Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Kitchen Tip Tuesday - Think ahead Meal Prep

Recently I have been posting about menu planning and how I've not been too successful with it. I am working in that area and am happy to say I'm doing pretty good so far. I am still on track for not grocery shopping for two weeks. My next regular grocery shopping date will be 5-23/24-08. At least that's my plan. I realized this morning that there will be no more meals that contain cheese after today, as I am about to use the last of it!

But, My Kitchen Tip for this week is to do as much of your meal preparation as you can ahead of time when you are not rushed.

I am not a big fan of freezer cooking because, Number 1: It doesn't taste good to me; and Number 2: I tend to never get around to using the frozen foods. I think part of the problem is that I haven't found the recipes that we like frozen.

So I am trying to compromise with partial ahead of time meal preparation.

These are some examples of this:

1. On tonight's menu is Mexican Rice Bake, so this morning before work I am cooking the rice. I'll put it in the fridge and when I get home I'll be way ahead of the game in getting this meal on the table. I also placed the frozen package of hamburger in the refrigerator last night so when I get home this afternoon it'll be completely thawed and ready to brown.

2. As soon as I get home from the grocery store, I could brown onions and ground beef and either freeze it or place it in the refrigerator for use in recipes that call for that, such as spaghetti, taco meat, chili, etc.

3. Last night I made honey glazed chicken legs. Next time I make this, I could freeze the chicken legs in the sauce and then just thaw it and place in the baking dish on a busy work night.

4. I could mix up the dry ingredients for certain recipes and place meal size portions in zip lock bags or plastic bowls. Examples could be Chicken flavored rice, taco seasoning, and chicken pot pie crust ingredients.

5. I am already looking ahead to the chicken pot pie recipe that's on the menu later this week. The biggest thing about this recipe is having the chicken boiled ahead of time. I plan to do that tonight, then I can put part of the recipe together the morning we are going to eat it and put the final recipe together right before cooking it.

6. Even better, I could have boiled this chicken over the weekend and placed the meat in a freezer bag specifically for recipes like chicken pot pie.


7. I had to include Little PenPen's idea she left in the comments. Cook your chicken in the crockpot on Saturday to be used in recipes that week! I AM DEFINITELY GOING TO DO THIS ONE!!! Thanks Penny!

How do you plan ahead for your meals? Menu planning, freezer cooking, partial freezer cooking, or all of these?

For more Kitchen Tips go to Tammy's Recipes!!!


Kim said...

Great tips - I just returned to work and am too looking for some time saving tips!


Anonymous said...

Hi Debbie,
Great tips. I prepare my supper in the mornings than at supper time I just have to warm it up.

The Nest Egg said...

I also don't like the freeze ahead meals. But I do like to cook up hamburger and chicken and freeze ahead of time. I love my food saver!

It is so much easier to grab already cooked hamburger or chicken and takes no time to prepare supper went the meat is already cooked!

How do you make your mexican rice?


Pen Pen said...

I like to cook my chicken in the crockpot for "boiled chicken" recipes. If your crockpot is large enough, you could do two on the weekends.... cool them and pick the meat off before the work week. This works for me. (plus I think I get more flavor when I use the crockpot)

BarbaraLee said...

I am not sure about the freezer meals either. But when I make soup I will make extra and freeze some. I do that w/meat too. It does save time.

Susan said...

I don't like frozen meals all that much, either. My main strategy is planning my meals ahead of time. I do separate raw ground beef into 1-pound portions to freeze, and I also make hamburger patties and freeze them.

I usually just make portions of our meals in the morning, then finish up when it's time for the meal - things like grating cheese, chopping veggies, making a salad. Those are the time-consuming things that I hate to be stuck with when it's time to cook.

Mary Ann said...

I do a combination of all 3. I'm not really into Once A Month Cooking, but I do make double or triple of a favorite dish that freezes well on occasion and then we have that in a pinch.

I often cook and freeze extra chicken and ground beef to have ready for casseroles.

When menu planning, I often will plan a big meat dinner at the beginning of the week and then use that as the basis for 2 or 3 more meals throughout the week. This week we had a roast with potatoes and carrots on Monday. The next 2 days will be beef stroganoff and beef rice salad. It looks like I may be able to squeeze another meal out of it too by chopping up the leftovers and using the beef broth and some canned tomatoes and make sort of a stew to serve over rice. I cooked a pan of rice last night while baking dinner rolls for supper to have ready for the beef rice salad plus to freeze a bit and keep for another meal.

Thinking ahead saves so much time and becomes almost 2nd nature after a while!

Elizabeth Sue said...

Hello sweet Debbie! Thanks for the tip about the chicken. I am going to start firing up the crock pot now that it is getting warmer to save energy & keep the house cool. Also, by 5pm my little one is spent & not as patient with me cooking dinner. Great post, good luck with the meal planning.

Mom2fur said...

You could brown your meat ahead of time and freeze it. You could also cut up and clean any chicken or turkey. I like to cut mine into either 'fingers' or 'nuggets' for future use. You are right--anything you can do ahead of time is a great help! This goes for measuring out dry ingredients for bread, pizza crust, etc, too--it's so much easier to get all the 'flour mess' out of the way for several recipes at once!

Sonshine said...

I am not a big fan of OAMC or freezer meals.

I do alot of planning ahead. I buy meat in bulk so I take and clean the chicken and then put it in meal size portions raw and then stick in the freezer. I brown some of my ground beef and put it in meal size portion containers and put in the freezer. I make up burger patties raw, put wax paper between the patties and put in a freezer ziploc bag in meal portions. This is just the jist of it, but I do more too. It makes putting something in the crockpot for dinner alot easier and faster. Or just in general makes meal prep a lot faster.

Thanks for sharing the tips!

MommaofMany said...

I look for whole chickens that are marked for clearance. I buy five six (or more) when I can and cook up all of them (three at a time) in a large roaster oven that I bought at Target for about $40 and/or the crockpot or oven. Then I pick all the meat off, then put all the bones back into the roaster oven, add sone white vinegar and veggies and simmer all night to make a rich bone broth. I freeze that in 2 cup portions and always have chicken broth on hand for recipes.

Then I freeze the chicken meat, or use it in the weeks meals.

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