Add Salt & Serve is not just another menu planning website, but an entirely different way of thinking about cooking. Our menus are based on the Secrets of a Busy Cook and will help you not only get control of your meal planning, but also save time and money. Please review both this page and the Busy Cook’s Pyramid before using our meal plans.
The grocery list for each week is included in the premium 52 week menu packs as a preprinted list. The grocery list for the free menus is created through the “Collection” at the bottom of each meal plan post. You may adjust the number of servings for each recipe before creating the shopping list to get updated quantities. Note that updates in the recipe cards themselves to not carry over to the shopping list; you must update the quantities in the collection to update the shopping list.
Busy Cook’s Pyramid
The Busy Mom Menu includes cooking meals for the freezer, planning leftovers, quick and easy recipes, fast ingredients, and the use of tools and techniques to make your dinner hour low stress. These strategies are also frequently included in the free weekly menu plans. In addition, the information found below will explain some of the terms and ingredients that you will find on some of the menu plans (mostly the Busy Mom Menu), such as “1 lb. cooked chicken (from freezer)” or “1 onion, chopped and sautéed (from freezer)”. You may also wish to review the FAQ. The Frugal Mom Menu may include some of the building blocks from the Busy Cook’s Pyramid as well.
As you use the menus, you will notice that we encourage you to stock your pantry when items are on sale. Although we may include reminders for stocking your freezer, you should make an effort to stock up when you find the deepest discounts rather than when we suggest it. Your most effective weapon against high grocery prices is to stock up at the lowest price and shop your own pantry when you need something. For more information about keeping a stocked pantry, see The Well Stocked Pantry series.
Planning ahead is the best tool you have in the kitchen. You will find that by starting whatever you can in the morning or early afternoon, your dinner preparation will be smoother and less stressful. You will see that our menus save money by using homemade items rather than prepared, store bought equivalents. Refried beans are easy and delicious when made from dried black beans, and you can make 4 times the amount (or more) than one can of refried beans for the same price. If you have never cooked from scratch you will find ample notes and suggestions to help you. We also offer recipes for homemade biscuits and pie crusts as well as seasoning mixes and condensed soup alternatives. Using these saves money and the homemade versions are much better fresh and homemade. The menus may not specify a homemade version so keep in mind that these alternatives are available to you (for example, a recipe may call for cream of chicken soup; you can either purchase the soup or use the alternative found below).
Most weeks feature recipes that use quick and easy ingredients like chicken from the freezer. This is the primary way that we save prep time in the evening. When a recipe calls for ground beef, instead of browning one pound of ground beef, buy 5 lbs. and brown all of it, freezing the extra in 4 freezer bags. When you need cooked chicken for a soup or casserole, instead of cooking just enough for that recipe, boil or grill 3-4 extra lbs. for the freezer. When we cook a ham, we dice the leftovers and bag them in freezer bags in 1-2 cup portions for later use in cooking beans or soup. Here is a wonderful recipe for cooking chicken in bulk. Have grilled chicken for dinner the night you cook it, then chop and freeze the leftovers in dated freezer containers.
Grilled Marinated Chicken
- 4 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 cup soy sauce
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 2 tsp. oregano
- 1 tsp. basil
- 1 tsp. garlic salt or Adobo
- 1/2 tsp. pepper
- Place marinade with chicken in a marinating container and marinate overnight. Grill chicken until it reaches 160° at the thickest part, or until white all the way through and juices run clear. If you do not have a grill, you can bake the chicken in the oven. Serve 1 portion of the chicken for dinner and chop and freeze the rest for use in soups, casseroles, and stove top meals.
