Thursday, May 23, 2013

Schoolhouse Review: Simplified Pantry

I am just super excited to tell you about the latest product I reviewed for the Schoolhouse Review Crew - Simplified Pantry.  It is not actually a homeschooling product, but rather something that every family can benefit from.  I grew up in a home where both parents worked and we ate a lot of fast food for dinner. I never really learned many cooking skills and so I always had to cook by following recipes.  Every week I planned my shopping list by the menu I prepared for that week and I would buy only the ingredients for those meals.  That of course always had me running back to the store several times because I would either forget something or have a change of plans.  Many times it meant eating out because if one of the meals didn't work out I had nothing ready to fall back on.  To help put an end to all this needless planning and preparation, not to mention the waste for all those "special" ingredients you buy that are only used once, Mystie Winkler came up with her Simplified Pantry concept and shares it with us in her ebook Simplified Dinners.   I have to tell you this product has literally changed my life!

Simplified Dinners  is an ebook that "enables anyone to transition toward home-prepared, real, whole foods cooking—even those less confident in the kitchen. Simplified Dinners helps keep dinner streamlined while allowing flexibility."

They also offer the Simplified Dinners Gluten Free / Diary Free version.

The description on their website is 100% accurate.  It certainly helped me make the transition and I definitely have little confidence in the kitchen, even though I am 45 years old! It also really does help you streamline meals and it is very flexible!

Simplified Dinners is like a cookbook and a how to book all in one.  It starts by explaining how to pack your pantry with foods you will actually use and then gives you recipes which call for those exact ingredients.  The pantry list was incredible to me.  My biggest problem was that I never knew what to stock my kitchen with.  It's sad, I know, but no one ever taught me how to have a kitchen stocked without having ingredients get wasted and go unused.  I did not want to stock expensive items I would hardly ever use and eventually end up throwing away so I just didn't buy much at all.

If you follow the Simplified Dinners instructions you will know how to have a well stocked pantry without having lots of waste.  The book actually comes with a Master Pantry List.  That's right, they make your shopping list for you!  They do all the work, you just buy all the stuff.  To begin our Simplified Journey, Gess and I spent some time going down the list to see what we already had.  If I didn't have it I would have Gess type that ingredient on our grocery list.  My pantry was pretty bare because as I said, I never knew how to do this before.  Here is the list Gesserine typed though I took over typing near the end of the first column.  Do remember she has Down syndrome and is only 11 years old so be kind about the errors.  In fact I found them quite adorable.  I really loved carlik salt, dried cranbreeys, rolld oats, and bakeing pouder but rakeno (orgeno) was my absolute favorite and my new pronunciation of it now. 

What's great about the Simplified Pantry method is it lets you choose what meats are on sale and what produce is in season.  You work with what you find on sale or what you specifically like.  It certainly helps save you money.  While my first shopping trip did cost me a bit more than usual because I had a pitifully low pantry, I have seen quite a bit of savings in the weeks following. 

Now that we went shopping and our pantry was finally stocked I could not wait to start cooking!

The cookbook section is not like your average cookbook that tells you precisely how to make each individual meal and calls for fancy specialty ingredients.  Simplified Dinners tells you how to cook basic things and then gives you several different ways to prepare it.  For instance it will have a page titled Skillet Cutlets with Pan Sauces and gives basic instructions on how to prepare the cutlets followed by specific instructions for each type of meat: pork, chicken, beef and fish.  Below that you will find recipes for 6 different kinds of sauces. She does this with each category. There are basic instructions and then several different recipes to change it up.  I am the kind of person who always made a roast the same way each time I cooked it, month after month and year after year.  The same with pork chops, chicken, pasta dishes, etc.  There was very little variety.  Because of that it was very exciting for me to learn how to put a spin on a standard recipe without having to learn something entirely new.

The very first recipe I tried was Pork Skillet Cutlets with the Orange Mustard sauce.  Now to be honest, the Orange Mustard sauce did not really sound that delicious but  I chose it because I had an open bottle of orange juice I needed to finish off.  See the beauty of this concept?  It helped me use the stuff I already had on hand rather than buy stuff I will never use again!  Anyway, the sauce turned out to be incredibly delicious!  My husband in particular really enjoyed the sauce.  I learned very quickly to be willing to give anything a try, even if you are not a fan of certain ingredients and I am also learning to substitute ingredients as well.  I am learning to actually cook, not just follow recipes! Here was my very first Simplified Dinner!

