Saturday, February 18, 2012
When I went back to work after maternity leave, I knew that my cooking habits would need to change if I still wanted to spend time with the baby in the evenings and have a homecooked meal. I had heard people talk about making meals on the weekends and then eating those meals throughout the week and even a bit about freezing meals to eat later. Since Scott and I typically don't eat dinner until Elle has gone to bed (a habit we'll eventually need to change), we try to create dinners that don't require a lot of time. And yes, I say "we" because these days Scott does as much cooking, if not more, than I do.
In an effort to become healthier (eating outside of the box), less wasteful, and more organized/efficient, I've started taking a long hard look at make-ahead freezer meals. The catch, I'm finding, is that being organized takes a lot of planning and upfront [ahem] organization. Sometimes just finding the time to plan is difficult—the lists of meals to make and then the list of ingredients to make the meals and then the most efficient way to cook a few meals in bulk during the weekend.
Surely I'm not the only one who is both intrigued and overwhelmed by the idea of make-ahead meals. But at this juncture, the intrigue is definitely winning. Just like with the crockpot—it still takes work to have a yummy meal—it's just a matter of when you do the work. Last weekend Scott and I made three different soups and it was fantastic to have our meals ready to reheat, fantastic to have six more meals in the freezer, and fantastic to provide my mom's household with a night of soup.
I do have a make-ahead cookbook (thanks CJ) that I have been using as reference but haven't had chance to make more than a couple of recipes from the book. Rachael Ray had a make-ahead feature in her Everyday Cooking magazine a few months ago (thanks Lisa) that has some great tips. And if you're on Pinterest then there's a big chance you've seen some of the pins discussing freezer meals. I'm glad I'm not the only one on this homemade/efficiency kick!
Right now in my freezer I have two bags of Pasta e Fagioli (minus the pasta), four bags of white chicken chili (thanks for the recipe Lu!), two bags (about two cups each) of roasted and shredded chicken breasts, one bag of pulled pork, and 10 cups of chicken stock made from the leftover bones from the roasted chicken breasts. Even if I only use one of those items a week, that would be 7 weeks of one pre-cooked recipes and two weeks with a starter (the shredded chicken). I'd say that's a pretty awesome thing.
I've also started a list of things that I would love to have on stock in my freezer (let me know if you've had trouble/luck with any of these items):
meatballs, cookie dough, banana bread, rolls, shredded pork/beef, pasta sauce, pot roast?, pizza dough…?
There's still so much to learn and experiment with, so I'm hoping that you'll help me out with any experiences you've had with freezing meals. What has worked? What hasn't worked? What are your favorite go-to meals in the freezer? Is it better to cook ahead or freeze things raw? What do I need to add to my list above?
And if you're wondering about Operation Use My…Crockpot, things are awesome! I've made six crockpot recipes so far and have a list of several more that I'd like to try. I'll provide my report next Saturday and will hopefully have tried a few more recipes by then including some overnight cooking. Big thanks to everyone who has passed on recipes for me to try.
Beth Fish Reads hosts Weekend Cooking. "Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs." Hope you'll join the fun!