Kelly the Culinarian: Guest Post: How Kate Shops for 40 Meals Without Going Crazy

Friday, February 1, 2013

Guest Post: How Kate Shops for 40 Meals Without Going Crazy

Hi readers! I hope you're enjoying Kate's posts about freezer to crock pot meals. This is the second installment in an occasional series, so read up and learn more!

I’d been searching for an efficient way to make food, save money and slice the time I spent doing either.

After seeing some promising ideas on Pinterest, I decided I needed to try out Crockpot/Freezer cooking.

This series is an accounting of trying to make “40 meals in 4 hours”- including what I learned and how you can do it too! (note – this is a long-ish post, but it’s because it’s chock-full of awesome tips to help you maximize your own experience if you take on this challenge yourself.)

The shopping list for the 40 Meals in 4 Hours experiment was created by a helpful blog reader from the original post, which saved me a great deal of time. I compared the list to what I had in the house already (I didn’t have a ton of what I needed, but I did have some basic pantry items and a tiny bit of frozen chicken).

I took off for Meijer with my two toddlers in tow to get the (many) things I needed. Unfortunately, I didn’t hit any great sales and since I tried to buy store brands to save money, I didn’t have many applicable coupons.

Shopping and Prep Tips

1) Print out the Shopping List. Then check your pantry, spice cabinet, freezer and fridge prior to shopping. You might find you have more (or less) of the ingredients than you thought.

2) That said, even if you have a bottle of whatever spices the list/recipes call for, be prepared, you might need more in the end

3) Don’t assume Chili Powder and Chili Pepper are the same. Learned that one the hard way…

4) Note - The woman who wrote it was lying when she said it took four hours. Or probably she is at least a heck of a lot more organized and uninterrupted than I was.

Ok, I actually believe this may have worked for her in 4 hours. And it might work for me one day if I try this again while the kids are at a sitter and after I obtain a food processor (of course I have two kids under 3 years old and I include the time it took to shop (with them), prep everything, and run out to buy the things I was missing). That said - It took me about two whole days.

5) I think many of these recipes may be eye-ball-able. But if you’re like me (ahem, relatively inexperienced at cooking), you might want to measure things out.

6) Measuring things out is easier if you have a food scale, a couple sets of measuring spoons and a couple of sets of measuring cups. It’s annoying to wash everything a million times when you’re in the middle of a big project like this, so it helps to have a few things to use before you suds up.

7) As far as prep goes, it also helps if you have a couple of cutting boards and some good knives. Make sure your knives (and veggie peeler) are in good condition. Counter-intuitively, more cuts happen when your knives are dull, since you have to work harder to cut your food (meaning your knife or your hand might slip while cutting and – well – you cut yourself).

8) For some reason I ran out of chicken breasts (even though I went so far as to calculate the average weight of a chicken breast and portioned each recipe accordingly). In the end I didn't wind up doing four bagged meals (two each of the tacos and then the ranch tacos). No big loss.

9) I also basically ran out of chicken thighs, but luckily had some back-up in my freezer already.

10) Moral of tips #7-8 – buy about 20 to 30 percent more chicken than you think you need.

11) I wound up with some extra cans of tomatoes and stuff, but not a whole lot. Not sure how that
happened exactly, since I followed the shopping list. Que sara.

12) I recommend Ziplock brand gallon size freezer bags. I tried the Hefty brand and those beeyotches tend to leak. You don’t want to add cleaning a mess in your freezer to this project.

13) Make sure you *actually* have *at least* 40 bags. Because sometimes you might need to double-bag (see #12)

14) Also make sure you have a black Sharpie. It sounds weird, but I tried a blue Sharpie first and the ink never seemed to dry. Now I have blue ink streaks inside my freezer where the bags touched the sides. Black seemed to set better.

15) Depending on how thrifty you want to be, you might want to consider pre-minced garlic, ginger paste and any other pre-prepped food you might find in the store. After you do this once, you’ll learn where your threshold for sous-chef-ing falls.

When all was said and done (including the two extra grocery store trips I had to make for running out of supplies like spices and freezer bags) – I spent about $275.

You might be able to save money if you find some good sales. Most of my costs were due to the meat. You also may be able to save some money if you want to buy bone-in cuts, but I sure didn’t – that would have added hours to the prep.

In my next post, I’ll talk about the VERY FIRST RECIPE SERVED FROM THIS PLAN – Chicken Cacciatore.

Kate Appelman is a family and couples photographer working on utopia-izing her home and little family. Besides photography, Kate spends her days facilitating toddler demands, trying to fit in workouts at CrossFit and strategizing her handy-mom to-do list.


Becca said...

I am pinning this post for sure!

Unknown said...

Terrific Becca! So glad you like it! Stay tuned, there's LOTS of recipes we'll be trying. :D