Monday, January 25, 2016

Humble Food for Humble Times

I am very aware of how much I spend at the grocery store, and what I end up with at home to put in the fridge or on the shelves. $100 used to fill the shopping cart and my fridge and shelves as well. Not so anymore. I can spend $100 and get home and wonder what we are going to eat for the next week. Have you noticed the price of meat? Especially the "cheap" cuts? $4.99 and up for hamburger or chuck roast? Forget about buying fresh produce in winter or summer for that manner. The prices are about the same. And considering that most of our grocery story food is shipped from great distances  to our stores, they contain very little nutrition, as well as GMO's. Well, I have some very delicious and inexpensive meals that your family will love and will stretch that food budget.
This is a repost from my other blog.

Bean and Hamburger Casserole

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Saute in a large skillet:

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1/4 cup chopped vegetable of your choice
 1/4 to 1/2 lb. cooked hamburger (or ½ pint jar hamburger or other meat)
When the meat is brown, stir in:

1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
2 1/2 cups cooked beans, or one 15 oz. can beans of your choice
1 1/4 cups (about 1 can) tomato soup, tomato sauce or diced  tomatoes
1 beef bouillon cube, dissolved in 1 cup hot water
2 cups cooked rice

Heat and simmer a few minutes.  Place in a greased casserole and bake 45 minutes.  Remove from oven and top with 1/2 cup grated or sliced cheese, if desired.  Return to the oven just until cheese melts. This is tasty and filling and you can add to it to your desire.

Lentil Soup

2 C. lentils
2-3 qts. water
2 slices uncooked bacon, cut into pieces
1/2 med. onion chopped or sliced
1/4 C chopped carrots
1/2 C chopped celery
3 TB chopped parsley, or 1 1/2 TB dried parsley
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp salt 
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp oregano
1- 15 oz. can chopped tomatoes, or whole tomates
2 TB wine vinegar

Wash lentils and place them in the pot with 2 qts. water, and the rest of the ingredients except the tomatoes and vinegar. Cover and simmer for 1 & 1/2 hours. Add tomatoes breaking up if whole, add vinegar and simmer 30 min. longer. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. If you prefer thinner soup, as I do, add up to another Qt. of water. 

Variation: to make this meal a complete protein, add 1/2 C of rice during the last 30 min. of cooking, adding more water if needed.

Shrimp Casserole Supreme
 - Salad shrimp are inexpensive where I live, about $4.99/lb., so you can even use 3/4 lb. or canned salad shrimp to help cut costs.

1 lb. cooked salad shrimp
1 TB lemon juice
3 TB salad oil
¾ C uncooked rice
¾ - 1 C  half and half (whole milk of non-fat will produce a watery casserole, so if using, use less)
1/3 C slivered almonds (or sliced), if desired
1/2 Tsp salt
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp pepper
Dash each cayenne and paprika
1 10 oz. can condensed tomato soup
1/3 C dry sherry or other white wine

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook rice in about 1 1/3-1 ½  C water (add a pat of butter to the water) for about 18 min. or until water is absorbed. I like to keep the rice on the drier side since it will absorb some of the liquid while cooking in the oven. Meanwhile, place shrimp in a large (2 qt.) casserole dish and stir in lemon juice and oil and allow to rest for 10 min. Add the rest of the ingredients, along with the cooked rice, starting with about ¾ cup of the half and half. We like our casserole a little drier, so I use the lesser amount. If you want it a little soupier, use more of the half and half. I have used milk instead of half and half and it is just not the same. The original recipe calls for heavy cream, but we like it with half and half. I like to top off the casserole with a sprinkling of almonds and a dash or two of paprika before putting it in the oven. Bake for 50-55 min. This freezes very well and is easily doubled. With a salad and hot rolls or garlic bread, this makes a hearty meal.
 Serves 6.

Crock Pot Ranch Chicken

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (purchased on sale)
couple dashes paprika
2 tablespoons butter, melted 
1 (10 3/4 ounce) can cream of chicken soup 
8 ounces cream cheese, cubed
1/4 C chicken broth or water  
 1 (1 ounce) package Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing mix, or 1/4 C your favorite homemade Ranch Mix (see mine below)
bacon, optional

Wash and dry chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch chunks and place them in crock pot. Sprinkle with paprika, if desired. Drizzle melted butter of chicken. Add Cream of Chicken soup, cubed cream cheese, 1/4 C chicken broth or water, Ranch Dressing Mix, and gently fold to combine. Cook on low for 4-6 hours. Stir to blend ingredients. Serve over warm buttered noodles. Top with crumbled bacon, if desired. This recipe easily doubles and freezes well.

Rose's Ranch Dressing Mix (adapted from The AntiHousewife

1/2 C dried parsley
2 Tb dried minced garlic
2 TB dried minced onion
1 TB dried dillweed
1/4 C onion powder
1/4 C garlic powder
1 TB salt or season salt (less to taste)
1 TB ground black pepper (or less to taste)
1/2 tsp red chili flakes

Combine all and keep in a tightly closed jar. 

