Good Monday Morning! Let’s Talk About Saving Money on FOOD :-)

Filed under :Food Storage, Freezer, Meal Planning, ZIPLOCK Bags and Containers

This past weekend was a test for me personally.  I know that you’ve been there before too.  You take off on a Saturday to run errands, visit some friends, go places with the family and then you come home and it’s late and everyone is HUNGRY!  But you didn’t leave out anything to thaw and you didn’t really have plans for your dinner today because you thought you would be back home much earlier and you’d just take care of it them.  But you didn’t arrive home early – you arrived home LATE.  Now – what are you going to do?

Let me introduce you to DOUBLE COOKING.  Yes…. There are times with some of our favorite meals that I will DOUBLE UP and cook two of the same meals (at the same time).  We have one of the meals for dinner and the other meal I place in the freezer for times that I’m unprepared and I need to cook something quick!  Now this doesn’t work with all meals – some things freeze well and other food items do not.  I’ll share some of the meals that I like to DOUBLE COOK and they work well for my family.

Our favorite of course is spaghetti – it is to easy to cook a double batch of sauce and noodles.   And it is so easy to freeze and lasts very well in the freezer too.   Just double your recipe for sauce – put aside 1/2 of what you cook and let it cool down.   Then place into one of the ziplock plastic containers and pop into the freezer.  It’s equally as easy to do the spaghetti noodles as well.  Just double up on the noodles you are preparing for your meal, drain and rinse.  Many times I will let the extra noodles sit in cool water while we eat our meal.  Then when I’m cleaning the kitchen, I’ll scoop them out and place them in a ziplock plastic container (or I’ve even put them in a ziplock freezer bag) and then place them in the freezer.

Another item we like to double up on cook is beef or pork roast.    It can be reheated and eaten again.  Or, if you want to change things up a bit, make BBQ for sandwiches from it :-)   That is always a hit.   Baked or roasted chicken is a great item to double up on when cooking.  It takes the same amount of electricity to cook one as it does two – so you’re saving some money there too!   For the 2nd chicken, I like to let it cool down and then remove the meat from the bone.  I separate the white meat from the dark meat.  The white meat is used for preparing items like chicken salad and the dark meat is what I use in soups and casseroles or even chicken pot pie :-)

Another item that freezes well is soup.  We love soup – beef, chicken, pork or just plain vegetable soup.  And it’s so easy to cook in the crock pot or the pressure cooker.  Let your 2nd batch cook well and then place in the freezer in a large ziplock plastic container.  When you’re ready to re-heat it, let it thaw for about an hour or so and then just heat and serve with some cornbread or garlic toast.

So where’s the ‘SAVING MONEY’ for this post?  There are several money saving tips – first, when you cook the meal it usually takes the same amount of electricity to cook one batch as it does two.  Second, instead of coming home and ordering pizza delivery, you’re saving money because you already have a home-cooked meal right inside your freezer than can be microwaved :-)

I’d love to hear from some of you – what meals have you had success freezing that would work well for double cooking?


Don’t Throw Away That Pumpkin!

Filed under :Extreme Frugal Meter, Food Storage, Freezer

So, you’ve got a nice orange pumpkin on your hands – left over from Halloween and Thanksgiving.  You’ve used it to decorate with… now what?  Well, first of all you need to consider the pumpkin as FOOD!  Yes, don’t throw it away – imagine it as pumpkin pies and other great tasting items.  But, you ask, how do I take it from a PUMPKIN to a form that I can use it in for cooking?  Easy….

First, wash the pumpkin off with dishwashing liquid and a dish rag, then rinse it very well to remove all of the soap – you want the outside of the pumpkin to be nice and clean.  Make sure that your pumpkin doesn’t have any bad spots on it!   Now, use the largest knife you can find with a “sawing-type” blade (these are the knifes that you use to slice bread with).   Start cutting your pumpkin up into large pieces and remove the seeds from the middle (save them and I’ll show you what to do with them later).   After you’ve removed the seeds, cut the large pieces of pumpkin into smaller pieces that are about 4 to 6 inches square in size.  Take a paring knife and then remove the “strings” that are still attached to the meat of the pumpkin just by thinly cutting it off.   Remember, the inside part of the pumpkin that you are not going to eat can be fed to your chickens!  They will love it.  Oh, and in case you’re wondering, you do not have to peel the skin of the pumpkin off.

