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Friday, June 29, 2012

FRUGAL FEEZER/ FOOD STORAGE FRIDAYS #1: How to eat out of food storage

IN an attempt to post with a purpose I am dedicating Fridays to FRUGAL & Freezer COOKING/ Food storage posts:

Welcome to FRUGAL Freezer/Food Storage Fridays 
The First Installment:

I haven't posted a weekly menu plan in several weeks,bc I haven't really made one. With all the meal prep for freezer cooking and the constant planning & double checking for ingredients I simply eat out of food storage and I'll show you how easy that really is.

I have done my Freezer food storage 2 different ways-

One way is to purchase proteins on sale in bulk, typically 30-40 Lbs,  and package them up in a meal sized portions.
Roasts -
  • I typically stick with top round roast, or English roast- these are lean and tougher cuts, need low & slow cooking to break down the muscle fiber PERFECT for CROCK POT COOKING!
  • ON SALE I can typically purchase for $2.49/LB
  • I will buy the roasts and butcher them myself to save money, cubed, steaks, & strips.

Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
  • BUY ON SALE ONLY!!!!!!!-Usually $1.39/LB
  • Basically all my chicken recipes are BSCB.
  • BUY FRESH! NOT FROZEN if you can!!-I will purchase the Quick Frozen type if the price is right, but you mostly purchase the "broth solution", got burned last time I bought 20 bags of 2.5LB of IQFBSCB once thawed the bag was 2 LB!!! 
  • If I do buy I QFBSCB, I will ONLY use them for DUMP recipes

Split Chicken Breasts
  • PURCHASE ONLY ON SALE & ORGANIC IF POSSIBLE!- (I know all should be organic but I can't afford it, however I use the skin and bones to make stock so I feel the extra money is worth it! Most times $2.99/Lb if organic if not can get as cheap $1.99LB)
  • Great for Crock Pot dishes, 
  • I freeze these as is, and will thaw then dump in crock
  • Save skin and Bones for stock later, DON'T THROW THIS AWAY!!- (I keep a bag in freezer & when filled I add in some wings when I get on sale and make gallons on home made stock)
  • Also PERFECT for soups
Ground Beef
  • PURCHASE ONLY on SALE!!!-Used to have rule on only purchase $1.99/Lb, this gets harder to do!
  • Use for Meatballs, Salisbury Steak Patties, Make my own pre-shapped patties, taco seasoned beef, MICI Rolls, Meat Loaves, Frozen in cooked 1Lb portions, and in HEAT & EAT MEALS
  • PURCHASE ONLY ON SALE!- (Usually $1.99/Lb)
  • I tend to stick with the tenderloins, but will purchase the country ribs too-This cut is CHEAP! and with the most meat when you buy ribs. Great for Crock pot cooking too!
  • My family is not big on the strong fish taste so I stick with firm white fish, Orange Roughy is our favorite, Cod, Mauhi Mauhi, White Fish, Talapia, and recently Swai
I also keep Baked Goods in freezer, along with Baking Items {Flour, Sugar, Baking Chips},  Stocks, Shredded Cheeses, Purees, Veggies, Bones...

From that point I look inside and see what protein I have and make a meal from that along with what starches I have in pantry and veggies I have in fridge as I stock pile there as well. I basically have pretty much all I need to pull together a meal even if I pull a random recipe from a blog I have fell in with one the day before, I might need to buy a bottle of wine or some obscure herb here or there to make a special dish.

I have Baskets/Crates one for each freezer items:
*Beef       *Poultry      *Pork       *Fish       *Baking Items {Flour, baking chips, chocolates}
*Veggies   *Stock        *Purees    *Sauces   *Baked Items   * Lunch     *Breakfast   *Misc

After  I have figured out what my protein will be- that is typically the foundation of our family meals, the rest of the meal, starch and veggies, I take care of by stock piling. I stock up when dry goods go on sale. These items I always keep at least 3 lbs of each:

*Brown rice        *Noodles,      *Pasta,     *Couscous,    *Quinoa,    * canned and dry beans

In winter I have frozen veggies some from summer produce & some when they go on sale. This summer I bought a share in a local CSA so each week we will eat whatever fresh veggies are in season, plus this CSA gives a dozen fresh organic eggs, baked good, jam, and popcorn!! Should be a culinary adventure!

The second way I have used my Freezer food storage & the way I most like to utilize my Freezer  is to have a rotation of pre-made meals, crock-pot kits,  proteins in marinades,  SANe meals, breakfast & lunch items, cheeses, baked goods and so on.

This type of organizations helps me to see at a glance what is inside my freezer and when I need to stock up. I used to keep track of the contents but I fell off the wagon and recently I had to throw away 6 gallons of shredded Zucchini, Pumpkin puree, Sweet Potato Puree, and some several gallons of mystery contents.

To keep track of this in a more organized way without opening my freezer 1,000 times & wasting electricity is to make a "Master List" of freezer contents. I made a basic spread sheet with 9 columns and 18 rows with repeating titles of "Meals", "Number Made",& "Number Used".

Then I use it faithfully so I can have an accurate track of what is inside. I will go out to the  freezer look at Master List {spread sheet} I have attached to freezer by magnets to see what is available for meals that day. Plus I have a pencil attached to the freezer handle, if I don't have pencil handy, I know for sure I will forget 5 out of 10 times to record what I have just removed. It makes more sense to me to remove all situations for forgetfulness to happen in the first place to just have pencil handy at ALL time, you feel me?

I am working on a downloadable PDF file you can view and fill in your own blanks, but for now I will just try to explain how easy it is to make your from either RTF from my MAC and I can't do a simple copy & paste here.

But with both PC & MAC users this is really easy to do as well to make your own Master List:
  1. Find your tool bar or drop menu in your Word, Work, or RTF and find " Cells" or "Tables" 
  2. Choose 18 columns in that menu options & 9 rows in the row option. 
  3. Make top row title bar and fill in top rows with the repeating titles of "meals" "number made" & "number used". 
  4. Fill sections Titled "Meals" with your meals in freezer, better yet do this at the beginning of a session & leave some blank to fill in what you might find at the bottom or back of your freezer. 
You could do one for your pantry items or freezer pantry items with blank spaces to fill in as you buy or find items in back of shelf, we all find that random jar of pimentos or tuna days or weeks after we were looking for them.
This is my freezer 1/3 way filled
From this point I have figured out what my protein will be- that is typically the foundation of our family meals, the rest of the meal, starch and veggies, I take care of by stock piling. I stock up when dry goods go on sale so I always have rice, noodles, pasta, couscous, quinoa, & beans in pantry. In winter I have frozen veggies some from summer produce& some when they go on sale, & in summer I belong to a CSA so each week we eat whatever fresh veggies are in season.I just pick rest my meal based on pantry items and call it a day!

An added layer of frugality is the pantry items I use to complete the meal never costs us over $1-2 a person and my freezer meals basically cost me under $7/family of 4-6 with left overs!!!  All together I can put together meals that typically costs me under $9 with dessert of some kind. These meals are not just canned soup and ground meat with gummy sticky noodles/rice and some limp over cooked veggies. These are flavorful meals with caramelized onions with reductions sauces and seasoned to perfection

Now having a menu with Supper, lunch & breakfast options makes life easier for me, I will go back to that when I am done with my freezer sessions, much easier to glance at a menu pull in what I can for the week from the deep freezer to save energy and place in freeze above fridge if I have room. But these days I use that for a "freezer pantry" To learn more about that check this post out. I will probably make one for a month out bc of surgery looming in the horizon.

Both ways have worked for my family, saved us time & money, either way it is much easier to have a plan ahead of time but you have to find what works for your family and what you can handle yourself or what your food budget allows for.

Even if you were able to purchase just a 3 Lb bag of frozen boneless, skinless, chicken breasts, you could break them down into 1Lb increments in a gallon sized freezer bags and pour marinade- store bought or home made over them,  this would help out your family and time out tremendously.

Or make crock pot meal kits out of the frozen breasts by throwing in ingredients that make a crock pot meal, like for my Chicken Paprikash Crock Pot Kits, I use 2 C chicken stock, 1 onion diced, salt & pepper, smoked paprika. Then all you have to is thaw overnight then dump into the crock pot on low for 4-6 hours a delicious meal with only 5-10 min of prep work!

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