Menu Plan Monday

My October budget for food was $300. I use a cash envelope system for as many household categories as I can and the grocery envelope is empty. So, this week, we will be eating from our pantry, fridge and freezer. I am planning on making menus for the next several weeks that will use up things in my freezer. I want to be able to take advantage of sales on whole turkeys around Thanksgiving. I plan on buying 12 turkeys to use throughout the next year.

Here is the plan for this week:

Monday- Pasta with creamy vodka sauce, yeast rolls from freezer, apple ambrosia

Tuesday- Homemade vegetable soup, cornbread, fruit

Wednesday- Breakfast for dinner–eggs, bacon, toast

Thursday- pork chops, zipper peas from freezer, rice, fruit

Friday- grilled chicken breasts, steamed brocolli and carrots, fried rice from freezer

Saturday- Leftovers

Sunday- BBQ meatballs from freezer, steamed vegetable from freezer, fried rice from freezer

Have a great week!

Linked to I’m an Organizing Junkie–Menu Plan Monday

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Weekly Goals

I have been thinking a lot about goals.  I have so many things that I want to accomplish, but I don’t seem to get organized and get them done.  When that happens, I feel guilty–as if I am wasting time.

I thought it would be a good idea to post weekly goals and, hopefully, get more accomplished by publicly sharing these goals.  However, I am also going to give myself some grace.  After all, I am working part-time and taking care of my 90 year old mother.  Being a caregiver takes a lot of time.

Business Goals:

1.  Write two posts for blog

2.  Organize/plan two additional posts for blog

3.  Work two days on-site at my nursing job and one day from home

Personal Goals:

4.  Exercise 5 times this week–walking or exercise DVD

5.  Keep a food diary on My Fitness Pal

6.  Work on sewing project for my enjoyment two times for an hour each

7.  Daily devotional and read Matthew.

8.  Finish reading Catching Fire and start new fiction book.

Frugal Goals:

9.  Menu plan using mostly items I have on hand in my freezer and pantry.

10.  Make homemade applesauce for the freezer.

11.  Plan and carry out a freezer cooking session–so far I have planned make       Breakfast Burritos and Oatmeal Muffins.

12.  Comparison shop for home and auto insurance. 

Home/DIY Goals:

13.  Continue painting kitchen cabinets.  I will be posting about my kitchen makeover soon!

Again, I am going to allow myself some grace and may even decide to cross off a couple of items from this list.  I am sure that other things may come up that I want to add to the list, but I will make a note and push those items to next week, if needed.

What do you have planned for this week.  Check out what others are doing at Money Saving Mom.

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Financial Fitness

FinancialFitnessIn my last post, I wrote about quitting my job and I also said I would write about how we are able to allow me to take a sabbatical.

About 7 years ago, we were the typical American family–in debt and living paycheck to paycheck.  It had never really bothered me much.  We had never missed any payments, we were healthy and I bought into the lie that “everyone has debt” and “you are always going to have a car payment and a house payment”.  But in late 2006, I began to really look at our finances.  What I saw really began to scare me.  We had $32,000 in credit card debts and $28,000 in student loan debt.  $60,000!!!  We were over the age of 40 with $60K in debt, nothing in liquid savings, a little in retirement savings, and no plan.  One adverse event could cause us to fall over the cliff and start missing payments and potentially even lose our home.

On December 28, 2006, that “adverse event” happened.  My daughter and husband were at a movie.  Suddenly, in the middle of the movie, my daughter started having seizures.  I was at work and received the frantic call from my husband.  911 was called, my daughter was taken to the hospital.  I left work and spent two hours in traffic trying to get to the hospital.  I had spent the two hours that it had taken to get to the hospital praying, asking for others to pray and thinking about what could be wrong. As a nurse, I knew what some of those possibilities could be and it was very frightening. I walked in to the emergency room to see not only my family, but members of my church family all gathered around supporting my husband and daughter.  I had made it just in time to be able to accompany my daughter to the CT scan.  I knew that this test would show if my worst fears were confirmed.  After the scan, we waited in the  ER room with our family and church family.  More church members arrived and my daughter and family were surrounded by prayers and love. Finally after about 30 minutes, the ER doctor came and told us that the CT scan was normal–there was no sign of a brain tumor.  We all praised God and breathed a sigh of relief. The cause of the seizures were unknown and we were told that it could have been a single event and my daughter might never have the problem again.  Four days later, however, she did have another event.  The next several months were spent seeing specialists and having multiple scans and tests.  In the end, no cause was ever found and my daughter was put on anti-seizure medication.  Thankfully, she has never had another seizure since and, in fact, 2 1/2 years later she was taken off the medication and is still fine today.