Now, place the chunks of pumpkin into a big pot of boiling water and bring the water back to a boil (make sure that you have enough water in the pot to cover the pumpkin).  DO NOT SALT THE WATER!  When the water comes back to a boil, set your timer for about 8 minutes and reduce the temperature to “Medium” and  place a lid on your pot.  The lid will allow you to use less energy to cook the pumpkin.  When your timer has gone off, check the pumpkin to make sure that you can pierce the flesh with a fork – the meat of the pumpkin should be soft.  Remove the pumpkin from the pot of water and let it drain and cool in  a strainer.

When your pumpkin has cooled down, then you can remove the skin very easily!  Place the pumpkin “meat” into a bowl and mash it up.  We’ll be placing 1 cup of mashed pumpkin into each Ziplock freezer bag and freezing the pumpkin for use later in several different recipes.  If  your recipe calls for 1 cup of mashed pumpkin, then we’ll use 1 bag of frozen pumpkin, etc.   Now wasn’t that easy?  And, you have 100% fresh-frozen pumpkin to use in your families meals.

Now, what to do with the seeds?  Place them into a large bowl of water and gently squish them around to separate the seeds from the strings.  Then, remove the seeds and place on a paper towel.  You can dry the seeds and save some of them to plant in your garden next year, or, you can salt them and roast them in your oven for a nice snack.

I consider this as “moderate” on the frugal meter – but, you could also collect unwanted pumpkins from your neighbors and family and process them as well!   Then you’re taking it to the level of “extreme” :-)    Or, visit your local grocery store or fruit stand right before or after Halloween – pumpkins have been marked down and are very cheap!  It’s a great time to stock up!


Get Creative In The KITCHEN!

Filed under :Challenges, Freezer, Organize Your Pantry, Pantry

How many times do you find yourself in the “couple more days till payday” situation?  Well, today is August 29th and that’s where I am….  It’s a couple more days until we’re paid our salary (we’re paid on the 15th and the last day of the month).  I usually do my shopping on the day of or the day after payday.  I’m out of a couple of main ingredients in the pantry (milk & butter, etc) so many items that I could have prepared in the kitchen are “off the list”.  But that doesn’t mean that our pantry and freezer doesn’t still have plenty of food stored.  It does –  it’s just the items that I don’t usually cook, items we don’t usually eat, or items that take a little more “preparation” time and effort.  Do you know what that means?  Instead of going to the grocery store and buying more food, we’re going to MAKE DUE WITH WHAT WE HAVE.  It’s time to get creative in the kitchen!

The  best way to start is to RAID the pantry and the freezer.  You’ll be surprised at just what you have lurking or hidden in your food storage.  Today I found a package of split green peas, some frozen sausage patties, some frozen bacon, spiral pasta, a package of Italian dressing seasoning, some frozen shredded cheddar cheese, and frozen scallops.  So, for dinner, I’m going to get a bit creative with these items and make my family a gourmet meal!  Also, there are a couple of fresh produce items that I have and they need to be used ASAP so they do not go bad – I have two Roma tomatoes and two zucchini.  We always have plenty of tea bags – so just 2 tea bags and 1/2 cup of sugar will make a 1/2 gallon of tea.

Tonight’s dinner menu is:

  • Pan-fried marinated sea scallops in a zesty Italian sauce
  • Pasta salad with tomatoes and zucchini (sprinkled with shredded cheese)
  • Split pea soup with sausage and bacon bits (sprinkled with shredded cheese)
  • Sweet Tea
  • Jello for dessert

How does that sound?  Just imagine what this dinner will look like on the plate – green pea soup, white scallops with Italian dressing seasoning, multi-colored pasta salad with red tomatoes, green zucchini and orange shredded cheddar sprinkled on top, and for dessert – orange Jello :-)

Sometimes when you are forced to make it work and you are forced to be “creative”, you’ll find that those can be some of the best dinners you’ll ever prepare.  Don’t give in to the ease of going to the grocery store, buying more food and “breaking” your shopping schedule as well as your budget – stick to your guns and MAKE DUE WITH WHAT YOU HAVE .

If you are going to be joining us for the ORGANIZE YOUR PANTRY CHALLENGE (coming up Sept 15th), then using the items NOW that you have in your pantry will help you to get it cleaned out before the challenge begins in mid-September.  My plans are to only purchase the grocery items that absolutely have to have between now and Sept 15th and try to use up what I already have in my pantry.  So, for the next 2 weeks, I’ll be posting the meals that I’m creating from my pantry and freezer storage.  Hopefully, this will get you motivated and give you ideas for your dinners.

UPDATE:  Dinner was wonderful!  Because it was items that we don’t normally eat, the taste was especially good :-)   Also, the split pea soup was a complete hit!