by: Katie Kimball
For moms who work or who have young children demanding their time most of the day, it’s tempting to rely on fast food or packaged dinners to make sure food gets on the table.
Between the added cost and strange additives, that’s not an acceptable option for me. I want to cook from scratch and make healthy meals with real foods. Saving on prep time is essential.
My favorite strategy is to use my freezer space to the utmost (almost to abuse, probably). Just call me the freezer queen. Here are the items youíll always find ready to go in my freezer that make dinner prep go MUCH faster
- Peppers: sliced and chopped, sweet and spicy, I buy in the summer at the Farmerís Market for cheap and use them in soup, chili, stir fry, fajitas, ETC all year long. Peppers do not need to be blanched. Just donít eat them raw after freezing ñ yuck.
- Onions: chopped and in a bag, ready to throw in anything. I can chop extra onions while prepping an easy meal or even after the kids are asleep. I use my Pampered Chef chopper, one of my favorite kitchen gadgets ever!
Onions need no blanching. If you try this, make sure to get the chopped onions in the freezer quickly so they donít start to get watery. Freeze the bag as flat (thin) as possible at first, even if you are going to store it in the door like I do for easy access. Also double bag for odor protection.
You might have to bang them around on the counter to break up a big clump, but itís a good way to take out some aggression! I love that this also saves tears, because you only have to cut onions once for 5 meals or so.
- Celery: I have one bag of chopped celery for casseroles and soups and another of 3-inch sticks and leaves to throw into stocks and broths. No need to blanch. My celery would definitely go bad in the fridge every time I bought it if I didnít do this!
- Cubes of chicken broth: I make my own homemade chicken broth and freeze some of it in can-sized portions and some in ice cube trays. This is ideal for those doggone recipes that call for 1 cup of chicken broth. What are you supposed to do with the rest of the can? If you donít make your own broth, freeze ìthe rest of the canî in ice cube trays for next timeÖ Iím going to start freezing homemade cream of chicken soup, which I used in three freezable casseroles made in one hour as a modified once-a-month-cooking day.
- Cooked Bacon: Every time we have bacon, I fry up the whole pound and freeze the leftovers. It can be crumbled into recipes that call for cooked bacon, plus itís my favorite topping for homemade pizza. I also freeze pepperoni as soon as we open it.
- Lemon and Lime Juice: I try to find these on reduced produce, or at least a whole bag on sale. I juice them all and freeze in ice cube trays in 1 Tbs portions. They can be popped right into recipes like White Chicken Chili, or thawed and used for Homemade Guacamole.
- Summer fruit: sliced and sugared, whole. Mmmm, nothing beats June strawberries in the dead of winter. We use a lot of frozen fruit in yogurt (click homemade yogurt for my easy no dishes version!), so this is essential to have on hand, plus much less expensive to buy in season. Flash freeze sliced strawberries on a cookie sheet, and they’re ready for yogurt. Freeze whole just in a bag for smoothies.
- Meatballs and Chicken Nuggets: Easy meals! I make at least 4-5 pounds of meatloaf mix every time I make it and just make a few meatloaves and a bunch of meatballs. I can just toss a dozen into a pot with a jar of sauce, and dinner is ready in 10 minutes. Homemade chicken nuggets are a tiny bit time consuming, and I love being able to do the dishes once for three meals or so. The nuggets freeze individually and can be popped out and warmed in the toaster oven in 10 minutes or less.
- Shredded zucchini: Another summer bounty item. I always buy four humongous ones for a dollar at the Farmerís Market, shred them all at once in the blender (or food processor) ñ notice doing less dishes is a theme here! ñ and freeze in Ziplocs in 2-cup portions for zucchini bread in the winter. You can also freeze cubed zucchini without blanching or shredded in ice cube trays to add to recipes. Sneak it into soups and casseroles, even jarred spaghetti sauce, to boost the veggie content of the meal.
- Walnuts: You canít beat the sales on walnuts just before Christmas when everyone is thinking about baking. I try to buy enough to last the whole year and just toss the thick bags in the freezer. I also chop a whole pound at a time in my blender and store that bag in the door of the freezer to add to quick breads and cookies.
- Bonus: A bag of leftover cooked veggies for soup. See this post for details.
- Another bonus: My philosophy and tips on how to cook extra meals and freeze in advance.
Did you appreciate these tips? Find more ways to make easy changes in your kitchen at the Monday Mission checklist.
Kitchen Stewardship is dedicated to helping people balance Godís calls to be good stewards of our earth, health, budget and time. Find out more about the mission here.
Author: Katie Kimball cooks real food and blogs about it at Kitchen Stewardship, where she balances her family’s nutrition, the environment, a crunched budget and limited time. She is a Michigan mom of two young kiddos who strives to honor God through her writing and traditional food preparation.