Before I talk about some of my favorite tips and tricks, I have to share with you something I love more than food (surprising, I know!)...my cute kids. Our three month old little guy is nearly 20 lbs. already and is the love of my life. He is so cute I want to just 'eat' him. My husband thinks that saying is so bizarre, but I can't think of any other way to explain how cute he is. I want to just munch on his cute fat thighs...ew he is cute!! Alright, this didn't have to do with my post, but many of you have asked for an 'update' on our baby boy...so, here he is :)
Besides my cute baby, there are a few other favorite things of mine. First and foremost--crockpots. I really don't know where I would be in this world without mine. They rescue my family from a frozen pizza every few days. Whoever invented these amazing contraptions deserves an award. Look at my birthday present I bought myself today. Isn't it cute? A red crockpot...adorable! If you need help getting dinner on the table, make a crock pot your new best friend. Throw in some meat or vegetables, add a few seasonings, turn it on low, and when dinner time comes, voila..dinner is served. On our weekly meal planners we always have 1-2 meals that can be cooked in a crock pot to make a delicious meal in a hurry. Crockpots are definitely one of my favorite things!
Another thing I love...this is actually not a 'thing' but a trick. My sister was over tonight and she watched me put 16 chicken breasts in my new crockpot and asked what in the world I was doing. I couldn't believe my own sister didn't know my all-time-favorite time saving dinner trick, so I thought I would make sure I share this AMAZING tip with you.
FROZEN COOKED CHICKEN BREASTS
So..here is my FAVORITE tip to help you get homemade meals on the table in a hurry. When I go to the store and boneless skinless chicken breasts are on sale for a GREAT deal (you know when it's a great deal because you are a member of Deals to Meals and we tell you where it is on sale..hehe!), then you stock up and buy several packages of chicken. You then come home and place the chicken breasts into a large crockpot. You season them with Montreal Steak Seasoning (my ALL time favorite spice), add a little water to the pot and turn on high for 4 hours (or until chicken is tender). TIP: Don't over cook the chicken breasts or you will have mushy chicken that is the texture of tunafish. You want to cook the chicken until it is just barely cooked through, but not mushy.
Once you have cooked the chicken you let it cool down for a few minutes and then you separate the chicken breasts (keep whole) into several Ziploc bags. I pre-portion mine into bags with 3-4 chicken breasts which would be enough for one meal for my family. I then put the chicken breasts in my freezer for a later meal. There will be several cups of chicken broth/stock in the bottom of the crockpot. I put that into tupperwares (above picture) and freeze that for later as well. This is great for chicken soups, chicken pot pie, gravy, etc. The cooked chicken in your freezer is great to have on hand for those busy nights when you need to throw dinner together and don't have time to cook and thaw out chicken. Some meals I use this pre-cooked chicken for is the Chicken Broccoli Curry Bake, Chicken Pesto Sandwiches, Southwestern Egg Rolls, etc.
GRILLED CHICKEN BREASTS
Another tip--if you want chicken that is not so tender and shred-able for your meals, I also grill on the outdoor grill 8-10 chicken breasts at the same time I am crock potting some. These grilled chicken breasts I use when I have a meal or a salad that I want a 'pretty' piece of chicken for. The grill marks are a little prettier than the soft and pale piece of chicken from the crock pot. Just put these grilled chicken breasts into a Ziploc bag and place in your freezer again for a later meal. LOVE this trick!!
MEAT THAWING TIP
Here is another one of my favorite time saving tips that may help you with your meal planning efforts. When I plan my meals for the week (I use Deals to Meals to make this SUPER easy!), I figure out which meals I will be making in the next few days and THAW out these meats in my fridge. Meat will be fine in your fridge for up to a week, so I keep 3-4 days worth of meat thawing in my fridge.
One of the most annoying parts of cooking dinner is when it is 6 p.m., you look in the fridge, realize you haven't thawed out any meat, and that it is too late to begin making dinner. If you have the meat you need for your meals already in your fridge ready to cook, it cuts your preparation time down dramatically. For example, in the next few days if I am going to make Fish Tacos, Chicken Enchiladas, Terriyaki Pork and Homemade Hamburgers, then I would have thawing in my fridge halibut, chicken breasts, a pork roast and a couple pounds of ground beef. This helps me be able to look quickly in my fridge, pull out the meat I need for my meal that night and begin cooking.
DEALS TO MEALS MEAL PLANNER
Deals to Meals is another one of my FAVORITE things! Our service is my life saver when it comes to meal planning. I know, it is my company so I 'have' to say that, but I really do LOVE it! All I have to do is login to our website, print off the grocery list, decide which meals I want to make for that 7-10 day period, highlight the items I need at the store, see what items are on sale and away I go. I shop for 7-10 days worth of meals, buy all of the fresh produce and meat I need for those meals (all on sale of course because that is what Deals to Meals is good at!), price match all of the items at Walmart and I am back home in less than an hour. I then have in my fridge all of the ingredients I need to make healthy, homemade meals for my family. It really can be FUN if you get into a routine, use a few helpful cooking tips and let US do the work for you!
A favorite money saving tip: Use chicken base or bouillon powder instead of buying chicken stock. Chicken stock or broth is used in MANY recipes and this can be an expensive addition to a meal. Instead of buying cans of chicken broth, use Chicken Base or bouillon instead. Costco sales the McCormick Chicken Base for very inexpensive and it has great flavor. You can even buy this base and keep extras in your food storage. I would be lost without my chicken and beef base :)
GET YOUR FOOD STORAGE
Probably the most effective meal planning tip I can give you is to encourage you to get your 3-6 month supply of food. Having your own 'store' in your home will make it so you don't have to make any last minute trips to the grocery store. Everything you need will be right in your own home/basement. This saves you time and money! Deals to Meals also tells you where all of the best deals on food storage items are each week. We make stocking up your food storage a breeze!
BONUS: RASPBERRY PIEMy last favorite thing--Raspberry Pie. This doesn't help you get dinner on the table, but it is just plain yummy! For my birthday my sister made me this DELICIOUS pie. If you need a cool and refreshing dessert that also curves your chocolate craving, this is the pie for you. Our picture of it is horrible and doesn't do it justice, so visit The Pioneer Woman and see her beautiful picture and recipe. Pretty picture or not, it sure was yummy!