Don’t you HATE the “What’s for dinner?” questions?  Whenever my husband’s on the phone and asks me that, I want to hang up and run away.  Yes, it’s been going through my head all day, but I didn’t plan ahead and now it’s catching up with me!  It’s the inevitable question, dinner WILL come, but I try to push it off as long as possible and hope my husband will come home and do one of his creative chef creations for us all!  BUT, when I do plan ahead the week before, DO I feel like WONDERWOMAN!!!  I’m on top of the world and I’ve got it all under control.  So why don’t I do that every week?  I don’t know…  Thankfully, Balancing Beauty and Bedlam has some lifesavers for me when my brain just isn’t working.  I have a lot to learn still…

Here are her tips on cooking ahead—it doesn’t take any more time, and LESS to clean!  Amen to that!!!

“C.O.S.T. cooking – have you thought ahead?

Since I am the Queen of Best Intentions, I challenged myself to put my money where my mouth was during some of my meal planning/couponing posts, and “walk the talk” with this C.O.S.T. cooking – Cook once, Serve Twice.

If you double or triple your cooking, it will save you time later.
What is the cost of not planning ahead?
I was going to answer this rhetorical question, but I will leave you to fill in the blank for your own family.
(If you didn’t read about it the first time around, I have multiple posts, but the one where I give these suggestions are under Grocery Grumps -1.
Scroll down to the second half of that post with specifics since I won’t go into all the details again here. :)

For so many of you, this may come naturally, but as the food costs rise, and life becomes busier, it seems that this is an area which causes stress and ma ham in kitchens around the blog world.

Seeing what someone else has done might just inspire a little kitchen creativity this weekend.
So join me….take one hour to copy me or some other foodie and ease the mealtime mountain next week. This just might be the solution. Iron sharpens iron and I need to be held accountable in this grueling area as well.
As I was cooking this, I was literally just trying to get basic food on the table for my family, and then after the fact, I thought of taking pictures. I undid the spaghetti casserole after it had already been put in the freezer, so this isn’t much of a tutorial FYI.

Get out of that chair right now, and grab as much ground beef from your freezer that you have on hand.
Go on, I’ll give you a little time.

After it’s thawed, get going…cook up that stuff and drain that grease.
Oh, it looks a bit gross in that pan picture.
If you want to do just a bit more work, but work that’s so worth it….add fresh garlic, onions, and green peppers…..yum!
Now depending on how much you have browned, start separating it into zip lock bags.
You can see in the picture below, that I had about 2 pounds of beef that I seasoned with my Homemade Gourmet taco soup seasoning,
and sealed in a Ziplock bag.
We feasted on taco salad, taco dip, and burritoes throughout the week…all from this meat mixture…meals in minutes literally.
Typically, we never miss a week without taco soup, but we sure will have it this week.

Ok, I hear your screaming…we want recipes!!
Ladies – the beauty of Mexican is that you can add whatever you want…even if cooking terrifies you. Start with these basics…it’s so easy! Any of my children can fix their own dinner from these options. I promise!
Here are some ideas, but they change based on what produce was marked down, what items I have stock piled or purchased with my BOGO free items.

Taco salad – layer a plate with crushes tortilla chips, romaine lettuce (as yummy as ice burg is..stay away if you can help it – no nutritional value), top with the seasoned meat mixture, black beans, shredded cheese, salsa, and dollop of sour cream to top it off.
My mouth is salivating as I think of this favorite meal of mine. I love to mix just a tad of Catalina dressing in it, but my kids opt for ranch. Your choice.
Of course, get as healthy as you want by adding fresh tomatoes or green/ red peppers
Any of the above works well in your burrito/taco…just heat the burrito and melt that yummy cheese.
Taco dip….this is almost a daily staple at our home.
I will do this as a vegetarian option quite often with taco soup seasoning, and then add more beans. If beans make you wary, start with black beans. All of my kids LOVE them, and they are so good for you.
Mix seasoning, meat, cottage cheese if you want it low fat (or cream cheese), sour cream, black beans, cheese, salsa, peppers (my kids will eat them raw in this dip), salsa….stir and go at it with tortilla chips.

Once I removed the taco seasoned ground beef (for anything Mexican), I also put a small baggy of ground beef mixed with Italian Mozzarella seasoning.
This made delicious “meatloaf muffins” made with the meat mixture, and Pillsbury Grand biscuits that I had stocked up on with my double coupons.
I will post the recipe if anyone is interested. They are great for dinner or served the next day…cold…for lunches.
The ground beef that was left quite lonely in the skillet became homemade spaghetti sauce. I served half of it over noodles the same night, and the other half became Dream spaghetti – another family favorite. This I froze for a later date.
I know some of this I went over from an early post, but they say that it takes five times for something to sink in? hee hee
I know that one of you attention to detail ladies will notice what I wrapped around the casserole dish.
Yes, it’s true….I recycle grocery bags and use them for almost everything. I rarely spend money on wraps…and only then with a great coupon.
I add just a bit of plastic wrap (if anyone’s worried about germs), and then I really seal it with a plastic bag.

So for less than one hour of work, I had six meals (and taco dip) set for the week.
I can’t tell you what a stress reliever it was. So just go for it.
Stop procrastinating…ha…coming from the Queen….and have some fun in the kitchen.
I promise it will pay huge dividends, not just in time management, but also in the pocket book.

I know this is now two posts without a complete bedlam moment…trust me, they are continually happening. When I was cooking all these great amazing meat mixtures, let’s just say our dog agreed…..grrrrr……”

Here’s to Le Dolce Vita, and more time to ahh, relax…or so I like to think! ;D


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