Tag Archives: food

Monthly Cooking 4th month

Last weekend I cooked literally all day for the 4th month in a row. Well, I had about a 5 hour break – 1 where I went to a BBQ plate fundraiser for my friend’s brother and about 4 hours where I went to see a production of Smokey Joe’s Cafe.

To prep, I figured out how much time everything needed to cook and for how long. That way I wouldn’t be changing the oven temp back and forth and could plan my day around the crock pot temps. I was fairly successful, but I need to figure out how long it takes my oven to heat up and how long it takes to cook certain things on the stove, like 2 pounds of ground beef or the like. Some things took longer than others, and I was cleaning in between everything instead of in batches. I still haven’t figured out which one saves more time.

So this time around, I planned for 6 weeks of meals instead of my normal four. The weekend I’d be cooking would be the Saturday before tech Sunday. In non-theatre terms, tech Sunday is the Sunday before a show opens. Some theatres do it differently, and this one in particular holds a 10-out-of-12 – which means we are there for ten hours with a two hour break in the middle. This is usually 10am-10pm with a break around 4pm-6pm. It’s a long day and the last thing I want to do is spend 9-12 hours cooking on Saturday and 12 hours in rehearsal on Sunday. With tech week coming up (the last week of rehearsals where we put all the technical elements in – lights, set changes, props, costumes, etc) and opening weekend, I knew I wouldn’t want to cook the following weekend either. Tech week is always a long week, with work 8-5:30, rehearsal 6-potentially midnight – after opening all I ever want to do is sleep and relax. So for this cooking spree, I added two weeks, to last me through tech week and the week after opening. I ended up making 71 meals (because I was short a chicken breast, oops) and 72 breakfasts. Breakfasts will last me 2 full months (so I don’t have to worry about it next month).

This time I also did my grocery shopping on Friday night and did prep work that night while the bacon was cooking. I chopped up the onions, carrots, celery, garlic, and sausage. This made it simple to just dump the next day instead of taking more time to chop/prep.

To further see how much I’m saving, I broke down each recipe into how much they cost per serving. I’m hoping this will encourage me to save even more and find ways to make healthy and inexpensive meals. Since it’s just me, I have to be extremely careful about how much I spend.

My meals for the month are as follows:

Breakfasts:
* Cinnamon peanut butter muffins (12) – .20 each/2.40 recipe
* Double batch of lightened blueberry/raspberry muffins (24) – .48 each/11.52 each (this may fluctuate based on prices of the berries)
* Raspberry cream cheese danish thingies (12) – .70 each/8.40 recipe
* Bacon, egg, and avocado crustless quiche (12) – .90 each/10.80 recipe
* Sausage & egg muffins (12) – .43 each/5.10 recipe

Lunches/Dinners:
* Zucchini herb casserole (6) – so far this is the only recipe I don’t like – .90 each/5.40 recipe
* Chicken stuffed with spinach & ricotta (8) – 1.30 each/10.40 recipe
* Cheesy chicken & rice (8) – I love this one. I made it last time. – 1.06 each/8.45 recipe
* Bacon chicken pockets (8) – made this one last time, too. – 1.14 each/9.09 recipe
* Pepperoni pockets (8) – made this one with no recipe, so we’ll see how this one turns out – .72 each/5.75 recipe
* Pizza dough (8) – .19 each/1.50 recipe (adding toppings, each serving will be about .38 each)
* Nachos (4) – 2.88 each/11.53 recipe (ground beef is expensive!)
* Sausage tortellini soup (10) – trying this one tonight. I hope it’s good! – 1.48 each/14.75 recipe (sausage was free since I have a few venison/sausage links from my cousin)
* Chicken noodle casserole (6) – 2.55 each/15.30 recipe (bought a mix package, which is why this was more expensive. If I made it from scratch, it would be less expensive)
* Creamy chicken ranch (5) – SO DELICIOUS. This is one of my favorites! – 1.66 each/8.30 recipe
I also made the cream soup whenever it called for it (instead of cream of chicken) for .66 each.

