Friday, October 28, 2016

Halloween Monster Bash 2016

Our local library held a thrilling Halloween Monster Bash for the community. The new library was jam-packed with visitors from all over town. Games and activities were scattered throughout the inside of the building. There was also a costume contest. Alyssa didn't win the contest, but we enjoyed seeing several of our friends. Alyssa dressed up as Cleopatra.

Thank you for visiting! 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Homeschool Review Crew: Elementary Spanish 1 (Grades 3-5) from Middlebury Interactive Languages

Spanish, French, German or Chinese {Middlebury Interactive Languages}

Alyssa is having a blast with our new review product Elementary Spanish 1 (Grades 3-5) from Middlebury Interactive Languages. No background knowledge or prerequisites are needed to take this course. Middlebury Interactive Languages offers digital world language courses for four main languages including Spanish, French, Chinese, and German. We received access to the comprehensive course for a year. Their courses are semester-based and this specific course contains two semesters of content.
Spanish, French, German or Chinese {Middlebury Interactive Languages}

I chose to review one of the introductory Spanish Courses, because I wanted Alyssa to be able to communicate with people in our community. I also believe it is important for her to become bilingual, because it opens many opportunities and doors in the future. Furthermore, there are many other positive benefits to learning a second language. We both enjoy learning Spanish so it was easily added to our homeschool schedule. As you read this review, please click on the graphics to enlarge small images.

Middlebury Interactive Languages is an online foreign language learning program suitable for children in K-12th grade. The company implements an immersive learner-centered approach while exposing children to both language and culture. Their courses are divided into grade-based group ranges such as K-2nd, 3rd-5th, 6th-8th, 9th-12th with 11th-12th grade containing AP+ courses. The company emphasizes what they call the Five C's into their courses: Communication, Cultures, Connections, Comparisons, and Community.

Children will improve their reading, writing (typing), speaking, and listening skills with this course. The lessons are taught using authentic stories based on culture, fun songs, educational games, and interactive activities. I was thoroughly impressed with the fact that a cultural component was added and that speaking was integrated into the curriculum. These two features are often rarely both found in an online course. Icons or symbols will be seen throughout the program. The orange audio icon allowed her to listen to the directions for each activity. The green audio symbol allowed her to listen to the Spanish word, phrase, or sentence. The red record icon button was available when recording activities were offered. In the screenshot below, she was practiced discussing foods she liked and didn't like using complete sentences. She would first listen to the sentence, and then record herself saying it. In the beginning, I would watch your children and make sure they are listening to the helpful audios first to improve pronunciation.

There are 16 units in the 3rd-5th grade Spanish Course two of which are built-in review units. Each review unit is divided into three units. Each review unit covers material from 1-3 units. Reminders are given to review content from specific units in preparation for a lesson. The other units cover basic theme-based vocabulary terms and simple expressions. Each unit consists of 6 lessons which are further broken down into 5-9 engaging activities. Look at the left-side of the screenshot below.

Unit Themes Covered
  • Family
  • Numbers
  • Greetings
  • Adjectives and Feelings
  • Food 
  • Community and Professions
  • Body 
  • Review
  • Animals
  • Colors
  • Clothes
  • Weather and Seasons
  • School 
  • Calendar
  • Months
  • Review
You will need a computer with a reliable Internet connection. Chrome is recommended as one of the preferred browsers. A headset with a mic is also recommended for the speaking lab portion of the course. Read about the Technical and System Requirements before making a purchase. The FAQ section may contain answers to your questions too. you will also need Adobe Reader and a printer if you want to print any of the unit materials provided to supplement the content.

How We Used Middlebury Interactive Languages
I used the Elementary Spanish 1 course designed for students in 3rd-5th grade from Middlebury Interactive Languages with my 8-year-old daughter, Alyssa. It was her core foreign language program. My daughter begged to use the Spanish course every day. However, we utilized it 3-5 times per week. Middlebury Interactive Languages recommends that a 3rd-5th grader work through the material at least 2-3 days per week. Alyssa usually covered 1-4 lessons per session. The lessons were quick. The amount of time for each learning session varied. I carved out 10-30 minutes for each daily session. She is moving through the course at her own individualized pace. She recently started Unit 6 and will most likely finish it later today. Alyssa is currently learning about the Community and different Professions. She called her father a "bombero" on a phone call the other day which brought a smile to my face. I'm glad that she shared words she learned with him and that it was related to his career.
Speaking Test: Community Professions

After receiving my password information, we logged into the program. We used Chrome as our preferred browser on a Mac OS X 10.9.5 which has a built-in microphone. We did NOT purchase a headset and didn't have any issues during recording labs. Even though my daughter could speak normally into the computer she constantly felt the need to sit on top of the screen. Kids are so funny! We authorized the use of the microphone during our class sessions which we was a very simple process beginning with a reminder prompt.

