Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Tricks Up My Sleeves (Time Saving Recipes Inside)

I came to a stark realization this school year. I can't keep up with it all. A child in kindergarten, my own fifth grade class to teach, volunteering at church, a husband and marriage to tend to, a house to keep clean, grocery shopping, couponing, meal preparing and planning. It was all getting to me. I can't say that it still doesn't, but I decided I had to make some changes. I found myself coming home after work exhausted. Flat out body hurting tired. I didn't feel like standing at a stove or even thinking about dinner. Since a hungry five year old and husband come around every night around dinner time, I had to do something.

I wanted to do something that would please my family. You might find something that seems easy, but you have to prepare foods that actually work for you and your family. Every family has different tastes and preferences, and this is what is working for my family. I hope that sharing my ideas can help you. But remember that this is all null and void at the end of the day if your family doesn't like what you're making.

I thought about cooking for a month. This does work for some people. I've tried it before and some of the recipes were not a hit with my hubby. There are still some things that I sometimes make ahead and freeze (such as sauces), but the whole cooking for a month and freezing it thing just wasn't working for us.

Then I thought about my crock pot/slow cooker. I considered that many people frequently use their crock pots on a regular basis. The thought of coming home and dinner being done made my heart happy, so I began to do some research. There are some recipes that have not been a hit with my family, but I have found some that work for us. Some of my tips, tricks and recipes are as follows:

My Slowcooker
I have a slow cooker with a timer on it. After cooking for the time I told it to cook, it shuts off to warm and keeps my dinner warm until I get home. This is the model I have here. You don't have to go out and get a new slow cooker if you don't have one with a timer. Just cook everything on low if you are going to be gone all day. Then one day when your current slow cooker gives out, buy one with a timer.

Meat Purchasing and Stockpiling
Being the couponer that I am, stockpiling might as well be my middle name. Buying meat on sale is very important regardless of how you cook. Personally, I can't beat the prices at my local Sam's Club. Learning the best price to purchase meat at in your area will prevent over-spending and allow you to budget. I like to go to Sams Club about once a month and I usually only purchase meat at this trip. The meat I purchase is as follows:
-Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts ($1.99/lb at Sam's Club)
-Chuck Roast--these are huge and I usually get four roasts for our family out of it when I slice them in half ($2.88/lb at Sam's Club) This cut of roast turns out the most moist and is very versatile in the crock pot.
-90% Lean Ground Beef-this comes in a GIANT tube to get it at the lowest price, it usually lasts us 2 months after I slice it up and portion it out. ($2.39/lb at Sam's Club)
-Round Steak--because I am cooking in a crock pot, this cheaper cut of meat saves money and is tenderized by cooking slow all day ($2.98/lb at Sam's Club)
Sometimes I also purchase Italian Sausage or a large Pork Loin that I portion up. Lately the hubby is tired of pork, so we're taking a break from it.

Things to have on hand for Crock-Potting:
-Stock/broth: I often get cans or cartons of chicken, beef or vegetable broth/stock on sale. Usually one can is enough for whatever meal you're making, but the carton is nice to store in the fridge.
-Onion Soup Mix
-Beef Bullion Cubes
-Canned Tomatoes (also frequently on sale)
-Dry Beans of your choice
-Onions, garlic, carrots, potatoes, frozen veggies, etc.
-Crock Pot Liners (sold where the foil and saran wrap are) these are a lifesaver. Just remove, rinse your crock pot and you're done.

Before you read my recipes, please know that this is NOT an exact science. The glory of slow cooker cooking is that there is a lot of room for variation. I don't measure anything. I eyeball it all.


Traditional Pot Roast (AKA Sunday Dinner)
I frequently put this in the crock pot on Sunday Mornings
1 Chuck Roast big enough for your family
1-2 cans or a carton of beef stock/broth
Carrots cut into chunks or the baby carrots are fine
2 small/medium onions cut into fourths
1 beef bullion cube
1 packet of onion soup mix (optional)

Coat the roast with salt and pepper. If you have time, sear it in a pan with hot oil. If you don't have time, don't fret. I've done it both ways and it's good. Put your crock pot liner in the crock pot. Put the roast in. Add the carrots, onions, beef bullion cube, onion soup mix, and any other seasoning you think looks good. Then add the beef stock and some water so the top of the roast will be covered.
Put your slow cooker on low for 8 hours or on high for four. When I'm making this on Sunday I put it on high and it's ready when we get home. I like to make mashed potatoes with my roast. However, you can also add potatoes to this roast if you really want them in there.

Beef and Noodles
1 small chuck roast
2-3 cans of cream of mushroom soup
Beef Stock
salt, pepper to taste
Egg Noodles or any noodle of your choice.

Line your slow cooker. Put the roast in the crock pot and dump the cream of mushroom soup over the top. Cook on low for 8-10 hours. Shred the beef and then boil the noodles on your stovetop. Meanwhile, add beef stock to your shredded beef to thin it out a little. Drain the noodles when they are done and add to the beef. Stir together and then serve.

Totally Cheating Veggie Soup
1 bag of frozen veggies of your choice
1 can of diced tomatoes
1 can of chicken or veggie stock
a few handfuls of dry beans of your choice
1 can of tomato sauce (or cheat like me and take a can of those diced tomatoes and put them in your food chopper and you have sauce)
Salt, pepper, italian seasoning or what looks good to taste
Water (about a can full)
Pasta of your choice (optional)

Line the crock pot. Dump everything in. Stir. I know, this is so hard. Put the crock pot on low for 8 hours. If you want to add pasta then boil it when you get home and add it in. Serve with some warm rolls that you bought frozen and call it a day.

Beef Stew
1 small chuck roast cut into cubes
5 or 6 carrots chunked up or about 3 cups of small carrots
3-4 potatoes
2 small onions cut into fourths (or however you want)
2 garlic cloves, diced or minced
Beef Stock

Dump everything in the crock pot. Add enough beef stock to cover everything. Cook on low for 8 hours. Or high for 4. Yum.

Okay, that's a start for now. I will add more later. I would love to hear if this is helpful for you.

1 comment:

  1. these are very helpful! Keep 'em coming! I know it might sound funny, because we are homeschoolers and are HOME all day - but getting dinner on the table is still a challenge and these quick, easy things I can throw in the crock pot are wonderful helps for me! thanks!!!