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In addition to her monthly Practical Pantry article, Debra Caffrey is the Editor of the Education and Infant E-newsletters for FredParent. She is the proud mom of a middle schooler. Debra is passionate about cooking, meal planning, and smart grocery shopping, and is excited to share her ‘Practical Pantry’ with you.

 

Practical Pantry

I’m not a huge fan of a big “Sunday cook,” where you cook, prepare and store food in advance for the entire week. But that’s just me. I say, whatever works best for you to both utilize ingredients and save yourself some time, go for it! I personally prefer to cook dinner fresh each night based on the main plan I create and shop for in advance. But either method is fine to avoid food waste and spending unnecessary money on impulse takeout. Although it’s not my preference to make enormous batches of casseroles and dinners ahead of time and freeze them for the future, I do still appreciate the benefits of my trusty freezer.

Storing food items, ingredients and leftovers in the freezer can be like magic—you are literally stopping time, which can help you save money on the things you have bought, as long as you eventually use them! Too often, the freezer is stocked with good intentions, but the contents are forgotten about. You can avoid this by constantly inventorying your fridge and freezer and planning future meals around what’s inside. It also takes a vow of commitment to make sure you decide you’ll eat that Tupperware container of leftover lasagna in the freezer for lunch rather than buying something new. But this kind of dedication is not hard, especially when you realize how much money you’re not spending when you focus on eating up what you already have!

HowLongWillFoodLast

In our house, the freezer serves as a tool that stops time on perishable ingredients we don’t want to waste (the last few strawberries that have gone mushy become a frozen ingredient for a future fruit smoothie!), but also houses certain items that help get us through the busy week. In particular, we love to stockpile breakfast items after cooking huge batches on a weekend. As much as I love to cook, I am not a morning or breakfast person, and luckily my husband happily embraces his role as the breakfast chef of the house.

Our son is a ravenous breakfast lover, preferring hot pancakes or waffles and bacon over cereal daily. This kind of meal can be hard for me to fathom so early on busy school mornings but using our freezer to store big batches of my husband’s weekend cook-offs of pancakes and Belgian waffles is a lifesaver. I can simply take a few out of the freezer and pop them in the toaster when we’re rushed for time and I’m morning-grumpy. We also regularly freeze batches of homemade French toast and breakfast muffins, too. Quite simply, it takes the guesswork out of busy weekday mornings while also providing a home-cooked hot meal! If you are still purchasing frozen pancakes and waffles at the store, consider investing in a good griddle and inexpensive waffle maker to create the same items at home for much cheaper!

In addition to our stock of breakfast items, I also like to freeze school lunch choices that also help me through the weeks when packing my son’s lunch, such as leftover pizza slices and soups. I recently started making homemade pretzel bread and balls and it has been a huge game changer for packed lunch options for my son, who is not a sandwich kind of kid. I simply make a big batch of them when I have time, then store them in a gallon-size freezer bag after they cool. On a weekday morning, I take a few out to thaw, then stick in the oven to warm through. I pop them in a thermos and my son can enjoy a hot and fun lunch. Here’s my easy recipe for homemade pretzel bites that you can enjoy fresh or freeze for later!

Freezer-Friendly Pretzel Bites

pretzelbites
● One package pizza dough, thawed at room temperature
● 1/3 cup baking soda
● 1 egg, beaten
● Coarse salt, for sprinkling

1) Preheat oven to 450 F.
2) Bring a small pot filled with 5 cups water to a boil. Add baking soda.
3) Roll small pieces of the dough into tiny balls. Drop into boiling water. Cook about 2 minutes or until slightly puffed. With slotted spoon, remove balls and place on paper towels. Transfer to greased baking sheets.
4) Brush balls with egg; sprinkle with coarse salt. Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until dark golden brown.
5) To freeze, allow to cool completely, then place in large plastic bag.
6) For re-serving, thaw desired amount completely, then reheat in oven at 350 F until heated through and soft again.

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