Dec 242016
 

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Simple Meal Planning - Plan to Eat

For those of you who visited the Facebook page yesterday, you would have seen where I posted about the freezer cooking session I completed.  It was somewhat planned, in that I knew the recipes I wanted to make and had already gotten the ingredients for them.

The unplanned part was as to the time I was going to do this.

My first thoughts were to do it on one of the days the kids were otherwise occupied.  However, I ended up doing some much needed grocery and clothes shopping (for myself) on those days.  There is one more day when they will both be occupied for several hours.  That day is already taken by the act of getting licenses plates in our new state and meeting the handy man at our rental house.

Initially I had planned to take the kids on a hike.  However, it became clear that a lazy day at home was what everyone was desiring.  I took advantage of the Christmas movies going in the living room, pulling up the recipes of the meals I planned to make.

Plan to Eat is a meal planning services I have been using for the last several years.  It initially filled the need of a quick way to plan all my meals during the week, often for a month at a time.  It also allowed me to easily move plans around as life happened.

It has also became a great way to organize and quickly find my recipes.  This was very important when my husband decided we needed a slew of new recipes added to our collection.  Not only did this save an onslaught of little bits of paper from taking over my kitchen (he could quickly add them to the recipe collection online), it also allowed us to see if there are recipes we no longer make.

How did today go?  I think it was fairly successful.  The 3 different meals resulted in 4 family suppers or main dishes (one of those we ate last night), and the beginnings of 7 lunches for my husband.

Why the urge to do this now, right before a major holiday?  Two reasons:

  1. My husband needs to reduce his sodium intake.  He has been eating a lot of prepackaged lunches these past few months while living solo; it is beginning to take its toll.
  2. I am tired of having to make supper from scratch every night.  It is nice to have at least part of some meals for the upcoming two weeks already begun.

dishes-kitchen

Before doing any cooking, I washed dishes and ran the dish washer.  Then ran new dish water.  I also started a load of laundry, as that was another job I was trying to accomplish.

Having these things taken care of, meant I could end this session without having to face two foes – Mount Wash-more and Count Dried-on-food.

I gathered the ingredients I could remember of these three favorites of ours, then pulled up Plan to Eat on my laptop, sitting it on the counter.  Not having to search through my recipe binder and various cookbooks saved a lot of time and frustration on my part.

Next, I decided on the order of recipes, taking into consideration the prep and cook time of each.  My goal was to have no down time, utilizing the cooking of one time to prepare for another.  I also cleaned as I went, thereby allowing me more room to work and less time cleaning time at the end.

Some of my favorite freezer recipes have come from this book, including our chocolate chili recipe which I made yesterday.  Initially found at my library, it has become an unexpected resource which changed the way I viewed freezer cooking and associated recipes.

freezer-cooking-ingredients

Once the chili was cooking, it was time to move on to the next recipe – Superfast Salisbury Steak. Not a freezer recipe, per se, but one that adapts well to making ahead. I make it as noted, doubling the sauce*, then divide into freezer bags. When we are ready to have it for a meal, a bag is defrosted in the refrigerator, then reheated.

*As we like sauce with our meals, this recipe makes enough for two meals for us if I double the sauce amounts.

With the chili on the back burner, cooking down, two of the larger remaining burners were utilized for cooking the Superfast Salisbury Steak’s beef/turkey patties.

It was now time to start making the third and final meal – meatloaf.

Dad’s Meatloaf is another recipe I find we can get two meal out of, usually by making two loaves instead of 1. This does mean extra bacon, which I lay side to side, the short way.  Laying it in this pattern, rather than running down the long length of the loaf, I am able to slice between the bacon pieces.

This meatloaf recipe is one I have tried a few ways to adapt to freezer cooking. The best results I have gotten was when I followed all the steps up to the point of baking it.

Instead of baking, I place it on a wax paper covered cookie sheet and flash freeze it. Once frozen it gets wrapped in plastic and placed in the freezer. When I am ready to have it for a meal, I defrost it in the fridge, inside the baking dish I am wanting to use. At the appropriate time, I place it in the over to bake, according to the directions on the recipe.

For yesterday, this meant the only ‘cooking’ part of this third recipe is to make the home made relish. As I was out of skillets, my large sauce pan was utilized to fill the need.

freezer-meals-cooking-on-stove

All together yesterday had been a pretty good lazy day, an unplanned break from a fun filled, productive week.

It took more than 1 hour to do the cooking session I had lined up for the day, mainly due to trying to allowing the extra relish to cook down and post about it on Facebook as I went along.

We ate the chili for supper last night, leaving two servings as lunches for my husband.  I think the meatloaf will make a great meal on Monday, leaving a serving of that as a lunch during the week for my husband.

I am thinking the next ‘freezer meal’ session should include muffins and cookie dough.  Or it could be all this talk of food is making me hungry again. 🙂

 

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