To use:
1 generous TB Ranch Dressing Mix 
1 & 1/2 C mayonnaise
1/2- 3/4 C  buttermilk or regular milk (more or less to consistency you like)
Let sit in fridge for at least 30 min. for flavors to combine and to soften dried ingredients. 

We also have some favorite dried food recipes that are tasty and economical. You can find the freeze dried and dry ingredients on my Thrive Life website  Back Country Cook. Here are a couple.

Beefy Cheese Taco (adapted from Rainy Day Food Storage)

In a one quart wide mouth Jar layer,.
½ Cup Powder Cheese Blend
3-4 Tablespoon Taco Seasoning (depending on how strong a flavor you want)
1 C freeze dried hamburger
¼ Cup Dehydrated Onions
2 Tablespoon Powderd Milk
Fill the rest of the Jar with Egg Noodles.

To store: Add oxygen absorber  or vacuum seal.

To Cook, bring 3 C water to a boil. Add jar ingredients, and simmer, stirring occasionally for 20 min. Add water if necessary so ingredients don't' become too dry and rehydrate properly. Serves 4.

Ground Beef Stroganoff (jar meal)

In a baggie combine:
3 TB sour cream powder
1/2 c dry milk
3 TB cornstarch
1 TB chicken or beef bouillon
1 1/2 tsp dried minced onion
1/4 tsp basil
1/4 tsp thyme
1/8 tsp pepper
1 1/2 tsp parsley
3/4 tsp garlic powder

In another baggie add:
1/2 C dried or freeze dried mushrooms

1 C freeze dried hamburger (or if making fresh-1/2 pint canned burger, or 1/2 lb. hamburger, cooked)
 1 1/3 C macaroni

To make jar meal: add macaroni to jar, layer ground beef on top, then add mushroom and seasoning baggie.

To make: soak mushrooms in hot water, cook macaroni and drain. Drain mushrooms, saving water and add enough water to equal 1 C. Put water and sauce mix in pot, simmer until thick, add water if too thick. Add meat, mushrooms and cooked macaroni, heat through. Garnish with parsley.

If you are interested in learning more about or purchasing Thrive Life foods, please let me know. If you shop through my website I can save you money off of the retail prices, and even more with unadvertised specials. You can save time, and yes, MONEY, with Thrive Life.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Q

When I ventured into Thrive foods, I didn't want a big commitment, I didn't want to spend a lot of money, I wanted to know how to use the food I was getting, and I wanted to have an easy way to have my questions answered. The Q was the perfect answer along with Smart Start. The Q is monthly shipments of the foods of your choice in an amount that you specify shipped directly to your home every month. You can choose to pay $79.99 to join (kind of like a Costco membership), or you can sign up with a monthly Q of $100 or more and you get your Q for free. You are not paying extra for your groceries. This is part of your grocery budget. Or it could be your food storage budget. If you spend $500 a month on groceries at the store, now you will pay $400 at the store, and $100 on your Q.

Each month there is a Qpon which is a monthly special, along with addition monthly specials that you can add to your Q for your shipment. You decide each month what you want to purchase. You can pick and choose, you can have Thrive pick for you, you can look at recipes and then check the box to add recipe ingredients to your Q. You are in charge. There are no minimums. You also earn points with each Q purchase. These points never expire and you can use them towards your purchases to reduce the cost. The Q is a great way to build your home store. You will make fewer trips to the store, save time prepping food, eat healthy food, and save money.

The best thing I did when I signed up was use the Smart Start Kits with my Q. I chose the $100 option. I am committed for $100 each month for 3 months with the Q. Each month I get a shipment of pantry size cans of a variety of food products. Included are recipes using these foods to create delicious meals and desserts. The first recipe I tried was the Green Chicken Enchiladas. They are delicious and I made some modifications which you can read in my post, Recipes. You can also order the 200 Smart Start kit which costs $200 each  month for 3 months. These kits are a great way to try out the foods and see what you like and don't like without a huge financial hit. I highly recommend using Smart Start. It walks you through their products and helps you use them.  The brochure link below should answer any additional questions. If I can answer any questions, please let me know. In order to get the best price, be sure to go to my Thrive Life Website:

Q Brochure

This is month 1 of the $100 Smart Start option.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015


Here are some recipes for you to try. If you don't have the dry ingredients on hand, you can substitute fresh.

 The Taco Soup recipe (found on the Thrive Life website) is designed to be layered in a jar for you to have on hand for a quick meal. It is easy and very good. I halve the recipe and put in a pint jar (it doesn't fill it all the way) and use 2 cups of water. I simmer for an extra 5-10 min. for the beans to soften up more. It is just the perfect amount for my husband and me. Top with some sour cream, shredded cheese, and corn chips. I don't add in the green chili peppers, the mixed bell peppers, or the tomato dices because my husband doesn't like them. It is still very tasty.

