Mar 012007

Kitchen Fun with Carol

Hello everyone! As I promised, I am going to discuss the process that I go through to apply what I have learned from my price book to my cooking and assembly day. After gathering all the information in my price book I created a Base Shopping List. The shopping list contains an entry for every item in my price book, the store that has the best “regular price”, the price, the quantity that I am going to purchase, a coupon amount and a total price. There is a total at the bottom so I can track how much I will be spending.

Menu planning for me runs on a quarterly cycle. During the times between cooking and assembly days I am always referring to my price book and looking for good buys on the main ingredients used in most recipes. This includes meats, pasta, cheeses, etc. I stock up on these items during the months before cooking day and then I plan my menu around what I have purchased. For example, during the last 3 months I was able to purchase boneless skinless chicken breast for $1.33 a pound,  ground round for $1.50 a pound, basic ground hamburger for $.99 a pound, pork chops for $1.19 a pound, pasta for $.20 a pound, sausage for 1.49 a pound and shredded cheese for $1 an 8 ounce bag.

From this, I put together my menu for the quarter. I keep a three ring binder with copy of menus that I have used in the past. When I file a menu, I note if it was a good menu, what we liked about it and what we would change. I also talk to my family about what recipes they would like to eat the next three months. Here’s an example of some of the recipes that I am considering for my Spring menu:

Chicken Recipes:

Pork/Sausage Recipes:

Hamburger Recipes:

When I am preparing to shop for my cooking day, I go through the base shopping list and update the quantities with the amounts from Worksheet C, the Tally Sheet or from the Grocery Report for Cooking Day Ingredients Only in the Advantage Cooking Software. After I have entered the amounts I need, I go through the local grocery advertisements and update any stores and prices with any items that are on sale for the week. Once I have completed this, I remove any items that I am not going to buy and then sort the spreadsheet by store and item. This gives me a shopping list of what to purchase at each store. Here is an example of a completed Shopping List for the recipes listed above.

Updates on Previous Topics

Last month I mentioned that my son had informed me that he loves Alfredo Sauce. Last semester he was enrolled in a Food and Nutrition class at his high school. Every week the class tested different recipes. One of the last recipes they made was Alfredo Sauce. I have been a little leery of serving it at home on a regular basis because of the fat content of the normal recipe. I want to thank all of you who sent me recipes for a lighter Alfredo Sauce. I am in the process of testing some of the recipes and I will let you know the results soon.

After talking about the new nylon whisk that I got for Christmas I received a great gift idea from Beth. Here is her story:

Here is a cute idea that you may have already heard. My sister gave this as a gift to all of her friends in the surgery department. She took a whisk (nylon of course:) and filled it with candy pieces and tied a pretty bow on it with a tag that said “We whisk you a merry Christmas” I tried it this year and my candy was too heavy and kept falling out. I tied the bow around the candy itself and it all stayed in! It was so pretty! I included my favorite recipes and tada! A thoughtful, inexpensive gift.

I also received a lot of feedback on the process of building a price book. Kristen pointed out one thing that I have also seen. Here is her comment:

Through this process, I also discovered different Wal-Mart’s charge different amounts. When my sister priced at her Wal-Mart, it was different than when I priced at my Wal-Mart, so I have to note which Wal-Mart was priced so we know where it is cheaper.  Mostly, everything is cheaper at Aldi (I LOVE ALDI!!!) and then Wal-Mart if Aldi doesn’t carry it.

I have noticed this as well. We have a regular Wal-Mart in town and two Wal-Mart Super Centers within 20 miles of my house. The prices can be different at each Wal-Mart. My suggestion would be to add all the stores that you want to compare to your list and do the comparison. You may be surprised with the results.

Bonus Recipes from Cindy Clark

30DG_SouperSoups_Cover_LgLast month we released a new e-book entitled “Souper Freezer Soups” written by Cindy Clark. Cindy discovered freezer cooking as a stay-at-home daycare provider. She is also the author the e-book “Freezer Cooking for Daycare Providers and Busy Parents”. She enjoyed learning all she could and eventually taught freezer cooking classes to her friends and other providers. Now, having returned to work outside the home as an elementary Media Associate, Cindy uses freezer meals to get out of hectic scheduling jams. Between teaching piano lessons after school and shuttling her kids to their activities, the family still gets to eat a home-cooked meal with little or no preparation other than reheating.

Let’s hear from Cindy:

CindyPHOTOI hope you enjoy my new e-book “Souper Freezer Soups”. Soup is such a versatile option, one I didn’t consider often because my soups never turned out well. Then I learned how to make broth with essential vegetables for flavor – and what a difference. My book will outline the steps for preparing your own broth and other techniques that will make your soups flavorful and filling. No more canned soups prepared with water! Best of all, you can make most of these soups in the slow cooker or stockpot (your choice) and they freeze well. Freeze in family-sized portions for a meal, or individual portions for a quick snack or lunch. You will find recipes for summer soups to go with sandwiches, and winter soups that make a meal on their own. I guess the best judge is out of the mouths of teenagers, “this is good enough to eat without crackers!”



