It’s another lazy Sunday here at the house. I’ve been up since about 8:30 this morning, and I really haven’t felt like doing very much. I suppose I should get some things done, seeing as how tomorrow is a workday, and I’ve been pretty slack about getting things done yesterday and today, but since I did so much cooking and cleaning on Thursday and Friday, plus a small grocery run as well, I decided that a couple days of semi-loafing wouldn’t hurt.
I have to say that, all in all, it’s been a really great Thanksgiving holiday. I was fortunate enough to have not only Thursday off, but Friday as well, with pay, so it’s been great, really relaxing, and much needed. I hope it’s been as kind to you.
I did manage to clean out the pantry yesterday, and got rid of a few things that were well past expiration date due to being hidden in the back corners of the pantry. Found several vintage Pyrex glass containers that I had forgotten about, as they were way back in the corner of the top shelf, and as I’m kind of short, it was hard for me to see them. But now they’re all washed and ready for use again.
I acquired them at various Goodwill Stores we have locally. It’s one of the reason I love thrift shops; old Pyrex, Hull and McCoy Pottery….
But, back to the pantry. It wasn’t too much of a loss of pantry items as most of it were things that could be tossed into the compost pile. Old oatmeal, flax and chia seeds, and herbal tea bags. They’ll nourish future veggies in the garden, so they haven’t really gone to waste.
Today, it was pretty much back to normal, except I did laundry up yesterday. Heated up the leftover ‘Sketti for Dearest, while I cooked three chicken thighs, chopped it up and added the it to two envelopes of Minute Rice Multi grain blend-
-along with several herbs, spices, salt & pepper, evoo and butter. It makes enough for me to divide five ways, one portion I ate for dinner, the remaining four will be for lunches, along with about one cup of ‘Sketti that I’ll take for lunch tomorrow. Toss in cut up fresh fruit or vegetables, and you have a filling and fairly heathy lunch.
I like to buy in bulk as far as meats and vegetables, and prepping ahead as much as I possibly can, not just for meals for that week, but to freeze as recipe starters, like chopped raw or cooked veggies, marinades and sauces, partial recipes that requires additional ingredients to finish the dish that don’t freeze well, individual serving sizes for the lunchbox, and one pot/pan meals and/or casseroles, ready to heat and serve.
Since meat is often the biggest grocery expense, I focus on that aspect and I try to buy in bulk to take advantage of sale prices. For example, instead of roasting a whole pork tenderloin, I typically divide into thirds. Freeze one for a small roast, slice another into boneless loin chops and roast the third. Use leftovers from that roast for sandwiches the next day or shred and simmer in BBQ sauce for pulled pork. Or, you can freeze the slices, wrapping them individually, or make your pulled BBQ , and wrap/pack appropriately, before freezing. You can also cube some of the meat for kebabs or recipes calling for cubed pork. You can easily do the same with beef and chicken. Just make sure to get out as much air as possible before freezing.
Ground meats can be frozen raw or cooked, though I find it easier to brown them first. These come in handy for adding to chili, soups, stroganoffs, etc. without having to first thaw and then brown them. I’ll typically buy three or four family packs of good ground beef, 83% lean or higher, and patty 1/2 of one package into burgers, which I individually wrap, then freeze.
I’ll often mix up a couple meat and cheese loaves, with just the meat, veggies and cubed cheese, put in gallon-sized freezer bags, and roll flat, then seal.
They fit on shelves under other items, or you can stand them upright once frozen, so they fit well in small freezers. Freezing them flat has an added benefit of quicker thawing, too. Throw it in the fridge to thaw in the morning, and it will be thawed by afternoon. Just add the remaining ingredients, shape and bake. Since it makes two loaves, I freeze the second one, stretching that food dollar further.
I try to keep sausage on hand, cooked links, wrapped in serving portions, some crumbled and pre-browned for gravy, casseroles or soups, and some shaped into patties and cooked up, that only take 20-30 seconds to heat up in the microwave. Perfect for tossing in your lunchbox, since they only need about 15-18 seconds to heat in the microwave.
