This blog is dedicated to every person who has nightmares involving the question "What's for Dinner?"

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Cut-up Chicken

I think that whole chickens are probably the cheapest and most versatile meat out there. When Ernie and I were first married I would buy a whole chicken, on sale for $.69 a pound (cheapest I can get it for now is $.89/lb) and roast it, guaranteeing leftover meat for chicken enchiladas or chicken pot pie or chicken salad for the rest of the week. Multiple meals for less than $5.00. Our family is significantly bigger and nowadays one chicken = one meal with very little leftovers, but I am still a huge fan of whole chickens for other meals.

Yesterday I noticed that cut-up chicken pieces were on sale, so I went over to Wal-Mart and had them price match. Here’s what I got:

5.5 lbs split chicken breasts for $.98/lb

4.5 lbs chicken thighs for $.89/lb

5.5 lbs drumsticks for $.89/lb

Total spent: $13.85

So, out of all that meat (which totals 15.5 lbs of meat) I have divided it up, with 3 drumsticks in each freezer bag to make my older kids happy. I am sick today so I took 2.5 lbs off the top and boiled it for chicken and dumplings to have tonight, because that’s what sounded good to me. I broke the rest of the meat into 4 additional freezer bags. They ranged in weight from 2.5 to 3 lbs. I left two bags of chicken unseasoned. With the other two I added one cup of Italian dressing to one bag and 1/2 cup of teriyaki marinade to the other. Those seasoned bags with marinate in the freezer and I will probably grill up that chicken in the next couple of weeks.

5 meals for $13.85 makes me happy! That equals to $2.77 per meal and appx. $.46 per serving.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Beef Stew

Today at the grocery store I picked up some beef stew meat. It was on sale (yea!) and I’m cold- so it was essentially a perfect storm for beef stew tonight! So I picked up the family pack of stew because it was cheaper to buy it in bulk and since I bought enough for 3 meals, I decided to assemble the remaining beef into 2 additional beef stew meals.

Here’s the recipe:

  • 14 oz. stew meat
  • 3 c. beef broth
  • 1 T. worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 t. minced garlic
  • 1/2 t. crushed oregano
  • 1/4 t. black pepper
  • 1/4 t. rosemary, dried
  • 1 onion, medium
  • 2 carrots, medium
  • 3 c. diced potatoes
  • 1 c. frozen green beans

Assemble stew meat, beef broth, worcestershire sauce, garlic, oregano, pepper,  and rosemary in gallon size Ziploc bag.

beef stew

Dice onion, slice carrots, and dice potatoes. Place onions, carrots, potatoes, and green beans in gallon size Ziploc bag.

beef stew 2

Freeze both bags together with date and cooking instructions on the bag.

Cooking Day: No need to thaw. Place meat mixture in crock pot and then place veggie mix on top. Cook on low 10-12 hours, cook on high 5-6 hours. If thicker stew is desired, in the last 30 minutes of cook time, turn crock pot to High and add 2T flour mixed with 1/4 c. water to the stew and stir until thickened.


This recipe is Weight Watchers friendly (I removed the step of dredging the meat in flour and then browning the meat in oil). Here’s the nutritional info:

  • Servings: 6 (1 cup each)
  • WW points: 3 points per serving
  • Calories: 182
  • Fat: 4.6
  • Fiber: 2.9

Cost per Meal: Approximately $7.00

Cost per Serving: $1.17

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Pork, Anyone?

I had a migraine yesterday, so I only took care of the pork meal assemblies (which was the majority of the meat). Here’s what I have left to assemble: 2 meals with split chicken breasts, 1 sirloin tip roast, and 3 whole chickens. The whole chickens are the easiest. I just put those in the freezer and pull them out when I want them. I usually roast them (this is one of my kids favorite meals) and sometimes I boil them for chicken and dumplings or chicken soup. The sirloin roast I will rub with olive oil, minced garlic, salt and pepper and then freeze. I still haven’t decided what to do with the split chicken breasts.

So le’s start with the pork:

raw pork

I took the pork butt roast first (it’s 5 lbs!) and rubbed it with Ernie’s BBQ rub recipe and then put it in the freezer bag. When I cook it, I’ll either slow cook in the oven or use the crock pot and since we will for sure have meat left over, I will freeze the leftovers for pulled pork sandwiches or something like that. Definitely getting at least 2 meals out of this roast.

Here’s the delicious rub:

Pork Roast rubbed

Then I took the 4lb tenderloin and cut it in half. A 2lb roast is completely sufficient for our family! One tenderloin I bagged in a tangy marinade and the other I rubbed with a garlic/paprika/olive oil rub.

Lastly I took the family pack of pork chops and made them into 2 dinners of Moroccan Pork Chops, which is one of my kid’s favorites. I will either broil or grill those pork chops when it comes time to eat them.

Here are the pre-assembled meals:

Pork Meals 

It took me to 1 hour and 10 minutes to make these recipes!

