The sole purpose of this post is to convince you that I am totally and utterly crazy. I'm just putting that up front. Please continue...
As the summer approaches, I'm a little daunted by the task of taking my own three kids, plus any that I'm babysitting to the grocery store. When I contemplate this, I see lots of chaos management, impulse buying and stressful "I'm never doing that again" in my future . So - I had a much more manageable idea...why not shop for the ENTIRE summer? Right? Or at least cut it down to 2 major market runs for the whole summer -once before it began and once in the middle? At first I was joking, but it eventually evolved into a challenge... Could I purchase at least the basics for June and July, thereby allowing me to make it into August before having to do a major grocery run? And so, it began.
Follow me through the next few blog posts and you can see how (or if!) I accomplish this task. For those of you who want to give it a try - I'm including the nitty-gritty details. I'm breaking the tasks into 3 or 4 step intervals (it's confusing - even to me!) and following with blogs containing the recipes mentioned. BEWARE: if you are not a meat lover, these posts may not be for you. I'm not certain I know how to make meals without some kind of meat since I come from a die-hard "meat & potatoes" kind of family. Consider yourselves forewarned, though I think the same principles will apply.
1) First, you need to make a list of everything in your freezer that you want to use. Anything that is "main dish" appropriate is fair game. Do not include breads, bagels, or other non-staple foods in this list. For me, this included 9 b/s chicken breasts, 6 b/s chicken thighs, 4 pork chops, 1 package of hot smoked sausage, 3 lbs. ground beef, and a container of taco meat (prepared already).
2) Find recipe online, in cookbooks, or use old standards with the freezer contents. I like using foodtv.com, or you can perform a google search on your particular ingredient. I like using site that allow users to rate the recipe. I usually choose a recipe that sounds good AND has multiple high ratings. Be sure to scan the comments because sometimes they can come up with some good tips on substitutions or omissions. I like to keep all the recipes in one place - which means once you find the recipe, print it out (or copy it) and put it in sheet protectors in a 1" 3 ring binder. As my recipes have stockpiled, I just move the ones I'm using toward the front. I decided to make tacos (easily decided with the prepared taco meat), Pulled Chicken Fajitas with the chicken breasts (FREEZABLE - divided into 3 meals), Grilled chicken and Red Onion skewers, Molasses Coffee Marinated Pork Chops (a new one for us), smoked sausage kabobs*, and tex-mex casserole (a family favorite - tripled and frozen to make 3 meals). Consider this - do all of you dishes require fresh produce that could go bad if not used up quickly? If so, swap them for recipes that are largely pantry/freezer based items and make sure that you put the fresh ingredient meal towards the front of your list (noted in my list by an *). You can then add salad or grilled veggies to your meals, and those minor shopping trips will just include perishables like milk and some produce.
3) Make a shopping list of the ingredients from those recipes that you don't have on hand. I shop at BJ's (wholesale club), Stop and Shop (grocery), and Trader Joe's (specialty store), so I keep 3 lists and add the item to the most appropriate list. Important: If you are uncertain where to add it - add it to all the lists of the stores you want to check. You'll probably remember if you've already purchased it, but you likely won't remember to add it if another store doesn't care that item.
Easy enough - right? The recipes I'm making this summer are a combination of oven ready (casseroles), grilled dishes and kid friendly favorites, like tacos. I didn't, for some reason, include fish in this menu, but we love fish and will be sure to include it in our next batch! Recipes mentioned above follow in separate posts.