A good way to start stocking your freezer is to buy 10 lbs. of ground beef when it goes on sale. Brown 5 lbs. as described above, and with the rest make this mixture: 5 lbs. of ground beef, 5 eggs, and Adobo seasoning or salt and pepper. You may add some bread crumbs if you wish. Shape patties for hamburgers (freeze on a cookie sheet individually and then bag once frozen), then take the extra meat and divide it equally between a meatloaf and meatball shapes for the freezer. Individually freeze the meatballs on a cookie sheet (cooking them first saves time later), then put into dated freezer bags. This will give you 5 lbs. of cooked beef for casseroles, tacos, enchiladas, soups, and more, as well as homemade patties for hamburgers (2 meals), a meatloaf, and meatballs (2 meals).
If you are just starting the meal plans you will need cook this meat as you encounter it in recipes in the menus since you won’t have it in the freezer. It will be listed as “cooked chicken/beef/etc (from the freezer)”. Go ahead and take the time to add a few pounds of whichever meat you are cooking for a meal to your list and when you cook for the dish, cook all of the meat and freeze the extra to stock your freezer. If you consistently do this, you will always have cooked meat in the freezer for those days when prep time is at a minimum. The best way to store your freezer meat is in quart-sized freezer bags. Vacuum sealers are a good investment and reduce the risk of freezer burn. Thawing is also quick and easy with vacuum sealed bags – just thaw the bag in a bowl of cold water.
Occasionally you will see taco-seasoned ground beef mentioned also. The same principle applies: instead of seasoning one pound of ground beef for tacos, cook several pounds and freeze the extra in one pound increments.
Freezer Onions and Peppers
The same principle of bulk cooking can be applied to onions and green peppers either individually or together. If your recipe calls for a sautéed onion, instead of sautéing one onion, buy a whole bag of onions, chop them all and freeze in casserole-sized servings. When you have these meal-sized portions of meat and vegetables, it is a cinch to throw together a quick meal late in the afternoon.
If you are just starting out, you will not have sautéed onions in your freezer. Go ahead and use this time to cook a bag of onions and/or green bell peppers so you will have them ready in your freezer.
Adobo is a Filipino spice that is mostly made up of garlic salt. If you need a substitution, garlic salt is the best one although I would use less. Adobo is inexpensive (less than $2 for a large bottle) and can be found with the Latino foods at most grocery stores. If you can’t find it, you can make a substitute.
- 4 tablespoons salt
- 3 tablespoons onion powder
- 3 tablespoons garlic powder 3 tablespoons ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons ground oregano
Put all ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake well and store for up to two months in a cool dry place.
Chili Spice Blend
- 7 Tbsp. chili powder
- 2 Tbsp. cumin
- 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 1 Tbsp. garlic powder
- 3 Tbsp. dried minced onion
- 1 tsp. salt
Combine all ingredients in chili spice blend and store in a leftover container, empty spice bottle, or baggie.
Cream of Something Soup Mix
Note: Choose the bouillon flavor based on the type of soup mix you would like to make and add dehydrated ingredients whenever available to complement the bouillon flavor. For example, to make Cream of Mushroom Soup mix, use vegetable bouillon and add chopped dehydrated mushrooms. To make Cream of Chicken Soup mix, use chicken bouillon and, if available, add pieces of dehydrated chicken. You may adjust the seasonings according to your preference, creating many varieties of soup mix.
- 1 cup non-fat dried milk
- 3/4 cup cornstarch
- 1/4 cup bouillon granules
- 4 Tbsp freeze dried minced onions
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp pepper
To make the equivalent of one can of condensed cream soup, mix 1/3 cup Cream of Something Soup Mix with 1 1/4 cup water and cook over medium heat until thick.
Cream Soup Substitution
- 8 T. butter
- 8 T. flour
Mix equal parts of butter & flour, stirring into a paste. Separate into 8 balls or in 8 cubes of an ice tray. Freeze.
- 2 cubes butter/flour
- 1 c. milk
- Salt & Pepper to taste or other spices/vegetables
for flavor (mushrooms, celery, chicken bouillon, etc.)
To make quick white sauce, simmer 2 cubes of the frozen butter & flour mixture with the milk, then season to taste.
