Cooking in Bulk

by Beth Montgomery on February 6, 2010

in Frugal Cooking, Tips & Basics

The following guest post was written by Joanne who keeps three blogs! How she has the time, I don’t know!

My name is Joanne and I met Beth through our stay at home mom’s group.   I am thrilled to be doing a guest post for her while she blisses out at Blissdom.   I am the mom of three – Anthony, who is four, Maria, who is two and Veronica, who is eight months old.   We are busy around our house, and noisy and crazy, too.   I keep blogs for all three of my kids – Anthony’s is http://anthonyjoseph2005.blogspot.com, Maria’s is http://luckynumbertwo.blogspot.com, and Veronica’s is http://madnessneverend.blogspot.com.

About two years ago, Anthony was diagnosed with Autism, and of course our lives changed a lot since then!   He attends an ABA therapy school about 25 miles from our home, so even though my husband works about a mile from home and I am a stay at home mother, we log a lot of miles every week, getting him to and from school.   Our insurance covers quite a bit of his therapy, but there are also a lot of out-of-pocket expenses and about a year ago, I decided we had to start saving money.   Since we are always (it seems) having a baby around here, one of the habits that we’ve fallen into is ordering carryout a lot.   On average, we were spending around $125 a week on takeout food, which I just thought was ridiculous.   I knew I’d have to have a plan, though, because if I leave it until dinner time to figure out what we’re going to have for dinner, I always end up with the phone in my hand.

My sister turned me on to the idea of preparing a lot of food at once.   She sent me this link, which had a million ideas on preparing bulk foods.   I went to Costco and bought 15 pounds of ground beef, which cost about $30.   On a Sunday, where I had my husband home to help corral the kids, I separated it into 15 one pound bunches and went to work.   I made regular size meatballs, for spaghetti and meatballs, smaller meatballs, for soup, meatloaf, burgers, regular ground beef for meatsauce, and stroganoff, and taco meat.   I stored everything in freezer bags and wrote on them with a Sharpie what they were.

For the burgers, I started by putting the beef into a pound bag and folding them in thirds each way.   This way I had square burgers, already in the right size.   I found a problem with this, though, when I tried to take them out and thaw them, if I only wanted three burgers.   Then I read this link about storing one burger per sandwich bag and then putting the sandwich bags in a gallon bag.   This is a lot easier.

Here’s another site I used for excellent tips and planning.   One thing I learned here is to flash freeze the meatballs that you’ve made (on wax paper on a cookie sheet) so that the meatballs don’t just glom together in the freezer bag.   This site also has good recipes, and she also has a entry on cooking chicken in bulk.

One of the most important lessons I learned about cooking ground beef in bulk didn’t come until a few weeks later, when my dishwasher stopped working.   Out of nowhere, my new-ish dishwasher started getting clogged up and wouldn’t drain.   The Sears repairman who came told me that it looked like there was GREASE in the drain of the dishwasher.   Ooh, I was embarassed!   I had of course drained all the ground beef and put the grease in a coffee can, but I really should have wiped out the pans well with a paper towel before I washed them.   All that extra grease went down the sink and into the garbage disposal and then to my dishwasher.   Lesson learned!

It is a lot easier to do meal planning and shopping now, knowing that I have the meat of the meal (I mean that literally and figuratively) ready to go.   It’s also nice to not have to work with raw meat every day, since I always have a kid or two climbing up and around me while I prepare dinner.

Note from Beth: Umm… I’m pretty sure we all know by now that I’m pro-freezer cooking!   It makes life so much easier and avoids those nights when you just aren’t in the mood to cook and end up at a restaurant.   Check out the Freezer Cooking Series to find out tips for freezing everything from herbs to meats, plus get some great freezer recipes!

Share with me! How do you avoid calling for take out?

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