Long Shifts and Freezer Meals

Most families I know have a primary grocery shopper/cook in their household. If the chef is the nurse of the family, dinner time can be a mess. I get home between 6 and 7 pm, which means I am NOT making dinner. My husband has to feed the kids.

This is a picture of us being in love and meal prepping.

If you are the shopper and your spouse has to feed the family when you work, they will either make what sounds good to them, make something easy, eat out or grab fast food.

Problems with not having a Meal Plan

  • Food will often get wasted. I would get super angry when food I had in front of the fridge to eat would turn moldy and get pushed to the back of the fridge.
  • Your family will eat high sodium, processed garbage.
  • You spend more money on processed garbage than on homemade food.
  • Throwing away leftovers is the equivalent of throwing money in the garbage.
  • Step 1: Come to terms that you are the food genius in your household. If your spouse isn’t interested then you take ownership and tell them to bow down or go hungry.
  • Step 2: Take a few hours and really plan for the month. What are some recipes that freeze well, use ingredients that you have on hand and are <$3 a serving?
  • Step 3: Look at your upcoming week, designate a grocery shopping day. If you have a busy Tuesday make sure you have food that gets heated up only. If you are home on Friday, make your more complicated meal or batch cook a couple of meals.
  • Step 4: Under plan with a backup plan. I typically meal plan 3 meals a week with leftovers. If you over-plan for 5 meals you may not need them all because there may be leftovers or a last minute dinner out. If it’s Thursday and we are out of leftovers, I throw a freezer meal into the fridge to thaw and I give very specific instructions on how to use a crock pot for my husband. If it’s half frozen when you put it in, low for 8-10 hours is typically fine.
  • Step 5: I write down what we are eating each night of the week and tape it to the fridge. I have gone ballistic enough that my husband sticks to the plan or calls me to see if he can vary. Sometimes it’s cool, no problem, sometimes it’s not ok and he better cook that stuff up even if they don’t eat it. Blood, sweat and tears goes into my meal prepping, if food gets wasted I take it personal.
  • Step 6: Have a backup, backup plan. Our back up plan is typically is Kraft Macaroni and Cheese with Tuna Fish with frozen peas. We really have to be scrambling to serve our kids Mac and Cheese (it happens once a month) and it’s the perfect “I’m stressed out” meal. Our kids LOVE it, they are really well behaved when they eat it because they want to get seconds. Since they only get it once a month, I don’t feel bad about how processed and orange it is. It’s also a red flag when I get home that my husband is having a rough day. If I smell Mac N Cheese with tuna when I walk in, I know to be extra kind.
  • Step 7: Do not put up with any B.S. Only make one meal for the whole family, if your child doesn’t want to eat it, no problem, they can have an extra large breakfast. Scrapping an ungrateful child’s uneaten food into the garbage should be a moment where you decide how to deal with your wasteful offspring. I always offer extra water to any of my “starving” children when they choose to not eat. (It’s a rare event when our children don’t eat their meal, they know I will not cave and serve them anything else.)

Baby Steps with Sauces

Our biggest plan lately has been a combination of freezer meals with freezer sauces. I make the freezer meals, my husband makes the freezer sauces. Having sauce ready to go for every meal is a great option if you don’t want to go all in with freezer meals.

For your next few meals, make triple batches of whatever sauce you had with it. Then freeze the extras in portion sizes. We like this option because we like to make fresh steamed veggies, rice, and chicken. That is all super easy to throw in the oven or pan. Then we drop a sorta thawed batch of sauce into the pan and we have a cheap well-balanced meal that’s fresh. (Sorta) Here are some of our favorites:

Spicy Almond Butter

1/4 C Raw Almond Butter (or peanut butter/sunflower butter)
2T coconut vinegar (or rice vinegar)
1-2 T Warm Water
1T Tamari (or low-sodium soy sauce)
1T pure maple syrup
1t ground ginger, or freshly minced ginger
1-2 t srirach (or more to taste), or 1/2t crushed red pepper flakes
put ingredients in food processor and blend until smooth

Coconut Lime Curry Sauce

3T canola oil
zest of 1 large lime
1t cumin
2T soy sauce
1T kosher salt
3T sugar
2t curry powder
1C canned coconut milk
juice of one lime
optional – 1 serrano pepper, finely minced or cut into thin slivers
1/4 C chopped fresh cilantro
Simmer in a pot

Teriyaki

1 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup water
1 tsp brown sugar or agave nectar
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup scallions, minced (optional)
Combine ingredients in a sauce pan, heat and stir until sugar is dissolved.
Simple Variations
Add extra sugar for more sweetness
Fresh hot peppers bring an added spice
Add a splash of rice vinegar for more bite
Cook down for a thicker drizzle
Ways to Use It
Because Teriyaki is a looser sauce than some of the others, it can coat noodles and top salads:

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