Make Dinnertime Easier by Cooking Ahead
- Whitney Hopler Live It Editor
- 2002 1 Feb
What if you were to cook a bunch of meals in advance, then store in them in a freezer so they're ready for you to choose each night for dinner? Here's how you can do that:
- About every six weeks, block out about a day and a half in your schedule to devote to planning, shopping, and preparing meals that should provide all you need for dinners for the next six weeks. If you want to phase the practice into your lifestyle, you could try preparing meals about one week in advance. Also, if you can't block out enough preparation time all in one block, consider splitting the work into two or even three afternoons.
- Gather recipes for entrees you enjoy. Try to include a variety of types of dishes (poultry, vegetarian, etc.).
- Compile a list of all the ingredients you'll need to buy to make your recipes. Keep in mind how much you need of each ingredient to make each recipe, and decide whether you'd like to double or triple any of your recipes. Write down the amounts of each ingredient on your list. Be sure to take an inventory of your pantry and refrigerator to see what you already have before going shopping.
- Consider what type of packaging you'd like to use to freeze your meals. Good quality freezer bags can work well because they take up less space than most other types of packaging. Write the packaging materials you need to buy on a list to take with you when you shop.
- Organize your grocery list by store (if you plan to visit more than one) and department to cut down on your shopping time.
- Write down a plan that details the best order for you to assemble and cook your recipes. You may want to start by slicing and chopping food, cleaning and peeling vegetables and fruits, and simmering slow-cooking sauces or starting crockpot meals.
- Shop for your ingredients and packaging materials.
- Start cooking! Follow your game plan as best you can, washing dishes as you go so they'll be available for your next recipe.
- Wait until your food has cooled before packaging it. Then load it into your bags or containers and label it with a description, date you plan to eat it, and any instructions for heating it up. Organize the food in your freezer, and make sure your freezer is cool enough (0 degrees F. is ideal).
- Write an inventory list of all the meals you now have available, and revel in your accomplishment! Place the inventory list in an accessible place in your kitchen, then cross off each meal on the list after you eat it. Plan on using every meal within two months to preserve the food's quality.
Adapted from The Occasional Cook: Culinary Strategies for Overcommitted Families, copyright 2002 by Cyndy Salzmann. Published by Christian Publications, Inc., Camp Hill, Pa., www.christianpublications.com, 1-800-233-4443.
Cyndy Salzmann is a freelance writer and public relations consultant who teaches cooking classes based on the ideas in this book. She lives with her husband and three children in Nebraska.
Is dinnertime a stressful time in your house? Why or why not? Do you ever cook meals in advance and freeze them for later? If so, how does that help you save time? What are some of your favorite recipes you'd like to pass on to others to try? Visit the Books Forum to discuss this topic. Just click on the link below.