This May Be My Favorite Part Of Meal Planning
One of many good reasons to do this is MONEY. We save so much money, buying meat and veggies and what ever it takes to make this meal by buying in bulk and when on sale. Making many meals ahead of time also saves a ton of time.
It surprisingly takes very little extra effort to do. Your making a meal right? Why not make several, even 5 more at the same time. The ease of this whole operation is repeating yourself in whatever you are doing.
As in the make-ahead mixes, you simply have several bags that you are measuring things into, how many depends on what you are making ahead or planning to make ahead.
I personally like to make a lot of extra soup, bean soups. They freeze so well. Why waste all your precious time making a meal for one sitting when you can make several at the same time?
Making Sense Yet?
So, whenever you see a sale paper that has buy one get one free meats, like roasts or special cuts of meat, buy a whole bunch. Come home and make these meals in a jiffy so all you have to do is pop them out of the freezer and put them in a pot and your good to go.
Food that doesn’t freeze well
Any dairy foods unless they are incorporated into a make-ahead dish, say lasagna, you can put your dairy in this dish. Save the cheese for top until the end, though.
Potatoes won’t freeze well either by themselves unless they are in a dish already like beef stew and cooked in juices.
Lettuce, Cucumbers, Bean Sprouts and Raw Potatoes will get mushy when thawed.
Hard Boiled eggs get rubbery when frozen
Egg-based sauces will separate, also mayonnaise based sauces do not do well in the freezer.
Unless your dairy food is in a container that will be baked like sour cream or cottage cheese, as in lasagna, you will have no problem.
I suggest you start out small. When you see how easy it is when you take a meal out of the freezer that you made ahead of time last week or two weeks ago, that light bulb will go off in your head and you will realize how wonderful it was to pop a bag or container out of the freezer and it’s ready for cooking. WOW
That’s when you will begin to seek out sales and menus and equipment. You will start looking at more containers and more recipes and more and more and more.
I suggest you try at least 2-3 make ahead freezer meals at a time. Pick your recipes and make at least 5-6 of each one. Read your local paper. If ham is on sale, look for recipes that have ham in them. Cubed, sliced, soups, the list is endless. Why buy a little when it’s so much cheaper to buy a lot.
I have seen a lot of times when roasts are buy one get one free, also certain cuts of beef or pork, yummy ribs are offered at BOGO. Lots of deals like this. You always go for getting an extra one, don’t you?
What if you bought 5 and got 5 more free?
You are getting it now. Think about the savings, and the time, ooh my
Depending on how big your family is, you choose the size and quantity according to how you normally cook. There are many ways to freeze ahead.
Plastic Zip lock bags are good for preparing all the ingredients in one bag to take out and cook. You also can use several bags inside this bag to keep meat separated from veggies, For example a make ahead stir fry. How wonderful to pull the bag out and everything already there.
All those freezer ready meals that you buy at the grocer can be made by you for a fraction of the cost. Plus the taste is so much better without all the preservatives. These ready made from the grocery are meant to last a year or more. You only need yours to last few months.
Throw away aluminum pans are also a good choice when making ahead dishes like lasagna or other baked in a casserole dishes.
Tupperware or other dishes that do not leach chemicals into food.
Tupperware is safe for microwave heating of dishes made ahead of time that only needs to be microwaved, like certain sauces. Also, note that if you freeze ahead in Tupperware a certain size like oblong or square, you can pop them in metal dish to cook in the oven. Some of us don’t have the luxury of owning many baking dishes to be able to freeze ahead many dishes so Tupperware comes in very handy here, especially if it the same size as our baking dish.
Beware of plastic that leaches chemicals into food. There are many that do, so choose wisely.
Here is a link to determine what to avoid. Remember, some plastic containers can cause cancer when re used and heated in a microwave. Plastic to avoid
I say to use Tupperware because it is a trustworthy plastic.
Masking Tape and Permanent Markers
You need to write on the bags or containers what the dish is and what degree to cook it and the date it was put in the freezer. Same as the make-ahead mixes.
I have seen people who can make 50 make ahead meals in a day. Of course, that takes determination and practice. But even making 10 to 20 is a great accomplishment. You will get hooked on this, I promise.
Many supplies can be found pretty cheap at Dollar stores and outlets. There are also online places that you can buy these aluminum dishes in bulk. Just Google wholesale containers and you will find a whole list. Or you can click on any of my links in the side bar and buy bulk from any of my featured places. Amazon has always been my go to place for anything I need for bulk cooking or crafting of any kind. Also Walmart. So click the link on the side and check out what they have that you may need.
