Since I work outside the home I find weeknight meals can sometimes be rushed or when I go to make that “perfect” comfort food meal, I am missing one or more key ingredients. For me, I have found making a menu of things I want to make ahead of time works well. I then go through the ingredient lists for each recipe and write down anything I need to purchase. Next, I go grocery shopping and then the next day I do “batch cooking”. What exactly is batch cooking? For me, batch cooking means I make up a bunch of different things all at once and then either freeze for later or use over the next couple of days. If you don’t have freezer space, there are ways to freeze foods smarter so they take up less room. If you don’t have the time to actually cook everything, then spend your afternoon prepping. Chop all the vegetables and put them in containers, read the recipe and see what kinds of things go into the dish together and measure out and put in the same container, chop the meat and freeze until needed if required. When it comes to meal time, everything is ready to go. All that I need to do then is make a crisp green salad and voila! Dinner is served.
This weekend I will be making a double batch of Swedish meatballs. The first batch will be kept in the fridge and used over the next couple of days. One night we will have meatball stroganoff, another meal may be meatball sandwiches or subs, a different meal may be meatballs and sauce over rice or noodles. The second batch I will freeze in a large freezer bag. I can do the same thing with soups, leftovers, spaghetti sauce, etc. The trick is labelling and dating the bags, laying them flat to freeze and then stacking them. This takes up much less space than using containers. My problem with freezer containers is that so many of them are round. Why is it that? Every time you use round containers they take up extra space than using square. This has been a pet peeve of mine for years. I have containers in my pantry that are rectangle or square so they can be pushed back into the corners. Same thing with my spice jars.
My other list of things I am making this rainy weekend are crab cakes, Singapore noodles and balsamic glazed chicken. All of these items will be able to be used during the next week of lunches and dinners. If there are things that run the risk of spoiling, I will freeze them right away. I also will be preparing homemade hamburgers and then freezing them for a quick meal one night if I get a hankering for a burger. The other thing I will do is brown a couple of pounds of ground chicken with chopped onion. I will freeze that too. If I all of a sudden I decide that I want taco salad or spaghetti with meat sauce, all I have to do is pull out the meat and it makes for a quicker meal. Another thing to do, is if you are making something that freezes well, make a double batch. Cook one and freeze one.
Here are a couple of tips when doing batch cooking: If your recipe calls for 1 or 2 tablespoons of tomato paste. Once you open the can and have taken out what you need, measure out the rest into 1 tablespoon “pucks” and freeze them on a pan with parchment paper. Once they are frozen you can put them in a small or medium freezer bag and have them for future recipes. If you love to use fresh herbs in recipes but don’t use them all up, put the most common measurement you use (say 1 tablespoon or 1 teaspoon) into ice cube trays. Cover the herbs with olive oil and freeze. Once the cubes are frozen you can pop them out and put them in a freezer bag. Just make sure to label the bag with what is in there so you don’t have to guess later! I always tell myself I will absolutely remember only to find a month later I have not a foggy-clue what mystery lies in my freezer bag. Do you have any good tips or tricks? I would love for you to share them with me.