Tag Archives: Money-Savers

Do-It-Yourself Oatmeal

5 Jan

Do-It-Yourself Oatmeal

I’m finally back from my annual Christmas pilgrimage to Florida.  Indianapolis welcomed us home with several inches of snow.  Upon exiting the airport, my son acted just like a Floridian getting all excited about the tiny drifts of snow along the edge of the parking garage.  It was very amusing!  I, on the other hand, could not get to the car- and its heated seats- fast enough.

During these cold winter months, a warm breakfast makes all the difference to me as I get ready to face the elements for which my childhood in Florida never prepared me.  One of the quickest routes to a hot morning meal is a single serve packet of oatmeal.  I have consumed them for years, never questioning my choice.

Until recently, when I was challenged to make them myself.  It was one of those a-ha/duh moments for me!  Similar to other homemade foods (think microwave popcorn in brown paper bags), making your own packets of oatmeal is both money and nutrition savvy.  Thus my motivation for sharing the idea with you.

Here’s how it’s done (thanks to this blog):

1. Start with a container of quick oats and snack size resealable bags.  Scoop 1/3 cup into each bag.  My 18 ounce container of oatmeal made 18 packets.

Oatmeal Packets

Note: One third cup is pretty much what you get in the prepackaged bags and is usually just the right amount for me.  But the beauty of doing it yourself is that you can adjust the serving size.  If you’re making these for small kids, then 1/4 cup might be enough.  Or if someone in your family has a more hearty appetite, you may want a half cup of oatmeal per bag.

Freeze Dried Fruit2. Select a flavor.  Brown sugar is an obvious choice, but I also enjoy fruit flavors.  To accomplish this, I purchased dried fruit in the baby food section of my grocery store and it worked beautifully!  Here are the flavors I’ve tried so far:

Maple and Brown Sugar- add 1 tablespoon of brown sugar.  After cooking, add dash of maple syrup.

Apple Cinnamon- add 1 tablespoon of dried apples and 3/4 teaspoon of cinnamon sugar.

Strawberries and Cream- add 1 tablespoon of dried strawberries (blueberries, peaches, etc work too!), 1 teaspoon of powdered milk, and 1 teaspoon of sugar or sugar substitute.

3.  Label and date your bags so you know what you’ve got a month from now.

4. When you’re ready to eat the oatmeal, cook just as you would a store-bought packet of oatmeal- with water or milk.  I prefer to cook with just enough water to cover the oatmeal and then add milk after it’s cooked, but that’s just me!

I’d love to hear what flavor combos you come up with, so please comment below!

DIY Oatmeal Packets

Pork Chops to the Rescue

13 Dec

Honey Garlic Pork Chops- FamilyKitchenBlog.com

I don’t know about you, but during the holidays I especially need some quick go-to meals to feed my family.  I’ll be busy shopping, wrapping, baking, addressing Christmas cards, etc and then at five o’clock suddenly remember that my family needs to eat dinner- oops!  These succulent pork chops have saved me several times!

Whenever the family pack of boneless pork chops goes on sale I buy them and then divide into freezer bags.  They are quick to thaw and made with ingredients I keep on hand.  So, they are easy and cheap! And of course, they’re tasty or I wouldn’t be sharing it with you all!

If you’re really ahead of the game, prepare the sauce the night before or in the morning to let the chops marinate before cooking.  But trust me- I know from experience- it also works to make the sauce just before cooking!

Honey Garlic Pork Chops
recipe from Spark Recipes

  • 1/4 + 1/8 Cup Honey
  • 3 Tablespoon Soy sauce
  • 6 Cloves Garlic, minced
  • 6 Pork Loin Chops, boneless, approx 4 oz each

In a shallow dish, whisk together honey, soy sauce and garlic. Coat chops in mixture. Reserve left over honey mixture for basting.

Now you have options:
1) Place chops on greased grill and cook over med high heat. Baste two times.

2) Place chops on skillet and cook over med heat. Baste as they cook.

3) Place chops in baking dish and cover with sauce. Bake in oven at 350° for 20-35 minutes (depending on thickness of chops).