We received the Spanish Course without teacher support. My daughter has prior background knowledge and experience with the Spanish language and I have a degree in Spanish. Several units contained vocabulary that she already knew so we basically reviewed some of the material in more depth with this course. I was available and nearby to help her with pronunciation if needed. If I heard her say a Spanish word incorrectly, I would say the word in Spanish and encourage her to listen to the pronunciation again. I wanted Alyssa to have more exposure to the Spanish language which was met with this course. She'll work on mastery of the content this year.

I used the Gradebook feature to track Alyssa's scores and progress. Several activities such as quizzes and tests were automatically graded providing Alyssa with immediate feedback. One thing she had to remember to do at the end of each activity was to submit her answers in the top-right corner for credit.

Food 1and 2 Quiz

My daughter immediately started the program. I watched the first few activities while jotting down a few notes about the course. She completed the course independently. I was always nearby if she had any questions. She first clicked on the Welcome lesson which explained how to use the program features such as how to drag and drop, highlight, work in steps, and record. She also watched a welcome video. We had one problem during the review period. My account closed for some odd reason. I contacted customer service and they immediately resolved the issue. My daughter's scores and work was not lost.
Welcome Activities

There are three other features mentioned including Authentic Stories, Course Vocabulary, and Songs and Translations. The company offers access to English song translations for all of the songs, links to the traditional songs heard, and vocabulary lists with English translations in printable PDF format. I printed the vocabulary term lists for Alyssa so that she could create flash cards and play games using the unit vocabulary.

There was a new story for every unit and the material presented was related to the concept being taught. The first story we listened to completely in Spanish was called Heart of a Butterfly. Family words were seamlessly integrated throughout the story as characters. Alyssa would listen to the story and try to translate the story in her own words. During additional viewings she recognized key vocabulary words. Related story activities were provided to explore, practice, review, and test on vocabulary. The words were highlighted in red so that they would stand out yet still be in the context of a sentence.

One story we enjoyed was the Deer and the Turtle. My daughter made connections to the fable titled, The Hare and the Turtle. In this story, an arrogant Deer challenges the smaller forest animals to a race. Turtle was the only animal confident enough to stand up to Deer who laughed at her after accepting the challenge. Turtle outsmarted the Deer by waiting at the finish line and crossing over it when she heard Deer approaching. She tells Deer that she outsmarted him and didn't have to run the race. Deer learns a lesson and never teases the animals again. The stories captured her attention. She used contextual and visual clues to figure out the meaning of the story. After hearing the story for the last time, I asked Alyssa to narrate the story. Then, I opened up the English translation to compare her understanding to the meaning. Her translations were on target for the most part which amazes me. She understood the story better and with repeated viewings she clarified her understanding.

It became habit for us to watch the immersive story and song videos together. We both appreciated hearing the fascinating folktales, myths, and legends revealing aspects of the Spanish culture. The Legend of the Corn was my favorite so far. My daughter constantly called me in to hear her sing the catchy songs. I loved hearing her sing the Spanish songs while doing chores. The song, Los Diez Perritos, reinforced the Spanish numbers through 10. Pictures were utilized to facilitate learning. The song, Buenos Dias Su Señoría, reviews the profession vocabulary. Alyssa has the task of sequencing the professions based on the song presentation.

Sequencing Song Verses

The objectives were clearly stated as "I Can Statements" on a separate slide at the beginning of the unit. This let her know what was going to be covered and what to expect. I asked her to read the objectives aloud.

The course consists of a variety of activities including but NOT limited to matching, sequencing, highlighting, color pages, and multiple choice. The highlighting colors varied. In the screenshot below, "I like" or "I want" were highlighted green. This activity reminded Alyssa of another online highlighting program she uses. She enjoys searching for the key words.
Highlight Activity
Coloring Page
Multiple Choice Test: Numbers

Mini grammar lessons were scattered throughout the units. They were presented when you click on the light bulb. A speaking bubble pops up with a grammar teaching point such as masculine and feminine nouns as seen below. She read them aloud too.