I also have a few leftovers from the previous month:
* Nachos (4)
* Pizza dough (2)
* Cheesy chicken & rice (1)
* Sandwiches (5)

As usual, I factor in at last 6 times going out to eat. This comes out to about 90 meals total.

In addition to all those meals, I also made some sweets:
* Fruit salad (9) .86 each/7.74 recipe
* Graham/chocolate ice cream (probably 10) – .54 each/5.40 recipe
* Merengue cookies (30) – .08 each/2.25 recipe
* Double chocolate peanut butter protein bars (18) – .34 each/6.12 recipe
* Fruit leather (18) – .24 each/4.32 recipe
* apple cinnamon oats (12) – .33 each/3.90 recipe

When I get heavy into rehearsals, I will have to take modified dinners with me – I’ve been taking the protein bar, a few slices of cheese, and either fruit or the fruit leather. I know it’s not a meal, but I’m trying to pick simple things that are more or less healthy.

Altogether, I spent about $160 on meals for 6 weeks. 72 breakfasts, 71 lunches/dinners, cookies, bars, ice cream, fruit leather, apple oats, and fruit salad. Can’t really beat that!

Advertisements

8 hours later…

After approximately 8 hours of cooking over the course of two days, I now have all my meals made for the next 3 weeks!  Well, I have breakfasts for at least two months and meals for one month.  I’ve even planned it so I have a few days worth of meals after I get back from Colorado.

When planning my grocery list, I listed everything I was going to make in a column and then had a column for all the ingredients I would need.  Then I tallied each column. That way I could figure out how many chicken breasts I’d need, or how much buttermilk I’d need.  I’d need sixteen chicken breasts!  Oi!

The first time I cooked for a month, I did not plan it so well.  I cooked things in any random order and ended up putting the chicken in the crockpot at the very end.  This time I went into it with a plan.  I spent about two hours figure out what I needed to make, then figured out cooking times and temps, and which items could overlap.  This time, I started with the chicken in the crockpot.  My process was:

* Preheat the oven to 400 to cook the bacon.  I’d need 24 slices and there was no way I’d do that in my Pampered Chef baker or in the skillet.  While the oven was heating up I lined up the bacon on a few trays and when I was done I put together the chicken taco spice mix.  Then I dumped that, with the chicken and rotel into the crockpot.  It would need to cook for about 3 hours.  Meanwhile, I:
* Cooked the bacon.  I cooked 12 slices for half the time – those would go into the egg cups.  I also got the pizza dough mix started – it would need to rise for about an hour.
* I let the half cooked bacon cool down a bit and then put them in a muffin tin, cracked an egg in the center, and popped them in the oven once the other tray of bacon was done cooking.
* While the egg cups were cooking, I cooked up the ground beef (next time I’ll do the sausage first!) and beans for nachos, setting aside half of the beef for burgers.  I divided it up into two containers (2 servings each) and cleaned up a bit.
* Then I cooked up the sausage and got the egg mixture ready for the breakfast cups.  By the time the egg cups were done, the beef and sausage had been cooked and I put together the breakfast cups (ground sausage and eggs). 
* While the breakfast cups were cooking, I put together the pastry cups and heated up the pan for the breakfast tacos.
* The pastry cups were ready to go in when the breakfast cups were done, and while those were cooking I cooked up the eggs for the tacos.  I timed this pretty well – I had just finished distributing the eggs when the pastry cups were done.  
* I let the grill pan heat up and then I took about 10 minutes here to clean up the kitchen a bit.  By the end  the pizza dough was done rising so I divided it into 4 balls (8 servings) and stuck them in the freezer.  I put the egg cups and breakfast cups in freezer bags and put them in the freezer as well.  
* The pastry cups still needed to cool, so while they were doing that I cooked the burgers.  While the burgers were cooking I assembled the rest of the tacos and wrapped them up.  While the burgers cooled I put the tacos in the freezer.  The chicken was about done by now so I chopped them up directly in the crockpot with my PC salad cutters (which are also perfect for quickly cutting up chicken!).  Then I let the shredded chicken cook for 30 more minutes.
* While the chicken was on the last leg of cooking, I made the copycat Chuy’s Jalapeno Ranch dip.  I made two batches of this – one for the enchiladas and one to use as pizza base or a sauce or however I wanted to use it.  By the time I was done with both batches, the chicken was done.  I dumped it in a bowl to cool and cleaned up the kitchen.
* Then I assembled the enchiladas and put them in the oven.  When I was done I finished cleaning up the kitchen and storing everything that was still out.  When the enchiladas were done I let them cool completely before dividing them up into 4 containers (4 lunches)