Here’s the recipes for Ernie’s BBQ Rub and Moroccan Pork Chops:

Ernie’s BBQ Rub

  • 3/4 c. packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 T mild chili powder
  • 1/4 c. paprika
  • 2 1/2 T salt
  • 2 T black pepper
  • 1 T onion powder
  • 1/2 T garlic powder
  • 1/2 t. cayenne pepper

Mix ingredients well and then rub into meat.

Moroccan Pork Chops

  • 1 t salt
  • 1 T garlic powder
  • 1 t curry powder
  • 2 T Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 t paprika
  • 2 chicken boullion cubes
  • 1/2 t dry mustard
  • 1 t oregano
  • 2-3 dashes Tabasco sauce
  • 1/2 c. boiling water
  • pork chops

Combine all spices in bowl and add boiling water. Mix until dissolved. Place pork chops in gallon freezer bag and then pour sauce into bag. Seal, label, and freeze.   

And here’s Max- in his favorite spot- while I cooked!

Max cooking

Thursday, January 14, 2010

So you want to learn how to freezer cook?

Let me start by clarifying: I DO NOT cook freezer meals, I practice the Art of Freezer Meal Assembly (FMA). This means that I am not pre-cooking and then freezing massive amounts of food. It means that I am assembling casseroles (raw), freezing them, and then later baking them one time and one time only. It also means that I work with a lot of meats in marinades, because they are the easiest to assemble! All kinds of meats and all kinds of marinades. These I have learned to bake, sauté, fry, grill, and broil. All fabulous ways to get great flavor- most in a very healthy way!

Ok- here’s the Quick Start Menu

1. Only start with 2 weeks worth of meals. (forget the whole month at a time stuff, it will only overwhelm you.)

2. Remember, when I say 2 weeks, this may not be 14 different meals for your family. At my house it’s more like 8-10. Friday night is pizza night, some nights we have leftovers or cold cereal.

3. Gather up your family’s favorite recipes. What do you like to eat? What do your kids get excited about?

4. Google Freezer Cooking and visit a few websites like this one:

5. Pull out the store ads (this one is not required, I just like saving the money!)

6. Now- here’s where the fun begins. Start tallying up how many chicken breasts you’ll need, how many pork chops, etc. Figure out if you need any extra ingredients that may not already be in your pantry. Put those on the list. This is what I like to call “Focused Shopping”. Then take it on over to the grocery store.

7. Before assembling, some things to consider:

  • Gallon freezer bags are vital. 90% of what I freeze, I freeze in Ziploc (yes, I buy this brand only) freezer bags.
  • The other 10% of the stuff that I freeze I put into foil pans and then cover with a sheet of freezer paper, topped with a layer of aluminum foil to seal it.
  • Another option for casseroles, etc is that you can line your 9x13 pan with foil, assemble the casserole, freeze, and then once it's frozen, remove from the pan and wrap the casserole for storage. I have tried this and it works great. When you're ready to bake it, you just remove all the wrapping, put it in your original pan and bake.

8. Assemble your meals by meat type. You don’t want to cross-contaminate, so assemble all your raw chicken at once, then the beef, etc.

9. Very last thing: don’t forget to label; . Put the date assembled, name of the item, and if possible cooking instructions.

A few common questions:

I don’t have a separate freezer, will all that food fit in my freezer?

  • Yes. All of these meals will freeze flat, either in the Ziploc bag or because it’s in an aluminum pan or in the shape of a 9x13 mold. They will be stackable and will not take up a lot of room.

How long does it take to thaw a meal?

  • In a bag, usually over night in the fridge or a few hours in cold water in the sink.
  • A casserole (most casseroles can be cooked frozen) usually take 24-48 hours in the fridge, so I try to plan ahead for those, if they absolutely must be thawed.

Really, FMA just requires planning and thinking ahead- which I realize can be really hard to do when you’re taking care of the rest of your life!

Tomorrow I’ll post a list of all the recipes that I will be using with the meat that I purchased today.

Let’s get cooking!

So I'm going to start blogging about my kitchen :)

Freezer cooking has been a hobby of mine for about 7 years now, but I'm planning on taking my grocery shopping a lot more seriously in 2010 and I'm looking for ways to drive down my grocery bill! Thus my renewed, somewhat more serious interest in freezer cooking.

Here's what I bought today (all on sale using price match at Walmart):

Item Original Price Sale Price
Boneless Pork Chops 9.61 4.00
Whole Pork Loin 11.74 8.72
Split Chicken Breasts 9.77 4.35
Pork Butt Roast 7.33 5.26
Whole Chicken 5.34 4.31
Whole Chicken 5.13 4.13
Whole Chicken 5.49 4.42
Sirloin Tip Roast 14.03 9.76
Frozen Chicken Breast (boneless, skinless) 6.48 5.18
Yellow Onions 2.28 1.88
Total Cost 77.36 52.01
Total Savings   25.35

Wow! A savings of $25.35- that’s something to get excited about! I probably spent 15 minutes this morning going through the store ads for the other stores and then it took me an extra 5 minutes at the check out to have the cashier adjust the prices. Not bad for 20 minutes worth of work!

So now to the recipes. What do I do with all this meat? Give me some time and I’ll let you know :)