery shop is Aldi.  I spend a good amount of time in there while creating my Aldi meal plans, and have picked up some secret tips that you probably don't know about.

We just launched our 7th Aldi Meal

May
11
2015
10 Easy DIY Natural Beauty Products

Posted at 9:39 AM on May 11, 2015 by I am THAT Lady: Lauren

May 11th, 2015
These 10 Easy DIY Natural Beauty Products are a collection of recipes that anyone can put together for greater health and more radiant beauty. When I started trying to live a more natural life, the first place I looked was my cleaning products