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Nothing gets this girl excited like a good meat sale!
June 26, 2011 5:46 AM   Subscribe

Freezer Meals on the Cheap.
posted by bwg (94 comments total) 69 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wow, I'd like to shop where she shops. All that stuff, discounted to $1? I've never been able to get such deals on soon-to-expire stuff, even at the discount discount grocery store.
posted by crunchland at 6:06 AM on June 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


One thing I will say is, she seems to shop on a weekday morning, when grocery stores often put on sales. By 4pm, the sales are over, and the price goes back up. I noticed this when I was unemployed for a time. If you're a 9 to 5er, those kinds of deals are often not available.

Our favoured way to get meat is to buy a side or a quarter from a local and trusted farmer (my brother in law). The butcher wraps it all up in 1 lb packages, cut to our specifications, and we store it in the freezer.

However, I do like her approach - for the sake of a day of prep, she can have a large number of meals at the ready for the coming week(s). I do something similar here at the bone household for weekday lunches. A batch of dhal, stews, chili, lasagna, soup, curries or whatever - I make several and freeze individual portions.

I have taken to making Boerwors sausage (South African beef sausage) in patties and storing them in freezer bags for quick dinners when neither of us feels like cooking. They go great on the grill as well.
posted by LN at 6:18 AM on June 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is news? My freezer is full of single-serving packages of leftovers; it's the only way to do things if you want to eat good food while having a busy life. As she mentions in the follow-on post, not everything freezes well; I've definitely thawed a few things and been very disappointed. And there's value both in making and freezing both complete food (like lasagna, chili, etc) as well as core ingredients (like the cooked meats that she describes) that become the center of fast dinners later. Having packages of sliced-up, grilled flank steak in the freezer makes it easy to have great salads on a few minutes notice, for example.

The alternative to her style of shopping the marked down meats is to just go ahead and buy whole or part animals from a farmer. A half or quarter cow ends up being only slightly more per pound than she is paying, and you get meat that is better than anything sold by my local supermarket; you also have control over how it is butchered and packaged, so you can make sure the portions and cuts are appropriate to what you need.

So color me naive, but I really thought pretty much everyone did this, because I just don't know of any other way to eat well given a budget and the time limitations of a modern, work-centered life.
posted by Forktine at 6:23 AM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wild guess at the tl;dr version: buy meet when it's just about to expire & has been drastically discounted; freeze it promptly. Prepare as usual.

Anything actually groundbreaking going on here?
posted by ShutterBun at 6:27 AM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


$40 Costco Membership, plus $999: This is how you really thrive.
posted by bendybendy at 6:32 AM on June 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


I enjoyed it. Thanks for posting.
posted by josher71 at 6:33 AM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


That is not 46 meals. It's some potatoes and 40 bags of meat.

I guess it makes sense if "dinner" always = meat + sides for you, but that's just not how I eat or cook.
posted by that's how you get ants at 7:01 AM on June 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


Wow, she's a woman after my own heart. She shops for the really cheap meat (hitting the "used meat" bin at the grocery store [the stuff about to expire] has been a hobby of mine for quite a while now), and she thinks about the stuff she's buying and makes it into portions which can be served before freezing.

If you really want to do this right, spend the $150 or whatever on a smallish chest freezer. It won't freezerburn your food the way your fridge freezer will, it will likely get below zero for quality food holding over the long term, and it will still cost under $20 to run for a year.

And yeah, Forktine and ShutterBun... it's news to people who always buy fresh or who don't do their own cooking much. The idea that you can make food ahead, cooked or simply prepared, and then pull THAT from your freezer rather than having Marie Callendar do it IS news to a large portion of the population.
posted by hippybear at 7:09 AM on June 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


Wow, the hate here is fascinating, given that MeFi normally likes a) frugality, and b) eating whole foods vs. processed foods.

ShutterBun, your tl;dr wild guess is wrong, by the way.
posted by anastasiav at 7:12 AM on June 26, 2011 [11 favorites]


From personal experience, these two vegetarian dishes make great freezer meals: sweet potato burritos and vegetarian moussaka. You can also bake muffins or waffles and freeze those individually, for a quick thaw in the microwave in the morning.
posted by bizzyb at 7:17 AM on June 26, 2011 [15 favorites]


So color me naive, but I really thought pretty much everyone did this, because I just don't know of any other way to eat well given a budget and the time limitations of a modern, work-centered life.

What with the economy the way it is now, a lot of people are just learning how to live in a more frugal way for the first time in their lives. For many families, a quick dinner would have been takeout, or maybe mom was staying at home but now she's working to keep the family afloat and they're learning how to balance that.

It seems to me that being supportive of this kind of thing, rather than snarking about it, is far more productive.
posted by anastasiav at 7:20 AM on June 26, 2011 [17 favorites]


The beauty of the cooking before hand is that it takes the tedious prep work out of dinner. Sure you're going to have to reheat something and boil water for beans or carrots or something but you don't have to chop, prep and cook up a whole dinner. This effectively doubles the number of adults who can "make dinner" in my house.

I am all over this idea and have long been jealous of Americans who can cook this way. We totally can't; we don't have room in our European-style fridge freezer, nor do we have room for a chest freezer. (I know; you think we can fit one in somewhere if we really try, but our house really is 12 feet wide, so not so much.)

Out of curiosity, how do you cook this stuff after you freeze it? Do you just pull it out the day before to defrost it and then pan re-heat it?
posted by DarlingBri at 7:20 AM on June 26, 2011


anastasiav - what hate are you talking about? thread seems pretty positive to me.

I don't know if this style of cooking works for an urbanite. My freezer is way too small to hold that volume of food, and I don't really have the space for a chest freezer. Also, it might be a better idea to buy good quality, fresh meats as you will be freezing them for a long time, and it probably makes sense to get the best stuff you can afford to begin with.
posted by sid at 7:21 AM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's not "hate" anastasiav, more a case of being nonplussed at the "remarkability" of people using appliances as intended. Honestly I thought this was pretty common practice, albeit with maybe some pro tips.

