Thursday, February 19, 2009

Your best tips

This is more of a discussion question than an actual recipe: what are your favorite tips for cooking good food while also (1) keeping the food bill down or (2) making the cooking quicker and more convenient? Discuss. Use examples. (That's my short stint in teaching composition coming through).

I'll start. Our local Walmart sells a 10 lb bag of chicken legs for under $5. That's the thigh and drumstick still in one piece, with bones and skins still very much in evidence. They're not even the handy Individual Quick Frozen variety. Okay, they're so cheap I can't pass them up, but they're obviously inconvenient.

So lately (now that my oven is available again), I buy this package, dump the pieces in a big ol' mixing bowl with marinade and somehow manage to shove it into my fridge. Sometime later when I remember, I throw it all in the oven and cook until the meat is falling off the bones. I usually have baked chicken with potatoes that night for dinner, which for the two of us barely makes a dent in the amount of chicken produced. So I let the rest of it cool, pull the meat off, and keep enough for three or four individual meals in freezer bags in the freezer.

I guess that is a lot of steps, but it doesn't seem like extra work, and then you've got chicken ready to throw into just about anything (chicken quesadillas at the drop of a hat). Someday I guess I'll have to weigh the meat and compare it to the weight of the bones, skin, gristle, fat and all that gets thrown out. What is the real price per pound here?

Oh, and I have to mention that you can drain off the fat and keep the juices. Is that the stock or is stock something different? Anyway, it gels in the fridge (really, like jell-o), and you can put a couple of spoonfulls into lovely sauces.

Now it's your turn. What do you do?


Ellen said...

While I don't know that I do this, I find that doing things in advance helps to save time at dinner time and often saves money in the long run. Things like buying dry beans and taking the time to soak them. Your chicken idea is great.

I'm also a big fan of buying things in bulk and splitting them up into usable amounts. Mostly I do this with meat and then freeze them.

As far as making things tastier, I'm all about spices. I know they can be pricey but they last a long time and with herbs, you can grow them yourself (which then tastes better).

Missa said...

I like to buy things at the case lot sales. They are much cheaper than they normally are, and it makes for instant food storage. Then when I make out my weekly shopping list, I am only buying fresh meat, milk, and produce.

On a side note: I was just feeding Katrina lunch. I put her in her chair and got out the jar of food. She did a happy little dance when she saw me open it. I love kids that like food.

Pink Panda said...

yes, Ellen, that jello stuff that comes out of the fridge is stock. You can also reheat it and use it in soups, etc. What was the question again? Keeping the food bill down? I like to add two pasta dishes to my menu each week. Bulk spaghetti at sams or costco is cheap, less than $1 a pound and I can feed my family on less than a pound for one meal. Then I add a meat protein- frozen meatballs, ground beef or turkey (ok not often turkey bu tsometimes, or the good ole bacon and eggs combo or parmesan cheese, butter and chicken or bacon fried with whipping cream- fettucine alla carbonara). I love making lasagna but it's too time intensive for me, even though people always say just make two and freeze one. I've neer done it. Maybe I will someday! We have that once or twice a year- Josh's b-day and when I cook for someone else. Life is good. Yesterday I threw some steaks in the deep covered cranberry stoneware from pampered chef. It could have used more spices- ok- a lot more of the spices, but when you put it with yummy mashed potatoes it was a lot better.