Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Cooking by the Month

Today I'm finishing up another month of meals - don't know why but this one just WORE ME OUT! (ok ok, so maybe I should have started earlier in the day...hmm...)

Here are the recipes I did this time:

Sloppy Joes - you know the recipe

Hot Dogs/Brauts & Buns

Hamburgers - again, just your favorite burgers, I made them into patties and then froze them with wax paper between each burger.

Pork Chops - I do a mix of (and nope I don't have measurements sorry!) Soy Sauce, Worst. Sauce, 2-3 garlic cloves crushed, 1 onion sliced, Olive Oil, Liquid Smoke, Salt & Pepper.

Hawaiian Chicken: http://pinterest.com/pin/251216485433911565/ (Use all the ingredients in the picture - put it in your crockpot for 6-8 hours, serve over brown rice - SUPER yummy!!) 

Baked ziti - http://pregnant.livejournal.com/17071127.html - I did this one last time as well, the noodles turned out SUPER mushy - I tried not cooking them at all this time - we'll see how it works! 

Honey Spice glazed pork chops - http://joelens.blogspot.com/2011/10/honey-spice-glazed-pork-chops.html -SUPER easy to throw together (I don't even brown the pork chops before freezing them) and I usually have everything in my cupboard! yay! 

Mini – Cheeseburger Meatloafs - http://joelens.blogspot.com/2010/01/mini-cheeseburger-meatloaves.html - I will make this as a large meatloaf - it's just easier!! Remember to throw this in a ziplock and smoosh it FLAT for extra freezer space! 

Creamy Chicken Taquitos  - http://annies-eats.com/2011/04/27/creamy-chicken-taquitos/ - these are FANTASTIC and very easy to double! 

Tex Mex Beef Enchiladas - http://www.marthastewart.com/313621/tex-mex-beef-enchiladas?center=0&gallery=274277&slide=281695 - If I make these again I will use flour tortillas - the corn ones just don't work well in a ziplock bag, so I ended up using one of my casserole dishes - which I didn't want to do this time. 

Chicken Stir-Fry - I don't have a recipe for this, just throw everything in my wok and stir-fry it ;) 

Chicken Tetrazzini

I made the Chicken Enchiladas, The Upside Down Fettuccine Pie (I don't care for baked pasta - so I just throw this all together and then freeze, thaw heat & serve - so tasty!), Tator Tot Casserole, Lasagna & The Stroganoff Meatballs again from this lady: http://dreamingofpoultry.com//content/10-freezer-meals-1-day - I made all of these meals last time around and they were all GREAT!! 

I am in NO WAY an expert at this but here are a few tips that I've found along the way: 

Day 1 - Spend the Money!

This can be OVERWHELMING!!  You will want to look at every recipe and  write down how much you need of every item.  So you might end up buying 20 chicken breasts, 3 containers of sour cream etc...  You might want someone to go with you! Thankfully I have a great husband who helps me out! Take a cooler with you for your frozen/cold/meat products if you are shopping at more than one store! It also helps to have a grocery store with a full-service meat counter, so you can get the exact amount of an item instead of an approximation.

Don't forget your ziplock bags!!  (or aluminum pans if you're into that thing, I'm not!) 

Watch for SALES!! When chicken goes on sale for around $1.70 this is a STOCK UP PRICE!! I watch for Onions to go on sale for 59 cents a pound. Potatoes for $3 for 15 pounds, buns 88 cents each etc... and then go and look for coupons at www.coupon.com and other sources. Even a coupon that saves you $1 off of 5 cans of soup is better than nothing!  I would really try and have a MONTH'S worth of grocery budget when you head to the store - this can get a little pricey, but I've found we can actually save some $$ by doing this monthly instead of heading to the store weekly. 

 I take 2 lists to the store - 1 with all the items I need, and another list with the actual recipes and what each of them have in it (like Lasagna - 1 box noodles, 2 lbs ground beef etc....) That way if I'm getting close to my budget I can cut a recipe and not feel bad when I get home with only half of the ingredients. I can explain this further if needed. 

