Your Freezer, Your Friend
Your best bet to retaining control over your time (and your budget) is to plan- and this is especially true when it comes to the kitchen.
Spending a few hours on a Sunday afternoon doing some menu planning and stocking your freezer will bring unexpected calm to your home when the question “what’s for dinner?” is proposed.
Aside from the obvious spaghetti sauces and casseroles, here are some ideas that freeze well and offer a little variety on the menu.
To really maximize on the budgetary and the organizational benefit of menu planning, you need to embrace a certain level of detail.
Make sure that there is room in your freezer. Include labels on your shopping list (you need to name and date your dishes to ensure rotation), as well as plastic wrap and foil. Scour flyers for deals on staple menu items, and work your meals around those for the most cost savings.
Tried and true by generations, this kid-friendly crowd pleaser is easy, nutritious and reheats nicely.
There are various recipes out there, but most use a basic ingredient line-up, including potatoes, ground beef, carrots, corn (creamed or otherwise), broth and onions. For extra ease (and extra flavour), I use an envelope of prepared Shepherd’s Pie seasoning.
When you freeze, dot the potatoes with extra butter and a little cheese to moisten the crust while cooking.
Mac & Cheese
Mac & Cheese is not just for kids! Using ingredients like elbow macaroni, sour cream, fresh breadcrumbs, milk, butter- and of course lots of cheese- this easy, inexpensive dish should be a staple in every busy family’s freezer.
There are myriads of recipes online, but as a general rule, use equal parts milk to shredded cheese. Don’t overcook the pasta, as it will lose some of its firmness when you freeze it. And the little known secret ingredient for homemade Mac & Cheese? Believe it or not-dry mustard.
Lasagna is one of those dishes that are frequently store bought, as some feel that it is too labour intensive a dish. While it is true that you can spend hours (as well as the entire contents of your spice cupboard) to make a homemade lasagna, it can be done express-style.
While you are boiling noodles, sauté onions and ground beef. When beef is browned, add in chopped tomatoes, and then a bottle of prepared sauce and bring to boil.
In a separate bowl, empty a container or two of cottage cheese (depending on how much you are making), add a beaten egg, parmesan cheese, about a quarter cup of mozzarella or provolone cheese and lots of fresh parsley.
Layer your noodles with sauce and cheese. Be liberal with the sauce, as it will help the noodles maintain their moisture when you reheat.
BBQ Slow Cooker Chicken
This dish is saucy, freezes very nicely and can be done while you are cooking other meals.
Reheat and whip up some rice or noodles, along with something green (like broccoli or peas) and you have yourself a flavour-packed meal before homework is done.
Add chicken thighs (enough to feed your family) to a slow cooker. Mix together a bottle of your favourite BBQ sauce, half a packet of onion soup and about a half cup of orange juice. Pour over chicken (making sure that there is lots of sauce and that the chicken is well covered, which matters when you are freezing) and cook for 4-6 hours on high. Cool, pack and freeze.