Photo Credit: Isabella Cucchi
It’s approaching 8 p.m., and you’re just walking in the door. Maybe you had to work late or maybe your inconveniently scheduled night class just ended, but two things are certain: you’re exhausted, and you’re starving. Even standing at the stove stirring spaghetti feels beyond your strength at the moment. The takeout menu is in your hand; you can almost taste the pad Thai…
Does this feel familiar to you? You wind up spending more money to eat food that isn’t as good for you, maybe letting the contents of your fridge go to waste in the process because of the effort it takes to make them into a meal. One of my biggest goals in living on my own has been to minimize waste—to make the most of every ingredient I buy and every dish I cook. Oftentimes that means making a casserole-sized dinner, eating one portion’s worth, and then packaging the remaining six or seven servings into Tupperwares or Ziploc bags to pile into the freezer.
Making friends with your freezer can not only keep you from succumbing to the takeout temptation more often, but also guarantee that you always have a lunch or dinner on hand for those times when you just can’t fathom turning on the oven. Most people know that you can stick a chicken breast or burger patty in the freezer, but read on for a few freezer-friendly items that might not be so familiar to you.
**Did you know? You can freeze…**
Chilis, soups, and stews. Chances are, if you can simmer it, you can freeze it. Recipes like Smoky Turkey Chili make enough to feed some small villages—after you enjoy a delicious bowl fresh out of the stockpot for dinner, ladle the rest into small Tupperwares, a serving’s worth in each. These make great lunches to bring to the office, or even dinner when the last thing you want to think about is cobbling together a meal. Plus you can make them guilt-free by throwing in any and all veggies, adding some beans, and using low-sodium stock. But the best part? Sometimes these hearty bowls o’ goodness taste even better reheated.
Lasagnas and other baked pasta dishes. That casserole dish of Mama’s lasagna may be juuust enough to feed your big Italian family, but when it’s just you (and a roommate or two), that 13×9 pan full of noodles can start to look a little daunting. After it’s cooled, sliced, and packed into freezer bags, your favorite comfort dinner can make a reappearance whenever you so choose to thaw it (within three months is best, though). Meatballs are a great candidate, too—and are easily packaged into individual servings!
Chickpeas (or other dried beans). We all know it’s more cost-effective to buy a big bag of dried beans rather than the canned, ready-to-use ones. But if you’re afraid of drowning in beans or having to work hummus into every meal, you might be reluctant to make the bean commitment. Never fear! Once cooked up and cooled, divide your beans into several Tupperwares and nestle them away in your freezer. Then, whenever you have a hankering for lentil soup or a meatless burger, you’re just a defrost away.
Cookie dough. Okay, so cookie dough might not exactly be as figure-friendly as veggie-packed chilis or fiber-rich beans. But how about this? Mixing and wrapping up a big batch of dough to freeze means that you can have your very own slice-and-bake cookies at a moment’s notice. And you won’t have to worry about having a dozen or more goodies you can’t (or shouldn’t) eat—just bake up one or two (or five) when the sweet tooth craving strikes.
Bread. Freezers aren’t just for storing your fancier cooking projects. When you’re stocking a kitchen for one, it’s nearly impossible to get through a whole loaf of bread without half of it going moldy. Storing your bread (or even freshly baked muffins!) in the freezer does wonders to extend its life. If you’re planning on toasting up your bread, you won’t even notice a difference. If you prefer to use the bread untoasted, you might want to transfer the slices to the fridge to thaw a bit the night before.
Tara Powers is not ashamed to admit she likes defrosted chili better than freshly cooked. When she’s not up to her eyeballs in manuscript pages at her publishing job, she boasts about her fully stocked freezer and other culinary exploits over on her blog, Chip Chip Hooray.