Freezer feasts

This is a recipe post. And it isn’t.

There are no food ingredients specified in this post, but it is a recipe for saving money and improving your health. It can also help you organize your kitchen to be more functional at mealtimes. Whether you live alone, have roommates, a spouse or even a large family, this post can help you improve your meals.

It starts here:

Tools

We’re at the grocery store, picking up the three, very affordable tools we need for this project. They are:

Generic grocery-store-brand plastic food storage tubs in a small size. Generic is always better because they are easy to replace as needed at the least amount of cost. Look for good sales, like you see in the picture above, and stock up on them. (Always recycle these responsibly when you need to buy new ones!)

Freezer-proof masking tape. It looks like regular masking tape but this tape’s adhesive is designed to stand up to cold temperatures. Most grocery stores have this if you look for it, as does Target and Wal-mart. One roll will last you a long time.

A fine-tip black Sharpie or other permanent marker. This works great on the freezer tape and is easy to write with and read clearly later.

Have you figured out what we are doing with these items?  We are our upgrading “leftovers” to the 21st century. They must be practical to store, easy to create and enjoyable to use. Based on conversations I’ve had with clients, many people have not been taught how to manage leftovers to work for them. This is my method and it has saved us THOUSANDS of dollars every year.

“Leftovers”

The most important thing strategy for using leftovers well is your attitude. It is easy to thing of them as “leftover food”. It is a meal that you are repeating, but have little surprise to look forward to regarding how it will taste.

Here’s how you change that: think of leftovers as “leftover money”. According to MSN.com:

$9 will generally cover a decent lunch most workdays. If you buy, rather than pack, a lunch five days a week for one year, you shell out about $2,340 a year.”

Let me just reiterate that for you: $2, 340 A YEAR!

Would you mind having another serving of last week’s casserole if it meant that you would use  one day’s worth of your ” leftover lunch money” to see a movie this weekend? What larger purchase could you afford faster if you were willing to put some daily  “leftover money” toward it? How much could you build your savings? This is a tried-and-true method of saving money.

Image courtesy of wikipedia.com

Assembly

We only have two people in our household, but we never cook for quantities less than 4 servings. This mean automatic leftovers get created with no additional planning required from us.

Here are my tools:

We use the “snack size” containers for our leftovers, for several reasons. We never waste a small part of a meal in the back of the fridge because we forgot to use it up. Snack-sized tubs help our leftovers go farther. More leftovers mean less work later and bigger savings now.

This size also gives us automatic portion control, which is a real health concern in most American restaurants and homes. We supplement the small portions of our leftover lunches with one or two servings of fresh fruits or vegetables. For example, Mr. CARO will take one of these tubs and some carrot sticks for lunch and an apple for a later snack in his workday.

Here is an example of how we do this in our home. In the picture below, you can see some leftover rice and cranberry pilaf. I have also cut up and mixed in the leftover herbed chicken breasts to make re-heating the meal easy.

This one pot of leftovers yielded 5 yummy freezer feasts to be used for lunches days or weeks later.

All we have to do is label these tubbies using the freezer tape and fine-tip Sharpie. Each tubbie gets the name of the dish and the date it was put in the freezer.

Just a side note: We NEVER re-heat these freezer feasts in their plastic tubs. We always pop the frozen meals out of the plastic ware and heat them in a microwave-safe dish. This way we avoid risking any unhealthy heated-plastic toxins becoming part of our meal.

Supplementing

We also supplement our automatic leftovers. Once or twice a month, we make one easy and/or favorite meal for direct storage in the freezer. Pictured below is 1 pound of beef mixed with 1 pound of fusilli pasta, leftover homemade marinara sauce and some grated Parmesan cheese. The dish only took about 20 minutes to make and made 8 lunches.

Storage

All of these feasts stack nicely in our freezer.  This is another reason to always buy square shaped food tubs, so you maximize your freezer space and your freezer’s energy efficiency.

We fill a whole shelf of our freezer with these feasts and every day we can choose exactly what we are in the mood to eat. All these feast are ready to go at a moment’s notice, which makes it that much more easy to get out of the door in the morning or make an easy dinner after a long day of work.

Do you use your leftovers effectively as later meals? A little organization goes a long way! What is the yummiest dish you would like to have as “leftovers”? Do you have a “freezer feast” that makes your co-workers hungry when you re-heat it for lunch? Leave a comment and dish!

Hint Hint: There is a free giveaway related to this very post coming later this week! You don’t want to miss it so be sure to check back and enter to win!
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Posted on October 24, 2011, in Food, Organization, Other. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I usually lose a lot of meals because I don’t freeze effectively: either I leave leftovers in the fridge too long (because I just don’t feel like the same meal again) or I don’t have the right size container to get all of the air out of it in the freezer.

    I do end up spending a lot eating out for lunch.

    It looks like your system works really well. I’m going to give it a try.

    Thanks!

  2. I cook for leftovers, too. With a hungry 13 year-old, my mother and my aunt, lots of small meals are consumed around here. Your tips on marking and dating containers will help me control the flow. Thanks

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