Sunday, February 27, 2011

Tips: Don't Skip the Sides!

So if you are a keen shopper you no doubt have a good bit of meat in your freezer that you got at a great price.  Now comes the challenge.  What do you cook with it? Not many people want to simply cook a piece of meat and eat it by itself.  Not only is this boring but it also robs you of many nutrients that the sides  can bring.  Buying them also doesn't have to break the bank.  Here are some ideas of things that every pantry should have that will keep the ideas flowing and the meats being used:

Pasta/Pasta Sauce:  With store brand (think Great Value or Market Pantry) regular and whole grain pastas going for little more than a dollar a pack you should always have a packet or two of pasta in your pantry.  Whole grain pastas cook in the same time as their regular counter parts.  Try and vary the pasta shape when you buy so you don't get stuck in a pasta rut.  As for the pasta sauce, go with what you like: Alfredo, pesto, garlic, tomato, sausage, basil. The possibilities to change up a dish are near endless with the variety ensuring that you will always have variety.

Rice:  Rice is another great pantry item.  Ready fairly quickly it can add a nice side to any meat.  If you are in a time crunch most evenings this is one place that I would recommend against a brown rice unless you can find a quick cooking version.  If not you are looking at a 40ish minute cooking process...not alot  of fun after a long day.

Frozen Veggies:  For the most bang for your buck go with frozen vegetables.  Store brands run around $1 per 16 oz bag.  Buy a few different types of vegetables and cook only what you need then put the rest of the bag back in the freezer.  They will keep until you cycle back to them.  You also have quite a few choices from broccoli to carrots to corn to green beans, all of which bring great nutrition to a meal.

Canned Veggies/Beans:  A few canned vegetables are staples too.  A can of your favorite type of tomato to add to a dish for example.  A few cans of beans are also good to have.  They can be seasoned and served on their own or added to a wide variety of soups and dishes.  Canned beans also do not need to be soaked before using so they are ready when you are.

Boxed Stock:  I always try and keep a box of chicken stock on hand for cooking.  It is great used for soups but also for rice and couscous to add flavor or added to the pan to make a gravy.  What is great about the boxed stocks is that after you use them they can be put in the refrigerator and kept for a good bit of time.

Misc:  There are many other things that can help round out a meal.  Boxed mashed potato mixes often come with two 2-serving packages that taste good and are ready quick.  If you like your vegetables with a sauce Green Giant and Birds Eye both make frozen veggie packs with cheese or butter sauces; however, they are more expensive so you might consider making your own.  If you are a fan of tacos keep some taco/fajita seasoning on hand and pretty much any protein can be turned into a fiesta night.  

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