Thursday, September 15, 2011

In Praise of the Freezer Dinner

This is half a post about telling you to GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK and half to tell you all about freezer dinners (which helps me a lot). In my circle of friends, I have about a 50/50 spilt of moms that work outside of the home and moms that stay-at-home. Many of the moms that work grew up with stay-at-home moms, and I swear, they are holding themselves to an insane standard. They work all day, come home, make dinner, take care of the kids, and then spend the whole weekend cleaning the house just to do it all again the next week. I was doing the same thing for a while, but all I have to say is thank god for therapy.

A smart person once told me that your life and the time you have available can be viewed as a pie. You can change where you spend each slice of your time, but the pie itself doesn't get any bigger. As a working mom, I already spend at least 8 hours of my 24 hour day working. And another 8 sleeping (To be civil. I know, thanks to Maggie, that I can survive on much less. But it's ugly). That leaves me a total of 8 hours to do everything else. I'm sure that other moms agree, I'd like some time to myself to relax and recoup and also get in some quality time with my family. So we do the following:

  • Aaron is a huge part of this household. He contributes equally in every way. This was hard in the beginning with the kids - I had this NEED to tell him what to do and how to do it. I finally let it go. Sometimes, he may do things differently than I would - but so long as it's getting done and I'm not involved, I let him go for it.

  • We have cleaning people. They come into my house every two weeks, change all the sheets and clean things top to bottom in less than 2 hours. For the cost of a nice dinner out. I'm willing to sacrifice going out to eat to not deal with DEEP cleaning. We still do spot cleaning, but I'm never pulling up my sleeves, donning cleaning gloves and getting down on my hands and knees.

  • We eat dinner together, almost every night. Sure. It's a bit of a circus to get things done (and this is the second part of my post) but for at least 30 minutes every day the 4 of us are in the same room and connecting. And the more often we do it, the more used to it that the kids are. I usually cook, Aaron gets the kids from daycare, and when the get home, the kids set the table while Aaron makes drinks for everyone (Mommy's usually has vodka, lol)

The only way I'm able to get a dinner on the table for the whole family is by making it in advance. I either use a freezer meal, or a crockpot meal. Now, while I do love the crockpot, it's not great for EVERY meal. I think the crockpot is great for roasts, chilis, and stews. Before I found freezer meals, I would pretty much grill some sort of meal every day. That was all I had time for. Which got old fast, and back in the day when all my money wasn't being sucked into childcare, we would end up going out to eat at least 3 days a week.

Enter freezer meals. The idea is you take a block of time to assemble a bunch of meals, and then you can pull them out of the freezer and cook them when you are ready. It costs a bit more than doing it yourself (about $4 a serving with Dream Dinners), but less than take out. And you end up saving money because you aren't throwing away uncooked food at the end of the week that you ended up not having time to cook. Most meals take between 30 minutes to an hour to cook - which gets us at the dinner table by 6. Plenty of time to eat and get the kids to bed without meltdowns.

I started, 5 years ago, going to a non-chain store locally (called the Gathering Kitchen), but they shut down. I moved to Dream Dinners and have been very happy with them so far. Thing is, the Dream Dinners close to me have all shut down (thank you, recession) so I'm driving 60 minutes round trip to spend 45 minutes assembling dinner. Which honestly, is still worth it, but the other issue is that the serving sizes they offer is 3 or 6. 6 is way to much, but now that Maggie and Cam are eating what we eat, 3 is often to little.

My current project is seeing if it makes sense to do try and do this with another friend on the street. Because a lot of the allure of Dream Dinners is that you aren't buying (for example) a whole container of craisens when you only need 1 Tsp for a recipe. I've gotten a few books that have recipes, and am researching prices and container options this weekend. If it works out like I think it will, I'll be saving (more) time and (more) money.


HereWeGoAJen said...

I've looked at something like that, but Matt is so picky that it didn't make sense for us. I sometimes do it myself though. If I make something that is freezable, I make two (or three) and freeze the extra. We have a homemade lasagna in there right now.

Jean said...

Have you checked out the site They have meal planners for freezing. I work full time and have two small children too. Cooking ahead is the only way we have decent meals during the week.

Kahla said...

I'm going to have to check out that other website Jean posted. Great idea, between karate, gymnastics, and fall ball on top of teaching, life gets crazy

Julia said...

So you need a few girlfriends and a solid Saturday but you can have meals for months if you want. There are grocery lists and overlap with the different recipes so you only buy what you need. I have friends who do 6 months worth at a time.