Save Money and Time with Bulk Cooking
There was a point, a few years ago, when I was trying to take care of my busy family, cook a few meals for my sister (who was pregnant), cook a few meals for a friend (who’d just had her fourth baby), and write a book. I needed forty eight hours a day to get it all done. In desperation, I tried cooking in bulk and freezing a large number of meals, hoping that cooking five or six hours on one day a month would save me time during the rest of the month.
It did! Not only did it save me time, it also saved me a lot of money (~$250/mo), and reduced a lot of stress. I no longer had to figure what to make for dinner at the last moment.
I started bulk cooking 16 years ago and I’m still doing it. Portion sizes have changed, since my kids have left home, but the convenience of cooking my own meals in bulk and freezing them is too valuable to give up.
Here are a bunch of my bulk cooking tips and tricks and some of my favorite recipes.
- Decide which meals you want to serve ahead of time and write them down.
- Inventory the food in your home. This way you know exactly what you have and don’t have.
- Use your monthly menu and food inventory to write your grocery list. Buy in bulk.
- Assemble the pots, pans, measuring cups, cutting board, knives and utensils you’ll need.
- Put your recipes into plastic page protectors and tape them to your cupboard doors at eye level. Or, put your iPad into a ziplock bag to keep it clean and prop it up.
- Ahead of time, chop, grate, dice, and slice any ingredients that appear in several recipes (Onions, mushrooms and cheese for example).
- Gather any canned or dry goods required so you don’t have to go hunting for them. I like to set out all my ingredients to one side on the counter so everything is right there when I need it.
- This is also a good time to clean out your fridge, giving you plenty of room to properly cool your meals.
- I turn down my deep freeze and/or freezer five to ten degrees the day before. The food freezes faster and it’s easy to readjust the temperature later.
- Vary the number of meals you make to suit your needs. Bulk cooking can be done once a week, every two weeks, once a month or at any interval that works for you.
- Have fun by cooking with a group. Meet two or three friends in one kitchen, cook, chat and share the fruits of your labour.
- Keep the sink full of hot soapy water and wash dishes as you go.
- Wash hands frequently, and knives and cutting boards after every use.
- When trying a new recipe, make only a single family serving, just in case your family doesn’t like it.
- When doubling or tripling a recipe, multiply and note ingredient amounts in pencil right on your recipe. I habitually underestimate spice amounts when increasing recipes, especially salt. It’s far easier to add extra spices and salt while reheating a dish than to try and to remove them.
- Prepare all your hamburger dishes simultaneously; same goes for your chicken dishes, etc. This saves work by eliminating repetitious steps, and prevents cross contamination with other foods.
- Cool food uncovered at room temperature for thirty minutes then transfer to fridge, still uncovered, until completely cooled. Cover and freeze. This kind of cooking goes in stages. While your second batch of completed recipes cools on the table, the first batch can go into the fridge.
- If you’ve cooked a large quantity, transfer food into shallow containers for faster cooling.
- To prevent loss of flavour and freezer burn, double wrap or double bag everything. If all you have is a fridge-freezer, freezing meals in freezer bags will save on space.
- Thaw frozen meals in the fridge overnight or in a microwave, never leave your food to defrost on the counter.
- Make best use of kitchen equipment. I like to use my vegetable steamer on a timer and/or a slow cooker to cook my food if I’m going to get home late.
- List the meals you’ve made, tack it to your fridge and cross off meals as you eat them. I love my running inventory! I’m never left wondering what’s at the bottom of my deep freeze.
Traditional Italian flavours. Serve with garlic bread.
|0.45 Kg||Lean ground beef, browned||1 lb|
|500 ml||Spaghetti, cooked||2 cups|
|370 ml||Frozen or canned corn||1 and a half cups|
|120 ml||Finely chopped mushrooms||half cup|
|1 370 ml can||Tomato soup||1 12 oz can|
|1 860 ml can||Tomatoes, chopped||1 28 oz can|
|250 ml||Cheddar cheese, grated||1 cup|
|1||Medium onion, chopped||1|
|2.5 ml||Chilli powder||half tsp|
|2.5 ml||Worcestershire sauce||half tsp|
|370 ml||Chopped mushrooms||1 and a half cups|
|2.5 ml||Oregano||half tsp|
|2.5 ml||Basil||half tsp|
Brown ground beef and onion. Break spaghetti into pieces and boil for 10 mins.