Pumpkin Tipping

16 Nov

Frozen Pumpkin- FamilyKitchenBlog.com

No, I’m not talking about knocking pumpkins over!

It’s just a “tip” about using pumpkin puree. :)

This is an idea I totally should/could have come up with all on my own.  It was tempting to take the credit, but I will humble myself and admit I had to learn about it on someone else’s blog: scalingbackblog.com.

As you might have guessed from the photo above, the idea is (drumroll, please) to freeze pumpkin puree in an ice cube tray for use in smoothies or recipes with small amounts.  This is also an effective way to avoid wasting pumpkin since not all recipes call for the exact amount of pumpkin contained in one can.

Case in point:  the day I was at the grocery store to buy pumpkin, they only had the large size can in stock.  I bought it, knowing full well it was more than I needed, but feeling I had no other choice.  (It really was a tough decision for me- I abhor inefficiency and waste!) Then, when it came time to bake and I only needed 16 of the 29 ounces, I found this brilliant idea and filled up an entire ice cube tray with the left over pumpkin. It reminded me a lot of making vegetable purees for baby food back in the day!  (Another reason why I should have thought of this on my own!!)

So anyway, I hope you will benefit from this idea that I didn’t come up with!  And maybe someday I’ll stop punishing myself for not thinking of it first!



P.S. I’m writing so much about pumpkin lately that a whole category, or at the very least a tag, for pumpkin is becoming a necessity!

Note to Self

23 Oct

Note to Self

I have a little story to tell:

Back in September, it was yet another day of getting moved into our new house, when our friendly little Boy Scout neighbor caught my unsuspecting husband with a convincing sales pitch.  For some unfortunate reason, I (who normally handles ALL neighbor kid sales) was no where to be found and consequently an ungodly amount of popcorn was purchased.  To be fair, I’m all in favor of supporting Boy Scouts and the popcorn was indeed yummy.  But I’m the only one in our family who eats it.  And once it was in our possession, I certainly couldn’t let it go to waste.

Here is the problem.  The large bag of Butter Toffee Caramel Corn states that it contains 19- 110 calories servings.  Nineteen!?  I’ll just admit it-  I ate it in THREE.  I don’t even want to think about the calories involved here.  But I thought that if I can’t remember my own advice regarding snacking (see previous Snack Attack post), maybe it’s worth repeating to spare someone else from falling into the same pit I did!

So here it is: When faced with a large content of snacking material, divide it up into single serving portions from the get-go to avoid mindless over-eating.  Had I divided the humongous bag into even 12 smaller ones, I would have done myself a huge favor.  Not only calorie wise, but it also would have given me more mileage (i.e. number of snacks per money spent) out of the purchase.  For whatever reason, it’s mentally so much easier to stop eating when you reach the end of the single serving bag, than to stop in the middle of a large portion.

So follow my words, not my example :(  Hopefully this “note to self” will stick a little better this time around.

A New Way to Pop

19 Apr


One of the latest bad boys in the world of nutrition is microwave popcorn.  Supposedly, the vapors released just after cooking can be toxic to humans.  And even though the main culprit- diacetyl- has been removed by most manufacturers, some say the replacement isn’t much better.  Another story is that, when heated, the chemicals in the lining of the bag produce a carcinogen, known as PFOA.  This is bad news for me.  I like popcorn, but not enough to go through any trouble to make it.

Even if you don’t buy into these alarmist stories, there’s another good reason to leave the bagged stuff behind: your wallet.  For a fraction of the cost of microwave popcorn bags, you can microwave your own kernels in a simple brown paper bag!  It is just as convenient, but more natural and less expensive.  It’s a win-win situation in my book.  You may be skeptical, as I was, thinking it’s too good to be true.  So, I will tell you up front there is some trial and error in learning how to season your own popcorn if you’ve never done it before.  But, that’s why I’m here to help!

Microwave Popcorn
from SquawkFox.com

  • 1 Brown Paper bag
  • 1/2 Cup Popcorn Kernels
  • Seasoning

Measuring kernels and place in paper bag.  Fold top over loosely.  Many suggested taping the bag shut, but I found that the popcorn burst through the bottom of the bag if it didn’t have room to go up.  My microwave is just tall enough to contain the popping corn without sealing the bag.  Definitely do not staple the bag when using the microwave!  Set microwave to heat for several minutes, but stay close and stop as soon as the popping begins to slow down to avoid burning the popcorn.

