More Easy Work Week Menus
I juggle working both inside and outside the home, not to mention transforming our property into the more self-sufficient homestead I crave. Many evenings, I’m looking for a quick and easy meal without reaching for the phone and take-out. Over the years, I’ve learned to cook extra portions of some dishes so I can freeze it for future meals. I’ve also learned to create multiple dishes from the same basic ingredient so I speed up meal preps.
Meatballs are a great basic item to have on hand. When I make a batch of meatballs, I make a large batch, bake them off in the oven and then freeze them out on a cookie sheet before placing them in a zip lock type freezer bag. By freezing them before bagging them, you can grab just want you need without them sticking together. It’s good to have a mix of large and small meatballs for various meals like meatball grinders, pasta with meatballs and quick meatball soup or sliced meatballs to top pizzas.
You can buy pizza dough in the deli section of a lot of grocery stores. There are also great recipes out there if you like making your own. The trick to making it a quick meal is baking off the dough into a pizza crust ahead of time! I use those two-gallon freezer bags as a “template” and create and bake off a crust just smaller than the bag. I actually can fit two of those crusts into the bag and bake off two crusts while I’m in the kitchen. Once they cool, place them into the freezer bag and pop them into the freezer. Even my eleven year old can take out a crust, spread out sauce, cheese and pepperoni (try microwaving a few meatballs and slicing them for meatball pizza) to help me out. Having the crust pre-baked is a huge time saver!
Our local butcher sells fantastic boneless, skinless chicken breasts at a great price when you buy them in 10 lb bags. When they hit a rock bottom price, I buy about fifty pounds at a time. When I get it home, I take the time to prepare the chicken in various ways that saves a lot of time later.
*Slice the chicken into thin slices and freeze them out on a cookie sheet like that before placing them into freezer bags. You’ll be able to grab out what you need for quick homemade chicken fingers (they defrost more quickly as thin slices, as well)
*You can carefully slice the chicken in half through the width of the breast to make a chicken cutlet. Flour, egg and breadcrumb the cutlets and then freeze them individually. You can pull them out of the freezer, bake or fry them and then top them with a bit of pasta sauce and mozzarella cheese for chicken parmesan. You can also bake the chicken breasts ahead of time; freeze them and then just microwave to reheat before topping with sauce and cheese.
*You can simmer several of the breasts in water with herbs, celery, carrot and onions (just rough chop the vegetables-you’ll discard them after they’ve given up all their goodness). When the breasts are cooked, you can cube the meat and freeze it out on a cookie sheet before bagging. You can grab cubed meat for quick and easy casseroles made with canned cream soup, egg noodles, a bag of peas and some chicken meat (some people make it with tuna). You can also save the broth you just made for chicken soup one night (cubed chicken, a bag of mixed vegetables and a few handfuls of eggs noodles served with crackers or grilled cheese).
One of the biggest things you can really do to speed up work week meals is to cook or prepare as much as possible before hand. Chopping vegetables, having rice cooked, prepping meat and such ahead of time slashes minutes off the evening preparations and it all adds up. Finding meals that freeze well and meals that can be thrown (almost literally) into a crockpot also saves you running for take-out and running up your food costs.
For more great recipes you create and freeze, check out this book!
This article is by Tammy Paquin, owner and publisher of Frugal-Families.com. It is available for reprint with an active link back to www.frugal-families.com.