All of that took about 4.5 hours (plus about one inactive 30 mins or so while the enchiladas cooked).  Chicken cooked for 3 hours, and during that time I made 3 items that took about 30 mins each to cook and the rest of the items took about an hour (cooking the beef, burgers, sausage, cleaning, storing).  The last hour was the prep for the enchiladas and the cleaning up.  I’m sure once I do this more often I’ll get the hang of it.  I’m sure that there was a better way for me to do things that I’ll fix the next time.  

Today, I finished up what I still had left.

* Put about 6 chicken breasts in the crock pot for 4 hours on low.  While they cooked I:
* Got the dough ready for the hamburger buns. 
* While the dough was rising I put together my cheesy bacon ranch potatoes.  Being resourceful, I used the remainder of the dip from my Tony party, which happened to be the perfect amount (and a bit healthier since it was from a tub of sour cream).  It didn’t take long to throw it together and then it baked for 45 minutes.
* While that was baking, I put together the dough for the Biscoff cookies.  I divided them up and put them in the fridge for 3 hours as directed. They would be done at just about the same time as the chicken.  I also had time to make my ice cream and store it (it only took about 30 mins start to finish).
* When the potatoes were done, the dough was ready to be divided and go into its second rise.  While that was happening I ran to get lunch and when I got back they were ready to bake.
* Since I had done the bulk of cooking/baking the day before, there was a lot more downtime today.  I had about an hour left before the chicken was done where I didn’t have to do anything and could relax.  When the chicken was done I chopped it up and let it simmer in the crockpot for about 15 mins while I got the cookie dough out and turned the oven back on.  While the cookies were baking (8 mins) I divided up the chicken into bags – got about 11 baggies and that SHOULD cover about 22 meals.  I’m really stretching the chicken as far as it can go!  By the time I was done with that, the cookies were done.  And I am done!  I’m going to make a peach/raspberry cobbler tomorrow and then I’ll be done.

The only things I DIDN’T make were precooking the chicken breasts I’m going to use for my sliders and chicken monterrey dishes.  I’ll be freezing the rest of the chicken breasts (about 12 of them).  I didn’t cook any pasta or put together wraps as those taste better fresh.

So, in all, this is what I have for the month:
* 12 blueberry muffins (made those last week)
* 12 bacon/egg cups
* 12 raspberry/cream cheese pastry cups
* 12 sausage/egg cups
* 12 bacon/egg tacos
(60 breakfasts = 2 months at least)

* 4 Enchiladas (would be 8 but I’m sharing with Aly)
* 4 burgers (and 8 buns – but the buns are HUGE so next time I’ll make smaller ones and get 12-16 buns)
* 4 nachos
* 8 pizzas (each dough ball makes one small pizza – I’m planning to eat half and supplement with fruits/veggies/salad)
* 20 bags of chicken (I put 2 toward the pizzas – so 20 leftover bags for:
       * 4 pasta dishes
       * 4 wraps
       * 8 quesadillas
       * 4 other – sandwiches, with a rice/veggie mix, etc
* 4 breakfast for dinner or brunch – 2 each of pancakes and waffles
* 6 sandwiches
(50 meals – 25 lunches and dinners)

