for Hoomans and Furends, Alike:
If you have a good time-saver hint - add it to the comments!!
I load up my biggest crockpot (6 qts), and COVER the meat and bones with water, then toss in 2T Bragg's vinegar (that's the raw, unfiltered stuff - very good for you - try stirring a T in 16 oz of water every morning - you can find it in the health food aisle). I let that simmer away on low for a full 24 hours. The vinegar leeches out the minerals from those bones.
Strain the contents (colander and 3 layers of cheesecloth). If there is any meat, I pick through what was in the strainer. The meat goes into the food processor for homemade kitteh-foods. I add a T of it to his commercial stuff to tempt his appetite.
The liquid goes in the fridge overnight. In the morning, there will be a layer of fat on the top. I skim that off and chuck it away. What's left is like semi-set Jello (that's all the collagen and good stuff from those bones). I scoop that into ice cube trays and freeze. The munchkin gets a cube of frozen broth (which he usually lets melt before he'll go near it) on a little dish next to his regular food dish on alternate days.
COOKED CHICKEN: You can come up with all sorts of things in a flash for dinner if the chicken is already cooked!! Pressure cooker or slow cooker to the rescue! When chicken breast and/or thighs are on sale, I stock up. They come home and get tossed into the CP or PC with a couple of carrots, an onion, peeled and sliced in half, 4 stalks of celery, and some parsley. Occasionally, if I see a single lonely leek, I'll buy that and toss it in, too. Cover with water (in the pressure cooker, be very aware of that 'maximum fill' line), some S/P, and let 'er rip. I do 12 minutes in the pressure cooker on high pressure and at least 6 hours in the crock pot.) Either cut the chicken into cubes or shred it. Measure it out in 1 cup portions and freeze. Save that broth!!! Strain it, let it sit overnight in the fridge and de-fat it the next day. Then measure it out in 1/2 c portions (or use an ice cube tray!) and you won't have to purchase chicken broth again.
COOKED GROUND BEEF: I am having severe sticker shock attacks when I go to purchase ground beef these days. So when it's on sale, I buy a BIG package (even for little ol' single me) and throw the entire package in my big crockpot. That's it!! Throw it in, turn the crock on to low and let it cook 3 hours. Give it a stir to break it up and cook another 3 hours. Stir it again and drain the fat away (colander and cheesecloth), then divide the beef up into packages and freeze. Waiting for beef to thaw so you can break it up and cook it takes too much time. Cook it AHEAD of time and dinners come together much faster!
CACHE POT: My brilliant mother kept a large container in the freezer to catch leftover vegetables. Butter for veggies was put on top of the vegetables on your plate, so the veggies in the serving dish were just veggies (and maybe some cooking liquid) - no butter, no sauce. The liquid in the pan and the leftover veggies got tossed in that cache pot each night. When it was finally full, she made vegetable soup. A beef bone, 1 large tin of tomatoes, some beef broth, and contents of the cache pot were put on to simmer all day. A half hour before serving, she tossed in a can or two of red kidney beans that had been drained and rinsed, and some pasta - whatever was on hand - as an additional "filler" to keep hungry kids quiet. If the grocery budget was a little flush that week, we got a loaf of Italian bread. And some nights - she turned that into garlic bread. We thought we ate like kings!!! Now when I think of the nutritional value of that soup, I know we DID eat like kings!!
COOKED PASTA: The next time you cook pasta, even if you're just cooking for one, cook the entire box!! Drain the pasta and toss it with 1-2 teaspoon of olive oil, depending on how much you have. After you're through with your meal, measure the plain cooked pasta into freezer bags (I do individual servings) and freeze. Microwave the frozen cooked pasta to reheat it. The pasta keeps in the freezer at least one month. This saves water, energy, and most importantly, your time while waiting for another pot of pasta to cook!!!!