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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Precooking can help you with the budget

I am finding more and more that precooking certain foods can help you save substantial money. It also gives you the "convenience" foods that you would spend more money on if you bought in that form in the store. Here are some ideas that you can do on the weekend that could save you $$$ and time in the long run:

Beans- Canned beans are convenient, but cost more money than dried beans, and they have a LOT more sodium. Dried beans can take a lot of time, so cooking in advance and then freezing into separate servings give you a more economical, and healthier convenience food.
You can find suggestions on how best to cook dried beans at http://www.centralbean.com/cooking.html. Once cooked, portioning about 2 cups of beans per bag will give you the equivalent of 1 can of beans. For a LOT less.
Meats- For certain dishes, like tacos, or dishes that require cubed, cooked chicken, I find that if I just keep pre-cooked portions in my freezer, I save time and money. When I cook ground beef a pound at a time, I end up using a pound, whether I really needed that much or not. These days, I find it easier to cook 4 or 5 pounds of meat in the pan, then I portion it up into ziplocs. Reality is that I can probably get about 7 or 8 meals this way, which I wouldn't have gotten the other way.
For poultry, same rule applies. If you're doing a baked or grilled chicken dish, throw in a few extra, then chop and bag for the freezer. You can make that meat stretch a lot further. The other perk I've found is that pre-cooked meats take a lot less time to defrost, which gives you another go-to item when you're pressed for time.
Happy cooking, and happy savings!