July 26, 2013

Save Money By Freezing Meals

The teaching profession has a lot of great perks...but the salary is not usually one of them. Through the years, I've learned some tips and tricks that have helped me stretch my teacher's salary, all while working around my busy teaching schedule. During this series, I will be sharing them with you! 

As the summer winds down, most of our focus will shift to getting our classrooms ready for the fall, but today, I'd like to talk about something we can do to get our homes ready for the upcoming school year.

In the past, we've talked about why owning a freezer can help you save money and shared a few freezer-inspired recipes to get you started.

Now, it's time to put that knowledge into action! The last few weeks of summer provide the perfect opportunity to get ahead of the game and do things that will make your school year have a smooth start.  One of those things is to stock your freezer with ready-made meals.

Not only will this make your evenings less hectic as you ease back into your school-year routine, but it will save you from the trap of the Take-Out Monster. It's all too easy to drag our weary bodies out of the school building after a long day of meetings and classroom set-up, think "There is NO way I can slave over a hot stove tonight," and drive to the closest take-out joint. Save the 1000 calories and $25 (at least!) and simply stock up your freezer now with quick and easy dinners.

Take it one step further and stash away some breakfast sandwiches and frozen pancakes to help your less-than-awake kids start the day with something that resembles a well-balanced meal.

Make packing lunches (for you and the kiddos) a breeze by freezing soup or PB & J sandwiches in bulk. Just grab one and go!

Here are a few steps to help you get started on stocking your freezer with meals:

1. Make a list of freezer meals your family might enjoy.

Search Pinterest or Google for freezer-ready recipes. I've compiled a few of my favorites to give you a running start.

As you find recipes you think your family will like, sort them into 3 categories: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.

TIP: You may want to make a new dish for dinner before you make two or three of them to freeze. You know, just to make sure you actually like it and all :)

'NOTHER TIP: Take a second look at the recipes you are already making. Google whether or not you can freeze it. You may be surprised at how many of them can simply be frozen and reheated. The next time you make a meal, double the ingredients and freeze the left-overs. Wham! Instant easy meal!

2. Stock up on supplies.

Start small. Pick a few dinners that you can make 2 or three servings of. Write down the list of ingredients you will need and add them to your shopping list.

Choose a day in the next week when you can make these meals. One day. One Mess. Dinners for a week (or two!). Yay!

Some essential 'freezer dinner' items you may want to stock up on: 
3. Stay organized.

Make sure you label everything clearly so that you can tell what's in each container when it is in the freezer. No Mystery Meat here!

Keep the recipes and reheating directions in a central, convenient place. The goal is to save time getting dinner ready, so if you spend 25 minutes hunting down the directions on how to defrost and reheat the meal...well, that kinda defeats the point.

Make a mini plan that lists out what days you will eat your freezer meals. This is helpful because you can look at tomorrow's meal and know if you need to let anything defrost overnight.

So that's it! Just a few simple steps and you can cross off one major thing on your evening to-do list....and save a little cash!

Have you ever stocked up the freezer before? Did it help save money or keep your day stress-free?

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