Author Archives: brandeekins

About brandeekins

I'm a child of God, wife, Mom and step mom of 7 (!), knitter, crocheter, and maker of hairbows and afghans. I am living through heart failure and bi-polar disorder at the ripe old age of 40something. I am a car singer, cupcake baker, Pinterest loving former nurse that takes great pride in her faith, family, and abilities. Disabilities be damned.

Chickens: The Gateway Drug of the Homestead

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Chickens are usually the first animals on a homestead... and for good reason! Eggs are awesome, chickens are fun, and it is the cheapest way to get into raising your own food.

Why Chickens?

Chickens are inexpensive, easy, and productive. They are fun as pets, and entertaining to watch. They eat anything from bugs to leftover spaghetti, and produce (depending on the breed) an egg a day.

Our Experience

Our first foray into chickens was a stop at the feed store where I bought 3 chicks for a few bucks a piece. I set them up in an unused hamster cage, and they did really well there until they were big enough for the big coop. AFTER we bought them, we did the research and discovered it’d be at least 4 months before they gave us our first egg… so we went to auction and bought 3 laying hens for about $12 each.

We really loved our girls, and unfortunately, a house fire made us get rid of them. But… we are ready to take the plunge again! Here are some details for raising chickens!

jaylin big b

Cost (for 6 hens)

We repurposed an old broken dresser into a coop for the ladies, used a new roll of plastic chicken mesh and some recycled building parts, and viola… coop! In total, it cost about $40. We had plastic siding on top for a roof and 4×4 posts. The whole coop measured 4×6 feet. Of course you can buy chicken coops, brand new or used on Craigslist, and they go from $100 to $1,000!

The chickens will need bedding, and hay or cedar are both good choices. We used hay, because it was cheaper and went a longer way.

Our back yard was fenced, and we let them out for a few hours a day to forage for bugs and grass. One thing to understand is that the place that the coop is will look like a post-apocalyptic wasteland in a matter of days!

Setup: coop, bedding, feeders/waterers:                                            $80

Chickens (3 hens, 3 chicks)                                                                   $45

Feed: 50# bag Layer Crumbles                                                             $15/month

Net:                                                                                                             25 +/- eggs/hen/month

carton eggs

It really doesn’t cost much to keep them happy. String up a head of cabbage and they play with it like a tether ball. Freeze some blueberries in water in a bowl and they have a great summer treat that keeps them busy. Give them a handful of meal worms and watch them go nuts! And the funniest thing… chickens eating spaghetti. It is hilarious!!

Other things that you may need are white vinegar, diatomaceous earth, and essential oils to keep fleas, ticks, and mites away.

The Conclusion

For us, chickens really were the catalyst to us wanting to move to the country and start our own homestead. They are so much fun, and useful! But a word of warning… they can be addictive!

Next on our list – we are thinking either a couple goats or a couple pigs. I think that will depend on what type of property layout that we end up with. Long term, we would also like a cow, but we really need to take baby steps!

If you have livestock, what was your first animal? Would you do it that way again?

 

 

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Fancy Schmancy (EASY) Chicken Piccata

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Happy Monday! It was a busy week at our house, even though we were kid-free for a bit of it. Today I’m sharing one of my favorite Restaurant Copy-Cats is Cheesecake Factory Chicken Piccata. This is one of my favorite going out meals!! I More on that in a minute.

One of the crazy things is that my phone got hacked and I lost ALL of my pics!!! We were in the middle of vacation and everything was gone. I was heartbroken!

The downside to losing all my pics is that the only one I have from making piccata is the finished version I shared on Facebook. Sorry! :/

Fancy Schmancy (Easy) Chicken Piccata
Menu Plan Monday

I printed out my (free) Handy Dandy Monday First Menu Planner and got to work.

Monday- Celebrating Glorianas 13th – she picked Chinese! Bourbon Chicken

Tuesday- Taco Tuesday with Sour Cream Rice

Wednesday- Country Style Ribs

Thursday- Fancy Schmancy (Easy) Chicken Piccata

Friday- Crock Pot Beef Stew

Saturday- Baked Ziti with Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

Sunday- Leftovers & Pickies
That’s it for my menu this week. Are you trying something new this week? Share a recipe in the comments!

Meal Planning with Sale Ads

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Meal Planning with Sale Ads

One of my favorite websites for grocery planning / couponing is http://www.truecouponing.com. It’s an amazing site run by Christian ladies that really teach the Thoughtful way to coupon. It’s more about providing for your family than getting more than you should from a store or being greedy. 

