Isn’t this what we all want? To not have to cook every single night, save money, and yet have these amazing meals to choose from? I have a lot of people ask me how I have so much good food and don’t cook everyday. The answer is simple. I plan out several meal types in advance, buy in bulk, cook in bulk, and freeze. In effort to save money and time do not conform to the traditional cook every night or every other night scheme. Instead, I find multiple recipes I can cook that use the same or similar ingredients and freeze individual portions. This allows me to buy the ingredients in bulk (Thank you Costco!!) and save the difference. I get fresh foods around two to three times a month (since I tend to eat more like a rabbit then a human at times) and we keep several healthy “junk foods” around in case we get a craving or simply can’t stand being healthy for one more second! This process has allowed us to eat what we want, when we want, and still save money.
Save Money: I shop for 99% of all my groceries at Costco. I like Sam’s Club as well, but it is much farther from my home. Costco’s prices are always extremely reasonable. For example; according to the USDA the average price per pound of red onions is $1.79. At my local grocery store it is much more. However, at Costco I can get an 8 lb bag of red onions for 7.99. That’s just under one dollar per pound. I have heard many critics questioning why someone would spend 8 dollars on 8 pounds of onions when they only need one for their recipe. The answer is simple. Buy everything else needed for your recipes in bulk and make enough of everything to use all the ingredients. This allows you to take the savings on those onions, multiply that by all your other bulk purchases, then multiply it over the years. The savings is substantial. I don’t coupon, I don’t cook everyday, and I eat healthy.
Save Time: I am a huge fan of not going to the grocery store every week. I don’t have a lot of time and I am not going to waste it walking up and down isles each and every week. I also don’t coupon. I would rather spend my time making money than trying to save it. My logic is that you can only save so much, but your earning potential is completely up to you. Before I go to Costco, I write a list of what I need (because I will forget) and I only stray from that list if I see something super good. So your going to the store less, buying fresh foods and produce every two weeks or so, what are you going to do with that extra time? Not cook! That’s right, I spent two days cooking back in October and my hubby is still eating the food in the freezer. I try to choose delicious meals that are healthy, but he will also want to eat. I mainly eat a lot of salads and rice dishes which take almost no time thanks to my rice cooker, so Tim is the main one eating these meals. I partake occasionally as a break from my norm. This idea would also be great if you have teenagers in the house who like quick meals and tend to eat on the unhealthy side because of it.
In October I made:
-Over 75 individual 6″ pizzas. Types included cheese, pepperoni, veggie pesto, bbq chicken with fresh salsa, taco, broccoli alfredo, and southwest.
-One pot roast with vegetables for my carnivorous hubby.
-Alfredo sauce for pasta.
– Over fifty quesadillas. Types included veggie, chicken, rice and vegetable, and southwest ranch.
– 20 hamburger patties.
– A full pot of chicken chili.
-BBQ pulled chicken.
With some of the recipes I add all the ingredients then just let them cook, however, that is not the case with the pizzas and quesadillas. With these, as I am done cooking them I wrap them up in individual sheets of tinfoil and put them into a plastic bin to put in our freezer. I get the tin foil sheets from Costco, 500 come in a pack and I think it only costs 13 dollars. I put anything liquid into glass pyrex containers. You can get them from Walmart or Amazon who has a 18 piece set with great reviews where the lids snap into place. You can find it here: New Snaplock Lid: Tempered Glasslock Storage Containers 18pc set~Microwave & Oven Safe. I would choose something glass. The more research they do, the more the scientific community is realizing plastic isn’t healthy when used for food storage. Plus, when you use glass, you can take off the lid and pop it in the oven to cook, super simple. Just set the timer and you don’t have to stand over the stove. That is also why the tinfoil is handy. We unwrap one side and create a small pocket then toss them in the oven. No more cleaning pots, pans, or baking dishes. Just the plate or bowl you use to actually eat. It is also nice when you have people over unexpectedly. Very simple and easy to cook something on the spot, just go to your freezer.
I use a permanent marker to write on the tin foil packs and washi tape to add the labels to the glassware. Masking tape works well too. Make sure you date the containers. I try to use up all of one type of food before I make more. This may not be ideal for everyone so food rotation to ensure freshness is important. We have a 22 cubic foot stand up freezer. I like the standup because it utilizes more horizontal space and I can see where everything is in it. I used a label maker, nice paper, tape, and small clips to make labels for where everything goes. I can add another post about that later if anyone is interested :). We purchased our freezer from Craig’s list for 200 dollars. It has a few dents, but other than that it has saved us hundreds of dollars, not to mention the time.
What all this means is that every night for dinner, I can have a salad while my husband gets a home cooked meal that I didn’t have to cook. It’s a beautiful thing really, saves me a lot of time and effort. Not only by not cooking, but by not having to wash tons of dishes as well.
Eat Healthy: I know the list I made earlier doesn’t seem healthy. But I have altered many of the recipes to be healthier versions than what people typically think of. For my husband the whole wheat homemade pizza’s are much healthier than anything store-bought or ordered in. I add lots of vegetables to many of the recipes including the quesadillas and pizzas to make then better and tastier. Also, homemade foods contain a lot less preservatives and the chemical craziness that we see in the frozen food section!
This is just a quick overview of my food routine. We cook in the oven because it is healthier than microwaves and we work hard so it’s nice not to have to worry about dinner each night. You could also package up dinners for families based on the number of people you have. I would love to hear any tips or tricks you have to offer!
USDA National Average for Prices in 2014: http://www.ams.usda.gov/mnreports/fvwretail.pdf