Stretch Your Dollars by Becoming a Kitchen Magician

Stretch Your Dollars by Becoming a Kitchen Magician

If you’ve ever struggled with having more month than money, you know the value of having a pound of ground meat on hand and making more with less. What if I were to tell you, I could turn a pound of meat into six without sacrificing taste or satisfaction? Would you take the kitchen challenge?

It wasn’t long ago that my family was in a tight financial bind. Job loss and chronic health issues combined to slash our income by 60 percent one year – and we had a baby on the way. We needed to make fast, dramatic changes just keep our heads above water

I read enough to know that food costs are the most flexible monthly expense a family has, so I looked closely at our grocery spending. Here in the U.S., many of us over-spend out of convenience.
I devised a plan to stretch our grocery dollars by making the whole family vegan – no animal products or by-products (yeah, no eggs or cheese) – because animal protein is a pricey commodity. That lasted two days before mutiny ensued. Our 3-year-old quickly became the aunt from “My Big, Fat Greek Wedding” – “What do you mean no meat?!” As for my husband, let’s just say this is not what he had in mind when he vowed “for better or worse.”

If I didn’t want to lose my role as family CEO via hostile toddler takeover, I needed a Plan B. I decided to mix things up, which resulted in Mom’s Magical Miracle. The magic is that the recipe below turns a pound of ground meat into about six pounds of versatile meat filling that can be used in anything from burritos to lasagna. “Meat filling” sounds sketchy but “magical miracle” has mystique.

It’s all in the sales pitch.

The miracle is how a recipe like this can clear the clutter from a mom’s worried mind. You know you’re feeding your family well while sticking within a lean budget. Even if money isn’t an issue, cutting back on food costs allows you to focus finances elsewhere in life like sponsoring a child in need or saving up for a vacation.

Are you ready to create a little kitchen magic for yourself? Download my recipe for Mom’s Magical Miracle today. Try on my magician’s hat and let us know how it works for you and your family. Even better, share photos of your favorite Miracle Meal with us over at the Clutter Free Academy Facebook group. I can’t wait to drool over your kitchen creations.

Tonya Kubo is the illustrious, fearless leader of Kathi Lipp’s Clutter-Free Academy Facebook group. She and her husband, Brian, are raising two spirited girls in the agricultural heart of California. She writes about fighting the demons of comparison, clutter and compulsion on

Recipes to Crave: Slow cooker Smoked Pulled Pork BBQ (A Perfect Father’s Day recipe!)

Recipes to Crave: Slow cooker Smoked Pulled Pork BBQ (A Perfect Father’s Day recipe!)

Father's Day Recipe

If you’re looking for a way to spoil Dad this Father’s Day without spending your entire day in the kitchen, we’ve got you covered! BBQ for Dad, and the ease of the slow cooker for you, make for the perfect celebration. This delicious meal is so simple, you might even have time to make a special dessert or cocktail. Bonus points! (You can thank us later.)

This is a recipe I posted back in 2012 but it’s so good I had to share it with you again (or for all my new friends!).

When Freezers and Slow Cookers Collide

I love when I find other food nerds out there. It is a title I use – and embrace – lovingly. It’s very different than food snobs who want to tell you that you are using the wrong knife or look down their nose at you if your cheese isn’t aged properly. Food snobs can get away with cooking once a week and call themselves a gourmet, but a food nerd is always looking for new ways to make food better and easier – we are the ones who trade recipes at MOPS meetings and steal (with permission) each other’s freezer tips for getting dinner on the table.

Let me introduce you to fellow food nerd Kelly Rankin. Kelly and I met at an event I was speaking at, and we became friends through my blog. Kelly has taken the concept of freezer meals and slow cooking and done a mash up – freezer/slow cooking.

