Kitchen Stewardship | A Baby Steps Approach to Balanced Nutrition

How to Get Ahead When You’re Already Hopelessly Behind (and you can do it without leaving the computer)

February 25th, 2014 · 12 Comments · Tips

how to get ahead when you're

Raise your hand if you read about "freezer cooking" and think something like this:

"That’s great for those folks, but if I could find a 12-hour block to cook, I wouldn’t be so behind in the first place! NOT going to happen here…"

Yeah.

Totally.

I just don’t have a full day to commit to freezer cooking at this stage of my life. I’m more likely to come across a day where I haven’t planned anything, don’t have meat thawed, and have two places I have to take kids that evening…having freezer meals would be handy on those nights, but it’s a bit late to be wishing for them in the moment! It’s tempting to fall back on convenience foods in those situations, or worse, take-out or fast food.

I’ve learned that, like the rest of my real food journey, one tiny baby step can make a huge difference on the "crunch time" nights:

Just make double.

You can do it. Maybe you already do this often, but if you’re still feeling hopelessly behind, it’s time to give yourself a grace day.

When you are actually making dinner, just make double.

If you can get some breads in the freezer that are easy to take out individually and heat for a meal, a few jars of soup and some cooked meat…you can have not one but two or three "cheat days."

Not the kind of cheat where you call for pizza, the kind of cheat where you don’t have to cook…but your family still eats real, homemade food. Boo yah! It’s a beautiful gift to self.

Do it right now, without even leaving your computer.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What is in my meal plan this week? (If you don’t have a meal plan, then you’re going to plan for two days – just two days! – right this second. It’s the only way to get ahead.)
  • What can I double easily that freezes well?

Hosting Guests for Dinner (18) (475x317)

  • What breads/sides does my family enjoy that can be frozen in individual portions? (Pre-sliced bread of any kind, muffins, biscuits, even cornbread, already sliced)
  • When am I next making a dish with cooked ground beef or sausage, or a recipe that starts by cooking any meat without adding the seasonings right away? (like meat-based stir fry, roasted chicken, grilled meats, etc.)

Sometime this week, I challenge you to double a recipe intending the leftovers to go in the freezer. Got a family of 8 already? Quadruple it. Use the big pot. Figure out what you have to do to make it easy on yourself later.

What I Doubled this Week

Slow Cooker Mexican Chicken Dish (43)

I had a mental block on doubling things at times because it felt like "too much meat" or "too much broth" and that I’d run out of my freezer stores of THAT item and be in a bind later. Or it would seem too expensive.

You see my backward thinking, right? If you make double to eat later, you’re just spreading out the expense. And if you’re saving that cooked chicken or ground beef for some other undetermined meal…why not get it ready to eat by doubling this week’s meal?

I forced myself to lose the illogical thinking this week, and I made double recipes of:

  • Slow Cooker Lentil Brown Rice Casserole (check out the new photos in that post! Such an improvement! And totally thrilled to learn that double the recipe fits in one slow cooker!)
  • Our family’s favorite gluten-free flatbread
  • Cheeseburger Soup (a HUGE pot! Definitely will have enough to freeze for later!)
  • I cooked up FOUR pounds of ground beef as I prepared the cheeseburger soup – then pulled out three of them and froze in approximately 1/2 pound bags for super easy meals later. This is a LIFE saver!! You can do this with any cooked meat – sauteed chicken for stir fry, ground sausage, bacon, etc.

Cheeseburger Soup with bacon and pickles

Was This Tip Helpful?

Kitchen Stewardship is all about the baby steps to making real food doable for everyone (without losing your sanity). I hope this one empowers you to do one tiny thing this week to help yourself out later – when you’re eating that easy meal, remember KS made it possible! Winking smile 

For more simple tips and real food information, you’ll love the bi-monthly newsletter. It includes exclusive content not found on the blog, most recently a smoothie framework to keep life moving at warp speed and my best tips for streamlining cooking when you just hate being in the kitchen (a reader question). Sign up here:

When you sign up, you’ll also get a few free printables about how to healthify your own favorite baking recipes by reducing the sweeteners and switching to more natural ones, plus another printable about the difference between all the "natural" sweeteners.

So You Still Kind of Like the Idea of Freezer Cooking?

If you COULD find a few hours to make and freeze ahead, it’s a wonderful thing. I am just beginning to play around with my membership to Once a Month Meals, where you can find more types of menus that you’d ever dream, from basic whole foods to Paleo, FODMAP to allergen-friendly and more.

Your membership allows you access to the recipes plus the shopping lists and even step by step instructions for making every second count while preparing multiple dishes at once. I did the day-long freezer cooking a couple times, and it took two or three days to make the shopping lists and figure out the order in which to do things, so this is no small feature.

