We Heart Simple – A Little Background {Freezer Meals and Crock-Pot Cooking}

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freezercooking

My husband and I are trying to be the best stewards of our money that we can be. One way that we feel we can be good stewards is by buying things in bulk when we can and dividing/freezing in portion sizes. This has not only helped us to be good stewards of our money, but also good stewards of our time as well. It is wonderful to be able to have a home-cooked meal ready for my husband on days when I go to work before he gets home from work and am not home with him for dinner.

Another (unexpected) blessing of shopping and cooking this way is that we do it together. My husband is a wonderful cook; he makes things up as he goes along and they (almost) always are amazing. I would have to say that 95% of the time, I would prefer a meal invented and cooked by my husband to one made by a gourmet chef at a restaurant… and no, I am not just saying this in the off chance that he will read my blog! I, on the other hand, require a recipe and prefer step-by-step directions. This has worked out to be a fabulous combination thus far. Pinterest is my friend for finding great freezer recipes, and my wonderful husband is an expert at tweaking them from so-so to fabulous.

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God has blessed us so much that we are able to spend less money on our food budget every month than we tithe! I realized this fact one day when we were at church, and not only did this realization cause me to praise God for his provisions, but it also caused me to be even more inspired to continue to seek ways to be frugal in the kitchen. Luke 16:10 and Matthew 25:23, anyone?! I am all about sharing in my Master’s happiness!

When people learn that we do freezer cooking, we often get a few questions about it:

1) How often do you prepare meals to freeze?
We practice anything from once a month cooking to cooking in 2.5-3 week intervals. Recently it seems more common that we shop and cook every 2.5-3 weeks than it is to actually go a full month.

2) So.. how do you store all that food?
Although neither of us had ever practiced infrequent cooking and pre-preparing meals, I felt very strongly about it after some research while we were engaged; this led us to register for a deep freezer. We ultimately bought it with our registry completion deal, which afforded us a lovely freezer… so, friends and family reading this, thank you for making it possible!

3) Doesn’t it take forever?
The idea is that almost all of your work is front-loaded; instead of spending 15-20 minutes each day (or every other day) preparing meals, you spend a few hours once or twice a month and get it all out of the way at once (the time and the mess!). The length of time it takes depends on what we decide to make and how much we decide to prepare. Soups take longer on average because we like to prepare them stove-top  Many of our crock-pot “dump” meals take a relatively small amount of time because all you are doing is chopping ingredients and putting them into freezer bags uncooked. Today, we made 14 freezer “dump” bags in an hour and 20 minutes; typically, each bag will feed the 2 of us 2 meals (usually we do dinner and then take leftovers for lunch the next day). So, using that logic, we made essentially 28 meals for us- that works out to equal prep time of under 5 minutes per meal… I’ll take it!

4) Does it really save you money?
I definitely think so! It was a daunting task to take on in the beginning, but for us it is worth it. It is definitely something that I think we will continue in the future, even if/when we are blessed with children. Not only does buying ingredients in bulk make it less expensive (and easier to coupon!), but it also makes us less apt to go eat out. It’s hard to use the excuse “there’s nothing to eat for dinner” when we have (currently) 12 different types of meals to choose from that just have to be pulled from the freezer and put into the crock pot that day.

5) Doesn’t it taste like those awful TV dinners?
No way! I really don’t taste a difference in the recipes we have made with fresh ingredients (such as the day of shopping, when we may make a meal with what we bought rather than making one more freezer bag) versus the ones we freeze. I think a big key to this is that they are frozen raw, so it’s not pre-cooked and then re-heated. Also, being homemade, it doesn’t have all those chemical preservatives that are in TV dinners.

6) Well, maybe I will try it. How do I get started?
Great question! First, you need to pick some recipes you would like to make. In the next few days, I will blog about previous cooks we have done along with some recipes/links. I will update this page to link to them once I’ve done them 🙂 After that, you just have to shop and prepare!

7) Any Caveats?
Just a few. The biggest one I have is that certain ingredients don’t freeze well. Others depend on what the meal is that you will ultimately use them in. A great example of this is cream cheese. It freezes but is lumpy once defrosted. If you are throwing it into a crockpot to melt, no big deal! If you are serving it as a garnish at a party, people might think it is goat cheese! Another is tomatoes; I have found that if you are making something like fajitas, it’s okay to freeze the diced tomatoes with the other prepped ingredients. If you are putting tomatoes in a dish with a different texture, you may want to wait and add them the day you cook (we do that with our Balsamic Date Chicken). I have also found that black beans are better unfrozen.

I hope this has answered some of your questions about freezer cooking, and perhaps inspired you to give it a try- even if you just do it for one recipe so that you have the option of grabbing a pre-prepped meal from your freezer on occasion when you’re in a rush!