CheeseSoup_03Cheese Soup
Our favorite cheese soup is at a local restaurant called “Hickory Park”. After experimenting with several cheese soups, this one is pretty close.




ChickenRiceSoup_05Chicken Rice Soup
This is what I call my “signature soup” – the first soup I ever made that turned out well. I came up with this through trial and error, and it’s really quick to fix. Plus, the kids love it.





TacoSoup_01Taco Soup
My sister-in-law Shirley made this for Christmas one year and it’s been a favorite ever since. You can change the flavors depending on what type of beans you use, garnishes you add, or what type of beans you use. My kids love this soup with nacho chips or corn chips.


Freezer Cook of the Month Contest Winner

Our winner this month is Cook’s Corner member Barngranny. This is a story that was posted in the Assembly Day Stories section of the Cook’s Corner message board. The story is titled “What to do with a 9.5 pound whole sirloin roast”. I enjoyed the story. I hope you will too.

Let’s hear from Barngranny:

“I caught this huge roast on sale last week. I normally would not buy such a large piece of meat to cook at one time, but my sister-in-law, Deb, and I have recently teamed up to do some freezer cooking. I have been freezer cooking for my son and I for about 6 years.
My sister-in-law is diabetic, and has other health issues, so we take frequent breaks, and only plan a few items at a time to prepare on my days off from work.

Anyway, I thought I would tell you about our adventures with this humongous cut of meat. The plan was to add celery, onion, potatoes, carrots and a little beef broth to the crock-pot, then cook it all day while we were doing some other things for the freezer. We planned to have it for supper, and freeze the leftovers. I brought it home from the grocery store, trimmed the layer of fat from the bottom and plopped it in the big crock-pot. Guess what? It filled the crock-pot up. No room for anything else in there except a cup of chopped celery and onions. YIKES! Oh well, change in plan….we would cook the roast in the crock-pot and steam the veggies to go with it on the top of the stove right before supper.

We proceeded with the other items on our list for the day. We started with some bakery croissants that were on sale, added these combinations for quick grab and go sandwiches: ham and cheese, beef and cheddar, and turkey and cheese….48 total. We packaged them in sandwich sized baggies and put them in gallon sized freezer bags, sealed, labeled and popped them in the freezer. Time for a break, as Deb was getting tired. One of us glanced over at the crock-pot. Oh, my! The roast had expanded and pushed the lid of the crock pot up about a half inch away from the rim. We put aluminum foil over the roast and crimped it around the edges of the crock-pot to hold the heat in then continued with our break.

After a short break, we proceeded with the planned items. Next up was breakfast burritos. We cooked and assembled 80 breakfast burritos. We used 10 dozen eggs, two pounds of sausage, three pounds of bacon and 3 1/2 pounds of grated cheese. LOL, sounds like a lot for 80 burritos, but I had picked up the 12 inch tortillas instead of the 10 inch I normally buy and it took more filling than normal. Oh well, the boys will enjoy them. By the way, “the boys” are my son, and my two brothers. I am fortunate to have my house situated between the houses of my two brothers, one married, one single.

Two o’clock, time for another break…..check crock-pot…. the roast has expanded even more. The lid is now almost two inches above the crock-pot and the foil is pulled away from the rim. Grab another piece of foil and re-secure it to the rim. By this time, Deb and I have decided the roast is not going to be done as planned, so we fix the boys something else for dinner.

That roast ended up cooking all day and all night in the crock-pot. The lid eventually went back down to where it was supposed to rest on the rim as the roast cooked. The next afternoon, when I got home from work, Deb had removed the roast to cool for slicing, and added the veggies to the crock-pot, so they were done. We had roast and veggies for supper that night. Packaged some of the leftovers with mashed potatoes and gravy in individual portions (TV dinners) for the boys and I to take to work for lunches. The rest of the veggies, juices and roast was packaged as “stew”, and placed in the freezer for later use. All in all that 9 1/2 pound roast was made into one meal for the 5 of us, 15 “TV dinners” and two gallons of stew. Deb and I have decided next time, we will cut the roast in half and use 2 crock-pots. Live and learn.

Thanks for the sharing this great story with us! I was unable to reach Barngranny.

So, how do you make 30 Day Gourmet work for you? How do you use it to help you deal with a challenge in your life? How do you use it to help others? Do you have a funny cooking story to share? Click here to send me an email!

Closing Comments from Carol

Next month I will share with you the final step in the price book process – generating weekly shopping lists based off of Worksheet F – the Meal Inventory Checklist. I will discuss some of the decision making processes I go through when deciding where to shop.

Do you have any other topics that you would like me to cover? Click here to send me an email. I enjoy hearing from you!

Have fun in your kitchen!


Carol Santee

Carol is the co-author of the Big Book of Freezer Cooking and the author of 30 Day Gourmet’s Slow Cooker Freezer Favorites, Freezer Lunches To Go and Healthy Freezer Cooking eBooks. She is a computer information specialist and works for a computer software company.

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