Friday, February 13, 2015

Save Time and Money On Meals....

I have a big family... and I cook a lot, most of it from scratch... and I am a very busy woman with a lot of responsibilities.... and money is not super plentiful, so...... it helps when I streamline things. Over the years, I have tried different ideas to save time and money.... some of them worked well, others not so much. Some of them I did for a time, then discarded... others were keepers and I am still using them... this is one of the really good ones.....

 The idea? Cooking meat ahead of time and storing it in the freezer in smaller packages or containers. These are wonderful to pull out to make soup... or a casserole... to use in a salad... or whatever.

This is the last little package of ham... we had ham and it was so tasty... and as we usually do, we cut some of it up and put it into the freezer for later use. Ham doesn't store in the freezer for a long time, but it works fine for short term use.... like a month or so.

From that ham, we also had broth and leftover gravy and some of both went into the freezer..... and we have really enjoyed bean soup with ham.... the flavor was wonderful. :)  Also from ham, the bone and other leavings get cooked down to form bullion... sometimes we add veggies to it... like celery, carrots and more... to make the broth extra rich, and sometimes we just cook the bones down. The resulting broth is rich with vitamins and minerals... and it also gets frozen until we are ready to  use it.

These are my two last items of meat in the freezer .... a small bowl of cooked hamburger and the little package of ham, so it is time to replenish.

You may be wondering what the big deal is about doing this.  Well, meat is expensive for us and yet it gives such wonderful flavor and nutrition to our meals, so I like to use it. If allowed to, my guys could easily polish off a LOT of meat. It would break the budget... and they don't need that much meat, so years ago, I started limiting the amounts.... and saving some. At the time, money was so very tight and we had many meatless meals.. in fact, we rarely had meat, so I learned to treasure it and make it last. A little bit of meat can really flavor up a dish.

I also like the idea of cooking once.... and using the "fruit" of my efforts, several times.  When we cook a turkey... we put quite a few packages of cooked turkey into the freezer..... also turkey bullion. We have plenty of turkey to eat at the first meal... all we want, actually.... and then some of my work for future meals is already done during that meal.  I love that!

 The first picture at the top of the post,  showed a pan of hamburger cooking. I had bought a family pack of hamburger... it is so expensive ... and cooked it down.  I was making homemade chili in the crockpots and was cooking the hamburger for that. After it was cooked, I spooned some out into two bowls. They need to cool a bit and then they go into the freezer, ready for use another time.

If I know I am going to make sloppy joes, I will put them in bigger bowls... but we haven't made sloppy joes for quite some time... it costs too much for the meat... and we are doing fine without it for now.  If I am going to make soup in the crockpot, all I have to do it run water over one of the bowls to loosen the meat... and put it into the crockpot with the other soup ingredients... I don't have to brown the meat and deal with the dishes from doing it... it's already done. :)  As it all cooks together all day, the flavors meld together into a tasty meal. Having the meat cooked ahead of time makes it quite quick to get a pot of soup going... or to throw a casserole together.

 After removing the two bowls of hamburger for the freezer, I added a lot of onions and peppers and garlic to the meat and continued cooking it. Mmmm, it sure smelled good.

Sometimes I freeze some of a mixture like this... or with celery, cabbage or other veggies cooked in. It is all flavored by the meat... sometimes I season it at this point and sometimes I don't.

This was all for the chili... yes, we could have used more meat in the chili, but this was enough for the two crockpots... and we all enjoyed it. In our culture of excess, it isn't a bad thing to be limited on things... even meat. :)  Also, eating too much meat can lead to health problems, so again... it isn't bad to limit things.

The smaller packages of meat are wrapped in plastic wrap and then stored in a freezer zip bag. Those little packages are handy and easy to pull out to flavor eggs or egg casserole... to use for a sandwich for Dad's lunch..... or other. The nice thing about using little packages is that it is all ready to use and in a limited size. If you only need a little, you don't want to defrost a bowl of it and then re-freeze the meat... not a good idea. I like keeping a variety of sizes ready.

