31 Days of Living Well Spending Zero – Day 6

Well today was a fairly low key day around our house. We headed out for Bible study at a local church. The kids got to play and get worn out – for which I am so grateful – and I got to drink my coffee and share some great conversation. I’m doing the study “Seamless” by Angie Smith that is about “understanding the Bible as a complete story,” and I’m really enjoying it.

Home for lunch – the boys had leftovers and that is something this challenge is doing. Creating leftover users out of our family. I am also finding myself getting creative with what Cashel is doing. Camper goes down first so today Cashel and I have about an hour together alone. I made him a cup of hot cold cocoa and gave him a few supplies on the table next to me. With no guidance he created a “project for Papa” to hang up at work and it was just darling. It’s on the right here. Each piece of green tape holds down a piece of paper Cashel cut himself and had a sticker on it, although it looks like they may have fallen off in the commute. 😉 He created it all on his own.

Cashel’s project got hung up at Papa’s work. When I asked him, “What is on Papa’s wall at his office? and showed him the photo he said…
“The project I made him. Isn’t it wonderful? [insert squeaky “wooonnderfulll” voice here] It’s so wonderful that I made that and he said thank you.” (The voice of this boy – kills me!)

He really is so capable. Now he is asking to do things like this today. He’s growing up and I’m learning to work with the age he is to find things we can do. (While evening applying some preschool principles which is fun!)

The challenge from Ruth Soukup for today was to try making freezer meals. We ended up eating bean and cheese burritos yesterday while watching the Seahawks so I never made the scheduled beef stroganoff. I texted Ben “beef stroganoff or tuna casserole for dinner?” He responded with “beef.” Which I knew he would! SO… I made that recipe – which was a total hit – but in order to not have too much or more leftovers (we don’t need any right now) I cut the recipe in half. We often reference doubling a recipe to have extra but I hear “cut it in half” far less. For us even with growing boys some recipes are just too much food. Fairly easy to do as I froze the other half the ground beef and half can of mushroom soup to use another time. This is a recipe made to be a freezer meal too so I can use it again since it was such a hit with all three of the “men” in my life.

I then set to making the tuna casserole also. The boys slept long so I figured “why not?” I will actually not freeze this since I know tonight we have a busy night where I’m flying solo and can use it. But I can see that this easily would make a great freezer meal and if my men like it I will make it again for sure.

So freezer meals can be tricky.

You really want to use them up, although I find myself almost hoarding them saving them for a “rainy day.” But they will go bad. Plus you want them to be good, tasty that is. Ruth uses these criteria to decide what to make… I love number one because if they don’t like it… what’s the point?

Even though we’re Living Well and Spending Zero, I always use the following criteria to ensure these meals make the cut.

In my house, each freezer meal must be:
  • Deemed delicious by both my kids and my husband (plus additional testers!)
  • Require no precooking (aside from browning ground beef)
  • Freezer friendly (needless to say!)
  • Easy to cook
  • Budget friendly: made with inexpensive ingredients and pantry staples (just one reason these recipes are perfect for the Living Well and Spending Zero challenge!)

I also think it is important to note again that they must be budget friendly. Often you are making freezer meals in addition to your regular ones so you can have them when you need them but who has the extra budget that this may require. I don’t… at least not usually.
I made the tuna noodle casserole with what I had on hand and I’ll share that recipe here.

I got it my friend Sarah, it’s her mother-in-law’s recipe, knowing she had a “Tuna” recipe that she liked. (She got it from a friend) We are not usually tuna eaters and I had two small cans in our pantry. Along with egg noodles that I know are usually used in a casserole like this.

I was gifted a small green pepper from a neighbor (great because I don’t usually have these on hand) and omitted the almonds since I didn’t have those. I think they would be a great addition though. Just had no nuts in the adopted pantry. I also subbed cream of celery for cream of mushroom soup and left out pimentos – we don’t have any and don’t really like them. (See it’s okay to cook with what you have on had. I use the phrase “what’s a substitute for…” in google ALOT!)

I don’t mind doing a bit of prep on the day-of with a freezer meal, but also understand one of the big pros to having freezer meals on hand is for nights like tomorrow when we are busy and I won’t have time to cook. It cuts down on fast food, take out, or spending on a whim in general.

But they must be ones we all like. It takes time and a willingness to try to figure that out.

Here’s to another day of the challenge and almost being done with week one.

What I spent on…
– We paid three bills today. (However, my husband did call and get a discount on one today since our service has been shotty and problematic since our move! Saved us $40)

What I did not spend on…
– We made coffee and cocoa at home.
– Kids and I ate lunch at home. To be honest to have done this for a week is a VICTORY for use. Cutting out quick stops in drive thrus has been a huge (albeit small amounts each time) money saver and I like that we know what we are eating. I’ll be honest… I’ve said for a long time that seatbelts make me a better mom. When they are buckled in we talk, sing, work on colors and numbers, and most some of the time are all a bit more sane. We even stopped to romp in the leaves on our way home while singing “The leaves are falling down…” a song my mom made up when I was young. It made for a wonderful FREE fall memory!

Here are the boys singing…

And the quick video we made to show our cousins in Reno, Nevada what the falling leaves look like in the Pacific Northwest.


– Cashel and I did a free activity at home and to be honest I’m calling this a “did not spend on preschool” moment because we have so toyed with this idea and have not been sure what to do. I feel like he is making some great behavioral and learning progress and this is part of why.
– Missing ingredients in my recipes. I subbed for things, or just omitted instead!

TIPS I picked up on…
– For me I don’t need to do a “freezer meal” day just double a recipe, or put half a regular one in the freezer or make two recipes that are similar on the same day (use similar ingredients/tools so you can use up what you have and not dirty the whole kitchen). Freeze it for later that week or month. One freezer meal is better then none.
– Ask friends for tried and true recipes. You know the ones they rave about or you have eaten that they have cooked and are spot on! It’s hard to try all recipes or variations yourself so call on a trusty tastebuded friend.

Signing out of day 6!


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    1. Thanks Lauren. I so appreciate your encouragement. I just updated to include a photo of the "project" Cashel made for Ben. You should take a look! So cute.

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