Monday, April 11, 2011

Make Ahead Meals and Some Tips

I've talked before about OAMC (Once A Month Cooking). The idea is to do all your cooking for the month in one day. It can be kind of daunting, but it is very effective. I spend a lot less on groceries and eating out, because there's always something in the freezer that can be made quickly.

When Casee was visiting a few weeks ago, she mentioned she tried OAMC once..and she'd never do it again. I can't say that I blame her. Cooking 30 meals in an entire day is..not easy. If you don't think you'll be able to do that, I suggest you try doing Make Ahead Meals instead.

The concept is the same as OAMC, but rather than doing all your monthly meals in one day, you do one or two at a time and toss them in the freezer. For example: Let's say you're making meatloaf for dinner. Instead of making one meatloaf, make two. Then freeze one. The night before you want to make it, allow it to defrost in the fridge and there you prep time on the night of. You can do this with mashed potatoes, gravy and veggies, too. You'll have a full meal in the freezer ready to go. Here's a blog I found that has a list of recipes that can be made ahead: Make Ahead Meals. I also really like this site: Make Ahead Meals for Busy Moms.

Here are a few other tips and tricks:

Make Double and Freeze Half: When you're making dinner for your family, double the recipe (ie, if you're making for 4 double it to 8). Then freeze the leftovers for up to a month.
Cook Rice and Freeze It: I love to make casseroles and stir-fry last minute. Having cooked rice in the fridge is a huge help when I need it quick. So when I make rice for other things I Make Double and Freeze Half. Then I always have rice ready to go on a moments notice.
Buy Bulk and Freeze it Seasoned: I buy a lot of meat at Costco. Buying in bulk can be a lot cheaper. I have a vacuum sealer, so when I come home I season the meat (ie, add taco seasoning to ground beef/turkey, savory seasonings to stew meat, etc), vacuum seal it and freeze it. That means less prep time later. 

Something new I'm trying: Make Ahead Crock-Pot Meals. Have you seen those Banquet crock-pot meals in the freezer section at the grocery store? They include everything for a full meal; you just dump it in the crock-pot, turn it on and go. I like the concept. Having something in the freezer that requires no prep can be a lifesaver. Where these products fail is the end result. The over-processed ingredients make for tasteless, mushy meals no one wants to eat.

So instead of buying those, I'm making my own. Take this Chicken and Dumplings recipe for example.Instead of adding the first 12 ingredients directly to the crock-pot, I prepped everything and threw it in a large freezer back. Then I vacuum sealed it and froze it. I also did this with several other recipes. Now I have them in the freezer for a day when I don't have a lot of prep time. I haven't tried one yet, but I have faith that they'll at least be edible. And better for us than something filled with preservatives.

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