The Plan ~ Getting Ready For Freezer Cooking, Week One

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I hope you’re planning to join me for Week One of our newest Freezer Cooking Challenge! I figured if I needed to spend some time getting ahead, you might too. Why not cook together, right?

For Week One, we’ll be focusing on beef recipes. If I’m going to brown one pound of hamburger meat, I might as well brown eight or ten. I still just dirty up one pot, and the time I save overall is amazing. So, we’ll be browning 8 pounds of meat at once, then we’ll put together 8 meals with the meat we prepared.

We’ll do this over the course of a week – so really, the time it takes each day to do the work is very minimal. I’ll walk you through all the steps! Here’s what is on my list to prepare during the upcoming week. My idea is to make two of each casserole listed below – one for our evening meal, and an additional one for the freezer. So easy! (All of these recipes can be made gluten free if you use GF pasta and corn tortillas.)

Don’t want to make them all? No problem. Want to make three of each? Okay. This needs to benefit you, not cause you stress – so you just grab hold of whatever part of this challenge works for you and drop kick the rest. The grocery list below assumes you’ll be making two of each casserole. You can adjust it accordingly.

What you’ll need:

  • 5-6 Casserole Dishes (I use 9×13 inch Pyrex Dishes with lids)
  • 8 pounds hamburger meat
  • 1 pound bacon
  • 16 ounces pasta (I use whole wheat)
  • 5 cups brown rice
  • 5 cups sour cream (40 ounces)
  • 4 cups salsa (32 ounces)
  • 4 cups tomato sauce (32 ounces)
  • 2 eight-ounce cream cheese packages
  • 1/2 cup dry minced onion
  • 14 cups shredded cheese (4-ounces equals one cup; you’ll need approximately 56 ounces – less is fine if you would like to save money by skimping on the cheese)
  • 12 whole wheat tortillas (homemade tortillas are awesome)
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 2 cans black olives
  • 2/3 cup milk

Be sure you have:

  • mustard
  • chili powder
  • sea salt
  • pepper
  • garlic powder

I’ve created a downloadable and printable grocery list for you here:  Freezer Cooking Grocery List ~ Week One

Be sure to add plenty of fruits, vegetables, and salad items to your list to go with your casseroles!

Here are your first assignments:

  1. Pick up all needed items at the grocery store.
  2. Brown 8 pounds of ground beef, along with about a half cup of minced onion.

Once your meat has been cooked, let it cool, then put it into the fridge to be worked with later. You can divide it into 4 equal(ish) sized portions if you would like, just to make it easier later. I personally just put my whole pot into the fridge and will scoop out 1/4 of the contents each time I need it.

beef freezer cooking 3
You’re welcome to put together recipes as your own pace, of course. But for the sake of those who want to do this freezer cooking in stages, I plan to break all tasks down into small chunks so that it will be doable for all who only have a few minutes to spend on this at one time.

On Monday, we’ll continue on by putting together our first round of casseroles. Don’t forget, Let’s Do This! eCourse and {Healthy} Make-Ahead Meals and Snacks eBook are discounted to just $5 for the whole package.

Hope your freezer cooking prep time goes well! Let me know how these first assignments go for you.

Our Whole Foods Pantry, Freezers and Refrigerator

Real Food Ingredients Resource Page

After several hours of list making, link finding and price figuring, here is the resource I’ve been promising for such a long time! I’ve tried to include everything that typically can be found in my fridge, freezers, pantry and bulk storage. I obviously don’t have all of these items on hand all of the time, but I do try to keep a good stock of most of these items so that I am flexible to put together a variety of healthy meals, as well as open our home to guests frequently.

I’ve included prices I prefer to spend on each item, but prices vary depending on which site is offering a sale. Keep in mind that prices are going to vary depending on where you live as well. Because I live in a small town with very few whole foods/organic food grocery store options, I buy most of my food from local farmers, from online shops or from Azure Standard, depending on where I find a better deal. (Plus, I try to save up most of my Swagbuck earnings to purchase food occasionally for “free” from Amazon.)

I buy almost all of the listed items in bulk quantities because I know we’ll use it. I also try to purchase just about all of the items in this list in organic form if possible.