What We Liked
  • Gradebook Feature
  • Interesting Stories Based on Spanish Culture
  • Structured Layout with Well-Organized Slide Format
  • Individualized Work Pace
  • Built-In Review
  • Course Independently Completed
  • Variety of Interactive Exercise and Engaging Activities
  • Effectively Teaches Spanish
  • Kid and User-Friendly Navigation
  • Age Appropriate Content
  • Native Speaker Recordings
  • Repetitive Nature and Exposure to Language
  • Learning to Speak Phrases and Sentences
  • Speaking Lab Sessions (Alyssa's Favorite Part)
Speaking Lab: Recording Location Phrases

Possible Vendor Suggestions
  1. Separate Parent Dashboard
  2. More Affordable Price for Yearly Subscriptions 
  3. Option for Parent to Grade the Speaking Portions (not just leave comments)
Overall Thoughts and Results
This is an exceptional online foreign language course that I HIGHLY recommend for children in the elementary age range. My daughter absolutely LOVES her Spanish course! She took 130 screenshots to mark her favorite features or activities to share with me which I had to later delete off the computer.

She is retaining the course content in her long term memory and becoming more proficient as she progress through the sequenced lessons. Her confidence is soaring with this digitally-formatted program. She is also communicating in Spanish more frequently in real life and attempting to utilize the language in public. We were recently at a Mexican restaurant with our pastor and his family for Pastor Appreciation Day. My daughter was looking at the menu and was ecstatic when she recognized several of the Spanish words on the menu such as "almuerzo" and "desayuno." She started telling the words and their meanings to the other children at the table.

The Calendar in the top-left corner of the screen also allowed me to see Alyssa's progress through the course. The material that is completed is check marked or colored in green. The Calendar provides a daily sequence through the material, but your child can work at their own pace. Alyssa is currently ahead of that schedule and will mostly likely finish early. However, she will take time off during her Fall and Winter breaks. My daughter has no intentions of slowing down. Alyssa worked through the first 6 units with outstanding success. She looked forward to seeing her scores and participation grades after submitting her answers. We will continue using the Spanish course until it is completed or our subscription expires. If she completes the course early, then I will have her review the material.

I  wish we could afford to use the next course, but unfortunately as a single mom on a super tight budget this won't be possible. This was wonderful addition to our homeschool. It makes me sad, because I know there is no way we can continue using it in the future even though it was a perfect fit. I just can't justify the cost for an online yearly program especially when our CORE subject curricula costs less. Thankfully, your budget may differ and you can take advantage of this complete and comprehensive course!

Alyssa's Thoughts
"This was my favorite subject to do every day. I look forward to the lessons at the end of the day, because they are like a surprise or a mystery. I don't know what topic I am learning unless I peek ahead. I am learning Spanish in a fun way. I enjoyed recording myself during speaking lab and taking the quizzes. Sometimes I would act silly or tell my mom I love her during a recording, but the program lets me delete it and record the correct word or phrase up to 3 times. Recording was a neat feature! I felt like I was teaching the words to someone online. The stories were my top favorite and they have a new story for every unit. The songs about the ten dogs and the ducklings were funny too. My favorite unit was about the Community and Professions. I loved learning how to say the places in our community and the jobs in Spanish. I also learned about the Spanish culture like bull racing, Quinceañeras, and making tortillas. I want to continue using Middlebury Interactive Languages if possible."

I definitely recommend the Elementary Spanish 1 course for children in 3rd-5th grade to ALL homeschool families who can afford it. This program would also be beneficial to public school students in the classroom or as an at home course. This would be a great course for a child to work on after school as an independent study.

It effectively and successfully teaches Spanish using an immersive approach. Many learning styles are addressed, but the program will be especially useful for individuals with an audio or visual learning style preference. Children who prefer computer-based learning will appreciate this online homeschool foreign language study as well.

Elementary Spanish 1 (Grades 3-5) costs $238 WITHOUT teacher support for BOTH semesters and $588 WITH teacher support for BOTH Semesters. One semester is 6 months and both semesters equals a year's worth of content. Visit the Grades 3-5 Collection to view other language courses suitable for children in 3rd-5th grade.

Note: All prices are subject to change without notice.