Sometimes, I have bought a lot of meat on sale and cooked it, putting most of it in the freezer and getting it well-stocked again, then cleaned everything up. That was nice, BUT it was also time consuming. I find it easier to do it more often now... and to do it while I am making a meal already... so I would already be dirtying some dishes and spending time in the kitchen. It is really easy to do both things at once... cook meat for the current meal and get it started, and also put some in the freezer.

There are many ways to save money and time.... and some of them just aren't worth the trouble... and others are. This one is so helpful and it is just a part of what we do.... it saves on how much meat we use, it saves on the time preparing it... and it also saves on cooking much fuel is used to power our stoves to do the cooking. There are even small savings in only doing dishes once for cooking all of the meat rather than cooking the meat for each meal. These are little things, but those little things do add up...

Shared on:
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  1. Our families must be very similar! We enjoy meat a whole lot, but it is cheaper to ration and portion it down. I usually combine meat with pasta or carbohydrates in some form to make it go farther. Very occasionally we will have a steak, or chicken breast served by itself, without being mixed with rice, potatoes or pasta. The freezer is a very handy tool to save extra meat for another meal. Great thoughts on how to extend your budget as much as possible!

    1. You're right... that sounds like what we do here.... and our family does enjoy pasta or rice... actually they just really like most foods that we make! :) What a blessing to have healthy eaters and to be able to have all that we need. :)

  2. I do the same whenever possible. It's so nice to have meat already cooked and available for a quick meal.

    1. It sure is.... what a blessing. :) Thank you for visiting.

  3. I've learned this living in Peru - I can easily get 4 meals for my family from one chicken, for example. In the US, people tend to eat a whole chicken quarter at a meal - I buy my chickens whole at the market, and have the butcher cut it up into 10-12 pieces (plus the giblets and feet). I usually fry or bake the legs and thighs, use some of the breast pieces for soup or stew, and then boil the rest and take it off the bone for stirfries and so on. A little bit of meat goes a very long way in a stir fry or casserole! I've actually fed my whole family of four a meal from one chicken wing with a bit of the breast - and no one complained about not having enough! I use the bones, giblets and feet to make stock, sometimes with some veggies thrown in as you say, for a little more flavor. I put it in plastic jars and freeze it to use whenever I need it.

    Chili is a great way to extend meat - you can toss in low cost beans to really stretch it out, keeping it filling and really healthy!

    1. You take it further than I do... a chicken wing for a family of four... and a bit of the breast.... Wow... that is impressive... good for you! It is amazing what we can do when we use what we have and are thankful. Thank you for sharing this... it was good to have you. :)

  4. Those are some good money saving tips. It's amazing how we can stretch our food and not waste. I enjoyed reading how you cook your meat ahead and pull it out. You've shared some wonderful ideas.

    1. Thank you.... what a sweet comment. Yes, there are so many ways to save money and not waste it... and I keep learning more and more, even though there are some (like the one in this post) that I have done for years. Thank you for visiting. :)

  5. These are the types of things that we do in our home too Joy! We only eat the meat we grow ourselves so I need to make it stretch throughout the year. We also cook everything from scratch so these preparations are such a blessing! :)

    1. Wow, the meat you grow yourselves is a lot of work! We don't go that far at all... at least yet. :) It is good to make things last, though... and cooking from scratch is so much better than buying junk or convenience foods... better financially and much better for the health. :)

  6. You have some great advice there and good ideas too. Thanks for sharing them at Good Morning Mondays. Blessings

    1. Thank you.... I always look forward to the blog party... and love your visits. :)

  7. This is wonderful! I like to prepare meals ahead of time and freeze them - I find it to be very helpful and it saves on money :) Thanks for sharing at ROI. Hugs and blessings!

    1. It is such a help.... I like to get meals in the freezer ahead of time also... it is wonderful to pull them out and use them, but I am not doing as well with that, regularly, now as I used to... but I am getting the meat in there. :) After reading your comment, I am inspired to try harder to get meals in there again also. :)

  8. Lovely idea, thanks for sharing with Hearth and soul blog hop.

    1. Thank you.... and thank you for the wonderful blog party. :)