After a two hour trip to the grocery store (Thank God I had the strength that day.) I had a mountain of groceries to do something with! I almost cried. The notebook of instructions for this marathon cooking spree was on the table, so I proceeded to #1.
Get a piece of paper and note the servings you are making. How many twice baked potato servings are you bagging, the number of meat packs you are dividing out. You will use this information to write your menu on your calendar. Yes, you have to write down what you are going to have for dinner on the calendar. If you rely on yourself to do this day by day, you will forget what you have already used and what is available to use. If you write the meals down after they are cooked, you can plan your menus for a month or two and not have to think of "whats for dinner". If something comes up or you go out to eat, just draw a mark through that dinner and put it after the last date that has a menu. WARNING: MARK ALL OF THE FOOD YOU PUT IN THE FREEZER! The food plays trick or treat with you if you don't. I want to know what I am thawing out for dinner.
I put the perishable groceries in the frig and commenced. Filling my large sink with warm water, I poured 18 pounds of fairly large (not the baking size) potatoes in for a quick wash. I set aside 3 lbs for other dishes and put the rest in a 350 degree oven timed at 1 hr 30 min. (I didn't wrap the potatoes because I wanted crispy skin for the twice baked potatoes these would become. (I found it interesting that cooking 1 baked potato takes as long as baking 15 pounds...hmmmm)
After getting the potatoes going, I opened a small bag of pinto beans and poured them in a crock pot with half a piece of salt pork. I filled the slow cooker with water and plugged it in on high. These beans would be done after all the other things were cooked. One of my hispanic friends advised me not to salt the beans until they are almost finished. (I can't remember the reason, but she was very serious about it so I don't salt them until the end.)
I also put some northern white beans (a small bag) in a slow cooker with the other half of salt pork and covered with water and set it on high also. This is for the white chicken chili I will be making later.
Ground beef was next. I purchased 8 pounds. The hubs likes 90% or higher for our health, but I am a penny pincher and bought both 93% and 86% and mixed them together. I told him that it averaged out to 90%. I don't know for sure, but it is close enough.
I put the ground meat aside and chopped 8 onions and 6 bell peppers. 3 onions and 2 bell peppers were set aside for other recipes. I got a big frying pan out and put half the onions and bell peppers in and stir fried them. After that, I added the ground beef, a small can of jalepeno peppers, a tsp of chili powder, salt, pepper, minced garlic, (and other spices you like in Tex/Mex food). I stirred it over medium heat until all the meat was browned. I divided the mixture into quart sized bags that had the amount I need for the hubs and I. If you have a big family, you will need to adjust the amount you put in each bag. Tag them: Use for Tex/Mex dishes. Leave these bags on your counter until they cool off. It is terribly hard on your freezer and frig to put hot stuff in them.
Using the same pan, I put the rest of the onions and bell peppers in the skillet and added the beef, salt, and pepper. This will be a plainer mix that will be used for spaghetti, lasagna, and other dishes that require a meat mix. Divide,bag, and tag for your use. Set aside to cool. After things cool, put them in the freezer.
At this point, I take the remaining ground beef and form into patties, placing them on a cookie sheet. I put the cookie sheet in the freezer for about 20 min. After that time, the patties are semi frozen and can be placed in quart sized bags. The hubs and I use 3 patties at each meal. He has 2 hamburgers and I have 1....Divide according to your family.
If you have set aside any ground beef for a special recipe, put those recipes together at this point. (millionaire spaghetti...so good...look it up on pinterest)
After cleaning up the ground beef mess, I get out the steaks and roast that I purchased after the heart attack I had looking at the high prices. (I kid you not!) I divide the steaks according to what the hubs and I eat. The portions are a little smaller than we want to eat, but I am sort of looking out for our health here. I bag them up, mark them, and put them in the freezer.
Then I grab that lovely roast. If I am not planning for a dinner with friends, I divide it. I swear my hubs loves roast so much, he would eat the whole thing. (He isn't overweight...I wonder why. I am and I am the only one who thinks about these things in our house.) I grab some carrots (washed, peeled, and quartered), onions (chopped), a can of cream of mushroom soup, and an envelope of dried onion soup mix. I put all of it in a big cooking bag, tag, and freeze.
