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Thursday, September 16, 2010

The joys of a well-stocked freezer

A few weeks ago, I was feeling the crunch. The 4-6 p.m. crunch, in which my toddler is at her neediest, the dog is begging to be walked and fed, the phone is ringing, and my husband is getting home and trying to accomplish some basic home improvement tasks. And of course, there's dinner -- something that we take very seriously around here. We don't eat out, and -- with the exception of the Indian entrées from Trader Joe's -- we don't do processed food.

So I decided to go against some of my beliefs about how fresh, healthy food is supposed to be prepared the day you eat it . . . and I checked this book out of the library.

And my life changed.

(For the better.)

Now, you might be thinking, "But it's just going to be casseroles, right? I can't feed my family casseroles every day." I understand; I could never do that, either. This book offers a surprisingly varied menu of recipes, only some of which are actually casseroles. Waiting for me in my freezer right now are: four different chicken entrees, an enchilada bake, feta-spinach rolls, honey-spice pork kabobs, and vegetable chili.

I'm not pulling out a freezer meal every day. But it's so nice to have all these entrées ready to go -- just in case I can't pull off dinner, or I get sick, or in case a neighbor has an emergency appendectomy and I want to take dinner to her family. Or in case I just want to relax and play with my little girl and keep the kitchen clean.

It does take time to prepare these meals; they use the same fresh ingredients that I usually cook with, just in larger quantities. But I find that afternoon naptimes are usually long enough to put 3-6 meals in the freezer, depending on how involved they are. Plus, for me at least, it is easier to free up a Saturday and cook all day than it is to cook every night, six days a week.

Recently, my friend and I gathered at my house on a Saturday morning for a cooking marathon. Our husbands watched the kids and within seven hours we had cooked and packaged 37 meals and cleaned up after ourselves. This may seem like a lot of time spent cooking. But on average, this means that we prepared 5.2 meals per hour, which is more efficient than I could ever dream to be otherwise.

Prior to our cooking marathon, my friend went on a bit of a shopping spree at a warehouse club. Again, this took time and effort -- but again, the savings were worth it. Including the ziplocs and foil pans and extra pantry ingredients that we continue to use weeks later, we spent an average of $7 for each dish (feeding 4-8 people*). Not bad.

The dinnertime rush doesn't have to be so stressful, I've learned. This book (and the general concept behind it) has really helped me to eliminate this rush and I hope you find similar ways to cut the stress at this time of day.

*A note about serving sizes: Fix, Freeze, Feast assumes that you are feeding teenage farmhands who must each consume upwards of 3/4 of a pound of meat at each meal. No, not really -- but we felt that the meat portions were overly generous for our families. So, instead of dividing our meals into three entrées, we often divided them into four or six to better serve our families' needs. If you have a large family, or are feeding ravenous teenagers, the portion sizes in this book are for you.

2 people are talking about food:

Lisa September 22, 2010 9:05 AM  

Thanks for the recommendation. I just put in a request for this cookbook at our local library.

It sounds great!

Katie H,  September 29, 2010 8:44 PM  

thanks for the post dulci! i need to check this out of the library and maybe spend a day getting serious about this. i've gone through phases where i like the idea, etc... but haven't actually spent a day yet preparing meals. i do have one book on the topic as well, but haven't been thrilled with their recipes. this seems promising! yay!

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