(Family Features) If busy nights have family and friends eating at different times, the freezer can be your greatest asset. With a little planning and some freezer space, you can create great meals for yourself in no time.
Buy in Bulk - One great way to save yourself time and hassle is to purchase items you'll use again and again in bulk. Breads, meats, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds all store well in the freezer. Purchasing these ingredients in bulk, and freezing them in small quantities will allow you to grab and thaw what you need, when you need it. Resealable freezer bags are a great way to store small portions flat, so they stack up neatly and won't take up a lot of room.
Batch Cook - Cooking several options at once is a great way to ensure you'll save time throughout the busy week. Spend a weekend afternoon cooking your favorite soups, stews or casseroles. Then divide them up into single serving portions and freeze. Write the date and contents on each package, and as you add food to the freezer, move older packages to the front, so you don't forget about them. With the freezer, you can avoid purchasing fast food or foods heavy with preservatives.
Take Advantage of Convenient and Delicious Meals - An even easier and more time efficient way to cook for one is to prepare tasty, fuss-free, and preservative-free meals such as new Stouffer's® Farmers' Harvest® steam meals-for-one. With these flavorful steam meals that are available in five varieties, you can enjoy the freshly-prepared taste of crisp vegetables, tender premium meats, indulgent sauces, and perfectly steamed pastas that are ready in minutes.
Buy Versatile Ingredients - Sometimes all you need for a week's worth of great food are a few key items that can be adapted to fit your favorite meals. Chicken and other lean meats can be stored in your freezer until needed and are great in soups, quesadillas, casseroles, salads and more. Frozen mixed vegetables can be included in pot pies, stews and as a side dish. Make sure you stock your spice rack with seasonings that can help kick up your dishes.
Plan for Spontaneity - Having a well-stocked freezer and pantry lets you create a delicious recipe whenever the mood strikes. Keep a variety of pastas and rice on hand, along with canned tomatoes, beans, broth, cheeses, herbs and spices. You'll become a weeknight gourmet cook in no time.
To learn more about the flavorful Farmers' Harvest steam meals for one and other entrees from Stouffer's, visit www.stouffers.com.