Money Saver

Canning Chicken

Our friends at Fishnet Ministry ran into a huge problem recently.  They received two shipments of chicken days apart from each other adding up to a total of 63,000 pounds of frozen meat.  The problem for Fishnet was that they didn't have the freezer space for all the food.  Every walk-in frig was converted into temporary freezers and calls sent out to churches and organizations begging them to come as quickly as possible to take the food off their hands so it wouldn't be wasted.  Our family was given so much frozen chicken breasts after working our volunteer shift last week that I had no extra room inside my home freezer for anything else.  What a perfectly wonderful problem to have!  Haha!  So this week I went into "can-everything-inside-the-freezer" mode in order to make room.

Although the thought of canning raw chicken might seem daunting to most people, it really is quite easy.  Honestly, I think it's easier to can chicken than it is garden green beans.  The benefits to being able to can your own chicken are numerous.  My favorite are the quick meal preps when needing diced chicken for a casserole or whipping together a cold chicken salad for lunch.   Just pop open a jar and you are ready to go!  It's the convenience of store-bought canned chicken but way less expensive.  Stock up on chicken breasts when they go on sale (or when given a trunk full!) and save money and freezer space by canning it all.

The "juice" in the jars is 100% chicken broth since no liquid is added before processing in the pressure canner.  You can either use the juice in the meal prep with the canned chicken, or set aside and store inside the refrigerator for 3-4 days.


Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1Prep your pressure canner and lids

Pour 2 quarts of water and 2 tablespoons of white distilled vinegar into pressure canner.  Place lids inside a small pan of water to heat on stove.  Do not boil the lids!

 

Step 2Pack raw chicken

Fill clean, sterile jars halfway with chicken then pack down.  Fill remainder of jar with chicken leaving a 1 1/2 inch space at the top.

Step 3Add salt

Add 1 tsp. salt per quart jar (1/2 tsp. for pints).

 

Step 4Clean rims

Use a clean, damp cloth to clean rims and check for any dings or cracks.

 

Step 5Place lid and band

Place lids on jars tightening with a band.

 

Step 6Place inside canner

Place up to 7 quart jars inside your pressure canner.  Cover and lock lid.  Process quarts for 90 minutes (up to 20 pints for 75 minutes)  at *11 pounds pressure.

*Check your canner instruction booklet to ensure correct pressure based on your altitude.

Step 7Remove jars

After canner has cooled enough to remove the lid safely, take jars out and place on a towel to rest for 24 hours.  Remove bands checking to see if each lid sealed before storing in a cool, dark place.  If processed correctly, canned chicken is shelf-stable for 2 years.  If a lid didn't seal, place the jar inside the frig and use within 5-7 days.

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Homemade Yogurt

If you own a slow cooker and happen to have some plain yogurt hiding in the back of your fridge along with some milk, you're in luck!  You can take the dwindling remains of your yogurt and multiply it into a fresh batch of plain yogurt to be further changed into Greek yogurt, sour cream or a variation of cream cheese (aka Yo-cheese).  The health benefits are substantial and the ways to use homemade yogurt are only limited by your lack of imagination.

The process alone is so easy and only takes up three chunks of time throughout the day (2 1/2 hours, 3 hours, 8 hours).  I love being able to eliminate two items off my monthly grocery list - sour cream AND yogurt.  My brood loves yogurt and typically consumes about 12-24 ounces a day.  I could easily spend more than $20/month on flavored yogurt, so it's a blessing that I can make it from scratch for a fraction of the price and still have yummy flavored yogurt.


Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1Pour milk into slow cooker

Pour 8 C. milk into the slow cooker and heat on low setting for 2 1/2 hours.

 

Step 2Unplug slow cooker

Unplug the slow cooker, leave the cover on, and let sit for 3 hours.

Step 3After 3 hours have passed

After 3 hours have passed, scoop out 2 C. of the warm milk and pour into a bowl. Whisk in 1/2 C. live/active culture plain yogurt along with the 1/2 C. powdered milk.  After combined, dump back into the crockpot and stir to combine with the rest of the milk.

