Ziploc is my bag, baby!

Make sure you read that title in an Austin Powers voice, because my bag, baby, is none other than a freezer bag, and it’s full of a dinner. Nothing breaks my concentration more than having to interrupt my working routine to go stare into the fridge or the pantry and short out brain cells over what to feed the husband and children…especially if they’re already home and standing behind me, yelling, “What’s for dinner! We’re staaaarving!” (And it’s never just “starving” – it’s always “staaaaaarving” as if those extra a’s are the idiot light on the dashboard of the car that tells you you’re running on fumes and haven’t changed your oil in three years). After many years of fighting the inevitable, I finally broke down and not only ventured into the world of meal planning…I jumped into pre-emptive dinner-slaying.

Beyond The Menu

I fought this initially–I didn’t want to be the Drill Sergeant mom, who force-fed her kids according to a schedule which could not be deviated from, but after weeks of dinners that weren’t really dinners, I started planning menus.

Oh, at first, I just bought the stuff and hoped I’d remember to defrost it. I kept my notes with what I was buying and why on the fridge, so I knew what the hell had possessed me to buy Hearts of Palm three weeks after I had the brilliant idea to make the world’s greatest pasta salad and call it dinner (BTW, I’ll have you know, that pasta salad was fantastic and I will make it again and again come summer).

But even menu planning only took me so far–I’d forget how much chicken I had and what to do with it, or realize that planning to make standing rack of lamb was a lot easier than actually making it. Then I discovered Freezer Bagging.

Put It In The Bag

Everybody knows the biggest PITAs about cooking dinner center around the prep work. Just like painting–everybody wants the big roller and the flat wall, nobody wants the little cut-in brush and the miles and miles of blue tape over the trim, or the washing out of the brushes afterwards. My menu planning wasn’t saving me any time or effort–all it did was tell me what I’d be spending too much time and effort doing later in the evening.

In my “other life” I’m a rep for a small company that sells natural foods and spice blends through home parties, and I was introduced to the concept of the Freezer Bag meal. You marinate your meat and/or vegetables in a freezer bag, then toss it in the freezer. Pull it out when you’re ready to use it and throw it in a crock pot, skillet, or oven, and off you go. This is a simple idea, and heaven knows I used ziploc bags to bread chicken or coat meats for stews or stir-fry meals before–why on earth hadn’t I made the connection?

I took the idea and decided to try it. The company has a series of recipes and I picked out ten that other reps had raved about, went out and bought the meats I’d need, and brought them home along with a box of gallon freezer bags (and a bottle of wine because I did not want to do this stone-cold sober). Three hours later, it looked like a bomb went off in my kitchen, but I had ten freezer bags full of meat and vegetables, my Sharpie had worn the tip down to a nub, and I’d used up all the meat.

That ten days proved to be the best ten family meals we’d had in almost a year. My kids ate the food, Mr. Athena experienced paroxysms of culinary joy, and I had help with the dishes. Worth it? You’d better believe it.

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