Monday, March 11, 2013

Bulk Cooking in My Life

So a couple of weeks ago I thought I would take on a pretty big challenge and do some bulk cooking. Honestly, I don't know what the hell I was thinking. I have a tiny, almost useless kitchen, no counter space, and a standard sized refrigerator that's supposed to hold enough food for a family of 8. Where exactly am I going to put all of this that I decided to make? And what possessed me to do this in the first place? Apparently I drink. And heavily.
It started when I made a trip to Sam's Club for some Booster cookies (We were selling cookies and water at a band performance). Since we had finally gotten through the 40lbs of chicken quarters I had bought on my last oh-mah-gawd-look-how-cheap-these-are spree I decided I should pick up "just a few things".
(This is the point I should probably share some background. When I was growing up we were poor. Not just broke, but poor. Like living with family, food boxes, and eventually when I was in high school, we moved to the projects. There were times groceries were scarce. I may have food issues.)
So my "just a few things" turned into a 10lb pork loin, 8lbs of pork chops, 5lbs of flank steak, 20+lbs of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, and some frozen meatballs. I get home and realize I have no idea what the hell I'm going to do with all of this. We've been spending a lot of money on fast-food lately. Which in our house usually means pizza (McDonald's is a $60 adventure when there's this many people. So not worth it. Have cereal). I've been lazy and under-motivated with dinner. It bothers me. Here is my chance to get back on the bandwagon. I need to get my family back to having a reasonable dinner every night. Being the Pinterest addict I am I did a little digging and found some good sites, recipes, and ideas for my big bulk cooking idea.
Let me tell you, this went way smoother in my head. If I had a regular kitchen with counter space and outlets it would have gone much smoother. I worked with what I had. It took me two days but I made it happen. There was only one small problem. Remember that whole "standard size" refrigerator I mentioned earlier? And its standard size top freezer? Yeah, we're gonna need something bigger. I do have a freezer. A big freezer. Like if my ex-husband ever goes missing at the same time as I get a new freezer don't ask kind of big. It'll fit two, maybe even three, bodies car loads of groceries. But it's been in the garage for a year. Not plugged in. And is partially buried under boxes. Long story short, that bad-boy is now in the kitchen. At least one of my many kitchen disasters solved. Thank you a LOT to my wonderful husband for doing most of the heavy lifting, moving, and cleaning to make this happen. It's amazing how little I was involved in this part of the process.
I will tell you that I had this post all buttoned-up and beautiful in my head.  There were pictures. And links. All the fancy shit that I looked at that sparked this fabulous stupid-ass idea in the first place. I had a lot of people ask about recipes and the menu. Here's what I made. I'll link where I can.
  • Chicken Pot Pie (2 - enough for one meal - it has been requested that this make it in the normal rotation from now on. Win!)
  • Lasagna (2 - two meals)
  • Chicken Caccatorie(2 bags. It tasted great. I added the noodles and I screwed it up some how. The kids didn't like it. I was only mildly fond of it. Considering I couldn't keep out of the pot for the sauce there has to be another way to serve this)
  • Cilantro Lime Chicken (2 bags. Makes some kick ass tacos)
  • Chicken Taco Soup (2 bags)
  • Honey Maple Chicken (2 bags)
  • Cilantro Lime pork chops (2 bags - recipe wasn't for a freezer meal but it should come out fine anyway)
  • Beef and Broccoli (1 bag)
  • Beef Stroganoff (1 bag)
  • Enchiladas (4 pans - two meals)
  • Shepherds' Pie (2 pans - one meal, minus the potatoes that go on the top. I don't like the texture that happens when you freeze potatoes.)
That's two and a half weeks worth of meals. Plus left overs, so almost 3 weeks of food. I also made
  • Pork Sloppy Joe's. In  the future I'll stick to cooking the pork loin in the crock pot with some Manwhich. I liked the semi-homemade sauce. The kids did not.
  • Shredded pork, meal to be determined later
  • 5 "cans" of cream of mushroom soup. I needed it for a recipe so I just made a big batch and froze it in 1 and 1/2 cup bags. 
I have the makings for pasta and meatballs with various sauces for two or three meals, a skillet dinner, a couple of casseroles, and breakfast for dinner a couple of nights. I even have the makings for pizza should I feel slightly more ambitious.  This should get us through the month.  I've been good about going to the store and only getting what we were out of. It's working so far. I spent about $500 initially. On the outside I think I'll spend another $300 on groceries. $800 sounds like a lot to me, but when I think about the 8 people in my house, it's really not so bad. Especially since that includes 2 grown men and 3 teenagers. We have salad every night, and sometimes bread/rolls and that helps round everything out.

And I would absolutely do this again. If I was more organized I could tell you what we were having tonight. But I'm not. I'll pull something out of the freezer later. It's easier if I pull something the night before and let it thaw overnight on the counter, and toss it in the crock pot in the morning. We'll probably have a casserole or something like that tonight. Once it starts to get hot out this will be my go-to planning. I hate cooking in the summer and this will definitely keep down the time I have to spend with the oven on. Next time I'll plan out a little better!

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