Sunday, August 23, 2009

Measure Twice, Prep Once

The other night I was sitting with my father, and gleaning a few cooking tips. While there have been a few dishes which he'll never live down (my sisters will jump at the chance to discuss the peanut-butter pork chop incident), he's a great cook who makes flavorful meals -- and that man can make a buck stretch. Dad always had dinner ready for the 6 of us, and even if guests were there, we somehow all got fed.

That evening's advice was about how he saves time in the kitchen. I never realized what a feat it was to be able to scale a dinner up or down with little or no notice. His secret? Keep a cache of cooked, chopped food in the freezer. He always makes sure there's at least 40 (cooked) meatballs in the freezer at any time. He makes sure there's a Tupperware of cooked, sliced sausage ready to drop in a bubbling sauce. While we were there, he was freezing a large batch of pesto he'd made, ready to spoon out a portion just enough to flavor a dish. Your cooking style would dictate what you might keep in the freezer, but you'd be surprised how well homemade food keeps in the freezer.

We could not operate on such a small budget if not for our freezer. We always have packages of ground meat or chicken breast at the ready. Dad's freezer tip is a good way to cut some serious time off of making dinner, and having just the right amount of food available to you when you need it. If you're going to make meatballs, make twice as many. If you're going to make a red sauce, make twice (or three times) as much. The additional clean-up and prep time is negligible, but the time savings at the dinner hour is substantial. This was the kind of handy money- and time-saving-tip that we can put right to use.

Trent (the simple dollar) has some similarly themed advice. Read more about "Eating What You Have on Hand" over at his site.


Laura @ mtp said...

I'm trying to batch cook at least once a month. The usual, bolognaise sauce, chilli, shepherds pie; anything that involves mince (ground chuck?)

Columbia said...

It's amazing how good these foods are when thawed and reheated -- especially the kinds you listed.

We get a magazine called "Every Day Food" that has a feature called "Freeze It". Make two batches, stick on in the freezer and on the day of dinner, thaw, reheat in a skillet and make a side or rice or something easy to go with it. They were very handy to have on-hand when the baby was born!