Hello my beautiful, wonderful bees!
Meat is generally the "hardest" part of a meal. You have to defrost it somehow, remember to take it out, it takes longer to cook than the veg, makes more clean up, and generally (to me!) seems a bit of a hassle sometimes. :)
However, precooked meat is a wonder of modern science :). It is quick, easy, economical.
Precooking meat, even if you do not do whole freezer meals, is one of the BEST ways to ensure you put a supper on the table.
If you have precooked sausage, a can of tomatoes, and boil some rice, you have a meal on the supper in the amount of time it takes to cook the rice! (sausage and tomatoes over rice)
If you have precooked chicken, a jar of alfredo sauce, a bag of broccoli or peas, and some dried pasta, you have a meal on the table in the time it takes to boil the noodles! (pasta alfredo with chicken and veg)
If you have precooked seasoned beef, some taco shells, and fixings, you have tacos in a flash.
Here are more:
Precooked chicken+cans of chicken broth+chopped frozen veg+noodles=chicken noodle soup
Precooked sausage (or slab bacon)+eggs=almost instant breakfast (or breakfast for supper)
Precooked steak or chicken strips+teryaki sauce+veggies+rice=stir fry
Precooked steak strips+veg+tortillas=fajitas
Precooked sausage+cheese+jarred sauce+veg+bread or crust=pizza
If you find that you end up going out for supper or getting junk for supper, may I suggest strongly that the first freezer stuff you do is precook some meat? ANY meat you have in the house will do: chicken, sausage, ground beef, roast, ground turkey, ground pork, etc. Then look at the list above and make a note of those or any other recipes that you have that might go with the meat you cooked. NOW you have almost instant supper for less time than it takes to run to the burger place, and with almost no effort! :)
So, how to precook meat? This is what I do....
I take the defrosted sausage/beef/chicken/whatever, season it if it needs it, and put it in a pyrex baking dish. I cover it tightly with tin foil and bake it at 350 until it is done. Depending on the meat and amount, it could take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour or more (a whole chicken will take longer than a lb of ground beef).
CHECK WITH MEAT THERMOMETER! When the internal temps reach the proper amount (I shoot for 170 in just about everything, but check), then take out of the oven. Cut chicken up if necessary, turn the sausage or meat to cool, etc. Cool for 15 minutes or so (do not leave out very long, you need to get it to safe food temp--below 40 degrees or above 140--within 2 hours).
At this point, if you have planned ahead, you can make some freezer meals (such as using the sausage in the lasagne). However, if you are not ready to do that, just put the meat in the freezer for a quick grab :).
To freeze, it is best to spread it on a thin layer on a pan and freeze, then put in baggies. However, I often just put straight into baggies but in thin enough layer for me to break off what I need.
If you get ready for this a day or so ahead, consider buying LARGE (like turkey size) disposable aluminum pans for cooking the meat in--it makes clean up at the end of the day a breeze! Keep putting meat in the oven, cooling a batch, freezing a batch. Soon you will have a ton of meat at the ready for those evenings where you do not feel like cooking, or you are short on time.
In the mornings, I make breakfast for Wonder Bee. I am SO tickled because I have this down to a science, so let me share :):
1) I turn on the small burner on hi and put a very small saute pan (8 inches across?) on it to heat up
2) I grab a very small handful of frozen sausage or about 4-5 pieces of chunked slab bacon and put it on the plate I am going to serve his breakfast on.
3) I put that plate in the micro for 30 seconds.
4) When it is done nuking, the pan is hot, so I then dump the meat in a little tiny saute pan
5) I brown it for a minute or two, then slide the meat back on the plate that I nuked it on.
6) I squirt the pan with about 3 squirts of olive oil, then put in two egg beaters (sometimes I get the flavored kinds) and scramble those.
7) I then put them on the plate too. Add a couple of shakes of black pepper, and voila!
In truly less than, say, 4 minutes, I have cooked a hearty, protein-y breakfast for Wonder Bee. He is happy, I seem to be both organized AND a dedicated cook (ha ha!), and we both start out the day content. :)