Our Work & Play Weekend

It’s been at least 2 years since Todd and I have gone to the movies together, or so we figured out one night last week as we were considering what to do this weekend. Two years?! I mean, sure, we’ve been a bit distracted between getting married and buying the house. And the vast majority of movies that have come out lately have not been my cup of tea, so combine that with the crowds, the rising cost of movie tickets, and the comfort of watching what we want, when we want, from home in PJs and hello 2 years!

No, we didn’t go see Jurassic World–I still maintain my 2 week minimum wait before seeing a new release rule–but we did go see Tomorrowland, and enjoyed it thoroughly. I know some have criticized Clooney’s performance, but we didn’t have any issues with him. Laurie’s diatribe towards the end was more throught-provoking than I would have expected.

tomorrowland

I’d actually hoped that we would be able to see it at our local theater, but it had already moved on (with only 7 screens, the turnover might be a bit higher than elsewhere), so we drove down to the AMC in Tallahassee. This turned out to be a good thing, since we also needed to make a Sam’s Club run to stock up the freezer again.

This is something I just started doing this year and I’m kinda kicking myself for not starting sooner. Ages ago we were gifted a hand-me-down chest freezer and while we used it to store leftovers and overflow from the regular freezer, we never really got into the habit of stocking-up that the appliance allows. And I’ve had a Sam’s Club membership for decades through work, but until this year I would usually go once a year to stock up on my OTC meds (almost a year’s supply for less than a month at the pharmacy for my allergy meds and vitamins).

Better late than never, I guess. In February I went to do my usual med run and decided to browse the frozen foods and meat cases to see if there were any deals to be had. Of course there were, and in April and June Todd and I have gone back to do the same. My favorite buys remain the 10# pork loins that yeild 2 pork roasts and 16 1/2″ pork loin chops for a total of $20 and the 4#+ packs of a beef stew meat that I divide into thirds and use for everything from stew to stir fry. They’ve also started carrying gluten-free flour by the 5# bag that’s about the same as what 2 small bags costs from Trader Joe’s but lasts much longer.

The portioned haul from our April trip: pork chops, chicken thighs, stew beef, and mixed seafood.
The portioned haul from our April trip: pork chops, chicken thighs, stew beef, and mixed seafood.

This trip we picked up a pork loin (6 meals), a package of 10 chicken breasts (we split each oversized breast and get 5 meals from), a package of stew beef (3 meals), and a 10# sleeve of 90/10 ground beef (10 meals). I’d prefer a slightly higher mix like 94/6, but that’s harder to find in bulk–this was the first time I’d even seen 90/10. This portion of our purchase came to $78, or .81 average cost per serving (we portion and cook for 4 servings a night and use the leftovers for lunches).

On average we get 25-30 meals worth of protein in each trip and that lasts us 2 months, give or take. But I wondered how that worked, since that’s only about a month’s worth of dinners, right? So here’s how it breaks down.

  • Say there are 60 days in 2 months, just to keep us working with easy numbers. The 24 meals worth of protein we purchased this weekend still leaves us with 36 night to cover.
  • It’s not unusual for us to do breakfast for dinner once a week, so there’s, say, 8 meals that don’t require a main-dish protein (though we’ll usually have bacon on sausage on those nights–not something we’ve been buying in bulk). And we often have a meatless meal a week, so there’s another 8. Last week Todd made cream of tomato soup (from scratch!) and grilled cheese sandwiches, for instance. So now we’re down to 20 holes to fill.
  • On average I’d say we go out to eat/pick up take-out twice a month. Sometimes it’s higher, but not always. So we’ll say 4 meals for this exercise, and we regularly have fish or seafood once a week, as well, so that’s another 8 taken care of. While we do usually buy our seafood frozen in case we move our meal planning around (prevents loss due to spoilage in that case), the bulk buys aren’t much different from the regular, so that’s an as-needed purchase. But, still, that’s another 12 days taken care of, meaning there’s only 8 meals that we have to buy meat for outside of these bulk purchases.

Not too shabby, right?

Of course, buying in bulk means you often have to repackage what you buy into portions that work for you. In our case, like I said above, we portion for 4 servings even though there’s only 2 of us, so that we don’t have to worry about lunches, saving time and money in the long run. While I do have a vacuum sealer, I tend to just use Ziplock freezer bags (which we also restocked during this most recent Sam’s run) for convenience. You could go old-school with freezer paper, masking tape and a wax pencil, if that’s your preference. Always make sure to label what it is and when you bought it, too. We still have some pork chops and chicken thighs in the freezer from the last run, and we want to make sure we use those before the new “stock”–this is First In/First Out or FIFO stock rotation and prevents waste.

To save time and mess)  I pre-label all my freezer bags before I start opening packages.
To save time and mess) I pre-label all my freezer bags before I start opening packages.

You’ll also need a good, strong knife and a cutting board for fabricating (aka breaking down, portioning, or cutting up). A sturdy board that’s not going to slip on you (though you can lay a damp towel underneath for stability–makeshift suction “cup”) with a channel around the edge to maintain any spills is highly recommended. And you want to do this pretty much as soon as you get home. You can certainly cut meat when it’s frozen or partially frozen–for some things it’s even easier, like super-thin cuts for stir fry or fajitas–but you want to avoid defrosting and refreezing as it can lead to freezer burn as well as damaging the cell structure of the meat, leading to texture issues when you go to cook it. Not to mention it’s a lot easier to cut yourself and not realize it when your fingers are numb from handling below 40° protein! (No, I didn’t do this, it was just a constant caution back in meat cutting class, which was held in the walk-in fridges back in school to prevent temperature control issues). Work quickly and get it put up pronto!

I haven’t graduated to full-on freezer meal prep yet, but I can see it coming somewhere down the line. For now I’ll just stick to stocking the freezer every couple of months and menu planning each week.

Wandering through a warehouse store for an hour or so might not sound like a great follow-up to an afternoon movie date, but it was nice to be out of the house together with a goal but not a timeline. We usually grocery shop alone, so these trips are sort of a novelty for us, and we end up talking about anything and everything in the process. For us, it was a great combination of work and play.

2 thoughts on “Our Work & Play Weekend

  1. Maria says:

    We very rarely go to movies either — I get seriously annoyed with being in a quiet space with noisy people, so I mostly avoid it altogether… Plus, I’d much rather be in my PJs!

    You’ve totally inspired me to rethink my Costco shopping and consider buying more meat in bulk! Appreciate all of the tips!

    1. Scraps says:

      I’ve heard that Costco has even better deals than Sam’s Club, according to friends in the know! If my Sam’s membership weren’t paid for by work, I’d have probably switched over. And now that you’ve got that house to fill, an extra freezer is an excellent addition 🙂

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