Social Media
Twitter @MiddInteractive

Homeschool Review Crew reviewed several homeschool foreign language programs from Middlebury Interactive Languages. Visit the previous link to read about their varied experiences with different languages and grade levels.
Crew Disclaimer
Spanish, French, German or Chinese {Middlebury Interactive Languages}

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Wanted: New Applicants for the Homeschool Review Crew for the 2017 School Year!

I wanted to let you know that the leaders of the Homeschool Review Crew are NOW accepting applications 
for the 2017 school year. 

Our school year has truly been blessed this year - thanks to the Homeschool Review Crew. This is a fantastic team of homeschool review bloggers. If I am considering a new curricula for my daughter, I always turn to the Homeschool Review Crew to read their well-written reviews before making a purchase. I read several for each product so that I can hear about the experiences from more than one person.

Every year I anxiously wait to find out if I made the Homeschool Review Crew team. I've been on it since July 2012. I took one year off during a very tough time period in my life and was thrilled when my application was accepted again the following year.

I always have an important discussion with my daughter every October or November about her opinion regarding joining the Crew since her active participation is a must. We don't talk long, because she always wants me to reapply. She knows that we need to use the products for at least 6-8 weeks in order for me to write a thorough review. We both make the commitment. She LOVES the products! We also look forward to receiving new and exciting products in the mail.

The crew was offered a whopping 74 review products during the 2016 year. We reviewed more than just homeschool curriculum. This year we were offered books, games, apps, and homemaker helps. I wrote detailed reviews for 22 of the products.

I am a single work-at-home homeschool mom so the FREE homeschool products were definitely a blessing to our homeschool since our budget is super tight now. Normally, I'm afraid to try a new product, because of cost and not knowing whether or not it'll work for my daughter's needs, interests, and abilities. The crew allows us the chance to try new curricula without having to make a purchase or waste money on curricula that doesn't fit her needs.

Being Part of the Homeschool Review Crew Means . . . 
  • We review high-quality physical and online products.
  • New homeschool curricula provides variety throughout the week. We get to cover subjects we don't always get to address such as Art, Music, and Health. Variety also adds more fun to the routine and learning process.
  • We save money on curricula costs and have the opportunity to try new products we couldn't usually afford. 
  • The private forum provides us with social media tutorials. These tutorials help me develop into a stronger and better blogger. The leaders consistently encourage us to improve our blog writing skills. We also have opportunities to grow with blog carnivals and guest posts.
  • The crew members communicate through the forum which provides me with friendship, encouragement, advice, support, and prayer warriors. We can learn from each other because we all hold different beliefs and utilize different teaching methods. The members are an invaluable piece of my homeschool support team.
  • Sharing blog reviews increases traffic on my blog.
  • I found a place which gives me a sense of belonging.
  • My hope is that my reviews help other homeschool families learn more about specific curricula products. Review products help me learn about my daughter's learning style and my reviews often explain what type of learner would benefit from using the product. I love writing helpful reviews that offer my blog readers an honest opinion about our experiences. It's like a second job to me which I take very seriously. 
Products That Surprised Us
Products That Have Truly Blessed Our Homeschool
I believe that ALL of the products we reviewed have blessed our family and homeschool. Here is a list of a few this year that have had a huge impact on our school year. We are STILL using all of these products even though the review period is over.
Visit the following link to read about what the Homeschool Review Crew Experiences and Blessings of my

If you are interested in being part of the Homeschool Review Crew team, then PLEASE Click on the graphic below to fill out an application. Please let them know Tracey M. sent you!

Read the Crew Requirements before applying and then Submit the Application. We also have a mentoring program for new members. :) They'll contact you if you make the team. I hope they'll ask me to return another year.
What being on the Crew means ...

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Honoring Washington By Baking a Cherry Pie

My daughter has been spending more and more time in the kitchen. Our new Homeschool Legacy Micro-Unit Study called Cooking Up History with the Founding Presidents gave Alyssa the opportunity to bake which is one of her hobbies. She recently made a cherry pie in honor of George Washington. It was his favorite pie. We wanted to make the pie from scratch, but due to lack of time we used canned cherry pie filling and added ingredients from the recipe. It was just as good! We both love the fact this this unit study includes baking activities and we look forward to spending quality time together as we learn about the founding presidents.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Homeschool Review Crew: Freezer Meal Plan Membership from MyFreezEasy Freezer Meal Plan Membership {MyFreezEasy}

