Friday, May 16, 2008

Get a Freezer, Meat Loaf, Meat balls

I have said it before and I will say it again. If you want to save money on your grocery bills, get a freezer. It doesn't have to be a big one, but get one. Either an upright or a chest freezer will do, just get one. They are only a couple of hundred dollars and the upfront costs are nothing compared to how much you will save. The freezer on the refrigerator just isn't big enough.

Any time your local grocery store runs a sale on something you use a lot of, like hamburger or frozen veggies, buy in bulk. You will save a bundle over the course of a year. It is also very useful for storing things like rice and sugar to keep out bugs until you need them. We even freeze bread we get from the thrift store.

I have mentioned this in previous posts, but you can make up meals and store them in the freezer until you get ready to use them. I make up meat loaf, meat balls, boiled chicken, and smoked pork and put them down into meal sized bags and take them out as needed. It makes it a lot easier on those nights when I either don't feel like cooking a big meal or we are in a hurry because of the kid's schedules.

Meat balls are by far the easiest to do. When your local grocery has hamburger on sale, buy a lot. I generally make up about 3 pounds at a time. Here is my recipe.

3 or so pounds of ground beef
1 1/2 cups of bread crumbs or 1/2 cup per pound of meat
1/2 cup of dried onion or 1 cup of finely chopped fresh onion
1 tablespoon salt or to taste
1 teaspoon black pepper or to taste

Mix everything together very well. I use a stand mixer but you can do it by hand. Make balls of meat about the size of a walnut or about 1 inch balls. Place them on a cookie sheet with the sides just barely touching. When your cookie sheet is full, put them in the freezer overnight. The next day, you have solid little balls that you put in a gallon sized freezer bag.

These are great for a quick meal. Just take out what you need. They don't even have to be defrosted. You can either fry them or bake them and add your favorite pasta sauce, or you can use a brown gravy with onions. We like them both ways. Brown gravy with onions over rice or egg noodles is probably our favorite.

To make a meat loaf, use the same recipe but add about a 1/2 cup of chopped bell peppers to the mix. After everything is mixed together, line a loaf pan with waxed paper and fill it with the meat mix. Freeze it over night then remove it to a freezer bag. You now have a couple of no mess meat loafs for those days you are in a hurry. And since you formed them to fit your pan, you don't even have to thaw them out before sticking them in the oven. It does take a little longer to cook, just use a meat thermometer to check for doneness. A little work up front for a big payoff in the end.

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