A Killer Cooking Shortcut – And Frugal, Too!
Every financial blog you read recommends that you cook at home as much as possible. Eating out can be an enormous financial drain, and then there is the additional problem of oversized, high calorie restaurant portions. If you don’t believe restaurant food will make you FAT, Google the name of your favorite restaurant and nutrition and see how much chicken Alfredo or the steak feast will add to your intake! It’s not unusual to see 1,500 calorie entrees on the menu, without even adding soup, salad, appetizers, beverages or desserts
It’s not that hard to get into the habit of cooking at home. I used to cook far less, rationalizing that I was walking in tired and hungry after my afternoon commute. Now, I’ve gotten myself into the firm habit of cooking our evening meal in 30 minutes or less, and it’s far better than anything cheap that I could buy. I will even set up the meal, for instance, get the salmon poaching at a good bubble and the fresh corn up to a boil, turn the stove off, and go walk my little dog, letting the residual heat in the heavy, covered pans cook the fish and veggies on through. Or, I’ll set it up my main dish in the microwave and go walk Sammy. I have then accomplished several things: made a healthy dinner, walked my little dog so he doesn’t get any fatter, enjoyed being outdoors for a few minutes, and gotten a little exercise. (Note that this is safe. I am not leaving the stove or regular oven unattended.)
Of course, I’m on the lookout for short-cut and frugal cooking ideas.
Here’s a terrific shortcut that I haven’t read about as a tip in all the financial books and blogs – really, don’t you get sick of reading the same old tips over and over? I buy a giant 5- or even a 10-pound package of lean ground beef when there’s a good price and I brown the whole thing, stirring and breaking it up into crumbly pieces. I use my big Dutch oven for this, far less messy than using a big frying pan. Then, I drain the beef very, very thoroughly, removing absolutely as much grease as I can, and bag it in sandwich bags.
The store where I shops sells the same thing at a premium price, bagged, in the freezer section. You can shake out what you need and put the rest back. You could easily make that (and use less sandwich bags) by spreading it in a thin layer on a cookie sheet, freezing it, breaking it up and then bagging it, but my freezer does not accommodate a very big sheet and I like to cook this staple ingredient in serious quantities. I always use it up before it gets old, and I can always knock out a quick meal with it.
Then, when I’m cooking and need browned ground beef, I just grab a sandwich bag. I pack them with enough for the two of us. There are a bunch of things I can make with this, for instance, relleno casserole, tacos, stuffed bell peppers, a macaroni and beef dish, soups, and so forth. I get to skip the greasy brown-the-ground-beef job, and also skip the defrosting hassle, since these little bags will thaw out in the microwave in less than two minutes.