Preparing Meals Ahead of Time
For those of you who want to take your meal planning to a whole new level, you are going to love this! We’ve already talked about how to plan, shop, and prepare your meals. Now, we are going to touch on how you can save yourself, even more, time and money by making your meals ahead of time.One of the most popular ways to take your meal prep to the next level is with freezer cooking. If you think you might want to give freezer cooking a try, here are a few tips to help you get started.
Freezer cooking can be as complicated or simple as you want it to be. Freezer cooking for you might just be preparing your meats and vegetables ahead of time and freezing them to make later, or it might be cooking an entire meal. If you’ve never made a freezer meal before, start with just one or two recipes, and gradually add more. Stick with meals that are easy to prepare, and start small. I like to have some staples in my freezer like chicken stock, roasted tomatoes, blanched green beans and other great recipe ingredients. That way, I can use what I need to bring bright fresh flavor to any meal. Here’s some of my favorites ~
Pick Recipes You Know You Like
If you’ve never liked soup before, you probably aren’t going to like it anymore after it’s been frozen. If you want freezer cooking to work for you, you need to stick to recipes that you know your family will like. Most recipes you make now probably have a freezer friendly version. You may have to make adjustments to your recipes, but most of them probably work. I like to freeze meals that I KNOW my family likes so when time gets tight, and I’ve got to get supper on the table, I know I’ve got a winning dish. This “cheat sheet” will keep you organized ~
Set Aside Time
Most freezer cooking sessions will take you about an hour depending on what you are making. If you have already prepped some of your meals, this may take you even less time. I like to do my freezer cooking on the weekends since I know I’ll have plenty of time to spend on them. You don’t want to be stuck in a situation where you are rushing to get done. Your recipes will suffer, and it will only set you up to fail. My success plan for freezer meals is simple, I want to take my “main dish” out of the freezer in the morning to let it thaw. When it’s time to cook, I want to only add some stock, seasoning and a few herbs to get things going. To complete the meal, all I have to do is add a fresh salad and bread. Here are my tried and true recipes ~
Freezer Food Doesn’t Last Forever
Contrary to popular belief, your freezer cannot and should not be the home to all of the things you’re not ready to eat. While this is fine for the short term, you really shouldn’t leave anything in your freezer longer than three months. Having food in the freezer ready to heat is such a blessing, but it will be useless if you don’t use it. When planning your meals for the week, make sure to incorporate items from your freezer, and use up those meals! To help you keep up with those great make ahead items that you’ve worked so hard to freeze, here is a great FREEZER INVENTORY sheet that you can download and print. I keep my posted on my fridge so that I’m on top of things when it comes to meal planning. Freezer cooking has so many benefits beyond the night you make it. You will waste less food since your food is already prepared, you will save money from not eating out, and you will get back your time. If you have not considered freezer meals yet, I highly suggest you give them a try. You may be surprised to find how much time you have after filling your freezer!