Do you get tired of planning dinner after a busy day at work? Even if you put meat in the refrigerator to thaw in the morning or have some staples in your cupboard, it still gets to be a chore to get everything pulled together at the end of the day. And what about lunch? Do you take it with you to work? I do, and I often run out of time to make lunch after exercising, taking a shower, getting dressed and eating breakfast. When this happens, I am relieved if there is something I can grab from the freezer to take to work so I can get out the door.
Let me tell you how I de-stressed some of my mealtimes. Because I actually enjoy cooking on the weekend when I have time to spend in the kitchen, I decided to take advantage of that and do some big-batch cooking on Saturday or Sunday or both. Then I can freeze lunch or dinner portions that can be pulled out at the last minute for heating and eating. Here is what I have learned as I have put this meals in minutes process in place at my house.
- First, select the recipes you want to make. There are just two of us in my household, my husband and me, and we like a wide variety of food. I look for recipes that will make a quantity large enough for several dinners or lunches. And I look for those that will freeze well. So what do I make? We like hearty soups, stews, pot roast with vegetables, meatloaf, spaghetti and meatballs, anything with chicken or shredded pork, barbeque ribs, and more. I also cook large batches of rice pilaf, which comes in handy as a fast side dish. These recipes might be made in a slow cooker, on the stovetop or in the oven.
Vegetarian 15 Bean Chili
- Make sure you have resealable containers for freezing family-size or individual portions. Take inventory of what you have, and purchase what you need. I like to have a variety of sizes on hand, some for dinner-sized portions for my two-person household and small ones for the single portions I take for lunch.
- Once you have chosen your recipes, make a shopping list and head to the grocery store. There is nothing more frustrating than beginning the food preparation, only to find you are missing some key ingredients. Don’t forget to add containers to your list if you need them.
- Now it’s cooking day. Usually I don’t make more than one or two different recipes in one day. Once I have the recipe made, I serve it for a meal that day. After that, the remaining food is put in a covered container in the refrigerator to properly chill overnight. If you need to chill something faster, place the pan of hot food in ice water. Stir occasionally to chill the entire pan of food.
- The day after cooking day I take the food from the refrigerator and fill containers for the freezer. It is important to label them with the contents and the date you put them in the freezer. I don’t like to find something in the freezer and have no idea what it might be or how long it has been there! I don’t use any sort of special labels, though that is an option. I use masking tape and a marking pen to label the contents and the date. Then I simply tape it to the top of the lid.
That is all there is to stress-free mealtime! In the morning when I am thinking about what to have for dinner, I simply move a container from the freezer to the refrigerator where it begins to thaw. If I’m not that organized, I pull the container from the freezer when I get home from work. Then, I let the microwave do the thawing and the stove do the heating!