Monday, April 19, 2010

Freezer frenzy

So I'm not crafty, not thrifty, not French, I don't have a cool handle or platform...so for now, this is the best I can do.  Necessity is the mother of invention, they say.  Well, I'm a working Mom and though I'm thankful for flexible hours to maximize my time at home with the boys...I'm still a working Mom.  Translated: a nice, hot, moderately healthy dinner is a huge feat (no, not feaSt).  Yet out of stubborness, pride, and hunger, I refuse to throw tater-tot casserole on the table every night. (Every other night is ok, Troy can mix in tacos periodically).  SO, out of necessity, I "invented" a plan.  A plan that I hope helps you, too - working outside the home, working inside the home, whatever - EVERY mom is too busy, right?  I think it is a blessing and priviledge to serve a meal to my family. Dinner is truly the highlight of our day.  Well, bedtime might be better...and NO, not (totally) because the kids are going to bed -  just because of how cute everything about bed is - the jammies, the hugs, the stories, the stalling, the verses, prayers, more hugs.  Ok, back on track, girl!  Anyway, I'm going to attempt to stick with the plan - helping my bloggie friends with the revolution that changed our dinners.  Fights over menus - GONE!  Grumpiness about always having the same thing - GONE!  Annoyance over having to go back to the store for one more ingredient - (almost) GONE!  Variety! Sanity! Organization! Peace!  Are you sold yet?
**disclaimer - I'm sure all you out there have bigger and better plans, eat totally organic, from your backyards, milk then butcher your own goats, would never dream of having pizza for dinner, etc.  Just cut me some slack, I'm not perfect, don't make fun of me.  I'm just hoping there is one person reading this that was as fed up (pun intended) with dinner time as I was.  Here's to you:
The plan's first steps:
  • Take a few minutes to cut index cards in half.  If you're super cool, you'll have colored cards (or blank notes cards) and you can sort the colors for the next step.
  • On each small card, write down one meal your family enjoys, or wants to enjoy.  Think of everything.  Enlist your husband, kids, mothers.  (cool people from last step - cards can be color coded:  red for beef, yellow for chicken, green for meatless, blue for side dishes, you get my drift.)
  • Put the ingredients on the back of the card.  Don't waste writing out the recipe, just just down all of the ingredients the meal calls for.
  • Find a cool place to store them.  Not a recipe box - you'll never use that.  I like the cheap Real Simple magnetic envelopes.  They have a big pocket for all the cards, and a small clear pocket in front to display the week's choices.
  • Add some variety!  Subscribe to a great food catalog - Everyday Food (Martha Stewart) is one of my favorites.  Or bookmark kraftfoods.com (the simplest recipes on the planet) or Hyvee.com. Or download a cool recipe app to your phone.
  • Each Friday night, pull out meal selections for the next week.  I usually select one extra meal just in case something doesn't sound good later.  VARIETY - include in your meal selections 1 new recipe - main dish, side, dessert. 
  • Weekend - go grocery shopping.  Take your cards with you - all your ingredients are listed.  Or transfer the ingredients to one simple list. (again, Real Simple has way cool shopping lists)
  • Weekend - start cooking.  Look for meals you can make ahead of time and freeze.  Double recipes, freeze.  Make extra dry mixes and store in baggies for later (pancakes, cornbread, cookies, etc.)  Take advantage of evenings at home to crock-pot your meat - throw a bunch of chicken in, then dice part, shred part, and freeze for later, for example.
Sunday afternoons is a great time to mess up your kitchen once and make a huge dent in your week's cooking.  Now people, I know you're thinking:  "but I like FRESH food each evening.  I don't want to eat some nasty freezer-burned chicken patties."  Blah, blah, blah.  I'm not saying you have to make everything ahead of time.  I ususally make at LEAST a part of most meals ahead of time and the sides are made fresh later.  But how much easier are tacos when the meat is already browned and seasoned?  How easy is it to make warm cookies when they're already in balls?  Want pancakes for breakfast? Zap - they're ready.  Need pizza crust? Pow!  Want to impress your guests with strawberry short cake on no notice?  Wowzers - pull out your pound cake!  Trust me, the organization and time-saving will make you a happier cookerette!

Still feeling negative?  I hope note. Here's just a glimpse of this week's menu: (Please note, this is not a "I have to impress people with my meal plan"-plan, this is about as boring and basic and "us" as it gets.  Oh suuuuuure, we normally have roast duck and lots of meals that I only know the French titles for....so uh, yeah, anyway.)

Monday:  chicken kabobs with peppers and lemon-potatoes and grilled skillet cornbread.  Chicken was diced and marinating already. Cornbread mix - already mixed up. 
Tuesday: Spaghetti with turkey meatballs:  meatballs made
Thursday:  pork chops with spice paste, beans, spinach salad.  Chops are frozen and in paste already.
Friday:  homemade pizza. Hamburger and sausage ground and mixed with pepperoni.  Pizza crusts were made in bulk a few weeks ago.
Saturday:  beef and noodles. Beef is left over from a large roast - already shredded and frozen.  Noodles were made in bulk last week.
Sunday - hopefully someone will take me out for lunch.
Desserts - pound cake. Made double batch, so I have 4.  Sounds like a lot, but pound cake can be used in a zillion ways.  We like grilled chocolate and peanut butter pound cake "sandwiches", cinnamon pound cake toast (it's no worse than a donut, people), strawberries and whipped cream, etc.
More desserts - Mexican hot-chocolate cookies

So during the week I do a lot of dump, dump, dump, cook. Throw in a few sides, voila!  Give it a try.  I'll be posting freezer friendly meals each week.  Be sure to share links to yours, too.

5 comments:

The Sneaky Mommy said...

Confession: Freezer cooking scares me! I am truly no good at it, so I cannot wait for FREEZER FRENZY!!! Seriously, I make one meat mix that I freeze and that's it!
You are a cookerette genius! Let me be your #1 fan!
Grilled pound cake? WOWZA! YUM!

une autre mère said...

Love this idea! I've always wanted to do freezer meals and now you've spurred me on! We even have a chest freezer being delivered this week!

peter marie said...

Awesome girl!! I'm pumped about freezing pizza dough. Genious!!

I need the recipe for those lemon potatoes kabobs...sounds/looks amazing.

And if you ever want to go to Plato's, I'm there! I felt funny the first time and I feel a little if I have to bring the kids, but going alone is A-OKAY! We'll have those size -2 teenie-boppers hoping they're as cool as us when they're old.

Cheryl said...

OK, I'm exhausted after reading your blog. Wish I lived closer so I could eat at your house. Actually, I did the meal-on-cards thing when you guys were little, but couldn't color code them; color hadn't been invented yet.

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