Blessings,
Rachel

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Christmas Is More Than Just A Day

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I’m linking up with Wives of Faith again for today’s blog topic:
What is your favorite quote from a Christmas movie?

I haven’t watched any Christmas movies yet this year; we don’t have cable, so the only time we watch movies is if we redbox them. N did get a membership to the local library a few weeks ago… we might have to go see if they have any Christmas DVD’s to watch over the next few weeks.

I would have to say that my favorite Christmas movie quote is from the movie “Miracle on 34th Street”. In this movie, the character Kris Kringle says, “Christmas isn’t just a day, it’s a frame of mind”. To me, Christmas is much more than a day; because of the gift of Jesus, I am blessed with the gift of eternity!

Another one of my favorite quotes about Christmas is in this movie, this time by the character Fred Gailey who says, “Faith is believing when common sense tells you not to. Don’t you see? It’s not just Kris that’s on trial, it’s everything he stands for. It’s kindness and joy and love and all the other intangibles.” Faith can be hard sometimes. We all have times where it is much easier to listen to the “common sense” of the world, but it is important to remember that usually what we’re going through is so much deeper than its face-value; it relates to how we define (and how the world defines) what we stand for… and often those things are intangible yet integral parts of who we are.

What are your favorite Christmas movie quotes? I would love for you to share them with me along with why they are special to you.

Blessings,
Rachel

I’m linking up with some wonderful military wives as we celebrate 12 days of Christmas by answering questions and sharing memories. Head on over to Wives of Faith and check it out… or even join in if you’re a military spouse!
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Christmas Traditions

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I’m linking up with Wives of Faith again for today’s blog topic:

Christmas is one of those holidays that within the celebration of the birth of Jesus, we add some family traditions.  What are some of your favorite family traditions?

This year will be a different kind of Christmas than any I have experienced in the past. This is N’s and my first Christmas as a married couple. Already we have been discussing different traditions that our families had growing up.

Stockings were a big deal in his family. They “opened” them on Christmas Eve. This is something that he really looked forward to a lot; he remembers that their stockings started to get things tucked into them early in the season. In our house, stockings weren’t as much of a big deal: we did them, but Mom often filled them after we went to bed on Christmas Eve (3 of the 4 of us kids are girls; and we alllll know that stockings are full of chocolate, right? right! I guess we couldn’t be trusted! haha).
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Here are our stockings, hung with care… and yes, I am trying to honor my husband’s tradition, I put the first batch of things into his stocking today!

In my family, we selected one gift to open on Christmas Eve– with Mom and Dad’s approval. Obviously they wanted to be sure we didn’t open a gift that would reveal another gift (like a case for a nintendo when you don’t have one). My family was also big on trying to guess what the gift was based on the creative description on the tag…. yep, that’s right, we’re that family that doesn’t put names, we put nicknames or phrases that suggest both the recipient and the gift category! My family also uses boxes that aren’t the original packaging. I am told that once upon a time my dad wrapped a bunch of boxes within boxes with a small box that actually had the present in it for my mom. I don’t think she guessed that one 😉

My family also takes turns opening gifts. We would go around the room, each person opening one gift at a time with the attention of all the others. We also all don’t tear the paper. This was, apparently, shocking to my husband when he witnessed it last year.

Having a live tree and dedicated time to decorate it together was a big deal for me. We had an artificial tree growing up, but my second family (who graciously opened their home to me for regular stays to keep me from commuting over an hour to work each day for 4 years) had a live one, and I went with them the past few years to pick it out and help decorate; a tradition that we continued (at least with the decorating part) when we visited them in Virginia the day after Thanksgiving. N and I had great fun picking and decorating our tree this year, complete with listening to Christmas music.

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Our first Christmas tree 🙂

A big tradition that we both love and are sure to continue is attending a Christmas Eve service. What better way to celebrate Jesus on the Eve of his birth than with other believers? We are so excited to attend one of the special Christmas Eve services at our church this year with a few of our very dear friends that we met in our marriage small group. We will also be reading the Christmas Story, probably accompanied by some hot chocolate!

I am excited about setting a few other traditions; however, since my husband does read my blog posts, I can’t post about all of them just yet ;)….some of them are surprises for him this time around!

What are some of your favorite family Christmas traditions?

Blessings,
Rachel

I’m linking up with some wonderful military wives as we celebrate 12 days of Christmas by answering questions and sharing memories. Head on over to Wives of Faith and check it out… or even join in if you’re a military spouse!

 

Christmas clothing

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Wives of faith has been doing a Christmas Blogging Carnival with writing prompts; head on over and check it out here! Today’s question is:

What is your favorite piece of Christmas clothing?