Because you are all reading from different locations, I also recommend that you read through the comments on this post in order to find a health food co-op or whole food resources in your area. Also, check out LocalHarvest to find meat, milk, eggs and produce in your area.

Hopefully the linking system I used in each section is user friendly! If I linked to Tropical Traditions, Vitacost, Amazon, Azure Standard, or Mountain Rose Herbs, I tried to link each item to the specific product page on those sites for easy navigation.

Keep in mind that if you are a new customer with Vitacost, you can click through this link to receive a $10 credit to use on your first order (order must be $30 or more). It’s a great way to save some serious money on your first order!

And now, without further ado, here is my very long list of grocery items I love to have on hand:

Dairy

In addition to the following products, occasionally I make butter and mozzarella cheese, if I have enough milk/cream/time.

Milk – I am blessed to buy raw, organic milk from local farmers.
Cream – I buy this raw from our milk farmers.
Buttermilk – Homemade
Kefir – Homemade
Yogurt – Homemade
Sour Cream – Homemade
Butter – I usually purchase a case of Willow Made Sweet Cream, Salted Butter from Azure Standard if I can get it for $3.50/pound or less. Otherwise, I just buy real butter from the grocery store.
Cheese – I purchase raw organic Landmark white cheddar cheese from Azure Standard.   It is $5.50/pound if purchased by the case.

Meat/Eggs/Beans

I purchase most of my grass fed beef and free range whole chickens from a local farm – NorthStar Neighbors. Occasionally, I will get it from Tropical Traditions if they have a great sale.

Hamburger Meat
Cube Steak
Stew Meat
Beef Roast 
Chickens (whole) – I try stretch these to feed my family six meals!
Chicken Breasts – I typically purchase Smart Chicken brand when it’s on sale at our local grocery store for $4.0o/pound or less.
Deer Meat – from local hunters who like to share
Tuna (canned) – I buy Natural Value Yellow-Fin by the case either from Amazon, Vitacost, or Azure Standard, shooting for $1.50/can or less.
Salmon (canned) – Rubinstein’s Wild Alaska pink salmon from Azure Standard or Roland’s from Amazon – $3.00 or less per can.
Frozen Fish, sometimes – I live in Nebraska, what can I say? We don’t have fresh fish here. I don’t necessarily trust frozen fish from a regular grocery store, but occasionally I will buy some tilapia or salmon.
Eggs – I buy these from my friend who raises free range chickens.
Red Beans –  Azure Standard – $1.00/pound
Black Beans
Azure Standard – $1.40/pound
Pinto BeansAzure Standard – $0.88/pound
Garbonzo BeansAzure Standard – $0.85/pound
Lentils Azure Standard – $0.49/pound

Grains

Hard White Wheat – I buy this in bulk from Azure Standard – $0.83/pound.
Whole Kernel CornAzure Standard or Tropical Traditions – $0.68/pound
PopcornAzure StandardTropical Traditions or Amazon – $1.25/pound
Rolled OatsAzure StandardTropical Traditions or Amazon – $0.80/pound
Brown Rice –  Azure Standard, Tropical Traditions or Amazon – $1.80/pound
Whole Wheat Pasta – Tropical Traditions or Amazon – around $2.00/pound

I sometimes have Kamut, Millet, Buckwheat, Spelt and/or Barley on hand – purchased from Azure Standard or Tropical Traditions – all less than $1.00/pound.

Baking/Cooking

Coconut FlourAzukar Organics through Amazon (best price!) or Tropical Traditions when it’s buy one get one free – $3.50/pound or less.
Sucanat Azure Standard, Vitacost, or Amazon – $2.50/pound or less
Raw Honey – I purchase from a local bee keeper – or I buy it from Azure Standard
Grade B Maple Syrup – Farmers Market, Vitacost, or Amazon – $17.00/quart or less
Cocoa PowderAzure Standard or Tropical Traditions – $4.25/pound or less
Vanilla Extract – I make my own; read how you can too!
Corn StarchAzure Standard, Vitacost, or Tropical Traditions – $3.20/8 ounce box
Arrowroot PowderAzure Standard – $2.57/pound or less
Aluminum Free Baking PowderAzure Standard or Amazon – $2.65/pound
Baking SodaAzure Standard or Amazon – $1.00/pound or less
Shredded CoconutTropical Traditions– $17.50/gallon pail
Chocolate ChipsHomemade, Vitacost, or Amazon – $4.50/package or less
Butterscotch Baking ChipsHomemade
Active Dry YeastAzure Standard or Sams (if I can get a friend with a membership to grab some for me!)

