As we start this year, I am looking for ways to streamline my time, so I have more time for the fun things like my dear husband, my two children and my hobby. There are certain things that have to get done..laundry, dinner, packing lunches, exercise is not negotiable too, I have to do that to make sure I am around for those people I love in the future. I want to learn to choose the fun things when there are little nagging things that really are not important (like dusting) hanging out there. This will be a journey for me, wrought with lots of twist and turns and lots of big bumps, I am somewhat of a control freak and am learning that this compulsion to keep everything clean and in my order is nothing more than my way to try and control something, since there is so much I have not control over (when the next disaster is going to hit, Chris's schedule, and Lord knows anything that has to do with my kids). So I am concentrating on choices, the little choices we are faced every moment of every day that mold and shape this bigger thing called life.
So, one of the first things I have to get back under control and streamlined is dinner. In Georgia I was so good and efficient at once a month freezer cooking. I got out of that habit, partly because when I was laid off followed by a big very expensive move which we paid 100% for, we just did not have the money to buy a months worth of groceries at a time. That has changed, but the kids are a lot busier now, so I am compromising. I have started freezer cooking again, two weeks at a time. And, I have found this satisfies my inner control freak, it feels so good to have two or three weeks worth of dinners prepped and in the freezer. Yes, it is the little things. Not only that, I now prepare a weeks worth of lunches for the entire family over the weekend, so all I have to do the night before is grab the main lunch dish, the two sides and a snack and throw it all into each of our lunch boxes. This is so much more efficient and time saving than trying to do it at night or God forbid in the morning. Again , this satisfies my inner control freak very well and both of these methods saves tons of money.
One of my basic freezer recipes is Hearty Meat Sauce. I have no idea where I got the recipe from, to give them credit, but it is an awesome base because from it I can make several different dishes like sloppy joes, spaghetti sauce, chili and taco filling. I suppose if I tried hard enough I could figure out a hot dog sauce as well. I am going to give you the recipe along with two variations, sloppy joes and spaghetti sauce.
When I make a full batch of this is makes 15 cups. I divide this into 5 freezer bags of 3 cups each (this is for a family of four). So I get five meals out of this.
Hearty Meat Sauce Base3.5 lbs of ground beef (I use ground round, and sometimes I use ground turkey)
2 cups of chopped onion
5 large cloves of garlic, minced
4 cans of diced tomatoes
2 cans of beef broth (if I have none on hand I use chicken broth)
2 cans (the small ones) tomato paste
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp salt
2 large bay leafs
1/2 cup chopped parsley (if you don't have any omit it)
- Combine the first four ingredients in a large skillet or dutch oven, cook over medium high until meat is browned, stirring until it crumbles.
- Drain and pat dry with paper towels
- I wipe the drippings from the skillet
- Return meat to the skillet and add all the ingredients except the parsley
- Bring to a boil
- reduce heart and simmer uncovered 35 minutes stirring occasionally. Add parsley towards the end and cook no more than 5-10 additional minutes.
- Remove and discard bay leaf.
- Spook 3 cups into each of 5 labeled freezer bags.
- You can store in refrigerator up to a week or in freezer 4-5 months.
3 cups Hearty Meat Sauce Base
2 TBSP chopped green pepper
2 tsp brown sugar
2 tsp cider vinegar
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- Combine first five ingredients in a pot and boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes uncovered or until almost all the liquid is evaporated/absorbed.
- Top buns with meat mixture
3 cups Hearty Meat Sauce Base
1 cup tomato sauce
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp basil
- Combine all ingredients in a pan bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes.