Monday, June 4, 2012

No time to cook? Freezer Cooking to the rescue!

I'm a planner, a list maker, a "do it ahead if I can" kind of girl with grand hopes of organization that often fall short of my expectations. If you are a blog crawler or Pinterest junky like me, I'm sure you've seen countless posts and links to elaborate Once a Month Cooking or fill your freezer in 4 weeks kind of plans.  I'm a planner but not like that! I don't know how these "super moms" do it. I have two kids, a husband and a dog under my feet daily. I'm doing good to get the house picked up and dinner on the table without losing my mind. Sometimes the house doesn't get picked up, but rarely does dinner not go on the table when my hubby walks in the door. 

I'm a big proponent of budgeting and menu planning. I rotate between planning 1 to 2 weeks at a time but have always been overwhelmed at the thought of planning an entire month for several reasons. I like to take advantage of sales and discounts. If chicken is 69 cents a lb this week guess what we'll be eating a LOT of next week! Plus putting all of this together myself and making a lot of it homemade really helps health wise since there isn't all that yucky stuff mixed in! Now don't get me wrong, there is a reason this page is called "Mostly Homemade", because I cannot and will not cook everything from scratch all the time because I don't have the time! Again I say, I don't know how these "super moms" do it! Whatever they are taking they need to share! 

I'm trying to make the most of our budget and my time. Starting next week I'll be keeping my nephew 5 days a week (3 of them at my sister's house) and I got to thinking how hard that is going to make cooking dinner at a reasonable hour since I won't be getting home on those days until after 6 pm. So something had to give. I decided to give freezer cooking a try.  So below you will find my strategy, menu plan and recipes. Trust me I know there is a LOT of room for improvement!
  1. I made a list of all the meat, veggies, mixes, etc. I already had on hand.  Use up what you already have! Trust me your budget will thank you!
  2. I made a list of recipes I wanted to try and some I already use and I know my family will eat, trying to avoid recipes with weird or expensive ingredients. I filled out my menu with breakfast, lunch and dinner. Now keep in mind, I do not always make exactly what's on the menu on that specific day, but I do make what's on the menu at some point that week. You've saved nothing and wasted a lot of time if you make something you're family will not eat. 
  3.  I made my shopping list, matched coupons and hunted down the cheapest prices on the items I needed. Adjusting my list of recipes if necessary. I'm not saying everyone should coupon, but how could you not? I've cut our budget to $100-$125 every two weeks for EVERYTHING groceries, toiletries, paper products, pets, etc. 
I could have started this morning by chopping everything up, but I didn't. Or I could have set down and written all the information on my containers before I started putting it all together, but I didn't. Or I could have been even more organized and finished 30 meals in one day, but I didn't. Do you know why? I have a life outside my kitchen! A 2 yr. screaming from the bathroom to "come wipe me!", a dog outside losing his mind because the meter reader walked up or a delivery man showed up, laundry that needs to be switched out and folded and I have yet to get a bath today, in fact I'm still in my pajamas. Is that too much information?

Anyway, here is the menu plan followed by the recipes in the order I made them today.  It took a total of about 3 1/2 hours to do everything, but that was with LOTS of interruptions.

* I allow for leftovers once a week and eating out once every two weeks.

Monday- waffle iron french toast, corndog muffins, chicken gyros with hummus
Tuesday- yogurt and granola, peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, beef tips in gravy
Wednesday- Cinnamon Roll Oatmeal cups, ham & cheese roll ups, Italian crockpot chicken
Thursday- cereal, chicken soft tacos, Creole Daube
Friday- Blueberry Muffins, mac & cheese, Divine Chicken
Saturday- Breakfast Burritos, pizza bites, Baked Ham
Sunday- fruit & toast, Creamy Chicken Taquitos, leftovers

Monday- yogurt & granola, cheese quesadillas, mini meatloaves
Tuesday- breakfast burritos, pb & banana, pork chop bake
Wednesday- lemon blueberry scones, pizza bites, slow cooker beef fajitas
Thursday- cereal, bbq cups, leftovers
Friday- Waffles, nachoes, eat out
Saturday- scrambled eggs & bacon, ham & cheese sandwiches, Chicken soft tacos
Sunday- biscuits & ham, eat @ my mom's, leftovers from Mom's

*In the freezer I'll still have one each of Creole Daube, Divine Chicken, Chicken taquitos, beef fajitas and Greek chicken to carry over to future meals.

