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This is Why! part 6

Previous entries can be found HERE . Thus far we’ve talked about how I use leftovers to help stock my pantry, how I shop to fill my...

Friday, October 30, 2015

Oldies But Goodies: In-A-Pinch Meals!

For the purposes of this writing, in-a-pinch meals are defined as being able to put a meal on the table for your family when (1) emergency situations arise that take you out of the home or make it difficult to prepare a meal, (2) when you’re not physically able to cook, (3) when unexpected company drops in and a meal is needed (4) for Sunday dinner in a hurry or (5) for those days when your ‘best laid plans’ just don’t happen.

How do we have in-a-pinch meals on hand for those times when we need them and don't need or want to make a trip to the nearest fast food restaurant? We’re going to talk about 3 ways …

Freezer Meals
This is where once-a-month cooking comes into play. Plan ahead and decide on the number of meals you’d like to have on hand for the upcoming month. Then, decide what those meals will be. Prepare them to the point of placing them in the oven or on the stove to cook then freeze them. (Soups/stews can be fully cooked and then frozen.) Only prepare those meals that will freeze and thaw well. It’s a waste of time and food to go to all that work only to have a non-eatable meal after cooking. Some suggestions might include lasagna, soups, casseroles etc. When ready to use the meals, if possible allow enough time to thaw and cook. If time is an issue, defrost meal in microwave then cook.

Here’s another way to utilize the freezer along with any leftovers you might have. When you cook a meal, double your portions. Before you serve the meal to your family, fill a plastic divided plate that has its own lid for each member of your family from what you’ve cooked. Put the lid on securely, add a piece of freezer tape approximately 2 inches long on top of the lid and write the contents of the meal on the freezer tape along with the date. These can be taken out and microwaved in a pinch for a nutritious meal in a hurry.

Meals in a Jar
Soups, stews, and meats can be canned in jars which, means they’re ready to heat and eat at a moments notice. This is what I call meals in a jar. Add breads or side dishes to the meals in a jar and you have a complete meal.

What about you, how do you provide meals in-a-pinch for those times when cooking from scratch is not an option?

Patsi
A Working Pantry
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13 comments:

  1. I do all of the above. As well as I always have salad fixings on hand and a good salad with an added protein is a complete meal that we are happy with ad only takes minutes to prepare. And that protein can be something as simple as opening a can of tuna and adding a bit of cheese or beans.

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  2. After we partake in a holiday feast (such as Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter), we usually are left with a lot of leftover turkey. It has become tradition for us to use the leftover meat to make turkey pot pies for our freezer. I cook up the carcass to make a big batch of broth, using veggie scraps I saved in the freezer over the past few months. My husband is a cook at a restaurant, so he uses his talents to makes up the meat filling using veggies I blanched and froze from the garden or bought on sale, and my mom and I make up the multiple pie crusts. The pies are frozen unbaked, so we just pull them and bake whenever we decide to have them as a meal. After this past Thanksgiving (I'm Canadian), we were able to make 16 individual sized and 3 family sized turkey pot pies for the freezer. Some of our family even request a few, so we often share them. We'll make more again after Christmas.

    I often make up and freeze an unbaked lasagna as well, whenever I have some time and all the ingredients. I find this very convenient to have on hand as it takes more time to assemble lasagna than the average meal. Another thing I have done in the past is to cook up a big batch of just the meat/veggie mixture (cooked ground beef and cooked veggies mixed with gravy) for shepherd's pie and freeze meal sized portions in baggies. When we're ready to use it, we thaw the mix, put it in a casserole dish, top with potatoes (we like to use instant mashed potatoes for this) and grated cheddar cheese, then bake.

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    1. After I hit post, I thought of another thing I do. My daughter sometimes likes to have pancakes for breakfast, but they take too much time to make when I am trying to get her out the door for school. Every once in a while, I will make up a double batch of pancakes, making sure not to make the pancake size too big. I then place the pre-made pancakes in a large freezer bag, with waxed paper or recycled cereal/cracker box liners in between each pancake. When she wants pancakes, I just pop one or two in the toaster which warms them through perfectly.

