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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Frugal Cookery

Since it's been too cold to do much work outside, I've concentrated on cooking. 

I've done "freezer cooking" before but it was mostly me making packaged meals for Greg to take back with him. Now that he's home, he not only helps me with the prep work, but he's been going online to find new recipes for us to try. It's been fun.

The one thing I changed about how I cook, especially if it's going in the freezer, is to make smaller portions. This helps in two ways.

Smaller portions is better for the waistline, and it stretches the food dollar farther.

Before, I used to store packaged meals in plastic or glass containers. Now I buy small aluminum disposable pans (with lids if I can find them). I can reuse them at least a couple of times before they lose their shape and I have to toss them.

This frees up my valuable glass containers and the aluminum pan can go from freezer to oven.

I buy the multi-pack aluminum pans at the dollar store, but keep your eyes open for sales at bigger grocery stores too.

Cooking out of the freezer and pantry has been a good training ground for me. I'm learning where I had enough of one item or not enough of another. For example, butter. I regularly buy butter on sale and freeze it, but I forgot about getting unsalted butter for certain baking recipes.

This has also been a good primer on what I need to grow in my garden. Right now the only thing growing in the winter is rosemary, kale, bok choy, spinach, onions and garlic. I definitely need to grow more herbs and spinach. I ran out too soon.

So what have I been making for freezer meals?

So far it's been enchiladas, lasagna, sausage & pepper casserole, and pot roast. My good friend, Melissa McClone sent me to Stockpiling Moms for more great freezer recipes.

Greg also made a Chicago style deep dish pizza the other night that was HEAVENLY! Both of us grew up in Chicago so we know a thing or two about good pizza. This was definitely one of the best I've ever tasted. I doubt this pizza will ever see the inside of a freezer, but maybe next time we can do a few mini pizzas to freeze while the big one is baking.

Pizza baked in a cast iron skillet


If you have to be stuck inside because of the weather, try making some freezer meals. You'll be glad you did for those days when you're too tired or too busy to cook.

Have you ever tried making freezer meals? Do you have a favorite standby recipe that you can whip up in a jiffy?

If you'd like to try Chicago style pizza, here's the recipe Greg used. The only things he did differently was add crimini mushrooms and onions, quickly sauteed in the grease where I cooked the hot sausage. I also jazzed up the sauce with dehydrated tomatoes from our garden and extra spices. It was amazing!

PS  I sent the expense spreadsheet I talked about recently to several people. If you asked for it but haven't received it, email me and I'll send it again. 

My email has been playing footsies this past week. There's a chance a few outgoing and incoming messages are lost in limbo. You can always try Facebook or my gmail address if all else fails.


26 comments:

Melissa McClone said...

This is great! Sounds like we have similar cooking plans going on! Will have to try those aluminum pans. I've just been using freezer ziplock bags!

Anne Gallagher said...

I miss cooking. I used to do everything on Sunday -- my day. I'd set myself up early in the morning and cook all day and freeze everything. It was great.

But I need new appliances and in order to get those I have to re-do the kitchen. Not this year. But I will have a garden this year.

Shelley Munro said...

It does sound as if you've been busy! We only jave a small freezer, and I've vetoed getting a larger one becuase hubby would have it full of meat. Bella and I have to fight for freezer space. (We keep frozen bones for Bella plus make her ice blocks for hot summer days - I keep a stock of various frozen veg and berries for times when the garden or pantry is bare)

We tend to cook from scratch each day, and hubby takes leftovers for lunch. Our quick go-to recipes are pasta and risotto. We also have some hot salad recipes that take no time to make.

Maria Zannini said...

Melissa: I tried the plastic bags but every so often they'd get punctured.

I've been buying small (2 portion) pans 5 for $1.

The little bigger ones were 3 for $1. All with lids.

Thanks for the link to Stockpiling Mom.

Maria Zannini said...

Anne: I've never enjoyed cooking much but it's been great now that I have company.

I'm definitely rethinking my garden for this year.

Maria Zannini said...

Shelley: I'll be filling the freezer soon with another goat.

I've never tried a hot salad. I hope you'll post a recipe on your blog some time. I'd love to see it!

Sandra Almazan said...

Maria, that's a good tip about freezing butter. I'll have to try that next time butter is on sale.

Maria Zannini said...

Sandra: I'll have to write a post on all the things you can freeze. I freeze a lot of different things.

Raelyn Barclay said...

That pizza looks delicious. I definitely need to get back into the bulk cooking, especially with football starting again in a couple weeks! Most of the freezer meals I've prepped in the past have been crock pot meals like Chicken Tetrazzini or Chili.


Maria Zannini said...

Raelyn: With all your boys I'm surprised it's not part of your routine.

Better yet, teach them how to do it. LOL.

Author R. Mac Wheeler said...

I am so happy Dina found a simple recipe for pies in a skillet. My life is so much sweeter now ;O)

LD Masterson said...

Somewhere along the line I lost interest in cooking. Maybe because we eat too many meals on the run and a sandwich is just easier. Your food posts make me miss it.

Crystal Collier said...

Your talk about breaking meals into smaller pieces has me thinking about short stories and writing novels a chapter at a time as complete and scenes that could almost stand alone. Hmm. Wonder where my brain is tuned...

I love Chicago style pizza! The only thing I'm missing is the commercial oven...which is why we go out to eat it. There's no substitution for a good oven. =)

Stacy McKitrick said...

I'm a LONG way from freezing meals, but I am cooking tonight (I know, shocker). It's not much, but it beats going out in the cold. This year I am trying to cook at least ONE meal a week. We'll see how that goes and whether it grows to two or three. :)

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I usually freeze half the cookie dough when I bake cookies. Just a few days ago I made pancakes and froze them. The kids then can make a hot breakfast whenever they want.
That pizza looks delicious.

Maria Zannini said...

Mac: Pies in a skillet? Now I'm going to have to Google that.

Maria Zannini said...

Linda: I was the same way for many years. Too much rushing around and grabbing something fast.

Then a couple of years ago my mother visited and she pulled together a delicious meal just from the staples I had in my pantry. I have a hard time eating fast food since then. There's no comparison.

Maria Zannini said...

Crystal: I would've agreed on the oven but baking it in a cast iron skillet made all the difference. It made a perfect crust.

Maria Zannini said...

Stacy: I'm not a fan of cooking but it's much more enjoyable now that I have company.

Maria Zannini said...

Susan: I usually refrigerate the leftover pancake batter for the next day. I'm always up for pancakes. :)

Diane Carlisle said...

I've taken up pressure cooking, even bought a pressure cooker and used it for the first time last weekend. Chicken and dumplings. Check it out...I cooked a 3 lbs. whole chicken (falling off the bone) in 20 minutes. LOL

Maria Zannini said...

Diane: I have a really old pressure cooker that I used to use for canning, but I haven't had the confidence to try any cooking with it.

That is so cool.

Mike Keyton said...

Ref Pizza, there are some things not meant to be frozen, but eaten hot and straight from the oven! Come over here and cook us one...please ��

Maria Zannini said...

Mike: The secret is in the cast iron skillet.

We'd have to make a smaller one for Bernadette since she doesn't like tomatoes.

Mike Keyton said...

You have a magnificent memory, Maria 😃

Maria Zannini said...

Mike: It just struck me as unusual, though I know one other person who doesn't like tomatoes.