OT: Meal Planning


I’m marking this as “Off Topic (OT)” but it is sort of related to homeschooling. Those of us who homeschool know that those field trips, classes, tutors and curriculum costs can add up. You have to be smart and frugal to stay on-budget. One way to do this is by packing lunches and making dinner. Lots of homeschoolers I know use methods to help cut down on time-consuming recipes and keep our families eating healthfully.

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The Family Dinner Table

Freezer Cooking – I embarked on the freezer cooking method a few months ago. I found out that I had already been doing a method of freezer cooking and didn’t even know it. What I had been doing is buying meat in bulk, throwing some of the meat in a bag with marinade and freezing the whole thing. After reading about some other methods, I tried doing more of the prep work once or twice a month to try to cut down on prep during the week.   I also learned that you can freeze things like pasta by par-boiling it, coating with butter or oil and freezing  it on cookie sheets so it doesn’t clump together. This works like a dream!

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Here are some resources:
http://organizedhome.com/freezer-cooking/guide-once-month-cooking
http://moneysavingmom.com/downloads/freezer-cooking-planners
http://www.sixsistersstuff.com/2013/08/50-easy-freezer-meals.html

Pressure Cooking – I got a pressure cooker after the holidays having overheard a friend talking about how she could cook potatoes for dinner in just a couple of minutes. I didn’t get a fancy one – just a plain stove top one. We’ve used it a number of times now, and I highly recommend it for getting dinner done in a flash. You can even use your freezer-prepped recipes (once they are defrosted) to get them done in a flash.

The best websites I’ve found for this are:
http://www.hippressurecooking.com/
http://allrecipes.com/recipes/everyday-cooking/pressure-cooker/
http://missvickie.com/

crock pot

All Hail the Mighty Crock Pot!

Crock Pot Cooking – Everyone’s best friend is the crock pot. I can’t remember a time in my life that we didn’t have a crock pot. My mom (being a single, working mom) made regular use of the crock pot to keep us fed. What I’m finding now is that some of my freezer recipes can go straight into the crockpot and cooked all day. Best. Thing. EVER!

Best blog for crockpot cooking:
http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/
http://www.365daysofcrockpot.com/

Quick Cooking Beans Method – I know this is kind of an odd one to include, but dry beans are just so cheap and canned beans are just so full of nitrates and preservatives that I thought if I could share with you this simple time-saving method to cook beans in under 2 hours without soaking them, I could change some of your lives. 😉  I have tried this method with just about every kind of bean under the sun, and it works EVERY TIME.  Read this article for the full low-down.

http://www.thepauperedchef.com/2009/06/90-minute-no-soak-beans.html

(You can also do these in a pressure cooker or crockpot, but this is simple enough if you don’t have special equipment.)

Tried and True Canning Method

Canning – I have used canning for Christmas presents when we were young marrieds for things like ice cream sauce and salsa, but now I’m ready to try out the pressure-canning method for low-acid things like stews and stock. Here’s all you need to know to start on your canning journey to save your family some pennies so that you can take that trip to Europe next year!

http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_home.html
http://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/cooking-tips-techniques/preparation/canning-00100000064910/

Rice Cooker – If you don’t have a rice cooker, I recommend investing in one. It doesn’t have to be fancy. I got mine as a gift from my Aunt for Christmas. I didn’t know how much I would use it – but I use it at least once or twice a week. I don’t know why it helps so much, but the simple fact that I just have to put the rice and liquid in together, set it and walk away – makes me cook more rice. You can also use it for quinoa, barley, kamut, etc. I’ve used it on food prep days to make a big batch and freeze a few cups in quart sized bags for quick meal-prep.

I hope that gives you some inspiration to check out these time-saving and money saving methods to keep your family on track! Get the kids involved for some lessons in math and science!