Many coupon sites promote “taking” or cheating the store to “win” the coupon game. The way I coupon, the True Couponing way, makes sure our family gets the best deals, while making sure other families get some, too! Instead of taking all 16 cans of Tomato soup for .05 each, take 6 and get a rain check! Other families, and the store, will thank you!! 

Anywho, enough on that. Today, I sat down with my sale ads and the truecouponing.com website to make my menu. I like to look at what are really good deals this week, and make my menu out of that. 

I get $1.99 BS chicken breast and ground beef all the time. they also have a great sandwich combo. Sending my husband in added palomilla… weirdo.

I always have my butcher as my go-to for meal planning meat deals. I rarely buy grocery meats, unless it is a supurb deal. Very rarely.

I have been a huge supporter of my local meat market – Tampa Steak Company. They are the only meat market I have ever gone into without crinkling my nose at that horrible butcher smell! Look around your area for this type of clean, helpful, local butcher shop. They probably have much better prices on meat than the supermarket!

This week, my local market and coupons made spaghetti, chicken and biscuits (or pot pie), and chicken tacos great deals. So, I added them to my menu, with chicken tacos making a double batch so one goes in the freezer.  I looked at what freezer meals I have stocked, and added in chili from there. I also looked at what meat I had in the freezer that should be used soon and came up with a pork roast. And there you have a week of dinners, and one for the freezer!

Friday, my baby turns 9, so he gets to pick dinner – probably shepherds pie!  

Let the sale ads, your freezer meals, and older frozen meat decide your weekly plan!

 

I do my meal plan doodling while waiting for the bus, then I transfer it later. I’m a big proponent of using downtime! 

What is on your menu this week?

My First Printable!

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My First Printable!

I have always admired the printables that are available on so many of my favorite blogs. They have kept me on task, helped me with my finances, meal planning, cleaning schedules, and so much more! I have been in awe of how they are done, because I have only ever made cute little things in Word, but they have paled in comparison to these works of art!

Enter: Pinterest. Specifically, this link that I found there. How to Create Printables Using Picmonkey. I read it, followed her along, and made my first one!

She uses Picmonkey which has a free portion, but the paid bit is free for a month. She also uses Graphic Stock for royalty free photos, illustrations, and vectors. The free trial there is only a week, and you can only grab 20 images per day in the trial. I haven’t decided if I will continue; but $99 for a whole year of unlimited access seems worth it.

Optimist or pessimist.jpg

What do you think? Personally, after the cray of this whole year, I’m determined to see this year out!

Finally, from me and mine to you and yours; Happy New Year! Be safe out there!

 

Freezer / Crock Meal Round-Up

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Freezer / Crock Meal Round-Up

I’ve been going through the CrockPot meals that are in my freezer, and I wanted to give you an update of what we’ve tried so far!

Tonight, I made Cowboy Beans from The Two Bite Club. We enjoyed it like chili, scooping a little with tortilla chips. It was pretty ok. It tasted (and smelled) very much like BBQ pork. I intended to make it with Sour Cream Rice, but that didn’t happen. I WILL make that though…

Everything in the Crock Pot. Be sure to use the Reynolds Crock Pot Liners… they are a major time saver.

8 hours later… Ever notice how a lot of crock pot meals look ugly?

I served mine with some sour cream and colby jack cheese. I wanted to add some sliced olives, but apparently one of the 5 olive snatchers in this house had other plans for them!

After we ate, I went online to see what other recipes there are for this, and many of them include beer or whiskey. Maybe that would give this a little bit of a kick that it needs.

Much, MUCH prettier!

Here is what my freezer inventory is now… Not Much!! I’ve been pretty committed to this whole freezer cooking thing, and I’ve made something in my crock pot at least 3 times each week. I have gone through quite a few of these meals, and some were MAJOR hits. Others had the opposite response.

We loved:

Beef Tortellini Bake – from Kid Friendly Meals at New Leaf Wellness

Chicken Pot Pie from Kid Friendly Meals at New Leaf Wellness. I meant to add the potatoes in the AM, but totally forgot. I diced them up and microwaved them in water until they were tender-ish. I poured the contents into a baking dish and topped with crescent dough. I baked it for the time on the crescent packaging, and it was perfect. YUM!

Turkey Chili from New Leaf Wellness

Chicken Tacos from Stacy Makes Cents

Beef Stew from Six Sisters Stuff (with the request that there be “NO Peas!!”)

We Liked:

Chicken Broccoli Alfredo (with mods) from Six Sisters Stuff. I won’t add the broccoli until an hour or so before my meal is done. It was way too mushy for the fam to like it. The flavor was great, though!

