Since we live in an apartment, and are short on space we have limited options available to us to handle this. We have tried meal planning, where we plan our meals ahead of time then shop according to that meal plan. But, temptation calls, and who doesn't love a random taco night? Whew, there goes the grocery budget!
(Okay, so that's more about a lack of self-discipline, if anything... but moving on!) Well, the issue with meal planning is that even if you know what you are making you still need to prepare it.
Now, we are beginning a new inquiry- Freezer meals!
Freezer meals combine the "best of both" worlds that gives you several options for dinner (all homecooked and pre-made, just waiting for you in your freeze) and they DONT break the bank as you can continue to shop sales to buy staples and meats when they are on sale.
There are a couple different "systems" that you can use, the defining difference is how often you cook. One system is "Once a Week" and the other is "Once a Month". I'll be honest with you, I am a bit intimidated by "Once a Month", so I won't be covering that in much detail. The amount of money and preparation time needed to cook everything you need to make meals in a month is quite extensive, and beyond my humble means. If you are a capable cook, you should have no problem. Let me know how it goes.
I am going to cheat, actually and do "Once every other week" cooking where I cook about 7 or 8 meals on one day, and keep them in the freezer for nights in a pinch. Matt loves to cook so I would not want to take that "joy" away from him. In addition, I will also keep ready-to-eat breakfast options available in the freezer, along with lunch entrees. Then, once a week or so (after I buy new produce), I will prepare fresh veggies as sides for certain meals, or set them aside until the meal is served.
So, what do you need to get started?
- Tupperware, Tupperware, Tupperware - ideally have the stackable, rectangle kind that maximizes space in your freezer. If you have a very small freezer, add a shelf (Look in the Wal-Mart near the kitchen organization- you will find a set of wire shelves one of which will work perfectly in your freezer!)
This 28-piece Rubbermaid set is $9.86 at Wal-Mart.com with Free Site to Store Shipping. Wal-Mart also sells a 24-piece set for $10. The only difference between the two is 2- 1/2 cup containers. For price comparison, Amazon sells the same 24-piece set for $19.99- so this is a HOT deal!! Awhile back, I remember seeing a Rubbermaid coupon for EasyFindLids. I am not sure if it is still available, but that would make this deal (if available in stores!) very cheap. The one bad side to this set is that it does not have many shallow dishes that are convenient for freezing.
Amazon.com sells this Rubbermaid piece for $13.84 (eeeeei! Kind of expensive!) but it is larger, at a 24-cup capacity. This it the equivalent to 6 quarts, so this is a very big item. Make sure it fits in your freezer! This would be good if you had to freeze a very large meal (a great idea for when company is coming!). If this size is too big, check out the 9-quart Rubbermaid Easy Find Lid container for $7.34!
For optimal freezing, you want a storage container that will fit the item as close to perfect as possible, with minimal air left inside. Shallow containers work best because the food will freeze more quickly, keeping flavors inside as fresh as possible, and then when you are ready to cook- the shallow container will help the dish thaw more quickly. Who could ask for more?
At Target, I found this set here by Pyrex for $15.66. It is a 6-piece value set with two rectangle containers, and one square piece. However, the website fails to mention the dimensions of each piece so I am not too keen to buy something when I am not sure I like the dimensions!
This 12-piece set at sale at Target for $16.99 is probably my best choice at the moment. Again, without knowing the dimensions I feel like these containers would be perfect for freezing.
An ingenious idea I've found for freezing liquids (like broth/soup base, or anything) - use a canning jar! You won't spill the food when you are trying to get it into a plastic bag (accident waiting to happen). Be sure and leave some extra space at the top so it can expand as it freezers. For those of you with a side-by-side refrigerator, make sure you don't buy cans that are too big to fit on your shelves. For those of you like me, who have a freezer on top of the refrigerator, the cans will fit in the doorway- making it super quick and easy to find what you need!
Also, be sure you have a sharpie or two so you can label your food!! Sharpies normally run at $1 a piece at Staples, but since it is back to school season you can grab 3 at Wal-Mart for $1.47 or two for $1 at Target.
Well, that about wraps it up for today. I am looking forward to trying this out and hoping it will streamline a big headache in my life!!