Category Archives: Frugality

Mama Life Hacks {#14}: Batch Cooking Chicken Breast

So, there are times that I hesitate to post something because all I can think is: EVERYBODY already knows this, Abbie. It’s just too, too obvious.

And for many of you, today’s #mamalifehacks tip will be. My apologies ahead of time. Feel free to click away to the weather or something equally scintillating.

But I’ve had enough of a, “Why didn’t I think of that!?” reaction in both real life and blog life to this idea any time it comes up that I figured it was worth posting at least once, especially considering the fact that there are a good number of you participating in our healthy eating/drinking challenge.

So, WHAT IS IT, Abbie? Enough blathering, for the love!

My big fat (skinny?) tip for today is to cook chicken breast in big batches at the beginning of the week so that, on those days when you’re stumped/too tired to think about dinner, you don’t really have to.

Because SURELY there’s something you can make with pre-seasoned, pre-cooked chicken breasts!

Off the top of my head, I can name: chicken + veggie stir fry, Chipotle-style chicken + rice bowls, chicken pot pie, ANY kind of chicken + pasta, chicken fajitas, chicken lettuce wraps, King Ranch chicken, chicken salad…

Get the idea? If it has the word “chicken” in it, then you can probably use chicken breast from your pre-cooked batch to make it.

Of course, this hack isn’t just for those weeks when you haven’t planned ahead. There have been puh-lenty of times that I have planned 3-4 of our family dinners around the fact that I am cooking a huge batch of chicken at the beginning of the week.

As we’re doing our 14 day cleanse,  (Y’ALL! I’m so proud of all of you for jumping in like you did! This is so fun! The Facebook Page is hoppin’! If you’re still interested, don’t hesitate to join in!) it’s really important that I have healthy options on hand so that I don’t get discouraged or distracted or just plain devour-some (sorry, not a word; I didn’t want to ruin the alliteration).

But, whether you’re adhering to a special diet or not, I think all of us busy women could use a little help in the meal-planning department.

And I’m here to tell you that, if you’ve got 30 minutes on your Monday (only 5-10 of those have anything to do with prep; the rest is oven time), then you can get yourself set for the week with delicious, pre-cooked chicken that is SO much cheaper and better than that grisly, rubbery stuff they sell in bags in the freezer section.

So, what do you do?

Hope you have  a pen and notepad ready because it’s super complicated.

No, it’s not. And that’s the beauty!

::STEP 1::

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit

::STEP 2::

Butterfly your chicken breasts. Note: this step is totally optional, but I always do it because it means that my meat cooks more quickly and that there’s more seasoning on each piece.

::STEP 3::

Arrange butterflied chicken breasts on a jelly roll pan (cookie sheet with a lip) and sprinkle generously with Lawry’s Perfect Blend Chicken Rub (I buy mine in the huge containers from Sam’s, but that link is for Amazon).

batch chicken1

::STEP 4::

Cook for approximately 23-26 minutes or until juices run clear and no pink remains in the meat. This is the part where I’m supposed to tell you to use a meat thermometer, and YES! You totally should. TOTALLY. But…I don’t. So, there’s that.

batch chicken2

::STEP 5::

Allow chicken to cool on pans, then place in gallon plastic bags and store in the fridge. Mandy did a really similar post to this one ages ago, and she freezes hers and says it still turns out great when thawed.

::STEP 6::

Pull out of fridge and dance with it around the kitchen when you realize that you forgot to plan dinner but you have cheese in the fridge and tortillas in the pantry, so…QUESADILLAS FOR EVERYONE!

Shoo husband away when he sticks head quizzically in the door to ask why you’re so excited about quesadillas.

High-five yourself on your super-mom levels of preparedness.

batch chicken

Ahem.

Just me?

Okay. I’m good with that.

And for all my clean-eating homeys…don’t get any ideas about cheese and tortillas. BUT! This hack will still serve you well on your clean-eating quest.

No go eat some lettuce!

Got any #mamalifehacks to share with me? I’m listening!