The best part that I just discovered is the "Mini Menus," a way to warm up to the idea of freezer cooking in just an hour or two. This month’s is soups!

Once a Month Meals also has an incredible new feature, a real feat of computer technology in my opinion, where you can swap recipes in and out. Meaning that if you don’t love the idea of a recipe on a menu (or many of them) you can put some that you’ve tried before in instead, and the system can actually still figure out the most efficient way to use your time in the kitchen, from telling you to chop 4 peppers at a time to when to brown the beef and how to split it up into different meals.

That’s a huge timesaver and negates one of the most common reasons freezer cooking sessions flop – because the family doesn’t end up liking a new recipe.

Check out all the plans and options HERE, and let me know what you think!

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I’d love to see more of you!  Sign up for a free email subscription or grab my reader feed. You can also follow me on Twitter, get KS for Kindle, or see my Facebook Fan Page.

If you missed the last Monday Mission, click here.

Kitchen Stewardship is dedicated to balancing God’s gifts of time, health, earth and money.  If you feel called to such a mission, read more at Mission, Method, and Mary and Martha Moments.

Disclosure: There are affiliate links in this post to Once a Month Meals and Amazon from which I will earn some commission if you make a purchase. See my full disclosure statement here.


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12 Comments so far ↓

  • Kelly @ The Nourishing Home

    Love all these great ideas! Time saving kitchen tips are always such a huge help! Will definitely be sharing a link to this via my social media! Blessings, Kelly

  • Claire

    This has always been my approach. I have never had a desire to devote a whole day to freezer cooking, but it takes no effort to make double and freeze half when making an item that freezes well. And it saves so much money when you can pull a meal out of the freezer rather than order take-out.

  • Karyn

    I do this sporadically (like when making muffins or soup) but it would be good to get into more of a habit. What do you store your food in? I hesitate to use too many disposable things like ziplock and aluminum foil (though they’re obviously cheaper than take-out). And do you have a system for when you use your freezer stock? I have a tendency to store things in the freezer until I realize it’s about to overflow.

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Karyn,
    I don’t use any aluminum foil, but I do use zippered bags for muffins and stuff. We wash and reuse them. I freeze soup in glass jars (http://green.yourway.net/the-best-way-to-freeze-food-in-glass-jars/) and some breads in plastic containers. Beans usually in cottage cheese containers, no liquid. I’m not always that good at using the frozen soups until I desperately need them, but muffins and such I just plan on using for snacks until they’re gone, then restock – so the freezer is an extension of the pantry in that case. :) Katie

  • Sarai

    Thank you for the inspiration! I am pregnant with #4 and need to have something prepared.

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Congratulations! It will be so worth it! :) Katie

  • marcella

    I love this method too. It also works well for breakfast items like waffles and pancakes – they freeze well and re-heat quickly in the toaster. Now if I could just organize my freezer better so I didn’t find surprises in the back now and then I’d really be set :-)

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Yep, a freezer list is vital, Marcella, so that’s your baby step for this week! :) Katie

  • BeccaM

    Great tip! Definitely one I have found useful (especially when freezing meals for an expected baby…) We are a family of four, with two little boys 3 and under. We eat A LOT of food, considering our small family size! I usually double recipes, and I still don’t usually have extras to freeze. My husband takes leftovers to work every day, and I can’t eat a lot of snack foods due to food allergies (no nuts, peanut butter, wheat or much dairy!) so I end up snacking on leftovers too… which leaves none leftover to actually freeze.

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Time to get a bigger pot! Quadruple! :) Katie

  • Abi Craig

    We’re definitely in the “quadruple the recipe” stage! My big pots don’t look so big anymore. The thing I’m most prone to make extra of and actually freeze (in addition to bread things) is meatloaf. I should figure out other things that I’m willing to do that with. Usually I make extra with the intention of repurposing later in the week based on schedule . . . extra meat from taco night becomes taco salad for lunch after church on Sunday. Extra quiche becomes breakfast when we have to leave the house early. I’ll have to try the flat bread soon.

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Abi,
    Yep, I’m big on just using before freezing, too – it’s still a great gift to have enough for leftovers later, makes for an easy meal prep! We had the cheeseburger soup again last night, PLUS I froze a half gallon which will hopefully be enough for a meal…
    :) Katie

Welcome!  Meet Katie.

I embrace butter. I make homemade yogurt. I eat traditional real food – plants and animals that God created, not products of plants where food scientists work. Here at Kitchen Stewardship, I share how I strive to be a good steward of my family's nutrition, the environment, and our budget, all without spending every second in the kitchen. Learn more about the mission of KS here.

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