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Combine sales with freezer cooking to save money and time

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Over the last three weeks, all the major grocery chains in the Triangle have had huge sales on chicken. And the good deals continue.

This week, Harris Teeter has split chicken breasts on sale for 99 cents per pound and Food Lion has a sale on drumsticks and thighs for just 79 cents per pound.

At a dollar per pound or less, it's a good time to stock up, purchasing enough to feed your family until the next big sale rolls around.

Even if you're like me and have limited storage space, you can still take advantage of these stock-up sales by setting aside a few hours to do some batch cooking or freeze-ahead cooking.

Last weekend, I ended up purchasing eight pounds of chicken, which cost me a grand total of $8 and change to cover the tax.

I poached half the chicken in a large pot on the stove. Adding just enough water to cover the chicken, I threw in a couple carrots and onions and 20 minutes later, the chicken was done. After allowing it to cool, I pulled the chicken off the bone and shredded it.

The remaining four pounds I tossed into my crock pot, turned it on low and walked away. I'd never done this before but Stephanie O'Dea, the author of my two favorite crock pot cookbooks, swears by this method so I thought it would be worth a try.

Six hours later, the chicken, cooked in its own juices, came out super moist and falling off the bone.

In all, I wound up with eight generous cups of shredded chicken, the major ingredient in eight future suppers. I froze each cup separately in freezer bags, which took up almost no room in my freezer.

Barbecue chicken pizza, chicken corn noodle soup and skillet chicken tortillas are among the meals I have planned.

While the crock-pot method took six hours, the only real time I spent was in the shredding of the chicken and the clean up.

Well worth the money I saved on the chicken. And the future savings on those busy nights when the drive-through beckons.

Do you do any batch cooking or freeze-ahead cooking to save time and money? Please share your thoughts and methods in the comments section below.

Note: O'Dea has two cookbooks: "Make It Fast, Cook It Slow" and "More Make It Fast, Cook It Slow" or you can check out her recipes and philosophy on cooking on her website, crockpot365.blogspot.com.

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Last updated: Sunday, Oct. 6. | How to read this | View full page