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Please don't remind me that I'm poor; I'm having too much fun pretending I'm simply "living green" like everyone else these days.


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Frozen skillet meals

Do you ever buy those bagged frozen skillet meals?  Or the bagged frozen crock pot meals?  I can't think of a brand name right this minute.  It's those frozen meals that say brown an amount of meat, add the package of veggies and the sauce, then cook until done.  Do you have any idea how much you are paying for a personal chef to choose the veggies for you, cut them up for you, and freeze them for you? 

Personally, I don't have a personal chef's salary in my budget so why would I want to pay for a personal chef through my grocery shopping?  Gee whiz, buying frozen skillet or crock pot meals is almost as bad as paying extra for frozen veggies with "butter" sauce.  I think I'm perfectly capable of adding a pat of butter to my veggies without the extra cost. 

I don't know about you but I like to choose my own veggies.  The frozen meals often contain way too many cheap "filler" veggies which could be something no one in the family really likes all that well.  You might find many of those filler veggies remaining on the plate after the meal is finished.  So let me ask you?  At what cost are you paying for those frozen meals?  Not the price.... the cost of paying for the convenience of a personal chef?   Wouldn't you rather spend the extra money on something fun to do instead of extra cost on groceries?

Ok, so go sharpen your veggie knife and let me show you how I make my own frozen skillet and crock pot meals.  This is just one example of my frozen meals to show you how easy it is to do your own.  I found these in the discount bin while shopping Thursday.  I like a stir fry made with smoked sausages.  It was just a stroke of luck that these are made from chicken which is better for my diet.

The first thing to do is decide whether the meal will be fried, baked, or put into a crock pot.  I could put all of the meals into plastic bags but I'm going one step farther for these.  I'm packaging these in foil just in case I want to put them in the oven.  It will depend on the amount of time I have when I decide to cook these.  

I cut the sausages into bite size pieces and divide them into portions for two meals.  Five packs of sausages make ten meals for two.  This would be for Ladybug and me or two meals for me.  The largest area I have for laying out foil is my intake table. 

I like onions in my stir fry so I cut up a bunch of those.  Might as well chop them all.  What's left can be frozen to use later in other meals.  Actually, I cut up the onions before I started preparing the meals.  Once I started putting these meals together I didn't want to stop until finished. 

Green peppers (or color peppers) just naturally go with onions in this house.  I happen to have a bunch of them already in the freezer.   I got these peppers from the discount bin back in March.  They are copped and ready to add to the meals.

I like mushrooms as well in my stir fry.  I look in the freezer but there isn't any frozen so I use canned.  Everything is divided in portions and put onto the foil.

I add a bit of soy sauce, a bit of stir fry sauce, a bit of cornstarch, and these are ready to go into the freezer.  Hmm.... I could have added some scrambled eggs or some other veggies.  I think these will be ok as it.  The only thing I'm going to add is some rice.  I look in the freezer and find the packages of rice already cooked and frozen in portions for two.  Ten packages happen to be what I had in the freezer.  Lucky again.

I roll up the foil, stick a label on it, (made from scotch tape), and put into numbered freezer bags.  Two packaged meals plus two packs of rice fit into one bag.  If I make frozen meals that someone else might be cooking, I'd put the cooking instructions inside the numbered bag.  I mean, say for example, a lady prepares these for a husband to fix while she's away at a quilting retreat or something.   Husbands (and others) don't always know what to do with something taken from the freezer so it's best to give them detailed instructions. 

The meals are all finished.  Five numbered bags which represent either ten meals for Ladybug and me or twenty meals for just me. 

Now was it that hard to put together some frozen prepared meals?    Think about this the next time you are tempted to pick up a frozen meal in a bag.  Do you want fillers or do you want only what will be eaten?  If you want to read more about my thoughts on paying for a personal chef at the grocery go read this post here

Hmm.... I'm sure the new readers of my blog are wondering about the numbered freezer bags.  You can read more about those in this post here.  I should have another post about how the freezer looked when full but I can't find that post.  Since the time I wrote that post, I've made a few changes to how I organize my freezer.  I'll do an updated post either today or Monday showing more details.  I think the freezer is much better organized than it was back then.

Ok, back on subject, let's say on the day I choose one of these meals for dinner, I decide not to bake it but want to put it into a crock pot.  I remove it from the foil, put into the crock pot, add a can of tomatoes and that's it.  The rice can be either added to the crock pot during the last few minutes of cooking or zapped in the microwave.  If I decide to actually fry the stir fry meal I unwrap and put into a skillet.  Get the idea?  One preparation, several options. 

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