Category Archives: Food Preservation

Meal Prep: 6 Beef & Pork Crock-pot Freezer Meals


 

Save time and money by creating your own crockpot freezer meals. These easy recipes can be prepped in a few hours and will keep for up to 6 months in the freezer! I stocked my entire freezer prior to the arrival of our daughter and it was wonderful having access to easy prep meals.

Before I jump into the recipes here’s some quick tips and insights to help make this process much easier. Each recipe is designed to feed two adults with little to no leftovers and should be considered more of a main courses rather than full meals in a bag. However, each bag will be referred to as a meal for simplicity sake. I have added suggestions of what sides we serve each recipe with.

Each recipe below will create two bag meals. You can double each recipe to create a larger meal and/or double each recipe to create more than two – two person meal bags. Once frozen, meals will last for up to 6 months in a standard freezer.

Disclosure: These are not my recipes. I will try to find the original recipes and link to it for crediting purposes. I have previously made each recipes and can confirm that they are delicious! Feel free to modify to your taste.

The Day Before Prep:
Step 1: Clean your kitchen and make sure you have a few sets of measuring cups and spoons available to use. You will also need a roll of paper towels, a cutting board, chopping knife and a few spatulas.

Step 2: Review your shopping list and remove any items you already have. Then go shopping to get what you need. For sanity sake, I never do grocery shopping and meal prep on the same day. It just makes for a terribly long day.

Step 3: Clean and organize your freezer and make space for the intended meals. From experience, I know you will need approximately 1 square foot of freezer space which roughly one shelf on a average sized side by side freezer/refrigerator combo.

Step 4: Using a permanent marker, label your gallon ziplock bags with the recipe name, cooking instructions and recommended side dishes. Writing a side dish recommendation on the bag makes meal planning easy since you can just pick which bag based on what sides you have in stock.

Step 5: Lay out all your room temperature ingredients including spices, seasonings and oils the night before along with your labeled bags.

Day of Meal Prep:
I start as early as possible especially now that it’s summer and the days are warming up. Invite a friend over to help, tune on some tunes or open a bottle of wine. I can’t drink since I’m expecting but by all means do whatever makes you the most comfortable even if that means doing this bra-less and in sweats. 🙂

Add all ingredients (minus the meat) to each labeled bag one by one. If you are so inclined you can figure out how many recipes have over lapping ingredients and chop multiple veggies at the same time. For first timers, I really recommend going slow and completing each recipe one by one. It makes measuring a lot easier too. Clean as you go! Use paper towels to clean the seal of the freezer bags from any splattered ingredients.

Add all room temperature ingredients (plus frozen corn, peppers, ketchup and other minor refrigerated items) to all the bags first! Once all bags are done, add the fresh or frozen chicken last to all the bags at once. I prefer to use frozen chicken breasts. This process can take some time so it’s important that the chicken is the last thing you add so that it’s not sitting out for a prolonged amount of time!

Freezing Tips: Let out all excess air. Freeze each bag flat and fold the bag in half on itself to save space.

Cooking Tips: For best results, the crock-pot should be at least half full with your meals so choose the appropriate size crock-pot for cooking each meal.