(but yeah, add "cook meat before freezing" to my summary)
posted by ShutterBun at 7:23 AM on June 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I am confused. In the first paragraph, she says:
One thing I wanted to point out... a lot of people seem to be under the perception that I cook all of my meat ahead of time and then thaw it so I'm losing a lot with the quality of the meat. That is not the case and I'll go read the rest of the post to see if I led you to believe that anywhere. The only meat I do cook ahead of time, is the shredded chicken, ground beef and taco. Everything else, gets frozen uncooked
So if she's not cooking it ahead of time, where is the time savings?
posted by desjardins at 7:27 AM on June 26, 2011


Wild guess at the tl;dr version: buy meet when it's just about to expire & has been drastically discounted; freeze it promptly. Prepare as usual.

Actually, it's only half that. The other half is "take the ground meat and cook it with some chopped onions, celery, and carrots, just as you usually do at the start of a lot of common recipes. Then split that up among smaller bags and freeze those."

Which isn't a bad idea -- if you do that, then if you want "meat sauce" for your spaghetti? Pull one of those bags out of the freezer, defrost it, dump it in a can of tomatoes on the stove with a little chopped garlic, and there you go. Chili? Add a can of beans to the very same thing.

But I'll grant this link isn't for everyone. I saw this link elsewhere and was initially charmed by the title, but ultimately turned off -- I do like the bulk-cooking-in-advance idea, but I just plain don't eat that much meat and I was hoping for more variety. I'm also more of an experienced cook, and I'm single with no kids, so I have my own set of particulars. But for someone who's a little at sea in a kitchen still, or has a family, this is actually a good thing.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:29 AM on June 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


So if she's not cooking it ahead of time, where is the time savings?

Well, if you're talking some cheaper yet delicious cuts of meat, like skirt steak or cordelico or whatever, the time savings is in the marinading and having to think of making the whole thing up a day ahead (something I'm terrible at doing).
posted by hippybear at 7:30 AM on June 26, 2011


I'm also more of an experienced cook, and I'm single with no kids

Either of those two things pretty much means you don't have to bother with this kind of prep. I'm in a two-adult-no-kids household, and while we love our freezer and use it a lot, we don't do a lot of advance prep for meals because 1) we both like to cook and 2) we don't have to have dinner suddenly ready for more than 2 of us very often.
posted by hippybear at 7:32 AM on June 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Hate?" "Snark?" Really?

I went back and reread the comments, and I feel like we are reading different threads. I've done this my whole life, and was (and am) surprised that this is less common than I had assumed. I blame growing up with hippies -- there are all kinds of things I think of as unexceptional that have turned out to be a bit odd. Compared to the naked pagan reenactments, freezing meals is pretty benign.

Out of curiosity, how do you cook this stuff after you freeze it? Do you just pull it out the day before to defrost it and then pan re-heat it?

It depends on the food in question, how organized you are, and what you are planning. Mostly I do what the author does -- pull the item the day before and let it thaw in the fridge. Some things (soups, especially) can popped out the tuperware like a big icecube and thawed on the stove, but other things (eg lasagna) don't work well like that. Small baggies of cooked meat are easy; they can thaw slowly or be thawed instantly in the microwave, or tossed frozen into something you are cooking and thawed that way.

This can easily be done a lot less meat-centric than the author does, but doing it her way would make eating low-carb very, very easy, if one were to be trying that approach to eating.
posted by Forktine at 7:33 AM on June 26, 2011


So if she's not cooking it ahead of time, where is the time savings?

Fewer trips to the store, and defrosting only however many single servings of meat you need is a lot faster than defrosting four pounds of meat at once, assuming that's what she's doing.

The only thing I find to hate in this post are the exclamation marks.
posted by frobozz at 7:36 AM on June 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


So if she's not cooking it ahead of time, where is the time savings?
Often, the prep takes more time than the actual cooking. And it's much more labor-intensive. It's no work to pop something in the oven and come back and check on it in ten minutes. You can set the table, watch tv, read a book, play with your kids, or whatever else you want to do while you're waiting. Whereas if you're sauteing onions or shredding carrots, you actually have to be there and paying attention.
I'm also more of an experienced cook, and I'm single with no kids, so I have my own set of particulars.
Yeah, me too, but I do my own version of this. Veggie chili freezes really well, and you can portion out single servings and freeze them in zip-lock sandwich bags. Pretty much any bean or lentil soup works well. I, too, make those addictive sweet potato burritos and freeze them in single-sized portions. I buy big packages of those thin-sliced pork chops, make a marinade, and freeze two of them and the marinade in ziplock sandwich bags. Then I can pull them out in the morning, and they're ready to slap on the George Forman grill when I get home from work. If I make some rice, heat up the marinade in a pan with a little corn starch, and make a salad, that's dinner, and it's really quick and easy.

I know a lot of people love cooking on week nights and don't find this appealing, but I find cooking on weeknights a big pain in the ass, and I eat crap if I don't have things in the freezer.

(I tend to assume that everyone does this, too, forktine, but it's clear to me that not everyone does. It doesn't make sense for everyone, but I also think it's one of those domestic skills that seems obvious once you've figured it out but that you actually have to figure out.)
posted by craichead at 7:38 AM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I also think it's one of those domestic skills that seems obvious once you've figured it out but that you actually have to figure out.

Well, again, it's something which is being actively fought against by our grocery stores, which not only have huge aisles of stand-up freezers full of commercially made frozen meals of varying quality, but also typically have takeaway hot food available (again commercially prepared, often from frozen pre-made factory food) which people can stop by and pick up. A whole roast chicken for $5, sometimes with free sides??? Wow. That's a bargain! (Well, it's not really, but if you're trading time for money, it is.. But making your own food for under $5/meal and freezing it yourself? Much better food. It takes time and planning, however, two things which people may not necessarily have.)
posted by hippybear at 7:42 AM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


The satisfaction I take from this post is imagining the inevitability that some day, the author will go to extract such a meal from her freezer. Say, perhaps, the leftmost baggie in this photo.