My daughter and I are ecstatic about our new review product called Freezer Meal Plan Membership from MyFreezEasy which has simplified the meal planning process. It saved me hours that would normally be spent in the kitchen preparing meals. It allowed us to have home cooked meals even though we have a busy schedule. My goal was to eat healthier, well-balanced meals every night. I wanted meals that I could throw in the oven that would last me several days. I didn't want to waste anymore money eating out. No more quick "go to" drive-thru foods on those busy nights. Saving money is a huge priority for this single work-at-home homeschool mom. At first, I was overwhelmed with the concept. I needed to spend less money on groceries. I also wasn't sure I would have enough room for freezer meals, but it worked out perfectly. I am inspired to continue with the freezer meal prep process. MyFreezEasy was my lifesaver.

What is MyFreezEasy? 
We received the Premium Annual Membership to review, which is an online freezer meal prep subscription with access to printables in PDF format. You will need a printer and Adobe Reader to read the PDF files. MyFreezEasy is an effective and efficient freezer cooking meal planning strategy developed by Erin Chase. Erin is the founder of Grocery Budget Makeover and $5 Dinners. The ultimate goal and idea is to freeze 10-12 meals in less than one hour. Erin arms you with the tools and resources you need to successfully freeze an assortment of meals which makes meal planning less stressful and easier. Freezer Meal Plan Membership {MyFreezEasy}

My membership gave me access to ALL 8 meal plans offered each month. Each preset meal plans offers 5-10 recipes providing you with 10-20 meals. Most meal plans have 5 recipes. Then, you double the recipe which gives you 10 meals. Since it's just my daughter and I one meal lasted us 1-3 days which means as long as we don't mind eating leftovers the prepared meals will span across 10-30 days. The customization desktop app allow us to access ALL the recipes in the database and we have the ability to personalize our meal plans to fit our preferences and needs.

Meal Plan Categories
  • Traditional
  • Slow Cooker
  • Gluten Free
  • Clean Eats
  • 20 Meals
  • All Chicken
  • All Ground Beef
  • All Pork Chops Freezer Meal Plan Membership {MyFreezEasy}

We won't use the all meat meal plans as often, because my daughter and I would be eating the same type of protein all month. One meal lasts us several days. I can only store a few meals in my freezer. This is why I absolutely LOVE the swapping feature. I can swap out a few chicken recipes for other recipes. 

A new set of recipes and meal plans arrive each month with printables for all meal plans. Each recipe includes a bulleted ingredient list and numbered step-by-step cooking instructions. The instructions were provided for a single meal and a doubled recipe based on the serving size you indicate before reviewing and printing the file. The serving size and cook times are stated at the top under the recipe title.

You'll Receive
  • Recipes Including Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free Modifications
  • Several Organized Shopping Lists
  • Step-by-Step Assembly Directions
  • Printable Meal Bag or Tray Labels
  • Instructional Assembly Video of the Traditional Meal Plan
  • Video Library with Meal Plan Highlights and Tips Freezer Meal Plan Membership {MyFreezEasy}

How We Used MyFreezEasy
The first task was to clean out the freezer and trash expired food. We've had access to the September and the October meal plans so far. I am a freezer cooking newbie. The meal plans were immediately downloaded in PDF format and saved to my computer. Of course . . . I realize now that I saved the default serving size of 4 instead of the serving sizes of 2 for the September meals.

The September meal plan notification arrived via email. As soon as I received my log in information, I viewed each meal plan. We wanted to customize our first session so we browsed the categorized recipes. There were several  search options available such as type of protein, cooking method, or dietary preferences. We found a few of our monthly favorites in the MyFreezEasy recipe database.

They are working on a My Favorite Meals storage. If you click on a recipe listing, then you can click the little heart in the top-right corner changing it from green to red if it was one of your favorite recipes. This is great way to store the recipes your family enjoys most so you can find them quickly and easily in the future.  

We started with Chicken and Traditional recipes. My daughter sat on my lap and we skimmed the titles. The photos captured our attention. We chose NEW recipes based on the ingredient list and photos. It didn't take us long to add 5 recipes to our MyFreezEasy Meal Plan Box from the database.

I also used MyFreezEasy with my 8-year-old daughter (Alyssa) as a way to bond and to teach her how to cook. People in the store noticed Alyssa comparing prices and shopping frugally from our menu plan list which may explain why our shopping trips took longer too. I wanted this review to be a learning experience that will last her a lifetime.

