We are big on bulk in our house. Buying our meat in bulk that is.
I’ve written about shopping at Costco before, and obviously everything that you buy at a warehouse store like Costco or Sam’s Club is sold in bulk. We also like to buy a lot of our meat from Saleem’s Market in the Strip District, and it’s easier to just get several of our favorite cuts of veal, lamb, and beef, pack it up in the vacuum sealer, and throw it in the freezer, than it is to make weekly trips to the store.
A few weeks ago, we had eaten our way to the end of our stockpile and made our shopping list when I got the bright idea to try the whole make-ahead-freezer-meal thing that I’ve heard so much about.
We didn’t actually make whole meals, but we did prepare marinades for half of the chicken, all of the lamb, and all of the veal. We also pre-seasoned some ground beef.
What you need to know:
– Plan ahead. Before hitting the stores you need to pick your recipes, check the pantry and spice rack, and make shopping lists. Figure out how many batches you want of each recipe, and decide how you will break it down (i.e. you could make 1 batch of a recipe that serves 6, but break it down into 3 freezer packs with 2 servings each)
– This is a pain in the butt. Be prepared to set aside a whole day to shop for meat and missing ingredients, as well as mixing, bagging, and freezing. It is worth it though.
– Before sealing the bag with your vacuum sealer, make sure the meat and marinade are frozen or else the liquid will get sucked into the machine. To do this, fill the bag with the meat and marinade and carefully position it upright in the freezer. Once frozen, vacuum and seal.
– If you don’t have a vacuum sealer and aren’t ready to buy one, you can use freezer bags, just do your best to push out any air before zipping the top.
– Label, label, label. I cannot stress this enough. While rearranging stuff in the freezer we found so many unmarked packages, leading to questions such as Is this hot sausage or breakfast sausage? Is this pizza dough, or naan? Does this sauce have meatballs in it?
– If you can, recruit help. If Yuseff and I didn’t have each other to split the work, it would have been overwhelming! Chances are, the job would have been abandoned halfway through.
– Remember to season your meat with salt and pepper before dropping into the marinade.
– Just keep in mind the reason you’re doing this. For me—it was because I was starting to feel like I was shackled to my kitchen. With so much of the prep work done, All I’ll have to do is defrost and cook. Whenever I felt like saying Okay, I’m done, I want to quit, I thought about how glad I’d be that I pushed through it when the time comes for me to cook these meals.
What to Make:
I’m going to share the recipes that I used to prep our freezer food, but don’t limit yourself to this list. You know what your favorite recipes are, and chances are that you can freeze them just fine.
Veal: I also picked up 4 Veal chops and froze them with the marinade for Lemon Parsley Veal. Instead of using dried parsley, I used fresh parsley. This is a great excuse to buy fresh herbs. Since you’re freezing everything, you know they won’t spoil before you get around to using them up!
Ground Beef: We pre-mixed the meat with our favorite seasonings for burgers, tacos, and meatloaf. An added bonus? Not only will whipping up these quick meals be even quicker, but the seasonings will now have plenty of time to flavor the meat.
Chicken: Here is where we dedicated the most time! I found a ton of recipes for “Dump Chicken,” over at When the Dinner Bell Rings. I picked out four (from her 28 fabulous recipes) that contained ingredients that we already had:
We also found a great recipe for Thai Chicken Satay which will actually warrant it’s own post later. Here’s a sneak peak of the chicken in the marinade:
This recipe contains a long list of ingredients so I am extremely happy that we made it ahead. We doubled the recipe and made up four packs of chicken. Since the recipe involves a lot of specialty ingredients, this was a good way to ensure that they get used up!
Sandwiches: I made a dozen Make Ahead Breakfast Freezer Sandwiches. I switched it up by using English Muffins this time and made half of them with sausage patties instead of bacon.
I also pre-made two weeks of PB & J sandwiches for Marco to take to his babysitter’s house. Yup. Spread PB on both slices of bread to keep it from getting soggy, smear on your favorite flavor of jelly and place in a ziplock bag. Then put all of the sandwich-filled ziplock bags back into the bread bag and stick it in the freezer. This will be my new thing for school lunches. No more preservative-laden/ unfairly-expensive Uncrustables. (I know it’s not that hard to make them in the morning, but I really hate making PB & J sandwiches. I can’t stand how sticky everything is and I also always end up throwing away moldy and/or stale half-loaves of bread. This just gets the torture out of the way and ensures that I don’t waste bread).
Zuchinni Patties: A batch of Grandma’s Zuchinni Patties stay great in the freezer. Layer them on wax paper and slip into a freezer bag. I pop a few out after work, re-heat and enjoy them as a snack. By snacking on them during my alone time, I don’t have to share!
So what do you think? Are you brave enough to try this out? Do you have any favorites in your freezer?