Not a true 'Recipe', but something with food we have been doing recently. Next time you see a big chub or club pack of Lean Ground Beef (LGB) for sale at significant 'per-kilo' cost savings, don't cringe at the idea of touching all that cold, raw cow as you sort it into separate packages, just follow our tip for LGB Helper.
That's right, find your biggest pasta pot, and start browning ground beef for the whole neighbourhood. Except you're not going to give it to the neighbours, you're going to keep it and freeze it in meal-sized portions. Dice an onion or two, a few garlic cloves and cook it up. Let it cool (while you eat an LGB meal of some sort, in all likelihood). Then portion it into freezer bags.
Why is this a good, frugal plan? Aren't we basically doing the same steps as before only the meat is cooked now? Well, yes and no - outside of not having to handle all that cold, raw meat, you'll see pretty quickly that the dicing and browning time for 4 lbs is not much longer than doing 1lb. The next bit of awesome is that anytime in the next month when you are making chili, pasta sauce, tacos, shepherd's pie - anything that normally has the 'Brown 1 lb of Lean Ground Beef' instruction - BAM: you're already done.
The frugality continues with the fact that you probably paid a little (or a lot) less for the meat. Buying in bulk does save (2-3 dollars a kilo in this case). You can also keep an eye open for the super-discounted 'hits-the-Sell-By-date-tomorrow' meat that normally freaks you out. How will I eat 5 lbs of Lean Ground Beef in 24 hours?!? Now you and your colon don't need to panic. Cook it all, eat a bit, freeze the rest.
Not just for LGB
We've found the same process works well on the grill too - instead of cooking 2-3 chicken breasts, buy a club pack and cook 6-8. Slice up and freeze whatever you don't eat and suddenly your boring Caesar is a Chicken Caesar, wraps become a quick lunch option and lots of other chicken meals are 10-15 minutes faster. Think that doesn't sound like much - most weeknights it is the difference between having time for a decent homecooked meal or saying 'Screw it' and throwing a frozen pizza in the oven.
Freeze 'em Flat
Be sure to smooth the bags flat after filling - they will cool and freeze quicker (important for food safety) and later when you need them, they will thaw quicker as well; you will be able to 'break' them up and pretty much toss'em right in the pan. Label with the date filled and file them in the freezer under 'easy supper'.
I estimate the time trade off to be an extra 15-20 minutes in extra slicing, browning and bagging time (don't count the cooling - it takes place without your effort). It may be less, as I made our main supper while doing these other steps. It makes 3-4 extra meals. It saves 15 minutes or more per meal. So you are giving up 15 minutes of time you have for cooking (weekend time likely) and gaining an hour (give or take) of time when you are busy juggling after-school/ after-work/ pre-supper crazy. Sounds like a good deal to me.
This recipe is one of the meals on our Meal Plan Master List. Check it out here.
What are you going to do with your 15 minutes?