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Simple Saving Savvy: Cooking Ahead ~

Simple Saving Savvy

Practicing Wise Stewardship & Blessing Others Out of Our Abundance

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Cooking Ahead ~

I don't know if you've noticed, but I am posting lots of stuff on organization and being proactive. While I am trying to encourage each one of you to live intentionally, God is using it to encourage and redirect ME along the way.

As I become busier with the blog, Coupons for Christ, my children's extra-cirricular activities (which by the way are kept to a minimum but when you have five, there's no way to stay "unbusy")and trying to maintain my marriage and home along the way, I am convicted to "regroup" and "reorganize".

My friend Lynn practices the "cook ahead" method for saving money and time in getting dinner on the table. Awhile back she shared her plan with a group of us and now I'm sharing it with you.

Keep in mind that this is what works for Lynn's family and is only a guideline. Your family may have different likes or needs which you will have to consider. But this should give you an idea of how it works and get you started

Lynn's Monthly Menu Plan

Day one – Buy groceries. Eat out tonight because buying all the groceries for a month and putting them away is very tiring. Put turkey in the refrigerator to thaw. (from Amanda ~ if you cherry pick your deals and stockpile, then you will not be buying ALL your groceries at the beginning of the month. You will, however, buy the majority of your meat and then pull from your pantry. As you come across "too good to turn down" deals throughout the month, you may want to work them into your weekly budget.)

Day two – Mix 5lbs. of ground beef into 3 meatloaves (recipes to come). Bake one tonight to have with either rice or potatoes and put two wrapped in foil and in freezer bag in freezer.

Day three - Brown 6lbs. ground beef. Put two cups into stew pot and make big chili (recipe to come), one meal for tonight and leftover chili goes into small freezer bags for weekend lunch of chili cheese dogs. Divide the remainder ground beef into 5 small freezer bags.

Day four – Roast a turkey or 12 large chicken breasts. Use 2 breast or 2 cups of turkey tonight for turkey and stuffing dinner. Then chop or shred remainder meat and divide between 10 small freezer bags.

Whew! That was a busy four days, but now the rest of the month is a coast!

You now have ground beef ready for 6 meals: 2 meat loaves, 2 spaghetti, 1 taco night, & 1 stroganoff.

You now have poultry ready for 10 meals: 2 turkey, broccoli & rice casseroles, 2 turkey tetrazzini, 2 enchilada casseroles, 1 turkey & wild rice soup, 2 chicken Caesar salads, and 1 turkey and stuffing.

That is 20 meals down and 9 to go. I am assuming you will eat out a total of 2 dinners a month in a 30 day month.

2 big salad nights. My family loves lettuces, bacon, cheese, apples or raisins then hot bread and dipping oil.

1 ham and bean and/or 1 vegetable soup. These are my family’s least favorites but they are only 2 meals a month and I always make pie for dessert. They need to learn to like these.

I cook two large pot roasts a month that make 4 meals.

1 cedar plank Salmon or other fish night.

1 breakfast for dinner.

Note: Cooking day two and three can easily be combined. You can sometimes cook enough poultry at one time for two months

Here are the recipes mentioned in Lynn's "cook ahead" plan:

Poultry recipes

(I cook about 12 pounds of poultry each sale cycle. Either frozen turkey breast or chicken breast will be .91 a pound every 8-12 weeks. I let it defrost in the refrigerator over night then cook for 3-4 hours at about 300 degrees. I just put a little canola oil and poultry season over the meat and cover it with foil first, no water. Then divide into 2 cup baggies and freeze.)

Poultry Broccoli Rice Casserole

2 cups cooked poultry
1 package frozen broccoli, I just use the florets
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 cup milk
8 ounces of either Velveeta or cheese whiz
2 cups cooked rice.

Heat the soup, milk and cheese together until melted then mix with all ingredients. Bake in a covered casserole dish at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Poultry Wild Rice Soup

2 cups cooked poultry
2 cans chicken broth
1 package Uncle Bens Original Wild Rice, cooked according to package
¼ cup chopped onion
1 rib of celery chopped
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 cup of milk
8 ounces Velveeta or Cheese Whiz
Pepper to taste or a few drops of Tabasco are great.

Sauté onion and celery in a teaspoon of oil. Add all the other ingredients and cook on simmer, NOT BOIL, for 1 hour or longer. This can be put in the crockpot on low for 4-6 hours as long as your low setting does not boil.

Roast Beef recipes

(I cook 3 or 4 roast at a time each sale cycle, 1.69/lb, then divide the beef into 1-2 cup baggies and freeze. In each pot I put as much roast as will fit, 1 pkg. McCormick Beef Stew seasoning, 1 teaspoon lemon pepper and 1 tsp Ms Dash garlic herb, 2 cups water and ¼ cup canola oil. Cover well and cook on 275 for 6-8 hours.)

Beef and Cheddar Buns

Simply pile chopped beef and shredded cheddar on a bun slice and broil till warm.

Beef Stroganoff

1 cup chopped roast
1 package McCormick Beef Stroganoff sauce mix
½ can crème of mushroom soup (I put the other ½ in the freezer for the next time)
1 cup water
1 cup sour crème

Basically follow the package directions but omit the oil and add the soup. Serve over egg noodles or rice.

Vegetable Beef Soup

2 cups roast beef
2 cans beef broth
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 potatoes, peeled and chopped
¼ cup onion, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1 can stewed tomatoes
1 cup chopped cabbage
1 small turnip chopped

Sauté onion in a teaspoon of oil, add celery and carrots until onion is translucent. Add remaining ingredients and water if you want a thinner soup and not if you like more of a stew. You can simmer this on low for 2-4 hours or I prefer a crockpot or a 200 degree oven all afternoon (remember 212 degrees is boiling and you just want a simmer) Serve with cornbread – yum! Note: my husband hates turnips and cabbage but loves this soup.


The following recipe makes 3 Meatloaves.

Mix in large mixing bowl. Then divide into three parts and shape loaves. Wrap with foil and then place in freezer bag and freeze until needed.

5 lbs. ground beef
1 envelope Lipton Dry Onion Soup Mix
1 ½ cups plain dry bread crumbs
4 eggs
1 ½ cups water
2/3 cup ketchup

Big Batch Chili

2 cups browned ground beef
3 cans crushed tomatoes
1 can stewed tomatoes
2 cans black beans
2 cans pinto beans
2 beef bouillon cubes
3 to 4 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons garlic salt
2 teaspoons dried oregano

Simmer on low for an hour or more. Put leftovers in small quantities in freezer bags for a month of chili cheese dogs for Saturday’s lunches.

I've been dwelling on this for quite awhile now and here's what it's come to:

My husband, who handles our household finances, likes to budget on a weekly basis instead of monthly so I spend within the same budget each week instead of trying to stay within a monthly goal. This makes it hard to take advantage of bulk meat deals, however, I have talked with my husband about changing my grocery budget so that I can incorporate the cook ahead method into my own routine. I am going to calculate an amount to decrease from weeks two, three and four and add that amount into week one. This will give me funds to buy bulk meat but still keep hubby within his financial comfort zone. It may take me a month or so to readjust and get things running smoothly again but it shouldn't be too difficult since I already stockpile quite a bit.

I am going to help myself to adjust to this game plan by spending some time NOW, after each grocery shopping trip, to prep and pre-cook my meals only for that week. I'll let you know how it goes.

Do you cook ahead or wing it night by night? I would love to hear from you. Leave me a comment or
email me!

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