Wednesday, 09 May 2007
Being a mother, a parent, a student, and an employee, I do not have the time or the desire to prepare fancy meals for dinner every night of the week. With the hectic life I lead, I was finding it extremely difficult to put a meal on the table much before 9:00 or 10:00 at night. I needed to find a way to feed my family earlier and healthier and take out food was not a viable option. I finally figured out a neat little solution to my problem that seems to work fairly well. I plan and prepare all my dinner dishes a week ahead of time and freeze them.
I start by making a menu of what I would like to make for dinner for each night of the following week. Often times, I will plan this menu so that I can utilize the leftovers from one meal in a different meal. For example, I will buy a half of a ham and cut enough ham steaks off of it for one meal. Then I will take what is left of the ham and chop it into cubes and make scalloped potatoes or potato soup out of them. Another example would be hamburger. I cook an entire package of hamburger at a time. I prepare one half of the hamburger for spaghetti or goulash and the other half for something like Taco’s or Sloppy Joes. These little tricks save me a lot of time. They also tend to save me a lot of money because I buy the meat in bulk, which costs less.
If I know the following week is going to be especially hectic, I will plan meals like a big pot of soup or stew. I know that these dishes will have plenty of leftovers and I can get two nights worth of meals out of them. I also choose dishes that I know I can freeze without ruining the food. I recommend waiting to cook any pasta you will need for your meals until the night you need it. Pasta does not tend to freeze very well. You can still prepare the meat ahead of time and freeze it though.
After I have planned my menu, I make a list of what I need to prepare all of my meals and I take a trip to the grocery store. Once I have all of my ingredients, I set to work preparing the meals.
I prepare all of the meals on the same day and then I freeze them until the day I plan on having that meal for dinner. Then I take it out of the freezer that morning and let it thaw out. By dinnertime it is thawed and all I have to do is reheat and serve. I know it seems like a lot of time to spend cooking in one day but it will save you from having to do it during the week when you are exhausted and don’t feel like cooking a big meal.
Sometimes, instead of pre-cooking the food I will just prepare the ingredients for cooking. For soups or stews, I will cut up the carrots, potatoes, celery, onions etc. and put them in a freezer bag and freeze them. You can even cook the meat and freeze it after it has cooled. On the day that I want that particular meal, I just put all of the ingredients in the crock-pot and let them cook on low all day. When I am ready to eat dinner that night, my meal is ready with without having to put forth a lot of effort.
By cooking my meals ahead of time I have solved my dinnertime troubles. Now dinner is on the table no later than 6:30 and my family is much happier.