Friday, November 6, 2009

Frugal Friday

OAMC 101
Today I figured I'd share with you some basic steps in freezer cooking. I am by no means an expert, but I'm learning. So far, this is definitely saving us money. We spent about $175 on all our dinners for the month (including buying "supplies" like freezer bags) and the meals we made are large enough to have leftovers for lunch the next day. So basically that leaves breakfast left to buy! Maybe a few random items too. So, that puts our expected grocery total for the month somewhere between $200-225. That's quite a bit below our budget! We also bought about 95% of our groceries organic, so the cost could be even lower for those who don't. So, here we go:

1. Menu Planning: OAMC works best when you can incorporate one item into many meals. Meat is obviously the main ingredient in many dinners, so I started with that. For the month I planned on 2 chickens, a roast, and ground beef. I then planned 3-4 meals for each item of meat. As I mentioned before, RecipeZaar has a great recipe selection, which is where I got all my recipes. I then filled in the rest of the dinners with meals that don't require meat (but can be added if there's extra) like pizza and soups. The hardest part of all this for me was finding recipes that aren't filled with pasta and cream of chicken/mushroom/whatever soup. Also, try to find recipes that incorporate inexpensive items such as beans, rice or canned tomatoes.

2. Grocery Shopping: Make a list! Make sure you write down exactly how much of each item you need. You don't want to have to run to the grocery store in the middle of your cooking day!

3. Prep Day: The night before, I put one of the chickens and the roast in crock-pots to cook overnight so they'd be ready to go in the morning. Crock-pots are great...I highly recommend them. I plan on trying to find one or two more at thrift stores so that I can cook beans overnight too =) Soak any beans you'll need (this is worth the time, buying dried beans is so much cheaper than buying canned. Plus it really doesn't take that much work), chop any veggies you can, and shred all the cheese you'll need. Getting all this done the night before makes things a bit easier for your cooking day.

4. Organization: Make sure you have gallon sized freezer bags, plastic wrap, some casserole dishes (I used disposable foil ones), plastic storage containers, and a Sharpie. I've read of people who line their casserole dishes with plastic wrap, put in the casserole, freeze it, then once it's frozen pop it out of the dish and wrap it up all the way. This way the dish can be reused. Don't forget to label everything. Once frozen, things are kinda unrecognizable. Don't forget the date too! If you can, find some way of putting the cooking instructions on the meal, that way when it's time to cook it you know exactly what to do and don't have to rummage around for the recipe.

5. Cooking Day: Cook any rice, beans or pasta; if you've cooked anything in a crock-pot take it out and let it cool. Unfortunately, rice and beans take a while to cook, I'm still working on that one. Cook up any ground beef, and cut up any pre-cooked meat (chicken, roast). Assemble any meals that you can. When everything has finished cooking, assemble the rest. Wrap, label and freeze as you go! This is obviously just a starting point, individual menus will require other steps.

6. Clean up: This probably the worst part. My suggestion is to hire someone to come do it for you. Or bribe your husband.

When you're done, you freezer will look like this:

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