Thursday, August 30, 2012

Freezer Cooking Round 6

To see all of my past freezer cooking posts and recipes click HERE

Freezer cooking has really become a part of my normal life at this point, along with meal planning now! For some reason meal planning has always been something that I built up in my head as this amazing thing that was way too hard for me to not only figure out but stick to.  I am blaming that mentality 5% on my own freaky if I can't do it perfect than I shouldn't do it at all attitude and 95% on the perfectly organized and beautiful meal plan boards, frames, and forms that I see all over Pinterest.  Every week I'd tell myself that I'll start meal planning next grocery trip because of course I first needed to make a lovely frame to post the daily meals and of course to make that I'd need an antique frame and a Silhouette to cut the vinyl letters for said frame, well you get the idea.  Then money got tighter than we had been used to in years and the need to cut our grocery bill significantly forced me to figure something out.  I sat down and picked out 10 dinners for the next 2 weeks.  We shop every 2 weeks when my husband gets paid.  I usually get the 10 meals plus some meat left over for another meal or 2, we may eat out one night, have left overs, etc...  10 meals may not work for you but you'll figure out what does.  I do not plan breakfasts, snacks, lunches, etc...  curse me, I know those beautiful pins have their meals planned down to the morsel.  I am not one of those pins.  We usually have cereal, eggs, bagels, english muffins, etc... around for breakfast.  Lunches my husband usually takes left overs or a salad or sandwich if there were no leftovers.  The girl eats a sandwich, chips, snack, etc.. and the boys get what I give them!  Ok so they usually have pb&j, grilled cheese, bagel or english muffin pizzas, frozen nuggets and fries if I am being really nice.  The only meals I plan are dinner and I don't plan them for any particular day.  I just have the list of my 10 meals on the fridge and we pick and choose knowing we have at least those meals plus others from previous freezer weeks.  

When picking out your meals for the 2 weeks I try to plan 2 meals using chicken breasts (4-5 if I am buying 2 packs), 2 meals using boneless skinless thighs, 3-4 meals using ground beef and then the rest are whatever I feel like.  Once you know what you can get out of your packs of meat it's easier.  This week I bought a pack of breasts, a pack of ground beef, a pork loin, and ended up having to get my thighs from the regular store which pissed me off and made me a meal short :(  I also picked up a chuck roast at the store because I didn't want to pay for two at Sam's even though it was a better deal buying it in bulk the dollars weren't there for it.   

I prefer to shop one day and then cook/prepare the next.  This week I did some the night that I shopped because my mom was here to help with the boys and I did the rest the next morning.  
Here is what I made with...

chicken breasts (2 dinners plus 2 extra breasts):
photo credit to linked recipe
Grilled Pineapple Chicken breast sandwiches- This picture was my inspiration.  I don't really use a recipe, it's kind of a no brainer.  I put the chicken breasts and pineapple rings in the ziploc and dump the marinade (whatever flavor you like)  in the bag reserving some for basting later.  Lay flat and freeze.  When ready to use just thaw the bag and bbq the chicken and pineapple!  

photo credit given to the linked recipe
Cilantro Lime Pesto Chicken:  I sliced up a few breasts and made the marinade for this recipe.  Dumped it all in the bag again reserving some of the marinade (froze this as well) to use on the tacos.  My only concern for this one is that I have heard lime can actually cook the meat?  Their recipe has you cook the chicken and freeze after maybe that is why?  I prefer to not cook meat ahead when I don't have to.  I'll let you know how this one works freezing it raw.

I had 2 breasts left this week so I just cooked them up to use in salads.  I usually buy 2 packs of breast so the extra 2 from each pack makes a meal when I do that.

Chicken Thighs (1 dinner):  
I usually buy the big pack at Sam's.  They were out so I was a thigh meal short :(

picture credit given to the linked recipe
Spicy Honey Chicken:  For this recipe I put the rub on the thighs and froze.  This may seem sort of pointless since mixing some spices together and putting it on the chicken really isn't that hard to do but it makes a big difference for me.  Those nights that I have no desire to cook (most nights) or don't know what to cook this one step helps me.  I already know what the chicken will be and just have to thaw it and put it on the bbq.  I also usually buy my meat at Sam's so I'd have to split it up and freeze it in smaller portions anyways so I figure this step is not much more than I am already going to have to do.  you hear me? ;)  

This recipe was planned for my other thigh meal :(  Maybe next time!

Ground Beef (4 planned meals plus 1lb frozen plain):

photo credit given to the linked recipe
Italian Lasagna:  I made 2 of these.  We ate one that night and froze the other.  This was really, really tasty.  Even my husband loved it and he's not a lasagna fan.  The recipe does call for Italian sausage but I had a pack in the freezer.  I also added a 16 oz container of cottage cheese and and extra egg to the ricotta cheese step.  Prepare to the point that you would bake it and freeze instead. 

photo credit given to the linked recipe
Shepherd's Pie:  I have never tried this but it seemed frugal enough and I had a HUGE sack of potatoes that needed to be used.  I made and froze 2 of these.  I prepared it all the way to the point that I would have baked it and just froze it instead.  It looks tasty enough but I'll come back with a follow up later.  It is from Once A Month Mom and that site is pretty much the guru of freezer cooking so I trust it'll be good.

