This post is part of The One Hour Project, in which you can spend just one hour to put your finances in a better place without a big lifestyle change, through frugality or other financial choices.
One of the biggest challenges for most people when it comes to cooking at home is the time; a busy lifestyle often puts people in a position where they would rather just go home, flop on the couch, and eat whatever takeout or delivery food they have on hand or just microwave a meal. The only problem with this (aside from potential unhealthy eating) is that it’s very expensive, often more expensive than you think.
One great solution to this problem is to save up meals in the freezer that can just be popped in the microwave at your convenience. I wrote about recipes for once a month cooking before, but doing that usually requires an entire weekend. Instead, it might be worthwhile to just invest an hour preparing a lot of a simple but tasty dish and putting most of it into Ziploc bags that can easily be microwaved for a tasty meal.
So, here’s an example of one. I took one of my favorite casserole recipes (which is just a specific variation on the do-it-yourself casserole recipe) and multiplied all of the ingredients by four. I did this very thing just a few days ago and it took about forty five minutes; I wound up with a meal for my family and five Ziploc bags with enough in each one for the three of us (not counting my daughter yet because she’s a long way from table food) to eat a meal.
What You Need
4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3 cups Minute Rice
1 pound to 20 ounces broccoli florets
3 cups chicken stock and 2 1/2 cups milk or 4 cans cream of chicken condensed soup and 4 cups water
3 cups shredded cheese (your choice of flavor, I like monterey jack)
1 teaspoon oil (optional; it makes the chicken cook better)
fresh ground pepper to taste
several freezer Ziploc bags
What You Do
Chop up the chicken breasts into small pieces, small enough that a normal bite of food would include one piece of chicken along with some other stuff. Put the chicken breasts and the oil (if you’re using it) into the largest pot you have, then crank up the heat and lightly brown the chicken (the chicken pieces should be very white with hints of brown here and there on them). Add the broccoli and the liquid ingredients and the pepper and bring it all up to a boil. Just as it boils well, dump in the rice, stir it around, then remove it from the heat for five minutes. After five minutes, add all of the cheese and stir until the cheese is thoroughly melted. Eat what you wish, then bag up the rest into appropriate meal-sized quantities – if you live by yourself, this may be as many as eight to ten bags – for a family, it will be much less. Pop the bags in the freezer.
Then, whenever you want to eat the stuff again, yank out a Ziploc bag, put the food into a bowl, and microwave until it’s gently steaming. I like to put a bit more cheese on top, but that’s up to you.
What about the chicken stock? It’s not really necessary, but I find that chicken stock is one of the most delicious liquids on earth. I like to occasionally prepare a large batch of it for my own use for cooking, but it is not vital for this recipe in any way.
This whole process takes an hour, is very cheap (the ingredients can easily be had for under $15 total), and can make a ton of meals. The cooking isn’t complicated and the reheating is very simple, too. Why not spend an hour and make yourself a batch?