Somehow, inexplicably, the bag will not contain exactly eight hamburger patties. Seven perhaps, or nine. Maybe one of them simply broke in half. But for whatever reason, the baggie contains not precisely the number of hamburger patties indicated in handwritten sharpie on the exterior of the transparent packaging, which should by its very nature render such explicit quantification entirely superfluous.

I can only imagine the effects of such a realization to be entirely devestating: that you don't necessarily need to operate your kitchen like a goddamn game of Mancala.

Or maybe it's just my envy speaking.
posted by 7segment at 7:47 AM on June 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


When I was a wee little baby, my mom said I looked like a turtle so ever since I'm her Naturtle and she's my MamaTurtle. Now I have a Peanut and Looloo Bear of my own and a cutie hubby too! I spent my childhood dreaming of being an adult so I could own a minivan and paint and bake all day.

I'm done.
posted by CarlRossi at 7:47 AM on June 26, 2011 [24 favorites]


The freezer meals were really a lifesaver when my husband and I were working opposing shifts weren't eating meals together. All the convenience of a frozen TV dinner, but delicious! I also have the "Don't Panic.." books. So, maybe not a news flash, but definitely interesting. (And the profile has a little of the SAHM-obnoxiousness I could do without. Same reason I can't read FlyLady for more than 30 seconds. )
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 7:59 AM on June 26, 2011


Same reason I can't read FlyLady for more than 30 seconds.
At some point I had a fantasy that I could get a commission from the FlyLady people to translate their stuff into slightly-snarky, non-annoying language. I bet you could make a fortune if you could market FlyLady to members of the non-annoying community.
posted by craichead at 8:02 AM on June 26, 2011 [16 favorites]


Hmmm...I think you might be on to something, craichead. FlyLady (and other domestic management blogs) for grown people--free of purple fairies and cutesy euphemisms.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 8:24 AM on June 26, 2011


Funny how the frugality stuff always works out best for those who already have money to save. Want to save money on meals? You need a large freezer, a decent kitchen, and the luxury of going to the grocery store on off-peak hours to pick up the well-timed sales. This just isn't feasible if you live in a small apartment in the city and work 9-5.
posted by explosion at 8:31 AM on June 26, 2011 [25 favorites]


True dat.
posted by mazola at 8:53 AM on June 26, 2011


Funny how the frugality stuff always works out best for those who already have money to save. Want to save money on meals? You need a large freezer, a decent kitchen, and the luxury of going to the grocery store on off-peak hours to pick up the well-timed sales. This just isn't feasible if you live in a small apartment in the city and work 9-5.

Yes. Being poor is expensive. This has been true for ages. Also, having a source of unpaid domestic labor around is invaluable.

This is a great post, and I've bookmarked it. I have a chest freezer, we buy beef and pork in bulk, and when I make meatloaf I usually make a double and freeze half of it, but more ideas are always great. As for the time savings? You only have to wash the knives once, the cutting board once, the food processor once. . . PLUS every grocery store trip that you don't take the kids on saves thirty minutes and fifty dollars. Somehow. But wow, if nothing else, I should buy the 50-lb sack of onions and the 20-lb sacks of carrots and celery and just make mirepoix in advance.
posted by KathrynT at 8:55 AM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm also more of an experienced cook, and I'm single with no kids, so I have my own set of particulars.

Yeah, me too, but I do my own version of this.


No, I know, but that's more of what I was getting at - this is a blog post that I would have dug more three years ago, before I already learned how to do this kind of thing. I personally was hoping it was ideas for something more than what I already knew, was my point. I was just also acknowledging that there are other people who are at this point for whom it's a big help, and so yay.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:06 AM on June 26, 2011


But wow, if nothing else, I should buy the 50-lb sack of onions and the 20-lb sacks of carrots and celery and just make mirepoix in advance.

This is the bestest idea ever.

I have heard tales of a simpler time when high school students could take a class called "home eck" or something and learn a lot of these techniques. But that could have just been a tall tale.
posted by device55 at 9:12 AM on June 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Isn't she still shopping for fruit and vegetables (outside of potatoes and onions)? Is this only a time-saver for meat-and-starch meal plans?

I have been enjoying the CSA posts over at Pandagon, which involves a lot of "Make a whole lot of spinach and use it throughout the week" type recipes.
posted by muddgirl at 9:17 AM on June 26, 2011


Isn't she still shopping for fruit and vegetables (outside of potatoes and onions)? Is this only a time-saver for meat-and-starch meal plans?

Looks like it, but a lot of people just don't eat fruits and vegetables.
posted by madcaptenor at 9:22 AM on June 26, 2011


Isn't she still shopping for fruit and vegetables (outside of potatoes and onions)? Is this only a time-saver for meat-and-starch meal plans?

In the text of the post she also mentions peppers, chives, and carrots. She does tacos, so I imagine she adds fresh lettuce and tomatoes to those. Peas, green beans, corn, spinach, and corn are all easily available already frozen, so it's not hard to imagine her pulling out a bag of frozen veggies as a side to any of these dishes.

She's clearly doing main dishes here (the part of the meal that typically takes the most time), so I'm not surprised that she doesn't discuss the sides. She could also be having salad at these meals - again, not something you'd freeze, so not a focus of the post.
posted by anastasiav at 9:34 AM on June 26, 2011


Why, we really are becoming a poor nation.
posted by ReeMonster at 9:35 AM on June 26, 2011


I think she needs to add 50ยข per meal to her price breakdown to account for all the Ziploc bags. But there are a few good tips in there. I am currently freezing chicken stock in a cupcake pan,
to be transferred to a freezer bag for individual use.
posted by obloquy at 9:40 AM on June 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I just don't know of any other way to eat well given a budget and the time limitations of a modern, work-centered life.

