“[Original, in French:] La bonne cuisine est la base du véritable bonheur.
[Translated in English: Good food is the foundation of genuine happiness.]”
― Auguste Escoffier
(My dear little Bottomless Pit who starts the day accessorized and clean, and is a ragamuffin by lunch time... and shrieks and claps at the smell of food, acting all dramatic by gnawing her arm if I don't present a meal to her fast enough. Can't get enough of this one.)
Over the years I've eyed and occasionally tried some simple meal-planning (especially freezer meal prep)... but I always get overwhelmed with the blog posts detailing "35 meals for $116 in Four Hours!" I get past the grocery list diagram and need a break. I was in a very "Work With What You Have" household so I can always make something out of anything... but there has always been an interest to figure out a "system" that worked for me that did save money, make life easier, and free up time.
Given that we travel so much, and, let's be honest, I've been sick-pregnant so much, I haven't had a lot of time to indulge myself in this little challenge. But the combination of New Years, a new (spacious, bright, happy!) kitchen in our current AirBNB, and the couple of months to settle in, I was motivated to move.
Inspired by the Carrabba's/Maggiano's style of "Two For One Pasta" (one to eat now for dinner, and another boxed up to take home for "the price of one) I simply made a meal at dinner time... and froze half of it! So at the end of the week, my whole freezer was filled with a week's worth of meals. My thought was that if I could do this system on weeks I know I have the time, I'll always have a meal available when I just have to "throw something on."
For grocery shopping I just went through the recipes I wanted to make, added an item to the list, if I saw a repeat item I noted the quantity I would need (ie: canned tomato sauce was in two recipes, shredded cheese was in three, etc). I ended up buying eight chicken breasts, three pounds of ground beef, and potatoes as the base for the meals. And I went from there!
This worked so nicely because it truly wasn't ever any more work, and there was no "extra time" set aside to do it. If you're browning ground beef, you're browning ground beef. Doesn't matter if you're cooking half a pound or two pounds. It's the same process/mess/time. I stored the extra meat cooked in Ziploc bags in the fridge until I needed to use them for their next recipe.
It was so fun! And I'm excited to do round two next week and add more to the stock!
- Pack of eight chicken breasts (could cook by boiling, grilling, baking, or in the crock-pot -- or even just use rotisserie chicken that's pre-cooked).
- I shredded the chicken and set aside 1/3 for tortilla soup, 1/3 for me to throw into salads, and 1/3 for teriyaki chicken bowls.
- Tortilla Soup Recipe (roughly, I always mix and match and add. But this is close.)
- Teriyaki Bowl is basically chicken marinated in Trader Joe's Island Soyaki Sauce atop a mix of sesame oil, coconut oil, tons of lime juice, cilantro, green onions, red peppers, cucumbers, and carrots.
- 2-3 pounds of ground beef, browned on the stove with onions and salt and pepper
- After cooking 1/2 was set aside for fajita enchiladas, and 1/2 used for ragù sauce.
- Fajita Enchilada Recipe (Again, roughly. Added fajita seasoning and beans to the meat, etc. But worked off this recipe. Caleb loved it! And said it was almost as good as his mom's enchiladas ;)
- Ragù sauce was diced tomatoes, can of marinara, basil, onions, ground beef, a few hot italian sausage links (also used in roast recipe below), garlic, garlic powder, and probably a dash of wine or parsley or something else I can't remember simmered for a few hours.
- Three bags of the "fingerling" style potatoes
- Half-or-so used for Broccoli Cheddar Soup, half-or-so used for chicken bake
- Seared Broccoli Soup Recipe (shocker: added my own twist! Mainly carrots and cream. But this recipe was a huge winner. Searing is the trick!) Served with Red Lobster's Cheddar Bay Biscuits from a box 'cause mama don't bake from scratch unless it's a holiday. And all the stores are closed.
- Roast Chicken & Sausage Tray Recipe This fellow here is going to be a fall/winter staple for us. SO easy. SO fast. SO full of flavor (new flavor, at that. Have never quite tasted the sauce before and we all loved it.)
This has nothing to do with freezer meals! Ha! But we're trying to really focus on taking those small steps and awarenesses to take care of ourselves. Our minds, bodies, and energy have the capacity to work so well and are equally able to struggle so hard. As we're learning from life lessons, we're trying keep in mind that everything is better when we're eating well, moving/sweating our bodies, and spending time outside every day. And it's easy for us to both skip breakfast... solution? Make breakfast darn good!
Also, this is random, but gosh. Have you had Dave's Killer Bread yet?! If you haven't get some immediately. Organic, healthy, whole and so good. This bread is soft when it's supposed to be, but has a good crunch when toasted, and has flavor and it's the only bread I buy now. It's worth the extra money for stuff so great!
Any recipes that are favorites in your meal rotation or must-trys for our next week?! Do you have any time/money saving meal planning and freezing tricks? Do you eat half of the ragù out of the pot with a wooden spoon like I do?