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 part aside to freeze for later use.
Brown ground beef in bulk: When ground beef goes on sale, buy as much as you can afford and cook it immediately. Portion family serving-sizes into reseablable bags, flatten them for easy storage, and freeze — or vacuum seal them for longer freezer storage. To serve: Reheat on the stove and mix with taco seasoning, spaghetti sauce, or Sloppy Joe mix.
Grill once, eat twice (or more): Next time you’re grilling burgers or chicken, make extra. Arrange burger patties and chicken parts on a baking sheet to freeze then transfer them to containers for future dinners that will still have that yummy grilled taste. Extra grilled steaks and pork chops freeze well, too. Grilled vegetables freeze well, too, or stash them in your fridge to use that week as a side dishes. To serve: Defrost, then reheat in a low oven or slice for use in casseroles.
Use your noodle: Make extra-large batches of pasta and remove some at the al dente stage. Drain well then transfer servings to air-tight containers and freeze. To serve: Dunk frozen in boiling water for 2-3 minutes to thaw and finish cooking then toss with sauce. Add leftover grilled vegetables or cooked meat and top with cheese, or bake as a casserole.
Quick kebab prep: Cut sirloin, pork chops, or boneless, skinless chicken breasts into 1 1/2 inch chunks and put them in a freezer bag. Add Italian salad dressing. Remove as much air as you can and freeze. To serve: When you’re ready for kebabs, add chopped zucchini, onions, peppers, and mushrooms to the bag then let it defrost and skewer. The meat and veggies will have marinated during the defrost, saving you time and clean-up.
Plan for pizza night: Homemade pizza dough is easy to make, and you can find recipes all over the internet. (We love Mark Bittman’s recipe because it’s so easy.) Double the recipe, make two balls of dough, then wrap them tightly in plastic wrap and stash them 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 425°F oven and slide your pizza on to it. Bake 10-12 minutes until crust is golden. (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.
Equipment I’ve Used For This: