Living in a rural area as we do, our trips to the grocery store have always been limited. The stores are far enough away that the trip to the stores always becomes an all-day outing which involves alot of pre-planning and preparation. The once a month cooking recipes work great for our lifestyle. It saves time during the busy gardening/canning season and is a tremendous blessing when storms cause power outages throughout the year.
I am doing my once a month cooking differently than most websites talk about. We don't have a large freezer, so I am unable to store pre-made casseroles and other dinners in the freezer. Instead, I utilize my pressure canner in making the meals.
The canner allows me to make & store large batches of homemade soups and stews. In addition, I am able to put up in jars the various meat and vegetable fillings used in common meals. Fajita mixes, tamale pie filling, the fillings for various pot pies all can be put up in jars. When you are ready to make the meal, you only need to make the crust, assemble the pie and bake.
Through home canning the meals, I have been able to stock the pantry with fast to prepare meals that quickly can be heated up on the wood cookstove or in a pan on the BBQ grill during power outages. I jar up the meals in both the pint and quart sizes. The pint jars are perfect size for my husband to take to work with him. He uses the microwave in the lunch room to heat up the meal.
I often buy meat in the bulk size "family packs" at the store. I precook the burger meat by either browning it with chopped onions, garlic & bell peppers or by making meatballs that are baked in the oven. After draining the burger meat thoroughly, I home can it in pint or half-pint sized jars. These have just a bit of water in them. During the pressure canning process, the water becomes a nice beef flavored broth. Meatballs are either canned with some spaghetti sauce or placed in a bag or container to freeze. Chicken is roasted in the oven, cut into pieces then canned with some chopped veggies and water. This makes a nice base to use in recipes such as chicken noodle soup. I add the same veggies and seasoning to the chicken when I can it as you would use in homemade chicken soup. When you make the soup, you just have to add pasta or rice when you heat it up.
When cooking stew meat, I put the entire bulk pack in a large roasting pan with some basic seasonings like onions, garlic, and bell peppers. I roast the meat until done. Once it is cooked, I cut the meat into bite sized pieces and place them into jars. Add some diced carrots, diced potatoes, and chopped celery with abit of the broth from the pan. Finish filling the jars with a little water. Once pressure canned, these jars will contain a quick beef stew. With the remaining stew meat, I can jars of various soups or a few jars of the meat with onions & bell peppers to use in other recipes later on.
By making the meals this way, I am able to make a month's worth of meals ahead of time. We save alot of money and time each month by taking the time to do this. Even with the cost of the jars and canning lids included, we are able to keep our grocery budget down to a fraction of what most families spend. In future posts, I will be adding recipes that I home can for our pantry.
May the Lord's blessings be with thee.