I have been reading all of the testimonials about menu planning, always looking for ways to improve my system. When my DDs were very small, a friend introduced me to “once a month cooking,” and even with a very small freezer at that time I was able to fit quite a few meals. This helped greatly with that terrible dinner hour when DH was walking through the door and the little ones were hungry/crabby. It took a Friday evening (shopping) and most of the day Saturday (cooking) in order to accomplish it (with DH watching the girls), but the rewards were huge!! As the kids (now 3 of them!) got older I still tried to keep a few things in the freezer, but I didn’t do the huge monthly cooking anymore.
Then about 5 years ago we did a major remodel, and thankfully I put many, many meals in the freezer for that (we have a bigger freezer now.) This was a huge blessing because what was supposed to be 4 weeks without a kitchen turned into 12 weeks without a kitchen. We were able to get along with only a microwave, a toaster oven, and a Crock pot, only ordering out about once a week. I realized after that, that I was spoiled. It had been so nice to be able to go to my freezer for dinner, rather than start from scratch each night.
So I have found an “in between” system that works for us. Whenever I cook something that is conducive to it, I double or triple it. Mac & cheese, brisket, stroganoff, soups. We eat once and I freeze the rest. Or I make a big pork roast, and I slice up the leftovers and freeze for fajitas in the future (usually 2 more meals.) When I can get bone-in chicken breasts for a great price, I prepare a huge batch of them, make a few pot pies or pans of enchiladas, then dice or shred the rest and freeze for future stir fry or soups. Yesterday I was “cooked out” from Thanksgiving, but we obviously needed to eat! I could have picked something from the freezer, but I needed to run to the store anyway for milk and produce. So I purchased a large package of ground beef (93% lean and on sale!) and browned the whole thing with onions. I turned part of it into taco meat for two meals this week (last night and another night that we need a quick meal) and divided up the rest and froze it in freezer bags. It can be pulled out later for pizza topping, more taco meat, or some other use.
This system has freed me up so much! When I plan my meals for the week I try to use one or two meals from my freezer, and also try to add SOMETHING back to the freezer once a week. It is not always a big meal, sometimes it is just bags of browned ground beef, but it is something to feed my perpetual freezer.