Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Homemade Frozen Dinners

I have a love hate relationship with frozen dinners. They always look so appealing in the freezer section of the grocery store, they smell so good when they are cooking in the microwave, and then they taste like, well, hammered doggy doo. I mean really. What kind of meat do they use in them? There should really be an episode of CSI to solve that mystery!
But they are quick and easy, so I buy them anyway. But I dread eating them and end up going out to eat half the time. So, I decided this weekend that I'd take advantage of Jay being home and try to make our own frozen dinners. I've done some bulk cooking before and L.O.V.E.D it! Cook once. Clean up once. Eat for a week (or more)!

I chose three of my favorite meals: pasta with meat sauce, chili, and vegi soup... all recipes that used similar ingredients, were fairly easy to assemble and froze well. The fact that all the recipes called for ground beef was AWESOME! I got out both my large skillets and put 2lbs in each. Within a few minutes I had all the meat browned for all three dishes.

I added cooked noodles and jarred tomato sauce to one lb of ground beef; frozen vegis, a diced potato, a large can of diced tomatoes, and a jar of Heinz chili sauce to another lb; and another large can of diced tomatoes, a can of black beans, and the spice packet of the most awesome chili mix in the world to the remaining 2 lbs. The whole prepping process couldn't have taken much more than a half an hour.

I left everything to simmer while I snuggled with Turtle and Jay.

The dishes needed to simmer for various times so as I felt things were done I turned them off and let them cool. Once they were cool, I divided them into individual portions in freezer bags and layered them flat, which couldn't have taken more than a half an hour, either.

We ate vegi soup for dinner, so I'm a little short on that recipe. If I had frozen all of it, I would have ended up with 5 portions of vegi soup, 5 portions of chili, and 3 portions of pasta and meat sauce. I probably could have had more servings, but I erred on the side of larger portions. There's nothing worse than being at the office and not being full from your lunch.

So, there you have it. Half an hour of prep time, a couple hours of simmer time, and a half hour of portioning and a week's worth of frozen dinners (for both Jay and I). I sat down and added up what I spent (because I'm just a geek like that) and it averaged out to about $2.70 a lunch. The frozen dinners I get are at least $3.00 and that's for food that I don't even really like. $2.70 for food I enjoy and look forward to eating sound like quite a steal!

Will I be able to do it every weekend. I don't know, but I'm excited with how quick and easy it was. And I'm happy with how we are thriving under our challenging situation!

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