I'm a dad who works outside the home and has primary responsibility for food shopping and cooking. A lot of the time I have to have dinner on the table for a family of four within about 30 minutes of getting home. I can see the utility of doing it the "homemade TV dinner" way, but I don't think it's the only way. I roast a lot of vegetables on the weekend, so we have vegetable sides all week. We also have tons of frozen plain vegetables in the freezer at all times, which I guess is sort of a storebought version of her technique. I'll also usually cook a big meat meal on Sunday, big enough to give us three dinners, then cook a similarly sized veggie meal midweek (having dinner a bit later that one night) thus getting coverage for the rest of the week. And I have a few reliable nearly-instant standbys that I can make with pantry + freezer ingredients for fill-in nights. Of course, you have to be able to tolerate eating the same thing for dinner three nights in a row, but that doesn't bug us.
posted by escabeche at 9:41 AM on June 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Vegetarian version - one day of cooking (to freeze): quiche, lasagna, chole (Indian spiced chickpeas), black bean stew/chili, roasted potatoes and extra spaghetti sauce. I also keep frozen bags of cooked brown rice for quick meals and use a variety of packaged sauce/spices for quick stir fry veggies. When we make corn tortillas (surprisingly easy) or chapati or pizza, we always make extra to freeze. Fresh sides - yogurt, humus, salads, fruit - are easy-quick to prepare for any meal.
posted by Surfurrus at 9:44 AM on June 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


Funny how the frugality stuff always works out best for those who already have money to save. Want to save money on meals? You need a large freezer, a decent kitchen, and the luxury of going to the grocery store on off-peak hours to pick up the well-timed sales. This just isn't feasible if you live in a small apartment in the city and work 9-5.

Not exactly the way she does it or on that scale, no, but many of the general ideas are helpful- making food in bulk and eating it for half a dozen meals is cheaper and healthier for a busy person than buying prepared frozen food or fast food. Fridge freezers have enough room to store quite a bit of food, especially if they're not full of TV dinners, and if there's no room in the freezer making a huge pot of soup and keeping it in the fridge for a week is super budget friendly.

I've done a lot of the things she does when I was working long hours and only had a fridge freezer (which I shared with 3-5 roommates.)
posted by geegollygosh at 9:44 AM on June 26, 2011


Hmmm...I think you might be on to something, craichead. FlyLady (and other domestic management blogs) for grown people--free of purple fairies and cutesy euphemisms.

These already exist.

Freezes Beautifully is the OP link without all the !!!!!, plus cooking at the "higher" level that EmpressC alluded to.

Dollars and Sense (by MeFi's own sobell, who also blogs about real people improving their domestic and fiscal choices at Filthy Commerce, and throws in some meta-analysis along the way. Perfect for you beanplaters.) is not strictly a debt/fiscal blog but certainly a life-hacking theme also.

And those are just the first couple that come to mind. Not everyone who cares about domestic management is reading from the cutesy-SAHM playbook—although those do seem to be the default.
posted by pineapple at 9:53 AM on June 26, 2011 [11 favorites]


It's really great if you do this or something like this, but unless you live under a rock and don't interact with humanity at all, there's no way you think most people do this. Most people do not do this.
posted by 23skidoo at 10:06 AM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


A whole roast chicken for $5, sometimes with free sides??? Wow. That's a bargain! (Well, it's not really

How is a whole roast chicken for $5 not a bargain?
posted by kenko at 10:17 AM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not actually certain that her idea of prepared frozen food is really much better for you than buying, say, a big bag of frozen tamales at about $1 ea. and having that with light sour cream, a sprinkling of cheese, bag lettuce salad, rice pilaf with assorted veggies, refried beans, etc.

The fat count of her sausages, bacon, etc. are going to be *really* high... and no, you won't be able to get them for 50 cents to a dollar each, unless you have a *LOT* more time than most. She's buying a lot of fat and relatively unhealthy carbs, such as all the potatoes, without an adequate amount of fiber / green leafy vegetables. The price-per-lb. on the actual lean meat in those discounted sausages is any better than, say, buying chicken or even farmed fish at relatively normal prices, because it isn't. Too much fat, almost all of which is of the unhealthy variety. She should skip the sausage, and buy a couple avocados.
posted by markkraft at 10:17 AM on June 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


How is a whole roast chicken for $5 not a bargain?

If you can find a whole roasted chicken for $5 it's probably a tiny little chicken from last Thursday.
posted by device55 at 10:27 AM on June 26, 2011


Case in point... her chicken sausages are 57% fat. Given that she's paying $1 for 12 oz of sausage, that also means she's paying $1 for 5.16 oz. of actual lean chicken meat, or over $3 a lb for lean chicken.

Should've bought the breast quarters at $1.20 a lb. and taken the skin off.
posted by markkraft at 10:34 AM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


She should skip the sausage, and buy a couple avocados.

The universe I live in does not have any kind of avocado - sausage substitution scheme which is appropriate.
posted by hippybear at 10:36 AM on June 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


hippybear, I like sandwiches with sausage and provolone. I also like sandwiches with avocado and provolone. I guess I live in a different universe than you.
posted by madcaptenor at 10:38 AM on June 26, 2011


I prefer sandwiches with sausage, provolone, and avocado. My universe is best.
posted by mmmbacon at 10:39 AM on June 26, 2011 [8 favorites]


It's really great if you do this or something like this, but unless you live under a rock and don't interact with humanity at all, there's no way you think most people do this. Most people do not do this.

It's kind of difficult to know what people do at home when they're just cooking for their family, because by definition you're not there when they do it.
posted by madcaptenor at 10:40 AM on June 26, 2011


I prefer sandwiches with sausage, provolone, and avocado. My universe is best.
posted by mmmbacon at 10:39 AM on June 26 [+] [!]


