Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Homemade Convenience Foods

If you are like I used to be, you spend most of your grocery budget on fast, easy to heat lunch foods and snacks.  We used to eat frozen pizzas every Sunday night after church.  We ate pot pies, hot pockets, and granola bars before running out the door to basket ball games and I sent the kids to school with microwaveable things in their lunches.

But then...

I started to read ingredients...talk about an eye opening experience...!

I had heard about people who make everything from scratch, but I'd always thought those people were at least, like, 80 years old or more.  Still, I felt I had to do something.  I didn't want my children eating those things anymore.  I was determined to figure out something, even though I was sure I didn't have the time or the know-how.

The more I researched and looked up recipes, the more I realized that I could make these things myself!  And, the more I made, the more I realized that I did have plenty of time for it!  Actually, I discovered that convenience cooking is much easier than I ever thought it would be and it's soo much fun!  I love to can and freeze fruits and veggies, but convenience cooking is like taking it a whole step farther!

Having 48 quarts of green beans, corn or zucchini is not necessarily convenient when you are in a hurry, but a freezer stocked with healthy desserts, pizza pockets, individual servings of soups and chili, and few extra homemade lasagnas, casseroles, chicken tenders/breasts and pot pies is beyond exciting!  It's absolutely a relief to know that dinner is ready...(well, if you consider frozen ready)...when, and if, you are in a hurry and don't have time to fix dinner.

Cost Too Much??
If you don't have the money for extra groceries, you can do one thing a week.  One extra lasagna.  One casserole.  One bag of chicken tenders.  One double portion of soup or chili. An extra loaf of banana bread.  And then the next week, you can do another thing.  Stock up the freezer and keep it going.  Try to only use one thing each week.  You will get where you want to be eventually.  And you will save money making it all yourself.  I can spend $8.00 on 12 healthy, homemade pizza pockets (that are larger than the store bought kind).  Or I can spend $12.00 on 12 of the smaller, unhealthy, store bought ones.  It really is easier than you think.  I promise!

What is Convenient Food??
Anything you can grab/cook/prepare in a matter of minuets and eat quickly.  It can be a whole meal.  But, most of the time, I like smaller portions.  Like, a small bowl of soup.  A single pizza pocket or chicken strip.  Or, maybe you want a snack?  You can grab a snack bag of mini muffins or oatmeal cookies if you have them ready, bagged up and in the freezer. Convenience food is a great way to prepare and pack for school/work lunches.

Things that will help you stock your freezer with convenience food:
  •  Learn how to flash freeze
  • Zip-lock freezer bags - gallon size
  • Freezer bags - snack size
  • Zip-lock containers -  be sure you don't microwave food in any plastic storage containers and don't put them in the dish washer either.  Instead, hand wash them with warm, soapy water.
  • Glass  or ceramic casserole dishes (or you could use disposable aluminum pans, but I try to avoid aluminum as much as possible) - just don't take the glass dishes directly out of the freezer and put them into the hot oven!  That would be BAD!!! 

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