Sorry for the delay in posting this. It is finals week for my teenagers and my computer keeps getting stolen for paper-writing and researching.
My favorite way to keep my food budget low and keep myself sane, is mega-cooking. You've heard this referred to as Once-a-Month cooking, Freezer cooking, batch cooking, or probably other things. I'm pretty sure I started calling it Mega-Cooking after reading the book Mega-Cooking by Jill Bond. If you ever want to read a book that tells you everything you ever wanted to know (and some things you probably never thought to ask) read this book. Bond is a woman who cooks six months worth of food at once - yes, SIX MONTHS! I don't go to quite this extreme, but when I mega-cook, I really cook. The last full session I did, I made 54 main dishes. I was exhausted but it was worth it.
The reason that mega-cooking helps me save money is two-fold. First, it allows me to buy in bulk, which in certain circumstances, can be cheaper. Also, mega-cooking (and having all those quick ready meals in the freezer) keeps us from going out to eat! That saves us tons.
You can do freezer cooking in any level you are comfortable with. Perhaps you find chicken on sale for an unbelievable price. Buy 10 lbs and cook it up and make chicken tetrazini, chicken pot pies, and chicken soup base. Hamburger really cheap? Buy a bunch and make up taco meat, sloppy joe meat and meatballs.
If you can't tackle that (and sometimes we can't!), just double that lasagna you are making and put one in the freezer. Or make extra taco meat and freeze some.
Or you can take three days to plan, shop and cook 54 meals! Ugh!
Whatever way you can get those meals in the freezer, just do it!
How do you find the recipes? There are lots of great sites that have freezer recipes:
30 Day Gourmet
You can also look no further than your own recipe box. Many recipes lend themselves to be freezer meals. If you can't freeze the whole meal, can you freeze part of it? For instance, tacos. You can't freeze tacos, it just doesn't work. But the time consuming part of tacos is thawing, cooking and seasoning the meat. Do that ahead of time and then all you have to do is microwave the meat and you are set to go!
PLEASE! If you get nothing else out of this post, please remember this: Always try out your recipes on your family before you mega-cook them! You don't want to have three pans of Southwest Bean Bake in your freezer only to find out your family HATES Southwest Bean Bake. Please, ask me how I know this. sigh. Try a single batch of the recipe and if everyone likes it, then make more!
Tomorrow I'm going to post about do's and don'ts of mega-cooking day. I'll show you some of my planning sheets, and post a recipe or two. I'll post the Cincinnati Chili recipe, too.
So, provided the children don't have some huge paper to write for finals, I'll see you tomorrow!