Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Prep your way to happiness

My grandfather used to have us play this party game he called "Pop your way to happiness." You would pop a balloon to get a number, and the number determined the prize you got. It was great fun unless you were the girl with the balloons pinned to you. Once a month cooking is kinda like that. It's awesome when you get the prize (no cooking for the rest of the month!) but it's a little tricky when you have all those balloons pinned to you. Still, I much prefer it to cooking every night.

There is a lot of food there. Don't get overwhelmed. I will show you just how to deal with it after the jump.

Also, before we begin...

  • We eat meat, and no I don't feel bad about that.
  • Most of the meals that I prep I do because something will go bad if I don't, like all the meat. So there is a lot of meat here. What you won't see is all of the salads, steamed veggies and fruit we eat, because, well, I mostly don't freeze those.
  • I am not a dietician. I try to plan a balanced diet for my family, sometimes we eat light, sometimes we eat comfort food, but it is all in moderation. This is not diet advice. It's just an example of one method of meal planning.

First I put away the dairy, any frozen items, and wash and put away the fruits and veggies.

Then I tackle the meals. (Start with the easiest, it will make you feel more productive.)

BBQ Ham is easy prep. Just a pound of deli ham, and a cup of ketchup. On the day, pop it in the crock pot with 1 cup of cola and simmer in the crock pot on low 3-4 hours. Serve it on buns with chips or french fries. Yadda, yadda, yadda, I know it's not the healthiest meal. But it is GOOD.
Italian Chicken: Filet four chicken breasts to create 8 portions. Split chicken between two bags. Divide one jar of Italian dressing between them. On meal day, thaw chicken and let marinade, then grill or bake. Serve with couscous and steamed veggies.
I should take a second here to point out something that should be obvious but probably is not: part of cutting your food budget and making your food last all month is portioning. You can control the size of the portions while you are prepping. Since most of the freezer prep is the meat portion of the meal, you can always supplement the meal with more whole grains, veggies or fruit the day of. That said, most of these meals make enough for my family of three that we have leftovers for lunch or dinner the next day. A few meals, like the next one, are large enough that we can invite friends over for dinner whenever we please, or use the leftovers for a "found meal." (More on that in a future post.)
Roasts were a bogo this week, so I made two Italian roasts. Brown the roasts in a skillet with some oil. Chop mushrooms (I used 1 package per roast). Place enough beef bullion in each bag for 2 cups. Divide one large can of tomato purée between the bags. Add parsley, oregano, salt and pepper to taste. On meal day place frozen in the crock pot, add 2 cups of water, simmer on low 8-10+ hours. When you are ready to eat, remove meat and cover. Turn heat to high and whisk in 2t cornstarch to thicken sauce. Cook for 15 min then serve. We will have ours with a potato dish and steamed veggies.
Swiss chicken: Filet 3 chicken breasts to make 6 servings, place in dish. Cover each with 1 slice of Swiss cheese. Top with sauce made with cream of chicken soup and 1 cup of milk. Sprinkle on stove top. On meal day, thaw, sprinkle stuffing mix with 2T melted butter and bake at 350 for about an hour or until chicken is no longer pink. Serve with steamed veggies. (So, yeah, lots of short cuts in that one, but it is one of my family's favorite comfort meals, and the weather stinks, so whatever.)
Holy Yum Chicken. I found this one on Pinterest. I prepped the chicken and on meal day I will thaw then bake as per directions. And serve with these Roasted Carrots.
Then I started to run out of space in the freezer. So I took a break for a few days. As long as I deal with everything before it starts to turn on me I figure that is fine.
Eat well!



The day I served the Holy Yum Chicken my sides were the roasted carrots I mentioned as well as some twice baked potatoes from my side dishes post. ALL THREE DISHES cook at 400 degrees for 40 minutes! Dinner was so easy! When does that EVER happen?

Seriously, the potatoes and carrots were snuggled up on the same old cookie sheet even. (Also, according to the Hubster, that cookie sheet is not dirty, it is seasoned. I don't let him near my good cookie sheets.)

Look at that dinner! It was divine. The only thing I had to do was prep the fresh carrots and make the sauce when the chicken came out. Week day meal with two sides in like 10 minutes. You can do this!


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