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Family meal planning

Family meal planning

Old Sep 4th 2017, 1:05 pm
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Default Family meal planning

Firstly, I'll just say how grateful I am to this forum for lots of useful information that has undoubtedly helped us make the move across the pond. Thank you.

We moved in last week, we're now online, we have only a few boxes left to unpack and school starts tomorrow.

So now for meal planning. It has always been the best way for us to manage our weekly shopping. However, I am finding ourselves paralysed by the sheer volume and choice in the supermarkets. Eg milk - which is closest to semi-skimmed? Basmati or arborio rice - is it all so much more expensive than the UK. Risotto is one of my go-to meals. And ground beef? Can I find a better texture for bolognese?
So I thought I'd ask the forum what tips and ideas might be suggested for family meals.

Oh and also, I have a slow cooker. I used to have Morphy Richards loved it and then upsized to a Crockpot. However, I don't like the Crockpot because it runs much hotter than my Morphy Richards but does that mean I just need an adapter and it'll run cooler, slower here?

Thanks in advance
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Old Sep 4th 2017, 2:14 pm
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Default Re: Family meal planning

Semi Skimmed milk is 2%. For basmati rice look at the Asian section at the grocery store (as opposed to the rice section), it's often sold in larger size bags which work out at better value. For arborio, I can get a bag of own brand from my local grocery store for a couple of dollars, but again it's in the Italian speciality section rather than sitting with the Uncle Bens. If you mean the ground beef is more chunky than you're used to, I just chop it finer myself before cooking.
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Old Sep 4th 2017, 2:29 pm
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Default Re: Family meal planning

Originally Posted by CA-NY View Post
Semi Skimmed milk is 2%. For basmati rice look at the Asian section at the grocery store (as opposed to the rice section), it's often sold in larger size bags which work out at better value. For arborio, I can get a bag of own brand from my local grocery store for a couple of dollars, but again it's in the Italian speciality section rather than sitting with the Uncle Bens.
Thank you
Originally Posted by CA-NY View Post
If you mean the ground beef is more chunky than you're used to, I just chop it finer myself before cooking.
No, the opposite. I find the ground beef is too processed. It comes out more like puree.
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Old Sep 4th 2017, 2:47 pm
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Default Re: Family meal planning

Ah I see. You definitely want the type that comes packed in a tray not the stuff that comes rolled in a package and you should be getting a choice of different meat/fat ratios to choose from for different recipes e.g. 90/10 or 80/20. For chilli or bolognese I personally like to try and get ground sirloin which is normally 90/10 but if we were making say homemade burgers, we'd get 80/20 which is often called ground chuck. Good quality meat here is expensive but I couldn't be eating pureed mince!
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Old Sep 4th 2017, 3:53 pm
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Default Re: Family meal planning

As you are in Pennsylvania I can help a bit more accurately than sometimes. I buy my arborio rice in Wegman's, they have their own brand organic which seems the best value for money so far. It comes in a box and turns up in the rice section and in the organic section. In our store the rice section sometimes has an empty space but I have always found it still available in organic.

If you have a Trader Joe's near you their cheese prices for real cheese are usually better than Wegman's and they have a knock-out coastal cheddar. I also find their milk tastes the best of the big stores when I run out of local dairy milk. TJ's breakfast cereals are also OK, their own brand bran flakes have become a hit with my teenage boys!

As for ground beef, it does seem to be finer minced than the UK stuff. Sometimes the 1lb blocks of organic have a better texture. For other meats I buy the big family packs from the fresh meat section and then freeze in smaller quantities. Don't bother paying the extra for the trimmed chicken breasts as it takes no time to do that at home as you subdivide the packs. The Wegman's chicken thighs whole or fillets are excellent value and are huge!

If you have a local farmer's market the sweetcorn from there will be amazing at this time of year. Also the truly in season veg is often sold in big boxes for about $10. The other week we bought a huge box of beetroot and I pickled about half of it, and boiled, peeled and froze the other half for our favourite beetroot risotto over the winter.

For an all purpose potato we use the russet (makes good chips and ok for mash too), but for potato salads I like the red creamer.

For frozen peas I pay the extra for the petit pois as the standard sweet peas can be a bit floury, but I may just be fussy!

Hope that helps!
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Old Sep 4th 2017, 4:09 pm
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Default Re: Family meal planning

Originally Posted by RollingStones View Post
.... No, the opposite. I find the ground beef is too processed. It comes out more like puree.
That may specific to the grocery that you are buying it from - ground beef here (NC) isn't discernably different from minced beef in the UK. You will probably find that you have a choice of fat percentage, from 80% lean beef upto 96% lean beef, probably with two intermediate percentages. The lean can be a bit dry, and the price premium for very lean is so high that you're likely better off cooking the fat out of the 80% lean beef and throwing 10% of the weight away.

