Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Insourcing #35....Be Prepared....

 One of the Insourcing tasks that saves me the most money, week in, week out, it being prepared for the week ahead. I find that it's those weeks where we are unusually busy for whatever reason, that routine and common sense fly out the window. You too?

So I always look at least a fortnight further down the track and try to stockpile for those busier weeks.
This week looks like one of those crazy ones. My daughter has Dance rehearsals like you wouldn't believe, I have costumes to finish sewing and embellishing, and having just celebrated Fathers Day, and had an outing to see Snow White, performed by Ballet Preljocaj (go if you can....unforgettable!!!), it's inevitable that Chez Mimi is looking a bit frantic.
Tidying and laundering were taken care of on Sunday while the Father of the aforementioned Fathers Day put his feet up. A lunch was enjoyed at a favourite riverside haunt, thus saving me the task of living up to expectations when my own schedule is full. Not an insourced lunch, but we save money in so many ways, that a well deserved fabbo lunch served by others once in a while, is a pleasure to be savoured.
So today it was all about the food for the family, for the week. Sensible eating is the first item to be abandoned when we're busy. Filling the tummy becomes paramount, and the whys, hows, and wherefores of that task diminish in direct proportion to how quickly can it be prepared and eaten.
We need healthy meals when we're busy. Not fat laden takeaways that are so hard on our digestive system and our wallets.
  The answer of course, is to have healthy meals ready to go. The sort of thing that really only needs minutes in the pan or microwave, and a crisp salad on the side, to do the trick.

I'd already stocked up on pantry and freezer basics when shopping over the last couple of weeks. So, you see, planning ahead, sometimes means looking as far as a month further down the track, and anticipating that not only will meals be required, but having ingredients on hand, means time saved in driving to the supermarket, shopping, driving home, and unpacking.

I would normally shop on a Monday, but that was unnecessary this week as I had looked ahead and shopped accordingly.
The ingredients below, which included the leftovers of a roasted chicken that served as lunch over the weekend, some veges left over from a lovely chicken, leek and root vegetable bake on another evening, some bacon, and half a tin of creamed corn that my husband had opened to enjoy on his toast one morning...
....along with the limp celery below...

...some neatly diced...

...and some refreshed in an iced water bath to perk them up for snacks later in the week....

...became a thick, lush Chicken and Corn Chowder for dinner tonight, with leftovers for another evening's quick meal.
Here's that recipe Nanna style in four sentences...
Chicken and Corn Chowder
To four cups of simmering chicken stock, add 2 cups diced cooked chicken, 2 diced rashers of bacon, 3 diced potatoes, 1 sliced carrot, one sliced leek or a diced onion, and one stalk celery. Simmer gently until the vegetables are tender. Add one drained tin of corn kernels and one cup of evaporated (NOT sweetened condensed!) milk, and reheat gently. Stir through a handful of diced continental parsley and serve with toast or bread rolls.
 The crisper yielded several capsicum (peppers), a dozen or more mushrooms, a whole butternut pumpkin (squash), an eggplant (aubergine), and some English Spinach, all of which were roasted or steamed. The capsicum (peppers) were roasted till their skins blistered, and then peeled. This makes them unbelievably tender and sweet and altogether different from capsicum in their raw state. Those, seen here...

...along with sliced and roasted rounds of Butternut Pumpkin and Eggplant, roasted and diced  mushrooms tossed with parmesan and garlic, and two tubs of Smooth Ricotta, with more parmesan, garlic and eggs...
...all ready to go here below...
...became this extravagant, and earthy roasted vegetable stack. A little like a vegetarian lasagne, but without the pasta.
I alternated several layers of pumpkin, eggplant, capsicum, mushrooms, and spinach, with the ricotta mixture and covered it in grated tasty cheese.
This was baked at 160C fan forced for one hour, it then looked like this and smelled amazing...
Once cooled, it can then be easily sliced or cut into squares and served as is, or with a small side of lean meat or chicken.
A gluten free cake mix, combined with 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter, one egg, a large handful of diced dates, and 2 tablespoons of maple syrup, became a gluten free cookie dough. I sprinkled these little morsels with cinnamon sugar, and baked them for 25 minutes...
...which yielded 25 huge and delectably caramel-ish and chewy cookies...
While I was at it, I baked this yummy gluten free chocolate loaf cake and slathered it in chocolate frosting to enjoy for with my favourite cuppa for afternoon tea.