Herbs and Spices

These are purchased either from Tropical Traditions, Azure Standard or Mountain Rose Herbs. I didn’t link to any specific site for these – where I buy these depends on who has the best price at the time.

Redmonds Real Sea Salt
Garlic Powder
Turmeric
Minced Onion
Onion Powder
Onion Salt
Oregano
Basil
Cayenne Pepper
Black Pepper
Chili Powder
Paprika
Parsley
Cumin
Cinnamon
Nutmeg

Condiments and Sauces

Ketchup – I make homemade ketchup or purchase Muir Glen Organic Ketchup from Amazon, Vitacost, or Azure Standard – $2.70/bottle
Mayonnaise – I like Hain Safflower Mayo from Azure Standard or Vitacost – $5.50/jar or less
Mustard – Azure Standard – $2.35/bottle
Worcestershire Sauce Azure Standard – $5.00/bottle
Soy Sauce Azure Standard – $5.50/bottle Liquid Smoke – Walmart  ;)
Salad Dressings – I make my own, recipes are found here.
Jams and PreservesAzure Standard, Vitacost, or Tropical Traditions – $3.00/jar
Peanut Butter – I make my own, recipe found here

Fats

Coconut Oil, Virgin (tastes like coconut)Tropical Traditions, Amazon, Vitacost, or Mountain Rose Herbs – $18.00/quart or less
Coconut Oil, Expeller Pressed (flavorless) Tropical Traditions, Amazon, Mountain Rose Herbs – $13.00/quart or less
Olive OilAzure Standard, Vitacost, or Tropical Traditions – $17.00/25 ounces or less
ButterAzure Standard (Yes, I’d already mentioned this in the dairy section, but it’s also a fat. Apparently, I love butter enough to mention it twice.)
Palm ShorteningTropical Traditions, Amazon – $32.00 or less per gallon

Fruits and Vegetables

Tomato Sauce, Tomato Soup, Tomato Juicewe grow and can our own supply for each year or I get them from Vitacost when we run out of our home canned goods
Green Beans, Sweet Corn, Peaches, Strawberries, Applesauce – we grow or buy from local farmers and preserve these ourselves each year.
Frozen PeasAzure Standard – $7.70/5 pounds
All Other Fresh Produce – Azure Standard or local grocery stores

Nuts

PeanutsAzure Standard or Amazon – $3.70/pound
Pistachios, Cashews, AlmondsBraga Organic Farms or Vitacost
Dried FruitAzure Standard, Vitacost or Braga Organic Farms

Cereal and Chips (purchased rarely)

CornflakesAmazon or Vitacost – $3.00/box
Rice Crispies Amazon or Vitacost– $3.00/box
Corn ChipsAmazon or Vitacost – $4.00/bag

So that you will always and forever have easy access to this resource list, I have added a link at the top of my site called Whole Foods Resources. I’ve also added this pantry button to my side bar, which will link to this post:

New (FREE!) Fall Menu Planners – Downloadable

Yes, it’s that time of year. The time when apples are ready to be made into delicious apple pies and leaves are beginning to turn colors…school has started and there is a cool crispness in the air. Unless of course you are living in a place that is still 100° with no chance of a break in the heat. Hang in there, my melting friends.

Whether it’s fall weather at your house or you are just pretending that it is…I asked my fabulous designer friend Char to make us some pretty fall menu planners for all of us to enjoy. She did not disappoint! I LOVE these planners (and matching grocery lists)!! They are free to all of you – You are welcome to download, print, share and menu plan to your heart’s content.

Falling Leaves Menu Planner

Falling leaves Grocery List

Fall Apples Menu Planner

Fall Apples Grocery List

Cornucopia Menu Planner

Cornucopia Grocery List

I just can’t get over how much nicer these menu planners look on my refrigerator compared to a piece of paper I rip out of my son’s 2006 assignment notebooks…