Why did I tell you about this health scare?  This was the “adverse event” for us financially.  We had a high deductible insurance plan.  $2000 per year.  The first seizure, ambulance ride, hospitalization and CT scan happening on December 28th, 2006 and then the subsequent seizures and all other testing happened starting January 4, 2007.  So, we had $4000 in medical bills that started coming due around March or April 2007.  I had no idea how we were going to pay that debt, let alone the $60K we already had.

I tried to figure out a budget for us to live on and start paying down the debt, but no matter what I did, I couldn’t see a way out.  I was extremely stressed and worried about money.  The money situation caused stress on my marriage and my children were also affected.  One day, while at work, a group of us were talking about prayer.  I mentioned that I prayed, but I wasn’t good at discerning God’s answers to my prayers.  I said “I just need God to put a billboard in front of my that says ‘Lisa, do this.'”  Everyone chuckled and agreed, but I didn’t think much about it after that conversation.

Not long after that conversation, I was sitting in traffic during my long afternoon commute.  I sat in my car lost in my thoughts and worries over our financial situation.  While I sat in traffic that wasn’t moving, I looked up out of my front windshield.  One of the billboard that was looming above had a picture of a man I didn’t recognize.  The words on the billboard jumped out at me—“Live debt free!  Listen to the Dave Ramsey show 4-6 p.m.”  I had never heard of Dave Ramsey, but those words were exactly what I wanted–to live debt free.  It happened to be about 5 p.m. so I immediately turned my radio to that station.  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  People were calling in to tell their stories of how they were in debt and struggling.  Dave was quoting scriptures, talking about God’s way of handling money, answering questions, offering  advice and was talking about these “baby steps”. There were other callers that were calling in to tell their success stories and how they were debt free.  They were screaming “We’re debt free!!!” on the radio.  Some of these folks were in situations worse that my family was facing, but they had overcome and were thriving.  I became hopeful and excited.  I called my husband and told him to turn on the radio.  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  Here was a man quoting scripture and sharing practical ways on how to get out of debt and stay out of debt.  I remembered the hallway conversation with my co-workers and thought “God, you put that billboard in front of me!”

I began listening every day.  I bought the book “The Total Money Makeover” and my family started following the plan.  Several weeks into listening to the show, I realized that maybe I had actually heard of this guy several years ago.  My brother, who lived in Tennessee, had been visiting and kept talking about this guy on the radio in his local area.  He kept droning on about this guy and how his financial principles made so much sense.  I politely listened, but really my eyes glazed over.  My brother even gave me a book.  I never read it.  But as I listened to the radio show one day, and Dave Ramsey was talking about Financial Peace, something suddenly made me think of my brother and the book he had given me so many years ago.  Was this the guy my brother had told me about?   Where was that book?  When I finally got home that day I ran in to my home and started searching for the book my brother had given me.  I finally found it under my bed, covered in dust.  There is was  “Financial Peace” by Dave Ramsey.  I had had the book for several years and never even looked at it.

My family and I continued to follow the plan.  We learned how to work a “zero based budget” and it was the first time a budget ever really worked for us.  We began to see our debt going down–fast.  It was so exciting and we had hope for the first time. But, there were other challenges.  By May, we were faced with another health scare.  This time it was our son.  The words “lymphona” were being used.  My son had to have many tests and, thankfully, everything was fine and he is healthy, but that was another large deductible triggering event.  We were able to cash flow all of those bills and kept working our plan.

