Tuesday, January 15, 2013

How to: Be Fast, Cheap, and Easy

So. If you haven’t figure out by now, I’m not trying to win any culinary awards here. I’m just not. I’m trying to develop my children’s taste buds … and force them into eating new things that I make at home. Not necessarily from scratch. ‘Ain’t nobody got time for dat!’

how to be fast cheap and easy

So. Here’s a few tips on being Fast, Cheap, and Easy:

1. Try new condiments: Every week when you grocery shop, grab a couple new condiments you haven’t used before. Condiments are {mostly} cheap. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Most salad dressings make GREAT marinades.

2. Keep your pantry well stocked with your favorite condiments and flavor packets: You like the Ranch Chicken? NEVER GO WITHOUT RANCH MIX! You love the Apricot Chicken? Always stock apricot preserves, onion soup, and Russian dressing. You get the idea.

3. Don’t fuss about thawing your meat. Just don’t. I don’t. Rarely, if ever, do I make a meal that doesn’t start with totally frozen meat. The Ranch chicken? 100% frozen chicken went into that crock pot … 6 hours later, I guarantee, it will not be frozen. No matter how frozen it was when it went in. Just remember to start your dinner in the morning and suddenly, frozen meat is your best good friend. ;)

4. Stock your freezer with frozen vegetables: broccoli, snap peas, peas & carrots, peas, stir fry peppers and onions, whatever. The only thing worse than running out of your favorite mixes and condiments … is not having any veggies on hand to use.

5. When you have the time, double your recipe and freeze for later, when you don’t have the time. Cookies, casseroles, burritos, muffins, pancakes, waffles, etc. It works for anything.

6. Waste not, want not: Recycle your meals. Today’s pot roast dinner is tomorrow’s beef stew. Today’s leftover enchiladas become tomorrow’s enchilada soup. Think outside the box, and don’t be afraid to stock up on disposable tin foil casserole dishes (at Costco) to freeze your leftovers in casserole form. Do yourself a favor … cook once, for three meals. Got old bananas? Make a couple dozen banana muffins. Once they’re cooled, freeze them in individual sandwich bags and them put them in a gallon sized freezer bag and store them for up to 2 months in your freezer.

7. Make a menu plan a week ahead of time: this will help you use this week’s leftovers in next week’s dishes … and allows you to ‘get everything on your list’ during the first trip to the grocery store. PS- You can freeze this week’s leftovers until you have time for them next week. It’s what Ziploc was invented for. I swear.

8. Shop the meat sales. Walmart almost NEVER has good deals on meat. Don’t kid yourself. Check the ads. Make the effort. That roast for $20 at Walmart could be $10 at the local grocery store. Pay attention. When sales hit, stock up.

9. Serve meat IN the dish, not AS the dish. Never serve chicken breasts for dinner … otherwise, you’re stuck using an entire breast for each person. Instead, limit your meals to 1/2 breast per person, shred the meat up, and put it IN a dish. Not AS the dish. Get it? Try to eat at least 1-2 dinners a week that are totally meatless.

10. Make your own convenience freezer items: breakfast burritos, frozen burritos, quesadillas, cookie dough, etc. Try making 4 dozen pancakes while the kids are at school. Let them cool. Freeze them in a big Ziploc. Bam. Pancakes on a school morning in 30 seconds flat. Goodbye expensive Egg-O Waffles. Again. Think outside the normal. Get creative. Be resourceful. You can do this.

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