My preferred method of seasoning is to first drizzle one tablespoon of melted butter and then add “Spritzer” butter (available in the popcorn aisle) to help other seasonings stick to the popcorn.  You may want more butter, like 2-3 tablespoons.  Sometimes I season with salt, other times I’m in the mood for cinnamon sugar.  There are all kinds of flavors available at any grocery store, if you desire more exotic tasting popcorn!

Try it, I dare you!  And let me know how you like it!

Snack Attack

22 Mar

Snack Attack

Have you ever purchased Nabisco’s 100 calorie pack snacks?  They do not contain low calorie food; they simply control your portion size!  So, why not do this with the snacks you make from home?  Not only would it help control portions sizes eaten by your family, but would also provide quick options when packing lunches or snacks-to-go.

Re-packaging store bought snacks can also be helpful.  A large bag of chips, for example, is less expensive than the same amount of chips in individual size bags (just don’t spend too much on disposable plastic bags, generic work fine!).  You can make your own 100 calorie packs of any snack you like!  This can also be done for juice: filling a thermos from a large bottle of juice is less expensive and more eco-friendly than buying individual juice boxes.

So, whether you’re looking to control portion sizes, make lunch-packing easier, or save money at the grocery store, packaging snacks in individual portions may be for you!

Here are two of our favorite cereal snack recipes:  one sweet, the other salty.  Both are great for making in bulk and then packaging in single serve portions.  Of course, while you’re at it, we recommend doubling or tripling the recipe to make enough to freeze for later!

Traditional Chex Mix

  • 3 Cups Rice Chex®*
  • 3 Cups Corn Chex®*
  • 3 Cups Wheat Chex®*
  • 1 Cup Mixed nuts
  • 1 Cup Pretzels
  • 1 Cup Other snack (bagel bites, cheese crackers, etc)
  • 6 Tablespoons Butter
  • 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoon Seasoned salt
  • 3/4 Teaspoon Garlic Salt
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Onion powder

Oven Directions: Heat oven to 250°F. In large bowl, mix cereals, nuts, pretzels and bagel chips; set aside. In ungreased large roasting pan, melt butter in oven. Stir in seasonings. Gradually stir in cereal mixture until evenly coated. Bake 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Spread on paper towels to cool, about 15 minutes. Store in airtight container.

Microwave Directions: In large microwavable bowl, mix cereals, nuts, pretzels and bagel chips; set aside. In small microwavable bowl, microwave butter uncovered on High about 40 seconds or until melted. Stir in seasonings. Pour over cereal mixture; stir until evenly coated.  Microwave uncovered on High 5 to 6 minutes, thoroughly stirring every 2 minutes.  Store in airtight container(s) or freeze.  One recipe fills 12 snack size bags or two quart size bags.

*Any combo of the 3 cereals is fine, as long as it adds up to 9 cups.


Muddy Buddies

  • 9 Cups Rice or Corn Chex® (or combo of the two)
  • 1 Cup Semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 Cup Peanut butter
  • 1/4 Cup Butter
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 Cups Powered sugar

Measure cereal into large bowl and set aside.  (Note: One recipe uses roughly two thirds of a cereal box.  If doubling or tripling, be sure to purchase enough cereal.)

In small microwavable bowl, heat chocolate chips, peanut butter, and butter uncovered on High for 1 minute; stir.  If ingredients are not yet smooth, return to microwave for 30 seconds increments until mixtures can stirred smooth.  Stir in vanilla.  Pour mixture over cereal, stirring until evenly coated.

Pour into 2-gallon resealable food storage plastic bag.  Alternately, you can use a 1-gallon bag with half the cereal mixture and sugar, then repeat with second half of ingredients using the same bag.  Add powdered sugar.  Seal bag; shake until well-coated.  This is a great step in which to include your kids! Store in airtight container(s) in refrigerator or freezer.  One recipe fills 12 snack size bags or two quart size bags.

Check out the Chex® website for nutritional information and additional snack recipes!