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Are you often overwhelmed by dinner time? Does feeding your family quality food seem even more challenging with a busier-than-ever schedule, holiday exhaustion, and travel? Are you getting take-out pizza one (or two) too many times a week? Do you want to minimize your family’s sick days by ensuring healthier eating?
What if there were a way to easily have high quality meals ready to go at any time? What if they are your family’s favorite meals? What if this takes no additional money and a minimal investment of time that pays dividends far beyond that time investment? Sound too good to be true?! Sound like an infomercial? Well, it IS possible and it is simple. This month we’re going to explore the Wonderful World of Freezer Meals.
Freezer Meals offer many advantages beyond those posited in the questions above. Having meals pre-made in the freezer means
food ready for unexpected lean times
food ready for sick friends or parents with new babies
food for extra busy days
significant money savings by buying what is on sale to make several meals with that ingredient
money and health savings by eliminating unplanned drive-thru visits
less stress for the meal planning challenged and avoiding the 5 o’clock scramble
easier kitchen clean up
energy savings in the summer by making meals that can be served cold (pasta/veggie/cold bean salads, hummus or bean dips to serve with veggies and cheese, tuna or chicken salad dishes)
Also called Once a Month Cooking, bulk cooking or batch cooking, the idea is not new. While many recipes you find may include canned Cream of Mushroom soup or jarred gravies, this is NOT what many people rely on when they create their freezer meals. So don’t let that be a stumbling block. You needn’t be discouraged by the idea of cooking for an ENTIRE month. Freezer meals are incredibly flexible and can work with any food restrictions or preferences. You can also do as few or as many as you like. I’ve never done a month’s worth of meals. At it’s more organized and BIGGEST, you can cook one weekend for an entire month. But if budget, freezer space, time or desire don’t allow for that (and I wouldn’t blame anyone for any of those reasons), you can do any one of the following:
prepare one or two week’s meals
prepare multiples of the same exact meal
prepare a double batch of the meal you’re making for dinner
just plan for leftovers, freezing them
cook the ground meat or beans in huge batches so they are ready to grab and go for tacos, burritos, soups or rice bowls
See? It can start quite simple and grow from there. Even just preparing the meat or beans eliminates or drastically cuts the daily cooking time. For those types of meals you may only need to grate cheese and chop veggies. My method is to occasionally double or triple a recipe, eating one batch for dinner and freezing the others. I also tend to choose dishes that can simply placed in the crockpot or oven for no-hassle preparation on the day of eating. Since I tend to use my freezer meals on extra busy days or days that got unexpectedly off track, over time it’s easy to accumulate a small stock from which to grab when needed. This is also a great approach for those with very limited freezer space.
To get the great time, energy and money saving benefits, you DO need to invest a little time up front. You’ll need to pick recipes, multiply them by the number of meals you need, get the right amount of ingredients and then prepare the meals. If that sounds intimidating or like the definition of drudgery, there is a way to make it a bit easier and much more fun and social. Wildtree consultants hosts Freezer Meal Parties. One former consultant says she loves freezer meal cooking because it’s a “quick and easy way to simplify the daily grind of life. Cooking dinner no longer needs to be a complicated task that takes up your late afternoon moments. Just pop it in the oven/skillet/crockpot and voila – dinner is DONE. I also love them for the social aspect during the prep. Being a stay at home mom, I enjoy getting together with other moms and prepping the meals while enjoying each other’s company.”
In addition to having a one time party, you can also create or join a freezer meal club. Clubs can come in many forms and work in various ways. They meet social, community, financial and time-saving needs. They meet regularly to either prepare or exchange meals. See this article for more ideas on freezer meal clubs.
What a great way to make meal planning and preparation fun! But if you’re not so concerned about fun and care more about just being productive, try some of the suggestions above. Start by tripling your batch of beans and freezing two of them to see how much easier meal time is next time you need those beans. Or double your next meal and freeze the second portion. Even those easy steps will reap you productivity rewards.
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