This is not rocket science, but maybe does deserve its own stand-alone blurb. Making prep-ahead and freeze-ahead work worth your while is all about packaging and labelling, or "chop, measure, bag and tag"!
- It may seem silly to include things like a 1/2 tsp of pepper or 1 tbsp of butter, but if you have to root around for either an ingredient or a measuring spoon when it comes time to cook, you're wasting time. Pre-measure/chop everything except olive oil for sauteing veg.
- Combine everything that can be combined to eliminate extra steps later and to avoid losing parts of a meal kit. That means bagging ingredients together that get added to a recipe together, as well as putting all frozen components of a meal into one large ziptop bag.
- Use ziptop bags for anything wet...meat in a marinade, liquid wine or stock, white sauce...or for small amounts of ingredients...spices, beurre manié, . Use vacuseal bags everywhere else...meat with a dry spice rub, vegetables, frozen stock or wine cubes. Put all bagged ingredients into a 1- or 2-gallon ziptop bag to keep everything together.
- Labelling absolutely everything is the difference between a convenient freezer kit and frozen mystery food. Label freezer bags, cans that will live in the pantry, boxes in the pantry, everything! A tip for writing on plastic freezer bags...write before you fill. Once the bag is cold, permanent marker won't work.
- The best time-saver of all: Write out the cooking directions and include them in the kit so you don't have to fish around for a recipe on Dinner Day (or remember which recipe you need). Either write directly on your freezer bag or write out an index card and put it in a small ziptop bag to reuse it later.
Some examples of freezer/pantry kits, how they're put together, packaged and labelled.
|Artichoke Pasta: ziptop bag for sauce, labelled box of pasta, labelled can of artichokes, recipe on index card in ziptop bag|
|Lemon Beef Roast: 2-gallon ziptop bag with lemon sauce in quart-size ziptop bag and beef roast in vacuseal, recipe written on freezer bag|
|Chicken Villaggio: 2 gallon ziptop containing 1 gallon ziptop with marinated chicken thighs and small ziptop with diced lemon flesh, recipe written on bag|
|Chicken with Olives: Vacusealed veg, ziptop bag with spices, and bouillon cube to be bagged with vacusealed chicken thighs and recipe card plus labelled can of olives for pantry storage|