If we’re being honest, I think my there would be a lot of PB&J eaten for dinner during the week at my house were it not for the freezer. I try to always keep mine full to the brim, despite the constant danger of a Ziploc-full of frozen chili falling out and taking off a toe. I guess you could call me something of an adrenaline junkie.
if you, too, would like to live more dangerously, here are a few things you should keep in your soon-to-be feastworthy freezer:
1. Raw AND Precooked Chicken, Portioned
After several dinner parties ended with me saying “Wait, we spent how much?” I started counting costs and quite often, I made waaaaay too much food for the amount of people I was actually serving. One of the most expensive foods that I would overshoot is meat, especially chicken. I came up with a strategy to help keep my meat costs down and my kitchen running smoothly: buying chicken breasts and boneless skinless chicken thighs when they went on sale in the big value packs, and freezing half in 10-12 oz. portions (the amount two people at my house would usually eat) in Ziploc bags. The other half, I would precook in large batches, chop up, and freeze for use in salads for lunches, soups, etc. Having two-person portions simplified cooking for groups of people as I knew that if we were having four people, two bags of chicken would most likely be enough.
2. Frozen Veggies
Look, we all have been at that point. That dark, dark place where you are driving home from work and suddenly realize you have absolutely got to go to the grocery store but it sounds like something you totally don’t want to do right now. So you stop and grab a pizza, or Chinese, and immediately kick yourself because eating out out of desperation is usually never satisfying. On these nights, having a bag or two of frozen veggies can be a lifesaver – they can usually serve as inspiration for a skillet meal thrown together with what scraps you have left in the fridge or can be stir fried with pretty much any meat and served over rice for a bare bones night-before-grocery-shopping meal that at least (probably) won’t give you indigestion.
3. Frozen, Cooked Beans
In my pantry stocking article, I reference buying dry beans in bulk to save money. However, you just don’t get the convenience you do from canned beans (even if the canned beans come with all the sodium and that funny bean juice smell). Frozen beans are my answer to canned beans. Every time you make a batch of beans, make twice as much and freeze about one meal’s worth in several freezer bags. Lay these bags out flat on a cookie sheet and stick the cookie sheet in the freezer. The next morning, voila! You now have all the convenience of canned beans in a handy stackable format, but without the funny bean juice!
4. Frozen Tomato Paste/Sauce
Has anyone, in the course of making a normal-sized meal, used a whole can of tomato paste? I definitely haven’t. A great way to avoid having to store an awkward, tiny can of the stuff in your fridge until you realize you’ve forgotten about it entirely is to freeze your extra tomato paste (in tbsp sized portions) in ice cube trays. Pop ’em out of the tray and store them in freezer bags to take out as needed. You can also make large batches of homemade tomato sauce and store them the same way. Here’s a quick rundown of my favorite easy tomato sauce recipe:
1 large can diced tomatoes
1 can Herdez salsa
1 small can tomato paste
1 tbsp sugar
Give it a few pulses in a blender depending on the consistency you want, then use it on pasta, pizza, or meat dishes!
5. At least one homemade emergency dish.
There’s no shortage of freezer-friendly recipes on the internet. There are going to be nights when making absolutely anything sounds impossible, and for those nights, it’s best to be prepared. Use gallon freezer bags to replicate the same technique I mentioned for the beans above, and make double batches of your favorite freezer-friendly recipes. Two of my favorites are from Budget Bytes, Zuppa Toscana and White Chicken Chili.
So, now we’ve covered things you can do to stock your pantry, fridge, and freezer. Hopefully I’ve given you a few ideas and techniques to keep your kitchen ready for a feast at a moment’s notice. Have any upgrades for the techniques I’ve mentioned? Maybe a freezer recipe you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments!