It’s too bad our tax dollars don’t cover something useful like a personal chef for every family. With so fewer trips to the local fast food joint, we’d all be healthier and more relaxed resulting in much lower medical insurance expenses. This could be the healthcare reform congress has been looking for. Anyone want to write a senator?
In the meantime, I guess we have to fend for ourselves. Since I don’t have a personal chef (and I’m assuming you don’t either), what’s a busy mother to do?
Freezer cooking. Here are some ways to make it work for you (no extra freezer required).
- Buy in bulk and pre-marinate. It’s no secret that buying in larger quantities is a more cost effective. Even if you can’t fit a half a cow in your freezer, you can at least buy the “club pack” of meat. If you won’t eat it all in a meal, split it into smaller freezer bags for later. While you’re at it, toss in your favorite marinade. That way when you pull it out, it will be recipe-ready and already marinated.
- Prep in double or more. I use minced fresh garlic and diced onions in a lot of stuff. I hate peeling garlic and chopping onions. I’d rather just dive in a chop a whole bag of onions while my knife’s out, and I’m already crying. I toss the extra in freezer bags in one cup portions and put away the chopping board for a while. Same goes with garlic, peppers, fresh herbs, tomatoes, soup veggies, shredded cheese, etc.
- Cook in double. Your grandma’s secret lasagna recipe might only happen once a year because it takes 8 hours to simmer. However, if you’re going to make the time investment, why not just make double? The great thing about this method is that you get twice the food but for only a fraction of the time. I keep a stack of disposable foil pans on hand so I can stick the extra right into my freezer. I don’t pre-cook them as I find they taste less like freezer meals if I cook it when we eat it. Most pasta casserole recipes work well for this method. I also make things like taco meat in double. Having extra meals in the freezer also makes it easier to bless someone else who might need a last minute due to sickness or a new baby.
- Freeze flat. If freezer space is at a premium, think flat. Did you know you can put an entire casserole in a gallon freezer bag and it will only flatten out to abut an inch? You can also reclaim space by removing other freezer items from their boxes and repacking them in a way that they lay flat to stack. We love our FoodSaver and accompanying bags. The thick bags and vacuum seal is great at keeping freezer burn away.
- Go all out. If you’re really organized, have a lot of freezer space, an entire free day, and not picky eaters, you can try cooking for a month at a time in one day. That was a lot of “ifs.” This method makes my head spin but I know moms that make it work. Basically you plan a month’s worth of meals (choose freezer-friendly ones), buy everything you need to make them, and cook/prep them all in one day. It’s a LOT of work but the payoff is you don’t have to think about what’s for dinner for a month!
These days I find I’m doing a lot of bulk cooking of meal staples (grilled chicken, ground beef, beans, etc.) and letting my kids create what they want from it. I’ve also found that another key to freezer cooking is remembering to get it out of your freezer in time. Try setting an alarm on your phone or leaving a note on your mirror.
Which method(s) are you going to try this week? Feel free to suggest your own!
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