I haven’t participated in this yet because I haven’t had much to write about the topics they’ve discussed since I started blogging. I was going to skip today as well, because I don’t have a favorite piece of Christmas clothing personally… but that’s a good thing to blog about, right?!

I really enjoy Christmas; I look forward to celebrating Jesus’ birth every year. For that reason, my favorite “Christmas attire” would have to be the swaddling clothes that Mary wrapped Jesus in before she laid him in a manger. I think it serves as a fabulous reminder of what is important. Mary didn’t have to have the finest things; she used what she had to care for her precious and perfect son. Though he is the King of Kings, Jesus was wrapped in simple cloth and spent his first nights in a stable as there was no room in the inn.

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It is so easy for us to get caught up in our traditions and lose sight of the true reason for the season- the perfect love that God has for us; that he loves us so much that he sent his only Son to die for us. If you would like to read the story of the birth of Jesus, you can click here to be linked to the passage in Luke about it.

Christmas is not about the gifts or the clothing we have now; it’s about the gift of Jesus that was given to us thousands of years ago. For me, the biggest gift of Christmas (aside from celebrating Jesus and His gift of salvation) is the time spent with loved ones. Here are a few pictures from our Christmas last year.

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My younger sister, H.

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Dad, invariably opening another item of the Green Bay Packer variety, with Mom in the background (see, SHE has a nice Christmas outfit!)

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 very grainy picture of me and my now-husband, then-fiance, N.Image

My younger brother, C.

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My older sister and her husband.

What about you: do you have specific Christmas attire that you look forward to wearing for Christmas?

Blessings,
Rachel

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Christmas Season….

Tonight we are attending my husband’s command Christmas party. It will be so nice to be able to spend the evening with him and meet some of his co-workers. I cherish every opportunity we have to “date” each other as a married couple. I had a hard time believing what people told me before we got married: that it would be hard to find time and resources to continue to date each other after marriage. I thought that was silly; how hard can it be if you live together? What I didn’t realize was how easy it would be to get caught up in the status quo. If we aren’t careful to safeguard our quality time together, then our relationship can become much like a business transaction. “Did you go grocery shopping?” “Have we paid X bill yet?” “I’m working tomorrow morning early” “Well, I’m working tomorrow evening, so I guess we will see each other 2 mornings from now”. Wow! It is so easy to get caught up in my stuff, my agenda, and lose sight of the big picture. Dates have become especially difficult with N’s school and work schedule combined with my school and work schedule. Tonight will be a wonderful break!

The Debate Is Over

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RaInBow

Hello there!

Some of you who are reading this are aware that I have been debating about whether or not to blog for a while now. Well, since you are reading this, you now know what I ultimately decided!

I was hesitant about whether or not to blog for several reasons. The first was related to stewardship of my time. Do I need another distraction? Certainly not; however, I decided that blogging would be helpful to me because it is easier not only to share my thoughts, but to search for things I wrote about at a later date. You see, journaling is wonderful–until you try to find something you journaled about who knows how many days ago!

The second reason I was hesitant was because I don’t feel like my life is that interesting; I don’t know that I have much to offer. A wise friend told me “If your goal is to entertain, then that matters. But if your goal is to share your thoughts and your heart, then just do. There is no boring factor to consider.” What great insight! This made me think: Where would we be as Christians if we based what we gave the world on what we -thought- we have to offer? How different would the Bible read if it were based on people’s opinions of themselves, rather than what Christ would do with them as He continued His good work in them? That brings me to answer the question that I am sure a few of you are wondering:

What’s with the name of this blog?

I’m so glad you wondered! I spent a lot of time considering the best name for my blog, and ultimately decided on Living For FOG. What is FOG? Fog is my acronym for the Favor Of God.
You see, I am far from perfect. It is only through God’s favor that I am saved; in sending His son to die for my sins, he showed me favor– kindness, generosity, grace– beyond anything I could have ever hoped for, and certainly quite the opposite of what I deserve.
How does one live for the favor of God?
-By praying unto the Lord (Job 33:26)
-By keeping His commandments (Prov 3:1-4)
-By seeking and finding God’s wisdom (Prov 8:35)
-By diligently seeking good (Prov 11:27, 12:2)
-By living righteously (Prov 14:9)

With all that said, an excerpt that I really relate to favor is 2 Peter 1:2-9:
Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge;and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness;and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind,forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins. -The Bible, New English Translation

With all that being said, I felt that the name “Living for FOG” was an awesome all-encompassing name for what I will share on this blog- a little bit of anything and everything as God brings me to it AND brings me through it!

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How did you name your blog? What is your favorite thing about God’s favor?

Until next time,
-Rachel