In August, we decided to take  Dave Ramsey’s class “Financial Peace University” at a local church.  After only one class, my husband ended up in emergency surgery for acute appendicitis.  Another $2000 deductible.  I didn’t miss a class and my husband only missed one class.  We kept following the plan and we cash flowed that medical bill as well.  It was obvious that we were being attacked and I knew that we were on the right track.  I remember standing in my bedroom talking out loud and rebuking the Evil One.  We would not be derailed.  We would continue to follow God’s for our money and our lives.

We continued to follow the Baby Steps and by the summer of 2010, we had paid off all of our debts and had a 6 month emergency fund!  We have continued to follow the same principles and live below our means.  In fact, we made it a priority to live primarily on my husband’s income.  We watched as our savings continued to grow and we put into retirement savings.  We have never gone back to financing purchases and have paid cash for two used cars.  We will never have a car payment again.

Living below our means has allowed us to save enough money to have more than a year’s worth of living expenses in the bank.  The funny thing is that living below our means has actually made us more content.   Additionally, we know how to live on one income.  This has given us flexibility and now will allow me to take a sabbatical from working and take care of my mother for whatever time she has left in this life.  It will allow me to take time to get healthy and really think about what I want to do next in my professional life.  I don’t know what that will be.  It might be going back to being a Nurse Manager, but I may not choose to work in that kind of stressful environment again.  Perhaps I will go back to strictly taking care of patients as a staff nurse.  Maybe I will do something entirely different. I am grateful to have gotten financially fit so that I can take time off for this sabbatical.

What steps are you taking to get more financially fit?  What could that mean for your life?


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Why I Quit My Job

WhyIQuitMyJob01I did it.  After 28 years as a nurse, 14 of those years working with a group of physicians at a hospital and then 12 more years working for them at their surgery center, I said goodbye.  I was making a decent salary as a Nurse Manager (although I had many times been offered more for other jobs), I loved the staff that I worked with and I genuinely cared about the physicians and patients.  Why did I quit?

My 90 year old mother lives with me and my family.  She has been living with us for several years and has been very independent until the last two months.  About two months ago, she became ill and dramatically weaker.  The amount of care she required changed–she went from independence to needing help with everything.  Fortunately, my husband was very supportive of my decision to take a sabbatical from my career and spend more time at home.

This decision was not made quickly.  The truth is, I had been considering quitting my job even before my mother became ill.  I was burnt out, tired and was ready for a change.  I was a Nurse Manger in a very stressful position.  I was feeling under appreciated and worn out.  I woke each morning at 4 a.m. and drove 40 miles one way to get to my job by 6 a.m.  I never knew exactly what time I would be able to leave.  Many days it was 5-6 p.m. I sat through 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours of mind-numbing traffic only to arrive home at 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.  The only thing I could do at that point was to eat dinner, shower and go to bed because I had to get up at 4 a.m. the next day.  Weekends were a time for catch up–on sleep, house cleaning and errands.  I had no time to spend with family or friends.  No time to develop relationships outside of work.  Sunday evenings came with dread.  It was no way to live.

I had been thinking about getting another job close to home, but could never pull the trigger on finally leaving a job where I had been working with some of the people for most of my career.  It took a crisis for me to finally make the decision.  But, I know it was the right decision.  I didn’t want to look back and regret not taking the time to spend with my family and to regain my own personal health.

Will I go back to work at a nurse?  Almost certainly.  But, I am treating this time as a blessing.  A blessing to be able to spend more time with my mother at the end of her life and with my husband and children.  This is a season of life.  A Time for Home.

In the next several posts,  I will tell you more on how financially we are able to allow me to take a sabbatical from work, how I am using the time off from work to improve my own health, and about simplifying our home and life while still living abundantly, frugally, and intentionally.


Linked to: Thrifty Thursdays and  Fabulous Frugal Thursday




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The good old days. Remember them? Neighbors worked together, people helped each other, we practically helped raise each other’s kids. Times have changed. We have the world at our fingertips. Nearly everything is available through the internet. Books, toys, clothes, food, cars, even vacations can be found on the internet.

I don’t have any research to back me up, but it seems like I’ve heard that our growing reliance on the latest technological gadget continues to serve as a way of isolating and insulating us from real human contact. With growing numbers of friends or followers on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or whatever, where are our real friends and neighbors?

