Freezing helps food savers conserve time and money in the kitchen

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By Becca Owsley



By BECCA OWSLEY bowsley@thenewsenterprise.com ELIZABETHTOWN— Saving time, saving money and cooking up a good friendship are a great way to pass the afternoon. That’s what Susan Ryan of Elizabethtown and Shannon Rogers of Leitchfield do every two months. They get together and cook all day while saving money in the meantime. These ladies have found that it is cheaper to cook in bulk and freeze for later. For two years, they have met about every 10 weeks and line all their ingredients on the fireplace mantle in the kitchen to cook from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and cook 12-14 meals apiece. These 12-14 meals average in cost of $75 total which is less than $7 a meal. For Ryan’s family of four and Rogers’ family of five this method creates significant savings.  Ryan calls their cooking days “mini-counseling sessions” because they talk about life issues and glean advice from one another as they cook. They have been cooking so long together and have made some dishes so many times they can just dump the ingredients in without a recipe.   Freezing ahead of time not only saves time for food prep during the week it also comes in handy in helping other’s in a time of need. If someone at church is sick and needs help out with meals, Ryan said she can give them prepared meals with cooking instructions already on them for the family to eat at their own convenience. In fact, Ryan has been dubbed the “freezer queen” at her church. The duo got the idea for their cooking days when they went to Ready for Dinner in Louisville. The unique restaurant lets patrons prepare meals on site to take home and eat at a later time. They have learned many helpful hints to pass along to others who want to save money and save time on meals. - Learn how to wrap so things don’t get freezer burn — store in good freezer bags with excess air removed from the bag, wrap in aluminum, label with cooking instructions and then wrap in Saran Wrap. Make the item as flat as possible to store and thaw better. - Take advantage of meat sales and other sales to buy in bulk. - Cook meatloaves in muffin cups and freeze then to make quick individual servings. Pop the servings out when the kids get home from activities to have something ready to eat. - Shortcuts they have discovered are already chopped onions and veggies in the freezer section at the grocery that can be purchased for less than a dollar and cooking ground beef ahead of time and freezing for whenever ground beef is needed. - Cook sausage ahead of time and freeze to put in a quick breakfast casserole. - Clean out your freezer before hand. - Rogers grows her own herbs. - Mix the ingredients directly into the freezer bags so that there’s less clean up. - Online resources and the book “Once a Month Cooking” by Mimi Wilson and Mary Beth Lagerborg are helpful. “It’s a great time saver with kids,” Rogers said. With softball, gymnastics, guitar lessons and all the other activities busy families are involved in, these types of meals really help out when the family gets home. Meat-za-loaf (a Ready for Dinner recipe), manicotti and lasagna rolls are family favorites. Rogers created a recipe for Greek Meatloaf during the process of freezing meals ahead of time. “We have a lot of fun, it’s a good excuse to get together and chat for several hours,” Ryan said. “The conversations get pretty interesting,” Rogers said. They are able to get a variety of foods by sharing recipes and their kids always think it is a big surprise when they get home to see what they’ve cooked that day. With families active in sports and other activities are forced to eat out this method offers another alternative. “Seventy-five dollars for 14 meals, imagine how much it would cost if you went out,” Rogers said. Greek Meatloaves 1lb lean ground beef ½ to 1lb sausage 1 sm can chopped olives 1 can petite diced             tomatoes ½ package chopped             frozen spinach ½ cup chopped onion 1 tsp garlic 1-2 tsp Greek seasoning (Cavender’s) salt pepper 2oz crumbled feta cheese   Mix together ingredients (except cheese) in zipper lock bag. Place meat in muffin pans with small amount of Feta cheese in the center. Then bake at 350 degrees for about 20-25 minutes. Drain (if necessary) and let cool. Then freeze in plastic bag wrapped in aluminum foil. Pull out individually and heat in microwave until hot.   Makes approximately 18-24 servings. Serve with couscous and Greek salad. — Recipe from Shannon Rogers   Becca Owsley can be reached at (270) 505-1741.