by Lori Wuellner
It’s been a long day and the family wants to eat now.
I know you’ve experienced days like these and sometimes when that I happens I simply don’t feel like cooking. But I know if I don’t provide a balanced meal that something less nutritious (take-out or fast food) will make its way to the table.
So, what’s the answer? A frozen dinner. And not the one you’re thinking of that you buy from the store in a cardboard box but one that you’ve prepared in advance.
Preparing freezer meals can help you stretch your budget and time and improve the nutritional value of meals served at home. You can make your own convenience foods with your favorite healthy ingredients.
Making freezer meals
Try making several recipes on a “cooking day” with family or friends. Keep things moving smoothly with these tips:
– Be sure you have space in your freezer before you begin. You may need to reorganize your storage area.
– Gather freezer containers or freezer bags, marking pens and other supplies you need. You might prefer to use disposable foil pans, especially if you are exchanging meals with other people.
– Check which ingredients you already have, and then create a detailed shopping list that combines the ingredient amounts from all recipes. For speedy shopping, organize your list according to the layout of your favorite grocery store.
– Organize your workspace and assemble the tools and equipment you need.
– Combine similar tasks. If several recipes require chopped onions, chop them all at once.
– When using zip-top freezer bags, squeeze out as much air as possible. Flatten the bags to stack easily.
– Thaw frozen food in the refrigerator.
These are some “make-ahead” meals that you can prepare and freeze in meal-size portions.
– Taco meat
– Barbecued pulled pork
– Breakfast burritos
For ideas on make-ahead meals check out the following websites…http://tinyurl.com/foodpres (Utah State University) and http://www.ca.uky.edu/hes/fcs/factshts/FN-SSB.095.PDF (University of Kentucky Extension). Give the recipe that follows a try to get you started.
Lori Wuellner is a Wyandotte County Extension agent, Family and Consumer Sciences, K-State Research and Extension, 1216 N. 79th St., Kansas City, Kan. Telephone 913-299-9300, email email@example.com.
Taco Chili (Freezer Meal)
1 pound lean ground beef, cooked
1 medium onion, diced
1 (14.5-ounce) can corn, drained and rinsed
1 (14.5-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (14.5-ounce) can navy beans, drained and rinsed
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
2 (14.5-ounce) cans diced tomatoes
1 (4.5-ounce) chopped green chilies
1 package taco seasoning, reduced sodium
To freeze: Place all ingredients in a gallon-size zip-top bag and put in the freezer. When ready to make, thaw in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
To cook: Place in a slow cooker on low for four to six hours. Heat to an internal temperature of at least 165 F. Serve with low-fat shredded cheese and baked tortilla chips.
Makes six servings: Each serving has 300 calories, 4 gram fat, 25 grams protein, 44 grams carbohydrates, 10 grams fiber and 450 milligrams sodium.
With this mixture you can get creative…* combine a portion with cooked whole grain macaroni pasta for a Taco Macaroni; * make a taco salad by making a bed of leafy greens and topping with the Taco Chili followed with a handle of crumbed baked tortilla chips and salsa
Source: NDSU Extension Service, FoodWise Newsletter, Issue #283, August 2014