Overwhelmed by the number of choices offered in the grocer's meat case? All the different cuts, packaging types, weights and prices? Then there are the marketing claims: natural … organic … grass-fed … without added hormones … and the list goes on.

The llis County Extension Office will offer the workshop Freezer Meals From the Meat Case from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Monday at Messiah Lutheran Church, 2000 Main in Hays. Participants will learn what the various meat labels, cuts and claims mean in order to feel confident they are choosing the safest and most economical meat choices for their family. Instructors are Jamie Rathbun and Erin Petersilie, Extension agents in Midway and Walnut Creek Extension districts, respectively.

After the presentation, class members will assemble two main dish freezer meals featuring different types of meat. Each meal makes four to six servings and can be cooked in the oven, slow cooker or pressure cooker.

The cost is $15 per person and includes the workshop training materials; ingredients, recipes and cooking instructions for the freezer meals; and supper at the workshop. Register by Friday at the Cottonwood District Extension Office, 601 Main in Hays, (785) 628-9430. Thanks to Ellis County Farm Bureau for co-sponsoring the class.

The freezer meal method of cooking has many benefits. First, it saves time on busy nights. This method features a concentrated cooking session to prepare several meals at once and store in the freezer. Those meals are then ready to reheat or finish cooking when time is limited for preparing a meal from scratch.

Also, it saves money. Busy schedules often lead to eating out, which is more expensive than a home-cooked meal. Having a prepared entree that you can simply put in the slow cooker, oven or microwave saves money and preparation time.

Providing a healthy meal is another benefit of this cooking method. When you prepare the recipes yourself, you are in control of the ingredients and ultimately what your family is eating. Eating at home allows you to incorporate more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lowfat dairy products into family meals.

Another benefit of having meals in the freezer is that it increases one’s capacity for hospitality. You can more easily invite guests to share a meal in your home when you have a freezer meal on hand. You also will be better prepared to take a meal with someone in need — after a death or a hospital stay or when there’s a new baby in the family.

Perhaps the greatest benefit of the freezer meal preparation method is it can encourage families to eat meals together. Family meal time provides benefits beyond the nutrients in the food — it is an important strategy in child development and strengthening the family bond. Children who eat meals regularly with their families have improved language and literacy skills and achieve higher test scores. Additionally, the more often children eat meals with their families, the less likely they are to choose unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, drinking and drugs.

There are many advantages of having freezer meals on hand for busy nights. Plan to join this Extension workshop Monday night to make the most of your meat purchases for meals to put into the freezer. RSVP by Friday so we can include supplies for you to join us. Register and pay fee at the Extension office in Hays, (785) 628-9430.

Linda K. Beech is Cottonwood District Extension agent for family and consumer sciences.