Chicken is next. I usually purchase 3. 2 are whole chickens and one is cut up. (Unless the hubs is home to cut it up for me, I get it already cut into identifiable pieces..I blame it on the fibro, but I am just not good at it.) Anyway, put the cut up chicken into a bowl of milk or buttermilk. While the cut up chicken is soaking in milk, I get out two big pots and put a whole chicken in each, cover with water, use 1tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper (hubs and I like pepper), several carrots, half a stalk of celery in each pot, a chopped onion in each pot. Set them on the stove and get them to boil. Boil for an hour and half. Turn them over half way through. You want them to be done to the bone.
While the whole chickens are boiling get a large skillet and put 1/2 inch vegetable oil in it. Wait to turn on the heat. Grag a gallon size zip lock bag and put a cup of flour, salt, and pepper, and any other spices you like to fry your chicken with. One friend said that if you use self-rising flour to coat the chicken, it makes a lighter, crispy crust. I have done this and she is right. Anyway, put about 3 pieces of chicken in the bag and shake. After the chicken pieces are coated, place them in the skillet. Start the burner to medium. Take another 3 pieces and coat them and place them in the skillet. Do this until the skillet is full. Fry chicken at medium heat for 30 min and then turn each piece over and fry for another 20 min. Do not turn a lot unless you don't like there to be a crust.
Put the fried chicken pieces on a wire rack that has paper towels under it. After the chicken is cooled, place half in a bag tagged 'fried chicken'. Then put them in the freezer. One chicken makes 2 meals for the hubs and I.
After the chicken is done, check on the whole chickens that are boiling. They should be done to the bone. Take a knife and cut into the thigh and look at the bone. There shouldn't be any blood. If it is done, then you need to get some tupperware or glad type containers ready. Lift the chicken out of the pot and place on a platter or dish to cool. Use a sieve and pour the water from the pot, which is now a great chicken broth, into small plastic containers. You can use this anytime a recipe calls for chicken stock or broth. Throw the vegetables that are in the seive with the roast in the package after it cools off.
I usually buy 2 cans of salmon and make salmon cakes as an option for dinner. There are some really fancy recipes for this dish online, but I alway go back to my mama's. This is her recipe, more or less:
1 can salmon with juice, 1 egg, crushed saltines, salt and pepper. Mash together and make patties. I have added some chopped onion to this.Form into patties and place on a cookie sheet to freeze individually and then tag and bag.
The boiled chickens should be cool enough to debone. After I take the meat off the bone, I put the chicken pieces in the bowl of my kitchen aide mixer. I use the paddle attachment and it shreds the meat perfectly. I divide the chicken into dinner size servings. I reserve 2 cups for the white chicken chili. The rest, I tag and bag to be used for chicken enchiladad, chicken and noodles, and bbq chicken.
I get the white beans out and proceed to make the white chicken chili. Great recipes for this are on the internet and pinterest. After assembline all the ingredients, I cook them together for 30 min and then tag and place in dinner size containers.
While the kitchen is a mess, I stir together waffles from a mix. I get out my waffle iron and put the setting on the lightest one. These will be toaster waffles. The hubs says these are sooooo much better than the standard frozen waffles. By this time, I am tired...really tired, so I only make one batch. I set them aside to cool and tag and bag. '
I get out the 2 lb bag of bacon and fry it up. Some of it, I have cut into 1 inch pieces for dishes like spinach salad. I take the full sized bacon out and cool on a rack. I divide them into portions for the two of us and place them in bags. I take the bacon pieces and divide them into those silly tiny containers that come with the handy food storage kits. I pour the grease into these containers with the bits. Dishes like spinach salad , and old fashioned green beans require the grease. I freeze all of these.
