Meals and Time
School is rapidly approaching. Along with the lists of school supplies and clothes needed for the new year is the contemplation of meals.
There are ways to cut down time spent in the kitchen and avoid wasted food in the budget.
Fresh vegetables are a joy in season, but when the weather is cold and you don’t have a farmer’s cellar with vegetables put away for the winter, what do you do?
Make Use of Your Freezer
Take a trip down your grocer’s freezer aisle and see what is in stock in the vegetable section. You should be able to find the tried and true items like potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, mixed vegetables and broccoli, but look for the groupings of vegetables that have been cleaned and prepped for cooking.
PictSweet has a line of vegetables designed to help out the cook. Peeled, diced (or sliced) and frozen, these bags of tasty morsels lend themselves to quick soups, stews, casseroles, and side dishes.
Birdseye has a line called Steamfresh that is designed to be prepared in the microwave. They also have a variety of vegetables with different flavor profiles. There are also lines of veggie made pastas and fries and tots.
NOTE: All frozen vegetables can be prepared in the microwave.
Next check out the meat case. Your grocer will no doubt sell large quantities of poultry and ground beef at good prices. What this means is you can use these items as building blocks for meals that can be prepped ahead of time and tucked away in your freezer.
One of my local grocery chains has a pick 5 for $25 deal going most weeks. You pick 5 items from a variety of cuts of mean or poultry and pay only $25. It is a fantastic way to stretch the budget and fill the freezer.
Take five or ten pounds of ground beef, a bag of prepped onions, celery and carrots, some salt and pepper and a large skillet or two and a stock pot or dutch oven and brown all the meat with the additions. You don’t want to put it all in one pot, it will need room to cook and brown. Drain and bag in one pound portions, labeling the bag adding the preparation date. Tuck it into the freezer. You now have five or ten separate bags of meat prepped for casseroles, stews, chili, or sloppy joes.
Or you could take five pounds of ground beef, separate it into two two pound portions and one one pound portions add one pound of your favorite sausage mix to each of the two pounds of beef and one half pound of sausage to the one pound of beef, add salt, pepper, garlic, onion and whatever you like in your meatloaf. Mix, and bag in the size you prefer, label and tuck into your freezer. You now have either 2 large and 1 small or 5 small meatloaves. Or you could use a portion to make meat balls.
The chicken or poultry can also be precooked – I like to put a large flat of boneless, skinless chicken breasts into my slow cooker and cook until done. I can either cut up the cooked chicken or bag individual pieces. I now have the start to a pot pie or chicken and rice or a base to use for dumplings.
Freezer labels should include the following:
- Item in the bag – chicken breast meat
- Date prepared – 07/01/18
- Seasonings included – salt, pepper, onion, garlic
If you prepare dump meals be sure to include the cooking instructions.
This is going to take some time, but it will be worth it. Really!
Now that you have taken that trip through your grocery store and found out what they have in stock, you can put together a list of all the family’s favorite meals. Take your time. Think about Taco Tuesdays and Left Over Nights. Do you have Game Nights or Movie Nights? Are there some meals your family really love? Pizza? Sandwiches?
Collect those ideas and your favorite recipes.
Are there particular brands of food you like? Betty Crocker, Tyson and the like? Check out their websites for new recipes and coupons. For example, I love Near East rice pilaf, but during a recent trip to their website I found new products I wanted to try. I made sure to add them to my shopping list – and bookmark the recipes.
Congratulations! You now have the foundation of a meal plan that could take you through the school year.