February 10, 2010

There are two methods I use to make soup at no extra cost.

1. I keep a large ziplock bag in my fridge. Throughout the week, all vegetable peelings, vegetable ends, etc. get tossed into the bag. The bag usually has a lot of carrot peel, potato peel, celery ends and leaves, onion peels and ends, garlic peel and ends, broccoli stalk peel and ends, etc. I sometimes also have a jar in the fridge that I use to save all the vegetable cooking water from the week. If I cook frozen peas, I drain the cooking water into my “soup jar.”

At the end of the week, dump all your “savings” into a large pot. Cover it all with water and simmer it slowly for a couple of hours. Strain it and save the broth. This is the base of your soup.

Now you have a few options:

-Freeze the broth to use as a base for soups that you have recipes for, or make up your own.

-Turn it into a soup immediately by adding in cooked rice or lentils or beans or WHATEVER, and chop up some fresh veggies and add some seasonings and make a whole new soup.

-Use this liquid for the second Free Soup option below…

2. I have two or three empty ice cream buckets in my freezer. These are the big ones – 4L, I think. One is for chicken, one for beef, and if I have a third, I use it for ham or veggie. Whenever there are leftovers at the end of a meal, I put them into the appropriate bucket. If we have chicken stir fry and there are leftovers, they go into the chicken bucket. If we have shepherd’s pie with ground beef, those leftovers go into the beef bucket. Whenever I add new leftovers, I make sure they are covered with water or broth or leftover cooking liquid from veggies. Then the bucket goes back into the freezer. When a bucket is full, I let it thaw and pour it into my big soup pot. We reheat it and taste it. Sometimes we need to add some salt or other seasonings to give it more flavor, but usually, it is the most delicious soup ever!

These soups are different every time. But it’s like a taste adventure! And the best part is, it’s FREE! You’re making soup out of things you would have normally thrown away. For us, these soups are usually enough for two meals each. TWO MEALS FOR FREE!

Waste not, want not!


How To Cook Dried Beans

February 10, 2010

This is so simple.

1 part dried beans (black, pinto, kidney, etc.)

3 parts water

Put in your crockpot and heat on low overnight. Approximately 10 hours. Done. It’s that simple. Once you’ve got these beans cooked, you can use them in any recipe calling for beans!

You never need to buy canned beans again. This one thing alone can save you a LOT of money over the course of a year. I have often found very large bags of dried beans and legumes in the ethnic section of the grocery store for a lot cheaper per unit than the regular size bags in the bean section.

I like to make a massive batch and then freeze them in smaller portions in ziplock bags.

Step 7: Put the Groceries Away

February 3, 2010

For now, you can do this however you want. There’s no right or wrong way to do this. I am sharing the tips in the post for those of you who have followed along with the previous steps and are motivated enough to “go the extra mile.”

* Put frozen foods away first.

* If you bought meat/fish/poultry that needs to be put into the freezer, put that away next. If you bought it in bulk and it needs to be repackaged into smaller amounts, I would suggest putting it into the fridge until you have everything else organized.

* Put away the stuff that needs to be refrigerated (dairy, produce, etc.)

* Put away the rest.

THEN, if you’re ambitious and love the idea of saving yourself time and energy throughout the week, try the following:

* Repackage bulk meats, if necessary. If I get a bulk case of chicken breasts, for example, I repackage them in small ziplock bags with two breasts in each bag. If I have a huge case of ground beef, I repackage that in small ziplocks as well. OR…

* Precook ground meats. If you use ground beef or turkey in a lot of your recipes, fry it all up at once with the seasonings you usually use. Let it cool, then repackage it in smaller amounts and put it in the freezer.

* Do the same thing with chicken breasts. Chop it up and fry it so it’s ready for casseroles or other dishes. Package it in smaller amounts and freeze.

* Chop up veggies that you are planning to eat raw during the week. I have found that celery, in particular, lasts a lot longer when we do this. Invest in some good quality storage containers. I store sliced celery in a ziplock and just leave the zipper slightly open at one end. It lasts a good two weeks this way. Carrot sticks are stored in a plastic container with a little bit of water in it.

* Prepare all your lettuce for the week. I like to make salad a lot. I use a mixture of green leaf, red leaf, iceberg lettuces, and spinach (if it was on sale). When we get home, my daughter washes all the lettuce leaves, spins them in the salad spinner, tears them up into bite-size pieces, and we store them in a good quality bin I bought specifically for this purpose. It has an air vent that allows the perfect amount for lettuce, and this also lasts a good two weeks.

* If there are other snacks or dishes that you want to have on hand for the week, go ahead and make them on grocery day, if you have the time. I have often done this with things like puddings, gelatin salads, marinated salads, homemade cookies or bars, granola, etc. This is not a necessity, by any means, but if your grocery day happens to be a day that works well as a general food prep day, take advantage of it and you’ll reap the rewards for the rest of the week.