Corndog Muffins
Makes 1 dozen

2 boxes Jiffy corn muffin mix
2 cooked hot dogs, chopped
2 eggs
2/3 c. milk

Mix all ingredients in bowl. Bake in muffin tins according to directions on box. Let cool completely before freezing. Reheat in microwave for 30 sec. or until warm.

Greek Marinated Chicken- adapted from The Girl Who Ate Everything
Double recipe to freeze two meals.

2 teaspoons minced garlic
Juice of 1 lemon (2-3 Tablespoons)
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar 
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 
2 heaping Tablespoons plain Greek yogurt 
1 Tablespoon dried oregano 
Salt and pepper 
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I pound mine out kind of flat to ensure even cooking)

Mix marinade; add chicken. Marinate for 30 min. -1 hour. Then bake, broil or grill the chicken. Serve on pita bread with any toppings you like. 

*To Freeze: Mix marinade, pour over chicken and freeze. Pull out the morning you are going to cook and let thaw. 

Divine Chicken- adapted from Ring Around The Rosies
Makes 2 meals

6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 cups baby carrots
4 cups broccoli florets
4 cans cream of chicken soup
2 cups milk
salt & pepper to taste
 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning (I used Wildtree spaghetti sauce seasoning)

Put split chicken, carrots and broccoli between two bags. Label bag with following: Add two cans cream of chicken soup and 1 cup of milk and seasonings. Cook on low 8 hours or high 4 hours.

Beef Tips in Gravy- adapted from Ring Around The Rosies

2 lbs. stew meat
3 cans french onion soup
4 cups water
2 cups frozen broccoli
rice or noodles

Put meat and soup in ziplock back. Label bag with: Add 4 cups of water. Add broccoli 30 minutes before finished cooking. Cook on high 8 hours or low 4 hours. Serve over rice or noodles.

Blueberry Yogurt Muffins with Streusel
Makes 6 XL muffins or 1 dozen regular muffins

1 white or yellow cake mix
2 eggs
1/2 c. applesauce
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 c. greek yogurt
1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

Streusel topping ingredients:
1/2 stick butter, softened
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup rolled oats

Sprinkle streusel on top. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-23 or until golden.  Let rest in pan for 5 minutes before removing.

Slow Cooker Beef Fajitas- adapted from Ring Around the Rosie

2 lb beef round steak cut into strips (across the grain)
2 8 oz cans diced tomatoes w/ chiles
1 large onion or 2 small
1 green pepper, cut into strips
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp cumin
*add a chopped jalapeno if desired

Split everything  into two bags. Label with: Cook on high 8 hours or low for 4 hours. Serve with all the normal fajita fixings.

Applesauce Granola- adapted from Fake Ginger

4 C old fashioned oats
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 C applesauce, unsweetened
1/2 C brown sugar
1 T butter

In a medium saucepan, combine all except oats and cinnamon.  Warm the mixture then add oats along with 1 tsp. cinnamon.  Stir until all the oats are well coated.  Then, spread the mixture on a large pan (I used my large baking stone from Pampared Chef lined with parchment paper)  Bake at 300 degrees for 50 minutes, stirring every 10.  Cool completely & store in an airtight container.  

Round 2 of Freezer Cooking will be Wednesday. Breakfast burritos, chicken soft tacos, creole daube, banana bread, chicken taquitos and pizza bites!