Since the grocery bill for feeding 6 has been rising quickly I have been back into "make the money stretch" mode. In the past I have done Once-a-month cooking which did help the budget, but many of the meals were not a huge hit with the kids, and it meant 2 miserable days of cooking. To help eliminate the picky groaning, I had the kids help plan and cook meals. For that purpose it worked beautifully, but it wasn't so kind on the budget and took more time. So I have been looking for a compromise that will be kind to the budget and the kids still get to help with some of the planning and prep.
Not long ago I ran across a blog (sorry i don't recall where) that mentioned she froze some browned hamburger meat. I thought, "Hey, if I had the meat ready and a list of meals to choose from that would save time." The blog also mentioned how she used carrots to make the meat stretch further...I need that. I also wasn't sure how much help I would be getting (sweet hubby-man was having to work) so I didn't want to do a whole months worth of meals, so I decided to break it down by meat and only do one meat a week and stock up over several weeks.
This week - BEEF WEEK.
The day started with grating carrots. Well, grating carrots, chasing kids in and out of showers, making sure chores were done, and general keeping the peace that goes along with having 4 kids 8 years old and under. By lunch time I was ready to move on. While the 3 youngest went to quiet time after lunch, my oldest offered to help with the grating while I got to work on the meat balls.
I had a recipe for the meat balls...then I fudged it a lot. I started with 4 eggs and about a cup of diced onions.
Then 2 sleeves of crushed crackers - I had my 4yo crush them earlier durring one of those "peace keeping" disruptions earlier.
Next came 2 cups of grated carrots, and seasoning (salt, italian seasoning, garlic...just about that much, looks good - I used to measure everything, but my husband has rubbed off on me)
Topped by the ground beef, just shy of 5 lbs.
Mixed by hand until it is evenly smooth and mushed.
I don't like huge meatballs so I made some medium sized (made with a table spoon) and some small size (with melon baller). I actually like the small size better so I made more pans of those.
Pan of medium size balls
Pan of small size balls
Then drain and cool while the next pan goes in. I packaged each pan's worth of meat balls into one freezer bag (thus one meals worth for us).
Next came the browning of meat. Diced onion (about half and onion), shredded carrots (1 cup), minced garlic (1 T), taco seasoning, and ground beef (about 2.5 lbs) - I repeated this 4 times for a total of nearly 10 lbs of beef
I bagged the the browned meat into freezer bags, about 1 lb of cooked mixture each bag, enough for most meals. Then into the freezer. -9 bags of browned hamburger.
-6 bags of meatballs
We actually pulled one bag right back out to make meat sauce over pasta for dinner, and it was a hit!
Next I think I'll try chicken.