What is in your freezer? I spent years packing my freezer with prepackaged items or foods that required preparation to make a meal. I was completely ignorant of all my freezer could offer me.Your freezer should be your friend and a place where quick meals reside. This doesn’t have to always include the prepackaged “convenience” foods. What do I mean by that? Those are the prepackaged items you just heat and eat that are often high in calories and fat or often contain additives and preservatives we certainly could do without. My husband jokes with me sometimes that I “heated that meal really well”. For example I will do frozen chicken fried steaks that just have to be heated along with making instant potatoes, gravy from a powdered mix where you just add water and stir, and then usually a bag of frozen Steam Fresh Vegetables fixed in the microwave. So nothing is fresh and there was really nothing that I had to “prepare”. Oh it is convenient alright, but what about a real home cooked meal?
Everyone’s time is precious so making a real home-made meal can often be time-consuming and certainly not practical on busy nights. On those busy nights it is too easy to do the prepackaged warm and serve meal or even just stop by McDonald’s or other fast food restaurants. This was when the light-bulb came on that it was time to change how I utilized my freezer so that on those busy nights we can still try to have a good meal. I found that on a day I had time to cook a home-made meal that I can often make a double batch and freeze the other half. Foods like Chili, Soups, Beef Stew and even Spaghetti Sauce. You are already there doing the work so it really isn’t hard to just do a double or even triple recipe.
I found that dinners we normally will have leftover will not get eaten that week but if I freeze them we can make a new meal out of it later. For example we never eat more than half the pan of Lasagna so I freeze the other half. I can take leftover Brisket or barbeque cut into small pieces and use for baked potato toppings another day.
What other conveniences can your freezer offer? If you save leftover vegetables and meats they can be used in casseroles, soups, stews or a stir fry later. When you find chicken on sale buy it! You can boil the chicken, shred or cube it, and freeze it to use for a variety of meals later. You can also take the broth from the boiled chicken and spoon it into muffin tins and place that into the freezer. When the broth is frozen pop them out and store in a freezer bag and these little broth “cups” give you about 1/2 cup of fresh chicken broth. You certainly can cook other meats to freeze and use later also. If you have left-over pasta store it in the freezer for soups and casseroles later. All of these things will help cut down on food prep time when making those home cooked meals.
Even more ideas? How about storing butter and cheese? I do. We certainly stock up on meats and other items that can be frozen when on sale. This makes it easier to cook those larger batches of meals later by already having the ingredients. We also store bottles of frozen water for emergencies. After being in a hurricane and then without power for a few weeks we found the huge need for this. When the power is out that frozen water will keep your freezer/refrigerator colder, longer.
Just make sure food is always stored in freezer safe bags or containers! For more information about what is safe to freeze check out this awesome website: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Factsheets/Focus_On_Freezing/index.asp
What freezer friendly ideas do you have?