I have always had great admiration for people that can 'Meal Plan'. Those that sit down on a Sunday and decide 'right, this is what we're having for dinner this week'. I can't help but wonder if they actually look forward to eating the meals each night, or whether they just do it because they know that the alternative would be a stress-fuelled panic, or another night of fish fingers and chips slung in the oven.
If you are anything like me, you may have tried meal planning, and failed horribly. Buying in ingredients and watching them go off, or actually making a meal, but really not fancying it when the time came to eat it. I don't really think it's our fault - everyone is so busy these days, by the time dinner rolls around, the thought of prepping, cooking AND tidying up afterwards is enough to put anyone off it. I quite simply, Can't Plan, and Won't Plan.
I went through what I thought was a really organised phase of 'batch cooking' where I would fill the freezer with ten or so different types of meals, with six to eight portions of each. The problem was, it took a lot of planning, and a lot of effort cooking, and I still got bored with what I had to hand!
Now you may be thinking, blimey, ten or so different meals! I only know how to cook three different things (according to a survey*, one in four of us only know how to cook three recipes, so if that's the case, you're really not alone!). But I only really 'knew' how to cook three or four of those dishes. The others I spent ages going back and forth through the recipes and getting confused with what I was doing. This is why I have been so focused on finding another way. On banishing complicated recipes and separating the prep from the cooking, so that I can save my energy for enjoying my food.
Why am I doing this? Well, you can check out the story of how The Full Freezer came about below, but part of my frustration over the last few years has been how much money I have wasted on 'sling in the oven meals', which made me 'feel' like I was cooking, but without me having to think, or do too much washing up.
I hate to think how much I spent on sweet potato wedges which I could have made quite easily myself (seriously, you just cut it up boil for five minutes then coat and chuck them in the oven. You can even make them in advance and cook them from frozen!). Back then, I thought that I was 'saving time', but the reality was that I was wasting ten minutes every day 'popping' in to pick something up for dinner. Over two years, I lost around five days standing in a check out queue!
The bottom line is that Supermarkets know that we're too knackered to cook, but that we like to feel like we have. It's not a surprise really that the range of ready to cook meals are so huge, or that ready meals are increasingly branded as 'luxury' items. By the time we 'pop in' to pick up dinner, we will have made nearly 35,000 decisions that day**. It's no wonder that we want something quick and easy! So Supermarkets are cashing in on our weakness. Some meals cost three or four times what they could be made for at home, and they never taste anywhere near as good.
So what I have worked to develop is a system to overhaul my bad habits and instil good ones. This process saves time, saves money, wastes less food and makes you feel flipping amazing because it allows you to eat something different EVERY night (if you so choose), without having to stress, or fight with an enormous stack of post cooking cleaning up. The key is using your Freezer effectively and using my secret technique to increase your meal variety without getting overwhelmed.
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