How to Prepare and Freeze Food for Busy Nights

Money Saving Tip of the Month (featured column)
submitted by Betsy West of Virginia

I've realized that many meals I make call for some staple ingredients that require some prep work. To save time on cooking and clean up, I watch for sales and then prepare these foods in bulk and freeze them in typical quantities needed for our favorite recipes and meals.

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Here are the bulk foods I prep and freeze frequently:

Ground Beef

I buy 4 pounds at a time and brown it all at once. Typically, I need 1 pound for that night's dinner. So I divide what I've cooked into quarters. I use one immediately. I label 3 freezer bags "1 lb cooked ground beef" with the date, then put one quarter of the beef in each bag.

Rice

I like to use the same technique for rice that I do for ground beef. I usually freeze rice in 2 cup quantities because it's usually the amount I need for a meal.

Chicken

I use chopped and shredded chicken breast in a lot of recipes. I realized buying split chicken breast was cheaper than boneless, skinless breasts. I put as many as will fit in my large Crock Pot. Then I add seasonings (salt, pepper, & garlic) and sometimes carrots and onions. Next, I fill the pot with water until its about an inch from the top. I cook it on low for 6-8 hours. When it's done, I can easily debone the chicken and chop or shred it. I freeze it in 2 cup quantities. Then I strain the liquid and have chicken stock too! I also freeze that in 2 cup bags.

Onions

I used to be famous for buying large bags of onions because it was cheaper per pound. Then, I didn't use them all before they started to rot, and I wasted the food and savings. Now, I buy the bag and slice, chop, and dice the ones I won't be using that week. I measure the quantity in cups and label freezer bags to freeze them. Sometimes I have a 1 cup bag of diced onions and only need half of a cup, so I'll take out half and relabel the bag.

There are other foods you can prep and freeze too, but these are the ones I always use. It saves time and money in the kitchen and keeps me from leaning on take-out for busy nights. Much of the work is already done.

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Copyright © 2014 by Betsy West. All rights reserved.

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