Saturday was my big Costco trip for the month. I’m usually there two or three times for quick runs to the produce section(they know me!), but on the first I suck it up and make a ginormous trip for meat, dairy and toilet paper.
My life is so exciting.
Ideally, we’d be eating grass-fed and pastured and I’d be able to get it all while strolling through a Farmer’s Market while carrying a straw bag and wearing a large hat.
Our budget doesn’t work that way.
I focus on good fats (coconut oil, avocados, olive oil) and organic produce when I can get it. The rest falls in line with the budget for that month. I am starting a savings fund to purchase a side of grass fed beef, but that’s not going to happen for a while. I wish we could do more right now but rather than doing nothing and putting it off, I do what I can and will make changes for the better as I can.
My number one tip for anyone attempting to eat better is to plan ahead. Whether it’s writing a menu plan, prepping extra protein and veggies for quick breakfasts and lunches or getting meat in marinade before it goes in the freezer, I promise you won’t regret it. Being prepared means I’m far less likely to give into fast food or other not-so-wonderful food choices.
Let’s focus on that last one. When I get home from my marathon Costco trip, after everything has been unloaded and my refrigerator is groaning and packed to the nooks and crannies, I spend about an hour with the meat I bought. In just over 60 minutes this past Saturday, I was able to prepare seven different marinades and put 14 meal sized plus bags of meat in the freezer.
Meal sized plus? I always plan extra for lunches.
I now have two full week’s worth of meals started. All I have to do is to let it marinate while defrosting and add some veggies for sides.
A few tips before starting:
- Prep your meat all at once. I make sure all of the meat is cut the way we like it before I get started. That means I butterfly the chicken breasts for quicker and more even cooking and cut into chunks for kebabs.
- Check your recipes. There’s no need to chop garlic four times for 4 different recipes. Chop enough once and you’re good to go.
- Label your freezer bags first, and if you think it might be in the freezer for more than a month be sure to add a date. I never seem to have any make it longer than 4 weeks, so I don’t bother. Also, I know that it isn’t best to store food in plastic, but I’ve yet to figure out any other way. Any ideas?
- Keep a freezer inventory, even if it’s just scribbled on a note on the fridge. If I know what we have in that cold, dark hole, it’s a lot easier to plan meals.
- Don’t feel like you have to get everything in marinades. I repackage a few things naked so I can try out new recipes.
I have a few go-to recipes that I’ve used for the past few years:
- Southwestern Flank Steak (or Fajitas) – An absolute favorite at our house. I eat it on top of a great big bowl of greens with guacamole and fresh tomatoes while The Pastor and the kids usually enjoy them with brown rice tortillas and cheese. The marinade works for beef, chicken, shrimp and mushrooms, but our preference right now is flap steak. Perfect on the grill, it can also be cooked under a broiler.
- Soy-free Asian Beef – Another favorite that’s great for the grill with flap steak, I’ve also done this with London Broil. I haven’t tried this marinade with chicken yet, but I’m sure it would work well. If you don’t have, or don’t want to purchase, coconut aminos, you can substitute tamari or soy sauce.
- Tuscan Chicken – I can do amazing things with the leftovers from this chicken (I’ll share soon – promise!). It’s lemony and garlicy and rosemary-y and just plain delicious. Grilled, sauteed, baked – it all works.
- Herbs de Provence Chicken – I love herbs de Provence. Sometimes, I just open up the jar for a good sniff. It’s definitely a different flavor that we don’t eat often, but it’s lovely. I’m dying to make chicken salad with the leftovers next time we eat it.
- Napa Valley Chicken – I picked up some of this rub last year at the Ferry Building in San Francisco and it’s divine (it’s the fennel…man, I love fennel.). For the marinade, I dump a bunch of the seasoning in the bag, add some olive oil to make a thin paste, throw in the chicken and smush it up to give the chicken a good coat. You can do this with any favorite spice mix.
- Lemon Garlic Pork Chops – no link for this one, it’s just a little olive oil, lemon zest, garlic, salt and pepper. As heavy or as light as you’d like. Put the chops in a bag and freeze.
- Red Curry Chicken Skewers – Yet another family favorite, especially when served with vadouvan seasoned cauliflower rice. Leave out the onion and bellpepper, and it freezes really well.
A quick note about the olive oil: there’s some debate about whether it’s good to cook with olive oil or not. If I can help it, I don’t and prefer to use coconut oil. Unfortunately, I’ve yet to figure out a way to use coconut oil in marinades because it goes solid so easily. I’ve made some pretty impressive messes attempting it. It’s a trade off for ease, and I’m okay with it.
What do you do to make food preparation easier? Any favorite marinades? Any special topics you’d like to see me cover in this series on basics?