Thanks to Holly from our old Yahoo group for this suggestion.
I regularly cook a bag of dried beans and freeze the beans in their own juice to use in place of canned beans. Dried beans are easy to cook, are more tender, and are less expensive than canned beans. If you do not have any beans in your freezer and would like to stock up, my instructions for how to cook dried beans are below.
How To Cook Dried Beans for the Freezer
- 1 lb. bag dried beans, black, pinto, kidney, etc.
- Rinse beans in a colander and check to be sure there are no stones or other debris. Place beans in a large pot and cover with water so that the water is twice as deep as the beans. Soak for at least 5 hours.
- Drain beans in a colander and rinse pot. Return beans to pot and cook at a simmer until beans are tender, which can be anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours depending on the type of bean. Beans can also be cooked in the Instant Pot according to the times listed on their website. If cooking in the IP, be sure to watch the levels of food and water since beans foam while cooking. The inner pot should never be more than 1/2 full.
- Drain beans, reserving liquid (place colander on a lg. pan or bowl then pour beans into the colander so that the bowl catches the liquid). Separate beans into 2 cup servings in freezer bags. Cover beans in each bag with some of reserved liquid and freeze flat.
Easy Buttermilk Biscuits
- 4 cups self-rising flour
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 1-1/2 cups buttermilk
- Combine flour and butter, cutting with a fork or using a mixer.
- Stir in buttermilk and mix well. Add more flour if too wet, more buttermilk if too dry.
- When dough is rolling consistency, knead a few times and turn out onto a floured surface. Roll out and cut with a biscuit cutter.
- Bake the biscuits on cookie sheet at 475° until brown, about 15 minutes (time will vary based on thickness).
Healthier Biscuit Mix recipe
- 10 c flour, or whole wheat pastry flour if available
- 3/8 c baking powder
- 1 tsp cream of tarter
- 1 1/4 c powdered milk
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 c sugar, or Sucanat
- 1 lb Spectrum (no transfat) shortening
- Mix all dry ingredients together. Cut in shortening til mixture has a even, crumbly texture. Store in the freezer and use in place of Bisquick®.
Bulk Pie Crust
- 6 cups flour
- 1 lb. butter, softened (4 sticks)
- 2 tsp. salt
- 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups cold water
- Mix flour and salt.
- If mixing by hand, use a fork or pastry cutter to blend in butter a little at a time until mixture is crumbly. If using a stand mixer, use the pulse function to mix. The flour and butter mixture does not have to be completely uniform; it's actually good to leave a few larger bits of butter mixed in.
- Add water a little at a time and mix until mixture forms a ball.
- If your dough starts to get greasy because the butter is melting, place it in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes before working with it further.
- Add water as necessary to get correct texture, but try to add as little water as possible. You only need enough water so that the dough holds together; the final product will not look like a smooth ball.
- Divide dough in half, then divide each half into 3 equal parts.
- At this point roll each section out to be ready for a pie plate before freezing, or you can freeze it in discs to be rolled before use. If you want to do the extra step of rolling it out, place each section of crust on lightly floured parchment paper and roll it out to your preferred size, then starting at one end of the parchment paper, gently roll it up with the pie crust inside.
- If you are freezing without rolling, form each section into a slightly flattened disc and place parchment paper between each disc of dough. Freeze in a freezer container.
- If you rolled the pie crusts out and rolled them up in parchment paper, place them on a cookie sheet or other flat surface and freeze for a couple of hours. Once the crusts are individually frozen, you can combine them and place them together in a freezer container or wrap them with freezer paper and freeze.
- The dough can be mixed by hand or with a sturdy stand mixer.
- Nutrition data is per pie crust.
- Freshly ground whole wheat flour may be used in this recipe instead of white flour at a one to one ratio.
- To bake an unfilled crust, cook at 475ºF for about 8 minutes. For filled crusts, bake according to recipe instructions.