Chicken Tater Tot Casserole from Kid Friendly Meals at New Leaf Wellness. I didn’t add the milk, mainly because I didn’t have enough! I’ll add that on cook day. Next time, I will not add the tater tots to the bag, and just keep them in the freezer in their own bag until cook day. They were a bit unwieldy to zip up!

Beef Strogonoff – Inspired by Baked in the South. Normally I add the meat at the same time as all the other ingredients. In this case, I will brown the beef and drain it before it goes in with the rest. It was quite oily from the beef. Maybe this is why they used meatballs instead?

Cowboy Beans from the Two Bite Club

We failed at:

Ranch Chicken and Potatoes from Stacy Makes Cents. I am pretty sure that it could have been saved if we hadn’t had an emergency that made me a couple hours late to get it out of the cooker.
All in all, I think that the whole freezer/crock pot thing is definitely saving me time and money. It is also saving me some sanity and last minute Chicken Nugget/Mac N Cheese. Of course, it’s also my menu planning that is doing that part!

The Best (Crock-Pot) Spaghetti Sauce Ever

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I have used this spaghetti sauce recipe for many years. It’s easy and everyone loves it. I thought that I had shared it over the years I’ve been blogging, but apparently not!

I came about this recipe sort of because of my Mom. She used to have me stay home to “watch” the sauce on the stove while she ran errands, and it would ALWAYS burn. I don’t have the greatest memory in the world… so it was TOTALLY her fault! Because of this, um, personality trait (?), I came up with a non-burnable Crock-Pot version. This makes enough for a big lasagna and plenty of leftover for a spaghetti night.

Crock-Pot Spaghetti Sauce

2 lbs ground meat (I used pork and beef last night, but use whatever mix you like)

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 onion, diced

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 28oz can Crushed Tomatoes

2 14oz cans Italian Stewed Tomatoes, drain liquid into cooker, then rough chop the tomatoes. I’ve totally used kitchen shears inside the can to do this!

1 small can tomato sauce

1 small can tomato paste

2 Tbsp parsley

1 Tbsp sugar

2 tsp salt

2 tsp basil

2 tsp oregano

1 tsp rosemary

1/2 tsp thyme

2 bay leaves

8 oz fresh mushrooms (or 2 cans sliced)

Add olive oil in skillet and saute garlic and onion for about 3 minutes on medium heat. They will get soft (if it’s burning, it’s too hot!). Add the meat, and brown it until done. Drain.

While the meat is browning, I start opening cans. Add the contents of the cans, plus half of the can of water. Especially for the tomato paste, I use hot so I can get as much from the sides of the can as I am able to.

Cook on low for 6 hours, or high for 3. I add some fresh mushrooms about halfway through the cooking process, but you can also add canned at the beginning.

You could do freezer cooking for this, but because of the grease of the meat, I’d suggest cooking and draining the meat before freezing. The rest can be frozen as is, but since it’s just opening cans, I never really do this. I have frozen the finished sauce before, and it thaws nicely!

It’s a great consistency, not too watery. I hope you love it as much as I do!

 

Menu Planning for Winter Break

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Menu Planning for Winter Break

In our house, we have a couple different schedules to keep up with. Child time-sharing between 3 households, school vacation time, and the added joy of 2 holidays to sort through makes meal planning “challenging”. Yeah, “challenging” is a good word!

With anywhere between 2 – 9 mouths to feed for every meal, it’s a little “challenging” to put it all together so that it makes sense. That’s where my meal planners come into play.

First, I completed the “My 21 Meals”. This is a list that I came up with, using the hubby and kids input, to figure out our favorite meals that everyone likes. Or, at least, most everyone likes. I use this list as a base for my meals, and add in some from a list of “want to try” recipes. Once I try a new one, if we like it, I add it to the big list. Right now, I’ve started on my second set of 21 Meals, but that’s cool! I like how it has a spot for me to show where I got the recipe, and what are some sides we like with it.

21 meals

From the list of 21 Meals, I was able to create a Sample Month (this is the first one, I will make a few so that we have some variety). It’s not complete – it’s much harder to plan for just Dave and I than it is for all the kids. He’d eat steak and baked potatoes every day if I let him!

Monthly Meal Plan #1

I’m working on a collection of “Monthly Meal Plans” that can be turned into any month I choose. This way, all the work will be done when I want to plan a month of meals.

Normally, I create a weekly meal plan jotted in my binder, but because of the 2 week school holiday, I decided to knock both weeks out in one shot. Especially since I had to include breakfast and lunch to the kids as well.