You could always buy a grinder and grind your own. Because ground beef is often barely cheaper than "round" (rump), or sirloin, you wouldn't be paying much more for grinding your own premium meat cuts.
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Old Sep 4th 2017, 4:47 pm
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Default Re: Family meal planning

Another thought: if you want to cut down your bread costs, get a bread machine and make your own. Yes you can buy non sweet bread but it is more expensive and home made tastes so good! We buy our bread flour from Costco at about $15 for a 50 pound sack.

Making your own bacon is also easy if you want thicker cut back bacon, but you may need to find an independent butcher to get the right starting cut.
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Old Sep 4th 2017, 8:43 pm
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Default Re: Family meal planning

Oooh thank you very much.

Mr Jazz quite likes the bread maker idea. I've been buying sandwich thins but they're much more expensive here than they are at home.

I really like Wegmans, our closest is KoP which is about 6 miles from us which is bit further than most. We've been too Wholefoods but this isn't really option for our family shopping. We've also been to ACME but I prefer Giant. Also Mr Jazz likes the fact he can buy beer on the same premises in Giant.

Mr Jazz also would like to consider online shopping with Amazon Fresh, less tendency for impulse buying. Has anyone else done this?

We need to get ourselves with sorted with Costco too.
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Old Sep 4th 2017, 10:33 pm
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Default Re: Family meal planning

Run the crockpot on the (s)lowest setting: it will still take much less time than the recipe calls for. Mine nukes everything on the highest setting too. Find yourself a Costco and buy your rice and staples in massive quantities.
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Old Sep 4th 2017, 11:10 pm
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Default Re: Family meal planning

I have a Hamilton Beach Slow Cooker and always use the low setting and long cooking times, I don't think I have ever used high.

Minced Beef - I have tried the logs and yes they are mushy, the trays are much better plus you can see what you are getting. I usually go for ground sirloin and the lowest fat ratio I can get, and yes it's the most expensive.

I find Costco pretty good for their meat and buying in bulk cuts down cost if you don't mind portioning things up for the freezer when you get home. They also have boneless lamb leg which is gorgeous slow cooked with some mint sauce and a cup of gravy, I pull it like you would pulled pork.

You'll get used to it in no time, one of my pet peeves is that chicken doesn't seem to be butchered as well as I would get back home and I have to have at it with the scissors to cut off extra fat and nasty bits before using it. Also it took me way too long to realize there is a window on the back of bacon to check you are actually getting streaky bacon and not streaky fat LOL

I spent my first summer trying out all the supermarkets in the area and settled on HEB for my main shop with side trips to the others for the bits and pieces that I like or good deals. I love a Trader Joe's trip, lots of goodies in there, we have Phoenicia for Mediterranean goodies, several Asian supermarkets for rice, spices, prawn crackers, couple of British shops for a taste of home including a new one that makes sausage, bacon, black pudding and stocks all things British.
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Old Sep 5th 2017, 12:11 am
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Default Re: Family meal planning

I probably haven't made it clear - my slow cooker was purchased in the uk. It's a 240v slow cooker.

Can I use it here? Maybe I'll get get thing cooked slower, which would be preferable.
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Old Sep 5th 2017, 12:51 am
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Default Re: Family meal planning

Originally Posted by RollingStones View Post
I probably haven't made it clear - my slow cooker was purchased in the uk. It's a 240v slow cooker.

Can I use it here? Maybe I'll get get thing cooked slower, which would be preferable.
Does it have a HIGH setting ? do you know what power it needs on HIGH ?

On US supply, your heater will take 1/4 of the power of the UK, so a "1000W" heater will draw 250W here, on 120V.
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Old Sep 5th 2017, 2:10 am
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Default Re: Family meal planning

Originally Posted by lizzyq View Post

they have a knock-out coastal cheddar.
From my home county ...Dorset! The same cheese is also available in Costco in slightly different wrappers and for a lower price per pound. It's the best!
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Old Sep 5th 2017, 6:47 pm
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Default Re: Family meal planning

In the UK we could get away with shopping at one of the major supermarkets for weeks without needing to visit another. In MA we went to many more stores more regularly; Stop and Shop for general, Target for household stuff, Whole foods for meat, Wegmans etc. etc. It was finding good meat that took us a while. Grass fed beef and non chlorine smelling chicken, once we found Whole Foods! Oh and of course the various liquor stores!
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Old Sep 6th 2017, 2:09 am
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Default Re: Family meal planning

We were spoiled as in our temp accommodation we were just around the corner from a Trader Joe's which l love but since we have moved l only visit it every now and again as the nearest one is 20 miles away. I miss TJ!!
Still finding our feet in our new house. We tried Wegmans and found the meat and sushi was fantastic. Great store in general actually, especially as it sold alcohol! (which most stores don't in NJ)
I like Shop Rite as well but the store offerings vary and our nearest one is quite small and pricey.
We found a super Walmart today and was really impressed with it. So much cheaper for branded items. Lots of decent priced fresh fruit and veg although l didn't rate their meat and fish offering and would rather get that elsewhere but fantastic for the basics.
Costco is just as good here as at home and l love it. Some of the monthly deals have saved us a fortune and our little one loooves all the tasters!!!
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