Saturday, March 8, 2014

Marathon Cooking

When life is busy and days are long and tiring, its far too easy to grab dinner at the closest McDonald's.  That is not good for my pocketbook or my waist line.  I decided that it was time to fill the freezer with easy meal starters.  Like many of you, I have been pinning lots of freezer meals so I decided to start on Pinterest.  I headed to Over the Big Moon (click here).

To start with, I needed to figure out what I needed to buy.  I figured the easiest way to do this was to turn the recipes into a spread sheet.  I was then able to go through my pantry and make a shopping list.  Then I was off to the city to go to Costco and my favorite grocery store.  I have to say that I spent about $300, though I didn't use everything I purchased for these meals.  I did have quite a few of the staples on hand so $300 is a pretty good estimate.

*Quick tip - Saving the spreadsheet for future freezer cooking days will enable me to quickly build my shopping list.  Keeping it current as I add new recipes will create a master list.  Each time I sit down to create a menu, I can simply delete the recipes I don't plan to make that day.  Remember that you DO NOT want to save the list when you delete items or you will lose your master list.*

(Here is a glance at some of the items I used.  The Diet Coke was for me.)
 The next step was to cook the roast for the enchiladas in the crock pot overnight on Friday night.  It was ready to go when I was ready to start cooking Saturday morning.  Once I thought I had everything together, I looked at the clock and it was 10:25.  The first order of the day was to start with the spaghetti sauce and meatballs I had decided to add to the other freezer meals.  You can get the recipe for the meatballs here.

*Quick tip - when purchasing hamburger in bulk, I always try to choose the package that is closest to an even pound.  This enables me to more easily divide it into 1 pound packages for future meals.  The package that I chose for today's cooking was just over 6 pounds.  The meatballs took 4 pounds so I had 2, 1-pound packages to throw into the freezer raw.  Now I can use them for whatever I want.  You can also pre-cook it if you know you will be using it for things like tacos.*
 
The spaghetti sauce is something that we make every couple of months.  We just make it to taste and it starts with a gallon of tomato sauce, a couple of cans of diced tomatoes, tomato paste, and ground sausage.  We add garlic powder, Italian seasoning, basil, oregano, bay leaves, minced onion, pepper, and sugar and let it simmer in the crock pot for hours.  Since I was mass producing meals, I cooked it on the stove to speed it up a bit today.  While it was cooling, I moved on to the enchiladas.  Once those were finished, I packaged up the left over cheese and sent it to the freezer.

*Quick tip - A 5 pound bag of shredded cheddar was only $1 more than a 5 pound block.  Purchasing it already shredded was worth the 20 cents a pound to me.  Once I had used everything I needed for the enchiladas, I packaged the remaining cheese into quart bags and froze 3 and put the partial bag in the refrigerator.*

Stage 1 - 4 meals of meatballs, 4 spaghetti sauces, 2 pans of enchiladas, 3 quart bags of cheddar cheese & 2 , 1-pound packages of raw hamburger

Stage 2 was quick to follow using up the chicken thighs.  I had purchased 2 large bags of thighs at Costco (I think they were 6 pounds each), but was able to make the following meals using only 1 bag:

1 - Teriyaki Chicken, 2 Garlic Lime Chicken, 2 World's Best Chicken
The final stage required about 22-23 pounds of chicken breasts, but yielded a whopping 10 meals.

2 - Pineapple chicken, 2 - Cilantro Lime chicken, 2 - Creamy Chicken Italian-O
2 - Cafe Rio Chicken, 1 French Chicken, 1 - Sweet BBQ Chicken
* Quick tip - At each stage, I labeled the ziplock bags before starting to mix up the recipes.  It is much easier to label empty, clean bags.  Its also easier to keep things straight when the bags are pre-labeled.  Using a Sharpie brand marker is the best way to write on ziplock bags because they are less likely to smear. *

After everything was cleaned up, I glanced at the clock and it was 3:34.  That's makes 25 meal starters in just over 5 hours (not counting the roast that cooked the night before).  One pan of enchiladas was perfect for tonight's dinner.  I have to say that it was worth it.  There is a huge feeling of accomplishment knowing that there are plenty of healthy meals just waiting to be dumped into the crockpot.  Every one of them smelled delicious when they were being put together.

Thanks so much for stopping by today.  Remember to take some time to enjoy the little things.

1 comment:

Georgiana said...

I sure wish I did this! With our busy schedules it would be ideal. I may just need to look into it more! My waistline would appreciate it too!