This time of year, I start to store away food. It’s the squirrel in me, I suppose. I want to be sure family meals don’t become forsaken with the onslaught of draining cold, wet weather and increased evening activities. Summertime provides so much fresh food, and glorious free time (and daylight), so I feel better eating the fresh stuff when it’s available. But my pantries and freezers start to fill up in preparation for the coming winter.
There’s no exception this year, even with just the three of us home right now, and my adjusted schedule allowing (requiring) me to be home late afternoons. It’s getting dark early, and it saps my energies, creative and kinetic. I’m preparing smaller meal portions, not only individually, but also corporately. And with our eating fewer and fewer junk stuffs, my way of cooking is presenting more opportunities for freezer meals.
Because I want to significantly reduce my stress level this year, I’m finding lots of ways to be proactive. Recent grocery specials, and our own fall “hankerin’s” had me making a list of what I could and should make for the freezer. There were things that needed to be used. And so it was this week, when I put “1 + 1 + 1 = freezer” goodness to use. I had only about an hour to devote to the tasks.
Here’s what I made:
- Twice-baked potatoes! I hadn’t made these since last winter, and I was trying to get creative with November’s dinner menu plan. Potatoes frequently go on sale. The cheese and cream cheese were on sale and in the fridge. Bam! The spuds baked while I did other things, then took about 20 minutes to assemble. Bonus: There was almost 1/3 cup of filling leftover (how did that happen?!), which made a nice snack. Higher protein, with the cheese — there’s nothing wrong with potatoes if you only eat them occasionally.
- Lasagne! Yes, carbs. No, I don’t care. (I’ll serve a big salad and vegs with this.) I used more ricotta than I normally would have, and no meat (but don’t tell them!). I didn’t use my trick of freezing cottage cheese to get the same consistency as ricotta, because real ricotta was a deal a few weeks ago, and I got a December expire container. I added an egg, abundantly on sale. Cheese, only purchased on sale here at Chez CT, was shredded and in the freezer. There are always at least three meals’ worth of sauce around, too. This dish took less than 15 minutes to prepare and toss in the freezer. How? I don’t precook the noodles (on sale), but instead add water so that they cook in the pan. No recipe; it’s a no-brainer.
- Oven-baked French toast! Bread on sale, eggs on sale, milk on sale. Trifecta! Ten minutes to prepare. Make a custard with the milk and eggs, add a touch of vanilla and a sprinkling of freshly ground nutmeg, and pour over slices of 100% whole wheat bread (the good stuff), soaking them nicely. These I made in smaller pans, enough for two or possibly three. They’ll make nicer breakfasts for the kid who usually wants only a handful of simple carbs and a slug of sugary fruit drink on weekday mornings. “Sit, nourish, fuel.”
Three good endeavors, with time for cleanup, in my available time. Not bad! Into to the upright freezer they went. There’s still plenty of room, so I’ll be filling more pans and popping them in there as the days go by.
I found a breakfast casserole in the freezer, made by DH a while back. We had it for brunch today (all being sufficiently sluggish on this chilly fall morn), along with some fresh apple cider we picked up at Small’s Fruit Farm last weekend. Absolutely delicious!
Tonight we’ll have chili — leftovers will go in the freezer for another family meal, and two lunch portions will go in the fridge for tomorrow.
There are bits and pieces of leftovers in both my freezers, and I’m going to get creative with those this week. Crock Pot stews and soups are definitely in our future. Money-saving menus will go on the dinner calendar.
DH and I are eating less, but we have DS#2, The Teenager, with a fluctuating appetite. After DS#1 left for the Army, it took a while to figure out how much was enough, without being too little or way too much, for our new household. I think I’ve hit my stride. And it will all be blown out of the water when #1 visits for the holiday. (Such a small price to pay!) Smaller, more plant-based meals are saving me big money. A report on that is long overdue, I know.