I would have thought, from your username, that you'd prefer a different meat.
posted by madcaptenor at 10:41 AM on June 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty sure it's because texture matters a LOT for me as far as food goes, and avocado is one of those foods with entirely the wrong texture for me. I'm sure it's delicious, but I can't get beyond the mouthfeel to find it anything other than gag-inducing.

Anyway, I know the intent of the original comment was that the fat would be equivalent and be a better kind of fat than the chicken sausage. I was just amused at the idea that "oh, hey, I'm out of sausage, I'll use avocado instead" might be something in recipes.
posted by hippybear at 10:41 AM on June 26, 2011


I agree that the texture of avocados takes some getting used to. I didn't really like them until I moved to the Bay Area where they seem to be much more available than they are in the Northeast.
posted by madcaptenor at 10:46 AM on June 26, 2011


She could've gotten/made lean ground chicken or turkey and seasoned it like sausage too, in order to make patties. Even the inexpensive ground pork you can find in many Asian or Mexican markets has a lower fat content than those sausages.
posted by markkraft at 10:48 AM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Nah, I've had people forcing avocados and guacamole on me for at least 30 years now if not longer. I've never liked them and probably never will.

I have a deviated septum which diminishes my sense of smell which in turns means my taster isn't as good as other people's. As a result, there are a set of food items which others love which to me are all about the texture and there's not enough good in the flavor to make me like them. Raw tomatoes, watermelon, avocados... There are a few others, but those are the top three. Slime, wet sawdust, and greasy goo are all I get out of those foods. Sad but true.

The good news is, that's more of those for y'all that like them.
posted by hippybear at 10:50 AM on June 26, 2011


Everybody's going on and on about how her meat choices are not low-fat. Did she say she was going for low-fat? I'm having trouble finding this in the article, and I think we're projecting what we would want on her.
posted by madcaptenor at 10:50 AM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: an avocado - sausage substitution scheme.
posted by madcaptenor at 10:53 AM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


(Taking away hippybear's avocado, handing him some mixed nuts instead.)
posted by markkraft at 10:54 AM on June 26, 2011


Even the inexpensive ground pork you can find in many Asian or Mexican markets has a lower fat content than those sausages.
You know, there are still some places that don't have Asian or Mexican markets.
posted by craichead at 10:55 AM on June 26, 2011


It's really great if you do this or something like this, but unless you live under a rock and don't interact with humanity at all, there's no way you think most people do this. Most people do not do this.

Despite what I said above, I really do know that most people aren't doing the bulk cooking of meat, and then using those to speed up meal prep; that's way too granolaish or great depressionish for most people. But do most people really not freeze some portions of soup and lasagna and so on when they've made extra? That works with even a small apartment fridge, and lets you have convenience and variety on weeknights without needing to default to take-out or TV dinners.

Unfortunately, the answer is almost certainly "no," which strikes me as both sad and strange.
posted by Forktine at 11:02 AM on June 26, 2011


She buys meat I wouldn't touch with a pole, on sale or not. And she's only feeding 4 people, not 12. I don't see the big whoop.
posted by Ideefixe at 11:08 AM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: Compared to the naked pagan reenactments, freezing meals is pretty benign.
posted by dhartung at 11:14 AM on June 26, 2011


But do most people really not freeze some portions of soup and lasagna and so on when they've made extra?
Do people actually make soup and lasagna?
Personally I'm still figuring out how to prepare meals at home that actually taste good in the first place. Most of the time I don't have the energy to even attempt it. Making them taste good after being frozen is like black belt-level cookery.
posted by bleep at 11:17 AM on June 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


The meat at our local Giant makes me nervous as it is. So that ground beef from the clearance rack at Giant is giving me intestinal cramps just looking at it.
posted by jrossi4r at 11:17 AM on June 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yeah, I'm not a fan of buying meat that's almost expired. Of course, I've slowly and steadily found myself eating less and less meat in my diet as it is. When I switched to lettuce, tomato and/or cheese sandwiches for lunch instead of luncheon meat, it meant that I now only eat meat once or twice a week, on average. Not because I'm trying to be a vegetarian...it just works out that way.

And hippybear, no tomatoes, watermelon or avocados makes me very sad, indeed. :(
posted by darkstar at 11:24 AM on June 26, 2011


Despite what I said above, I really do know that most people aren't doing the bulk cooking of meat, and then using those to speed up meal prep; that's way too granolaish or great depressionish for most people. But do most people really not freeze some portions of soup and lasagna and so on when they've made extra?

Well, alot more people do that then do what she is doing. Alls I'm saying is that people who freeze extra food aren't really doing the same thing that she's doing here. Comparing the two is like waiting until someone runs a marathon and going "I've run before. And I'm sure I've run 26 miles, if you totalled it all up. Big deal, you ran a marathon."
posted by 23skidoo at 11:24 AM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Personally I'm still figuring out how to prepare meals at home that actually taste good in the first place.

I've been cooking with increasingly degrees of intensity and mastery since I was about 10. I've learned more practical and pretty-much guaranteed technique and stuff from this cookbook. I highly recommend it. It's chock full of really simple recipes that actually turn out right, and also more complicated things for when you feel adventurous or want to impress.
posted by hippybear at 11:29 AM on June 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


The best cost-saving tip I've heard recently is "buy what you use, not what you need." So if you see canned tomatoes on sale, by them. If you see pasta on sale, buy it. If you see whole chickens on sale, buy them and freeze them.

This is really counter to the way I shop, which is "ooh, pasta sounds good, better go out and buy some pasta and canned tomatoes!" It makes much more sense, though. It's just a matter of getting into the habit.

I think that's sort of what this woman is getting at, though on a much larger (and self-congratulatory) scale.
posted by mudpuppie at 11:37 AM on June 26, 2011


I'm not a fan of buying meat that's almost expired.

The trick is to know how to buy meat that's almost expired.