 

Step 4Wrap with towel

Replace lid (leaving unplugged!) and wrap a heavy bath towel all the way around the slow cooker for insulation.  Let set for 8 hours.

 

Step 5Strain out whey

To make either Greek yogurt or Yo-cheese, pour the finished yogurt into a strainer lined with cheese cloth or a thin linen napkin/towel that is placed over a large bowel to catch the whey.  Place inside the refrigerator until enough whey has been strained off to reach the consistency you desire.

 

Step 6Blend with flavors

Blend with your favorite fruit flavors for fruit yogurts or add spices to your Yo-cheese and spread on crackers for a yummy snack.

 

Step 7Store in refrigerator

Store in containers in the refrigerator for 7-10 days.  Set aside 1/2 C. in a separate container to use as your starter for your next batch of yogurt.

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Homemade Flour Tortillas

Whether you’re a taco fan, enchilada lover, or breakfast burrito guru, homemade tortillas are the best way to enjoy your favorites and save a little extra in your pocket book at the same time.  Or simply make them because you forgot to pick up a pre-made package at the grocery store and find yourself on Taco Tuesday without the needed shells.  Aaah!

You can make these in bulk and freeze until you're ready to eat.  Either lay the shells out in a single layer on cookie sheets inside the freezer and once frozen place inside a gallon zipper bag or layer with parchment paper and place inside a gallon zipper bag.  When you are ready to use for a meal, take out as many as you need and warm inside the oven at 225 degrees for 10-15 minutes or place inside the microwave with a damp kitchen towel covering the plate for 1-2 minutes.

The money saving breakdown.... Ten tortilla shells in the store cost $2.99 for the good ones (29.9 cents each).  You get 12 shells out of the homemade recipe.  Compared to the store, the homemade recipe is equal to the savings of $3.58.  If you go the inexpensive generic route at $1.29 for a package of 10, it still saves you $1.54.


Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1Wisk Dry Ingredients

Whisk together all the dry ingredients.

Step 2Add Shortening

Add shortening by mixing in with fingers until you have little pea-sized balls of shortening.

Step 3Add Water and Mix

Add water and mix until a dough ball forms.

Step 4Lay Out Dough

Lay dough ball out onto a lightly floured surface.

Step 5Knead

Knead a few times.

Step 6Let Rest

Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.

Step 7Divide and Roll

Divide dough into 12 pieces and roll into ball (if you want smaller shells, divide into 24 pieces).

Step 8Flour

Lightly flour your work surface.  Flatten your ball into a disk.  Flip the disk over so that both sides are floured.

Step 9Roll Flat

Roll with floured rolling pin and turn disk.

Step 10Cook in Skillet

Place shell in an ungreased 10-inch cast iron skillet (or non-stick skillet).  Cook on one side until it bubbles up some and is slightly browned.

Step 11Flip and Repeat

Flip and cook on the other side.

Step 12Cover Until Served

After cooking, place on a plate and cover with a kitchen towel until ready to serve.  I placed these in a zipper bag and put inside the oven until it's time for dinner.  The steam keeps them warm and soft!

