Now that the month of January is more than halfway gone, I thought this weekend would be a good time to reassess my New Year’s Resolution; to be more organized with grocery shopping and meal planning. When you live 30 minutes from the nearest grocery store, it is essential to be prepared with a well-stocked pantry and freezer. I am a huge fan of shopping in bulk and spent a good amount of time before Christmas organizing my pantry and making note of what we had. This has really helped break our family from the mentality of just buying what a recipe calls for when we are at the store and can’t remember if we have a particular item at home. Also, meal planning and prep helps ensure you are consuming well balanced meals as opposed to what is the easiest thing to throw together or pick up for dinner and saves you money on groceries by wasting less food.

January can be a slightly slower time on the ranch since the days are still shorter and the livestock won’t begin to welcome their babies for a few more months. I like to use this “down time” to fill our deep freeze with healthy meals that are easy to warm up on the days to come when we get consumed with work. A woman at my gym passed out copies of a recipe for the Pioneer Woman’s hamburger soup earlier this week. It’s a great way to get in a good serving of vegetables and keep the calorie count down while still satisfying the craving for comfort food on a cold night. I decided to make my own variation of her recipe using what ingredients I already had on hand. I have often heard of soups made with the approach of dumping everything in that’s in the pantry as “Cowboy Stew.”

Ingredients

I like to gather all of my ingredients before cooking and always start with a clean counter top.

First, I pulled out two bags of frozen hamburger meat from the deep freeze.

I try to always buy this in bulk and take time to cook it all up, then freeze in batches. This makes it quick to thaw and easy to pull out to whip up a last-minute recipe

. I just cut the bag away and dumped it into my pot on medium-low heat.

I cut up one large onion and by the time I was done, the meat was mostly thawed and broke apart easily.

After adding the onion to the pot, I tossed in 3 spoonfuls of minced garlic and poured in about ¾ of a box of beef broth I had leftover in my refrigerator.

I then added in a can of drained diced tomatoes and a can of Rotel along with three heaping spoonfuls of tomato paste.

New Mexicans can always find a way to sneak in a little green chili!

Loosely following the Pioneer Woman’s recipe for spices, I sprinkled in with a heavy hand parsley, oregano, salt, pepper and cayenne.

Finally, I added in cubed fingerling potatoes, chopped baby carrots and bell peppers. Bell peppers are one of my go to bulk buys. I will flash freeze them in strips, then portion into Ziploc bags for the freezer.

Bell Peppers

I gave the peppers a rough chop so they would be a better size for the stew.

With all the ingredients in the pot, I brought the stew to a boil, then let simmer on the stove for about 30 minutes. One of the best things about soups and stews is that it tastes even better the next day after the flavors have had time to absorb.

Just like in art, there are really no mistakes when it comes to what you put in your pot!