Pot Roast (makes 2): Divide into two bags
3 T olive oil
2 lb beef roast (any kind, cut into large cubes) or pork roast
3 Cups beef broth
5 potatoes, cubed
3-4 carrots, sliced
Sprinkle of rosemary, oregano, thyme (whatever seasoning you like…make this recipe your own)
Split all ingredients in half and place in bags. Freeze. Day of cooking grab from freezer, pour all contents into crock pot and cook on high 3-4 hours or low 6-8 hours. Add salt and pepper to taste.
We serve this with green beans, a salad and dinner rolls
Slow Cooker Mexican Shredded Beef – Divide into two bags
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3 pounds beef chuck roast or pork roast
1 onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
Juice of one lime (1-2 tablespoons)
1 Tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
Instructions
Mix together the chili powder, cumin, paprika, salt, oregano and red chili flakes, set aside. Add the chopped onion and garlic to the slow cooker with the tomato paste, lime juice, and just 1-2 teaspoons of the spice mixture. Stir everything together until fully mixed. Sprinkle the rest of the spices all over the chuck roast, patting to help it stick to the meat. Place the meat on top of the onion mixture and set cook on low for 7-8 hours.
After meat has cooked, use two forks to shred the meat, removing any large pieces of fat or gristle as you find them. Stir to mix well with the sauce. Cover and continue to cook on low for another 30-60 minutes.
Before serving stir well again to mix the meat with the sauce.  Taste meat and season with more salt to taste.
Slow Cooker French Dip – Divide Into Two Bags
1 yellow onion, diced
2 c beef broth
1/4 c soy sauce
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp.mustard
3 cloves of garlic chopped
2 bay leaves
3 lb beef shoulder roast, trim the fat
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
8 french bread rolls
16 slices of provolone cheese
Instructions
Lay onion and garlic in the bottom of the slow cooker.  In a small bowl combine the broth, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and mustard. Pour broth mixture into the slow cooker. Rub the salt and pepper on all sides of the roast. Place roast on top of the onions and add the bay leaves into the broth mixture. Cover the slow cooker and cook on low for 7 hours.
Remove the roast and shred the meat. Return the meat to the broth and cook for a few more minutes while you prepare the rolls. Slice the rolls in half, lengthwise and toast in the oven until golden brown.
Remove from the oven. Place the shredded meat on the bottom half of the roll and cover with two slices of provolone cheese. Return the bottom of the sandwiches to the oven until the cheese is melted.
Remove and place the top of the bun on the bottom of the sandwich.
Serve with a little bowl of the cooking juice for dipping. Serve with salad or fries.
ENJOY!
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Top 10 Homesteading & Preparedness Books


With Homesteading, self-sufficiency & survival preparedness on the rise; it’s no wonder that so many great books have been published on these subjects. Here is a list of my personal top 10 favorite books to ensure your homesteading library is well rounded and complete.

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Country Wisdom & Know – From the Editors of Storey Books

This book is in my opinion the bible of Homesteading. It boosts a whooping 8,167 useful skills and step by step instruction on various topics including animal husbandry including slaughtering, home brewing, basic construction, maximizing your garden harvest, food preservation methods,  building root cellars, basket weaving, making toiletries, and even home remedies. I think my favorite part of this book is that all the skills and crafts provided are shown in multiple how to diagrams and picture illustrations. If the apocalypse happened and my house was on fire, this would be the one homesteading book I would go in to retrieve. Trust me, you will want this one on your bookshelf!

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The Kitchen Table Book – From the Editors of FC&A Medical Publishing

This book has blown me away. No where else have I found a more accurate and  complete collection of home remedies and kitchen cures for just about every heath and household problem. Packed full of recipes and remedies from helping depression to boosting brain power this book has it all!  Not only does it feature individual fruits and vegetables including their healing properties; it also features a database of healing herbs and medicinal cures.  Each section has several processing recipes for each food mentioned. Healthy fruit smoothie anyone?Super fabulous bonus: Dabbled throughout the book are interesting tips and tricks to common household issues like how to clean a fireplace the right way.

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Made At Home Eggs & Poultry – Dick & James Strawbridge

This is an excellent introduction to raising chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys for eggs and for eating. From hatching to slaughter to carving and cooking this book offers it all from start to finish. With insights and wisdom, this resource is riddled with lots of delicious recipes to inspire the cook in all of us. With vibrant full color pictures and step by step instructions, this is a beautiful addition to any homesteaders library.

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Veterinary Guide for Animal Owners – C.E. Spaulding D.V.M and Jackie Clay

This book is a comprehensive easy to use reference guide that provides everything you need to know about caring for and treating pets and barn yard animals. It covers in depth information on sexing, breeding and disease prevention and treatment. This book has helped me take over tasks that normally require a vet appointment. With this book you can become proficient in administrating medications, assisting animal delivery and much more. A glossary in the back, helps with learning unfamiliar medical terms and procedures.

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The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Urban Homesteading – Sundari Elizabeth Kraft

Despite my disliking for the title, this book was one of my first and has grown to be a personal favorite. It is well written and full of useful information on small scale homesteading. Subjects include how to sell your excess harvest, raising animals for food, beekeeping, utilizing aquaponic techniques, small batch food preserving, soap making, homemade cleaners and my favorite topic: urban foraging. Each chapter includes several bonus tips and tricks to increase your success.

