Okay, I admit it. I’m a Once-A-Month-Cooking drop-out. I tried to make a month’s worth of meals for the freezer, but I couldn’t come up with enough time or enough meals. Next I tried to make 2 weeks of meals for the freezer and stopped because I ran out of dishes, freezer bags, and patience. I had good intentions, but I’m just not that organized.
Even though I flunked OAMC, my freezer is not empty. I do have a few tricks up my sleeve that I’d like to share.
- Buy hamburger in bulk. I usually get about 7-8 pounds at a time. Divide the hamburger out into 1 pound increments, wrap in foil, and store in the freezer for later use when hot-off-the grill hamburgers sound good. Brown the rest of the meat with some chopped onions, drain the grease, and wrap each pound in foil. These you defrost when you want tacos, spaghetti, sloppy joes, or some casserole that you’re making up as you go according to what you have leftover in your fridge. Just think, you’ve gotten your stove all greasy just once instead of 5 times. And did you know — frozen browned hamburger defrosts a lot quicker than frozen raw hamburger which is a plus when you have several starving children that want to eat NOW.
- Pick up some boneless, skinless chicken breasts in bulk too. Grill these with a minimum of seasonings, cool, and chop into bite-size pieces. Toss them in freezer bags and toss those bags in the freezer. Got a chicken pasta, or chicken salad, or chicken noodle soup to make? Reach in the freezer and grab yourself a handful of chicken that’s ready to go. This works great with bacon too. Add your cooked, crumbled, and frozen bacon to salads, beans, or scrambled eggs.
- When you make soup, or a casserole, or any meal that can be frozen, double the recipe. We all know how time consuming and messy (well, for me it’s messy) it is to make lasagna, why not make two and only clean your kitchen once? Sometimes I just make 2 smaller ones without doubling the recipe. Soup is easy to make a large amount of. You can divide soup into any smaller amounts you want, usually depending on what size containers you have available. Save on freezer space by using zipper freezer bags. Just be sure to double the bags.
- Here’s a chance to really use your food processor before you have to break it down and wash all the parts. Chop up onions, green peppers, carrots, or whatever else you can think of that freeze well (not potatoes) and that you like to add to a casserole, soup, or dish. Put them in small baggies inside a bigger freezer bag.
- Soak your dry beans overnight, rinse, and put them in serving size freezer bags. Next time you want to make beans or bean soup, you’ve already got the first step out of the way. The beans won’t take as long to cook either. If you want to take it one step further you can cook the beans before you put them in the freezer.
- A big tip is to always label your freezer bags or storage containers. Trust me, you will not remember what is in the bag and the food won’t look exactly like it did when you put it in the bag.
These tips won’t give you complete meals to pull out of your freezer every day for a month; they’re more like guidelines to shortening your steps to a quickly prepared meal. The benefits are fewer trips down fast food alley, fewer dollars spent on food, and more nutritious meals for your family.
Peggy Baron cooks with her kids in Colorado, and runs http://www.cookinkids.com which is a website devoted to helping other parents and kids have fun together in the kitchen. Peggy is the editor of the popular Cookin’ Kids Newsletter. Each bi-monthly newsletter has fun facts, recipes, jokes, games, cooking safety, and cooking terms wrapped around a different theme.
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