Complete Idiot's Guide to Getting Organized
Super Six Freezer Plan
You're chafing at the bit, dreaming of making a big dent in nightly cooking chores. Still, you've got neither the time nor the money to invest in a whole month's worth of freezer meals at one time. What do you do?
Try the Super Six Freezer Plan. Once a week, you'll prepare the night's dinner plus six meals for the freezer.
Even eating one prepared meal a week, after six weeks you'll have a fully stocked once-a-month freezer--and missing a week here and there? No problem.
To stockpile meals under the Super Six Freezer Plan:
- Make a plan. Using the supermarket sale flyers, identify one bargain protein. Are bone-in chicken breasts on sale for 99 cents? Good candidate! How about low-priced chuck roast? There's another. Choose your Super Six candidate according to your family's tastes.
- Still sitting down with the sale flyers, identify two favorite recipes that can be made from your sale special. Chicken breasts yield Chicken Fajitas and Chicken-Biscuit Casserole. Chuck roast becomes Beef Bourgignon and Pot Roast. Check to make sure that you have other ingredients needed--if not, add them to the grocery list.
- Schedule a Super Six cooking session. For two recipes, allow an extra hour in the kitchen that evening; three recipes may require more time.
- Cook assembly-line fashion. For our chicken plan, we'll make 3 Mexican Chicken casseroles and four Fajita meals, one to be served that night.
- Toss one-third of the bone-in breasts into a large steamer pot. As the meat cooks, bone the remaining breasts. Reserve the skin, bones and scraps.
- Assemble Fajita marinade, and divide the boned breasts among 3 freezer bags and a glass bowl. Pour one-fourth of the marinade into each bag, and one-fourth into the bowl for the night's meal. Seal, label and freeze the Fajitas.
- Cool the now-cooked chicken breasts and remove the meat. Mix the casserole sauce ingredients, and grate cheese and chop onions for the casseroles (reserve extra cheese and onions for the night's dinner). Using three foil-lined pans, assemble the casseroles, label, and freeze. Grill the evening's fajitas.
- Dump the skin, bone and scraps right into the bottom of the steamer pot, add more water, and bring to a gentle simmer for chicken stock. Simmer very slowly for several hours or overnight, strain, and freeze. Your Super Six plan has given you a bonus--free homemade chicken stock!
Using this concept for a month, you'll build frozen assets quickly--and easily. Adding freezer meals gradually is friendlier to the budget, too!
Total time: 90 minutes. Total freezer investment: six meals. Multiply by six weeks, and you've filled the freezer!
Trade Money for Time
Oh, no! I've scared you! Super Six sounds like too much work, and who's got time to package freezer meals each night at dinner?
Okay, fine. There's a work-free way to have the advantage of meals in the freezer: buy them.
You're going to trade money for time--but it's still faster and cheaper than five nights a week of take-out and/or fast food.
Try these sources for pre-prepared freezer meal candidates.
- Scour warehouse stores and supermarket freezer sections for freezer meal candidates. Family-size lasagna is made to order, even if you do have to "plan over" the second half of the package for later in the week.
- Think in terms of building blocks, not complete meals. Pre-cooked frozen meatballs can be tossed into spaghetti sauce from a jar. Cooked shrimp takes simple fried rice from a side dish to a light entree.
- Try a Ewer family favorite: place meatballs in a medium saucepan, and add water just to cover. Stir in two or three teaspoons of beef soup base, bring to a boil, and simmer gently. Cook rice in a rice steamer as the meatballs simmer. Toss a salad. When the rice is ready, stir a tablespoon of cornstarch into a small amount of water, and add to the meatballs to thicken the sauce. Simple!
- Other freezer-friendly meal components: bags of pre-cooked frozen shrimp; small bacon-wrapped filets of beef; pre-formed hamburger patties; flash-frozen chicken breasts.
Freezer convenience, home-cooked taste, and more free time? It's a winner! Give freezer cooking a try . . . one way or the other!