Meals in the freezer are a huge help. They will get you through in all these circumstances and also when money is tight. They are a part of your normal food storage and emergency preparedness.
Building up meals in your freezer is really easy to do. Some of you will be better at this than me! If you regularly get take away this alone will help your budget and health to a huge extent. Using the savings to increase your emergency fund or pantry add to the benefits.
The simplest way to build up ready meals is to cook double and freeze a meal. There are many things I don't think it makes any sense to cook a single meal, when you are making them just make double. (or more!) Think about it and make a little plan based around what your family likes. I have heard people say this doesn't work as their family will see the extra and just eat it. If that is the case as you are serving separate the extra meal away and put it out of sight. Also there is nothing wrong with saying that something is for another night!
Some of my meals are so easy. Actually all of my meals are easy... like yesterday I made pasties. In the cooler weather I love a pasty and a glass of milk. I feel like a little kid with that combination. My Nan made Pasty Slice. So it looked like a square pie. Packed full of vegies and they froze perfectly. So you can make them individually or as a larger slice to cut up. I made a dozen pasties that are meal sized...
And I made 2 large and two small family size as Pasty Slices...
This made meals for 14 or more. We ate one each for dinner last night with spicy relish. A family one is going to the expectant couple... the rest in the freezer. Easy! So one afternoon cooking = at least ten back up meals. (and ten nights of no cooking!)
My cooking here is nothing wonderful. I even use bought puff pastry, I confess. Also I have left over pastry that today I am going to use up with some of my homemade jam and make cute little jam tarts. You guessed it... I will make a few, not just one!
The other day I had a spaghetti sauce cook up. It fills my biggest cook pot. It is simply mince, onion, tomato, tomato paste, pepper, oregano... I will add grated vegies like zucchini etc as I have them. The important thing is to simmer it for ages to develop the flavors. But once I have this I can make...
Savoury mince on toast,
Mixed through macaroni cheese as a bake. (kids love)
This mix as a meat sauce on a pizza, topped with cheese is great. Kids and men love it! I added salami to Andy's and he thinks I'm a genius. lol
You can fill tacos.
I line a dish with corn chips... fill the middle with your meat mix, cover in cheese and bake. This is a crowd pleaser and so tasty. This is the kind of thing we have instead of take away. That was our Sunday night dinner while we watched football. So easy.
"Chow Mien" the addition of shredded cabbage, rice and chicken noodle soups SOUNDS odd but it makes a savoury rice dish that is yummy and kids LOVE. It can be served with toast too. It is easiest to add cooked or partially cooked rice (about one cup) and sometimes you are going to need to add more liquid. This cooks up to be so tasty.
They are the usual things I will do from a spaghetti sauce cook up. One cook up produces so many different meals.
Lasagna will go further if you cut it into serving sizes when it is cold and freeze those. Then each package is one portion. There are no trays with left overs that way.
Another one is also mince based. I will make up a big batch of mince, egg, bread crumbs, tomato paste, herbs and make meat loaf and also make hamburgers. This will give me several spares of each and both can be frozen raw or cooked.
I often the cook my meatloaf in the slow cooker surrounded by vegies. Usually I will do two. One for dinner and the other will be sliced up for cold meat in lunches. Yummy! But for children I would cook my meat loaves in a muffin tray (in what size is suitable) and then you have individual servings which look neat and individual servings to freeze.
The idea of a basic thing that can then become something else is the biggest help. My most usual one is to make a chicken, beef or lamb casserole. I always add a huge amount of vegies. Make at least double and eat the casserole the first night. Then use this as filling for pies and use pastry to encase it or cover the mix with mashed potato or sweet potato and cheese and bake that. It is a sort of Shepherds Pie then. These are lovely and they also freeze. Or make individual sized little pies. Again for children use a muffin tray so your pies are child sized. Making things in good portioned sizes gets you so many more meals from a batch of anything. It saves waste. If you have lots of leftovers making everything in serving sizes pretty much eliminates that and it can be a huge saving!
This is a pot roast. The greens go in later. At the end this became pies. It gives you very tender and tasty pies.
Soup is easy to make in big batches and freeze in serving sizes. If you aren't well chicken soup ready to heat up is so good!
I cannot understand making A cake. I will always double or triple it and make several or make a cake and muffins or some combination so that I have a batch to freeze.
You can also slice a cake up into lunch box sized portions ready to drop in lunch boxes in the morning.
The same with scones or corn bread. Then you always have something to go with soup, for the kids when they come home from school, for visitors...
I multiply fruit cakes as they keep for a year or more. It is just as easy to make several as make one. This keeps in the pantry and is so good to have on hand.
These are the ways that when I am cooking I make it worth my while and then I have several meals from one. Then there is always something easy for a busy night, you never have to cook every evening and you always can build up your frozen meal supply. You no longer need take away. You have your own food bank ready to go. So often you hear people say how they are tired of cooking every night. You don't have to cook every night! Once you start making extra you soon are cooking a few nights a week at the most.
I also always keep pizza bases or turkish bread in the freezer. I always have cheese, ham or bacon, in the fridge or freezer and pineapple, tomato paste, herbs etc in the pantry. So in a few minutes I can make pizza, pizza subs, toasted sandwiches etc. This is far quicker than getting take away anyway and a fraction of the cost. Also I often wonder what is wrong with eggs on toast, baked beans, sandwiches or some other simple thing for dinner in a pinch?
My meals to build up my freezer are pretty basic but reliable recipes we like. Many things can be frozen or served different ways to make a variety of meals. Mostly I do this according to what is on special and sometimes what I have been given, as in the case with the use- it- up- fruit cakes and usually soups too.
What are your easy meals and good options as frozen meals? Having a selection is a big help. It gives you variety and choice. I am always on the look out for more.
Patsy really taught me that all our food storage is our pantry. This part of our food storage is very helpful. Imagine how much our Grandmothers would have loved to have the freezers we have!
In another post I will talk about meals to create from the non fridge/freezer part of our food storage and also how just a few fresh things in the garden make make a world of difference to the possibilities.
This week in South Australia tens of thousands of people are without gas and so have no heating, cooking, hot water. It has happened in two large towns due to a burst gas pipe. You can see those doing ok have alternative methods to cook and heat water such as a gas BBQ with a gas bottle or electric hot plates. It always pays to have plan B! A good reminder. It is also a reminder that when something like this happens all the things that you would need ie gas bottles, gas BBQ, electric hot plates, all sell out in minutes. So rushing out to buy them when the crisis hits is not a good time to go shopping! It would be a good time to have spares though.
I hope you are having a good week! xxx