Bulk Cooking Week Plans

Frugal cooking. I've tried to practice it ever since Billy and I got married, but sometimes I've done better than others. Recently I had really hit a spell where I was letting our grocery budget get out of hand...busy schedules, stress, health issues, and just plain old not planning had really gotten us off track. The last few weeks, I've been on a mission to *rein it back in*.

So far I've been doing these things:

***Making menus. I've always tried to do this, but had gone through a real slump on this one. Menu Plan Monday has been a big help to get me back on track with this (and a great source of new ideas!)

***Price Comparisons. Years ago I used a price book (an old standby frugal shopping idea), but I haven't really needed one in years. I know the prices of items we use at our normal store, so if I'm looking at an ad or a sale in another store, it's easy to tell if it's a good deal. Quite often, my usual store price is *lower* than the ad or sale price from another store. *But*...earlier this year we decided to get a Sam's Club membership, for the first time in years. The larger sizes at Sam's suddenly made price comparisons more difficult. Sometimes the bulk products at Sam's offer great savings...but sometimes (especially for products we ordinarily buy in generics), they are *more* expensive. Standing in the aisle at Sam's, it's hard to tell the difference. So I hop online as I'm making my list, and look up items on Sam's website (you can enter your local store and then look up any item...it will give you the price and size so that you can compare). Before I leave the house, I know where the best deal is and I can divide my list into a "Wal-Mart" list and a "Sam's" list.

***Pantry Inventory. Another thing I used to do years ago that fell by the wayside. I'm working to keep a running inventory of what is in my pantry, fridge, and freezer. We've really had a problem here with letting food go bad before it was eaten...not just bread and produce (milk never has a chance to go bad here!)....but things like bags of flour and cornmeal. *Not* a good frugal habit. I'm trying to do a better job of knowing what needs to be used soon, what I need to stock up on, and what there is to use for upcoming meals. Knowing exactly what is there especially helps during weeks like this one....I'm trying to buy as little as possible this week to save money for our bulk cooking buying next week. Also...I know what I have plenty of for bulk cooking day, and what I'll need to stock up on.

Now I'm pulling out the big guns. Next week is going to be "Bulk Cooking Week" at the Harris House. I've been working on my plan for the past week, and will fine-tune it between now and Friday (which is the Big. Shopping. Trip.) Here's the rough draft of our plan so far:

My main needs are not complete frozen meals. What works best for us right now is cooking/freezing meats to pull out for quick-fix dinners. I also need prepared-ahead lunches for Billy to take to work (I don't always do well with fixing lunches early in the morning) and for the rest of us (as fixing lunch is a *huge* interruption in the flow of our school day.) I'm planning to do enchiladas and chimichangas that I can freeze and bag and people can pull out individually to warm up for lunch (or take to work). I'm also planning to make ahead quick breads and muffins that can be used for lunches or snacks. I'm still looking for ideas for make-ahead lunches.

Our other major needs right now are to have snacks and desserts made ahead, and quick breakfasts for my slow mornings. I need snacks ready during school that I don't have to think about or stop and fix...another big interruption in the *flow* of things. And if I have some sort of "bite of something sweet to eat" (as my daughter says :)) for desserts, then people aren't as tempted to go buy expensive junk. ;-) But I tend to run out of time before I get that far. The snack/dessert part of my list is subject to change...I'm still working on it.

Flexibility is the word here...I had planned to cook 10 lbs. of taco meat...the kids and I love it and I was looking forward to having it made ahead seasoning and all, instead of making it out of my precooked ground beef every time. And then all of the sudden (after I started working on this plan this week), we discovered it was hurting DH's stomach and making him sick. Eek So...out *that* plan went!

Ground Beef (30 lbs.)
***Big Batch Beef Sauce (10 lbs.)--will make tacos, spaghetti, chili, etc. (@ 7 meals) (I'll post this in the recipe thread soon.)
***Seasoned Browned Beef (10 lbs.)--for other recipes (@ 8 meals)
***Hamburger patties (5 lbs.) (@ 3 meals)
***Frozen Enchiladas/chimichangas (5 lbs.)--freeze individually and bag for lunches

Chicken (15 lbs.)
***Marinated, uncooked chests (9 lbs.)--to cook later on HealthSmart grill or saute, for chicken pasta alfredo, chicken sandwiches on buns, etc.
***Cooked and shredded (6 lbs.)--for chicken salad, enchiladas, etc.

***Pancakes. We're going to make up 10 doz. pancakes and freeze a dozen in a bag...that will be ten days worth of breakfasts. we'll intersperse that with *overnight* breakfasts (13x9 breakfasts, etc.) and eggs, oatmeal, and toast.

***Peanut Butter/Chocolate Bars (jelly roll pan)
***Muffins--Cheese, Blueberry, Strawberry (2 dozen apiece)
***Banana Bread (2 loaves)
***Pumpkin Bread (2 loaves)
***Cookie Dough (Choc. chip)--18 dozen (I'll freeze this in rolls to make a dozen at a time.)
***No-Bake Cookies---3 dozen
***Pumpkin Bars (jelly roll pan)

I still need to work out the exact preparation and cooking schedule. Peter is going to be gone today, so the girls and I are going to go ahead and bake some things we already have ingredients for (probably muffins, pumpkin bread, and no-bakes). Then I'll figure the schedule for the rest. I'll post the schedule and any changes to the cooking list later this week (and maybe some pictures of our baking adventure today :-)).


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing about your bulk cooking plan. There's some things that you're bulk cooking that might very well be a good idea for me to do!

Hope you have a great week!

Maggie said...

Sounds great!

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