Friday, March 20, 2015

Thrifty Missy Part II

 Like I mentioned in a previous post, I'm a terrible cook. Like terrible....Like "I just burnt the water" terrible. But God blessed Hubby Crockett with unending patience and an iron stomach. Slowly I'm gaining ground in the housewife category (without the housewife part) with my awesome Crock Pot meals. They have all been edible and some were downright scrumptious--like the Beef and Lime Chili that Hubby wolfed down before I got home!!

The hardest part about meal prep has been finding the time to stand in the kitchen for hours on end with raw hands and piles of dishes, especially when I'd rather be cuddling with Pork Chop on my lap while I play World of Warcraft (don't judge me!).
 So lucky me, I got two snow days in a row and I jumped on it! After setting the puppies in order I ran to the store, lists in-hand and got home right as the "White Death" descended upon us. I took about an hour to clean the kitchen but if your kitchen is always clean, good for you (now go away because I don't like you, clean-kitchen-person). Here's a picture of nearly all my groceries minus the extra piles of canned beans I pulled from the cellar.

On the list to make, I had a couple of repeats both Hubby and I love and brought in a few new ones. This time around I made a point to have more freezer bake meals because I don't always remember to put a meal in the Crock Pot as I'm running out the door. A freezer meal is super easy for Hubby to pop in the oven, even if they take an hour and a half to cook.

So, how do I do it? I line up all the ingredients (although you're going to be opening the fridge and various cabinets about a thousand times no matter how prepared you are). Then I tape up the recipe cards on the cabinet most convenient for me. With a sharpie, I clearly write names and then put easy numbered instructions below that on gallon sized freezer bags. I stack the bags in the same order that the cards are posted, but of course I wasn't too strict about that. I ordered them mainly because of two reasons: one, because last time I felt like I wasted a ton of time trying to find the right card and then couldn't find the right bag; and two, because I had to make the beef and lime chili last because the beef was still thawing.

Just because I've learned a thing or two, this is the BEST way I've found to make tons of casseroles to store in the freezer. You just leave them in the freezer for an hour then pop them out and stack them on top of something flat as they will still be floppy. After they've frozen solid, I just stack them together.

The bagged meals, however, I stack with paper towels between each bag that way they don't stick to each other. And once those are frozen, I stack them vertically in rows with all the names facing one direction so I can grab one easily.

All of these meals came from a grocery bill around $200, but that includes a ton of dairy products and meats that I bought in bulk and will be able to portion out and use for a few more weeks after the meals are gone. And considering that eating out for the two of us is around $12-$40, I don't feel too bad about spending $200 for 22 meals. But you've gotta shop smart in the stores and around the house...

Here's how I cut a bunch of corners:
  • canned chicken broth--boil a bird carcass with stock veggies and take the extra time to pressure can it yourself
  • canned pinto and black beans--one 15lb bag of pinto beans only cost me $6.18 at Sam's and I canned 16 pints that were quickly gone and still have half of the bag
  • mix up powdered stuff--taco seasoning and chili seasoning are super quick; I made a big ole batch and still have tons leftover (in the link to All Recipes, you can change the final amount made so you can mix up enough for all of your recipes)
  • powdered milk--gross, I know, but it saved me a lot of money in the next one...
  • Cream of Something Soup Mix--I'm biased because I LOVE the Hillbilly Housewife, but this was really helpful to me to whisk together really quickly with hot water and pour
  • homegrown eggs--there's nothing else like the stuff!
Call me whatever you like, but I didn't go to college for nutrition, so if I don't know what it is then I'd rather not have it in my food. Canning all that good stuff myself just makes me a little more certain that I'm serving something quality.

Overall, this is my messy process. There's plenty of room for improvement, and I can't say I like doing dishes the whole time, but its comforting to know that we can have hot food ready to eat when we get home and food for lunches for the next day.

What does everyone else do for batch cooking? Are you able to use coupons? Any requests for some of the recipes I used just give me a shout!

Betty Crockett