NDSU Extension - Sargent County


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Do Yourself the Favor of Make-Ahead Meals

Do Yourself the Favor of Make-Ahead Meals 12/16/16What’s for supper?  That could be a scary question, because it might strike fear into us when we don’t have an answer, a clue, or a plan in place!

Earlier this month I spent an afternoon and evening taking care of my three grandchildren at their house.  I witnessed my son as he came home from work, grabbed one of the home-cooked meals from the freezer, popped it in the oven and was ready to serve it for family mealtime one hour later.  Sweet!  The planning and preparation he and his wife had done ahead of time paid off very nicely!

We can do the same kindness for ourselves.  Planning and preparing make-ahead freezer meals is a great way to simplify life.

To get started, think of two or three meals that your family enjoys.  Let’s say some of their favorites are tacos, chicken and rice casserole, and spaghetti.  Now, think about what would work best for you.  Consider if you prefer to cook ahead, or if you prefer to just make extra for the freezer at the same time as you are preparing those same meals to be served the same day as they are prepared.    

Some people find it works best for them to set aside a block of time to cook everything for their freezer meals.  For example, a Sunday afternoon might work for you.  Other people prefer to make twice as much as what will be needed for a fresh cooked meal, with the intent of freezing the extra to use at another time.

Whether you’ve chosen the cook ahead strategy, or the make-extra-to-freeze strategy, cook and season the ground beef for your tacos, cook and cube chicken breasts for your chicken and rice casserole, and prepare the meat or meatballs for the spaghetti sauce.  Freeze the cooked-ahead items in freezer-safe containers or zip-close bags.  Pull those frozen items out when you are ready to finish any assembling of ingredients, then heat and eat those meals. Voila!

Doing the time-consuming meal preparation steps ahead of time makes dinnertime during the week less stressful for you and much more enjoyable for your entire family.

A few quick tips for success with make-ahead freezer meals:

-  Freeze casseroles before baking, especially when all ingredients are cooked.

-  Under cook starchy ingredients, including potatoes, rice and pasta.

-  Freeze meals in portions just right for your family, or freeze meals in individual portions for quick lunches.

-  Freeze meals in the container you plan to use later to bake or microwave the meal. Glass containers work well.

-  Avoid freezing meals that include ingredient that don’t freeze well, such as boiled eggs, sour cream and mayonnaise.

Adapted from:  Make-ahead Meals Save Dinnertime Tonight, FN1535, North Dakota State University, Fargo, North Dakota Family Meal Times Issue 10. https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/publications/food-nutrition/family-meal-times-issue-10-make-ahead-meals-save-dinnertime-tonight/fn1535.pdf

Photo Source: https://pixabay.com/en/soup-pot-creamy-cooking-food-dish-264284/  downloaded 12/20/16

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