Fortunately, we recently discovered that the spirit of neighbors working together is alive and well, even on Facebook. Our new neighborhood, which is really quite established, has its own Facebook page. Lisa and her mom recently discussed a desire to have a ceiling fan installed in her mom’s bedroom.

My thoughts? “Okay, let’s head to Lowe’s.” Lisa’s thoughts were quite different. She decided to just post a request on the neighborhood Facebook page. The neighborhood hosts community yard sales twice a year and the spring sale had only just ended. Her thoughts were more toward wondering if anyone had one that they were perhaps unsuccessful in selling.


This first one was just a “come and get it” deal. A new friend in the neighborhood told Lisa that she had a couple up in the attic that we could take a look at, see if we liked them, and just take them off her hands.

photo 2a

The other fan that our neighbor had was really a bit too small, but this one just worked out great. I did take that trip to Lowe’s, though. I needed a proper bracket to support the fan rather than the little strip of metal that secured the ceiling light. Lisa’s brother, Joe, came over and helped install the fan and we were done!

photo 5a

Lisa also had another response from someone in the neighborhood who had a fan that was still in the box and had never been opened. They had bought it several years ago, maybe close to a dozen years ago just wanted $50.00 for it. That seemed fair to us, even though we had already decided on the white free fan for mom’s room. The neighbor “made us an offer we couldn’t refuse.” This one will be going in the office at some point; we just couldn’t let it get away.

What do you think? Isn’t that cool? Facebook turns out to be the answer to the virtual “Can I borrow a cup of sugar?” question. I look forward to connecting with our neighbors even more now.

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Deck Repair – Part 1

deck Let’s just get it out there in the open, our deck is in rough shape. I think our massive home inspection report prior to buying this house had a chapter devoted just to the deck. First things first, it’s probably around 20 years old, so it has some age to it. Plus the deck has been pressure washed – intensely. There’s also the fact that building codes have changed over the past 20 years, so there are some issues with the structure according to newer codes and our home inspector let us know about everything that was wrong with the deck. Everything.IMG_1978 One key element under the deck is that the joists are too far apart according to new standards and may not have actually been the correct distance apart when it was originally built. There needs to be additional joists added under the deck.IMG_1979 Check out this support column – a 4 x 4! Really? IMG_1981 These front two supports were really scary. Two 4 x 4’s barely attached to the body of the deck. That one in the corner by the stairs is actually a little too short and has a shim in it, along with one nail securing it to the deck. A stray lawn tractor hit and down goes the deck.

Besides the structural issues, there were a lot of issues with the top side of the deck. The flooring was worn out from excessive pressure washing, the balusters were now too far apart according to new code, the deck rails were worn out, and the stairs were in very rough shape.IMG_1982 Recently we had some big plans for a 90th birthday celebration for Lisa’s mom. There would be a whole bunch of people coming over for the party, and rather than risk being featured on local news channels with a collapsing deck full of party-goers, we decided to work on the underside first.IMG_1983 My bro-in-law, Joe, helped me out on this two-day project. The first day involved replacing the support columns with brand new 4 x 6’s anchored into the concrete and into the deck above. This was a beast to get done, but we managed it! Using one beam to support the deck, knocking out the old beam, and installing the new columns.IMG_1984 By using 4 x 6’s under the long central support, we were able to add another set of support boards along the pre-existing two sets. This new added structure would also help support the new joists to be added.IMG_1985 As a math teacher, this is a perfect real-world example of understanding basic math skills. “Why do I have to learn how to use a ruler, Mr. Brooks?” sigh…IMG_1988 Once the new columns and the extra support beam were in place, day two would involve adding the new extra joists. Oh wait, I bought the wrong sized boards. Back to Lowe’s, dang it.

Once the proper sized boards were purchased, it was time to install the joists. And how do you actually install new joists into the openings? You twist them in. Lisa’s niece’s husband, Rick, had the perfect method that would work for twisting the boards in place. Unfortunately, he’s down at the beach on Spring Break, while we’re back here!

