I considered using the title: Taking Advantage of the Quiet Before the Storm
Your company expects at least one thing – food. Holiday company expects something more – lots of food.
This may leave the host family in a quandary. Either you spend all your time cooking and preparing, which means it will be hard to find time to enjoy your company, or you go out and purchase store made meals and pay an exorbitant about of money to feed your guests.
There is, however, a better way – think ahead, plan ahead, cook ahead.
This post is a joint effort between myself and two stay at home moms – Loopie and Diane. Loopie is the mother of four boys and one girl. Diane has four daughters.
To read our first post on the holidays, check out An Essential Guide to Surviving the Hectic Holidays.
How to Pre-prepare Meals
Do what you can as soon as you can. There are some things you can do ahead of time for certain meals that really make life easier. Even if you cannot eek out a day to plan some cooking, just double 2-3 recipes a week and put it in the deep freeze.
If I’m making chicken spaghetti, it’s not THAT much more trouble to make a double recipe and then freeze half of it for a rainy day. That’s really my preferred way to do things these days. (I always make two cakes, for example, never just one. One to serve, one for the freezer.)
We love pizza and probably eat it once a week. Pizza making is so much easier if you one afternoon precook your sausage, pre-cut your veggies, grate your cheese and pre-mix your pizza sauce for a month of pizzas. You can measure things out and put in zip-lock bags and place in the freezer. I find that the crust is better if you do it fresh but if you use your bread maker on the dough cycle and everything else is already done, it makes the meal so easy and quick.
When freezing meals, it works best if you take 3 days to do the work.
Day #1: Plan your menu.
Try to choose 5 to 6 meals that you know will freeze well and then triple the recipe. This will give you 15 to 18 evenings of suppers. Make your grocery list, multiplying everything by three. Then make your purchases that day.
Day #2: Do all the prep work for the meals.
Work on things like chopping onions, green peppers, and grating cheese. Take time to boil or bake, then debone chicken. Brown your hamburger meat and make necessary sauces.
Day #3: Cooking day
This is an assembly day where you put your recipes together and then place in freezer bags or containers. It is invaluable to have a kitchen scale so you can fill your containers uniformly.
Tip: To make the job more fun, do your prep work and assembly work together with a friend. If your schedules do not allow for you to work together, it’s still fun to share your meals.
Tip: Arrange with three friends to each make one recipe three times. Exchange the meals so that you each get one of the three dishes. This way you each have more variety. As a bonus, you can type out instructions and also add ideas for side dishes. Post the meals on the fridge door and it almost feels like you’re in a restaurant – just choose the meal and heat it up.
I try to cook some things for the three days of Christmas (Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day) a few weeks before Christmas, and do all my baking for others then too.
Remember: It takes some serious planning because you need to know how much for everything, and need to know how many pans you’ve got going at once and how much you have in the oven at the same time, etc. But it is great once it’s done. A food processor helps.
Great Foods to Freeze
- Pie crust – the pie crust that freezes best is the one with eggs. Later, all you have to do is roll it out and put the pie stuff in.
- Mashed potatoes freeze well, mashed sweet potatoes too.
- Christmas rolls and cinnamon rolls.
- Perogies – a perogie maker allows you to make two dozen progies at one time so get these ready beforehand and put them in the freezer.
- Mexican food is another favorite, but remember, tortillas do not freeze well. However, if you make them into chimichangas and then freeze, they do amazingly well.
Photo by Yabby.