Of course, the leftovers of the cake will find their way into my daughters lunch box this week as well, giving a saving on pre-packaged bars, cakes and whatnot that we might resort to if we had no other options.
In my shopping travels over the previous few weeks, I added other quick and easy meal and lunchbox bargains to the pantry and freezer as they arose. In making these choices, I ask myself three things:
1. What would the fast food version of this be?
2. How much would that cost?
3. How much time would be wasted driving to the appropriate fast food chain at peak time, to buy that item?
I'm not a complete killjoy, but the last thing I want to do in a busy week, is line up in the drive-thru of the local McDonalds or Hungry Jacks, to buy something inferior to what we can source ourselves. And I'm sorry, but for us, that's almost anything...lol! My daughters idea of a treat, is a Bubble Tea and some sushi, not a Happy Meal. 
So in my shopping excursions in the weeks leading up to a frantic time, I look carefully for items that will see the family happy and well fed, in a timely fashion. I make sure there are some treats in there too. As I've always maintained, factoring some fun food into the budget, actually saves money in the long run.
Here are my ideas...
1. I don't usually buy deli meat, BUT when prepacked thin Roast Beef slices are on special, and work out less expensive than buying a piece of beef, and roasting and slicing it myself, then that's a winner. Something I take into consideration there, is that these slices are far thinner than I could slice for myself, and far easier to use for sandwiches. I add cheese, baby spinach, capsicum and tomato to the sandwiches, and right there is a low fat, protein, iron, and fibre rich, lunch-on-the-go for us all. It pays to look at the unit price (price per kilo or pound) of prepacked items like cheeses and deli meats too...it can be a real eye opener. Whilst I find these pre-packaged items expensive overall, they can actually work out to be a very economical option when they're on special, and certainly in terms of comparison to takeaway, they're a bargain.
2. Likewise, we usually buy our cheese in blocks and I pre-slice it myself. But again, in a busy week, having that little 'luxury' of pre-sliced tasty cheddar cheese, in neat squares that fit the slices of bread perfectly, are small concession to make, over buying fast food. Fortunately, I snaffled those on special last week too. Bonus!
3. Individual cartons (we call them Poppers here...I don't remember why...lol!) of milk or juice are another great time saver. These can also be frozen overnight and used as ice bricks in lunch boxes, which then slowly thaw and become a chilled drink. I know my Aussie friends know this very well. I prefer to buy low fat milk, and include a flavoured straw with it. Have you seen them? They're called Sippah Straws, and they're lined with flavoured beads that dissolve as you draw the liquid through them. It's a fun idea that is a healthier option to bought thick shakes from a fast food outlet. My girl is nearly 17, and she still loves these.