After everything is in the freezer, I sit with my calendar and list of meals. Last time I spent $300 for groceries. The hubs almost had a heart attack....I had already stressed out about this. BUT AFTER I wrote down a meal on each day on the calendar, we had two and a half or more meals already taken care of. That is really good for us. I am thinking it is a really big savings because every trip to the grocery store costs more than we ever expect because of the other items we purchase while we are there.
I can't tell you how great it feels to know that I am taking care of my family even while I am sick. Today was one of those days. I couldn't stand and make fried chicken for my husband, but I could reach into the freezer and get the chicken and oven fries that I already prepared when I felt better and put it on the counter for him to heat in the microwave for dinner. That means a lot to me.
Minced garlic - in jar
6 bell peppers
several jaleneno peppers
fresh baby spinach (for the spinach salad)
16 pounds of large (not baking) potatoes (You can use baking potatoes, but I don't)
1 small to medium bag of carrots - (for roast and chicken stock)
1 bunch celery (for roast and chicken stock as well as to munch on raw while I cook)
salsa (We use Pace picante sauce)
BBQ sauce (I use mesquite in the cheapest bottle. Use what you like best.)
2 or 3 envelopes of taco seasoning
1 small bag pinto beans
1 small bag white beans
2 or 3 cream cheese - 8 oz(for the twice baked potatoes & other recipes)
shredded cheddar cheese and mexican mix cheese - lg bag
1/2 - 1 pound salt pork (for beans)
butter - a pound or two
steaks- however many you can afford and the kind you like to cook. You will just be separating these into the amount you will use for one meal. I purchase those that are grouped together and on sale.
roast- 1 or 2
8 pounds hamburger (2 lbs for patties, 2 lbs for meatloaves, 4 lbs for meat mixture for tacos, spaghetti sause, nachos, etc)
1 cut up chicken (or more depending on how much your family uses for a meal. One works for 2 meals for the hubs and I.)
2 whole chickens (to boil for chicken broth, and shredded chicken packets)
2 pounds bacon (to make bacon bits and also to separate out for meals)
2 cornbread mixes (I use Jiffy, but some of you may use cornmeal and assemble it all yourselves. Jiffy is super easy. It is up to you.)
1 box quick oats (for meatloaves)
1 box saltine crackers (for salmon cakes)
all purpose flour
self-rising flour (in case you want to try coating your chicken in it to fry)
2 cake mixes (white or yellow)
1 angel food cake mix (I am going to try that recipe on pinterest where you use an angel food cake mix and dump in a can of crushed pineapples with juice and bake. It sounds good. Look it up to be sure I got it right.)
vinegar (for the fresh spinach salad)
1 crushed pineapple
1 sliced pineapple (for pineapple upside down cake you will make with one of the cake mixes and divide up into meal sized portions)
1 or 2 diced tomatoes 8 oz cans
1 or 2 diced jalepeno peppers 8 oz cans (for tex/mex meat mix)
2 cans salmon (I use the pink because it is cheaper for salmon cakes)
2 large cans of cream of mushroom soup (1 for each roast and 1 for the chicken chili)
white corn (for white chicken chili)
frozen fruit for the fruit dump cake (1 white or yellow cake mix sprinkled over a package of frozen fruit with a can of sprite poured over the top and baked at 350 degrees for 30 min - divide into servings for several meals)
frozen broccoli - for vegetable chowder or vegetable soup (recipe is on pinterest)
1 can sprite
gallon sized zip lock bags
quart sized zip lock bags
The last time I made these purchases, it was over $300. I was able to make meals for 2 for almost 3 months, give or take a day. I didn't include recipes because we all have our favorite ways of making dishes and also, I have to admit, I am a little lazy about doing it.
I have found a lot of freedom in doing cooking this way. Of course, the day I am cooking I am somewhat like Lucy in the chocolate factory, but the payoff is that I know what is for supper for weeks. I don't have to spend a lot of time in the kitchen for weeks...I am able to provide nourishing and tastey meals for us even when I am not feeling well. I am sure that you can adjust the list of food prepared to acomodate your food needs and concerns. This is just a blueprint. I tweaked the list that was on pinterest for the things we like to eat. You can do the same.
Happy eating and have fun on cooking day!