I’ve been a fan of buying food in bulk for a long time (we always had an extra freezer growing up.) Also, with both my wife and I working, there are many nights where neither of us want to cook dinner. I’m also cheap frugal enough to try and refrain from eating out too often. Because of all those reasons, here’s how I spent a single Saturday afternoon making 23 dinners for two.
We have 5 staple dinners that we both regularly enjoy: Spaghetti Pie, Bowtie Pasta, Tacos, Turkey Burritos and Sloppy Joes. My goal was to make double (or triple) batches of all 5. I’ll eventually post recipes, but this post is specifically about the process rather than the individual meals. Here’s what I had to start with:
And this is the key to my success:
If you’ve never used a Foodsaver, you are missing out. It sucks all the air out of the bag before it seals it, meaning a pound of burger can easily last a year or more (if needed), without losing any of its flavor. The same goes for prepared meals. The only food that I’ve found that doesn’t work with the Foodsaver are potatoes, because of their chemical composition. As long as the dish doesn’t contain any potatoes, give it a shot!
The above 5 meals really break down into two types. The first type can be broken down into individual “pounds” of each (Tacos, Turkey Burritos and Sloppy Joes). I make up batches of these, and then freeze them in 1 pound bags, so when we thaw them out, both of us will have it for dinner. All you need to do here is make the meal, divide it up into pound bags, flatten it out, seal and freeze. There are two reasons you want to flatten it out; the first is so it thaws quicker, and the second is for storing. Here’s a picture of the inside of my freezer; see how nice these stack?
The other type of meals are those that are individual servings (Spaghetti Pie and Bowtie Pasta.) These are sealed and frozen into individual servings, so if I want Spaghetti Pie and she wants Bowtie, it’s not a problem. The trick here is to line a number of your everyday bowls with plastic wrap, then put a single serving of the meal into the bowl, like so:
Then, stick the bowls in the freezer for an hour or so, until it starts to freeze in the shape of the bowl. Then, when you seal it, it will (roughly) retain the shape of the bowl.
Then, when the time comes to eat one of these single servings, when you cut open the bag, it already fits into a bowl!
So after about 5-6 hours, I turned a pile or groceries into this:
I ended up with 3 bags of Turkey Burritos (6 servings), 4 bags of Sloppy Joe’s (8 servings), 3 bags of Tacos (6 servings), 16 bags of Spaghetti Pie and 10 bags of Bowtie Pasta (plus we had a serving for dinner that night). All in all, that totals 46 servings that I’ll be placing in the freezer, or 23 dinners for the both of us. Considering we cook and dine out occasionally, this should easily last us 6-8 weeks of dinners, all for 5-6 hours of work. Easily the best use of my time, hands down.
Few additional thoughts:
1. This is extremely helpful for controlling portion size. If you enjoy making your favorite dish, and always pig out and say “Ugh; I ate too much” afterwards, consider the Foodsaver. You decide how big to make the servings; very helpful for controlling caloric intake.
2. You’ll need big pans, especially a very large non-stick one that can hold 2-3 pounds of burger at once. You should be able to find one for a decent price at any Target, Wal-Mart, etc. Just watch the sales.
3. If you’re making multiple pasta meals, always keep a large pot of boiling water on the stove. It can sit in the back corner for as long as you need. Having to wait for water to boil just plain sucks, and there’s no reason to.
4. I started doing this when I was single, and it’s as good. It will just last that much longer, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing!
5. You will need room to store this stuff. We have a stand-alone freezer in the garage, which makes it a lot easier. If you only have a freezer on your fridge, keep that in mind before getting carried away.
6. This took about 6 hours start to finish. The last hour was waiting for the bowls of Bowtie to set in the freezer, so it really doesn’t count, but still. I’d suggest going shopping the night before for all of this stuff, then eating out, and having a meal that doesn’t generate leftovers. You’ll be making your favorite meals the next day, so the leftovers may just go to waste.
7. Buy the Foodsaver rolls instead of the precut bags, and make your own bags. The precut bags are around $10 for 22 at Target (about $0.45/bag.) A box of 6 rolls at Sam’s Club is $40. I made 25 bags out of one roll, meaning it should equal 150 bags for $40 (about $0.27/bag.) I used a total of 36 bags on this day, meaning I saved about $6.50 on bags alone. It all adds up, right?
That’s it; hope you enjoyed it, and it inspires you to give it a shot.
Anyone else do this? Any input on optimizing the process?
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