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Homemade Pizza

Until very recently we've been a one-vehicle family. (Que shocked gasps from the audience..) Having only one vehicle meant we saved money - gas, insurance, maintenance, no spur-of-the-moment shopping sprees - you get the idea. However, the biggest downside was that it made getting all my errands and appointments done in a single day. Fridays became "the" day for EVERYTHING outside the house to be done. A typical Friday would start with loading up all the kids, dropping Tim off at work downtown Little Rock, backtracking to Conway to drop off I at his therapist's office for an hour, run to Kroger with the rest of the kids to pick up groceries, swing back around to pick I back up, pick up groceries at Sam's Club, run home to empty out the van and put littles down for naps, and then load everyone back up so we could go back downtown and pick up Tim at the end of the work day. Phew! As you can imagine, thinking about arriving home and fixing dinner with five hungry children and a ravenous husband hanging around the stove was enough to make me sick. Hence Friday pizza and a movie night was born! Pop in a pre-made store pizza for 20 minutes and chill with the fam as we enjoyed a fun movie together. Sam's Club pizzas were a lifesaver for me even though they bit into my weekly grocery budget. Now that we have a second vehicle and the ability to pace out my week better, I've been able to cut out the store-bought pizzas and return to making my own from scratch. Hallelujah!!! Routine is what keeps my life sane, and there is nothing better than not having to guess what to put on the menu for those days. Plus making pizza from scratch only costs around $4 vs $14/week. 🙌🏻 STEP 1 To make one pizza crust mix 2 1/4 tsp instant yeast (1 package) with 1 T. sugar and 1 C. warm water. Let set for a few minutes until the yeast forms a nice froth on top. STEP 2 Add 2 C. all purpose flour, 1 T. oil and 1 1/2 tsp. salt to the yeast mixture. Mix on speed 2 for 2 minutes. STEP 3 Add 1/2 C. flour and mix until the dough no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl. STEP 4 Cover bowl with a towel and set in a warm place for one hour to rise. FYI - This step is completely optional based on how much time you have. The pizza dough will still taste wonderful whether it has proofed or not but won't be quite as fluffy at the end. STEP 5 Punch dough down and place onto a coated cookie sheet. Stretch/spread dough out until it reaches each edge and corner. STEP 6 Top with your choice of sauce and other toppings. (I like to use my homemade spaghetti sauce even though it's not as thick as a pizza sauce. One quart jar is enough to make 4 pizzas.) STEP 7 Preheat oven to 400F. (If you preheat after adding all the toppings it allows the dough to rise a little more before baking.) Bake pizza for 20 minutes or until the top is nice and golden. Remove from oven and allow to cool on counter before serving.
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Canning Homemade Tomato Soup

Canning Homemade Tomato Soup

Got a call yesterday afternoon from my sister asking if I needed any more tomatoes for my canning.  Turns out the Fishnet Ministries located in Jacksonville had received a shipment of 80,000 pounds of Roma tomatoes and had no way of refrigerating them.  A call went out to churches and the general public asking for help boxing up the tomatoes and getting them to those who could use them.  Wow!  FREE tomatoes (as many as you want)!  After ending the call with my sister I immediately started calling around members of my church who I thought would be interested in doing some canning.

E likes to go around quoting, "You don't work; you don't eat!" a lot of times, and today just proved the statement to be a solid truth.  In order to benefit from the free tomatoes, we had to go help box them from 5-7 a.m.  Up at 3:45 a.m. I headed out the door shortly after 4 to be at the Fishnet Ministries' warehouse.  My sister and two older nephews met me there and we all dove right in to help empty as many crates as possible.  It felt like I had gone back in time and  was up to work the 4 a.m. to 1 p.m. shift at McDonald's like I did during my high school years and summer/winter breaks of college. Oh the memories.... Haha!

Fishnet Ministries

The pallets were stacked three high and filled almost every available aisle inside the warehouse.  On the outside, they were stacked four high and lined the outside walls.

We're talking a LOT of tomatoes!!!  In the short amount of time we were able to help, our small group was able to unload 4 1/2 crates which were the size of small swimming pools.

2014-07-17 05.23.20

Here is just a portion of the boxes of tomatoes we loaded up in our vehicles to take home to either can ourselves or give to friends from church.  Can't beat free food!!!

The timing of this blessing couldn't have been better since my mom is here visiting for a few days and was able to walk me through my first batch of tomato soup.  Yippee! :-)  Not that I couldn't do it on my own with her written instructions, but it sure is nice for this auditory and visual learner to be able to do it along side her so I don't make any mistakes.