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A Tale of Two (well, technically three) Couches

For as long as I can remember (well, at least as long I’ve been interested in decorating and design), I’ve had this thing for tufted furniture. We’re not going to call it an obsession or anything cray-cray like that, but I was always inexorably drawn to every tufted wingback at Goodwill, no matter how battered. My knees get a little jelly-ish at the sight of a worn-in tufted leather sofa, and my DIY Tufted Ottoman is still the most pinned item I’ve ever made.

It’s real love, folks.

So, you can just imagine how my heart went pitter-patter when I did a rather lazy craigslist search for “Tufted Chesterfield sofa” one day–expectations extremely low–and an entry popped up that looked–if not promising–possible.

couch

It was a dark, grainy, ugly-McAwful picture of TWO linen tufted Chesterfield sofas in a drab furniture store showroom. But despite the picture’s ick factor, I could see the potential. Especially when I looked them up and discovered they were the well-reviewed Gordon Tufted Sofa, 32″HX91X38″D, NATURAL LINEN that Amazon carries for $1,200.

The furniture dealer was only asking a little over 1/3 of that price, and the listing was 2 weeks old, so I was sure it was already sold, but when I called, it was still available.

HUZZAH for terrible, dark, grainy, ugly-McAwful pictures that had most assuredly scared off all of the other potential buyers!

We emailed back and forth and exchanged a few phone calls, and that Saturday evening, after we had attended a birthday party for Shaun’s family, halfway to Dallas, we ended up driving the rest of the way up there to see the couches in person.

couch1

The showroom wasn’t much better in person than it was in the pics. It was in a strip of “furniture outlets,” and I couldn’t quite tell what I thought of the couches at first because their surroundings were–ahem–not quite my style.

When I’d first called, I had discovered that not only did he have the two full-sized couches, but he also had one matching love seat.

Sadly, when we got there, we discovered that the love seat had two little slits in the right arm from careless box-opening techniques.

Not that that was going to stop me.

And so the haggling began.

couch2

In the end, we got both the couches and the love seat WITH TAX AND DELIVERY (two hours away, mind you) for less than the cost of ONE of the sofas on Amazon.

BOOM.

I was ecstatic. I hadn’t been planning on replacing our couches, which were comfortable and hid stains like a toddler hides the remote. My tufted linen Chesterfield sofa dreams had been just that–distant maaaaaaaaybes if I happened upon a good deal at an opportune time…one day…possibly.

couch4

{Can you spot the thing that I forgot to hide in this shot?}

And then, within two whirlwind days, I had sold my old sofas (y’all, proper styling is everything. I used pretty pictures from my blog, and people on a local FB site were clamoring over those perfectly fine but certainly not super-exciting gray herringbone couches like I was selling some sort of prized heirloom for 95% off), and my dream couches were in my living room.

And I do mean dream couches, people. Because, not only did they look about a trillion times better once they exited that cluttered “showroom,” but they’re a) comfortable b) well-made and c) a HUGE bargain…which means that, even if (when) they don’t stay pristine, I won’t feel sick to my stomach for dropping $2,700 on one little ol’ couch. (Because, yes, that’s what the fancy versions of this couch cost, and no, I was never going to go there).

Have I scotch-guarded the daylights out of them? Yes. Do I keep a blanket draped over the one that sits in the main thoroughfare between our kitchen and living room, much to my husband’s eye-rolling amusement? Mmm Hmmm. Have I already had to wipe up a few marks and greasy spots? Yup. (They came right up, in case you’re wondering, thanks to this magical cleaning solution).

couch3

But you know what? As I told a reader who was wondering how in the world I would cope with light-colored furniture and so many kids, I would rather have furniture I love with a few stains than stuff that I really don’t like with the very same stains…that you just can’t see.

As long as said loved furniture doesn’t cost very much, of course. ;) (I’ve already paid for my couches by clearing a few more items that I didn’t need out of my house. Feels SO good).

Oh man, does finding exactly what I’ve been looking for for at a tiny fraction of the price make me giddy!

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