Category Archives: Frugal/Green

Frugality and environmental consciousness go together in my head…and in my blog.

Fun Food For Kids – Dinner Bricks

I like to feed my kids real food as much as possible – rather than something processed and canned and overpriced — so I like to cook for them.

Back when they were babies I cooked everything for them. But when they were hungry, there was no time for  waiting around for chopping, steaming, pureeing.

One of my friends introduced me to the genius idea of making batches of steamed, pureed vegetables, freezing them in iceblock trays and then tipping them out and quickly zapping one or two whenever I needed them.

Fast-forward six years. My kids are still hungry NOW! (with the exclamation mark).

Last month when I was cooking up some pasta for lunch, I realised (ka-pow!) that I could make a huge batch and freeze some individual portions for later. But how to store them? I dont’ have much freezer space so lumpy bagfuls of unidentified frozen dinner tend to get buried and forgotten and quickly fill up the freezer. I’ve toyed with squeezing the storage bags flat, but even at that, they end up slipping and sliding and causing a slippery, pointy avalanche whenever I open the freezer; plus I run into the problem of reheating them quickly inside their plastic prisons which, I’m assured, is not the most healthy option. (mmm, melted plastic).

Enter The Dinner Brick

While an icecube tray would no longer fill the stomachs of my growing lads, I realized I had, in my pantry, a nine-portion mini-loaf pan.

Dinner brick pan

I lined the pans one at a time with cling film 1, dolloped in a three quarters of a cup full of pasta and meat sauce, wrapped up each portion and shoved the whole pan into the top of the freezer.

When they came out: bricks of nutritious goodness ready for the zapping.

(Sorry I didn’t take any pictures.  We just polished off the last one at lunch time)

Updated: I took a picture of the next batch!
IMG_2647

 

The Fun Part

When I first pulled one of my little packets out of the freezer I was being hounded by a hungry six year old.

“What can I have? What will you make me?” he repeated.

Losing patience I slapped one of my nutritional super-packets down on the quartz surface where it made a KLONK loud enough to silence the boy for a moment.

“That.” I said. “A dinner brick.”

 

Admittedly, I did have to endure about five minutes of wailing about how he didn’t want a brick for dinner while I defrosted and reheated said item, but when he was finally presented with a steaming plate of pasta and meat sauce (liberally dusted with grated parmesan), his face lit up, and he dashed off to tell his brother that he was getting to eat a Dinner Brick, like it was the most exciting thing in thing in the world. 2

 

I’m planning on making more batches of Dinner Bricks in different flavors and contents, so that the journey of discovery can continue! I’m thinking mini shepherd’s pies, next…

And so, I give you: the Dinner Brick. Use it well.

  1. I know, still plastic, but easy to get the food out of after freezing
  2. there was something very sci-fi about putting a solid rectangle into a box, pressing a button and being rewarded with a plate of real food!

Build Your Own Leaf Bin

[This is from the archives, but it’s the perfect time to pull out this post again]

I hate waste, so autumn drives me kind of crazy. All my neighbours sweep their leaves to the front kerb, where a big borough lorry comes along and sucks them up. Then, in the spring, everyone has a truck load of mulch delivered.

I say: stop the insanity! Use your own leaves to make your own mulch! Build a leaf bin!

leafbinsupplies It doesn’t take much. Just a roll of hardware cloth, a piece of scrap wood and a way to fasten them together (I used a cable staple gun that we had lying around.

I bought a 10′ roll of 3′ tall, 1/4″ mesh landscape fabric from the local big hardware store.

Step 1: Unroll the hardware cloth and lay it flat on the ground. Stomp on it a bit to get it to unroll if you need to. No need to get it totally flat, though, as you’ll want it to roll up again in a minute. Building A Leaf Bin
Building A Leaf Bin Step 2: fold one end of the mesh around the piece of wood (which should be just a bit taller than 3′, so you can bash the end of it into the ground to help support your leaf bin). Staple the mesh to the wood, all along the length.
Step 3: Fold the mesh over so the free end is touching the wood. Building A Leaf Bin
Building A Leaf Bin Step 4: Staple the end to the wood, as neatly as you can while wrangling 10′ of metal mesh.
Step 5: Stand it up. The mesh is strong enough to support itself, but the wood helps. You can then pound the wood into the ground to hold your new leaf bin in place. You can also use metal or wood stakes to define its shape a bit better and give it extra stability. Building A Leaf Bin
Building A Leaf Bin Building A Leaf Bin

Shred your leaves with a lawnmower or a leaf muncher; pile them up and let the microbes save you a pile of money. Know what’s in the mulch you’re putting on your soil (nothing but natural ingredients).