I’m ready to get back into the Menu Planning mode after the loosey–goosey holidays. Since I’ve committed to use up what we have and only spend 50 dollars a week for the next few weeks, I have to plan. I really don’t have a choice. Besides, I’m always amazed at what a difference it makes in how the household runs when I don’t have to rack my brain for meal ideas at 4:45 in the afternoon!
I’m so excited about having more room in the freezer. Taking an inventory of my freezer meant that I found an entire shelf’s worth of stuff that needs to be thrown away (waiting for trash day tomorrow to chuck it). There was so much due to the fact that I have an amazing ability, as a slob, to not see things that need to be dealt with. Just ignore it and keep using a shrinking amount of space. It’s sad and frustrating that I wasted that much, but it’s also exciting that maybe things will be easier to find and nothing will fall out on my toe when I open the door. Frozen stuff is heavy!
So here’s the menu for the week:
Monday – Beef stew using leftover brisket. I’ll share the brisket “recipe” below.
Tuesday – Chicken fried rice (using chicken I cooked when I made a pot of chicken soup last weekend, and rice that I made extra of last week). This will be ready in minutes!
Wednesday – Grilled chicken breasts (This and ground beef will be the biggest chunk of my budget this week, since we are out and they’re on sale!) We’ll be having grilled since it will be the big chicken cooking day! (And this way we can have fajitas next week!)
Thursday – Meatballs in cream of mushroom soup/gravy over mashed potatoes (This will be my big ground beef cooking day, since it’s also on sale and we’re out!)
Friday – EAT OUT!!!
Saturday – Pigs in a blanket (hot dogs wrapped in crescent rolls) and mac n’cheese
Sunday – Baked potatoes topped with frozen leftover bbq chicken that I found in the freezer.
Out of all of this, the only thing I have to buy is the chicken and beef, and some potatoes for Sunday. Not too bad!
Need a brisket recipe? Here’s the most unscientific one you’ll ever find, courtesy of my Mother-in-law. It’s my, hubby’s and all three kids’ absolute favorite meal.
Buy brisket when it’s on sale for 1.99/lb or less. Beware that usually when it’s ultra cheap, like .99/lb, it’s “packer trimmed” or something like that, and is usually in shrink wrap. This means the fat isn’t cut off at all and you’re paying for mostly fat, which means you’re not getting a great deal and you’re going to have to deal with all that fat later, ugh. You want market trimmed or butcher trimmed, that’s in the butcher trays. It still has a thick layer of fat on one side, but the other side is just meat. When this kind is on sale for less than 2$/lb, I usually buy 7 to 10 lbs and go straight home and cook it.
Here’s the unscientific part. In my mil’s words, she “rubs on a lot of whatever she has in her spice cabinet.” Seriously. Now before you ruin some meat, use a little common sense. Don’t put cinnamon or vanilla or sugar on it or anything like that. But if it’s a flavor you like, go for it. I usually use garlic powder, garlic salt, salt, pepper, celery salt, onion powder, onion salt, Lawry’s seasoning. I don’t do sage or oregano, just because that doesn’t sound good to me.
Then she “fills one of those plastic pink cups about 3/4 full and pours it in there.” The pink cups are typical sized tumblers. I usually use two or three lasagna pans or even 9X13 cake pans to cook it, depending on how big they are. Cover with two layers of foil, and put in the oven for 8-10 hours at 225 degrees.
But it’s not for that night’s dinner. This is the brilliance of her method. You cook it the day before, which is why I put it in as soon as I get home from the store. Then I take it out and let it cool in its pan, remove the broth and put the broth in my big Pampered Chef measuring glass thing. Then put it all in the fridge overnight, the meat still in whatever pan I cooked it in. The next day, the fat will all be hardened on both the meat and on the top of the broth. Remove the fat (the most labor intensive part of all this), and at that point it’s quite lean meat!
Then I make gravy by adding cornstarch mixed with cold water to the broth and boiling it (if your broth is too salty, add water). I slice or chop the brisket, and once the gravy is thickened, I add back the chopped brisket into the gravy, and let it warm up. Serve over mashed potatoes and you have the homey-est, yummiest meal ever.
Then the best part is that since there is so much, I let the leftovers cool and then put them in quart sized freezer bags. I usually have enough for three or four of these bags, and then I have that many meals ready to go at a moment’s notice. It’s one thing to eat a tolerable casserole out of the freezer, but a completely different thing to have your favoritest-meal-ever frozen and ready to go!
So today’s stew is using the leftovers from one of those quart sized bags, a THIRD bonus meal out of that initial big cooking/time investment!
Check out more menu plans at Orgjunkie.com!