Here is a tried and true recipe that can be made ahead of time and freezes wonderfully.
Chicken Stir Fry (or Beef)
A single recipe will serve 6 Add white rice as a side dish is optional and can be added to the bag to be frozen. A rice cooker will come in handy here. Don’t buy minute rice. Cook rice in bulk in a cooker. Add 4 to 5 cups cooked rice in a separate bag in the gallon bag to be frozen.
Multiply the quantity needed by how many you plan to make. All you need for this dish is Gallon size and Quart size Zip Loc bags. Markers and Masking tape. (masking tape optional, you can write on the bag) just make sure you’re using a permanent marker.
In a large pot of water, add salt to water, depending on your taste and size of the pot I would add 2 tsp to a regular large pot. Boil water.
Vegetables Of Your Choice
Any Other Veggie You like in Stir Fry
Cut up veggies in bite size pieces and put in pot of boiling water. Boil veggies for no more than 2 minutes. Blanching is necessary when freezing vegetables as it stops the enzymes that allow a vegetable to continue to grow and eventually rot. See info here on the necessity of Blanching
With each batch wait till water comes to a boil before you start timing.
Remove veggies from water and strain thoroughly. Place veggies on a baking sheet after they are completely cooled. You can also run cold water over strainer of vegetables to speed up cooling process, or transfer strained veggies into a bowl of ice water. Your choice. Either works.
Place baking sheet of separated one layer of evenly laid out veggies in the freezer. This will take 2 to 3 hours so you can prepare the rest while waiting, or start getting ready for another type of meal to be frozen.
When veggies completely frozen, separate the veggies that are frozen together and place in the Gallon Zip Loc bag. Depending on how many make ahead ones you are making. 4-5 cups of frozen veggies in each gallon bag.
Chicken, Pork or Beef?
For Chicken, it’s safe to say to use 3 breasts for this meal. Beef, at least one pound of cut up meat. Whichever you are using.
Cut meat into bitesize pieces. Place for each meal in a Quart Zip Loc bag and mark it with marker. You will be putting the smaller bags all together in the one gallon one for an all in one bag freezer meal.
In the gallon bag measure 4 to 5 cups of frozen pre blanched veggies. Save this step for last to keep veggies frozen. Get all other ingredients ready to pack in the bag before removing veggies from freezer.
Marinade for Chicken, Beef or Pork
Remember that all these ingredients can be bought in bulk and on sale, so decide on the meals depending on the sales. If you decide to make many meals ahead, it would be much cheaper to buy bulk. So planning your make ahead freezer meals requires a little savvy shopping. you will get really good at it. We are beginners now, so we are learning. In a few months, you will be a pro.
- 4 tbsp. soy sauce
- 4 tbsp. brown sugar
- 2 tbsp. sesame oil
- 21/2 tbsp. sesame seeds
- 1 tbsp. Ground Ginger, fresh or in the can
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- few drops of hot sauce if you like
- 1 c. chicken or vegetable broth *vegetable for beef and pork
- 2 tbsp. cornstarch
- 3/4 c. Dry Sherry if you like, or leave it out.
This marinade recipe if for one meal. Multiply ingredients in separate bags as you measure.
From this marinade place 3 to 4 tbsp in each bag of meat to marinade while frozen. This will make meat more tender and permeated with flavor. The rest of the marinade, seal in a zip loc sandwich or quart bag and place in gallon bag with meat and veggies.
Think about this
If you were to make this dish as a one time meal. You now have leftover chicken or vegetable broth. Leftover garlic, Chances are if you bought this at the grocer, it will now sit in the fridge till it goes bad. That’s where the savings come in. You will use it all when you make these multiple meals and then some. you will be buying multiple cans of broth, on sale of course, and multiple cloves of garlic. You will be using them all instead of them rotting and turning bad in fridge.
Making several Chicken bags and several Beef or Pork will add variety to your stir fry meals.
When you remove this bag from the freezer, add oil to your cooking pan cook meat first, then add vegetables and cook to desired tenderness. Add marinade at the end and heat thoroughly. Now serve with the rice if you added it. Remove all food from pan and throw rice in with 1/2 cup of water and heat till tender and hot.
Your done. Wasn’t that easy?
I have found many great recipes online for make ahead freezer meals. Here is a link to one of my favorite ones. There are many many recipes on this site and I highly recommend it. I have tried several and they work out really well.
You have at least 100 make ahead freezer meals to choose from now, so no excuses. Try it.
Please come back for more wonderful tips on saving money, healthy foods for the family and easy projects for beginners.
Have a Bountiful Day
Founder of bountifulharvesting.com
Mom and Grandma