Freezer Cooking for Back To School

Freezer Cooking for Back to School | MoneywiseMoms

Oh, back to school season. It’s a transition for me as well as the kids. We’re back to the rush of packing lunches, packing backpacks, finding shoes, a new school (for 2 of the 3), homework…

Afterschool to dinnertime is a busy time, even on nights with no extra-curriculars. We have our routine–the kids do their homework, then their chores, and I spend time with them at the table. Most days, dinner needs to be ready or already cooking (love my crockpot meals!).

So what can I do to make it easier? I’m doing freezer cooking to get through the back to school transition.

Freezer Cooking Casseroles for Back to School | MoneywiseMoms

Double Up
I had time last week to make Spinach Stuffed Shells for dinner, so I just boiled the whole box of shells (the recipe only calls for half) and doubled up the filling. I laid the second set out on a cookie sheet in the freezer until hard, then put them in a zipper bag. Next time we want shells, I can just layer them in a baking dish with sauce and mozzarella and bake. No work needs to be done!

This double-up concept works great for any type of casserole or meal with lots of prep–take the time now so you can save it later. My family’s favorites are:

Costco Pork Loin | Freezer Cooking for Back to School | MoneywiseMoms

Freezer to Crockpot
I use a four-pack of pork loin roasts ($1.99/lb at Costco, which is my price point for meat), and put each in a zipper freezer bag with sauce. Each of these can go straight into the crockpot right from the freezer. My favorite four freezer-to-crockpot recipes (you could substitute chicken thighs if you prefer) are:

Teriyaki Pork: Chop an onion and add to the pork in the bag along with 1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1 tsp minced garlic and 1 tsp ginger. Cook on low 8-10 hours. Serve on rice with a veggie like broccoli or green beans.

BBQ Pork Sandwiches: Chop an onion and add to the pork in the bag along with a bottle of barbeque sauce (or make your own). Cook on low 6-8 hours. Shred and serve on whole wheat hamburger buns with a side salad and corn.

Shredded Pork Tacos: Chop an onion (see a pattern here?) and add to the pork in the bag along with a jar of salsa (red or green) or a can of diced tomatoes with green chiles. Cook on low 8-10 hours. Shred and serve with tortillas and taco fixings, or as a “taco bowl” with rice and beans.

Honey Parmesan Pork: To freezer bag, add 1/2 cup honey, 2/3 cup Parmesan cheese, 3 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce, 2 Tbsp basil, 2 Tbsp minced garlic and 1/2 tsp salt. Mix in bag, then add pork. On this recipe, it matters that you defrost the bag before putting in the slow cooker, since you want to be able to turn the roast to fully coat with the sauce. Cook on low 6-8 hours. I serve this over rice with a veggie on the side.

By doing this once a month, I have one pork meal a week ready to go, and if I forget to defrost, that’s okay (except for that last one). They just cook all day in the slow cooker and dinner is ready when we are. Easy peasy.


 What are some meals you like to freeze for later?

Linked up to Whatever Goes Wednesday at Someday Crafts, Fluster’s Creative Muster Party at Fluster Buster, Pinterest Foodie at Real: The Kitchen and Beyond, SITS Girls, Type A Parent Linkup and Yes Works for Me at We Are That Family.

Microwave Creamy Tortellini {Deep Covered Baker}

I’m always on the lookout for easy weeknight dinners, like this Microwave Creamy Tortellini that is ready in less than 30 minutes thanks to the Pampered Chef Deep Covered Baker. If you like my Chicken Tomato Pasta, give this one a try. It’s another pasta-with-veggies-in-sauce recipe, which is a great formula for success at my house. Yours, too?

Microwave Creamy Tortellini
Microwave Creamy Tortellini with Ham & Peas
  • 3 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 3 Tbsp flour
  • 1 garlic clove, pressed
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 8oz ham, diced
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 16oz frozen cheese tortellini
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) chicken broth
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  1. In a microwave-safe container (I use a large glass bowl), combine butter and flour and whisk until smooth. Add garlic and milk and whisk well.
  2. Microwave, covered, on high 3-4 minutes or until thickened, stirring every 60 seconds.
  3. Add cheese; whisk until smooth.
  4. Add ham and pepper to sauce. Mix well, then set aside.
  5. Combine tortellini and broth in Deep Covered Baker. Microwave on high 12-15 minutes or until tortellini are tender, stirring every 4-5 minutes.
  6. Add cheese sauce to Baker, mix well. Stir in peas.
  7. Microwave, covered, on high 2-3 minutes or until heated through.
  8. Cover and let stand 2-3 minutes.


