We’re half way through the challenge – how are you doing? Have you survived so far? Hopefully, up until now, you have had enough groceries to fulfill your challenge commitment; however, a funny thing happens once you’re half way through – the food starts to disappear! Of course, another grocery trip should probably be in your near future, but in the meantime I want you to extend the life of your food as much as possible. Not only will this help stretch your dollar further, but it can help minimize the amount of work you have to do in preparing yet another meal.
Day 5 –> The Necessity of Leftovers
Leftovers, in my opinion, are probably one of the greatest assets your meal plan can have. Not only are they a great way to minimize food waste, but they can be a real meal-saver at the end of a long week or when cooking is the last thing you want to be doing. But leftovers don’t have to happen just by chance. In fact, if you plan leftovers into your week, you can creatively revamp them so that they seem fresh and new.
Of course, you are going to want to make sure that your pantry is stocked with your favorite herbs and spices. You may also want to have a few other pantry staples on hand. Often leftovers can be incorporated into a casserole or thrown on top of a bed of greens. Brown rice and mixed veggies can also be added to many leftover dishes to give them new life and a little extra nutrient oomph. Or if veggies are your leftover item, consider adding them to soup, a stir-fry, or even puree them with some broth and a few of your favorite seasonings to make a delicious sauce to top other meals with.
If you have a large enough freezer, freezing your leftovers or making extra servings to eat later is another great way to extend the life of your food. This also allows you to plan ahead for busy days, eliminating the excuse that you don’t have enough time to make something nutritious (and delicious) at home. If you aren’t use to freezing meals, there are a few things you should know before you get started:
Have the right supplies. Whether you have a small or large freezer, optimizing the space is essential. Afterall, if you can’t keep it in your freezer, its not going to do you much good. Freezer bags, plastic freezer paper, aluminum foil, and aluminum bake ware are all beneficial in the freezing process and relatively inexpensive. Stock up on these first before you start your freezing process.
Pack the right servings. When freezing your meals, you may find that portioning them out before hand is essential to your way of life. Obviously, you can freeze an entire casserole in one large aluminum baking pan; however, you may find it more conducive to a busy lifestyle if you freeze individual portions that can be easily thrown into a microwave or oven and then eaten. Smaller portions may also be less daunting and be better utilized throughout the week.
Label those leftovers! Another time saving tip is to write down the directions directly onto the bag or container your frozen food is in. Write down the date you put it in the freezer, the name of the food, and how to reheat it. This makes it super easy to remember what you made and cook it in a flash. You’ll also be more likely to eat the foods you prepped before they go bad. Although freezers extend the life of your food, they don’t keep forever. Most foods keep a month to a year in the freezer so you’ll want to be sure and check those dates! Also consider keeping those with the oldest dates in the front of the freezer so that you eat those first.
Find healthy freezer meal resources. Many of the meals that are deemed freeze-worthy aren’t necessarily the healthiest. Luckily, many freeze-healthy resources do exist. From recipes to food safety, these guides can help you freeze with health in mind. A few of my favorites include the book Make-Ahead Meals Made Healthy and the Once a Month Mom website. These freezer meal printables from Money Saving Mom are also pretty cool.
Day 5 homework –> Take a few minutes today to go through your fridge, pantry, and freezer. Take note of any pre-existing leftovers or unused food items that you might have. Create a list of recipe ideas that incorporate these foods. Add these new recipe ideas to your meal plan and/or think about what additional ingredients you might need to pick up from the store next week to make a complete meal.
The Girl Behind the Plate,
Disclaimer/Disclosure: Our healthy freezer meal ideas were inspired by the book Make-Ahead Meals Made Healthy: Exceptionally Delicious and Nutritious Freezer-Friendly Recipes You Can Prepare in Advance and Enjoy at a Moment’s Notice by Michele Borboa MS. Additionally, links to this book are via our Amazon Associates account and we do receive financial contribution if someone purchases a book on Amazon through that link. We just thought you would like to know. For a full list of our disclosure and disclaimer policies, please visit our legal page.