Saturday, March 21, 2009

What I am learning about Organization/Freezer Cooking

Southern Plate is having a save money week and there are two posts about Major Freezer Cooking that have me inspired. I realized the biggest key to all of this is planning.

So I went to work. First I had to think back at what my typical dinners were so I could make a 2 week meal plan
Before I share this information, please remember that I am just learning about real cooking and I have 0 creativity when it comes to food.
Here are some foods that my family typically ate before I discovered Southern Plate
  • Hamburger Helper 2-3 times a cycle
  • Spaghetti-weekly sometimes Biweekly
  • Hamburgers/Gravy 1-2 cycle
  • Frozen Salisbury Steaks
  • Frozen Turkey Slices
  • Frozen Cheesy Chicken Skillet Meal
  • Pizza
  • Chicken Nuggets and Mac/Cheese
  • Slop (Awesomely Cheap Meal I will never give up)
  • Ravioli
  • Italian Chicken (1 a month)
  • Taco Night
  • BLT Night
As you can see, life was pretty dull...

Here are some meals I have added since my search to spice things up
  • Buffalo Chicken Wraps
  • Beanie Weenies (BBQ Pork and Beans with Hot Dogs)
Meals from Southern Plate
  • Taco Pizza
  • Taco Casserole (Its the meal I will be trying this week)
  • Pizza Subs (She calls them rolls)
  • Mac and Cheese Bake
  • Melt In Your Mouth Doughnuts (Saturday Morning)
italics are really fast meals (20 minutes or so)

I only try 1 new recipe each cycle... So As you can see I have been dramatically building our Meal List. DH is so happy to be seeing Hamburger Helper *almost* eliminated from the cubboard. Now Will, He's a different story... The kid could live on nothing but Peanut Butter Sandwiches. But hey he's almost three!

So I decided what I wanted to eat for the next two weeks (Goodness this is becoming harder and harder to do!)

I Planned which of my recipes can be cooked in large quantities at the same amount of time and frozen. Looking At my Meal Plan for the next two weeks (Starting Tuesday) I learned
  • the Taco Pizza Recipe (SP) can make two pizzas and I can freeze one with very little extra work (Just spreading the ingredients on an extra pizza)
  • I am going to be trying out a Taco Casserole Recipe (SP) This seems to make a lot... I should be able to get three meals out of it and it looks and sounds absolutely Fabulous!
  • I already make a good Beanie Weenie recipe... I am going to double it (No extra work) and try to freeze half.
My crew doesn't like to repeat meals a lot in the two week period, so I will be using half of this on the next pay period.

I made a complete meal list for this cycle and then I made a Shopping List.

The easiest way to do this is to have an electronic Cookbook. You can use any word processor or access works great. When you find a recipe you like add it to your cook book. But really any cook book will work, you just will hand copy ingredients.

When you are ready to make your grocery list you can copy all of the ingredients into excel.
I am pretty good at excel so I was able to chart everything and get it to total up my quantities. If you are not comfortable with it, You can do the same thing by hand making a graph.

I'll include a picture tomorrow.

I like using this list because I am less likely to forget anything (As I always do) With the list being on Excel I can just keep adding to it. When I total up my quantities, I will just ignore any item that have a 0 next to it. I also added other things I use that I don't use for dinner such as bread, milk, breakfast/lunch foods.

The great part about using a computerized list is that you can change it with little work!

I am hoping that by freezing meals that I can cook in bulk easily I will start to have a small stock pile of meals ready to go. As I keep doing this I will start to cut my grocery bill down because I will have enough that I can focus on buying things I use when it is on sale rather than biweekly. I also will spend less time cooking daily!

Tips to take this further
  • Look in your circulars/Coupons and check for sales. You can make a note of these on your grocery list next to the items.
  • If you use Excel, include what store you will purchase at. You can sort your list by store when you are finished.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Frequently Used Abbreviations

I realized that I have a tendency to shorten everything I write.

Here is a list of commonly used abbreviations and what they mean.
Check Back as I will update this regularly with anything else I come up with.

DH-Dear (or Darn) husband
G-My Husband
LEO-Law Enforcement Officer
NC-North Carolina
PD-Police Dept.
PP-Pay Period/ Cycle/ AKA, the 2 weeks I must plan meals for each time
S4W-Simply 4 women, a message board site I regularly frequent and absolutely love

Getting Started!

Right Now our family of 3 adults, 1 toddler and pets lives off of one small income! My Mission is to save as much money as possible while learning how to make delicious dishes that everyone of my picky eaters will enjoy.

I just got my deep freezer, and I have yet to organize my cabinets and clear out enough stuff to have a stock pile of anything. So I almost am starting from scratch here.

Last Paycheck alone I spent somewhere in the neighborhood of 160 for the four of us... For two weeks. (I completely have to guess this number because I am always forgetting something)

I rationalize this partly because of the truck load meat sale at Pigglly Wiggly I was sooo lucky to catch. I got Chicken Nuggets $1 a pound. Boneless Pork Chops $1.50 a pound. I don't even remember what else I got. I just know that those two items were in bulk, and I have alot of pork Chops.

We were also given some deer meat from a fellow LEO. This and a few of DH's Totino Supreme Pizzas makes up my entire stock pile!

I am tired of barely having enough groceries to last me one pay period. So I started a Mission to Save money and Stock up.

Just in Time for all of that, Christy, at southern Plate is having her Save Money Eat Better Week! I am so excited for it! I am learning alot!

If you haven't yet Check out her site at Southern Plate. She has been a real blessing to my family. (DH loved her Taco Pizza.) Her recipes are really easy to follow and they come with pictures!! (This is perfect for me!)

From her site I have stumbled onto Southen Savers... They Spell things out really clearly for a newcomer! So I love it.

I have learned alot in the last week. But If I told you everything I learned you'd be pretty confused, (It doesn't all make sense in my Noggin yet) So I will share what I have practiced and how it works for me!

Tip of the Day!
Save Coupons! All of them. Don't use them the first chance you get. Wait, things come on sale and then all of the sudden you pay next to nothing! To Help me with this I have started to categorize the loose coupons I do have. I created an excel document that I can easily search. When I check out the sales paper I can search for coupons I already have. I also check Southern Savers regulary since she does the same using recent coupons in the paper. I cannot do this yet, because I don't have any recent coupons from the paper.

*Mental note: Must organize the coupons or find a new way of storing them so I can find them when I need them*

I am really excited about this journey! Please come back and visit as I share what I do and how it worked for me!