While this isn’t a one-dish recipe (it’s only two!), it’s still weeknight-easy and a new take on mac-and-cheese (which my kids never tire of, but I do). Serve it with a side salad for a great dinner. You can also replace the peas with another vegetable if your family prefers (like cut green beans or fresh baby spinach).

Looking for more Deep Covered Baker microwave recipes? See my DCB Recipes Pinterest Board, where all the recipes I’ve pinned are microwave-only and use whole/real foods:

Follow Gina Lincicum (MoneywiseMoms)’s board Deep Covered Baker Recipes on Pinterest.

Microwave Creamy Tortellini is linked up to TypeAParentFluster’s Creative Muster Party at Fluster Buster, Real Food Recipe Roundup at Musings of a Housewife and Made by You Monday at Skip to My Lou.

Parmesan Tuna Sandwiches

Feeding the kids in the summer is a little easier than packing all those lunchboxes. This summer, I’ve put a different child in charge of choosing and preparing lunch each weekday. My son (10 years old) likes to make these Parmesan Tuna Sandwiches because the prep is easy (just a can opener), and they’re a zesty take on an old standby. What a great way to liven up the a lunch sandwich rut! If you don’t have fresh basil (love that summer garden!), just used the dried spice.

Parmesan Tuna Sandwiches - easy way to jazz up your #lunchbox - MoneywiseMoms

5.0 from 1 reviews
Parmesan Tuna Sandwiches
  • 2 cans tuna in water, drained and chunked
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 6 Tbsp Parmesan cheese
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil (or 2 tsp dried)
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • salt and pepper
  • Bread/rolls of choice
  1. In a bowl, stir together tuna, mayonnaise, cheese, basil, and lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Serve on sandwich bread or roll.


This recipe makes 4 regular sandwiches or 2 giant ones (the way my son and husband like to eat it). I had mine on boring whole wheat bread, but this Parmesan Tuna would also be great in a pita bread or on top of a green salad.


This Parmesan Tuna Sandwiches recipe is linked up to Pinterest Foodie at Real: The Kitchen and Beyond, Real Food Recipe Roundup at Sassy Moms in the City, Monday Funday at Uncommon Designs, Inspiration Monday at i should be mopping the floor, and Made by You Monday at Skip to My Lou. 

Tropical Green Smoothies with Almond Milk

I am a member of the Collective Bias®  Social Fabric® Community. This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper amplification for Collective Bias and its advertiser. #SilkAlmondBlends #CollectiveBias

Tropical Green Smoothies with Almond Milk #SilkAlmondBlends #shop | MoneywiseMoms
Once school gets out this week (finally), the afternoon swim team practice that has caused me so much dinner stress will switch to early morning. Time to switch gears! Now I need a morning kickstart to help us get out to the pool on time. Smoothies with almond milk are just the ticket–lots of fruit, protein and fiber–and I can take them to go.

I picked up some of the new Silk Almond Blends at Safeway last week so I could try them out in my morning smoothies. You’ll find both Silk Almond Coconut Blend and Silk Almondmilk Protein + Fiber in the dairy case. I made a delicious Tropical Green Smoothie with the Almond Coconut Blend, which has 50% more calcium than dairy milk in just 35 calories. It’s also a great option if you are working around allergies, since it’s dairy, lactose, casein, egg and gluten-free.

Silk Almondmilk Products at Safeway #SilkAlmondBlends #shop | MoneywiseMoms
Cutting a mango can be really tricky. This tutorial from SimplyRecipes has great pictures if you need a little help. By keeping the mango cubes and crushed pineapple in the freezer, you can avoid needing to add ice to the smoothie. The frozen fruit gives it just the right texture. Of course, you can always pick up frozen mango in the freezer section if you don’t want to deal with a fresh one.

Cutting a Mango for Tropical Green Smoothies with Almond Milk #SilkAlmondBlends #shop | MoneywiseMoms
Along with the benefits of almond milk, the spinach and mango provide Vitamins A and K. The two fruits add sweetness to the almond milk as well (I always buy the unsweetened version so there’s no extra sugar). I use a single-serve smoothie maker to mix my smoothies. It’s so much easier than a large blender.