      I will also bake up treats (such as brownies, cookies, granola bars, squares etc.) or muffins when I have time, wrap them individually in plastic wrap and place them in the freezer in a container. We use these as quick grab lunch items for bagged school or work lunches. For those who are retired and don't have a need for bagged lunch items, a nice sweet loaf (we have these in our freezer as well) or a container of homemade treats are perfect to pull when unexpected guests arrive.

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  3. Patsi, I used to do this when I was working for my lunch. If I had a frozen meal, I could take it out of the freezer as I left the house and it would be thawed by my lunchtime. Then a warm up in the microwave at work and I had a nutricious meal. I also make large quantities of our favorite soups and freeze in 2 serving containers for our lunches in the winter time. Better and cheaper than bought soups at the grocery store.

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    1. Great ideas Quilting Grannie! Thanks for sharing!

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  4. Having ground meat browned and ready in the freezer is a huge help to me. I used to do more freezer cooking but now I'm more apt to rely on shelf-stable and home-canned items to make quick meals. I just figured out a bean seasoning mix that we like so I made it in bulk and have it ready in the pantry. I've never canned my own beef stew. Do you use your own recipe for canning beef stew or do you use one from the Ball Blue Book or someplace else?

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    1. The Ball Blue Book is my go to source for canning beef stew! I would love it if you would share your bean seasoning mix!

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  5. My husband works 12 hour days so I like to make sure he has a hot meal when he get's home which for me is not always easy. I have a couple health issues one being I'm on oxygen and being around my gas stove is impossible so thank goodness for freezer meals. I also have been having a huge problem that for some reason food smells have been making me sick, especially meat. Someone put me in contact with an agency that will be having a woman coming to my home to help me prepare meals to freeze ahead. This I think will be a huge help to me because my pantry is well stocked but my freezer is not. So I will be looking forward to getting more ideas from all you wonderful women.

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    1. What kind of freezer meals are you planning to prepare?

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  6. I have two rice cookers. It only takes minutes to make a pot. We always have canned toppings on hand to make fast meals. The leftover rice stores in the rice pot with lid for easy warm ups the next meal.

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  7. Dear Patsy, Sorry I am really behind and catching up... Yes I really work to keep at least a dozen meals ready to go. We never need takeaway. I have several meals I can put together in five minutes from on hand ingredients. These include tuna mornay, pizza, toasted sandwiches, pizza subs etc. All yummy and fast. I have a range of things I could put in the crock pot in the morning if I know... Otherwise I have individual meat pies I have made plus individual serves of lasagne always in the freezer. Now and then I make up great trays of it and when its cold I freeze into portions. This is so handy! Anyway I think it is really important to have heaps of emergency meals at all times. Like life saving!
    I also want to say I am Gobsmacked about your health insurance. How can that even be!? Often I feel envious about food prices there. However this is terrible and scares me. Our health insurance is the amount you mention for over six months and we have top cover. And you are paying that for one month! I just cant comprehend it. Also I remember when you had the $400 increase. That was bad and I know you had to do a lot of adjusting to manage that. Another AWP member told me about her Dads medication costs which are now completely unaffordable to him and there is no alternative or cheaper drug. What the heck is happening? What is happening to people? I am far away and yet worried! I worry what will happen to ordinary families...
    Well never before have the things we have been writing and talking about been more important. The days of luxury purchases etc are over for most people I think.
    I am sorry I have taken days to respond to this. With love and thoughts, Annabel.xxx

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    1. Annabel, thank you for your concern over our shocking health insurance price increase ... and yes, that increase will be monthly starting in January. Our wages have not increased and that's what makes this huge increase hard to deal with. We are still 'reeling' and doing a lot of praying. For us the days of luxury purchases are most definitely over!

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