Whenever someone follows me to our pantry they inevitably utter amazement at our preserves and pre-made meals and say: “How do you find the time?” Actually I find this activity saves me a lot of time and a heck of a lot of money. Here I’ll share some tips to help make this activity a lot more efficient and do-able.
Don’t be intimidated by the size of some recipes – most are freezer friendly. And remember, it is just as much work to double or triple a recipe as it is to do just one batch. You have to wash the same dishes, clean the same kitchen and use the same heat. Having packages of meals ready to go is a great help to a busy and budget-minded household.
Divide very involved recipes into steps. For instance, you might make the sauce on Monday, the filling on Tuesday and put it all together for the freezer the next night. Breaking it up into steps like this helps the work fit in with tight schedules and makes the recipe more do-able.
Save all take-out foil containers and purchase a few so you always have some on hand. Likewise, save as many plastic clamshell containers from berries, salads or baked goods. Also, have a box or two of large sealable bags, or a lot of clean bread bags that you can reuse. All these bags and containers can be washed and reused dozens of times, and are recyclable when they have reached their end-of-life.
Try making at least one large recipe every week during peak garden harvest season. For instance you might make 8 small lasagnas, keep one meal out to serve that day, and perhaps leftovers the following day, but prepare the other 7 meals for the freezer. Before you know it you will have prepared dozens of meals varying from different types of pasta and lasagna to enchiladas and chili.
Most desserts can be baked in advance, stored in a freezer and taken out whenever you need something to serve or take with you on a trip. We like to have several different kinds of cookies frozen, a few loaves of bread, buns, flat breads and muffins so that we each have a choice of desserts and snacks available in the freezer. Having snacks on hand, and meals ready to pop in the oven, helps ease the chore of creating homemade meals and reduces the urge to buy fast food.