The idea is to screw a 2 x 4 onto the board, lift and slide it into the opening and then use the 2 x 4 as a handle and turn and twist the board into place. Yeah, sure, right?IMG_1989 It worked.IMG_1990 And it kept on working. Again and again. IMG_1993 We were able to add seven new joists into the underside of the deck. Plus we used joist hangers at the ends of the new joists as well. I’m just kind of guessing, but I think I’ve added several more years of life to this deck. IMG_1995We made it through the party without any news media showing up with one of those “deck collapse” stories, but there is still more to do. Future plans for the deck, for this year, will be to replace the entire surface with wider boards, replace all of the balusters and deck rails and possibly replace the entire staircase. The stairs themselves need to be replaced and I think that the stair stringers are still in good enough shape.

Once I’m done with this project, for the most part, the deck will be nearly new with years of life ahead of it. Not bad for a middle schooll math teacher!

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Sewing Room Project: Part 2

I suppose it’s about time that I get back to adding Part 2 of the Sewing Room Project. we’ve been done for quite some time, but life’s been hectic and we’re way behind on keeping our website updated.IMG_0742 Once all of the furniture was emptied out, the next step was painting the walls with fresh new paint. We chose a shade of light blue for the room.IMG_0745 IMG_0749 I really like using paint rollers for big jobs; a bit messy on the clean-up, but well worth it. I used the Wagner Paint ‘n Roll paint-stick for this job. You can fill up the handle with paint and push it out through the roller.IMG_0750 Cookie stops by for a visit. This silly dog has always got to be around when I’m working on something. I could be doing yard work outside and she’s got to be helping by dragging sticks around and tearing them apart. I’m pretty sure that several times during this painting project, Cookie wound up with a bit of blue paint on her tail.IMG_1813Apologies for the mediocre picture quality; I was taking quick shots with my phone during some of the progress. We decided to use TrafficMASTER Allure vinyl plank flooring in Autumn Oak. The good folks at Home Depot were our source for this excellent flooring material. Lisa and I had initially thought of going with the click and lock type of flooring, but ultimately decided on this product. We were able to get a good sense of how the planks stick together with some samples at the store. The planks don’t stick to the floor; they stick to each other with the unique way that they are constructed. OF course, just like with real wood or any laminate product, you want to stagger your seams as you lay the planks down. This was really easy, too. Just a good score mark with a utility knife and the plank can just snap off.IMG_0752Off to the races! I just started laying the planks down end-to-end, cutting one a little short and starting the next row. I had down quite a bit of measuring to get a sense of the “square-ness” of the room. From every point that I could measure, the room seemed to be fairly rectangular in its construction. At one point, this was probably an unfinished basement when the first owner moved in. I don’t know who finished the basement, but there are definite indications that professionals weren’t solely responsible. Not a bad job, but not quite professional. Fortunately, everything worked out as I continued laying down the planks.IMG_0753IMG_0757 This is the area from the previous post where that wretched desk was. As you can see, it’s still unfinished, needing more patching and sanding. The floor would be finished before this area would be complete. As I filled in more and more of the big open area, I knew I would eventually get to the areas where cutting and trimming would be involved along the edges.

Math skills, baby!IMG_0755Along the edges of the wall (left side of picture), I had to trim edges off to get the right sized pieces to fit around corners and under baseboards. I’ve got to admit, it was kinda’ fun!

Stay in school, kids! You need those math skills!IMG_0759At this point, the flooring is done with the exception of the shoe mold along the edge. During this project that I was working on, there was a crew of professionals upstairs working on new hardwood floors. A little extra $$ and they would be down soon to lay the shoe mold. Yeah, I know, I could have done it, but sometimes it’s worth it to pay the money for the skills.SewingRoomI’m really pleased at how this room turned out. The walls have a nice fresh coat of paint, there’s a nice new floor, and it just about looks professionally done!

How about you? Any DIY projects in your plans?