When I wasn't working, I'd worked out when all the grocery stores in town (there are three, and they're all very close to my house -- the joys of living in a small town!) moved the meat into the used meat bins, so I'd make it a point to hit one or two of them every day and look for the right stuff. Some of it I'd cook later that same day, others of it I'd pop into the freezer.

Sausage is nearly always good for a lot longer than the expiration date, because sausage making is a preservation process to begin with.

Beef is usually still okay to eat even if the color is a bit off. As long as it doesn't smell too off, cook it and you'll be fine. Heck, high-priced aged beef is made by letting the outside of giant cuts basically rot and then be cut away to use the meat underneath. Unless it's actually putrified, beef is pretty okay.

Chicken and pork you have to look at a bit more carefully. I'd often find that there would be times when the store would over-plan for a huge holiday or family meal day or something and I'd be able to get giant trays of drumsticks or thighs or hind quarters for 50% off. Those get frozen after being parceled out. Pork chops would often be discounted, but I'd look at them pretty carefully before buying them. Ribs, not so much. They undergo so much cooking before being eaten, nothing could survive.

Since our household isn't all that big on holiday observations, we'd often end up having the full-on Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner the day or two after the holiday, buying the giant meats at heavy discount and then freezing the extra for later meals and using the carcass for stock. Our freezer isn't large enough to accept those kinds of things for freezing, so they have to be cooked and broken down from there.

One thing we do every year is order fresh New Mexico green chile which is then roasted to blister the skins and frozen in usage-size packs, so we have basically fresh hot green chile to use year round. It's a bit of a process to get through all the chile when it comes in (which you have to do or it will turn), but then it's there and available.

I also like to do big batches of pork shoulder in the crockpot with green chile and other mexican spices when it's on sale (like twice a year) and then freezing that either as steamed tamales or as just the meat for use in nachos and stuff.

Anyway... blah blah blah. It can be done if one is of the mindset. It takes a few years to ramp up to doing it regularly. But if you do it once a year even, you'll be ahead that tiny bit. And then as time passes, you'll find you do it more and more until finally it's a full-on lifestyle.

The problem with a lot of prairie housewife stuff (as I like to call this kind of approach to household prep) is people who try to leap from doing it not at all to doing it all 100%. Let it be a process which is developed and you'll find it fits your lifestyle. Try to do it all, and you'll be overwhelmed and quit out of frustration.

I still have yet to master jams/jellies, pickling, or other canning. Maybe some year.
posted by hippybear at 11:42 AM on June 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


hippybear, I swear to myself every year that I will make preserves from all the citrus I get from my trees. Sweet orange preserves, tangerine and tangelo marmalades, etc. Maybe this coming winter crop...
posted by darkstar at 11:49 AM on June 26, 2011


This thread reminds me of a time I was shopping in Purity Supreme in Central Square -- or "Impurity Extreme," as students used to call it. I was reaching for a package of ground beef from the refrigerated rack when a quiet voice from behind the meat said "I wouldn't take that one."
posted by escabeche at 11:57 AM on June 26, 2011 [10 favorites]


News Cameras Captured Months Old Meat On Store Shelves (note: this store is in the poorest part of town)

THat report focused on lunchmeat, but I swear there was a recent story about several stores that were repackaging/redating pork, beef,etc.
posted by desjardins at 12:24 PM on June 26, 2011


I would love to have a set up where I could do Once A Month Cooking in style. As it is, working fulltime, living in an apartment in a city, I do it on a kinda ad-hoc basis. I don't quite get the "but I caaaaan't" above, it's a question of scale, you don't have to get all all-or-nothing about it. If you can convince one other workmate or friend to get in on the act then you can also trade bunches of food to mix it up a little. Last I did this I spent the most part of a Sunday and made stuffed peppars, a bunch of Salsbury steak with fried onions, a hearty beef stew and a salmon, shrimp and saffran chowder. Got it to about 40 meals for two people and split it with my grandparents-in-law (whereof the slightly 1979 dinner-party vibe to the menu).
posted by Iteki at 12:48 PM on June 26, 2011


I like cooking, so I rarely feel like using packaged meals, even when I packaged them myself. However, the same sort of tactics she's using for meat are even more useful for fruits and vegetables, which actually have seasons.

Fall is my favorite, so depending on my energy and time levels, I'll get a couple bushels of roasted green chiles, which I peel and bag separately; a bushel of apples, which I make into pies; and a few cooking pumpkins, which I cook and puree. I'm also a big fan of homemade soup stocks. You can pretty much make chicken and vegetable stock out of garbage, so it's almost free compared to the store stuff. I did the math once on a batch I'd made, and it would have cost me about $50 to buy that amount of stock premade. (And the one time I ran out and actually used premade stock, everybody noticed that the soup wasn't as good as usual.)
posted by ernielundquist at 12:51 PM on June 26, 2011


escabeche said: Of course, you have to be able to tolerate eating the same thing for dinner three nights in a row, but that doesn't bug us.

When I cook in bulk for myself I generally alternate, so I (approximately) end up eating one thing on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday, and a different thing on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. This is much less monotonous-feeling than eating the same thing on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, and a different thing on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. It's similar to the principle that if you own two suits and have a job that requires you to wear suits to work, you can fool people into thinking you have a more varied wardrobe by alternating them.

(escabeche, I am not sure you will appreciate this metaphor, because I'm guessing you don't wear a suit to work. But neither do I.)
posted by madcaptenor at 12:56 PM on June 26, 2011


FlyLady (and other domestic management blogs) for grown people--free of purple fairies and cutesy euphemisms.

YES. Please. I need prompting to do things each day, but not in a way that ignores my full-time job or suggests that weighing myself daily should be part of the routine.