What you will need to can a single batch of homemade tomato soup:

SUPPLIES

  • 3 stock pots (or 2 stock pots and several large soup pots)
  • Canner
  • Quart jars (approx. 14-15)
  • Canning lids
  • Canning rings/bands
  • Funnel
  • Ladel
  • Long spoon for stirring
  • Knife
  • Juicer (used my KitchenAid with juicer attachment)
  • Long whisk

INGREDIENTS

  • 26 pounds tomatoes (1/2 a bushel)
  • Whole  bunch of celery
  • 14 T. onion powder
  • 6 Bay Leaves
  • 3/4 C. sugar
  • 1/4 C. salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. pepper (more if you like your soup spicy)
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 1 C. flour

Start by weighing your tomatoes to ensure you have the needed 1/2 bushel.  FYI, I looked it up online to find that a full bushel of tomatoes weighs 53 pounds.  Just thought you would want to know that little tidbit of info. :-)  You'll notice I'm not using a fancy kitchen scale - primarily because I don't own one.  Instead a handy bathroom scale will suffice.

After you've weighed your tomatoes, place inside a clean sink and fill with water to give them a good wash.  Using a sharp knife, cut each one in half to ensure there are no bad spots then throw them into the stock pots (dividing the tomatoes between the two pots).

Wash your celery then divide into two sections.  Cut off the bottoms and the ends if they are bad.  Cut the celery into pieces no longer than the length from the tip of your index finger to the knuckle.  You don't want them too big because they will get stuck inside your juicer.   Leaves and all get thrown into the pots.

Add three Bay Leaves to each pot (more if the leaves are small and broken).

Add 7 T. onion powder to each pot then cover and place on medium-high heat to cook.  As the tomatoes begin to cook down, you can begin mashing them to release the juices then turn up the heat.  Don't increase the heat until you have enough juice otherwise the tomatoes will burn!

Check your pots and stir the contents every 15-20 minutes or so to ensure that nothing starts to burn at the bottom.  This part of the recipe takes F-O-R-E-V-E-R!!! :-)  You'll know it's been cooked through when the celery is tender.  To help it cook faster, push all the pieces of celery under the liquid.

After the tomatoes have cooked down, scoop out a cup at a time and press down into your juicer.  It helps to use the mixer bowl to catch the soup in because the handle makes it easier to pour into the larger pot.  Don't forget you are working with hot, hot stuff!

Pour the juice into the third stockpot or smaller pots/containers until all the tomatoes have gone through the juicer.  If you don't have a third stockpot, wash out one that you finish emptying and pour the soup into it.  All the juice will fill one stockpot when you are done.

As soon as you finish juicing all the mixture, get your water canner on the stove to start heating.  Remember to have something on the bottom of the canner to prevent the jars from coming into direct contact with the metal.  I used the inside piece from my pressure canner, but you can use some butter knives, canning lids or canning rings.  Just anything that will elevate your jars.

Whisk in

  • 1/4 C. salt
  • 3/4 C. sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. pepper

and bring to a boil

The original recipe called for 2 sticks melted margarine mixed with 1 C. flour but this is what it turned into....BLAH!  Scratch that one!

Instead I used 2 sticks melted BUTTER and 1 C. flour and got this instead.  Success!  So if you think you can cheat and use the cheap ole' margarine, DON'T. You will certainly regret ruining your batch of soup.

Slowly add the flour/butter mixture to the soup whisking the entire time.  (Now I know why my mom was so happy we bought her an immersion blender for Christmas this past year. Wow!  Talk about an arm workout when using a whisk!)

Prepare 7 quart jars (need to be really hot - like straight from the steam setting on your dishwasher), lids (boiled inside a small saucepan), and canning rings/bands.  Fill each jar leaving a 1/2-inch head space, clean tops with a clean, damp cloth ensuring there is no food or cracks along the surface, then place a hot lid on top and tighten down with a band.  For more step-by-step instructions on the canning process, head over here.

Process in a hot water canner for 20 minutes then remove and let rest for 24 hours before removing bands and storing.  If the lid pops up after you press down on it, it means the jar didn't seal properly so place inside your refrigerator to eat in the next couple of days.

Didn't have quite enough to fill a whole quart jar, so that one will be Tim's lunch for tomorrow. Perfect for a stormy day! :-)

Final Price = $0.31/quart.... Wahoo!!!

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