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Friday, May 28, 2010

Cook Once Eat Twice or More

I was a firm believer in the Cook Once Eat Twice or More when all three of my children still lived at home. I still subscribe to that philosophy - just on a much smaller scale.

There was a time when I would set aside two days of the month dedicated to cooking for an entire month. I would plan 30 days of meals and set about cooking them all, labeling, and then freezing them. How nice it is to just pull dinner from the freezer! And I still do that!

I've heard arguments on the Cook Once Eat Twice (also known as Once A Month Cooking, Once A Week Cooking, Freezer Cooking and others). The biggest thing I hear is this: "I don't have enough pans to put that many meals in!" Well, neither do I! Which is what this post is all about! Each time I make a meal I create TWO. In this photo you see a basic Pizza Casserole. On the right is the one we are eating tonight. On the left is the one that will go into the freezer for a later time.
Normally I use a large plastic bag. I save all sorts of bags (yes. . . I am one of those that re-uses bread bags!). Here I used a smaller bag thinking it would work better for the photo. After I thought about it, it probably was a worse choice as it makes it more difficult for you to understand - but stay with me here!

Get out TWO pans (one for tonight...one for later). In one of the pans, place a plastic bag in the bottom in such a way that you can fold the sides of the bag up and tie when finished. If you prefer, heavy plastic wrap also works, but I've found in my experience that it doesn't work QUITE as well. Now, fill both pans. Pop one in the oven and take one to the freezer.

Once it's frozen, take it out of the freezer (note: no worries that the cheese has curled...it will flatten when I thaw it). Now remove the entire frozen "cube" from the pan picking it up by the plastic bag. The pan remains CLEAN and can be put away.

The frozen casserole can be bagged or wrapped and labeled with the name of the dish, baking instructions and the date.

When you bring it out of the freezer to use, simply peel off the plastic wrapping. It peels right off! and place the frozen casserole in the pan originally used to mold it. Bake it in that pan.

Using this technique you really only need TWO pans to store dozens of ready-to-cook meals in your freezer.

No more wondering "What's for dinner" tonight. Just look in your freezer and pull one out!
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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Butter But Better

I always make my own butter! Well, ALMOST! If you love the taste of real butter, but hate the way it spreads right out of the refrigerator (I should say the way it doesn't spread) and hate the calories as well, then today's tip is for YOU!

Start with a pound of regular butter from the store. I like to let it sit out on the counter for an hour to soften a bit first.

Now, cut it up into random pieces and place in your food processor. Add approximately one cup of oil (canola, olive, vegetable - your choice). Process it all until it is smooth.

Pour into individual containers and store in the refrigerator. Everyone who has ever tried this thinks it really is 100% REAL butter (and it IS - just modified!). Some have thought it to be "that expensive whipped butter".

The bonus is that is spreads right from the refrigerator with the real butter taste, but using the oil makes it at least a LITTLE less on the calories AND a little less expensive as well!

I even use it successfully to do all my baking.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Six to Eight WEEKS???

Most frugal blogs and websites concentrate on things like clipping coupons and watching for sales. I'm not opposed to that sort of thing at all. It's just not how I personally practice my frugality. I personally believe the more often I am at the store - any store - the more temptation exists to make purchases I don't really need. Hence I do my grocery shopping only once every six to eight weeks.

For those of you who are new to once every six to eight week shopping, you may perceive this as an impossibility. It is not. Although I would agree it's so much easier during the months when the garden is growing and I have access to fresh vegetables!
Yes, at times it is a challenge. (I love the challenge of looking at nearly bare shelves and figuring out what to make!) At times this has yielded a wonderful and tasty creation. At other times, not so great.

Example: On Saturday evening we had a guest for dinner. I had nothing in particular planned for dinner and no clue where to begin. I had a bag of chopped, cooked chicken from my last chicken project (more on my chicken projects in another post!). I located a can of cream of chicken soup, a packet of dry italian dressing mix, a bit of sour cream, and a soft pretzel in the freezer. I mixed together the cream of chicken soup, sour cream, and dry italian dressing. I placed that all in a casserole dish. Then I made fine bread crumbs out of the soft pretzel and mixed it with some fresh herbs from the garden (chives, rosemary and parsley). I placed that on top of the chicken mixture in the caserole and drizzled a little melted homemade "butter" (more on that in future posts as well!) on top. I baked it in the oven until it was heated through and the top browned.

Personally it was not one of my greatest successes. But, my husband said he enjoyed it and sometimes that counts a great deal!

But, I digress! After a few months of infrequent grocery shopping, you do become accustomed to the best strategy. I buy in bulk as much as I can, so fortunately you will not have to purchase EVERYTHING during your shopping venture. I must admit every time I unload my car after one of my grocery shopping events I wonder if this 6 to 8 week thing is wise. Then I calculate my savings and I always decide it's the only way to go!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Squeezing the Eagle

Why "squeezing the eagle", you may ask. Many times growing up I would hear my father say he was "squeezing the eagle until it pooped!" No, he was not referring to the fowl that regally soars the air. The reference was to the bird gracing United States currency. He was talking about being so frugal, getting so much out of the dollar, squeezing it so tight that the imprinted eagle would defecate!

After getting married (over 36 years now!) and throughout my life I've taken it all somewhat literally and found many ways to "squeeze the eagle". My frugality became a pleasant challenge. I found that it enabled me to be a full-time mother to my three children (now ages 30, 26, and 22!) and homeschool them to graduation. By saving money other places, it allowed fun family vacations and more.

In today's economy everything seems so uncertain. We never know what lies ahead. Saving money is always good. It is my desire through posts on this blog to show you creative ways in which you can spend less and have more money in your pocket to do with as you please, whether it be save it for emergencies or save it toward a goal of a vacation, home project, or a large purchase.

Frugality can be FUN! I hope you'll join me to see HOW much fun it can be!