In the past couple years my freezer has been a life saver for me! I work weird hours and don’t have the time to cook every night when I get home, especially since most nights I don’t get home until after 9pm.
This is how my life was before I started planning ahead.
- Most nights I’d spend lots of time preparing and cooking a small meal and eat it in one night. The nights I didn’t want to cook, I’d order in!
- I hated leftovers and if I had any, they’d sit in the fridge and get thrown out a couple of days later.
- I used to eat out ALL the time for lunch and would rarely bring a lunch or snacks to work.
- I would be starving by the time I got home and would snack before I got my dinner ready.
- I spent way too much money each week eating out! The food I was eating, wasn’t even close to being healthy.
- When I bought groceries for the week, I had no clue what I needed and threw out most of them because they’d sit in my fridge, I’d forget what I had and then it never got used.
If this sounds remotely like you, then listen up because the changes I made have not only saved me time but saved me money! My meals are much healthier now. Taking the time out of my busy schedule an hour or two each week to prepare and cook meals ahead of time, has saved me so many more hours in the kitchen, and lots of money!
So what’s my secret? Well I actually have two secrets, the first is my freezer! I now freeze everything! Well maybe not EVERYTHING but most things I freeze. I cook a big batch of food ahead of time and freeze in small portions, so I have a quick meal when I need it.
I’ll get into that more in a minute, but first I’ll tell you about how I plan my meals ahead of time. Now I know this sounds like extra time spent on something that you just don’t have time for BUT I have to tell you, if you make the time, you’ll be thanking me later. Why?
- You’ll save money.
- You’ll save time.
- You’ll prepare and cook meals less often.
- You won’t throw lots of food each week.
- You eat healthier, which has so many benefits just on its own.
- You’ll know everyone in your family ALWAYS has something quick, easy and healthy to eat when there’s nobody around to cook a meal.
- Quick and easy meals are always ready in the freezer for unexpected company.
Most meals that you cook throughout the week could be doubled or even tripled in size. Don’t you think that it’s easier to prep for 1 large meal all at once, and not having to prepare and cook a bunch of small meals over and over throughout the week?
How exactly do I do all this? Well usually on Saturdays I’ll figure out what meals, snacks I’m going to eat throughout the week. Write up a meal plan for the week. Since I’ve been doing this for a while I actually have weekly meal plans written out (about two months worth.) I just re-use them again and again or switch up the odd week for a new meal plan. Once you do a few weeks worth of meal plans you really don’t have to do many after that unless you feel like a change.
Because you know all the foods you and your family will eat throughout the week it makes things simple for groceries. Just look at the recipes, meals or snacks you want for the week and check to see what you already have in your cupboards/fridge and make a list of what you need to buy. I rarely get anything that isn’t on my list when I’m at the grocery store unless its something I know I’ll need and just forgot to put on my list. This keeps you focused and out of the junk food aisles. Plus you know the exact amount of everything you need, so you won’t have much waste at the end of the week, which saves you money. Great for those on a budget, like myself!
I know the menu planning seems like a lot of work, and it can be at first, but like I said once you have them done, you can re-use them over and over. If you do enough weeks at once, it won’t feel like you’re eating the same foods week after week. When you have time do create a new weeks worth of foods, you just add it to the rotation.
Most meals/recipes that you cook usually have 6-8 servings. If you have a small family or are on your own then you only need to do one batch and you’re good to eat that meal once or twice a week and that will last you a few weeks before you have to make it again. If you have a bigger family you can double or even triple the recipe and it will last for a while. If you cook in bulk you will also save on the amount of money you spend on groceries because places like Costco have great deals on meats and other foods in bulk.
You can also freeze other things ahead of time too. Foods that are normally a pain to make could be made in bulk and frozen all at once. For example buying a package or two of bacon or Canadian bacon ahead of time and cooking it all at once then freezing it (because who doesn’t like bacon and eggs from time to time?) It’s not something I have everyday but I find this is great for helping with portion control as well. You don’t need to eat more then a small serving during one meal because you won’t have a whole pack of bacon sitting there that needs to get eaten up! If you freeze it and take out WHAT you need, WHEN you need it, you’ll eat MUCH less! Plus it’s easy to heat up, I put what I need on a plate, still frozen and microwave for 30 seconds. That’s it and it tastes just as fresh!
I also freeze little packages of berries and seal them in small ziplock bags or with my vacuum sealer. With the vacuum sealer I just don’t suck the air out of it because then you get all the juice in your vacuum sealer, which I’m sure isn’t good for it. I use the berries on things like oatmeal in the morning, or I bring the packs in my lunch and add them to yogurt. If you buy yogurt with the fruit already added, it’s full of sugar. Adding the fruit yourself is much healthier!
Some mornings I feel like making french toast, so I’ll make a few extra and freeze them once they’re cooled off. When I want a slice of french toast, I take the frozen piece, put it in the toaster, like I would with a slice of bread. It’s nice and crispy, great for a yummy breakfast once in a while, just remember to use whole wheat bread! ;)
If you check out places like Chapters you can find lots of great cook books that have tons of recipes for preparing in bulk and freezing..
OR you can use your own favourite recipes
- Some foods need special care before putting them in the freezer, such as: raw potato, which will turn black in the freezer so be sure to cook it first.
- Some vegetables will freeze fine when raw, as long as they’re in a sauce or soup(carrots and celery for example) but others should be blanched before freezing (cauliflower and green beans)
- Foods with a high water content don’t freeze well. (lettuce, cucumber, tomato and radishes)
- Other foods that don’t freeze well are whole hard-cooked eggs, raw eggs, mayonnaise and sour cream
- When doubling or tripling a recipe be careful not to put too much salt. Most recipes call for too much salt to begin with, so when doubling or tripling, increase the amount of salt just by half. Use this rule of thumb for strong spices as well, things like cinnamon, curry powder, crushed red pepper, cayenne pepper and cumin. You can always add more later if there’s not enough. ( You can’t take it out once it’s in there! )
- Make sure to cool the food before putting it in the freezer, this prevents icy crystals from forming on the food when hot or warm food is frozen prematurely.
- You can always put foods in the refrigerator to help speed the cooling process.
- High quality freezer bags NOT storage bags work best when freezing foods, plastic containers take up too much space in the freezer. Use a grease pencil or permanent marker for easy labeling.
Breads, fruits, casseroles, soups, stews, snacks, home-made spaghetti sauce. There are lots of foods you can freeze ahead of time, just be creative! If you do a search online you can find lots of great tips and fantastic, healthy recipes!
Knowing ahead of time what you’re going to eat during the week, keeps you healthy, saves you money and will also keep you from eating junk food. We reach for junk food/processed meals because they’re quick and easy but when you have something in your freezer that is just as healthy and easy to cook you’ll opt for that instead of the processed junk. PLUS you will no longer hear that question from your family, what’s for supper? Post the weeks meal menu on the fridge, everyone will know what’s for dinner ALL THE TIME and they might even heat it up for you before you get home, so you’ll have a nice hot meal waiting for you when you walk in the door!