Do you ever find yourself wondering what to make for dinner? Just not having the time or energy to cook? Or perhaps you want to make the most of a great deal in the supermarket? Then the answer might be meal kits, my favourite version of freezer “cooking.” This method lets you make a lot of meals very quickly, without slaving over a hot stove. Infact these 14 meals weren’t even made in my kitchen, I used the dining table since it’s bigger! They are all things that will go in the slow cooker so all I need to do is tip one in first thing and I’ll have a freshly cooked meal to put on the table in the evening. This is a brilliant way to get prepared if you’ll soon have a newborn, or any other time when you’re extra busy.

Step one – The Plan
The first step is to make a plan. I had lots of meat delivered at a discount price from Muscle foods so my plan was made around that. If you find a good offer on chicken it would make sense to include lots of chicken meals. I planned about two of each recipe, not so many that we would get bored of the same thing. Of course you will want to consider your family’s likes and dislikes, special diets and so on. No two families will want the same things! Be sure to note down which recipe books or websites you got your ideas from, it saves a lot of time later.

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Next I find it helps to put everything in one place, to save flicking backwards and forwards through all those different books. I just put the name of each recipe and a list of the ingredients. Having all my recipes on one or two pages really does make life easier. And from there you can write your shopping list. As well as the ingredients you will want to stock up on freezer bags to put all your meals in. I find that it’s worth buying slightly more expensive bags with zip type tops, but whatever you choose you definitely want freezer, rather than sandwich, bags.

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Step Two – Ready to Go
I have a really tiny kitchen so I actually do these meal kits at the dining room table instead, it just gives me a bit more space. It also means you can sit down while you work! If you plan to do the same you will need to gather everything together before you start, from ingredients to utensils. Don’t forget a bin bag for peelings and some kitchen roll or a cloth to wipe any spills up quickly, especially if you have a carpet.

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Step Three – Meat
I like to deal with all the meat first. Once that is done I can wash my hands and utensils really well then not worry too much about cross contamination. After all, a bit of carrot juice on the outside of a bag is very different to raw chicken. First I label all the bags with the name of the dish, the fact that it needs slow cooking, anything to be added later and the date. Then I get chopping. I do aim to keep one hand “clean”, for holding the knife, opening bags etc, and use the other for actually touching raw meat.

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You may find that meat goes a bit further as you chop it up. The chicken breasts I had were quite big so I allowed 3/4 per person instead of one each. Just chop away and divide between the bags. After the chicken I moved onto the other meat, which was already cut up. I had enough beef to do an extra meal which was a nice surprise! Then wash up, I swapped to a different chopping board as well.

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Step Four – Veg
I tend to do onion next since nearly every dish has onion in some form, then I move on through the other veg. You’ll probably find you waste very little since you can always squeeze those little bits and bobs in somewhere rather than putting them back in the fridge and forgetting about them. I do try not to put exactly the same mix in every meal though, just so we don’t get bored. This bit is quite fun as the meals start to look really colourful and it feels like you are making progress.

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Step Five – Sauce
Some of your meals are probably complete now, or nearly so. They might just need a splash of wine, a tin of tomatoes or a tin of soup to finish them off. Go ahead and complete them, seal the bags and set them aside. Add those ingredients to your other meals as well, nearly done!

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Step Six – Spices
The last things to add are the stock cubes, spices and dried herbs. Double check your list to make sure everything has been ticked off for every recipe. If you forgot to put the garlic in the creamy garlic chicken then now is the time to go back and add it.

Step Seven – Freeze
As you finish each meal zip the bag almost shut, leaving about an inch open. Then squeeze out as much air as you can before closing it completely. The food will keep much better that way and it takes up less space in the freezer. Pop all your meal kits in the freezer lying flat, so they freeze into a nice neat shape. If you want to you can stand them all up once they are solid, so you can flick through like you would a box of books and easily find the one you want.

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Step Eight – Eat!
When you are ready to use one of your meals just take it out of the freezer and leave in the fridge overnight to defrost. In the morning pour it into the slowcooker and turn on, your meal will be ready and waiting for you that evening with no effort at all. You could even use a liner so you don’t have to wash the pot!

Like the idea of hands-off cooking?

If the thought of having nothing more to do than opening a bag and throwing it in the slow cooker appeals to you then my Easy Family Foods course is exactly what you need. I’ll share my secrets to effortless meal planning and cooking without slaving over a hot stove. After all, you have so many other things to be getting on with!