Raise your hand if you’ve ever marveled at a friend or neighbor who at any given moment has 15 meals in his or her freezer. I’m always mystified by folks who seem to have 30 hours in their day instead of 24 and enough creativity to merely create 15 different meals, let alone prepare them in advance. I only have about 10 that my family will eat if I’m lucky.
However, my freezer is an awesome tool to combat the crunch of a busy day and extreme tiredness when I need to cook. You might not have time to whip up a month’s worth of meals; however, there are plenty of ways to leverage your freezer when it comes to saving time and money when you feed your family. Here are some of my favorite ways to make the most of this useful tool.
As soon as the alarm goes off, I’m in go mode. Breakfast is an incredibly important meal but my time is typically limited. There never seems to be enough time to prepare a hot and filling meal for my girls. So years ago, I took to making a large batch of pancakes on the weekend and placing two at a time into plastic bags.
Then on busy mornings, we have our own freezer pancakes to pop in the toaster with less mess and time spent. You can also find great recipes for breakfast burritos, filled with eggs, meat and cheese. Batch cooking typically doesn’t take much more time above what you’re already doing and only a little extra cost. Save even more by using reusable containers instead of freezer bags.
Freezing a portion
I stand in awe of people who can do 30 days of cooking on one Saturday. I’ve just never been able to pick up the habit myself. So instead, I often find myself at least cooking up a portion of a meal and then freezing it.
This might mean grilling an entire bag of boneless skinless chicken, chopping and then freezing it in meal-sized portions. Or it could be that I halve the ground beef I’m cooking for dinner and put it back for a future taco or spaghetti night. You don’t have to prepare the entire meal, you could choose to just put back a main dish or veggie. Even having one element already in the freezer eases your mind and cuts down on the dinner time rush.
Using what you know
Stick to what you know and your family already likes. I’ve experienced way too many kitchen fails in my lifetime. Usually those fails come from trying to adopt someone else’s recipes and methods. By and large, my family will both eat and enjoy the tried-and-true classics I’ve always prepared.
There is a temptation in cruising the Internet to try every new and yummy-sounding dish and taking on another family’s flavor palette. While it’s OK to take on a new recipe now and then, filling your freezer with 20 of them isn’t a good idea.
It’s better to double your own recipes than to attempt a fail-safe plan you found on Pinterest. A good rule of thumb is to try out one to two new recipes per month. There’s nothing worse than doing a lot of extra work and spending money on foods no one in your house will eat.
Grab a friend
Standing on your feet for hours in the kitchen chopping vegetables can be grueling. If you want to make the process feel less like work and more like fun, enlist the help of some friends. Descend upon she-who-has-the-largest-kitchen’s home, bringing enough foods for everyone to take home at least one meal.
Again, it will be important to stick to your family’s likes, but purchasing the components for only one meal is a wee bit easier on your brain and timetable. Plus, spending time together preparing food can be downright fun. Send out an email this afternoon to begin planning.
Make freezer meals even simpler by either adapting your recipes (or choosing some from online) to go straight from the freezer into the crockpot. If the meal can cook all day long, you’ll shave off the time necessary for most casseroles or dishes to bake from frozen in the oven. After a long day at work and school, you can come home to delicious aromas and a hot meal.
Your freezer can be your best friend when it comes to meal preparation and saving money.
Be wise with the recipes you choose and think through when you can get ahead on cooking to save time during a busy week. Most importantly, even though you might be tempted to follow a particular plan or experiment with a new recipe, you’re better off sticking to what you already know your family likes and, most importantly, will eat. Happy freezing!
Greenwood resident Cherie Lowe and her husband paid off $127,000 in debt in four years and now live debt-free every day with their two kids. Send questions, column ideas and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org/