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, mix well. Freeze in doubled Ziploc bags.
To serve: Defrost in fridge overnight. Put in a large casserole dish, Cover and bake at 350 F (180 C) for 1 and a half hrs. OR cook in slow cooker on low for 6 10 8 hours.
A one dish meal!
|.45 Kg||Lean ground beef||1 lb|
|750 ml||Mashed Potatoes||3 cups|
|15 ml||flour||1 tbsp|
|625 ml||Leftover gravy or prepped gravy mix||2 ½ cups|
|6||Small onions, coarsely chopped||6|
|250 ml||Drained, cooked, quartered carrots||1 cup|
|250 ml||Drained, cooked peas||1 cup|
|250 ml||Grated cheddar cheese||1 cup|
Grease medium, deep freezable dish/pan. Prepare mashed potatoes, set aside.
In a bowl, lightly roll (mix) hamburger in flour until coated. In a hot skillet brown meat lightly. Add gravy, heat until bubbling. Add onions, carrots and peas. Heat through. Pour into dish/pan.
Fold egg and cheese into mashed potatoes; arrange potatoes in a ring on top of meat. Cover with lid or plastic wrap then slide dish/pan into jumbo freezer bag. Freeze.
To serve: Defrost in fridge overnight. Bake @ 425 degrees F for 30 mins to 1 hr until hot and browned on top.
Sour Cream Noodle Casserole
1-1/4 pound Ground beef
1 can (15-ounce) Tomato Sauce
1/2 teaspoon Salt
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
8 ounces (weight) Egg Noodles
1/2 cup Sour Cream
1-1/4 cup Small Curd Cottage Cheese
1/2 cup Sliced Green Onions
1 cup Grated Sharp Cheddar Cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Brown ground chuck in a large skillet. Drain fat, then add tomato sauce. 1/2 teaspoon salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Stir, then simmer while you prepare the other ingredients.
Cook egg noodles until al dente. Drain and set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine sour cream and cottage cheese. Add plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Add to noodles and stir. Add green onions and stir.
To assemble, add half of the noodles to a baking dish. Top with half the meat mixture, then sprinkle on half the grated cheddar. Repeat with noodles, meat, then a final layer of cheese.
Bake from frozen for 1 ½ hours at 350. If defrosted, bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees
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Dr. Carmen Rodrigues, CDC’s Outbreak Task Force director, is on the hunt for a killer–– an airborne virus spreading from Florida across the States, gaining traction with each passing moment. Although she’ll never forget her one night with sexy bodyguard John Dozer in Afghanistan, his protective nature is one distraction she doesn’t need right now.
Ex-Army Intelligence officer John Dozer will put his life on the line for beautiful, independent Carmen. Every. Time. Even when she pushes him away. And now, with her struggling to contain an outbreak likely triggered by domestic bio-terrorists, maybe even insiders at the CDC, she needs him more than ever. He lost her once. He’ll never let that happen again.
Julie Rowe’s first career as a medical lab technologist in Canada took her to the North West Territories and northern Alberta, where she still resides. She loves to include medical details in her romance novels, but admits she’ll never be able to write about all her medical experiences because, “No one would believe them!”. In addition to writing contemporary and historical medical romance, and fun romantic suspense for Entangled Publishing and Carina Press, Julie has short stories in Fool’s Gold, the Mammoth Book of ER Romance, Timeless Keepsakes and Timeless Escapes anthologies. Her book SAVING THE RIFLEMAN (book #1 WAR GIRLS) won the Novella category of the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence. Her writing has also appeared in several magazines such as Romantic Times Magazine, Today’s Parent, and Canadian Living. You can reach her at www.julieroweauthor.com , on Twitter @julieroweauthor or at her Facebook page: www.facebook.com/JulieRoweAuthor