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Freezer Meals Save Money

How cooking and freezing meals ahead of time can save you. oney in the long run.

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It’s 5 p.m. and you haven’t given dinner a thought. What can you throw together?

The neighbor just called. Suzie, the young mother down the street, just had her second baby. The neighbors are organizing meals this week. Could you provide a meal tomorrow evening?

A new family just moved in across the street. You’d love to go meet them, but you’d really like to bake them something first. You don’t really have the time to today, though. What do you do?

If you’re like me you’ve probably found yourself in one or more of the above situations. It wasn’t until I discovered “Once a Month Cooking” that I found an easy way to solve each challenge. Freezer meals have not only changed the way I prepare meals for my family, but they have also been part of our “living with less” strategy saving us hundreds of dollars each month.

The premise behind cooking once a month is that you set aside one day a month to buy groceries and a day or two a month to cook. At the end of your cooking day you have 30 meals in the freezer. No, it’s not 30 casseroles. It’s amazing how much food prep can be done for a variety of meal preparations, only to be frozen and used later.

Here are the basics to cook for a month:

Day 1: Plan your meals on a calendar and then list out the needed ingredients. Check what you already have and then make your shopping list accordingly. You may want to come up with a meal plan that you use over and over each month just rearranging the order in which the meals are served and trying one or two new recipes a month.

Day 2: Shop for all your ingredients. After arriving home arrange ingredients on the counter for easy access. Cook any meat that needs to be prepared. Brown hamburger, boil chicken, cook sausage, etc. Remember you will be preparing a lot more food than you usually do.

Day 3: Assemble dishes according to type of meat. For instance, you can use about 10 pounds of raw hamburger to make 3-4 meatloaves and 25-30 meatballs. Then take the hamburger you cooked the day before and assemble several pans of lasagna, Tater Tot casserole, spaghetti sauce and any other hamburger dishes you might want. You can also season some of the cooked hamburger for taco meat before putting it in a bag to freeze. After hamburger dishes, go on to chicken, turkey, fish, and pork.

What are the benefits?

Daily cleanup is minimal. If you prepare a homemade pizza, all you need to do is pull the cooked sausage out of the freezer and assemble the pizza. When you serve your family lasagna, you just pull it out of the freezer and bake. No messy clean up.

Hospitality can be spontaneous. If a friend or neighbor becomes ill or has an emergency, you can easily provide a meal. A simple trip to the freezer will produce a main dish, giving you the freedom to prepare a couple of side dishes to finish out the meal.

Stress is minimized. Having the main dish prepared ahead of time frees you up during the crazy 5 o’clock hour. It provides for a more peaceful atmosphere in your home.

Some tips I’ve learned over time:

If possible have a friend watch the kids on cooking day. Some women prefer to cook one Saturday a month so their husband can take care of the kids. My husband also helps with the dishes on cooking day, because there is so much to clean up.

Rather than assembling 30 different recipes, assemble 10 different recipes 3 times. By the time you sprinkle in cooking on the grill, sandwich night, leftovers, and different side dishes your family will never know they’ve eaten meatloaf three times in a month.

Cook with a friend to make the day go by easier. I know two sisters that cook together. They use their mother’s kitchen because it is so large. In exchange for using her kitchen, they divide the meals three ways so all can benefit.

Try once a month baking, too. Quick breads like poppy seed, banana, and pumpkin freeze very well. These are great gifts, quick breakfasts, or a nice addition to a meal. Baking with a friend works very well because there are fewer ingredients to transport. Try once a month baking before the holiday season. You’ll be glad you have the goodies on hand.

Don’t get caught up in thinking that you need an extra freezer to cook this way. Many women do it with just their refrigerator freezer. You will need to freeze more in bags for better storage space, though. You also will have to limit the number of casseroles or lasagna you prepare.

Don’t be surprised at the money you will save. Because you have meals on hand, you will find you are less tempted to eat out. You also are less likely to impulse purchase than if you are going to the store weekly or not following a meal plan.

Even though it takes time to plan and prepare, you will enjoy the extra time it gives you each day. You will also enjoy the peace it brings to your mind knowing you have the main dish already prepared.

If the 5 o’clock hour stresses you out, give this a try! I know it’s made a difference in our home and our pocketbook!

Happy Cooking!

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