A few months ago, I made the bold statement that I wanted to start cooking at home more. My intent is to eat healthier, save money, and mostly for the convenience. I don't like the "I'm hungry and have no plan for dinner, so let's go out" desperation. Not that I don't like to dine out at restaurants. I do. But, it's the lack of options, simply because I didn't have it together that frustrates me. And the extra calories. And, okay the extra expense. So, my Mom and I have been talking about doing some make-ahead freezer meals. We finally pinned down a date and made a plan. We were happy with the results, and are planning to do this again soon.
The items we made were chosen based on variety and good old standbys that we know we like. After doing a little research we came up with:
Twice Baked Potatoes (10 servings)
Marinara Sauce (we love Giada de Laurentiis' recipe) (1 gallon)
Beef Stroganoff (hadn't made this in ages; it froze really well, even with the sour cream, 12 servings)
Chicken Divan (12 servings)
Chicken Roll-ups (chicken breasts with prosciutto and provolone inside, 8 servings)
We doubled all of our original recipes. We made a grocery list and split it in half, each shopping for half the ingredients, and planned to split the cost in the end. We decided that next time, we will alternate cooking at each other's houses, and whoever's kitchen we are using will do all the grocery shopping for that time. This made more sense, as it isn't really necessary for both of us to shop (and that's the part I hate the most) each time. Also, you will know if you need to pick up general supplies, like flour for example when the cooking is at your house. Also, we purchased freezer baggies, permanent markers, and a few small disposable pans.
I arrived at my Mom's with my groceries at 9:30 am. We started out with a cup of coffee and then got to work. She had put the potatoes in the oven earlier, so they were baked and ready to go when I arrived. I worked on those, while she started on the marinara sauce. We worked along tweaking recipes as we went and making a real mess of her kitchen, but we had a great time. Then on to the chicken divan and beef stroganoff. We had not made the chicken roll-ups before (similar to chicken cordon bleu), and we saved this for last. After a quick lunch, we tackled the herculean effort of cleanning up. We finished everything and I was on my way by 2 pm. So in a little over four hours we produced quite a few dinners for each of us.
|Quite a few meals for a half a day's work!|
Our tips will probably seem obvious, but be sure to label each freezer baggie with the item (marinara and chili can look very similar in the freezer) and the date. this is easiest done before they are filled. We find it helpful to fold the top inch or so of the bag down when filling, so that the top section that you close stays clean. Also, the baggies are best for storage, because you can fit quite a bit more in your freezer than if you put say the beef stroganoff in a disposable pan or tupperware type container. Also, this brings up the last point - be sure to have room in your freezer. We wrapped the potatoes and chicken roll-ups individually in plastic wrap and then put them in larger freezer bags. My Mom froze everything at her house, and then delivered it to me later in the week. Nice!
|And the mess in Janet's kitchen went from this...|
|... to this. Nice!|
Also, we shared with my daughter as a surprise to her. This would be nice to do for anyone who is really busy, under the weather, or let's face it - just likes to eat. She was thrilled! We are looking forward to doing this again, and we plan to do it every month or so. If you have some suggestions for recipes that freeze well, we'd love to hear from you!