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Extreme Survival – Akkermans, Cook, Mattos, & Morrison

Self-sufficiency in the wild, making tools, self protection and much more – this book covers it all! From how to survive a car accident to assessing dangerous environments, you can learn everything you need to know about survival. Living off the land is one of the key components of homesteading. Living off grid requires skills and knowledge of the environment including possible threats. This book covers topics such as foraging, bushcraft techniques, street smarts, and how to make escape and rescue plans. I highly recommend this book to anyone considering rural homesteading or off grid living. Plus it’s a beautiful large coffee table book that features color pictures and life saving insights.

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The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving  – Elle Topp & Margaret Howard

I can honestly say that this book should be in every homesteaders library! This is by far my favorite cook book. Working on a mini farm, small batch recipes and the knowledge with this book are priceless. There’s tons of delicious recipes from butters to jellies to marinades and oils. This book is an easy reference to process and preserve your fruits throughout the year. It’s saved me countless hours in the kitchen!

soapmaking

Soapmaking For Fun & Profit By Maria Given Nerius

This book is hands down awesome! It’s got amazing recipes with easy to understand instructions and is packed with information on soap making! I picked this book up at a garage sale for a quarter and it’s money well spent! This book will not only help you understand the concepts behind soap making but will allow you to create beautiful and wonderfully smelling gifts for family and friends. You can even make a profit as it teaches the business aspects of soap making. I found this book to be especially helpful by creating lovely soaps that I could barter or trade with friends for their homemade items. This book started my interest in soap making which has since expanded into homemade toiletries and household cleaners.

medical

Special Operations Forces Medical Handbook – Skyhorse Publishing*

Anyone interested in surviving an apocalypse needs this book in their library! This is hands down the most extensive and complete collection of medical information that’s easy to read for the average Joe. This covers everything from medical triage, birthing babies, treating diseases, wrapping wounds and so much more! It’s packed with pictures and step by step instruction to handle the most common elements and beyond. There’s also several handy reference sections for easy look up. I have read this randomly section by section and I’ve learned so much about medical care. In a situation where no doctor or medical professionals are available this book is a potential game changer.

*Disclosure – I’m not a medical professional and this should not be considered medical advice. It’s best to consult a medical professional before trying any medical care from this book. This post is purely for entertainment purposes only.

This concludes my list of some of my near and dear all time favorite homesteading and preparedness books. I hope you found this list complete and informative. As my collection grows, I will be posting an updated version every few years!

If you have any must have books that I need to add to my collection, let me know in the comments below! I’d love to hear which ones are your personal favorites! Enjoy!!!

Introduction of Our Fruit Trees: Part One


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We LOVE fruit trees here on our little homestead! We have lots of fruits and lots of information to gave so for this reason I decided to break this post into two parts. Part 1 will be an introduction to our well established, in ground top producing trees. Part 2 will cover our potted, younger fruit trees we have on the property.

When my husband first moved here there were many trees already in ground, established and produce yearly if not year round. These include a walnut tree, a dwarf lemon tree, two apricot trees, 3 plum trees, a cherry plum tree, a peach tree and two tangerine trees.

The walnut tree (pictured above) is great! It produces a massive amount of walnuts every year! Unfortunately, we haven’t tried to harvest it yet but will when it’s in season again.

Our established dwarf lemon tree produces silver dollar sized lemons. Lots of them! It would take forever to make lemonade but they are great for add a little flavor to a dish or I enjoy using them in my own homemade household cleaners.

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We have two apricot trees, one big and one little. The big one is the heavy weight champion on our property! It comes in at a whopping 75+ pounds of apricots every season!!! The smaller one produces probably around 15 pounds. It’s because of this tree alone, that I’ve mastered making and canning apricot jam! We are still working off 2014’s fruit season even though I make it yearly.  I tend to give away lots of fresh fruit and canned jams as gifts to our friends and family. That’s one of the blessings of this lifestyle. You can be extremely generous with your goods. If you’re interested in my canning adventures, click here.

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Next we have 3 plum trees and a cherry plum! The largest plum tree is our biggest producer. It produces a heavy load of 45+ pounds of sweet, wonderful plums. We don’t can these because for some reason that get eaten way too quickly and are often a family favorite.

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The cherry plum is a special treat too! The cherry plum has a sweet, full taste of plums only slightly smaller with a cherry pit. These are the best to eat right off the tree!

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Rain rinsed ripe and ready to pick cherry plums! So delicious!

Our peach tree is another wonderful blessing. While it doesn’t produce much, what it does produce is amazing! We only get a few pounds per season but every season we consistently get more every year. Go. Peach. Go!

