The key to cutting down time spent cooking in the kitchen is knowing what food to make ahead and freeze. You can often make these foods as you’re cooking something else, then set aside part and freeze it for later use. Not only will you save yourself time, you’ll cut down on pots and pans you’ll have to wash later.
Brown ground beef in bulk: When ground beef goes on sale, buy as much as you can afford and cook it immediately. Separate and freeze it in quantities sufficient to feed your family one meal, and defrost as needed. To serve: Reheat on the stove and mix with taco seasoning, spaghetti sauce, or Sloppy Joe mix and serve.
Grill once, eat twice (or more): Next time you’re grilling burgers or chicken, make extra. Freeze burger patties and chicken parts individually on a baking sheet then freeze it in containers for future dinners that will still have that yummy grilled taste. Extra grilled steaks and pork chops freeze well, too. While you’re at it, slice zucchini, onions and bell peppers in half, brush with olive oil, and grill them, too. Keep in your fridge and use that week as a side dish for dinner, or freeze and use in pasta salads.bTo serve: Defrost, then reheat in a low oven or slice and use in stir-fries.
Use your noodle: Make extra-large batches of pasta and remove some at the “al dente” stage. Drain these well, then transfer appropriate serving sizes to air-tight containers and freeze. To serve: Dunk in boiling water to finish cooking, then toss with sauce. Add leftover grilled vegetables or cooked meat and top with cheese, then bake for a casserole.
Quick kebab prep: Cut boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or thighs) into 1 1/2 inch chunks and put into a freezer bag. Add thickly sliced zucchini, onions and bell peppers and whole mushrooms, then top with Italian salad dressing. Remove as much air as you can and freeze. To serve: When you’re ready for kebabs, simply defrost and skewer. The meat and veggies will have marinated as they defrosted, saving you time and clean-up.
Plan for pizza night: Homemade pizza dough is very easy to make, and you can find recipes all over the internet. (We love Mark Bittman’s recipe because it’s so easy.) Double, if not triple, the recipe and keep balls of dough in your freezer. To serve: Defrost the dough at room temperature, shape, then let rise under a towel on a floured surface for 20 minutes. Top with your favorite ingredients, heat a cookie sheet in a 425F oven and slide your pizza on to it. Bake 10-12 minutes, until crust is golden, and enjoy! (You can even shape and top the unbaked dough then wrap it tightly for future cooking, too.)
Once you know what food to make ahead and freeze, speeding up dinner prep is a breeze. Combine this with buying meat in bulk when it’s on sale and you’ll not only save time, you’ll save quite a bit of money, too.
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