I put all of the ingredients away - sorry husband, I know you like to help, but I need to know where EVERYTHING is when it comes to cooking day! I group all the same items together so I'm not searching for something. It makes it faster when I need to grab something. 
Don't forget sides and breakfast items!! 

Don't buy things like Chicken Broth - you can make your own when you boil your chicken. I also don't buy black beans in a can - I buy a bag of beans and make my own, it's cheaper! 

Day 2 - Prep Day 
You will want to start with a fairly clean kitchen - all except the floors - if you're anything like me, your floors will be FILTHY by the time you're done - so either skip doing the floors that week, or wait until after your cooking day ;)  You will also want fairly empty freezers - duh! ;) 

1.  Look at your recipes, anything EASY get out of the way right now. Like Sloppy Joes you can cook up your meat and add the sauce and THEN freeze - or like I did I just froze the meat, and will cook it up when we have it for dinner that day.  The Pork Chops were SUPER easy - put everything in the ziplock bag and freeze - quick! ETC.... 

2. Look at your recipes - find out how many of them need cooked ground beef/chicken/italian sausage etc... I will cook up all of my meat at ONE TIME and then put it in a bowl/zip lock and use it as needed.  I boil all my chicken and then shred it in my kitchen aid mixer using the white paddle - super fast - just watch that it doesn't become "mush" lol  Don't throw that chicken broth out - you can use it in other recipes that call for it!! You can also save the fat from any sausage for other recipes (like biscuits and gravy etc...) 

3. Shred any cheese that you need to shred

4. Have a garbage bowl so you're not going back and forth to the trash can every 5 minutes! 

5. I try and freeze everything in ziplock bags because I don't have a TON of freezer space. Even recipes like Enchiladas. I roll all of the enchiladas, put them in a ziplock bag, and put the sauce in a quart size bag and put it in with the enchiladas.  I also do this for the baked ziti. I even put the 2 bags of frozen stir-fry veggies in a large ziplock and put the chicken breasts in another bag and froze it all together - does that make sense? 



I usually take one recipe and just go at it - and keep going like that.  It makes it alot faster when you have all your meat cooked ahead of time. 

Freeze everything you can as FLAT as you can - squish that meatloaf as flat as you can - you will be able to get much more in your freezer that way! 

Don't forget to let items COOL before freezing them! They will all stick together if you don't! 

Items I can't imagine doing without: 

My Classic Batter Bowl - Love this, it works for mixing items, or cooling items in the bag! Great for holding soups while they cool!  
 My 12 inch skillet - it will hold and cook up to 5 pounds of meat at a time if not more! love it!

My Food Chopper - I do all my onions with this (among other things) I LOVE this thing! 

My Mix N' Chop - this breaks up the meat SO fast!! 

 Stainless Steel Bowl Set - I use these and then wash them, and re-use them during the entire process! (pictured above)

Microplane Grater - LOVE this tool (pictured above) makes cheese all fluffy!

Executive Pan Sets - I can't tell you how nice it is to have a GOOD pan set - I can't believe we were married 3 1/2 years before we got GOOD pans!! I use and re-use these during the entire process!!

Scrapers - I can't tell you how many times you're going to use these things!

Garlic Press - again, another staple for doing these meals! 

What my kitchen looks like at the end - and this is actually semi cleaned up! lol!

You will want to make sure you have LUNCH or DINNER for yourself while making these meals - don't be dumb like me and not having anything in the house to eat during the cooking process!! lol  

You will want to have an empty dishwasher so you can put your dirty stuff in there as you go - also take dish washing breaks for those items you will use with each recipe. 

When you're all done - make a list of what's in the freezer and put in on your fridge - it will help you know what's in there - I cross it off as I take stuff out.  Also if I found I forgot something at the store, I put it on there too so I know that meal isn't complete. 

You might want to wear a good pair of shoes so that your feet don't hurt from being on them all day. I wore a pair of flip flops with a thicker sole - my feet are tired, but they don't hurt TOO bad. 

ok so there it is....I think..... if you have questions, let me know - but like I said I am NOT an expert and haven't been doing this very long!! 

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