With Primogeniture off to college and in his own apartment this year, I'm trying to reinforce all those years of Boy Scout cookouts and thrifty habits so he'll be able to eat healthy meals for a few dollars. I got him set up last month in his new place and even got him a slow cooker. I decided to try my hand at some tried and true slow cooker meals to pass along to him. Then just last week I saw a tweet by Crystal Paine from MoneySavingMom where she referenced an article called Making 28 Slow Cooker Meals in 3 Hours. I was intrigued so I visited Kelly McNelis' site New Leaf Wellness to see what other slow cooker meal ideas she had. I was immediately hooked and purchased Kelly's e-cookbooks and selected two groups of recipes from this article to get started with. I printed out my grocery lists and recipes and went grocery shopping.
The first step to being a good grocery shopper is knowing where the deals are. I look through the weekly ads; clip my coupons; and check out my favorite blogs: Krazy Coupon Lady and Living Rich with Coupons. These two blogs have a team of amazing ladies who have done all the research for me and tell me what's on sale at my local grocery stores and drug stores and also tell me about the coupons I can use to reduce prices even more. *NOTE* I no longer clip Sunday coupons. Instead I use Coupons.com and other online sources and only print the coupons when I see a deal and know I'm going to the store. The second part of this research is checking out where the meat is on sale. I went to my local Stew Leonards for the ground turkey because it was nearly 50% off. I picked up the chicken at Stop & Shop because it was on sale there. I confess I got a little antsy and purchased my ground beef full price because I really wanted to get started.
Remember: chicken, pork and London broil often go on sale for around $1.99 each week (or every other week). You just need to check the store. This will make your meals cheaper than eating out!
When you read New Leaf's recommendations about the prep day, she recommends you buy good quality gallon freezer bags. She makes a lot of freezer meals in plastic gallon freezer bags and shares horror stories of cheaper plastic bags ripping at the seams after all your hard work. I will tell you that I only buy HEFTY bags. The competition just doesn't compare. I can't tell you how many times I've purchased bags from the leading competitor only to have the Zips not open and close. That is very frustrating! I've never had that problem with Hefty bags so they have become my bag of choice. Yesterday, Hefty bags were on sale at Stop & Shop and I also had a computer generated coupon from Coupons.com. Hefty.com also has coupons regularly. With my shopping list, coupons and a highlighter, I was ready to shop.
I bought my ingredients and set them up on the counter. (Here's where I confess to a few shortcuts I wouldn't normally do)
- I bought canned beans. I prefer dried beans soaked overnight and cooked on my own. But once again, I was anxious to give this a try, so I opted for this shortcut.
- I prefer to use my own canned tomatoes from the garden or farm share. I was lured into the Stop & Shop 10 cans for $10 and once again the promise of a quick deal was upon me.
- I also make my own chicken stock - but since I'm sending these meals to Primogeniture, I thought it more expedient to purchase ready-made stock.
Special sales of note:
- Hefty bags were on sale
- Peppers and zucchinis were from garden/farm share
- I could have used the corn from farm share, too
- Canned beans were on sale + I had a coupon
- Pasta sauce was on sale
New Leaf recommends printing out the recipes and freezer labels the night before to speed up the process. This was a huge help. I didn't have any Avery address labels so I printed them out on plain paper and taped them to the outside of my Hefty gallon freezer bags using clear packaging tape. This worked like a charm.
I made two recipes at a time. New Leaf recommended these cool bag holders. I ordered some - but in the meantime I used two mixing bowls to hold my gallon Hefty freezer bags open to facilitate filling. It worked just fine. This simply doubled my dishes afterwards. I really had so few dishes to wash it was amazing. I make more of a mess in the kitchen on a normal night cooking dinner! Here's what I had to wash when I was done.
- 2 mixing bowls
- 2 strainers
- cutting board
- 2 knives
- 2 bowls
- garlic press
When I filled up each bag, I pressed out the excess air and sealed the bags. I then pressed the meal flat and placed it in my freezer.
It only took me about an hour and I had prepped seven slow cooker meals for the freezer. I still have the ingredients for about 14 more meals... but I forgot a few ingredients at the store yesterday so I need to go make a quick trip this morning so I can cook the meals with the ground turkey and chicken. Secundogeniture and I are going to visit Primogeniture next Monday and also make an official college visit. We'll deliver these meals to him then. I can hardly wait.
If you make some of Kelly McNelis' slow cooker freezer meals, please let me know which ones are your favorites. I started with Seven Kid Friendly Meals and Six Ground Beef Crockpot Freezer Meals. I love an adventure. And who doesn't like to come home to a house that smells like a home cooked meal?