Taco Soup
Top of Form
Bottom of Form

  1. Add all ingredients to a Wide Mouth Quart size Canning Jar in the order listed above. Cap Jar until ready for use. When ready to cook, empty jar contents into a pan, add 1 Quart of water for soup or 2 Cups water for dip. Simmer 15 min. or until beans are soft. Fill bowls & sprinkle THRIVE FD Cheese over the top & serve. Consider toppings like olives, chips, Thrive Sour Cream dollups, Jalapenos, Thrive Green Onions & etc. Serves 4.
 Chicken Salad

3/4 C water, minus 1 TB
3/4 C chopped Freeze Dried Chicken (21567)
1/2 tsp Chef's Choice (23628) or seasoning salt
1/4 C Freeze Dried Celery (21223)
2 3/4 TB Freeze Dried Onions (21227)
2 3/4 TB mayonaise

Add water, chicken, & seasoning and let sit for 10 min.
Add celery & onions to chicken mixture and let sit for 10 more min.
Add mayo, mix and serve, or chill.

If you don't have the freeze dried celery or onions, use fresh. It will still be great. Serve on crackers or bread for sandwiches. Serves 1-2. I LOVE this salad and take it to work a lot with crackers and an apple. The numbers in parentheses are the Thrive product numbers for ordering.

Green Chicken Chili Enchiladas
(recipe is on the Thrive Life website)

I leave out the green chilies because my husband doesn't care for them. This is the first recipe I made when I got my Smart Start Kit on the Q. It comes with what you need to put this fantastic dish together. My husband even really liked it. It was way different than I expected, especially since it had the cream cheese in it. I also used Thrive Instant Black  Beans and added enough water to reconstitute because I wanted to give them a try, and them simmered for a little longer.  I made half the recipe and we had leftovers for another meal. Outstanding.


  1. Rehydrate chicken in ¾ cup water or stock .
  2. Brown bacon in skillet and drain off grease. Add garlic and chicken and lightly sauté.
  3. Add in all remaining ingredients except cheese and enchilada sauce. Bring up to a simmer and cook until thick (about 5 minutes).
  4. Fill each tortilla with ⅓ cup of filling and some cheese. Roll up tortillas and place in two 9x13 pans.
  5. Pour one can of sauce over each pan and sprinkle remaining cheese over enchiladas. Bake at 350°F for 10–15 minutes.

Yield: 12 enchiladas

Cost Comparison

When I first began looking at freeze dried food, the costs seemed enormous, especially with meats. This is before considering shelf life, ease of use,  and that it's hormone free food. I've tried to break this down for you to give you and idea of actual costs. I hope my math makes sense.

Thrive Life Ground Beef
$55.80 #10 can (price through consultant)
23- 1 oz. serving (equivalent 4 oz. reconstituted) /4 servings per lb. = 5.75 lb. equivalent = $9.70 lb.
$2.42 serving

Thrive Life Ground Beef- SALE
$35.00 #10 can (price through consultant- special)
23- 1 oz. servings (equivalent 4 oz  reconstituted) /4 servings per lb. =5.75 lb. equivalent = $6.08 lb.
$1.52 serving

Store Ground Beef
$5.49 lb.- yield 12 oz. cooked = .48 cents oz = $7.68 lb
yields 3- 4 oz. servings
$2.56 serving

Store Ground Beef- SALE
$3.99/lb.- yield 12 oz. cooked = .33 cents oz. = $5.33 lb.
yields 3- 4 oz. servings
$1.77 serving

When I got this food I did not know what to do with it. I was so thankful that Thrive  included so many helpful recipes and tips. I will post recipes today or tomorrow using this tasty, healthy food.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Eating Healthy and Saving Money

You may be visiting this blog because you are familiar with my other blog, Simple Everyday Living. Thank you for looking over here at my new blog, Back Country Cook1. You may know that I love to cook and can food. I have also tried my hand at dehydrating food. But I will tell you that with just the two of us at home anymore, I find I have a lot of food waste. I only used 3 stalks of celery, half an onion, and 8 mushrooms. The rest spoiled in the fridge waiting to be used. Or, how many times have you needed celery, onions, or mushrooms, but didn't have any?

Not only have I been wasting food, I've been wasting money. I have discovered Thrive Life foods. These are amazing freeze dried foods with up to a 25 year shelf life. They are flash frozen at -50 degrees and dehydrated. They are sealed in BPA free cans with an oxygen absorber. At first I thought the food, especially the meat, was very expensive. But when I consider that I only use exactly how much I need, am not making extra trips to the store (20-70% of store trips are impulse purchases), I have food available when I need it, and it tastes great, I am saving money. Did you know families throw out on average 25% of their food?

When I first got some of this freeze dried food, I wasn't sure how to prepare it, what it would taste like, or how I could incorporate it into our everyday meals that we already enjoy. I will be posting recipes and experiences, soon. I am now a consultant and sell Thrive on my website.

I will be posting more information about the Q (monthly food sent to your home) and recipes. I love Thrive! If you are interested now, you can go to my website:

Feel free to place an order or email me with questions. Below are the January Specials and prices become effective Jan. 1.