We tried a customized meal plan in September. As we added recipes to the box, we changed the serving size to 2. We added the following meals to our Meal Plan Box:
  • Lazy Lasagna Bake
  • Corn Chicken Chili 
  • Apple-BBQ Pork Chops
  • Pesto Chicken Bake
  • Greek Chicken Bake
Surprisingly, she LOVED the Greek Chicken Bake!

The first time we utilized MyFreezEasy we put one meal in the fridge to cook and eat the next day. The other nine were stored in the freezer. My freezer is small so I have to limit the number of foil tray recipes. I used aluminum foil to cover the pans. I froze the Apple-BBQ Pork Chops in a gallon-sized bag instead of in a foil tray to save space.

Prior to a cooking session, we watched a few of the helpful Assembly Videos which highlight useful tips. I jotted down a few relevant notes related to recipes in our plan.

I printed the recipes, shopping lists, assembly directions, and labels. I stored the meal plans in a 3-hole punched pocketed folder. My daughter wrote the meal plans on post-it notes and tabbed the pages. For example, she labeled the first one September Custom Meal Plan 1. An extra post-it note was placed inside the folder for additional staple items we needed to replenish. If I had any coupons, they were stored in the back folder pocket. The store we shop at offers free items and coupons so we always try to look at the ad before shopping to see the deals and what's on sale.

The meal plans included a 14-16 page set of printables. The meal plans began with a Table of Contents listing the numbered recipes. The step-by-step recipes come after the Table of Contents. Each recipe has its own page.

Additionally, each meal plan contains 4 types of shopping lists: Complete Shopping List by Recipe, Complete Shopping List by Store Section/Category, Freezer Meal Prep Day Shopping List by Recipe, and the Freezer Meal Prep Day Shopping List by Store Section/Category. The last few pages consist of assembly prep and meal assembly instructions. The format was the same for each meal plan which makes it easier when switching recipes.

We used the Complete Shopping List by Store Section or Category most frequently. My daughter placed it on a clipboard and headed to the kitchen. She searched the pantry, fridge, and freezer for food items we already had on hand. If we had an item, then she placed a checkmark next that particular item. This was the list that we took to the grocery store.

Our plan was to always shop for groceries and prep meals on two separate days. This is HIGHLY recommended. HOWEVER, with our busy schedule that never happened. Some weekends my daughter would be gone and she wanted to participate so we planned accordingly. We usually reserved a weekend evening for freezer meal plan prep. Grocery shopping usually took us about 1 1/2 - 2 hours. Both times we prepped freezer meals it took us approximately 2 - 2 1/2 hours from the beginning to the end excluding clean up time. I believe this was due to the fact that I wasn't as organized as I hoped, I didn't utilize all of Erin's suggested tips, and the entire process was used  as a teachable moment with my daughter. The first night we listened to an audio drama while working.

Once we got home with groceries, my daughter unloaded the bags and helped me sort the ingredients by recipe. This is where the Freezer Meal Prep Day Shopping List by Recipe came in handy. We don't have a lot of working space in my kitchen so we cleaned a long table from my garage. The ingredients were organized by recipe in sections on the table and it became our main prep area. We always had some sort of pasta dish so after viewing Erin's Traditional Meal Plan Highlight Video, I remembered to start the pasta water and cook ground meat while Alyssa began the sorting and organization process. It'll need time to cool down.

Next, we labeled the bags and trays. I didn't have the recommended Avery sticker labels for the first session so I printed the labels and covered them with clear packing tape. We used the Meal Assembly Instructions to figure out what we needed to pre-cook and prep. We eat a lot of chicken so I purchased pre-cooked rotisserie chickens to save cooking time. My daughter had the task of shredding the meat. She did an excellent job getting as much meat of the bones as she could. She also scooped out cottage cheese for the Lazy Lasagna. We decided to use Ricotta cheese next time which is a personal taste preference.

She also carefully poured ingredients into the Corn Chicken Chili gallon bags after shredding chicken. 

In the photo below, you will see three of the first session meals I served. Salad was a popular side for us, because it is something quick and simple for my daughter to make. We tried the Corn Chicken Corn Chili with dinner rolls, Apple-BBQ Pork Chops with whole grain rice as a side, and the Lazy Lasagna with garlic bread. Click on the photo to enlarge. The meals were taken out the night before and they thawed in a pan of water in the refrigerator overnight.  

