By: Leanne Ely
If there’s an avalanche of food spilling out of the freezer compartment of your refrigerator every time you open it, or if stuff is buried so deep in your chest freezer that you’ve stopped even trying to search for things, it’s time to get your freezer situation under control!
When your freezer is not organized into an efficient, usable space, you’re likely to allow the following to happen:
• You’ll buy groceries you don’t need, forgetting that you have plenty of chicken buried in the freezer.
• You’ll be less likely to use your freezer when it’s messy because it’s an unwelcoming environment. (Never mind the fact that you can’t fit anything else in there.)
• You’ll be more likely to have spoiled food on your hands because when your freezer isn’t organized properly, it doesn’t keep things at their optimal temperature and frozen food won’t last as long as it should.
Your freezer is an essential tool and, like with any other tool, in order to get the most out of it, you need to use it properly.
The best way to optimize the space in your freezer—whether you have a chest freezer, upright freezer or over-under fridge/freezer—is to freeze things flat.
When you freeze pasta sauce, soup, ground meat, hamburger patties, fish fillets, sliced chicken or prepared-in-advance future dinners, freeze them flat in heavy-duty zipper bags. This way, you can stack those frozen items nice and neatly. Make it a habit to use a marker to jot down the name of the item and the date it’s been frozen on the front of each bag.
Not only will more things fit in your freezer when flat, but they will also thaw much more quickly. Picture, for example, a bag stuffed with six chicken breasts all stuck together and a bag with those breasts laying flat in a single row. Which do you think will be easier to thaw?
I do this with soup in single servings so that I don’t have to thaw out an entire batch of soup when I know I’ll just end up getting sick of it. Using single serving bags, frozen flat in the freezer, I can easily pop out the flavor I’m in the mood for and quickly thaw it in a bowl of cold water so it’s ready to be heated up for lunch or dinner.
Keep an inventory log near the freezer with a list of items that are in there, crossing items off as you use them. This way, you’ll know when you have six servings of chicken soup on hand, when you’re out of pork chops or when you only have one roast left.
When your freezer is in control, you’ll also be much better equipped to plan meals using what you have on hand.
Your freezer really can save your dinner! One of my favorite Saving Dinner product lines is our freezer menus.
P.S. These freezer bundles are a hot hit! Click here and grab yours right now! Classic or Paleo, you choose!
By: Leanne Ely
I realize that “bone broth” might not sound to you like the most appetizing thing in the world, but I can assure you that it is one of the most wonderful, healing substances you can put in your body.
Bone broth is made simply by simmering animal bones in water with a bit of cider vinegar for anywhere from 36-72 hours. (I store my bones in zipper bags in the freezer, until I have enough for a batch of bone broth. I keep chicken bones separate from beef bones.) While the bones are simmering, all of the minerals in the bones are infused into the liquid with the help of that vinegar.
The broth you’re left with is a potent healing concoction that can improve your gut health, provide relief from joint pain and can give you stronger teeth and bones.
It’s super easy to make bone broth. And if you employ the help of your slow cooker, you’ll make the job much easier on yourself.
How to make bone broth in your slow cooker
Put your bones (preferably they will be bones from grass fed animals) in the slow cooker with some onion, organic celery, carrots, herbs and a few cloves of garlic. Add a couple of tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to the works to help leech the minerals and nutrients out of the bones.
Cook on low for up to 8 hours, but preferably for up to 72 hours (longer is better, that’s what I do). As the bone broth simmers, you may need to replace the water. Keep the water level at about 3/4 full.
Strain the broth when you’ve cooked it as long as you’re going to.
If you’ve done it just right with the chicken bones (not the beef ones as much), the broth will gelatinize when you refrigerate it overnight. This gelatin tells you the broth is so nutritious!
One taste and you’ll see that our grandmothers really did have it right. Bones do make the best soup!
Besides drinking it straight, I use bone broth in place of stock in all of my soup recipes. You can also use bone broth as a liquid for braising.
For more ideas of what you can be doing with your slow cooker, you should check out Crock-Tober! We will help you dial in your crock cooker, like no one! https://savingdinner.com/s/crock-tober-bundle-2014/
I’ve got something exciting to share with you! And you are the first to hear about it…
And yes, it involves a Penguin of sorts. No kidding!
My newest book, Part Time Paleo: How to Go Paleo Without Going Crazy is almost here and is being published by Penguin (Plume is the imprint) so there’s the penguin reference, LOL.
Let me tell you a little about my journey that led me to write this book. Going “paleo” if you will, was a lifesaver for me. I mean, I needed this! My autoimmune disease (Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis) was out of control and I was miserable!
