There is no time I love my freezer more than now, in the dead of winter. Strange, I know, but let me explain. Early in the winter I am full of idealistic energy. No snow flurries will keep me from canceling dinner plans or even a 6-mile Central Park run on an early Sunday morning. No 50-mile an hour winds will derail a shopping expedition by foot to pick up ingredients for cooking a Saturday night dinner at home.
Fast forward to now, early March, and I’ve just about had enough. It might not even be that cold but the idea of trekking in icy rain to pick up food for dinner just to schlep it home in my rigid rubber boots often doesn’t seem worth the effort.
Enter my frozen savior. No, lazy people, I’m not talking Lean Cuisine. I’m talking about all those bits and pieces of long simmered sauces and stews I’ve been storing up for just this sort of dreary, frigid, rainy day.
You see, when other people might have thrown out that single serving of beef stew after they tired of eating it for several days straight, I freeze it. When there is just enough ragu left for one person and John and I clearly can’t share, I freeze it, and save the sauce to reheat some day when he isn’t in town. (Or I suppose I’d be willing to share if he wanted to eat it some night when I’m not around.)
It is not too late to get on board with this idea. After all, not everyday is so cold to cause shopping and cooking paralysis. And even when the temperatures rise, there will be plenty of April showers ahead likely to keep you indoors.
Step 1: Choose a recipe that will freeze well. Ragu, stew, lamb shank, any dish that requires a long simmer will hold up well for freezing and reheating.
Step 1.5: Adjust quantities if necessary to ensure leftovers.
Step 2: Pick a day to cook when time is no object, say, a lazy Sunday afternoon. Put the pot on to simmer then go about your other business- Spring clean, read War and Peace, knit a sweater- and in a few hours, without much effort from you aside from the occasional stir, dinner is done.
Step 3: Eat heartily.
Step 4: Take the remainders and portion them into single serving containers. Label each with the dish and the date- this will prevent mystery meats from lurking too long in the nether regions of the freezer.
Step 5: Wait for the perfect day when you are down and out from the cold, not knowing what to do about dinner, getting ready to order in, then voila! Inspiration. Open the freezer and rediscover a home cooked meal, made by you, weeks, maybe even months before. If your pre-cooked frozen dinner doesn’t quite save you from a cold, rainy day, it will at least spare you from another take-out dinner.
Amy Powell is a food and travel writer based in New York City. She is a graduate of Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration and the French Culinary Institute. Follow her on Twitter @amymariepowell