Ingredients for Tropical Green Smoothies with Almond Milk #SilkAlmondBlends #shop | MoneywiseMoms
Tropical Green Smoothies with Almond Milk
  • 1 cup Silk Almond Coconut Blend
  • 1/4 cup crushed pineapple
  • 1/4 cup frozen mango
  • 1/2 cup fresh spinach
  1. Add Almond Coconut Milk, pineapple and mango to blender and blend to break up icy chunks.
  2. Add spinach and blend again.

I’ve been enjoying this simple smoothie a few mornings a week, and it helps feel full as well as get some calcium, fruit and fiber in my day.

Head to the Silk website for a great Pina Colada Smoothie recipe, among others. It sounds delicious! You can also connect with Silk on Facebook to print money-saving coupons.

Do you make smoothies with almond milk? What’s your favorite recipe?

Linked up to Real Food Recipe Roundup at Sassy Moms in the City, Pinterest Foodie at Real: The Kitchen and Beyond and Made by You Mondays at Skip to my Lou.

Super Summer Salads {Cold Dinners for Busy Weeknights}

Super Summer Salads - roundup of easy, cold salad dinners for busy families - MoneywiseMoms
Summer swim team has started, which means lots of eating on the run–either out at away meets or spending hours at the home pool. Rather than spend lots of money at snack bars and overdo it on unhealthy foods, the kids and I searched on Pinterest for some new-to-us cold salad recipes that we can prep in the morning and pack to take for dinner. We love our old standby, the Spinach & Feta Pasta Salad, but we’re eager to try something new. These Super Summer Salads look great!

Summer Broccoli Salad from That's So Michelle | Super Summer Salads | MoneywiseMoms
Summer Broccoli Salad from That’s So Michelle

The sweet & sour dressing soaks in when you chill this salad ahead of time, so make it the night before or early in the morning for a crunchy, delicious dinner by the pool.

Fresh Summer Quinoa Salad from Hungry Couple | Super Summer Salads | MoneywiseMoms
Fresh Summer Quinoa Salad from Hungry Couple

This has all the flavors my kids love–chickpeas, cucumbers and salty feta cheese, with a light homemade dressing to pull it all together. Yum!

Summer Orzo Salad from Oh My Veggies | Super Summer Salads | MoneywiseMoms
Summer Orzo Salad from Oh My Veggies

So simple, and with kid-favorite green beans plus garden tomatoes and orzo pasta. This would be good both warm and cold. Can’t wait to try it!

Creamy Asian Slaw from Mommy Moment | Super Summer Salads | MoneywiseMoms
Creamy Asian Slaw from Mommy Moment

Love the pizzazz of the dressing, made with almond milk and apple cider vinegar. If you have leftover grilled chicken, put a few slices on top for protein.

BLT Chopped Salad from How Sweet It Is| Super Summer Salads | MoneywiseMoms
BLT Chopped Salad from How Sweet It Is

You had me at bacon. This chop salad also includes lettuce, arugula, corn and avocado–a fabulous medley of flavors–with a simple olive oil & lime dressing.

Summer Pasta Salad: Potluck Style from The Messy Baker| Super Summer Salads | MoneywiseMoms
Summer Pasta Salad: Potluck Style from The Messy Baker

I love this pasta salad recipe because it sets you up for many successful salads this summer. “Potluck style” means using whatever leftovers you have in the fridge–bits of meat, cheese, beans, veggies, etc.–and tossed with some salad dressing. If you need to, follow the recipe, but teach yourself to let go and experiment a bit.


For more easy family meals, read Get Dinner on the Table FAST. I also have more delicious salad recipes pinned to my Salads & Veggie Sides Pinterest Board.


Super Summer Salads is linked up to Pinterest Foodie at Real: The Kitchen and Beyond, Fluster’s Creative Muster Party at Fluster Buster and Made by You Monday at Skip to My Lou.

Super Easy 5-Ingredient Red Potato Salad

Need a super easy recipe for your next barbeque or potluck? How about this 5-Ingredient Red Potato Salad–with favorite flavors like bacon and ranch. It’s the summer version of a loaded baked potato, and it’s the perfect side dish for grilled chicken, fish, or even burgers.

