This is Part 2 in a series of posts that lays out my method for getting dinner on the table every night without stress. To read Part 1, click here.
Several months ago, I posted about how I got dinner on the table every night thanks to a fairly simple strategy: I keep my kitchen stocked with basics. In that post, I talked about the five “basic” things that I try to keep in my produce basket at all times. In today’s post, I move on to an equally-valuable piece of kitchen real estate: the freezer.
The freezer is our friend. It can be used in so many ways to make our lives easier for those days when we just don’t have time to be organized about what to make for dinner. Some people stock pre-made, frozen meals. Some people make meals ahead or make double batches to freeze half for later. And some people, like me, just keep basic ingredients in their freezer at all times that can be quickly unfrozen to get dinner on the table every night. Here’s what I always try to have on hand:
- Nuts: Did you know that nuts can easily become rancid when stored at room temperature for too long? They can last a few months if stored in a pantry but up to two years when stored in the freezer. So there is one less thing to stress about in your life: expired nuts! Just buy some airtight storage containers and keep them frozen for easy access whenever you need them. Here are my favorites, I prefer to buy all of these organic and raw (not roasted or salted, you can do that yourself later if you want):
- Almonds: for almond butter, almond milk, or eating plain
- Cashews: for cashew milk, and roasted with salt
- Walnuts: for salads and baking
- Pecans: for salads, baking and ice cream sundaes
- Chia & Hemp Seeds: for toppings on pancakes, waffles, smoothies, and oatmeal
- Bone broth: I started making my own bone broth probably ten years ago and have never looked back. Homemade broth is NOTHING like the kind you buy at the grocery store. It is so rich and flavorful that you hardly have to add anything else to your soup to make it delicious. In fact, I drink it straight whenever I feel like my immune system needs a boost – it tastes that good. It’s a pretty basic “recipe”: take a chicken carcass (or bones from any animal), add vegetables or vegetable scraps (onion, celery, carrot), herbs, salt and pepper in a big pot and fill with filtered water. After it simmers all day and makes your house smell like heaven, portion it out into freezer-safe containers and keep in the freezer for the next several months for soups, chilis or just drinking straight.
- Meat: Keeping quality meat stocked in the freezer is probably the most crucial thing on this list, as long as you can remember one thing: to take it out of the freezer early enough to defrost naturally. I love this because I never have to stress about meat going bad since its been in the fridge for too long. I keep several kinds stocked but one consistent thing about them all is that I only buy meat from farmers that have raised their animals sustainably and with care, usually through our CSA. Here’s what I keep stocked:
- Ground beef: for burger, tacos, meatballs, meatloaf
- Bacon: for anything
- Whole chicken: for roasting and using the carcass for broth
- Brats: for the easiest dinner ever
- Fruits and veggies: You can always make a smoothie (hey that can be dinner!) when you have frozen produce. And, nutritionally speaking, frozen produce is no worse than fresh (many times its even better because it was frozen at the peak of its ripeness). This has been a game changer for me with smoothies; here is what I keep on hand:
- Berries: whole strawberries, blueberries, raspberries
- Bananas: I slice and freeze fresh ones that are turning brown
- Veggies: Steamed cauliflower, raw zucchini, spinach
- Bread: This category is less useful for dinner but more for breakfasts but there is something to be said for always being able to serve toast (with any combination of things on it). It’s like our fallback breakfast (or dinner) when I need to go grocery shopping. If you haven’t tried these two kinds that we keep stocked, I would recommend them:
- Ezekiel bread: for avocado toast, peanut butter toast, anything toast
- Glutino English Muffins: we are obsessed with these and smother them in butter
And that’s it! I know this sounds like a lot but once you initially stock up, it’s really not that much work to keep it stocked. The meat I buy in bulk, the broth I make in huge batches and the rest are pretty much always on my grocery list in some capacity. Hope you found this helpful and you can use it in someway to make getting dinner on the table each night a little bit easier. Cheers!