Wrap patties individually in wax paper, links two or three per serving wrapped in wax paper and frozen. Store in a ziplock bag or airtight container.
The two main rules for freezing anything, especially meat, are: 1. Label the container, bag or wrapper with the contents, quantity and the date, and 2. To get as much air out of the packaging as possible, or use within a couple-three months to avoid the dreaded and ruinous “freezer burn”. Glad’s Press and Seal Wrap is awesome for this. At some point, I plan on investing in one of those FoodSaver vacuum seal gadgets, but I’m going to need a freezer first, which I don’t have room for at present.
Buying whole chickens on sale, then simmering them, gizzards included, (unless you cook them separately, reserving for giblet gravy), in a pot with onions, garlic, celery, carrots and fresh herbs makes wonderful stock. After removing the meat from the bones, I let the carcass simmer a bit longer while the meat gets packaged up for the freezer. One bird typically yields me two four-cup containers of stock and two four cup containers of meat. The vegetables used in making the stock get scooped out and cut up for use in a soup or stew, instead of pitching them, and I don’t strain the broth when I package it, keep all that flavor and nourishment! I just make sure any bones aren’t left in it.
Since I don’t have a freezer, I make do with what space I have, which is my fridge’s top mount freezer. At present, I have about three quarts of broth and as much chicken meat, which translates into chicken noodles and chicken pot pie, (2 night’s worth of dinners EACH), one extra quart of stock for soup, and one quart of meat for a soup or casserole (2 nights dinners EACH).
There’s also 1/2 dozen homemade yeast rolls (individually wrapped), two quarts of Chicken & Barley Soup (2 night’s dinners), two half racks of pork spareribs (1 night’s dinner EACH), two boneless pork loin chops (1 dinner), twelve boneless, skinless chicken thighs (4 dinners +2 lunches EACH), twelve country style pork ribs (4 night’s dinners), a 2 pound boneless ham (2 night’s dinners, + another 2 night’s worth of dinners using some of the ham for beans), one Meat & Cheese loaf, (2 night’s dinner + 1 lunch) five individual servings of Sweet Potato Casserole, and a week’s worth of sausage links for breakfast at work. Twenty-six nights worth of dinner. I’m out of ground meats at the moment, just waiting on a sale, so, we’ll see how much more I can fit in there!
Dearest’s work for years has been largely seasonal, so I learned very early in our marriage how to stretch resources during the lean times. Getting the most meals out of various cuts of meat with the addition of seasonings, grains, potatoes, vegetables, broths, gravies and/or bread was a challenge and soon became habit. Buying and cooking in bulk during peak work season was a simple transition for me from the farm life I lived during my childhood, producing and preserving for the winter. I want to share my knowledge, tips and recipes, because, while I learned a lot from my mother, much more of my knowledge is very hard earned. I know first hand what it’s like to struggle as a young couple of limited means (and cooking appliances!) with children to feed. My hope is that by sharing the hints, hacks and tricks I’ve learned over my adult life to “make do with” whie stretching our food budget with savory (and sometimes quirky) recipes I’ve altered or created that satisfy the senses and fill the belly, will make life just a tiny bit simpler for someone else.
For me, the main benefit of stockpile cooking is reducing our grocery budget during the winter. The money not being spent on meat can provide staples like sugar, milk, coffee, fresh fruits and veggies, etc., so that we have delicious and wholesome meals year round.
So get creative with it! Adapt your favorite recipes to the freezer. Experiment with new recipes by checking out freezer meal cookbooks, search online, create your own! If you want to start small, pre-chop veggies and fruits for the week for your lunch and/or dinner. Time spent doing these things is great therapy for anxiety, since you have to slow down and focus on what you’re doing. The amount of time and frustration it saves you on those busy nights when you have absolutely no desire to cook, or you have limited time to cook is a huge bonus. You’ll save time and eat well, and you know what you’re eating.
Till next time, friends…
Have a wonderful evening!