This "P" always turns out to be more involved and more time consuming than I anticipate. This is where I REALLY get my cooking game plan all figured out.
At some point after getting home from shopping and putting all of the cold stuff away, I pull out my little list of recipes and write a different list. This time I'm going through and looking at which recipes call for cooked chicken, chicken pieces, full chicken breasts, cooked ground beef, sliced beef, raw beef, chopped veggies, you get the idea... Basically, making a list of everything that needs to be done before I can start assembling the meals.
Cooked chicken is usually where I start. I throw as much of it as possible into the crockpot and let it do it's thing on high for 4 hours. [You can boil yours if you prefer, I just love my crockpot, as I'm pretty sure I've mentioned before... ;)] Then I shred it, put it in some sort of container, throw a sticky label on it, letting me know which recipe it's intended for, and put it in the fridge. Then, if needed, I'll get another batch of chicken going.
After throwing the initial batch of chicken in, I'll print out my handy dandy labels and slap on the ones that will be used with recipes that are stored in freezer bags. The labels that are for casseroles, or other recipes that are prepared in foil pans won't go on until after the fact.
Since I'm working with the chicken already, I'll work on slicing off the fat, cutting it up for various recipes and portioning it out, putting the right amounts in their various bags. Sometimes this prep work only requires cutting the fat off of a chicken breast and putting it in its appropriate bag, sometimes I have to do a bit more cutting, depending on the recipe, but it's not too bad.
|All of the chicken recipes, after cutting it up and portioning into the appropriate bags |
*Note: This was for a cook that I was doing just for my own family. I didn't use labels this time, so disregard the sloppy handwriting
|I usually cut the BBQ chicken into similar portion-sized pieces so they'll all cook at about the same rate.|
|This is an example of a recipe where I simply cut off the fat and set the chicken into it's bag.|
*I almost always have a little bit of chicken left over. I buy the 5-6 lb packages that you find at Sam's or Wal Mart and I tend to overestimate - better safe than sorry, right? Anyway, when I do have leftovers, I portion it out into 1 lb increments, dice it up and wrap it in tinfoil. I write "Chicken" and the date on it and put it in the freezer... and voila! Pair that with a box of Velveeta Cheesy Skillets (or chicken helper, or a stir fry, etc...) and you've got another freezer meal! Yes!!
Once the chicken is done, I'll clean up and move on to the next meat. I'll cook what needs to be cooked and then label it and put it in the fridge to use when I'm ready to assemble the rest of the meal.
For the meats that don't need to be cooked, I'll slice off fat, cut it up as the recipes call for, and place them in their bags, just as I did with the chicken.
Once all the meats are done I move on to vegetables. Usually this doesn't take too long. I tend to buy the frozen, chopped veggies to save myself time. Who really wants to bawl their eyes out cutting up onions? Not me... so I buy LOTS of frozen, chopped onions. The bags cost $1 at Kroger and I think that's totally a worthwhile investment. I also buy frozen, chopped celery if I can, and sliced peppers and onions for crockpot fajitas, etc...
Occasionally I'll have potatoes to cut up, but I try to keep them to a minimum - potatoes don't freeze particularly well. FYI
Once all of that is done, if you still have any energy left, you may want to organize your plethora of ingredients into little piles based on the recipe you'll be using them for. This isn't really necessary, but if you can't handle the huge pile of dry goods hanging out in your kitchen, it may ease your mind to have some sense of order. :)
And one final note - if you are cooking as a group, you'll probably want to divide recipes evenly and have things set up in little stations for each group member. That tends to make things run a bit more smoothly, with less confusion and people bumping into each other as you put everything together.
OK.... So, this P was pretty involved, but basically you're:
1. Cutting, cooking and portioning out the meats as needed for recipes.
2. Applying labels and organizing freezer bags and meats for quick use the next day.
3. Cutting up vegetables, if needed.
4. Organizing the various other ingredients as needed.
[Doesn't sound too complicated when you look at it like that, eh? ;)]