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IMG_20150622_182817When I got back from Phoenix the house smelled like dirt. In a good way: While I was gone DF had started dozens of seeds in egg cartons and repurposed pots.

The containers completely cover a table in the utility room and a three-shelf unit that has displaced our dining table. We can eat anywhere, but baby plants need the south sun.

After a week of seeing flowers and orange trees and fully leafed trees, I came home to a typical Alaska breakup: gray skies, brown lawns and bare branches. The scent of soil helps make up for that.

So does the Renee’s Garden media kit, which arrived shortly before I left to visit my daughter. The 2016 New Introductions Sampler kicked off a response most Pavlovian. My mouth actually watered as I looked at things like Five Color Rainbow beets, Italian Pandorino grape tomatoes, Ruby & Emerald mustard, French Mascotte container beans and Harlequin Mix rainbow carrots.

 


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th-1I figured that might get your attention. The headline is semi-disingenuous: What you’ll be doing is preparing 10 to 12 meals in an hour or less, but not actually cooking them until you need them.

Specifically, you’ll be turning 48 to 60 minutes’ worth of kitchen work into a dozen future dinners by using Erin Chase’s new FreezEasy meal plans.

Recently I wrote about her Grocery Budget Makeover plan. Chase is the founder of $5 Dinners and a series of cookbooks, and also the co-founder of “The $5 Meal Plan.” This time around she’s created a series of meal plans, shopping lists, kitchen prep tips and videos to churn-and-burn future meals (both meat-based and vegetarian).

Since I know her in real life, I can attest that she dreams up recipes in both the exotic and everyday realms. (Hint: She has four kids.) However, her recipes share several attributes: They are affordable and they are simple to prepare.

Beta testers report that Chase’s plans takes “the overwhelm” out of the equation. You know, that feeling of “What are we (or what am I) going to eat today, tomorrow, next week…?” that can ruin your day – and, maybe, your budget. It can also create an unhealthy relationship with food.

 


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thAs I’ve said again and again, “food” is the budget category over which we generally have the most control.

You probably can’t talk your way into a sizable discount on your auto loan, mortgage or health insurance premium, but a little ingenuity and creativity can whack your meal costs way, way back.

Erin Chase can help. The frugal genius behind “$5 Dinners” and a series of cookbooks, and co-founder of “The $5 Meal Plan,” she has created a new service that combines all her superpowers. Registration for her Grocery Budget Makeover starts Sunday, Jan. 3 and ends Monday, Jan. 11.

Her goal is to “change your mindset and methods of shopping” in 10 weeks. Not just shopping, though; meal planning, couponing and cooking tactics also figure prominently.

This is not some talking-head gourmand who doesn’t understand how regular people (including picky children) cook and eat. I actually know Erin and she is a regular person – a mother of four who avoids most processed foods due to food allergies in her family.


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How to lose weight.

51V5skn-eJL._SX368_BO1,204,203,200_ “Lose weight” and/or “eat better” will appear on many a New Year’s resolution list — just as they did last year, and will again next year. Such plans often gang agley for a number of reasons.

We aren’t really invested in them. We miss our old comfort foods. We don’t know how to adjust the rest of our lives to support a new way of being in the world.

That’s why I’m giving away a Kindle copy of Victoria Hay’s “30 Pounds, 4 Months: How to Eat Well and Lose Weight – Painlessly.”

Her approach is fairly simple: Dieting isn’t something you do. It’s something you are.

“You change your way of looking at food, work light exercise – nothing extreme! – into your daily habits, and learn to eat better food, not necessarily less food,” says Hay, a former journalist and professor and current owner of The Copyeditor’s Desk writing and publishing service.


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th-1We’re in a subzero cold snap that should last at least a few more days. The temperature was eight below when I got up and managed to make it only four degrees above the zero-mark before shivering its  way back down the thermometer.

But I don’t care (much), because the house smells so good.

After DF had his lunch he filled the five-quart West Bend slow cooker with the contents of the boiling bag, some vegetable cooking water from the freezer and the water left from last night’s boiled potatoes.

(That last included little bits of spud because I got distracted and let them boil perhaps a bit too long.)

This time around the boiling bag contained carrot tops, apple cores, the tough ends of romaine leaves, onion skins, potato peelings and a handful of very small, very green tomatoes from the greenhouse project. Although all of the bigger tomatoes and some of the smaller ones eventually turned red after we brought them indoors, the little ones were stubbornly bright-green and beginning to soften. Thus we sacrificed them to the soup and are already dreaming of next spring.

 


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