Cooking every day can be one of the biggest drains of our time. At the same time, cooking meals at home is one of the biggest money savers we can find. Let’s face it, some expenses are fixed: rent or mortgages, car payments, cell phone plans, insurance payments. Our food budget is one area that we have some control over, so if we can make our time in the kitchen more efficient, we are well on our way to saving money:
1) Prepping Ground Beef
Ground beef is the basis of a myriad of recipes, but browning it is one of the most time consuming parts of the prep. If you buy ground beef in bulk, consider browning it when you get home. You’ll only have to spend that time once, instead of for each meal, PLUS you get the benefit of not having to use that gas or electricity over and over again. If you tend to use recipes that ask for onions or peppers to be cooked with your beef, make sure to have those on hand so you can do that as well. In a pinch, you can use dried, minced onion instead of fresh. Freeze the cooked ground beef in freezer bags in meal sized portions, and you will have the base of many recipes ready to go. Think how quickly you could throw together tacos or even simple Hamburger Helper on a busy weeknight when the meat is ready to go!
2) Chopping Veggies
Many recipes call for diced onion and/ or peppers. All that dicing takes some time! The good news? These two veggies freeze super well. If you find a deal on buying these items in bulk, make a plan to chop them all at once shortly after purchase. Freeze them in freezer bags in portions you use commonly for recipes, and you have a head start next time a recipe calls for either of these items. In many instances, you can dump the frozen veggies directly into the dish you are preparing. They break up fairly easily when frozen, and will cook right along with your other ingredients straight from frozen in the oven or on the stove. They are also perfect for throwing into omelets, sauces, and the like.
3) Prepping Chicken
As with ground beef, cooking chicken all at once for use in your recipes is a great time saver. I like to take bulk chicken and boil it, then shred or chop it. I put it in freezer safe bags, freeze it and then just pop it out of the freezer for use in dishes such as barbecue chicken sandwiches, chicken fettuccine, chicken salads, casseroles, and so on. Meals come together in minutes when the meat is ready to go!
I love ham and bean soup, ham salad, scalloped potatoes and ham, etc. When the grocery stores offer holiday deals on ham, I like to buy a couple, bake them and chop them into portions I can use for these meals later.
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