I also had enough mashed potatoes left so I made a twice baked casserole of sorts and froze for a side dish.  There are plenty of recipes out there for this.  I just threw it together on a whim.

I froze the remaining 1 pound of ground beef to use for spaghetti, hamburgers, or something later.

chuck roast (2 dinners):
photo credit given to the linked recipe
Pepperoncini Beef Sandwiches:  This was the only thing I didn't do any pre prepping.  It's just that easy.  Dump the roast in the crock pot, pour the jar of pepperoncinis on top and that's it.  Their recipe does have you sear it and such but I didn't and it was delish.  Searing is just one more dirty dish so it wasn't going down.  The perk of this was not only a delicious super easy dinner but we had plenty of leftover meat for tonight's dinner, Shredded beef tacos!  If you didn't want the same meat 2 nights in a row you could just put the meat and the juices from the crock pot in a bag and freeze it.  Shredded meat is one of the easiest things to make in big amounts for freezing.  

Pork Loin (2 dinners):
I cut the pork loin in half knowing we had a few nights planned with extra people to feed.  I may have cut some chops off had I not needed larger servings stretching it to 3 meals easily.  Maybe I'll try it some time!

photo credit given to linked recipe
Sweet Pork Tacos:  Since I had to cut the pork loin down anyways I went ahead and put the spice rub on it and then froze.  Hey one less step later!  This is a family favorite of ours and has been for a long time.  The leftover meat freezes great as well!  Just shred, put some juices in the bag with it and freeze.

photo credit given to linked recipe
Brown Sugar & Balsamic Glazed Pork Loin:  again I just did the rub on this one and froze it.  I've had this a few times and it's really good.  Freezer and a crock pot meal?  Count me in.

So there you have it!  Twelve meals for about $60 in meat.  Not too shabby if you ask me!  Those meals that I make doubles of (lasagna, shepherds pie) we rarely eat both in the 2 week frame but instead will use a freezer meal that is in the freezer from previous weeks.  Most of these meals will have left overs for my husband's lunch and possibly a little extra.  The pork loins usually have a ton extra and aren't something we buy every grocery trip because they are higher priced.  Same with the roast, I typically would have bought a second pack of chicken for the same cost but sometimes it's nice to mix things up and still I got 2 dinners out of a $10 roast.  The thighs I should have gotten a second meal out of but the cost was double buying it at the grocery store!  One other thing I like to keep on hand is a bag of tilapia or other fish.  They thaw out really quickly and are great for a quick dinner if you forget to pull a meal from the freezer.  This week we had fish tacos for that exact reason.  Took 10 minutes to make and saved us a million calories and $30 for fast food!  Overall I am pleased.  I was only $15 over my $200 budget and have dinners all ready to go for the next 2 weeks.  

I am in no way the guru of freezer cooking.  I am barely a guru at my day to day life but am learning what works best for us.  If you are just getting started and are intimidated start small!  Make a double batch of your dinner and freeze the extra.  Pick 2 recipes that use the same meat and make those one afternoon or nap time.   You'll learn what works best for you after your first time or two I promise!

If you have any questions please let me know!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Freezer Cooking Round 5

You can see all of my freezer cooking posts HERE.

I recently posted my most recent freezer cooking on my Inner Hooker facebook page.  

A lot of you had questions, wanted more info, and requested links to this is for you!

This round was more prepping than cooking but will still save me lots of time later and money!  I can buy bulk meat and not just split it up into smaller portions but take one more step to prep it for that dinner.  This is also a great way to get started freezer cooking because it isn't too overwhelming.  

I started by purchasing my meat at Sam's Club (we don't have Costco :( sad!  and local meat is just not in my budget right now...double sad) .  I bought 2 packs of boneless skinless breasts (total about 11-12 lbs) , 1 pack of boneless skinless thighs (6 lbs), and a pack of ground beef (5-6 lbs).  From that I made 9 meals for the freezer, 1 for dinner that night, and froze 1 lb of ground beef and 1.5 C plain shredded chicken so that's really 11 meals...not too shabby for about $50 in meat and a few hours of my time.  It could have went much faster if I didn't have the boys running wild.  

Recipes I used: 

Meatloaf (x2):  my recipe:  I have been cutting back on the sugar and ketchup topping and it's still good.

Fajitas (x2):  I just slice the breasts into strips, add onions to the bag. One I poured in marinade, one I left plain.

Enchilada filling: used this recipe and had it for dinner but wasn't in love with it.  You can freeze the enchiladas all rolled up but I prefer them fresh.  Just thaw your filling and then make the enchiladas as normal.

Chicken soft taco filling:  this recipe looks delish but I have a hard time with cream of soups so I just did 2 C shredded chicken and salsa mixed up and frozen.  I do love the way the original recipe looks so I may try it one of these times.

Man Pleasing Chicken: put chicken thighs in bag, add ingredients and freeze.

Russian Chicken :  put thighs in freezer bag, dump in the ingredients and freeze.

Chicken Sandwiches:  put chicken breast and pineapple rings in the bag, dump marinade in.  I keep a little marinade in the bottle to baste with when bbq'ing later.

This is a pretty brief rundown but I promise there isn't much to these!  The are pretty simple (inexpensive/not too many ingredients) recipes.  If you have any questions just let me know!