Introduction: How to Eat Reasonably Well Without Spending a Lot of Time and Money

If you live alone, there's a temptation to just grab something to eat when you're hungry. Preparing a meal is time-consuming and you end up eating leftovers for days. So, you end up eating junk food, take-out or restaurant food. Great, now you're fat, unhealthy and alone.

This Instructable contains a few tips on how to avoid that. I'm not saying you can eat like a king on pennies or anything but it sure beats the drive-thru.

Step 1: Get Some Containers

What you're looking for are containers that are freezer/microwave/dishwasher-safe and are about the size of a single serving. These are 24oz Glad containers. I use them for most meals. They're also reasonably transparent so I don't have to worry about labeling.

Step 2: Cook Some Meals

Initially, you're going to need a few meals made up-front. I started with six that I cooked over a weekend. Most meals work out to about six servings, so I ended up with more than a month's worth of dinners.

Some foods work well, others not so much. You'll be cooking, freezing and reheating them, so you'll have to work with foods that can take that kind of punishment.

Stuff that works well
- casseroles and stews
- pork chops, pork roast
- pot roast
- roast chicken
- lasagne, rigatoni, tortellini
- curry

Stuff that's passable
- burgers, meatball sandwiches
- steak, prime rib
- shrimp
- fried chicken

Definitely no-go
- fish
- baked potatoes

Try to come up with a bunch of meals that a) you'll eat, b) are reasonably heathy and c) freeze well. It's not as hard as you might think. Also try to think up a wide variety of dishes. You don't want to eat the same thing over and over.

Step 3: Divide and Freeze

Once you've made up a meal, divide it up into containers. Try to put in only as much as you think you'll eat at a sitting. You don't want leftovers. Keeping the portions small also helps you avoid overeating.

Stack the containers in the freezer. You'll need room in your freezer for a few dozen containers. I've got mine split onto three shelves to make it easier to access each type.

Step 4: Keep Two in the Fridge

Try to keep at least two portions in the fridge. When you reheat one, move another from the freezer to the fridge. This makes sure you always have one thawed. It also gives you a choice, just in case really don't feel like curry and yellow rice today.

Step 5: Reheat and Eat

Pop a container in the microwave for a couple minutes and dump it on a plate. Wouldn't hurt to arrange it on the plate a bit. Sit down and have a nice dinner.

The dinner pictured here is pot roast with potatoes, carrots, green beans and gravy. The total cost was about $10 (I got a good deal on the roast). I was able to divide it into 5 containers, for a per-meal cost of $2.

It took me about 2 1/2 hours to make but only 30 minutes of that required my physical presence (the rest was simmering time). So, divided over 5 portions, that's 6 minutes per.

A couple of additional tips:

1. Try to find a nice, inexpensive wine. You don't have to drink it every night but it really does make the meals more appealing.

2. Find a good local salad bar. Most grocery stores have them. Every few days, drop by and load up a container. It'll last you three or four days.

3. Keep some fresh fruit around. Apples and bananas are reasonably durable. You can eat these as snacks or as dessert. I'm not saying you have to give up junk food altogether but it helps to have an alternative on hand.

4. As you use up portions, make new ones. Figure on making a new batch about once a week. You can always skip weeks and make two batches next time. Just be sure to keep a running inventory.

Comments

author
acesnanna (author)2009-03-13

This is a very good idea...us Grandparents who raised big families, and still cook like they had four teens..... can really get behind this! Thanks Ace's Nanna

author
TippyStClair (author)2008-08-27

Very good advice.

author
dizzydave (author)2007-06-25

I find freezing tends to mess with the texture of meats after they're cooked--i do my freezing the other way around--buy your meat in bulk, then divide into single serving portions, pour in marinade, add veggies, and freeze in freezer bags. The day before you're going to cook it, let it thaw in the fridge--it will marinate as it thaws, and end up being delicious. Just separate the veggies from the meat so you get the cooking times right. This is especially great if you like to do shish kebabs or stir fries.

