Monday, October 12, 2009

Food: This week in bargain shopping...

So I sent my intrepid husband, Barronius, to the stores armed with printed lists (one for each of the two stores), handwritten lists denoting amounts of items to purchase from the printed lists plus extra items, and a stack of coupons.

There was a coupon for three packages of hot dogs at a very reasonable price, and a coupon for 10/$10 on hot dog buns. I wrote on the list VERY CLEARLY to only buy three... and explained verbally before he left that it is NOT necessary to buy all ten to get the savings from the coupon. There was also a great deal on tart apples, red grapes, and some tender beef cuts. Also, a very cheap price on boneless/skinless chicken breasts and breast tenders (strips)

As you can guess, he came home with TEN packages of hot dog buns. I barely have room in the freezer for one, let alone ten. But he did spot another cut of meat that was at the same sale price for the roasts and picked some up, so I quickly forgave him. I packed half the buns (still in their original packaging) inside a couple of huge 2.5 gallon freezer bags and left them out on the shelf. They won't stay there long. I stashed a couple in the fridge too, and we had hotdogs for a quick meal on shopping day, so that was almost one package down... woo hoo!

Monday was spent clearing space in the freezer, dealing with a 10 pound bag of potatoes, and processing a couple of the roasts. First I washed all the potatoes and oiled and salted six of the best baking shapes in the oven to roast. While those were cooking for an hour, I peeled and washed the rest of the bag, dunking each in a bowl of salted water as I finished.

(PS. Don't try to put an entire bag's worth of potato peelings down your garbage disposal. Let's just say I had to make a small plumbing pit-stop in the middle of all this... the entire PVC pipe leading from the disposal to the drain was PACKED with unground peels.)

I then chunked up the potatoes, and packed a few cup's worth of chunks into each quart freezer bag, added a teaspoon of salt to each bag, and covered with water. I then pressed all the air out and laid them flat in the freezer on a cookie sheet. I'll remove them from the sheet on Tuesday and place them in the freezer as I normally would. The salted water method was outlined in my "Ball Blue Book of Canning" as being good (there's a section in the back about freezing), but I'm still worried about discoloration. We'll see how it goes. I saved one bag of chunks for dinner, but I kind of lost track of where I stashed it in the fridge (who can see with a bazillion bags of hot dog buns in the way?). Hopefully it won't turn up later some place that's unrefrigerated... that'd be my luck.

The roasting potatoes still had some time to go, so I took out one package of the steaks and chunked those up as well. I divided this into four parts, packing and freezing three parts, and tossing the fourth in a bowl with flour, garlic salt, and pepper. My dutch oven got called into service, and I browned it up. I added some onion, and baby carrots. Once this had had a bit of time, I added a cup of beef stock and a half a bag of the red sauce I had left from our last spaghetti adventure that needed to be used up. I set this to simmer, covered, while I cast about for a way to use up some of those buns without grinding them all up into soft, but less nutritious than I liked, bread crumbs.

Since I had a LARGE bag of apples and all that bread, I decided that Apple Bread pudding would be the way to go. Unfortunately it only takes half a package of buns to make four cups of bread cubes, so I may be making this twice. It turns out hubby liked it a LOT, so that will be okay.

By the time I'd chosen a recipe for the bread, the roasting potatoes were done. After letting them cool for ten minutes, I halved them, scooped out the flesh, and set the shells aside. I then mashed the middles with sour cream, garlic salt and pepper, and shredded sharp cheddar. I then packed this mixture back into the shells, topped this with more cheddar, smooshed it down into the potato a bit so it would stick, and put three each into quart freezer bags which I then labelled and froze. Since they are mostly fully cooked (not counting the cheese) they only need to be heated through to be enjoyed.

I assembled the Apple Bread Pudding, and set it to bake. By this time it was time to add the potatoes to the stew (I add them late in the game because I don't like them to break apart too much from stirring). Since I couldn't find the reserved bag of potato chunks (please don't let them turn up in a cupboard somewhere) I pulled one of the bags from the freezer which was well-chilled, but not yet frozen. I drained those and added them instead.

Dinner was a success. Hubby claimed he wasn't all that hungry, but still put away two bowls full and had dessert as well. Little MP ate all her stew, but wanted ice cream instead of the pudding. I tried to push for ice cream on top of the pudding, but since it was cookie dough, I understood the reluctance.

So... a good day of preserving grocery deals. I still have the chicken tenders and breasts to deal with, along with another package of beef. But I don't want this to get too long, so I'll cut it off now. I plan on making chicken strips out of the tenders, and repackaging the breasts into meal-sized portions. The beef will be cooked and shredded, then packed and frozen. Not bad for half price on everything... except the ice cream, lol.

Added later: I ended up making a triple batch of chicken curry out of the chicken tenders instead of breaded strips for later baking (like chicken nuggets). I just did NOT have the energy in me to batter, crumb-coat, and par-bake two whole packages. I did cook and shred one roast, and packaged the other roast for the freezer. It is stuffed quite full now, but this is good, since it means I won't be *forced* to go shopping for quite some time.

Someone asked for the Chicken Curry recipe, so I'm adding it to the post.

There are a couple of recipes for chicken curry that I use... the best one for the freezer is as follows. You can add things to it at the night you're serving it like peppers, cashews, etc. but those items don't freeze well, so I leave them out. This is tailored for a "Food Club" size tray of chicken, but you can buy the regular size to get the 6 lbs. needed, or scale the rest of the recipe. This is a mild curry... I typically add more powder to heat it up a bit.

Freezer Chicken Curry

1 tray (6 Lbs.) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
2 cups chopped onions
1/4 cup curry powder
2 tablespoons minced ginger
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons chicken bouillon granules
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups water
4 cups milk
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 1-gallon freezer bags

1. Rinse and trim chicken as desired. Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces and cook in a large skillet over medium heat until no longer pink, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat and cool. Divide cooled chicken evenly among freezer bags.

2. While chicken cools, melt butter in a separate large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring until soft, about 5 minutes. Add curry powder, ginger, garlic, sugar, bouillon and salt; cook, stirring for 2 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring, 2 minutes longer. Mixture will be like a paste. Gradually add the water and milk; cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce has thickened. Whisk to make a smooth sauce. Add lemon juice only after the sauce has thickened. Cool sauce.

3. Divide cooled sauce evenly over the chicken.

4. Seal and Freeze.

To use later, thaw overnight in the fridge, then cook over medium heat in a skillet till hot and bubbly. Serve over rice, or with warm flatbread.


  1. Awesome! Each week I try to include a new cost-cutting measure into my food shopping. This is great encouragement.

    Seriously, who can blame Barronius? There's some voodoo trickery at those grocery stores that mixes up your mind and makes you go off the list!

    I've actually been cooking more. I make chicken parm and alfredo noodles the other day...a huge hit. So what's the recipe for the curry chicken?

  2. I'll add the recipe to the post so everyone sees it for sure. :D

  3. Oh, and yes, I agree with the concept of supermarket voodoo. They're like casinos that way, engineered to make you spend, spend, spend. That's why it's important to *try* to stick to the list, otherwise you get sucked in. :D

    BTW if you find a good deal on chicken breasts for Parm, you can prepare them ahead of time, freeze, and pack all the components needed for the meal together in a larger bag, like a "dinner in a bag" kit you see at the store. But cheaper. The frozen red sauce works great for that.

    There are two books I'm practically living out of right now. One is The Everything Meals For A Month Cookbook and the other is the Fix, Freeze, Feast cookbook. Both have been invaluable.

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