Dinner used to stress me out. Really stress me out. Especially when I had a preschooler racing his dumptruck through the kitchen and a baby on my hip while I was trying to cook. Now that my kids are a little older, things have improved considerably. But I’ve also put a few things in place that have lightened my load when it comes to answering that dreaded question, “What’s for dinner?”
They all help me get dinner on the table faster.
And they ALL have to do with my beloved freezer.
Or, rather, freezers. I use both my refrigerator’s freezer and a small chest freezer we have in the basement. It was a small investment–less than $200–that has really paid off.
Here’s what I do:
1. Batch Cooking
Here’s how to batch cook: Choose a recipe, double or triple it, pack it up for the freezer in meal-sized bags or containers, and label it. For me, Sundays are an ideal day for food prep (read: One of the Best Things You Can Do on a Sunday) because my husband is home to help–or hang with the kids while I’m elbow-deep. Some of my favorite meals to batch cook:
- Beef & Bean Burritos
- Pizza dough (freeze in balls) and tubs of homemade pizza sauce
- Pesto (freeze in small tubs to toss with pasta)
2. Buying Meat & Poultry In Bulk
I began buying meat and poultry in bulk a few years ago as a convenient way to buy from local farms. A fringe benefit: I ALWAYS have something on hand to make a meal, whether it’s a package of pork chops or a pound of grass-fed ground beef.
3. Joining A Freezer Meal Co-Op
I’m not being dramatic when I say that joining a freezer meal co-op was one of the best things I did last year. Having eight extra meals in the freezer each month–prepped and ready to heat and serve–has reduced my stress level tremendously. When I pull out one of these meals on an especially hectic night, all I have to do is make some easy sides. Want to start a freezer meal co-op of your own? Read How To Start A Freezer Meal Co-Op. Here are the most popular meals in our co-op:
- Oven Tacos (the meat is prepped in a freezer bag, everyone supplies their own taco shells and toppings)
- Pizza Bread (the loaves are wrapped in foil and include a small jar of pizza sauce for dipping)
- Pacific Rim Stir Fry (chicken is chopped and spices are mixed and included in a small bag, everyone supplies their own fresh veggies for the stir fry)
More ways to get a grip on dinner:
- 8 Tricks For Making Dinner On Very Busy Nights (thank you to Foodlets for featuring me!)
- How A “Dinner Formula” Changes Meal Planning Forever