Super Easy Red Potato Salad #recipe that has just 5 ingredients | MoneywiseMoms

5.0 from 1 reviews
Super Easy 5-Ingredient Red Potato Salad
Serves: 6-8
  • 3 lbs red potatoes, scrubbed and cubed
  • 1/2 lb bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 4 green onions, trimmed and sliced (both white and green parts)
  • 3/4 cup Ranch dressing
  • 3/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
  1. Boil potatoes in salted water until cooked, about 15 minutes.
  2. Drain potatoes and move to serving bowl.
  3. Add ranch and toss gently.
  4. Add bacon, green onions, and grated cheese and toss again.
  5. Serve either warm or chilled.

I find the potatoes cook faster if I cube them first (large-sized chunks), then boil. If you’re not a fan of bottled ranch dressing, you can make your own with buttermilk and mayonnaise. Try this homemade ranch dressing recipe from Daily Rebecca.

These flavors go so well together. I’d love to know if you give this recipe a try. Just leave a comment below!


This 5-Ingredient Potato Salad is linked up to Inspire Me Wednesday at Mama Buzz, Pinterest Foodie Linky Party at A Life in Balance, Hearth & Soul Hop at Premeditated Leftovers, Too Cute Tuesday at Funky Polkadot Giraffe, Fluster’s Creative Muster Party at Fluster Buster and Real Food Recipe Roundup at Sassy Moms in the City. 

Homemade Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing (and Giveaway)

Homemade salad dressing?! Are you nuts?! I don’t have time for that. 

I said that for years. Now I make it all the time and don’t think twice about it. Homemade dressing tastes SO much better. Plus there’s no chemical additives, no corn syrup, no MSG, no 20+ ingredients on the label. Just 8 real food ingredients I keep in my kitchen anyway. My family loves this Homemade Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing, and I think yours will, too. With summer veggies coming into season, backyard gardens prepping for harvest, and lots of potlucks in your future, now is a great time to add this deliciously easy recipe to your repertoire. This vinaigrette is also great drizzled over grilled or roasted veggies like asparagus or zucchini, and it makes a great marinade for grilled chicken or pork.

Homemade Balsamic Vinaigrette #realfood #recipe | MoneywiseMoms

5.0 from 1 reviews
Homemade Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar (I use Trader Joe's)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 pressed garlic cloves
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 cup olive oil
  1. Combine all ingredients in plastic or glass container.
  2. Shake or stir to combine, especially just before pouring.

You can make this dressing in any plastic or glass container, even a mason jar. After years of saying “I should make my own dressing,” it was a simple tool that finally got me to do it: the Pampered Chef Measure, Mix & Pour, with four different dressing recipes printed right on the container. Seriously easy. Now I have absolutely no excuse! Even my kids can follow the directions on the side and be proud of their dressing at the table. I love that it’s dishwasher-safe, so after storing it in the fridge door till we run out, I just run it through the dishwasher and we make a new batch.

Homemade Balsamic Vinaigrette #realfood #recipe | MoneywiseMoms
I love it so much that I bought two–so there’s one to give away! One lucky MoneywiseMoms reader will win a PC Measure, Mix & Pour, courtesy of me.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
If you’re reading this in an email or RSS feed, you may need to click over to MoneywiseMoms to use the Rafflecopter entry form (which you should see above–if not, click on “a Rafflecopter giveaway.” This giveaway ends Monday, June 16th,  when I’ll email the winner, who has 48 hours to respond with their mailing address to claim the prize. Thank you for reading MoneywiseMoms, and good luck!


Homemade Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing is linked up to Real Food Recipe Roundup at Musings of a Housewife, Fluster’s Creative Muster Party at Fluster Buster, Thrifty Thursday at Living Well Spending Less, The Party Bunch Linky Party at The Idea Room and Pinterest Foodie Linkup at Real: The Kitchen and Beyond.


Disclosure: I am providing the prize for this giveaway myself, as a big fan of Pampered Chef products. 

