a couple of weeks ago i took the plunge, bought a cart full of fresh ingredients, and worked for a couple of hours stocking our freezer with main dishes for supper. i used Not Your Mother’s Make Ahead and Freeze Cookbook by Jessica Fisher as my guide. i mentioned before how having dinner ready, or at least somewhat planned, brings an outsized sense of peace to my days. it’s a lot of bang for my buck. and last week proved that again. the whole week was a bit more peaceful. we ate, and then in the evening i still had enough energy to clean up the kitchen!
this book is different from other 30 meals plans i’ve seen before. it’s not all recipes for casseroles. there are many recipes that are simply marinades for meat. that means that the prep on cooking day isn’t extensive. but the meal planning has already been done. so when you want to eat the meal, you will have to cook. but the chicken can saute while the rice cooks, so weeknight cooking stays streamlined.
so far we have eaten the Swedish meatballs (Viking food!), Teriyaki chicken, southwest fish (it’s a recipe for chicken, but i substituted fish and used it for fish tacos), chicken bacon sub (added red sauce for dipping). southwest chicken with polenta and kale is on the menu tonight…then i’ll be using left-overs with beans and cheese for Friday night nachos. here are a few tips from this first try:
- start with a clean kitchen and an empty dishwasher…it makes working easier and more pleasant and it means that you won’t be sabotaging your efforts at streamlining with a kitchen disaster!
- use one of Jessica’s plans…she includes step-by-step instructions and shopping lists. i did make some substitutions, but tried to let her do all the heavy lifting. this way of cooking does require a lot of mental energy–planning the menu, organizing grocery shopping, planning the cooking process efficiently. with the meal plans, this is done for you.
- plan easy meals for cooking day…or plan to eat one of the meals that you’ll be preparing. dinner needs to be taken care of.
- read the instructions for the cooking day and each recipe….twice…you need to know the plan! there is prep work to do before the planned cooking day, so you need to make time for that too. the prep work makes it more fun to cook.
- label your bags/pans before putting them in the freezer
- keep an updated list of what + how many you have in the freezer
Lindsey at Running in Circles has also been writing about meal planning. her post is full of great ideas and even includes wonderful quotes from Like Mother, Like Daughter.