Wednesday, February 24, 2016

5 Tips for Homemade Convenience Food

     For those of us working on doing more of our own cooking for our families, there are lots and lots of unnecessary ingredients that we don't miss having in our foods.  Unfortunately, the one ingredient we do miss is convenience.  Ahhh... Remember the days of quick meals that required no prep work and a single dish?  Sure, the food tasted artificial and processed, and God alone knew what we were putting into our bodies, but it was so easy. 

     Have no fear!  I'm here to share some ideas to help you enjoy some easy nights like that again.  The difference is that the food is still homemade, by you.  You are going to be the kitchen superstar who plans ahead and creates her own convenience.  Doesn't that sound great?

Pre-packaged hamburger patties - that taste good!
  • Tip #1 - Hamburgers - You can go to the grocery store and purchase premade, frozen hamburger patties in a box for roughly double the price it costs to purchase the ground beef.  These patties are flavorless and have been moved from freezer to freezer for who knows how long before they finally reach your family's table.  Instead, why not buy a couple extra pounds of ground beef at the store to make your own easy frozen hamburger patties.  You know... ones that taste really good!  Just take a few moments to mix in your favorite seasonings and possibly some egg and bread crumbs (that's how I make mine), and then form them into patties.  Once your patties are ready, you can individually wrap them in plastic wrap, freeze them and store them all together in a large ziploc bag or tupperware container.  When hamburger night rolls around you can bring out however many patties you need and let them defrost in the refrigerator that day.  They taste so good, you will never want grocery store premade, frozen patties again.
  • Tip #2 - French Fries or Potato Chips - These tasty sides work on the same theory as the other suggestions I have.  Do most of the work before you freeze them.  You can parboil and run them through the first go-round in the fryer.  Instead of the finishing fry, bag them up and freeze them.  On dinner night they will need some time in the fryer or oven.  It works just like the frozen french fries you buy at the grocery store, except they cost roughly 1/4 as much.
Hamburger & hot dog buns ready to defrost and bake.
  • Tip #3 - Buns or Pizza Dough - Do you want to stop buying that creepy bread at the store that has a month long shelf life?  Really... Did you know that "day old bread" is an actual thing because bread is only fresh and soft for one day?!?!  Makes you wonder about Wonder Bread, huh?  But do you really have time to bake your own hamburger buns or pizza dough every time?  Of course you do!  Double the next batch you make!  Put half of it in the freezer for a day when you don't have time.  For hamburger or hot dog buns, work until the step where you have formed your dough into buns.  Instead of letting it rise the second time, freeze them.  Then you just wrap them in individual plastic wrap, or you can even skip that step and load them straight into a bag or a tupperware.  For pizza dough, work until you are ready to let it rise.  Wrap it up and put it in the freezer.  When you want fresh bread items for dinner, but don't have time (or the energy to clean the KitchenAid), you can just unwrap them to defrost and rise.  The only work on your part is popping them into the oven.
  • Tip #4 - Beef Stew - Would you love a delicious beef stew for dinner after a long day at work, but don't have the time to chop the potatoes, carrots and other ingredients before you leave in the morning.  No problem.  This is another one that can be packaged for convenience.  The next time you see some stew meat on sale (or even a nice roast), plan ahead and buy some extra.  Instead of storing the meat in the freezer as-is, take a few minutes to do some prep work.  Fill a tupperware or freezer bag with the meat, but don't stop there.  Add in your potatoes, carrots, seasonings, and broth - whatever you normally like in your beef stew (I put barley in mine).  With all of these ingredients in a single container, it's super quick and easy to start up the crockpot before work.  Run your ziploc baggie or tupperware under some hot water to release the dinner inside and let your crockpot do the rest.  You will come home to the wonderful smells of home cooking with none of the work or cleanup that you normally expect.
  • Tip #5 - Pre-Cut Meats - Grocery stores charge a fortune for the convenience of pre-packaged, pre-cut meats.  Have you seen the new fish fillets that come individually wrapped in single serving sizes?  Or how about chicken breast that has been cut down to the "perfect portion".  Save yourself some last minute work in the kitchen by doing some of this preparation for yourself.  The next time you buy a family sized package of chicken breast, cut it down for your needs before you put it in the freezer.  On nights when you are in a rush, skipping the step of having to cut the chicken into bite sized pieces or strips before you start cooking can be such a blessing.
     In my house, I try to do my meat shopping in bulk.  I like to go to the local grocery stores that mark their meat down when it's getting ready to go out of date.  The prices are much cheaper and I can afford to buy things that I otherwise wouldn't.  On these days, I find that by allowing a couple extra hours to get as much of the prep work out of the way as I can before everything goes into the freezer, I save myself time when the actually cooking is at hand.  And that little bit of preparation prevents any moments of wishing for the long gone days of packaged food from a box.

     Give it a try!  And let us know if you have any other suggestions for some homemade conveniences to add to our kitchens.


  1. I love pre-meal prepping. I so wish I had a freezer to buy in bulk my meats! I do however love buying ground meat and cooking it up in a large batch and then packing up the crumbles of beef into baggies for fast meals such as taco soup, meat for pizza,meat for pasta sauce etc. Now you have totally opened my eyes on the bread idea. I had no idea you could make it ahead of time and freeze it to bake later. I have got to try this! WOW

  2. Great idea on the pre-cooked ground beef. That might speed up a few of my recipes. I'll try that next time Tacos or Italian is coming up on the menu. Thanks Suzie!

  3. What does the egg do for the hamburger? I've heard of someone doing that, but I wasn't sure.

    Also, if you buy chicken at the store, buy it from the meat department. You are paying extra if you buy it in packets. They inject the chicken with extra water and salt.

  4. Hi Chip! The egg works as an emulsifier and helps make everything stick together well. (Good for meatloaf and potato pancakes too.)

    Thanks for the tip. I get my chicken at Sam's by the case. Yes, it's packaged, but at $1.59/lb I make up for the added weight. Plus, it's soooooo easy to just ask for a case.

    1. I did the same, but my wife says she can tell a difference between fresh and frozen (I can't).

      I might have to try that trick for some venison burger I have. It has virtually no fat in it, so it doesn't stick together as well as beef. Thanks!