Meal Planning: Oups! Too Much Food!

Prior to leaving on our trip to Mexico I realized we had way too much food to eat in time. As one of my frugal goals this year has been to keep our food costs down I didn't want to waste a bunch before leaving. We were only going for a week so I could have chanced it and most of it probably would have been ok when we got back, but instead I got to doing a bit of batch freezer cooking to preserve the food.  Part of the problem was also taking out some meat I'd planned to cook for dinner, but we had car troubles that day so were were running around getting that sorted out and by the time we go home, everyone was starving. So I didn't end up making the sweet and sour pork I'd planned and ended up with ham and veggie omlette.

With only 1 meal left to prepare for the week my fridge looked like this:

One of the sour cream containers contained some chicken broth made the day before with left over chicken bones and the other home made yogurt. The cardboard box had some cheesecake gifted from my parents after dinner. We finished that no problem. No additional cooking required. 

After dinner was done and the kids were playing I made a quick plan and got to work. I cut up some sweet potatoes, carrots and some of the left over rutabaga and made some orange soup in the instant pot. While that was cooking I started on the pork stir fry.

The veggies to use up



Both of those meals took about 30 minutes to finish. Once done I popped the soup in the fridge to chill so I could blend it up the next morning (kids were asleep by blending time and I didn't want to wake anyone up) and I popped the stir fry in the freezer once cooled.


My kids love "orange soup" which is some variation of orange veggies (sweet potatoes, carrots, sometimes butternut squash and this time a bit of rutabaga) onions, garlic, about 1 tsp of  curry powder and some coconut milk).

Basically I brown the onions and garlic in the instant pot , then add the veggies and saute another couple minutes. Add 1 tsp of curry powder for another minute. Then Add about 3-4 cups of chicken broth and set for 8 minutes of high pressure. (If using the stove cook till veggies are tender, roughly 10-15 minutes).  Blend in the blender if cooled, or use immersion blender if hot and add in a can of coconut milk. Kids love it with grilled cheese sandwhiches or cheese toasties.

I still had some left over chicken from the whole chicken I cooked on the Monday and my son requested chicken pot pie. So I made up the filling that night and the next morning made the pastry. Confession here: chicken pot pie is usually our lazy meal and I'll pick up a ready made one at Costco. I rarely make it because I find making the pastry to take too long and only worth doing if you can make a bigger batch. I'm also off at work at the moment so I have a bit more time than I regularily do. Normally I would have found another quicker recipe to freeze, as we are usually scrambling to get ready for a trip and this would be too big of a project.

I made a double batch of pastry and was able to make two full pies for the freezer plus one with only a top that we ate the night before leaving. I have been thinking though recently that I need to start making this more often rather than buying simply because the amount of packaging that we are forced to throw out for each pie is staggering. Making my own drastically cuts that down and I can get more veggies and less salt into the kids. The Costco version likely only has about 10 peas per portion. Mine has at least ten times that and the crust is better too. Mmm butter LOL.



So, while I don't necessarily recommend making chicken pot pies the day before leaving on vacation due to the time crunch, if you find yourself with an over abundance of food on hand, cooking up a bit extra to put in the freezer before you go can save a bit in the long run. First you didn't waste the food and second, you have food when you come back from your trip and aren't tempted to grab take out when you are tired from travelling and have no desire to go out for groceries. I always joke with my husband and say "My future self is going to thank me!". After traveling and eating out for much of a trip I always look forward to getting back to eating my own food so love to have a few meals hidden in the freezer for this reason too.

After about 2 hours of work (much less if you find something less time consuming than chicken pot pie LOL) the fridge looked like this:


Mission accomplished! Fridge emptied and 4 meals added to the freezer and 1 to eat the night before leaving. Saved $20-30 worth of food, and potentially $100 worth of take out meals in the future by having food on hand for those nights I don't feel like cooking.

OK Confession #2: Did end up throwing out half a lime, about 10 peices of leftover cooked broccoli, and icing that had been sitting from my daughter's birthday a month before. I have also been focused on being responsible for eating the leftover meals my family doesn't love to reduce the waste so not always what would be my first choice to eat.

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