Next we have two awesome tangerine trees. We don’t know much about what type of tangerine they are. They both produce silver dollar sized fruit. One tree’s fruit has no seeds and tastes great. The other tree’s fruit has seeds and tastes even better than the seedless. Both produce fruit literally year round. Here’s a picture of each of the two trees!

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Well, now you’ve got the skinny on our established and producing fruit trees! I hope you enjoyed hearing all about them. Stay tuned for our part two covering all our new additions as well as our top secret best place ever to buy fruit trees on the cheap!

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Simple Fresh Squeeze Orange Juice Recipe


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Fresh squeezed orange juice is a delightful morning treat! The nutritional benefits are incredible and you’ll love the boost of energy that accompanies each glass. Oranges are in abundance right now. Check out our simple juice recipe to make your own!

Need free fruit? Check out our article on urban foraging.

Warning: Wear gloves when peeling oranges! Especially if doing a large quantity! I learned first hand that orange oil/juice burns the skin and changes the ph of your skin to uncomfortable levels. If your skin starts burning or stinging, wash well with soap and water. Rinse as needed. Ice can relieve the pain.

  1. Roll the oranges with your palm to soften them.
  2. Peel the oranges, juice whole or  in large chunks.
  3. Add oranges to blender or juicer. Cut in half if juicing by hand.
  4. Run the blender/juicer. 12 large oranges gives approx. 24 oz of juice.
  5. Let sit for a few minutes to settle, chill & serve chilled!
  6. Add sugar if needed.

Fresh orange juice will separate in your pitcher. Shake or stir before serving. If stored in the refrigerator, freshly squeezed orange juice can last between 2 and 3 days. To keep fresh orange juice for a longer period of time, one has to freeze it.

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Have more than you can use? Oranges going bad? Juice it and pour extra juice into jars. They make excellent gifts for friends, family or neighbors! They will love you for it! Enjoy!

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Gather Healthy Fruit For Your Family For Free


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Every time I go out I’m reminded of the massive amount of food that goes to waste in lawns and yards across America. We see it all the time. Fruit trees with fruit rotting on the ground because no one was there to pick it. Well, I do. I am an urban forager.

The concept is simple. Occasionally my friends, family, neighbors and even strangers will grant me access to their homegrown unwanted fruits and vegetables. Other times I find fruit trees or wild berries on public property. More often than not people have much more growing fruit than they can use and that’s where I come in.

I offer to come harvest whatever they give me permission for and bag it up. I provide my own bags, fruit picker and woman power. I even clean up all the fruit that’s uneatable on the ground and give it to my chickens. They are more than happy to do their part and don’t mind bruised or buggy fruit.

Sometimes people will do the heavy lifting for you! Often people will offer to bag up their fruit and leaving it on their porch for easy pick up. Others will be so willing to pass the fruit along that they will bag it up and drop it off themselves. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to get massive hauls a few times a week like the ones pictured here.

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Note: Be prepared and plan according. Processing fruit can be time consuming and homegrown food goes bad more quickly than store bought.

The benefits of doing this are endless! Since I don’t have a traditional career, this is one of the many ways I contribute to my family’s household. Fruit is expensive and the nutritional benefits speak for themselves. As you can see below it’s very easy to collect large quantities of quality foods for free!

To make the most out of my hauls, I preserve or process the fruit using various methods including baking, juicing or canning. See my yearly canning list for more details!

If you get way more fruit than your family can use; barter or give it to your friends or family. Also remember that ALL local food pantries accept homegrown foods. Search here to find a food pantry or soup kitchen near you!

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To get started, I recommend following these 3 guidelines:

  1. If it’s on private property ask permission! Most people will say “yes” and if you do get a “no” move on there’s plenty of trees out there and people that will give you the green light. Post a request on social media, Craigslist, or NextDoor.com. If it’s public property, go for it!
  2. Only take what you can use! There’s plenty of fruit out there! There’s no use in saving fruit from rotting on the ground only to have it rot in your kitchen. Be courtesy and leave some for others. If you get more than you can use, share it with your friends, family or donate it to the local food bank!
  3. Have fun! It can be hard work, but it’s also very rewarding! Plus you’re getting a work out. Bring a friend or two to help ease the load, and split the rewards. Keep an eye out for public fruit trees on your walks or next trip to the park.

Check out my foraging expeditions here. Hopefully they will inspire you to make some of your own. The potential is limitless.