Category Archives: Frugal Gifts

How To Make Jerky

Making Jerky With Kids In The Kitchen.

Do you like Jerky? 

My husband and I have made jerky every year for Thanksgiving and Christmas, for as long as I can remember.  I don’t think we are very traditional folks, or have many traditions, but this would have to be one.  Now we have passed this tradition on to our kids.  They enjoy making, eating, and gifting jerky as much as we do.

Jerky is basically dried and salted meat.  It can be seasoned with additional dried spices, or dried fruits to change the flavor or nutrient content.  A lot of water/moisture is removed in the drying process.  Drying the meat allows it to be stored or transported without refrigeration.  By removing the moisture, and salting it, you greatly reduce the possibility of mold or bacteria ruining the meat, resulting in a long storage life. 

The great thing about making it at home, in less than 24 hours, you have something delicious and nutritious you made yourself, and you can control the ingredients and the flavor too.  I personally like to make my jerky preservative free.  However, most jerky is made with preservatives to help prevent it from spoiling, and give it a longer shelf life. 

I have made jerky in a simple process from roasts I cut into very thin strips, soak in soy sauce, salt, and sugar, and then letting them dry in a warm oven overnight.  But by far, the jerky we like the best is made from meat we grind into burger before seasoning it, and dry with our dehydrator.  Either way, after seasoning it, let it marinate for about 4 hours in the fridge to distribute the flavors, before drying.

I usually get about 1/4 lb of jerky for a pound of meat.  Jerky in 1/4 lb to 1/2 lb packages makes a nice gift to give away at the holidays.  My dehydrator will hold about 4 lbs of fresh meat at a time.  But there are plenty of dehydrators on the market today that will hold a lot more.

History and Science:

This is a great learning opportunity to involve the kids.  There is so much to learn about the history and science of making jerky.  Questions to ask as you go along might include what is dehydration, why do we use salt to preserve food, what is the nutritional value of various kinds of jerky, etc.   The history of jerky and civilization is facinating.  Jerky is packed so full of nutrients, that many generations of humans survived on it. 

The Native American Indians would salt and dry the meat, then powder it, and add dried fruit and additional fat back into it, to make PEMMICAN.  It was a very nutritional source of proteins, fats, and vitamins, especially vitamin C which helped them stay healthy and strong through the long winter months.   You can read here and learn more about PEMMICAN.

Dried meat can be soaked in water for soups, stews, casseroles, and other recipes.  It is not just for Jerky. 

We have made jerky from:

Jerky can be made from a lot of other meats too, and in stores, I have purchased Turkey jerky as well.

Using Deer To Make Jerky

In the recipe below, I am using ground deer.  My husband is a hunter and we often have wonderful deer in the freezer.  But you can substitute beef, or other meat, for the recipe.

My family loves to use deer.  It is naturally lean, tender, and tastes great in everything I make with it.  We typically will use a doe or young buck for our food.  I usually have the whole deer ground into burger, but we also like to keep the tenderloin steaks and grill them up just like I would a beef fillet.  Besides eating them as steak, they are great for fahitas, or in any dish you would use with beef steak.

I usually use ground deer just like we would use ground beef or ground turkey:
            sausage for biscuits and gravy, 
            sausage for sausage, egg, and cheese burritos
            summer sausage,
            and of course JERKY

I do not like eating an older “trophy” buck.  Forget it.  The meat is rank with his scent.  However, you can still make jerky or sausage with an older buck, and it will taste good, as the spices hide the scent.

Kids In The Kitchen
How To Make Jerky:

Here are some recipes using different cuts of beef (you can substitute other meats) from around the web:

Flank Steak Jerky

Eye Of Round Jerky

Hamburger Jerky

Smoked Hamburger Jerky

Brisket Jerky


Pemmican with fruit

Here is the process my family uses to make our deer jerky

My family really enjoys the ground meat version of jerky better than using roasts or brisket.  Our next choice is to use a very tender and lean cut of steak, either sirloin or new york strip.  Most folks would think that is a waist of a good steak, but it really is up to you what cut of meat you want to make your jerky from.
To make the process easier, have your butcher grind or slice the meat for you.  Most butchers at the grocery counter will do this for you if you ask.  Or if you have an animal butchered at a butcher shop, they will process the meat however you request it.

Also, when making jerky, remember that each dehydrator, or oven, is
different and times needed to dry the meat can vary according to the appliance you are using.

For our jerky, we start with ground deer burger (you can use beef or whatever you choose).  We have our whole deer ground and packaged by the butcher shop.  He puts the meat in 1 lb packages for the freezer, and we just pull meat out of the freezer whenever we need it. 

Measure spices and salt according to how much meat you are preparing. 

Look around the web to find a recipe you would like to try.  Be sure to measure everything well.

Mix ingredients, according to your recipe, by hand to distribute everything evenly.

Cover with plastic wrap and let the mixture marinate in the refrigerator for about 4 hours if using ground meat, and longer according to recipe if using sliced meat.

When ready, if using ground meat, put ground mixture into jerky gun and fill your trays or cookie sheets. If you are using sliced meat, then lay the slices out flat on each tray or cookie sheet.  My dehydrator holds 1 lb of meat per tray.  Cookie sheets will hold more.