The first recipe we made was the Apple-BBQ Pork Chops. My daughter loved it and said, "This is one of the best meals I've ever had - these are my favorite!" We used Honey BBQ sauce, because it was already in the fridge. My daughter asked me NOT to eat the second container unless she was home. This was a quick meal and tasted good. I cooked ours for 30 minutes. I overcooked the thin pork chops making it almost too dry to eat so I reduced the cooking time later. The second time I cooked them for only 20-25 minutes. The cooking time will depend on the size and thickness of your meat. I also wasn't sure if they were suppose to cook with or without the foil cover. We ended up not covering it.

A few problems occurred while cooking the freezer meals (all my fault of course). We hardly ever prepare foods with onions, because I dislike them. We decided to give them a try during our freezer meal session and boy was it a mistake. I purchased a pre-chopped onion. The onion overpowered the Corn Chicken Chili. I even tried adding other ingredients to hide the taste, but I only ended up wasting food because we tossed it. We wouldn't eat it, because it tasted exactly like a strong onion. 

I also uncovered the cheese-covered Pesto Chicken Bake. I let the dish cook without checking on it for the indicated 50-60 minutes at 400 degrees, because they were large chicken breasts and I knew they would need a longer cooking time. Well, the cheese burnt. This is what happens when you don't get enough sleep. I did read the directions. The freeze and thaw instructions say cover tightly with foil, but the cooking directions didn't state anything. I just made the wrong decision.   

In October, we decided to utilize the Traditional Meal Plan. I swapped out the 4-serving meal plans out for 2-serving meal plans using the Swap Meal plan feature. I dragged the 4-serving meal plans out of my recipe box, changed the serving size, using the drop down menu, dragged them back into my box on the right, and printed the shopping lists. Yes, I know I could have just split the recipe in half, but I wanted to try the desktop app features and have the printables ready to go.
Adjusting Serving Sizes of Traditional Meal Plan

The October 2016 Traditional Meal Plan included the following recipes:
  • Chicken Ranch Macaroni
  • Bacon Cheeseburger Nachos 
  • Stuffed Sweet Potato (Filling)
  • Red and Green Chicken Enchilada Bake
  • Italian Sausage Pasta Skillet 
We made one Chicken Ranch Macaroni recipe to serve that night and froze the extra one. We ate two big helpings of this particular meal for dinner two days in a row.

We made the Stuffed Sweet Potatoes for last night's dinner. I purchased the sweet potatoes and didn't want them to go bad. This recipe received rave reviews from my daughter - we both really liked it. It was delicious! This recipe will be added to our favorites.

My daughter already asked me if we can eat the Bacon Cheeseburger Nachos next so the mixture is in the fridge thawing. This membership has been a tremendous help with figuring out what's for dinner each night. I set a reminder on my phone to pull out a meal to thaw.

We followed the same process as above except that we chatted during the second session instead of listening to music or audio dramas. My daughter shredded three whole chickens during the second session while I pre-cooked the pastas, ground beef, and ground Italian sausage. I also opened some cans and prepped other items. We couldn't remember how many total cups of shredded chicken came from the last chicken so Alyssa insisted that we buy 3 chickens. We ended up having 3 extra cups of chicken so we added more chicken to the recipe. We froze the extra chicken in a separate quart-sized bag to use during our next session. Once we run out of freezer meals, we will start the process again.

I made a few adjustments to the Red and Green Enchilada Bake. I purchased canned red and green enchilada sauce and mixed it with the green salsa, a little red salsa, and green chilies. We are not fans of chunky salsa or onions. We also like saucy enchiladas. I can't wait to try them, because it is a mixed version of what I do with Erin's recipe. This will also be the first time we've made enchiladas with pepper jack cheese which happens to be one of my favorite kinds of cheese. I bought the mild cheese so that Alyssa could eat the meal. I also made only two layers instead of three layers, but I used more tortillas than required. I purchased a package of 20 and split it between the two pans.

We bought Doritos instead of corn tortilla chips for the Bacon Cheeseburger Nachos. Corn tortillas tend to be too salty for us and we like the cheesy flavor of Doritos. Furthermore, all onion was eliminated from all the recipes during this cooking session. We won't make that mistake twice! I also substituted mild ground Italian sausage for the linked and sliced Italian sausage to save time. I didn't want to remove the casings and spend time cutting it.

