Homemade Convenience Food
“Bye! See you tomorrow!” We waved as the van pulled away from the gate. Our first overnight outing in Belize was over. We picked up the suitcase and our two small children and went into a house that did not feel like home.
“I’m hungry.” Tasha started to cry, and I felt like crying too. It was Saturday night, and after living in Belize for two weeks, we had just gotten home from three days of teachers’ training. We were exhausted from all the new experiences, and ready to relax. But we were hungry, and what were we going to eat?
What would I make if we were still at home, as in our Pennsylvania home? I could have heated up homemade canned soups, there probably would have been lunch meat in the fridge for sandwiches, maybe we’d have had some deer sticks and a block of cheese for finger foods. We had none of those things here in Belize.
I opened the freezer and peered in. There were some chicken pieces—should I start thawing them, then add an hour for them to bake? Hardly. There was really only one quick thing to make—eggs. So I pulled out the frying pan and chopped some onions and peppers to make the eggs a little more interesting. How many times had we eaten eggs for breakfast, lunch, and supper in the last two weeks? I’d lost count.
Homemade Convenience Food
“There are no convenience foods,” I complained to one of women from church shortly after our eating-eggs-again incident. “There’s nothing to quick put on the table.”
“Sure there is,” she said. “Hot dogs and Ramen.” She winked. “But if you have cooked beans and tortilla balls in the fridge, you have a lot of meals there.” And so began my quest to find homemade convenience foods to put in my freezer.
There are different motivations for wanting to have your freezer stocked with homemade convenience food. Cost is one. In Belize, one freezer-burnt pizza costs the same as two fresh, hot meals of rice and beans, fish, and salad from a food stand. But for those who live in the States and can pick up a can of ravioli from the bent-and-dent store for $.10, the motivation may health since most packaged convenience food is full of additives and preservatives and has little nutritional value. This is a list of convenience foods I’ve come to rely on when I need something quick to serve my family.
Unfried balls of tortilla dough can be stored in the fridge for several days. Pull them out and let them warm up a few minutes before patting them out or flattening with a press. Tortillas can be used for quesadillas or egg burritos or they can be eaten as they are with beans.
Cooked beans will keep in the fridge for about a week. I like to make a couple pounds of dry beans at a time—two pounds fits perfectly in my 5-quart slow cooker—and freeze the extra since thawing them is far quicker than cooking them.
Mash the beans (or blend in blender), season with garlic, fried onions, and spices such chili powder, cumin, oregano, and paprika. Eat with tortilla chips and fresh salsa.
Spread mashed beans on half a tortilla, sprinkle with cheese, fold in half, and fry for quesadillas.
Granola or other cereal
Occasionally just have cereal for supper. We prefer to eat our granola with yogurt, another homemade staple.
Smoothies are a favorite snack-supper. Adding ingredients like yogurt, coconut milk, and chia seeds to your smoothies can make them more filling and nutritious. I often squeeze some orange juice into our mango smoothies. The natural sweetness takes away the need for any added sugar.
Use homemade bread for French toast. Or the children love when we have peanut butter and honey sandwiches.
A container of cooked chicken contains endless meal possibilities. Add it to some rice and vegetables for fried rice, eat it with your tortillas, or sandwich it between those slices of homemade bread.
This one may be a cheat since I am a miserable failure at rolling out pie crusts, but occasionally I have someone help me who is willing to roll them out. I love to have a stack of crusts in my freezer for quiches or pies. While quiches need an hour to bake, and pudding pies need a lot of time to cool, the hands-on time is minimal.
We recently returned from another week of teacher meetings. This time a stocked freezer waited for me—and no tears.