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Sewing Room Project: Part 1

We decided to tackle the bonus room downstairs as our next project. Lisa and her mom have  turned this large room into their sewing room with the understanding that it would need work later. The paint job was very poorly done, much like many areas throughout the house prior to our arrival. The carpet was an ugly blue Berber carpet that had seen better days. We decided to do some extensive work in the room including painting the walls and redoing the floors.IMG_0723Before we started the paint and floor project, there was another task to take care of. Along the left wall, there are two odd alcoves that were created when the unfinished basement became finished sometime in the past. The larger area has some sort of built-in cabinet with a large surface and old ugly paneling. The smaller alcove had a built-in desk. Built-in. Yeah, that’s an understatement. Some of these pictures are quick iPhone pics, so please excuse the potato quality.IMG_1788After extensive examination, I was able to determine that the 2×4’s that the desk frame was made from had been secured to the wall studs prior to drywall installation. With big nails, I mean, really big nails.IMG_1789I really wish we had taken pictures of the actual tear-out of the desk. It was really quite eventful! Saws, hammers, pry-bars, and good old fashioned muscles were the primary tools needed for the job. I tried to prevent damage to the drywall above and below the wood, but in some cases, there was a little spill-over damage to the walls. Not too bad, though.IMG_0721Once everything was finally removed, you can see that I had quite a job ahead of me in the area of drywall repair. As previously discussed in an earlier post, I’ve done some drywall repair, but not on this scale. Confidence, baby, confidence!IMG_0724The first step was to clean up the edges and make them as smooth and as somewhat rectangular as possible. Due to the amount of exposed studs, it was relatively easy to secure the new pieces into the gaps.IMG_0725Careful measurements and test fitting allowed me to create all of the pieces that I would need for the open areas.IMG_0729Just a few drywall screws was all that was needed to secure the drywall pieces into the open areas.IMG_0728Some creative cutting allowed each piece to be secured onto the studs.IMG_1793Once all of the pieces were installed, the next step would be taping and adding the drywall compound.IMG_0730It’s important to tape along each edge, even where the pieces meet.IMG_0731The corners were a little tough; it’s important to get a strip of tape deep into the corner.IMG_0740The next steps are just adding the drywall mud, sanding, and repeating the process until the wall is as smooth as possible.IMG_1802The process of adding the drywall mud and sanding took several days to complete, but that was really no big deal. While I would work on and off on the wall repair, the larger project of painting the walls, ripping out carpet, and laying new floor would be my main focus for the next several days.

Part Two

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Our First Snow

Well, not really. It’s just the first snowfall at our new location. It doesn’t snow very often in Georgia, so when it does, it’s a pretty big deal.


The bird feeders in our back yard. I just stood very still for a few minutes and it didn’t take long for birds to return to the feeders.


Gathering at the base of the feeders for any cast-off seeds.


Cookie’s first ever snowfall. I wonder what she thought of it in her little silly doggy mind.


The front yard still isn’t covered in snow yet. Maybe by the evening? The streets are just wet, no snow building up on them. It’s getting cold tonight, so travel will be an issue. Just remember, we don’t get this sort of weather very often in Georgia, so we really don’t know how to handle it very well.


Serenity in the back yard.


Cookie actually started licking the snow. I think she’s figured out that it tastes a lot like water.


We have these huge Cypress trees in our back yard. They’re just starting to get a dusting of snow on them. Hopefully, they’ll get a little more covered up as it keeps snowing. Winter wonderland and all that sort of stuff.


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Crock Pot Chicken

I don’t know if this is an original idea, but Lisa recently did this with some bulk frozen chicken breasts. The goal is to have cooked, shredded chicken ready for whatever recipe would call for chicken.


The idea is to just dump a bunch of frozen chicken breasts into a crock pot, throw in some assorted vegetable bits – carrots, onion, and celery. Turn that sucker on for eight hours and let it go.IMG_9701

Once we got home from work, it was just a matter of sorting all the chicken goodness.


The veggies are pretty much a lost cause by the time the chicken has cooked down. They just need to be disposed of.


Save the chicken broth! It makes for some nice stock for some home made chicken soup. Chicken noodle… chicken barley… Yum!


Take those chicken breasts out and tear into them with a couple of forks. Just start shredding!


Yummy shredded chicken goodness! Ready for soup, burritos, chicken salad, whatever…


With some prior experience with various chicken dishes, two cups of chicken per bag seems to be a good amount. Bag ‘em and freeze ‘em! Tasty stuff ahead!

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