I should let you know that we added extra spice and seasonings to MOST of the recipes, because we enjoy flavorful meals. During the second session, I used less pasta and add more protein to the meals.

The meals were stacked neatly in the freezer. You can see a few meals below from two different freezer prep sessions. Several are about to go into the freezer and others are already in the freezer. My ink was running low, but you can see the printable labels in the bottom right corner photo. Thawing meals was super easy. I took a meal out the night before and placed it in water overnight.
Bagged Apple-BBQ Pork Chops and Corn Chicken Chili
What We Love
  • Printable Categorized Grocery List
  • Customizable Meal Plan Option
  • Swapping Feature
  • Bonding Experience (Sharing Our Love of Cooking)
  • More Quality Time Together Since I'm Not Stuck in the Kitchen Every Night
  • Adjustable Servings Sizes for Smaller or Larger Families
  • Meals Easily Modified to Our Family Preferences
  • Labels are Provided
  • My Favorites
  • Kid Friendly Recipes That Taste Good
  • We Are Trying New Recipes
  • Recipes Instructions to Serve or Freeze Meals
  • Meals and Leftovers Last 1-3 Days
  • Special Notes, Dairy-Free, and Gluten-Free Modifications are Offered
  • Website is User-Friendly
  • Meal Plan and Recipe Variety
Possible Vendor Suggestions
  1. Add a member's only Video Library with 24/7 access to all videos for all months.
  2. Offer a diabetic meal plan option.
  3. Indicate in the cooking directions whether or not the meal should be cooked with or without the foil cover.
  4. Add ounces for meat ingredients, because small and large can have different meanings for different people. 
  5. Double check all ingredients for serving size adjustment errors.
  6. Provide more seafood (shrimp and white fish) recipes.
Things I Learned Along the Way

  • Shop and prep on two separate days.
  • Get everything organized before beginning to ensure a smooth process.
  • Keep meals covered unless it indicates differently in the recipe
  • Check if pans must be lightly sprayed with a non-stick cooking spray.
  • Easily change a recipe by taking out ingredients your family dislikes and adding ones they like.
  • Cook the pasta al dente, because it will continue cooking in the oven.
  • Don't stand freezer meals with liquid up on a wire rack in freezer. The liquid froze in between the wire on the rack making it hard to pull out the meal when needed. I stood it up because I didn't want it to leak.

The cost of a Premium Annual Membership is $95. There are other options available on the website. I recommend the Premium over the Basic online subscription, because you can adjust serving sizes and customize meal plans. I suggest you watch the FAQ Page for more information.

Note: All prices can change without notice.

I HIGHLY recommend MyFreezEasy to ANY individual wanting to save money and time in the kitchen. This product is great for new and experienced cooks. Alyssa thought it was a wonderful way to learn how to cook. Are you tired of figuring out what's for dinner? Is your busy schedule keeping you from feeding your family home cooked meals? Do you enjoy trying new recipes? Do you want to stock your freezer but you're overwhelmed with the concept? If that's the case, then you may want to seriously consider MyFreezEasy.

Overall Results
We will definitely continue using MyFreezEasy throughout the year, because of the benefits we experienced. If I can afford it next year, then I will consider purchasing a membership. I wasn't spending as much time in the kitchen hovering over the stove or sink area. I didn't have to clean as much in the kitchen each night. I wasn't stressing about dinner plans. We were spending more time together and I was able to get more work done.

I haven't crunched any numbers yet, but I believe we saved money on groceries in the long run. Even though it seemed like a lot upfront, I wasn't making multiple trips to the store to purchase forgotten items. Trying new recipes was like discovering a surprise each night. Furthermore, we ate at restaurants less often. I believe that the process will become quicker with practice.

I am hoping we will try the Clean Eats meal plan soon so we can start eating healthier. Our consumption of pasta increased with the use of MyFreezEasy. I'm trying to limit the number of carbs I eat, but we were drawn towards the oven pasta dishes for cooking simplicity. The meal bakes while we spend time together. I also need a slow cooker, because I'm anxious to try several recipes from the Slow Cooker meal plans.

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I hope you'll visit the Homeschool Review Crew to read the experiences my colleagues are having using MyFreezEasy. Freezer Meal Plan Membership {MyFreezEasy}

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