Planning a cook day
One of the things that I do when I’m on Pinterest is write down recipes that I find interesting. I write them on long strips of paper that are scraps, and if they are liked and I plan to make them again, I put them in my recipe binder on normal notebook paper. My scrap recipes don’t have to be pretty, or neat, they only have to tell me how to make what I want to make. Last week I gathered 6 of these recipes and decided to do a cook day.
These sites are the ones I chose from (with the recipes from each):
Over The Big Moon – Garlic Lime Chicken
McCormick Rosemary Chicken & Potatoes (I can not find where I found it on Pinterest, I tried!! I’ll give the recipe here. If it’s yours, please let me know so I can link properly!!)
Rosemary Chicken & Potatoes
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, diced
1 lb potatoes, diced
1 package McCormick Rosemary Roasted Chicken with Potatoes (a spice card in the spice aisle!)
2 Tablespoons EVOO
*Mix all ingredients together until well coated. Freeze in gallon zipper bag. To cook: thaw bag, put ingredients in baking dish. Cook at 425 for 20-30 mins.
So in my planning, I wrote each recipe on a page in my little notebook – so I could keep track of any changes or notes for that recipe. On one page, I wrote how much of every ingredient that I needed. Then I poked around the kitchen, marked what I had, and made a list of what I needed.
As an Aside, Walmart does PRICE MATCHING! I spent some extra time noting what (I needed) was on sale and where, marked the flyer and page # on my list, and did most of the shopping there. I also went to ALDI because there is so much that I get there WAY cheaper than any sale price that Walmart will have.
Starting My Cook Day
After I dropped the boys off at school, I went to the stores and got my day started. It took extra time at the register to deal with the price matching, but I figure that I saved about $15, so I think it was worth it. I spent about $55 total for the cook day items that I needed.
When I got home, I put the meat packages in a cooler, washed my veggies, and took another look at my recipes. I went to label the bags with a sharpie and noticed that I only had 4 bags. No bueno!!
It is vital when starting your cook day that you make sure you have enough freezer zipper bags to store your food!
So another trip out to the Dollar General and I had a brand new box of 40 zipper bags, and an extra $4 to my bottom line. Whoopsy. However, it did give me a chance to get some tacos on the way home. Add another $4.28 to my bottom line. Willpower – not my middle name.
No Cooking on Cook Day
Mostly, cook day involves sorting, measuring, chopping, cleaning, smushing. There is no actual cooking. Well, not on this cook day. I wrote the name and directions on each bag with a Sharpie. For instance: “BBQ Ribs. Thaw. Low 6 hrs, Hi 3-4.” That way I know what it is and what to do with it. I’ve seen the fancy food labels that claim to stick to frozen zipper bags, but I’ve never had any success in this. I have also seen some brilliant people write the name of the meal on the side so you can see what it is when the door is opened. That is awesome!
Anywho, I started with the beef stew because it had the most chopped ingredients, and the more that is off my counter, the more room I have to work! So I put a bag on my cookie jar – sturdy, solid, wide mouthed, and it fit. Perfect! The stew beef that I was using for this was already frozen from a previous shopping day when I bought a hunk of beef and cubed it up into 2 meals worth of stew. I added the beef last, but if I did it again, I’d do that first. I chopped all of my veggies first, including the potatoes for the other recipe. Only wanted to chop once!
After that, I took one recipe at a time – one ingredient at a time. Put in the bag, put in the protein, put in each ingredient. Mush together. Lay flat, remove as much air as possible. Seal. Stack.
Freeze, Organize, List
If this is going to do anything for your grocery bill, you need to be able to use what you have. Keeping a detailed list of what is in your freezer is vital so you don’t over shop, and really helpful in creating a weekly menu plan. Menu plans stop the anxiety in the mornings about what to thaw for dinner, and severely limit our need to going out.
So make a list of the meals that you have on hand. I do it in the same manner that I do my freezer inventory, hash marks for available, x through when used. I will pin this sheet on my menu board with the freezer inventory.
In the end, I took about 4 – 5 hours including shopping to make 12 meals.
1: beef stew
2 each: Cilantro lime chicken, garlic lime chicken, rosemary chicken & potatoes, BBQ Ribs
3: Maple Dijon chicken
I still had some Italian marinaded chicken and 2 bags of Chicken Alfredo Pasta in there from last month. Now I have to make it a priority to use at least one or two of these a week!
It was a long day, and I actually finished by 5. I’m not sure how I’d do very much differently, except the forgotten bags, and doing better on my sales. I feel like it went pretty smoothly. A thing to note though, and it makes total sense! Some of the books that I got from the library says to do the cook days based on “Tray Sizes”, or “Reverse Planning”, meaning that you cook what is on sale, or for a Warehouse tray (big). It is a no-brainer! If you find boneless skinless chicken breast for $1.69, get 10 pounds and make 6 or 7 meals out of it. The goal is to make this as much about saving money as it is about convenience!
Let me know what your favorite freezer, crock pot, thrifty meals are!