3 Meal Planning & Sous Vide Tips to Help You Save You Time & Money
1. Grocery Store Sales and Bulk Shopping
Step 1: Buy your meat, (or other freezable foods) in bulk
Bulk shopping and cooking has many benefits, the first being the ability to save money. If you buy wisely, you can save a lot of money on your food budget.
Buying family-sized packs of meat or larger packages from the grocery store is often more cost-effective than purchasing individual portions. Buy in bulk, on sale, and in season. Select vegetables that are less expensive and plentiful when in season at your local grocer or farmer’s market.
Finding time to prepare meals can be challenging for many people. Cooking in bulk allows you to prepare a large quantity of food at once, which can then be quickly and easily cooked when you're ready to eat.
With the convenience of preparing sous vide meals in advance, you can say goodbye to ordering takeout meals frequently and you’ll be the one dishing out the flavor-packed meals, and your guests will be begging for more!
Portion control is another benefit of bulk cooking. Whether you're cooking for one or trying to reduce your portion sizes, determining ahead of time how much you want to eat can help keep your portions consistent and ensure you only cook what you need at any given time.
All of these benefits result in increased convenience. Having pre-cooked meals ready in the freezer makes sous vide meal planning and last-minute meals much easier and more accessible throughout the week.
HINT: Look for sales on meat, produce, and dairy before holiday shutdown periods. Grocers like to clear out perishables before they close down, even if it's just one day
Even though it costs more up front, buying in bulk can save a lot of money on your food budget.
2. Freeze & Cook, or Cook & Freeze Process
Our personal favorite. Sous vide freezer meals offers the flexibility of preparing food ahead of time and cooking it later from either a refrigerated or frozen state. This is perfect for busy schedules, as you can cook batches of meat, fish, poultry, or vegetables at once, then quick-chill and freeze them for later use. By following a few easy steps, you can save time and still enjoy delicious, perfectly cooked meals.
Bagged season and uncooked food
Refrigerate up to 2 days.
Freeze up to 2 weeks
Bagged cooked food
Quick chill, and refrigerate up to 2 days
Quick chill and freeze up to 1 year for meats, and up to a few weeks for vegetables.
- Transfer desired portions into sous vide bags.
- Add a little salt, some other spices, and a little bit of olive or cooking oil (about one tablespoon per bag). For steak, for example, season with kosher salt and maybe a sprig of rosemary if it's an inexpensive cut, and a scant tablespoon of olive oil per steak.
- Label and date--you'll be glad you did.
There are two ways to use your freezer to your advantage:
Option 1: Cook - Freeze - Reheat
Season and bag. Cook your food in the sous vide. Quickly chill in an ice water bath for at least 30 minutes to cool down. Label the contents and date and freeze.
During the week when you're ready to eat. Reheat the cooked food from a thawed or chilled state at the cooking temperature for 45 minutes per inch of thickness. If reheating from frozen, add an additional 30-60 minutes. Sauce or sear the food, as usual, if desired.
Option 2: Freeze - Cook - Eat
Season and bag individual portions of meat, poultry, game, fish, vegetables or seafood. Label the contents and date and freeze the bags, uncooked, for use up to 6 weeks. Sous vide from thawed or frozen at the ideal cooking temperature, adding 30 minutes to 1 hour cooking time if cooking from frozen. Sauce or sear the food, as usual, if desired.
3. Left Overs
Our second personal favorite is savoring all the delicious left overs and making ready to go meals. Sous vide is awesome for heating leftovers. It would pay for itself even if this was all you ever used it for.
You can bag a variety of dishes such as soups (flash freeze method), casseroles, stews, lasagna, spaghetti, meatballs, mashed potatoes, carrots, broccoli, squash, and more. By making extra portions of your meals, bagging them into the fridge, you can save yourself time and effort in the future and potential boredom from eating every left over the next day.
Simply toss the left overs in sous vide pot and it will be ready to eat in about an hour. No more worrying about drying out or burning in the oven or hot spots from the microwave. It’s the easiest, most hands-off way to reheat food.
If you have a picky eater in the house, you can freeze their favorite meal in a vacuum bag and pop it in the sous vide when they're ready to eat, saving you time and hassle.
This is a great way to have delicious, homemade meals without spending too much time cooking every day. Additionally eliminating the possibility of another left over lost in the fridge only to be thrown away.
One more thing: Thawing
An Easy Solution for Your Meal Prep Woes!
Did you know that you can use your sous vide for thawing as well as cooking? Say you're in the mood for spaghetti with Italian sausage, but the sausage is frozen solid - no worries!
Pop it in a sous vide bag and place it in the circulating water. The water will rapidly thaw the meat, saving you time compared to traditional methods like soaking it in warm water. Plus, you don't have to worry about constantly changing out the water in your sink.
This nifty little trick can save you time and eliminate the need to plan ahead, making meal prep a breeze. Whether you're a meal prepping pro or simply hate the hassle of planning ahead, sous vide can make it easier for you to get a delicious dinner on the table in no time.
Just remember, safety first! Keep an eye on the time and temperature, as prolonged exposure to low temperatures (below 131F) can lead to bacterial growth.
Caution: Thawing meat quickly is a fantastic use for your sous vide--but don't forget about it in there! Remember the Danger Zone: leaving food at temperatures above 40F and below 130F for more than 4 hours can cause dangerous bacterial growth that can result in food poisoning and other serious conditions!
Bonus: Freezing, Storing, Cooking, Recycle
And let's not forget about the planet! Not only does this technique save time and money, but it also reduces plastic waste. Plus, you'll have fewer dishes to wash, making cleanup a breeze.
By reducing your use of plastic bags and containers, you're doing your part to help the environment. Every little bit counts, so by freezing and sous-vide in the same bag, you're making a small but significant impact.
To summarize and additional points to help reduce waste and save more:
Reuse sous vide bags when possible
Freeze and use same bag to sous vide
Buy in bulk: Purchase food items in bulk to reduce packaging waste.
Other options to sous vide: Mason jars, or just place eggs inside sous vide bath without any required equipment
- Many people assume that sous vide plastic isn't recyclable, but that's actually not true. While your waste management company may not accept them, you can still recycle them at participating grocery stores. Just look for the big bin where you can return plastic shopping bags for recycling and add your plastic storage, vacuum sealer, and sous vide bags to the mix. Make sure to rinse the bags out thoroughly before recycling them to ensure they're clean and ready for the recycling process. This is a game changer for environmentally-conscious sous vide enthusiasts! By being able to recycle your plastic bags, you can feel better about your cooking and help reduce plastic waste. Together, we can make a difference in creating a more sustainable future.
Final Thoughts: The Bigger Picture
This article highlights the benefits of using sous vide bags for easy, healthy meals that save time and money. By combining the freezer, and sous vide, you can enjoy home-cooked meals, reduce eating out, simplify meal planning, and save money on your food budget.
The formula to remember is Vacuum Bags + Freezer + Sous Vide = Easy Meals.