Put the cover on and set the timer on your dehydrator.  Or follow directions for using an oven.

For my dehydrator, I plan 6 hours, plus an additional 20 minutes for each additional tray.  So for four trays of ground meat, it takes approximately 7 hours and 20 minutes, or a little more.   Sliced meat takes longer, depending on how thick it is sliced, and the temperature you use to dry the meat.   If using an oven, follow directions in the recipe, as ovens usually take longer.  Dehydrators work faster because they are blowing hot air around the product they are drying, so it greatly reduces the drying time.

When done, remove the jerky from the trays and place between paper towels to absorb any fat or moisture that might remain on the outside of the strips of jerky.

Package in zip lock bags or in jars.  It will keep longer if packaged in air tight packages.  We store our jerky in the refrigerator or freezer until ready to use. 

And there you have it. 
DEER JERKY ready to enjoy, take to a gathering, or give away as gifts.  And a great “tradition” to pass on to your kids!

This post will be linked up with
No Time For Flash Cards
Raising Homemakers
Science Sunday

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Valentine Goodie Bags

Working Together To Accomplish A Common Goal.

Do you ever long for your kids to cooperate with each other?  One way to give them some practice working together is to set up some common goals.  With Valentines Day just around the corner, we have been practicing working together to prepare for this special holiday.

Here is a quick and fun activity you can do with your kids and help them learn to work together.  Let them prepare Valentine Goodie Bags to share with their friends.  All five of my children ages 2, 3, 6, 8, 10, each had a “job” in putting these bags together.  But no ones job could accomplish the goal alone.  Instead they had to work together as a team, and they had lots of fun. 

These were very inexpensive to make.  We found most of the items at the dollar store.  We were able to make 24 goodie bags for less than $0.70 each.  We had several leftovers too, and could have doubled up on some items and made 48 goodie bags for approximately $0.60 each. 

You can make these with lots of variety, and more or less expense.  You could spend more and add toys, or cookie cutters and play dough, or other options too.  We stuck with candy and a pencil to keep costs down.

We set up an assembly line and each child had a category they were responsible for putting into the bag.
The eight year old started the process off with a bag and pencil. Then passed the bag.
The three year old added her candy. Then passed the bag.
The six year old added his candy. Then passed the bag.
The two year old added a sucker. Then passed the bag.
The ten year old added more candy and helped the two year old with his task.  Then placed the bag in a box.

The oldest and youngest worked together.

Our ingredients for the goodie bags included a heart sucker, heart pencil, a box of conversation hearts, a candy bracelet, and some chewy taffy candy.  

I also made some personal gift tags.  I found a nice graphic online, added a personal note, and our family names.  I printed them on business card sheets, which gave me 10 tags per sheet.

The 10 year old hole punched the tags.  The eight year old separated the tags.

The two and three year olds sorted the twisty ties for the bags.

The eight and ten year olds tied the tags to the bags.

Then the three year old placed the finished bags back into the box.

The children were very pleased with their gifts they prepared to share with friends.

They worked together and reached their goal.  This success will benefit them by building confidence and will strengthen their relationship skills.

I was pleased with the outcome too.  I wish I had printed off a little math graphing game, and a tic tac toe game, to go along with the conversation hearts.  I didn’t think of adding it until the bags were already closed, and I didn’t think I had the time to fix it.  Perhaps the game could have been printed on the back side of the gift tags.  That would be a really fun addition to these goodie bags, and made them even more special.  Maybe I will remember to do it for next year!

What goodies are your kids sharing with friends and family this Valentines Day?

If you have a Valentines Day craft, recipe, celebration, lesson theme, or activity you would like to share, please join our link up or leave a comment.  Thanks. 

You can find our VALENTINES DAY LINK UP  at the bottom of the Valentine Bag Craft article.

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Christmas Pretzels

Christmas Pretzels

Almond Bark for dipping
Chocolate Chips for adding to almond bark and dipping
Peppermint candy or candy cane

Melt almond bark in glass covered bowl in microwave for 2 minutes.
Melt again for 1 minute if needed. 
Stir again.
Leave covered for a few minutes.
Stir again.

While your almond bark is melting, put peppermint candy into a ziplock bag.
Cover with a towel.
Pound the towel covered candy.

Pound again.

Pound again.

Pound again.

Pound again.

Pound again, with all your might.

Finally, put your powdered candy into a bowl.

Dip pretzels into almond bark. 

Set dipped pretzels on a parchment lined cookie sheet.

Sprinkle dipped pretzels with powdered candy.

Add chocolate chips into the remaining almond bark and melt for 2 minutes.


Repeat process to make chocolate dipped Christmas Pretzels.

When they are dry, fill your containers for gift giving.

Be sure to separate out the broken ones.

Enjoy these for yourself.  They make a yummy snack.

Here is a frugal secret. 
If you buy your ingredients at a dollar type store, or on sale, these are very cheap to make. 
This recipe will make four nice tins of pretzels, and it costs under $3 a piece per gift, including the tins.
Or reuse your previous tins, and this gift would cost $1 a piece.
Now that is a lot of fun, plus something special to give away, for very little money.

Oh, Christmas Pretzels are so yummy.

So sweet and crunchy.

Merry Christmas !

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