Now it was time to get Gess involved since I have really been working at teaching her how to cook. Because of her special needs I have been focusing on teaching her independence and I can tell you now that the Simplified Pantry concept is something I will pass on to her when she leaves the house!  It is so important that she learn how to shop and plan as well as cook.  I really recommend this for persons with special needs who are living alone and able to do their own cooking.  There are great skill sets and information for them to learn from in this book.  If they use this method they will always know what to buy and how to use it though they may need to modify the recipes if only cooking for one.

Gess helped me make some Quesadillas.  This page had simple instructions along with recommendations for different cheeses, vegetables, meat, and seasonings.  I always season my meat with a taco seasoning packet.  That's it, nothing else.  While the seasoning packet was a suggestion they had other great ideas too. These turned out good just using salsa.  My salsa happened to be home made!  OK I guess I did have some cooking skills.  Anyway, here we are making our Quesadillas.  They were a bit messy which is why Gess was eating them so close to the plate. They were incredibly tasty too.

Now that I have all the ingredients on my Master Pantry List, each time I cook I write down anything I use up.  If it's a meat I write down one meat.  It doesn't matter what kind of meat, because I am going to buy whats on sale or what looks good. The same goes with the fruits and vegetables. If it's a can of something, a frozen pack of something, whatever it is, I write it down. By the time my shopping day comes around my list is all ready for me to take to the store!  There are no hours of figuring out menus first and then creating the list.  All you do is keep your pantry stocked.

You will find there are things you like to make that are not part of the list, such as ingredients for my green bean casserole which includes Durkee onions.  If you know there are items your family likes just add those to your pantry list too. Once it has been purchased if you replace it when it's used you will always have it in the future.  They also tell you to keep a couple of quick fix or frozen meals on hand for days when you don't have time to cook and I sure use those too. Of course whenever I do I replace them by putting them on my list but I try to get something different every time.

The moment that proved this was truly Simplifying my life was the week we had our ladies retreat.  It was the day before and I panicked because I was supposed to bring a covered dish!  Oh no!  I didn't buy anything to make at the store!  See, that is the way I have always lived.  You have to buy something before you can make it. Then I remembered about the purpose of this concept and ran to my Simplified Dinners recipe book. Wouldn't you know it, they had me stocked with emergency recipes.  I knew I bought canned chicken for a reason.  The best part was how great the dish tasted.  My husband was actually disappointed that he wasn't getting any when I left.

Using the Simplified Pantry method has saved me lots of time and money and has truly helped me cook more freely in my kitchen.  I no longer have to measure every little thing, though I still tend to most of the time.  I also am more free about changing recipes myself.  I now look at a recipe and wonder what else might be good in it.  So far we have absolutely loved each recipe we have tried. 

The only thing I did not like about the book is that is not searchable by key word.  It is in a PDF format and while that has a search option the book is made in a way where it won't work.  I had a bag of potatoes that really needed to get used up and I was trying to search for the word potato to find recipes that called for them other than the actual potato categories they had .  However it would say that no matches found even if I was staring at the word on the page.  It sure would have saved me some time, but the book is not all that large so manually looking was not terribly difficult.

Mystie Winkler is not only organized in the kitchen she is also great at household management and has an ebook for Paperless Home Organization.  She had tried making physical household management binders several times but had trouble following through.  Once she started to go digital she got rid of the paper mess but soon found her computer was becoming cluttered and things on there were now becoming hard to find.  Her Paperless Home Organization book shares her solution to this dilemma.

I haven't personally used the Paperless Home Organization book because I have a system in place that works for me but if you are looking for something to help you organize your life and home this might be the prefect tool for you.

These books would benefit any mother out there trying to run a household.  The Simplified Dinners and the Simplified Dinners-Gluten Free / Dairy Free ebooks sell for $12.99 each.  The Paperless Home Organization is only $3.99 but right now Mystie is offering 30% off of any or all of her books if you use the code TOS2013 at the checkout.  Hurry though, this offer expires June 3rd! 

Enter code TOS2013 to get 30% off 
offer expires June 3, 2013

If you want to learn more about these incredibly helpful tools you can visit the website for each product or see what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought about them by clicking on the banner below.


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