Of course there is some flexibility – a few times going out to eat or only eating half of something.  I have 22 days until Colorado so I’ll have a few days worth of food to come home to.  And if I NEED to I can always do breakfast for lunch/dinner more often until I get to the store again. 🙂

But for $185 (some of it I didn’t use all of it and will be able to use it next month, like Alfredo sauce, flour, pasta, OREO PEANUT BUTTER CUP COOKIES, mason jars, etc).  So if I estimate that I spent about $170 on groceries, that comes out to about $1.75 a meal, or just over $5 a day.  That’s not so bad!  So here’s to this month and hoping I stay on track and eat everything!

Meal planning

I’m on the end of my month of meal planning.  I didn’t do so bad, actually.  I’ve eaten almost everything I bought or put together, but there was some that went to waste.  I’m really trying to hold myself accountable for eating healthy and aside from a few slip ups, I did a pretty good job.  I’m going shopping this Saturday for the next 3 weeks (since I’ll be on vacation the last week) and I really am going to try to stick to my plan.  With my new freezer and much more space to store frozen meals, I hope it will be easier this month.  Nothing is perfect right out of the gate, right?

To (hopefully) ensure I will stick to my meals, I’m going to try and chronicle them here.  So my meals for the next 3 weeks will be:

Breakfast:
I’m actually making TWO MONTHS worth of breakfasts!  This will make it easier for the next month – I won’t be spending quite as much.
* 12 “pastry” cups – using Pillsbury crescent rolls, cream cheese, and raspberry pie filling
* 12 bacon & egg cups
* 12 sausage casserole cups
* 12 breakfast tacos
* 12 blueberry muffins (already made these)

Lunches/dinners:
*** Homemade rolls
*** Homemade pizza dough
* 4 servings of nachos (ground beef, beans, cheese, avocado, and tomato), fruit
* 4 servings of chicken enchiladas & salad
* 4 wraps (using the remaining tortillas from the enchiladas – 2 wraps = 4 meals) & fruit
* 2 chicken sandwiches with bacon & guac, fruit and/or corn on the cob
* 4 burgers (4 oz beef, cheese, pickles, on a homemade dinner roll OR in a lettuce wrap), salad, fruit
* 2 chicken with avocado, tomato, and mozzarella & salad
* 8 quesadillas (using remaining tortillas from the breakfast tacos) – chicken, beans, cheese, fruit
* 4 pesto chicken pasta (homemade pesto and light alfredo sauce, chicken), salad
* 8 personal pizzas (using homemade dough) – pepperoni, chicken pesto, ricotta, cheese & tomato, BLT, etc
* 6 sandwiches – grilled cheese, pb&j, cheese & turkey, peanut butter, banana, & honey
Breakfast for dinner (or lunch):
* 4 waffles/pancakes with choice of eggs, bacon, or potatoes, and fruit

Sides:
* Fruit (strawberries, bananas, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, kiwi, peaches, oranges)
* Salad (likely just lettuce, feta, & dressing, although I might try a copycat Melting Pot a time or two!)
* Corn, tomatoes, potatoes, zucchini, cucumber, celery

Desserts:
I am planning on making two sweets each month. 
* Ice cream – likely cake batter oreo (or maybe s’mores)
* Cookies – using Biscoff cookie butter

Snacks:
* Chocolate peanut butter granola bars – I made these already – just a little something if I want something sweet and somewhat healthy, probably good before or after a workout

The reason why I’m doing this is because I am kind of wasteful.  I don’t always eat everything in my fridge (or freezer) before it goes bad.  Not only do I waste food, but I waste money.  I’m hoping being very careful about what I buy and planning in advance will not only encourage me to eat everything I have, but also make healthier choices. Clearly, I have a ways to go as you can tell by some of my meal choices.  I’m even planning on breaking down the costs of each meal and see how much I can stretch a dollar.  My goal is to not eat out as much and start cooking more.  I’m hoping as I do this, I will branch out a little.