I did find the 'cutie hubby' stuff awfully sick-making, but there are many who don't know how to do this stuff. I'm still staggered how many people buy expensive sandwiches each day from the sandwich shop rather than going to the supermarket, getting the constituent ingredients a few feet away from the sandwich shelf, and making it in the kitchen for pennies. I don't often have the time or energy for batch cooking (I house-share so I only have so much freezer space) but if you have multiple people to cook for it is cheap.
posted by mippy at 1:01 PM on June 26, 2011


I consider getting weighed evwy day yewy necessary. Weawy.
posted by Splunge at 1:43 PM on June 26, 2011


Funny how the frugality stuff always works out best for those who already have money to save. Want to save money on meals? You need a large freezer, a decent kitchen, and the luxury of going to the grocery store on off-peak hours to pick up the well-timed sales. This just isn't feasible if you live in a small apartment in the city and work 9-5.

Maybe this isn't feasible *for you*, but it's absolutely feasible under those conditions. I'm a 21 year old college student living in a small house with a smaller-than-normal fridge and freezer and a very small kitchen. I do most of my shopping at around 11 at night and have never gotten meat on sale (hell, I've never even seen it on sale). I have some combination of work and class from 8 in the morning until 4-6 at night. Despite that, we have about 2 weeks worth of meals in our freezer at any given time. Right now, we have lasagna, quiche, burritos, spaghetti sauce, soup, marinated steaks, and hamburgers in the freezer. Some of it is leftovers (we have a lot of "mystery burritos"...if there's just a little bit left of something, put it into a burrito and wrap it well. Labeling before freezing is optional, hence the mystery part). Others were made by setting aside a weekend afternoon to cook and using leftovers- if we have a lot of veggies that are about to go bad and chicken breasts are on sale that week, I'll cut the chicken up and put it in a freezer bag with some marinade (it will marinate as it thaws) and chop the veggies up in a different bag. When we decide we want stir-fry, it is as simple as putting them all in the fridge in the morning, then taking 10 minutes to cook them all together. Add a bag of boil-in-bag rice, and it takes 15 minutes to have dinner on the table.

I think it comes down to good planning. I am an avid couponer, which takes a total of about 45 minutes a week because we only shop at one store. 10 minutes to file away inserts (which we get for free from friends and family), 25 to look at the sale ad to make a list and add whatever we need that's not on sale, and another 10 to gather coupons. We base what freezer meals we make on what is on sale and pay very little for them. We make 1-2 meals every weekend, plus lunches for the coming week...so not giant batches once a month, but the same general idea and it definitely works.
posted by kro at 2:06 PM on June 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Here, a happy thought on cooking in bulk:

I used to work with a lady who put in 60+ hour weeks alongside me, but was the coolest parent I've ever seen. My favorite of her many family traditions was that -- come hell or high water -- they'd all assemble in the kitchen on Sundays, and tag-team the next week's worth of freezer meals.

Each of the two elementary-aged kids, having earned the right to use utensils and appliances with extreme attention to safety, would be entrusted to handle something important. There was fierce competition for certain tasks, as you might imagine.

Mom and Dad made a point of introducing new recipes or techniques often; knowing exactly what went into their food made the kids far less picky and more adventurous. I had the whole family over for Seder one year, and the kids were totally awesome, tried all the unfamiliar stuff fearlessly (have you ever seen a Hillel Sandwich? I've seen adults flee in terror), and were curious about everything.

Thinking about this family is about the closest I get to wanting children of my own.
posted by jake at 3:42 PM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm still staggered how many people buy expensive sandwiches each day from the sandwich shop rather than going to the supermarket, getting the constituent ingredients a few feet away from the sandwich shelf, and making it in the kitchen for pennies.

Some years ago, I brought a small fridge to my office. I have it stocked with good whole-grain bread, a jar of deli mustard, a jar of mayo, a few ripe tomatoes, an avocado or two, slices of cheese (muenster, provolone, swiss, etc.) and lettuce (or spinach). A good knife and cutting board stored in the cabinet (along with a nice pepper grinder) is all I need for an excellent sammich.

Supplement with olives, cornichons, yogurt or whatever I'm in the mood for. Possibly a couple of slices of bacon I cooked at home beforehand.

I spend about 2/3 less on my lunches now and eat much healthier. But then again, I really do love a good sammich.
posted by darkstar at 4:19 PM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


*noms sammich*
posted by darkstar at 4:31 PM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Hate?" "Snark?" Really?

This is news?
So color me naive, but
Wild guess at the tl;dr version
Anything actually groundbreaking going on here?

*licks finger* Uh-yup. We got us some USDA Prime snark here - and *sniff* it's almost expired. Anyways:

We used to do the OAMC thing, and picked up a freezer especially for it. Over time, we moved toward slow cooking instead of pre-prep / last minute assembly - it takes no time to throw some diced chuck or chicken, a can of tomatoes, some curry paste and a can of chickpeas in a casserole and throw it in a timer-set 160oC oven for a few hours, and with a convection microwave, even a roast dinner can be on the table with five minutes prep and 45 mins in the oven.

In the spring and summer we tend to eat a lot of fresh salads and grilled stuff, and we found OAMC was less help then. So our main monetary savings these days come from buying meat in bulk (quarters of beef and eights of pork, grass-fed and free range, and whole free range chickens when they're on sale) and using the freezer to store it, and our main time savings from not cooking stuff that requires a mountain of prep work in the first place.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:39 PM on June 26, 2011


Well, if you're talking some cheaper yet delicious cuts of meat, like skirt steak or cordelico or whatever...