I am also a freezer/slow cooker, but Kelly’s ingenuity of stretching her meals and leaving no leftover left behind is admirable. I asked Kelley to share her plan for using her freezer and slow cooker for maximum savings of time, energy and stress: Some of her favorite slow cooker to freezer recipes are things like soups, stews, and chili. You can double or – in a 6-quart slow cooker – triple a soup-like recipe and, after it cools, bag it up into gallon bags to be re-heated another time.

Slow cooker Smoked Pulled Pork BBQ
By Kelly Rakin

Four Simple ingredients and a day of slow cooking lead to an amazingly simple, economical, and delicious pork BBQ. No smoker needed, and the leftovers freeze beautifully for a later meal. The liquid smoke and beef bouillon are the essential keys to this simple recipe, giving the pork a great flavor with minimal BBQ sauce. Perfect for a large gathering!

Father's Day Recipe

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 7-9 hours

Yields: 10 servings


5-lb. pork sirloin tip roast
2 T. liquid smoke (typically found with condiments)
2 T. beef bouillon (not Broth)
1/3 cup water
Serve with your favorite BBQ Sauce, to taste


Place pork roast in a large slow cooker. Pour water, liquid smoke, and bouillon on top of pork roast. Cook on high for 7-9 hours, flipping roasts once during cooking, if possible, to allow the juices to simmer all sides of the meat. Meat is finished cooking when it easily pulls apart with a fork. Remove roasts from slow cooker and pull pork apart. Return pork to slow cooker and add BBQ sauce to taste, or serve BBQ sauce on the side. Great on sandwiches or by itself.

To freeze: Place cooked BBQ in 1-quart freezer bags, removing air. Thaw, rewarm, and serve. Keeps in freezer up to 6 months.

A No-Labor Meal for Labor Day

A No-Labor Meal for Labor Day

I love a meal that is 95% shopping and 5% prep!

My Labor Day gift to you. Plus – if you have a great, easy no-cook meal you want to share, put it in the comments and I will enter you in a drawing for THE FROZEN GOURMET COOKBOOK. Post your recipe by Tuesday at midnight to be entered.

I’ll pick the winner with and announce it on Thursday.

And I hope it’s the hardest thing that you have to do on Labor Day.

Asian Chicken Wrap Ups

Prep 20 Minutes

Start to Finish 25 Minutes

Skill 1

Cost 3

Serves 4 as appetizers, 2 adults as a main course


2 cups chopped cooked skinless chicken breast (chop up strips from pre-packaged chicken breasts)

3 tablespoons rice vinegar

1-1/2 tablespoons light soy sauce

1-1/2 teaspoons sesame oil

1/4 cup chopped green onions

1/4 cup sliced almonds

1/4 cup crispy rice noodles

Seasoned salt and pepper

1 cup shredded carrots

1 cup shredded broccoli slaw

Four to six butter lettuce leaves

1/3 cup Peanut sauce (store-bought)

1/3 cup Asian salad dressing for dipping sauce (store-bought)


In a medium glass bowl, combine chicken, vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, , green onions, and almonds. Mix well. Season to taste with seasoned salt and pepper. Cover and let set in the refrigerator for an hour.

Add small containers each of peanut sauce and Asian dipping sauce to platter.

On platter, arrange lettuce leaves. Divide up the chicken mixture and place a mound of it on each leaf. Top with crispy noodles, carrots and cabbage. Roll up the leaf and dip in one of the sauces.

Chicken Tortilla Soup Recipe + This Weekend’s Winners

Chicken Tortilla Soup Recipe + This Weekend’s Winners

Bowl of hot delicious spicy chicken tortilla soup garnished with crumbled queso fresco cheese, diced avocado, and fresh cilantro.

So this is going to be a crazy week – followed by another crazy week. I need to spend some time cooking ahead so that the troops around here can eat. Trying to find recipes that will fill everyone up (three teenagers with the appetites roughly equivalent to those of professional football players) is a challenge, but this is one of Roger’s favorites- so maybe your guy will love it, too. (more…)