(If you’re one of those who participated in one of our 30-Day Paleo Challenges or the 10 Day Paleo Blitz, then you most likely know my story and how paleo eating has profoundly impacted my health)
There’s so much to tell you about how this was such a game changer–and yes, a lot of it is in the book. But I’ve got a lot of stuff I want to share with you. You’re my community and that means a lot to me–I appreciate you (and many of you over the years!). I’m very blessed. Thank you again and again for your amazing support.
And stay tuned. I’ll be sharing a whole lot more with you soon. 🙂
PS – How would you like me to PERSONALLY cook you and your family dinner? No kidding! Find out how in the next email.
By: Leanne Ely
Regardless of how you feel about cooking, nobody wants to be a slave to the kitchen. We are all so busy these days that we need as many shortcuts as we can possibly find for getting a good home-cooked meal on the table with the minimum amount of stress!
It’s no good to find yourself at the end of a crazy day standing in front of the fridge praying for inspiration to hit as you try to figure out what to feed the hungry people in your house. (That’s the danger zone where you’re likely to pick up the phone and call for pizza, don’t do it!
Here a few shortcuts to help you get your evening meal under control!
Crock and roll. Dust off the crockpot and put it to work. This ultimate shortcut appliance can save you a ton of time on dinner prep. Assemble your crock ingredients in the crock liner the night before and refrigerate the works overnight. Then, all you need to do in the morning is plunk it in and plug it in!
Marinate meat before freezing. How many times have you gone to make a recipe and realized that you have to marinate the meat for several hours first? When you’re freezing your chicken, beef or pork, freeze it along with a marinade. That way, it will get good and tasty while it thaws, and you’ve saved a step. Oh, and that thaw? The new way to thaw is in a sink full of hot water—yup, it’s safe!
Cook more than you need. If you are cooking a meal for two, you might as well cook for four. Cooking for four? Why not cook for eight? That way, you have a double dinner!
Parchment paper. If you don’t already use parchment paper to line your pans before you bake or roast something in the oven, you’re working too hard on clean up! This oven-safe paper will cut your scrubbing in half! Boom!
Chop the veggies beforehand. Wash and cut that broccoli and cauliflower after you get it home. Same goes for making pepper strips, slicing mushrooms and peeling Brussels sprouts. Do that work all at once (or even better, put the kids to work!). Place all those veggies in zipper bags and you have grab and go veggies that you can either snack on raw or quickly steam for a side dish. Keep carrot sticks and celery sticks in a bowl of water in the fridge (keeps them fresh!), and let the kids help themselves when they need a snack.
Go with salad. Making a big raw salad is much quicker than any other side dish you can possibly think of! And if you have some leftover protein, voila, there’s a quick dinner!
Plan ahead. This would arguably be the number one shortcut when it comes to getting dinner under control. Planning your meals for the week puts you in complete control of the dinner table. We created the original meal-planning service on the Internet with our Menu- Mailer. We provide you with a menu for the week, along with recipes and shopping lists! This is going to change your life! Check it out and see why tens of thousands of people are hooked on this service!
By: Leanne Ely
It can happen to the best of us—a healthy eating regimen completely derails for whatever reason. Life is hard! Things happen. People get sick, work gets chaotic, life just gets out of control from time to time and with that, one of the first things to go by the wayside is often proper meal prep. Without a plan for dinner, we turn to take out or fast food which are just not good ways to feed your family.
When you end up skidding off course for a couple of days it’s easy to let that stretch into weeks. People tell themselves that it’s too late now, they’re so far off track there’s no getting back on. This is the wrong way to look at things. One or two bad days doesn’t equate to a week-long fail! You have to get back on track and forgive yourself. But how about putting a system in place so that this derailment of your healthy lifestyle doesn’t happen in the first place?
The following suggestions will help you to keep yourself (and your loved ones) on the straight and narrow when it comes to your dinner choices!
Prep ingredients. One of the major reasons for getting off track with our eating is because we don’t prep ahead of time. If you chop your veggies when you bring them home, that prep is done for you when you go to make supper. When you bring home a package of chicken breasts, slice them up before putting them in the fridge or freezer. Portion out your ground beef and freeze in individual portions. Do as much of this prep work as you can in advance so that meals can come together much more quickly.
Freezer meals. We have a ton of freezer menus on our website that are absolute life savers for busy families. Again, when we’re busy, we tend to let nutrition take a back seat. Our freezer menus allow you to do all of your meal prep at once so that you have a great selection of meals to cook up fresh when your schedule is chaotic. Having some fabulous freezer meals on hand is a real gift when you need to get something on the table fast. It’s like reaching for a frozen entree, only without the chemicals, sodium and preservatives!
Use the slow cooker. I swear, that little appliance in your cupboard can add years to your life! I could not function nearly as efficiently in the kitchen without my slow cooker to help me on crazy days and I encourage you to use yours often. Again, throwing something in the slow cooker in the morning when you know supper is going to be crazy is just a wise thing to do and it will help prevent you from calling the local pizza place on those frantic days.
