I already told you here that once-a-month cooking isn't for me, but I like to do batch cooking sometimes. This simply means to make a few things for the freezer to make later mealtimes easier. I'm sure many of you do this already. However, here are a few ideas if you're not sure what to put in your freezer:
Browning ground beef is a big time saver. When you have the beef already browned, it is easy to add it to any meal and decrease the cook time. How you prepare your beef depends on what your family favorites are. Here's what I do. I brown the meat, then add seasonings depending on the dish in which I will be using it. I brown some with onions, salt and pepper for adding sauces later such as spaghetti sauce.
Sausage - Add 2 T. sea salt and 1 t. each sage, pepper and garlic powder per pound. This recipe adapted from Anne Elliott's cookbook available for free download here.
Italian Sausage - I use this recipe.
Taco Meat - I also adapt Anne Elliott's recipe: 1 t. each chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, paprika, cumin, salt, pepper per pound.
We use a lot of diced chicken and chicken broth in our meals. I love to roast a whole chicken, then boil the bones for broth. However, if I need something quick and easy; I just buy a few pounds of chicken thighs, bring to a boil and simmer 15 minutes with some onion and garlic. I then have a pot full of chicken broth to freeze in 2 c. portions (fill a recloseable sandwich bag) plus enough meat on the bones to make a couple meals. I use this for chicken pot pie, chicken stirfry, chicken enchiladas, three bean chili chowder, fajitas, chicken casseroles and many other dishes. If you prefer white meat, you can boil some chicken breasts and dice and freeze the meat. I wouldn't recommend keeping the broth, though, because without bones a broth is just chicken-flavored water in my opinion. Diced chicken breast is great to add to lunch time salads and wraps as well.
Rice and Beans
Did you know you can freeze these? Yep! Just prepare them as directed on the package or according to your own recipe and freeze in individual or meal-sized portions.
Just about any breakfast food can be made ahead and frozen. Make a double batch of waffles or pancakes and freeze the extra. Just heat up waffles in the toaster and pancakes in the microwave later. Baked Oatmeal freezes well before baking. If you put it in the fridge the night before, you can bake it for the same amount of time your recipe calls for when it's made fresh. If you like breakfast burritos or biscuits and gravy, all you need to do is pull out some of your prepared sausage and add to scrambled eggs and cheese on a tortilla or thaw in a pan and add your milk and thickener.Muffins freeze well, too.
Sometimes batch cooking can be as easy as doubling a dinner recipe and freezing half. I try to do this sometimes, but other times we have leftovers from a meal that don't necessarily equal a full meal. I freeze them anyway, because I hate to throw food away. Throwing food away is like tossing dollars and hard work in the trash can! I use these portions for lunches later on or for "restaurant night". Everyone gets to "order" from my freezer stash of leftovers and they each get their individual meal just like at a restaurant.
I hope these ideas are helpful to you. They are just the beginning of the possibilities and can be adapted to your family's tastes and meal planning style.
What prepared foods are in your freezer?