Stocking up for winter on a budget!

Date: 11/19/2021

Is it really November already?  Before we know it, we will be knee deep in holiday madness.  I typically take this “calm before the storm”, in early November time to get my pantry and kitchen stocked.  I want healthy, easy to fix staples that will keep me from last minute trips to the crowded grocery stores and satisfying, comfort food for those chilly nights when calling out is just too tempting.  Here are a few of my standard-practice stock up, food prep, cost-saving tips to get you through the winter holidays and beyond! 

First up let’s talk ingredients – the key to making magic in the kitchen!

I know, I know, you have read this from me many times but here it is again.  I actually took this same intro from a previous article because it is too important.  Buy the highest quality ingredients you can find.  The key to finding the highest quality ingredients at affordable prices is to buy in season or use a local CSA program to get fresh, in-season ingredients.  We all subconsciously know that getting figs in the winter means that they were picked rock hard and then shipped all over the globe to arrive in our market overpriced and undertasteful (just made that word up and I like it!).    Buy the produce in the front of the market, or what you are seeing regularly at your Farmer’s Market (if you are lucky to have one that is open year-round).  I am very fortunate to live in California where the weather makes for great backyard gardening, Farmer’s Markets and a variety of produce available through the winter.  The moral of the story is to focus on what you have in your area that is fresh and make some magic. 

Make a list and hit the market

If you are anything like me, you love a good list.  This is the time to get pencil to paper and start writing down your wish list.  Get out old favorite recipes or check your favorite food blogger to see what new ideas sound delicious.  Chicken soup and borscht are just a few of my tried and true “stock up” favorites.  I will be sharing more recipes with all of you in the near future so stay tuned!  I also like to prep and freeze just ingredients for example, I will wash, cut, and cook up green beans and then freeze for an easy side dish.  And don’t forget to get a few pots of chicken or beef broth on that list!  Once you have your recipes ready, turn that into a shopping list and hit the stores.  Going to the stores bright and early is the best to get fully stocked shelves, less shoppers, easy parking and happy sales associates!  I also use Amazon for ordering all my food preparation containers.  I use glass for freezing to avoid any chemicals leaching into my delicious food.  My favorite glass 4oz small jars here and bigger 8oz jars here.

A day in the kitchen

Plan a day for preparing and cooking your recipes.  Invite a friend over and hand them a wooden spoon, or enlist the family to help.  Food is love and should be shared!  And you know the old saying… many hands make light work.  My mom and I spend loads of time in the kitchen chatting and chopping, chopping and chatting.  I start with washing everything – run the food prep containers through the dishwasher, spin all the leafy veggies, thoroughly wash everything so you can get to the fun part.  Make sure you have freshly sharpened knives and a compost container nearby and get to work.  Each recipe may call for different kinds of cuts for example, carrots in Chicken Soup would be different than carrots cut for a stew or curry.  I find it handy to have smaller prep bowls to hold ingredients before they go into the main recipe.   Once you start the cooking, and the house is smelling delicious, give yourself a pat on the back for making your food a priority.  Your future self will thank you for making it easy to make healthy choices.  

Packing and storing

Fill you clean containers and jars in the appropriate serving size that makes sense for you and your family.  Don’t forget lunch size portions!  For my chicken and beef broth, I will also freeze them into small glass containers (link here)!.  I like to have smaller sizes to easily add stock to almost anything I am cooking.  Some food containers have a space to write the contents and date directly on them, if you don’t have that ability, use masking tape and clearly write the recipe and date.  I always think I will remember what is in each container and when I put it in the freezer… but alas, I rarely do and am always thankful of the reminder!     Once you have all the containers filled and lined up in your freezer – take a picture and send it to me…  I love seeing and hearing new ideas from this amazing community. 

My All-Time Favorite Chicken Soup Recipe

The secret to this recipe is to remove all the fat from the soup the day after it has been cooked, so plan to make this one ahead of time before storing or eating.

1 Naturally Raised Whole Chicken (3-4 pounds)

½ Bunch of Dill, whole

¼ Bunch of Parsley, whole

1 Parsnip, Peeled

1 Medium White Onion, Peeled and cut into quarters

3 Carrots, Peeled

3 Stalks of Celery, Trimmed

8 Cups (3 Cartons) Chicken Stock (homemade if possible)

Fresh Ground  Pepper

Salt

1 – Wash chicken thoroughly and take out all insides except the neck.  Make sure chicken is clean of feathers.  Put in large soup pot and cover with the chicken stock.  Add water if necessary to ensure the chicken is fully covered.  Add in all vegetables and herbs.  Bring to a boil.  Lower heat to simmer, cover pot and cook for 60 to 90 minutes or until chicken is completely cooked through.  Chicken is cooked through when it falls apart.  Cool for at least 30 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

2 – Remove chicken from pot, remove skin and bones.  Shred chicken.  Strain the remaining ingredients from the pot into another pot or bowl.  Remove onion, dill, parsley and discard.  Cut vegetables that you want to have in your soup – carrots, parsnip, celery

3 – Put chicken, liquid and vegetables back into soup pot and allow to cool for several hours.  Once cooled, refrigerate overnight.  Carefully remove fat from top of the pot with cold spoon and discard.  

I hope you enjoy these tips and my favorite recipe!  

In good health, 


Lena    

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