As this post goes up, I am currently at the airport making my way back to California for the academic year. I'm crossing my fingers I don't run into anyone important because my face is a contorted ball of snot and tears and I cannot think of a time I looked like a bigger mess. Let's just say, I am not ready to leave fiance or DC. Long distance sucks. Over the past week I've been busy packing, soaking up any quality time I can get, and stocking up fiance's fridge for while I'm gone. Although technically this mission was out of love for him, it was also slightly self-serving. Doing something that I knew would make him happy and would help him with distance really truly made me feel better. I'm not sure why, but I have a sneaky feeling it had to do with control. It was something proactive I could do to improve the future. Unlike the war I'm currently waging on any dry tissues. Thank heavens for sun glasses. Although then I look like that crazy lady in the airport wearing sun glasses.
Anyway, to make proverbial lemonade out of my lemons, I thought it might be helpful to chronicle my steps and share my ideas for cooking ahead of time/stocking a freezer. Whether it be for a busy week coming up, a trip and you want your kids/hubby/fiance/etc to be well fed, or what have you, these tips and ideas might be helpful.
Step 1: Hoard containers whenever you get take out. We get pho every so often and always save those containers for soups. Chinese food containers often work great for pastas or sauces. These containers work great because a) they are free once you eat the food b) we use ours SO many times. They can be put in the microwave, freezer and dishwasher!
Step 2: Plan out your menus. Think of meals that freeze well (soups, pasta sauces, lasagna, etc.). Think of meals that make lots of leftovers. My method was to make a meal with lots of leftovers so we could enjoy the dish for dinner that night and then freeze the rest. That way I wasn't stuck cooking two dinners most nights.
Step 3: Be realistic and gentle with yourself. I tend towards the path where I pack way too much into a few days and I stress and want to pull out my hair. Try and contain your shock. This time I did really well though, I planned to cook every other day for about a week and scheduled take out and restaurant nights on the other evenings.
Step 4: Grocery shop. I take OCD to a whole new level with my shopping, but I find it makes the process super quick and easy and dare I say, even more enjoyable. First, I make my list. But I don't just jot down all ingredients. I write them down by section. For example, the first section in my grocery store is produce. So first on my list is all of my produce. Then dairy/meats. Then the dry/canned section. Then freezer. If you are like me, you continue this organization at the check out stand. Put all of your "dry" or non-fridge items on the belt first. Then follow with all of your perishables. That way, the items are bagged with similar items. You wouldn't believe how much time it saves when putting away groceries. I no loner rummage through bags looking for every fridge item. So much easier. Note: if you weren't able to collect enough take-out containers, buy a few at the grocery store. They are pretty cheap and since you can freeze, microwave and throw them in the dishwasher, they are a great buy.
Step 5: Try to stick to your cooking schedule, but if you can't, don't give up! Try and reschedule a few things and make it work. It's worth it.
Here is what I made:
Sausage and Arugla sauce. This sauce is great on baked potatoes or on pasta.
Sausage and Lentil Soup.
Tortellini, Kale and Sausage Soup. I actually ended up making a double batch because the bag of kale was so huge, it seemed like a waste not to.