This post was originally “aired” in my second month of blogging, but still gets hits fairly regularly from folks looking for info on “batch cooking”, so I thought I’d revisit it today.
Batch Cooking is a wonderful way to take advantage of sale prices on meat (frequently one of the most expensive ingredients in a meal). Also by having prepared entrees or partial prepared entrees on hand, you can avoid the dreaded “fast food” or “eating out” trap and save just scads of money.
Yes, it takes some time and effort, but if you think about it in terms of how much money you save (ie thinking of that money saved as the amount you are “earning” per hour”) then I really think it is worth it. Plus, if you break it up over a few days like I do, it really isn’t that bad!
Personally, I haven’t done much batch cooking lately because I’ve been trying to “eat down” my freezer stock. Sometimes I go a little nuts on the sale shopping and pack my freezer so full that I forget what’s in there. About once a year I try to use up just about every last thing in there to make room and make sure that things aren’t getting freezer burned in the back. I’m also considering buying a 1/2 a pig from a friend who is a farmer, so I might need the room. . . . but more on that later!
Enjoy this best of!
Well, I had to cook up the last of a large purchase of ground beef last night.
I went out at the end of last week and bought 3 family packs (4lbs ea) of 85% ground beef when the Great American grocery store in town had it on sale for $1.69 lb.
I wanted to divide it up, because if I stick it in my large freezer in family packs it takes FOREVER to defrost when I want to use it.
So how do you use up 12 lbs of ground beef? Well, I practice a sort of modified form of Once a Month Cooking (OAMC or Freezercooking) called batch cooking. When I find a good sale, usually on meat, I prepare a bunch of entrees or partial entrees for the freezer from just that type of meat.
So here is what I did:
#1-Made 2 meatloaves on Monday. Used up a bag of semi stale corn chips, crushed up, instead of breadcrumbs. Ate 1/2 of one meatloaf for a dinner and had the other 1/2 for lunch. Put the rest raw into a loaf pan and froze it. Took it out last night and wrapped it in tinfoil and labeled it. Frozen meatloaf will make 1 1/2 to 2 meals. (can either place back in pan to defrost for a day before cooking, or cook frozen for about 30-45 extra min-use a meat thermometer to check the center!)
#2-Tuesday, made about 50 meatballs from 1/2 raw ground beef and 1/2 reconstituted TVP (Texturized Vegetable Protein) Baked them in the oven for 30 minutes. Used about 15 in a mock stroganoff over rice for dinner and lunch the next day (actually there is one portion left over for my lunch today). So that is about 2 1/2 meals. The remaining 35 meatballs I’ll vacuum pack with my Foodsaver into packages of about 11 each-so that is 3 more meals.
Saved the broth and set it outside in the 20 degree weather (when it is cold enough this is better than putting hot stuff in your fridge and raising the internal temp of the fridge, causing it to work harder to cool back down) The fat quickly came to the surface and was skimmed off. I then used the broth to reconstitute TVP.
I had about 10c of beef and 7c of TVP. I used 1c of each to make a double batch of Sloppy Joes-ate one for dinner last night, froze one batch in a Ziploc bag. Then I mixed the remainder of the TVP & beef together and froze it in 4 2c portions. Those will be used in any recipe calling for fried crumbled ground beef in the future (hamburger stroganoff, shepard pie, hamburger gravy, quick stirfry, tacos, spaghetti sauce, chili, hamburger casserole etc etc etc)-great for quick meals!
I also froze 3 1c portions of beef broth to use in future cooking.
I got about 13 meals worth of meat out of 12lbs of beef. I probably will actually get even more, because those 2c portions of beef/tvp will probably make 1 1/2 to 2 meals each, and the meatball meals will probably have leftovers that will get used up in lunches. This one session of batch cooking will probably last me 4 or 5 months!
All in all it was very productive and cost effective-not to mention the fact that by having quick easy meals (or portions of meals) ready in the freezer I will be less tempted to spend money by ordering takeout or buying convenience foods.