I find that the two hardest aspects of meal planning are the ones at the opposite ends of the spectrum: 1) introducing a new dish into my repertory and 2) serving dinner out of something I’ve saved in the freezer.
I have a lot of cookbooks where I might know only one recipe in there and go back to. I rarely take the time to sit down and read through cookbooks. I might goad myself into menu innovation with an impulse purchase, for instance the package of Cotija cheese that has been sitting on the top shelf of my fridge unopened. Fortunately, it has a long shelf life and can sit another month, but the sight of it sends a twinge of self-inflicted regret that I have not tackled tortilla soup or enchiladas or ANY recipe from my new Mexican cookbook and that if I don’t act soon I will be throwing the cheese in the trash without having used it.
But then, what about the meals sitting neglected in the freezer? Sometimes it seems like those meals share the same fate as the rebellious citizens of Monsters, Inc. – banished into a frozen wasteland, forgotten about until such time as they shift and land with an icy clunk on the kitchen floor, freezer burned beyond recognition.
I am pushing myself to remedy this facet of my meal planning and going into those frozen stores more often. It should be a no brainer: use that food I already made and save myself a night of making a meal from the ground up. If I use it within a couple months of making it, it’s also certain to still taste pretty good when I defrost it. So, I’m saving money and time and even meal planning wear and tear now that I’ve instituted Easy Freezy Freezer night. (It used to be Monday, but now it floats.)
Freezer night has been working pretty well over the last few weeks. Of course you do have to supply your freezer with meals periodically in order for it to work. This week it was chicken paprikash revisited. I saved aside half a batch of paprikash when I first made it, holding out the sour cream that is added before serving it so it would keep in the freezer. (Dairy products break down when frozen and the defrosted meal will not come back as well.) Last week my freezer pick was frozen stuffed chicken breasts from Barber Foods over rice. I also will save leftover meats from a larger roast like a pot roast to make taco/burrito meals. Turkey meatballs are really good to make in a larger batch and save a portion of to the freezer. Soups saved to a ziplock bag are also a fine thing, even chicken soup with the egg noodles still in it defrost well. So, I may be telling you something you already know well, but let me just remind you: don’t forget to look in your freezer. Dinner might be waiting in there.
My Usual Freezer Suspects
- Chicken Stock
- Soups – Chicken noodle, Potato Leek
- Turkey Bolognese pasta sauce
- Pizza sauce
- Turkey meatballs
- Leftover beef, pork, for burritos
- Char-shiu (a new staple)
- Chocolate chip cookie bars
- Zucchini stuffing
- Flaked coconut
- Loaf of Bread / Rolls
- Breaded Chicken Patties
- Potato/Cheese Pierogies
- Individual plain cheese pizza
- TJ’s Mac & Cheese
- TJ’s Gnocchi Sorrentino
- Barber Food’s stuffed chick breasts
- Jennie-O turkey meatballs
- Cappelino Alfredo Sauce (low sodium)
- Ice Cream
For more about what freezes well and what doesn’t, check out these folks! The National Center for Home Food Preservation