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Meal prepping without a meal plan

By Mike Thayer

Roasted Red PeppersChop, chop, chop!

Some people like to plan their menus, to include yours truly, but a lot of people aren't really into doing that.  No harm, no foul and eating on a whim can be fun!  But eating on whim can also be disappointing and it often begs questions like, "What do I want to eat?" or worse yet, "What is there to eat?"

Avoid the - what sounds good? - mindset and do a bit of meal prepping, not for a particular meal or set of meals, but 'mini-prep' if you will, so that when you do decide to cook, it will make putting that meal together a whole lot easier and faster.  Take advantage of foods you already have on hand, but are about to expire and take advantage of your freezer. 

When I've got a bag of carrots in the fridge coming close to an expiration date for example, I will slice, dice, roast, saute and FREEZE.  This extends the expiration date, I avoid the throwing away spoiled food thing and when I'm cooking a meal down the road that calls for carrots or I just need a quick side dish, I've got it at the ready in the freezer in various forms.

If you've got some canned chic peas about to expire, make some hummus, enjoy some, throw the rest of the batch in the freezer.  TIP, rotate your canned goods, always keep cans with the farthest out date in the back of the pantry or cabinet.  Don't just stack cans you just bought at the grocery store on top of the ones collecting dust, rotate those cans!

Did you buy too much of an ingredient for a meal or for a party?  Slice it, dice it, cook it, whatever, FREEZE it. 

Peppers are something I tend to over-buy, but they freeze well in raw form and can be used in a variety of dishes.  Freezing will change the texture of a lot of veggies, keep that in mind, because if you like snacking on a sliced pepper for example, don't slice peppers up thinking you'll have a great but simple snack to pull out of the freezer down the road.  It won't be the same fresh, crisp bite you enjoyed when first bringing those peppers home from the grocery store.  The peppers will however deliver some excellent flavor in soups, stews and here's a great one:  Roast those red peppers, put them together with those chic peas in a food processor for some roasted red pepper hummus.  It's another dose of YUM!

Leftover rice?  Throw it in a container with a protein like shredded chicken or diced ham and you've got a convenient, impromptu meal you can pull from the freezer.  Leftover taters?  Same thing, throw it in a container with a protein to create a base for a convenient, impromptu meal.  Pairing a carb with a protein and stashing it in the freezer goes a long way towards helping you quickly decide what to eat later on and is a time saver.  Bonus, having a stash of ready to go ingredients in the freezer is healthier for you than processed foods.

Got some berries that are going to go bad soon?  You could make a pie, but if you're not really into baking, say hello to ice cream!  I'm into simple desserts and some ice cream topped with warmed up blueberries or strawberries is super easy to put together, satisfying and most importantly, tasty.  Most fruits freeze well in raw form and you can keep things like berries in single serving containers too, ideal for snacking or portioning.

Avoid food spoilage, slice, dice, roast, bake, grill, etc., and FREEZE!  Extend the life of your food and easily create quite a bit of variety by making smart use of your freezer.  You'll save time, money and another BONUS - no more "What is there to eat?" anxiety.

$pend Wisely My Friends.....


Related:  Plan your menus


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