Back to basics: big-shop cooking

 Posted by on January 26, 2010  Add comments
Jan 262010

I must be honest. I’m not a true once-a-month cook. I tried. I strived (or strove). But it wasn’t easy. So instead of once-a-month cooking, I break cooking down into easy pieces and parts. We’ve talked about fixing simple suppers and doubling recipes. The other sock-it-away strategy I use is when-you-do-the-big-shop-cooking.

Big-shop cooking came about because I avoid the grocery store. I try my best not to go there unless absolutely necessary. We do our grocery shopping around pay days, so twice a month. Sure we need to run to get milk every now and then. However, since I’ve been following Kerri’s two-week menu planning example and posting my meal plans, those trips are fewer. It’s intentional. Money-saving too.

Hey! I can talk myself into two steps.

When the score comes in from the grocery store, this mama cooks. Right then. Just like Kim, I put the slow cooker to work browning ground beef, ground turkey and/or chicken. The big-shop cooking amounts to two steps: (1) stirring then (2) bagging.

The whole point is you have the main ingredient ready for simple suppers. I really don’t like to stand and cook meat for meals throughout the week. I’d rather do it just once or twice a month. I can pull a pound of cooked, ground turkey from the freezer and easily put together a favorite tater tot casserole. If I get those enormous bags of cheese and put in a bit of effort bagging it up in smaller bags, I have cheese for over a month – without going back to the store.

So before I even go grocery shopping, there’s the list. Kerri does a beautiful job of covering this step in parts 1 and 2 of her series, What’s for Dinner? For big-shop cooking I need to add a few things to my list.

The List.

  1. Box of quart-sized freezer bags
  2. Ground beef, ground turkey or chicken – amount for your family
  3. Seasonings – frozen, chopped onion, minced garlic, lemon (your preference)

Set the stage. Ready for action.

A little pre-shop prep is necessary. Mamas are tired when we get back from the grocery store. Especially when a passel of children helped shop. So before I even pack up my list and coupons, I do pantry and refrigerator prep. Usually we are down to the last crumbs, so I set the stage for unloading. Make the return easy:

  1. Fridge: rearrange remaining items to accommodate the new ones. Wipe down shelves using a disinfecting wipe or warm, wet paper towel.
  2. Pantry: a quick straighten. Throw out the boxes with only cereal dust. Sweep pantry floor.
  3. Slow cooker: put it out on the counter, ready for action.

Don’t put the meat in the fridge. Cook it.

Whew! You survived the shopping. You are back from the store, the groceries are unloaded and mostly put away. All you want to do is put your feet up.

Hold it.

You can handle big shop cooking! It’s easy. You’ve already done the prep.

-Ground Beef or Turkey

Easy route: Open the package and slide the entire 4-5 pounds of uncooked meat into the crock pot. Stir in about ½ cup, frozen, chopped onion and 1 tablespoon minced garlic. As you walk by later, stir again and break up the meat. Cook on low until brown. About 3-4 hours.

Bit more labor intensive: brown portion of ground beef. With the other half, fashion meatloaves, meatballs and or hamburger patties. I alternate each month for variety.


I buy the big bags of frozen chicken tenderloins. Season with garlic and lemon. Cook on low 4-5 hours. (You can save money by purchasing a whole chicken. The Happy Housewife gives instructions on how to cook a whole chicken in the crock pot).

Freeze it.

Drain your meat and let it cool. (If you cooked a bunch of chicken you can save the broth and freeze it). Bag up into quart-sized bags, ready for weeknight action.

-Don’t forget cheese. About every six weeks we get these huge bags of shredded cheese. We like cheese. I can divide the bags into about eight (8) quart-sized freezer bags and stick them in the freezer. Pull one out when it’s casserole or taco time.

It’s ok. It’s easy.

Pick one you’re the most likely to do. Take the easy route and just brown a bunch of ground beef. Stick with that for a few months. Add in others as you get into the habit.


You asked in email for details on doubling recipes? Each of the examples in last week’s post, Back to basics: Vacation planning, is a link to Hodgepodge. -Tricia homeschools five children from preschool to high school. She’s forsaken life in the drive thru lane for the road home. She’s saving bucks and her sanity with the frugal recipes and sock it away strategies of her Southern roots. You can find her facing that daily dose of chaos at Hodgepodge. Tricia is a.k.a. Hodgepodgemom.

Updated from the March 2009 archives.

  13 Responses to “Back to basics: big-shop cooking”

  1. I love the idea of getting the pantry and refrigerator ready for the new groceries BEFORE the shopping trip! Great ideas. Thanks!

  2. I love my slow cooker! I have a bunch of healthy slow cooker recipes that I post on my blog if you’re interested. Most of them can be frozen too. (

  3. thanks for the reminder picts to label the freezer bags. Great post!

    • Thanks Laura! An important step I didn’t write about. It’s sometimes hard to tell what the meat is after it’s frozen solid 🙂 Especially the difference between g. turkey and g. beef.

  4. WOW!!!!!!!!!!! I see the advantages but it seems a little overwhelming =) Thank you so much, I am learning so much!!

    • Angie I do hope this came across as easy. If you choose to, I encourage you to just pick one. Like ground beef. As soon as you get home from the store you slide it into the crock pot. When it’s cooked, bag it up 🙂

      For me, it has to be easy!

    • it might seem that way, but it’s not. I’ve been doing this for a while. Except I don’t clean the fridge before leaving for the store, just before I start putting stuff away. However, now i shall do it before I leave! I don’t put ground beef in as soon as I return, but it’s usually the next day that I brown and bag it all.

      If whole chickens are on sale, I buy 4 – 6 and freeze some and put 2 in my crock pots (I have 2). Then I debone them and bag that up later.

      It’s SO great to be able to pull out a bag of cooked beef to add to homemade mac and cheese or alfredo shells…. or to pull out some chicken and add some bbq sauce and heat for a few minutes.

      I used to bag up cheese and forgot about that. I get tired of trying to declump the huge clump in the bag, lol. Not sure why I didn’t rethink to bag them smaller, lol. But I shall!

      Give it a try with just one of these first. If you don’t have a crockpot, you can put the beef in a big pot of water and boil it. Same with chickens.

      I’m also starting to make crockpot freezer meals, where you put into a gallon freezer bag the raw meat, the veggies, the sauce, and whatever else for a crockpot meal later. Then just throw all the contents into the crock in the morning and go about your day. Make up several of those at once and it saves a lot on chopping veggies and even having veggies go bad because you didn’t use them in time.

  5. This would be fun to do with an old movie playing in the background while you work…if you have an “open kitchen” towards the family room, this works! =)

  6. Wow! I’ve precooked meat before but usually as I’m cooking for 1 meal, this sounds like a great idea for me to try. Thank you for sharing 🙂

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