4. The pyramid shaped flavoured ice blocks we have here called Sunny Boy, are another great alternative to both a traditional ice brick and fast food frozen drinks. I add them frozen to my daughters lunch box in the morning, and by lunchtime she has her own 'slushie'. I include scissors for her to snip one side from them for consumption.
5. Another favourite afternoon snack for us here, is fruit and Acai bowls. These are all the rage here just now, and there are pop-up stores everywhere selling one version or another of pureed fruit with additions like coconut flakes, Acai, protein powder, seed mixes, and other healthy stuff. Each bowl though, can set you back $12-$18, so they're an expensive idea to enjoy every day. I bought a Nutri Bullet a little while back, and now quickly and easily make our own Acai bowls. I freeze the fruit beforehand, and blend it in the Nutri Bullet with a little juice or almond milk, mix frozen Acai with mashed banana, and add a sprinkle of Protein Seed Mix from the supermarket. My version costs under $2 and is just as delicious as any trendy store bought version. Again, the Nutri Bullet seemed an expensive item at the time, but that one investment has saved us hundreds, if not well over a thousand dollars over the last twelve months.
It's a bit like an online discussion I participated in once, where we all listed our three stages of saving.
Stage one is buying fast food on the go when you're busy, and paying premium price for an inferior food product every time.
Stage two is either buying healthier food that is equally as expensive or moreso than the traditional fast food, or buying fast food look and taste-a-likes at the supermarket...things like frozen fries, premade lasagnas and so on.
Stage three, is looking ahead, planning accordingly, and eating healthfully from home, injecting a little fun food, and feeling all the better for it, both health wise and financially.
For the most part, we live at Stage three. We haven't always, and it's taken some thought and creativity, but it's been well worthwhile.
How about you? How do you cope with busy weeks, and are you a Stage one, two or three planner?


  1. Wonderful ideas. Planning ahead certainly is a great help! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks Lynn. It's a great strategy. Mimi xxx

  2. Mimi I must make those cake mix biscuits - I have some chocolate gluten free cake mixes in the pantry that were marked down and have a long life span.

    I shop monthly but usually stretch it out another couple of weeks with a top up of bread and eggs (my husband has to have his eggs) and fruit and vegetables. We have a small IGA that I will use to buy the odd item from but they are expensive so I try to keep it to a minimum.

    All my married life I have had to stretch the food out so I have become an old hand at it. I shop basics then it is just a case of deciding what to put on the menu.

    Tonight we are having apricot chicken - all of the items used were in the pantry, fridge or freezer and the small slow cooker is doing the work for me. Of course it could have been curried chicken, satay chicken or sweet and sour chicken, chicken cacciatore style (sp?), chicken schnitzel and the list goes on. Having a good amount of basic recipes is the way I have always dealt with times like you are having. I know that if I haven't time for one then I know I have time for another.

    Heaven help me if I am hit on the head and my memory goes because the recipes are all up there.


    1. You do beautifully Lynette. Food allergies, recipes in the head and all :) Mimi xxx

  3. Dear Mimi,
    I have been having busy weeks. I am a stage 3 planner. I basically walls keep easy pantry meals and freezer meals for busy days. Also I will put things in the crockpot so at dinner its all ready to go. We only had take away one time last year and zero times so far this year. I can make a pizza faster than we can buy one.
    I try to keep ready meals incase of unexpected situations. We are also happy to use the sandwich press and make up something on a busy nice. I love that actually.
    When busy keeping things simple is good. I don't know what this saves er year but it is a lot... and a lot healthier! With love Annabel.xxx

    1. Annabel, the fact that you can make a pizza quicker than buying one, is something I talk about often. Sometimes 'convenience' or 'fast' food, isn't that convenient or fast! And sandwich presses, and slow cookers...honestly...what would we do without them? Love, Mimi xxx

  4. I'm definitely stage 3. It's a good way to be as home made food is hard to beat even if it's leftovers added to something else to make a quick meal such as leftover tuna bake to make an impossible pie/quiche.
    Janiebabe x

  5. Oh, Mimi! I feel your busyness, just substitute "cross country running" for "Dance rehearsals" and "boxes to finish unpacking" for "costumes to finish sewing" and we're in it together. Your meal planning and preparations turned out so beautifully! We're starting autumn here in the States, so your corn chowder and lovely baked goods sound just marvelous.
    Please share photos of the costumes if you can. The Miss Havisham-ish dresses you showed us were so creative, so I'd love to see your new project! Have a lovely, productive week!
    Blessings, Leigh

    1. Aaargh...Leigh...yes! Dance. It rules us! Mimi xxx


I love hearing from you! I always respond to comments, so don't be shy! Mimi xxx