Thursday, October 13, 2016

If it can't be frozen, it's not worth making

Last month I posted my introduction to how we eat, and eat well, without using boxed dinners or depending on the drive-thru.

If you have two adults working outside the home 40+ hours a week, it’s tough to get nutritious meals on the table. If you have two adults working INSIDE the home, it’s tough to get nutritious meals on the table. Single parent? Forget it. Let’s be real – schedules are crazy for everyone. Kids and adults are all involved in lots of activities, volunteer opportunities, full-time jobs, part-time jobs, the list goes on…

Preparation is one of three keys to getting real food, real fast, on the table. Next is using your freezer to the MAX!

When I am planning meals, I always consider if I can plan for leftovers and if those leftovers can be frozen. If it can’t, that recipe likely won’t make it on the list. Most foods can be frozen, but there are certainly some that don’t do so well like lettuce, cucumbers, raw potatoes, and egg whites/meringues. There are others, but I have faith that you know how to use Google.

This might sound like a repeat from last month, but it still holds true for my freezing technique: When cooking proteins such as whole roasts in the slow cooker or ground meat in the skillet, I make sure that I prepare at least two meals worth of the protein. I hate doing dishes, so the more I cook at once, the more time and effort I can save doing dishes and preparing the meal for round 2 (or 3, or 4). My skillet can cook up to 4 pounds of ground meat at a time. Our local grocery store will periodically put ground beef on sale, but only if you buy it in 3+ pound packages. Since our kids don’t eat like teenagers (yet), 3 pounds is a little excessive for one meal. I used to split the packages when I got home and vacuum seal them. No more – I just cook it all (likely adding some chopped onion near the end of the cook time), drain, and then divide the cooked meat into one pound servings (2 cups of cooked ground meat is about 1 pound pre-cooked weight). Frozen oooked ground meat thaws quickly, so you can easily throw together spaghetti or tacos even if you forgot to defrost the meat in the fridge overnight.
Do you have roasts hanging out in your freezer that you were SURE you were going to use…someday… Thaw those puppies out and get them in your slow-cooker! Slice up an onion for the bottom of the slow cooker, set the roast on top, sprinkle with some seasoning and dump a beer (or a cup of broth) on top. Close the lid and don’t peek for 8-10 hours. When it’s done and had a chance to cool, shred the meat and freeze in the serving sizes that work for your family. Use the meat as fajita/taco/burrito filling, BBQ beef sandwich filling, for French Dip sandwiches, or mixed with gravy and served over potatoes or noodles. Comfort food made super simple!

Do you buy a package of onions because they are cheaper…but then they start growing before you have a chance to use them? Save yourself time and money by dicing up several of them at once. Spread them on a cookie sheet and freeze until solid. Scoop them into freezer bags and use them as needed – minus the tears! This same technique works for bell peppers, too. I like using these frozen onions and peppers on pizza night since we only need it on one side of the pizza. The kids haven’t discovered non-boring pizza yet. We’ll get there someday.
Freezer Friendly Twice-Baked Potatoes
If you want to check out a whole month's worth of freezable lunches (including these ultra-delicious twice-baked potatoes), be sure to check out the meal plan I created that will take you three hours or less to create!
I have a whole slew of other freezer tricks to share. I see future blog posts or maybe even an e-book in my future! How do you use your freezer to maximize your time in the kitchen?