Get Dinner on the Table Fast

Here we go! Swim practice starts afterschool today, so I’m at the pool for several hours right up till dinnertime. Does healthy eating, meal planning, and saving money go out the window for the next four weeks? No way! It’s just a matter of using some smart strategies to get dinner on the table FAST. Whether your sport is swimming, soccer, baseball, or something else, these cooking strategies can help you feed the family and stick to your goals:

Get Dinner on the Table Fast | Strategies to feed your family on busy sports nights or so you can stay at the pool | MoneywiseMoms
Slow Cooker Dump Meals

Try any of my 5 Beginner Crockpot Meals as a simple solution to a busy weeknight. It doesn’t take much time to put frozen or thawed chicken or pork in the crockpot and dump a jar of salsa or a can of diced tomatoes over it. Prep the rest of the taco fixings while the kids are unpacking their sports bags and/or showering. You can even prep these meals ahead of time and freeze in zipper bags. Dump the bag in frozen to cook on low all day, and still pull off a home-cooked meal by dinnertime. That’s what I did this morning: I pulled some frozen Chicken Teriyaki out of the freezer and loaded my slow cooker. Over breakfast, I cooked some brown rice, which I’ll just reheat in the microwave this evening. Later this week, I’ll do the same with frozen Pulled Pork for sandwiches, and serve with buns and some carrots and celery on the side.

One Pot Meals to get dinner on the table fast | MoneywiseMoms
One Pot Wonders

I’ve always liked one-pot meals, like my Turkey Parmesan Pasta, that cooks all at once in a half-hour. Now I’m trying some new recipes called One Pot Wonders from Pinterest. I believe that this One Pot Wonder Tomato Basil Pasta is the original recipe that started the trend. Since then, more have popped up, like the One Pot Wonder Chicken Lo Mein. I was very skeptical it would work, but it totally did! You basically throw everything in the pot (I use my 5-quart skillet with lid) and walk away till it’s done. It doesn’t get any easier than that!

Cold Salads help you get dinner on the table fast | MoneywiseMoms
Cold Salads

My kids have been raised on pasta salads and the idea that chicken on top of green salad is a meal (my husband still fights that one). Whether you prep the salad the night before, early in the morning, or right at dinnertime, it’s quick to pull odds & ends out of the fridge and toss with some lettuce or pasta for a healthy meal. Our go-to recipe is Spinach Feta Pasta Salad, but we’ve been poking around on Pinterest looking for some new flavor combinations. This Italian Quinoa Salad and BLT Chopped Salad sound great and include all the veggies and extras that my family loves.

What’s your favorite strategy to get dinner on the table fast?

Teriyaki Chicken Pitas {Microwaved in the DCB}

I’m back with another recipe for the Deep Covered Baker from Pampered Chef–these yummy Teriyaki Chicken Pitas–cooked in the microwave. I have a goal this year to get a repertoire of 10 DCB recipes that I use regularly. They will be a huge time & stress saver as we are heading into summer swim team season. We’ll be at practice daily from 4-6, so I’ll be prepping dinner while the kids are unpacking and showering as we come in the door.

If you don’t have a DCB, yes, you can make this is a skillet. But the point of the DCB is to be able to prep the food and let it cook while you’re doing other things, not standing at the stove. For an easy, stovetop one-pot meal, go try my Turkey Parmesan Pasta. And for all you mamas who have a deep covered baker sitting in the cupboard that doesn’t get used (ahem–hence my goal for the year), enjoy!

Teriyaki Chicken Pitas | Microwave DCB #recipe #realfood | MoneywiseMoms
Teriyaki Chicken Pitas {Microwaved in the DCB}
Serves: 4-6
  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 onion
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 8 oz white mushrooms
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch
  • Sliced Provolone cheese
  • Whole wheat pita breads
  1. Coarsely chop onion and peppers and place in baker.
  2. Lay chicken breasts on top and sprinkle with ginger, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.
  3. Cover and microwave on high for 12-14 minutes or until chicken is done (I use a digital thermometer to check).
  4. Drain liquid from baker, then chop chicken and vegetables with kitchen shears.
  5. In small bowl, combine soy sauce and cornstarch. Add to baker and combine well. Heat for 2 more minutes.
  6. Fill each pita with slice of cheese and chicken mixture. Serve immediately.

I slice the pitas in half and stuff each with a slice of cheese before serving this to the family. They love it!

Try my other microwave Deep Covered Baker Recipes:

and follow my Deep Covered Baker Recipes Pinterest board.


Linked up to Real Food Recipe Roundup at Sassy Moms in the City, Whatever Goes Wednesday at Someday Crafts, Inspire Me Wednesday at Mama Buzz, Fluster’s Creative Muster Party at Fluster Buster, and Pinterest Foodie at Real: The Kitchen and Beyond.