This brings me to a question I've had for a while: is skirt steak actually cheap anywhere? I swear every grocery I've looked at, it's one the most expensive cuts around. It's $15/lb at the store nearest my apartment.
posted by !Jim at 4:46 PM on June 26, 2011


It's not cheap in Australia. At all. Fajitas is one of the most expensive dishes you can make here because avocados, bell peppers, cilantro, limes, skirt and even tortillas all cost a bloody fortune.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:58 PM on June 26, 2011


I almost can't believe this hasn't come up yet, but if this method results in fewer trips to the grocery store, most probably by car, then it will also help reduce petrol expenses and CO2 emissions.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 5:09 PM on June 26, 2011


I don't really understand this idea that people are too busy to cook. My husband and I both work full-time, and even when I was working full time and going to school full time with a toddler I cooked dinner pretty much every night. It isn't that time consuming unless you're trying to make beef Wellington or something. Big salads, pasta, quick stews, stir fry, occasional use of the slow cooker - dinner in 30-40 minutes (or less). And it isn't nearly-expired meat that I defrosted.

Now, I like to cook and I know a lot of people see it more as a chore. And a lot of people seem to add a lot of pointless busy-ness to their lives. But I don't understand how that 30 minutes of time is some insurmountable barrier to cooking and eating well. Particularly if you don't even have a job, FFS.

*noms darkstar's sandwich*
posted by jeoc at 5:47 PM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I buy marked down meet at Gelsons and Bristol Farms, which sell very good meat. But at the local chain? Ewww no. I also buy meat at my local Super-A, because sometimes I want Mexican cuts or offal or something weird-- same with the Korean markets. But ground chicken? Never.
posted by Ideefixe at 6:27 PM on June 26, 2011


Now, I like to cook and I know a lot of people see it more as a chore. And a lot of people seem to add a lot of pointless busy-ness to their lives. But I don't understand how that 30 minutes of time is some insurmountable barrier to cooking and eating well. Particularly if you don't even have a job, FFS.

If by "don't even have a job," you mean "are home full-time with your children," then, well, FFS right back at ya.

I do see cooking as a chore. And to cook dinner comes right at the time of day when I am at my lowest energy level. And the typical just-before-dinner hour also coincides with what we call "the witching hour," when our kids, who have been cheerful and well-behaved all day, suddenly go to pieces, start fighting with each other and being hyper and out-of-control. I am not a bad cook, but I don't love cooking, and to be able to do it on a weekday I mostly want to be left alone in the kitchen to do it. Unfortunately, it's right at the hour when the kids need me most and I am most depleted. So it's a big challenge, and I'm often not up to it. It's often hard to see why other people can't easily do the things that come easily for you.

I've experimented with various things that help with this, including moving toward quicker, simpler dinners; using the slow-cookier so that I'm doing most of my prep work early in the day, when I'm energetic and the kids are entertaining themselves; getting comfortable with eating the same things more often with only minor variations ("Look, kids--it's a new pasta shape!");and working on making better use of my freezer. For me, that has been less about planning ahead than about doubling, tripling, or quadrupling the recipe when I'm making something that freezes halfway decently. Recently, however, my partner brought home a 5-lb package of ground beef from Sam's Club, and I browned the whole thing and froze it in one-pound lots. Browning 5 lbs of beef is hardly more work than browning 1 lb, but I was struck by how much easier just not having to brown the beef made a number of dinners. So I am re-interested in being more thoughtful about planning ahead, and, even though I've read books and blogs about bulk cooking in the past, this was of interest to me.
posted by not that girl at 7:26 PM on June 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't get the 'too busy to cook' thing either.
Before we had kids we ate out a lot (3 or 4 times a week) but still cooked from scratch the other nights. Assuming you want a diet better than reheated frozen pizza, then cooking is on a par in time required to going for take out.
A chorizo pasta sauce over some spaghetti takes 20mins. Ordering Thai then going to pick it up takes the same time, but costs 6 times as much.
posted by bystander at 7:59 PM on June 26, 2011


Jeoc and bystander -- you say that you "don't understand" how people could think they're "too busy to cook."

Have you considered that this may be because you yourselves have always known how to cook, and so to you, it is a simple task? Not everyone has had that advantage.

I consider myself a facile enough cook (okay, at the risk of boasting, I'm pretty damn good), but I also know that that is ENTIRELY because of my mother encouraging me to try cooking, and my neighbor's mother being indulgent enough to let me and her daughter take over her kitchen and make ungodly messes (and sometimes cookies) when we were ten. Not everyone's mothers or fathers let them do that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:12 PM on June 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't really understand this idea that people are too busy to cook.
Hmm. I can't really explain it. I just know it's true. I eat better if I do a couple of little hacks, one of which is cooking on the weekends so I don't have to cook on weeknights. (I also pack my lunch the night before, because I never feel like doing it when I'm rushing around in the morning.) I'm not sure why I don't like cooking when I get home from work, but I don't. If that isn't what works for you, that's cool. Nobody says you have to do it.
posted by craichead at 8:28 PM on June 26, 2011


Take fresh food and freeze it!

What a hideous idea!
posted by bardic at 9:45 PM on June 26, 2011


I've done this my whole life, and was (and am) surprised that this is less common than I had assumed. I blame growing up with hippies -- there are all kinds of things I think of as unexceptional that have turned out to be a bit odd. Compared to the naked pagan reenactments, freezing meals is pretty benign.

Sort of similar here, but my parents are pretty heavy conservative, and are pretty well off. THey just grew up during the great depression, and learned to can/freeze'/etc. Growing up, i watched my mom do these things, helped her, and so on.

I was actually hoping the post would be more along the lines of "here are a lot of good recipes that work in bulk that you can freeze and will be good reheated", not "buy meat, marinate meat, freeze". :P
posted by usagizero at 3:11 AM on June 27, 2011


Wow, I'd like to shop where she shops.

Well, based on the fact that she shops at Weis and then in the followup post mentions being in Central PA, she lives in the same area as my parents. My mom likes to talk about grocery prices with me, and I can tell you that their meat is quite a bit cheaper there than it is in Minnesota where I live. Like, 50 cents to a dollar a pound cheaper, across the board. My parents also shop at a local non-chain grocery store that's cheaper still.

I love the idea every time it comes up here on on AskMe, but I have a hard time remembering to use the food I've frozen.
posted by cabingirl at 10:59 AM on June 27, 2011


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