If you live alone or in a two-person household, the cost-benefit analysis of cooking at home can be challenging. Eating convenience food or takeout/ delivery every night can be expensive and not that good for you. But it can be hard to find the time and energy to cook a whole meal every night. That can be true for anyone, regardless of your household size — but when I was living alone, I always found it extra-hard to be motivated to cook, and it’s almost as hard with just two people.
There’s a trick Ingrid and I have been doing for several years now. It’s not like we made it up, a lot of people do this, but it took me a while to figure out, so I’m sharing it here.
We make giant pots of food, divvy it up into single- or double-serving Tupperwares, and freeze them.
You get the convenience of pre-packaged meals or takeout, with the cheapness and deliciousness and healthiness of home-cooked food. You get the pleasure of cooking at home, without the hassle of doing it every single freaking night. Plus you get to make your food exactly the way you want it. Want Old Bay in the split pea soup? Want lentil soup with stock from the Christmas roast? Going low-fat, low-carb, low-salt? Obsessed with cardamom and are putting it in everything? Knock yourself out!
To do this you need:
A decent-sized freezer. We actually got a chest freezer when we had to replace our fridge and lost some freezer space in the process. A regular fridge-freezer can work fine, though.
A buttload of single- or double-serving sized Tupperwares or Tupperware-like objects. You can get glass ones if you’re trying to reduce your plastic consumption; if you’re on a budget, the disposable ones from the grocery store actually work pretty well and can last a while. Whatever you get, make sure they’re freezable and microwaveable.
A way to label the Tupperwares. Regular masking tape loses its tapey-ness when it’s frozen. We’ve been using a grease pencil, but we may break down and order some freezer tape online (it’s been weirdly hard to find in person).
Some reliable recipes for things that can be cooked in large quantities and that freeze well. Ideally, they should be recipes that can be easily tinkered with. Soup, chili, and pasta sauce are our standards, but we’ve also done enchiladas, and we recently had good luck with mac-and-cheese with butternut squash.
A certain amount of time every couple/few weeks. We generally do this as a weekend activity: cooking during the week sometimes feels like drudgery, but if we have the time on a weekend, cooking up a big pot of stuff becomes a fun, creative activity. Do be aware when you’re doing time management: a double or triple recipe of a big pot of stuff doesn’t take two or three times as long as a single recipe, but it does take longer, both for prep and for cooking. Plus you have to give yourself time to portion everything into the Tupperwares.
If you play your cards right, you can wind up with a nice variety of food in your freezer. Say you make and freeze a big pot of chili on July 3. You don’t eat chili every single night, that would get boring: you have it, say, every two or three nights. Two weeks later on July 17, you have about half of the chili left, and you make and freeze a big pot of split pea soup. Two weeks after that on July 31, you have about half of the split pea soup plus a couple/few chilis, and you make a big pot of roasted tomato sauce. Two weeks after that on August 14, you make a big pot of lentil stew… and you now have a bunch of lentil stew, a fair amount of tomato sauce, a couple/few split pea soups, and maybe one of the chilis. When we’re really in a groove with this, we wind up with a freezer stocked with five or six different kinds of meals. During a long, difficult week, that’s a really nice thing to have.
This is also a good way to help friends and family members who are seriously ill, grieving, recovering from surgery, have just had kids, or otherwise need help. A dozen Tupperwares of frozen homemade food gives important practical help, in a way that’s really personal.
I may start posting my favorite recipes for big pots of things. I’ve already shared Susie Bright’s Roasted Tomato Sauce; here’s the mac and cheese with fontina and butternut squash, although next time we may just use frozen squash, and while the Parmesan crisps and fried sage leave were lovely, they’re not necessary. If you have your own favorites, please post them in the comments!
Frivolous Fridays are the Orbit bloggers’ excuse to post about fun things we care about that may not have serious implications for atheism or social justice. Any day is a good day to write about whatever the heck we’re interested in (hey, we put “culture” in our tagline for a reason), but we sometimes have a hard time giving ourselves permission to do that. This is our way of encouraging each other to take a break from serious topics and have some fun. Check out what some of the other Orbiters are doing!