Plan ahead. Thousands of families around the world can attest to the fact that Menu-Mailer helps them to keep their kitchens running smoothly. Every week our Menu-Mailer members receive a complete set of recipes for the week including serving suggestions, nutrition information and the all-important shopping lists.
In 2001, I created the original Menu-Mailer (don’t be fooled by imitators!). We’re famous for our simple, nutritious, everything-done-for you, menus. I always say the only thing I won’t do for you is shop, chop or cook—but I will plan some fabulous meals for you!
Getting off track isn’t the end of the world, but it can feel that way! We can help get you back on track with a great meal plan and plenty of support! Try our Spring 30 Day Paleo Challenge today and see what I mean. Our private Facebook group will help you get back on track, stat! But don’t delay, the Spring Challenge goes away in a few days!
By: Leanne Ely
Chicken breasts are a great starting point for a delicious and healthy meal. They’re a very lean source of protein and an excellent item to serve to your family on a regular basis.
And I promise you that there’s an endless number of ways you can cook chicken breasts so that you don’t end up boring everyone to death with a plain, unappetizing, dried out hunk of poultry!
The following is a list of ten different ways you can serve chicken breasts so that you keep things interesting in the kitchen!
Kabobs. I’m not sure why it’s so much fun to eat meat on a stick but it is! Kabobs are simple. Cut your chicken breasts in chunks and marinate them for a few hours in your favorite spices and yogurt or coconut milk. Thread them onto stainless steel skewers (or wooden skewers that have been soaked in water for at least 30 minutes) and grill! Some folks like to put veggies on their chicken kabobs, but I highly recommend doing your meat and veggies separately. Why? Because the veggies get burnt to heck waiting for your meat to cook, that’s why 🙂
Stir fry. A staple in my home! What could be easier than chasing some chicken strips and colorful veggies around the pan? There are a million ways to make a stir fry, so I recommend experimenting with sauces and veggie combinations until you nail one that your family loves.
Salad. I particularly like making salads with leftover chicken breast on top. Start with a big bowl of greens and top with your favorite veggies. If you’re feeding kids, try letting them top their own salads and spread everything out like a buffet. Try items like avocado slices, diced tomato, purple cabbage, almonds, chicken, bacon, cheese, boiled eggs, red pepper strips—make it colorful and exciting, and let the kids choose their favorite things. Mix up a simple vinaigrette and you have a wonderful meal.
Chicken fingers. I haven’t met a kid yet who didn’t get excited about chicken fingers. It’s dead easy to make chicken fingers at home. Even if you’re gluten free, you can enjoy chicken fingers with your little ones. Simply dredge your sliced chicken in coconut milk and then dip in a mixture of almond flour and coconut. Salt and pepper to taste. Spritz with some olive oil and bake. Serve with a little Dijon/honey mixture. Yum!
Wrap. Paleo, gluten free and low carb folks can all enjoy a tasty wrap! Simply choose your favorite “wrap” alternative, be it a piece of Boston lettuce or a cabbage leaf, and stuff it with your favorite fixings. You can do Fajitas this way by adding some avocado, salsa and other Mexican-style toppings, or just add some veggies and mayo of your choosing. Or maybe do club sandwich style and use bacon and tomato on there (you have the “L” of your sandwich covered with the lettuce wrap). Who’s getting hungry here?
Soup. Soup doesn’t have to be a long, drawn-out affair! You can put a delicious pot of soup on the table in a relatively quick period of time. Take stock of what’s in the refrigerator and use your imagination. Start with a homemade broth (cheaper and easier than the stuff in the carton) and add whatever you like, but always start with onions, carrots and celery for a good starting place.
Sauté. If you cook your chicken breasts on the stove in a mixture of butter and olive oil *just* until they’re cooked, you can dress them up in an endless number of ways. Top them with anything you like, from a simple honey mustard glaze to a balsamic reduction. Serve with a big salad, quinoa, mixed steamed veggies, etcetera, etcetera.
Healthy popcorn chicken. Much like the chicken fingers mentioned above, but made with cubed chicken rather than sliced! Who doesn’t like popcorn chicken?
Pasta. Add cubed chicken to your favorite pasta. Whether it’s classic pasta, a Paleo-friendly zucchini noodle, or a gluten-free pasta of some sort, you can’t go wrong by adding chicken. And bacon—there’s always bacon!
BBQ. Chicken breasts and grill marks just go together so well. If you plan on cooking chicken breasts on the BBQ be sure to marinate your meat in a mixture of olive oil, lemon juice or vinegar and spices. Marinating meat in some kind of acid, plus olive oil before grilling helps to reduce the amount of carcinogens absorbed by the meat through the BBQ process.
Chicken is a great cheap protein—take advantage of sales at the grocery store, stock up and then make some great freezer meals for later!