author

This is what we used to do. There's an international reasteraunt butcher who we'd take an order from, drive 4 hours up the coast from the butcher's HQ to where i live, and load it all into the freezer. then, in a week or two, the power would go out (or the freezer would break) and it would all go off. I'm just not dedicated enough. Alot of my mates do their own kills or get them done in town, so it's more like, feed and raise and nurture daisy and babe, load them into the horsebox, drive to local butcher, who will bolt carve and bag the animal, bring home and load said dead pet into freezer; BUT they all have backup generators to ensure babe and daisy do get eaten. My point was the backup generator thing with the not being dedicated enough bit. Other than that I forget my point. My diet of leftover takeaway curry and lasagne with stolen bread isn't keeping me perky. Ughh. Sorry to waste you're reading time. Goodnight.

author
Subvert (author)dizzydave2007-08-06

Yeah, this method rocks too. SO much flavor in marinating. It makes such a huge difference that you can impress people in no time, with very little effort.

author
pacey_waring (author)2008-05-16

this is a great instructable! Now, for the million dollar question- is my lazy butt gonna get motivated enough to pull it off? That remains to be seen...

author
I Am An Evil Taco (author)2008-05-16

It's an ok method, but I agree about the meat and some meats (chicken for example) can't have this done. great for sauces though, and pasta in general. I more support what someone else said about the marinades. Personally, I break down recipes so I can make smaller portions, and get recipes that allow me to just feed me when need be. Alfredos and such. But, I'm a foodie and professional cook. Cooking takes me no time and calms me down.

author
sambo2476 (author)2008-01-12

When my parents would go on holidays mum would worry about me that i would just eat junk food so she would make up enough food for while they were away in little freezer containers like this makes it soo easy. Lasagna, most spaghetti, fried rice and work well With meat i like to use the other option someone suggested. Buy the meat in bulk and divide it into meal size, freeze then cook it when you need it

author
Subvert (author)2007-08-06

An old roommate of mine usually did this on a limited scale. She'd make at least enough for that night, and then box up lunch for the next day and refrigerated it. Everyone at her workplace was always drooling over some great lunches. This is a great idea to expand the idea by freezing and making bigger batches. As far as issues with losing flavor and texture by freezing... Well, obviously you haven't experimented enough to work out these issues. And losing some flavor from a very high level is a damn lot better than starting off with no flavor and spending too much money on food.

author
Alexdc (author)2007-06-22

Cool Instructable. I would only advise against microwaving food in plastic containers. You just don't know....

author
canida (author)Alexdc2007-06-23

Agreed on all counts. Aside from any questions of potentially leaching xenoestrogens from the plastic, microwaving will definitely shorten the life of your freezer containers. I recommend flipping the food out onto your plate before nuking.

author

Yes! I have some cheaper plastic containers that one can purportedly microwave food in. Not so; the food clearly is filled with unpleasant tasting/smelling compounds from the container. Storing and pouring completely eliminates this problem for me. Or you could just spring for some tupperware.

author
ramedia (author)2007-06-30

I don't recommend this at all. Freezing food kills a lot of flavor and texture. If you are going to freeze, you should be wrapping things in freezer paper so the items do not get freezer burn. Also, microwaving is not a good way to cook food. It is a convenient way, but in the end a terrible way. It turns most meats into rubber. Freeze, then microwave is a solution that only our society would come up with.

author
Yerboogieman (author)ramedia2007-07-03

hey if you eat McDonald's you'll be peeing out your ass

author
Pal (author)2007-06-27

This is a great way to save time and money. http://www.30daygourmet.com/ is a site that focuses on this concept, where you do a full month of cooking over a day or weekend and freeze it all.

author
Cheyyne (author)2007-06-24

This a beautiful common-sense idea. It's highly efficient and you get a very long return for a relatively short amount of work, not to mention enjoying basically low-priced meals. Bravo! Bravissimo!

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