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2 week menu planner

This menu planner, and a ton of other printables, came from www.listplanit.com and It. Is. Awesome. I joined List Plan It through a Homemaking bundle that I purchased a couple months ago, and I am thoroughly addicted. I’ve printed out menu planners, cleaning schedules, chore lists by child age, conversation starters, date night planners, and so much more! One of my favorite goodies on this site is the Homemaking E-planner. It has so much crammed into it that It’s an invaluable resource for anyone wanting to get a handle on this whole home-making thing.

$5 a month for new content every week, as well as access to some great e-books. I’m currently stumbling through the 100 Days til Christmas e-book. I’m kinda behind! They take PayPal, and that’s just a little piece of my ebay and crochet & knit pattern sales for a month. Not too shabby. Also, I am total a list girl!

Now, I’m off to take a peek at the new Blog Planning lists!

 

 

Shopping Spree

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I am in the middle of planning my upcoming 2 weeks of meals. I believe the best way to save money on your family’s food is to plan after you shop the sale/coupon deals.

Today I went to Publix and spent about $108 (I saved $122!). None of it was meat because I get amazing deals at my meat market, and also at Target… who knew? So pretty much, my money today was spent on dairy, a few frozen things, canned veg, cereal, pasta, stuff like that. I also had 2 boxes of gallon Ziploc and a box of Reynolds crock pot liners(wish there were more than 4 in those boxes!) I’d have saved $15 more if my store took a specific competitor coupon… but they are too far to count. 😦

[Target Tangent: If you check their fresh meat, you will find coupons on the stuff that needs to be frozen in the next day or so. You can find AMAZING deals on great meat this way. I bought $6.99 93% ground beef for $1.99 with the $5 coupon on the packages. Also, ground pork for $1.99 and breakfast sausage links for $1.15!]

Anywho, now that I have purchased all of the great deals that I could, I will marry the ingredients that I got with the meat I had previously purchased, and viola… meal plan! These 2 weeks the kids are home on winter break, so I have to add breakfast and lunch for them, as well as factor in Christmas, and an 8th birthday party on Christmas as well.

So, I’ve sat down with my meal planner print outs and I’ll get to work! I have decided to start saving my meal planning sheets, as well as my cook day sheets, so that I can reuse them to give myself less stress on days that I NEED to meal plan for the week, but just don’t WANT to!

Did you get any amazing deals this week? What’s going on your plates?

Long, long ago…

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Long, long ago…

In my past lives… (read marriage), I was a much more prolific blogger. I wrote quite often, I kept a cleanish house, and I was always experimenting with new recipes and cleaning techniques. I either went to school or worked full time for most of it, and was raising 2 boys with my then-spouse.

I felt like I had a pretty good handle on the whole housewife thing. So… I’m digging through those archives to bring old content to life again.

Today’s post is from 2/19/13. It’s funny that I had my first set of Wolfgang Puck pots during that post, and that was one of the very first things I replaced after the fire! My favorite piece of cookware is the chefs pot. It’s a little different now, but it is still a nice big pan to hold a bunch of nice vegetables when you are cooking them down. I use it for a lot of my meals. Added bonus, it cleans really easily and you don’t have to worry about the non-stick stuff scrapping off. 🙂

wolfgang

One of my families favorites is Chicken N Biscuits. I used to strictly use Melissa D’Arabian’s recipe because I feared change and it is really, really good. However, I did some tweaking and came up with some changes.

3 strips bacon, diced (or… 3 finger widths from the side of a frozen hunk of bacon)
2 T veg oil
1 whole chicken, cut up (skin on)
1 T house seasoning
3 carrots, chopped
2 celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 – 3 potatoes, diced
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 C Sherry
2 T Italian Seasoning
1 T flour
1 carton chicken stock
some water – usually about 2 cups

Add the bacon to a med-high pot, stir until the fat is rendered out. Set aside, leaving as much of the drippings as possible.

bacon

Sprinkle house seasoning on the chicken. Brown chicken 2 minutes on each side. Set aside.

chix

Add oil to pot, lower heat to Medium. Add in vegetables, saute for 5 – 7 minutes. Stir in Italian seasoning.

veg

Deglaze pan with sherry, scraping up as much of the browned bits from the bottom as possible. Sprinkle with flour and stir to combine. Yes – it’ll look glumpy.

flour

Add in the chicken stock slowly, stirring and mixing as you to to get some of the glumpy off.
Place the chicken on top of the veg in a single layer, nestling it in as best as you can.
Add in the chicken stock. Add water evenly around the outside of the pot, until the liquid comes up to almost the top of the chicken.

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Lower heat to Low, cover, and simmer 30 minutes. Then uncover and simmer 15 more minutes.
Serve with your favorite biscuits.

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This is really good as a soup the next day if you strip all the meat off the bone, add it into a leftover container with the remaining veg and broth. Mmm.