Freezer Cooking

spaghetti

Don’t Be Overwhelmed By Freezer Cooking

I know you can tell by the site name that I’m into freezer cooking and meal planning. I only see how it happened by looking back, way back. It wasn’t planned and it definitely wasn’t something I learned while growing up. My family was big into canning and freezing fruits and vegetables from the gardens we grew, but not make-ahead-meals. My Mom’s never been big on cooking and isn’t too adventurous. If only my Mom had known how much time freezer cooking would have saved her with our busy family and work schedule.

Thankfully, I stumbled into it. I liked to cook growing up. My brother and I were really into sports so before I moved out you can imagine how big meals were. Even though it was just the four of us, I ate enough for 3 people. Honestly, I was dating my husband in high school. He was a defensive lineman and played in college too. I out ate him by a lot. Damn, I miss that metabolism! Flash to overnight I’m cooking for just the two of us. I was cooking the same dinners I grew up making so there wasn’t a recipe I was reading. It was just memory. And memory meant making a TON of food.

Oh my the amount of food we’d end up with in our itty, bitty house. We’d have the same meal for lunches and just out of necessity I would toss it in the freezer. There could be no waste, we were in college, we were lucky we had any food. lol But I seriously got tired of the same meals all the time. I’d cook once and we’d eat it for about 3 days if I didn’t freeze it.

Now, I was freezer cooking by accident and I kept it up for decades here and there as I learned to scale my recipes back. It was never really planned, I just got lucky. Thankfully in 2006 when I went back to college it smacked me upside the head. On days I was extra busy (umm, total oxymoron between work, full time school and young family), my life was much easier when I reheated leftovers or could have my daughter pop a lasagna in the oven. I started freezer cooking on purpose and this led to learning many things I’ve been sharing over the years here.

What’s best? Cooking Monthly or Weekly?

There’s more than one way to freezer cook. You aren’t limited to cooking once a month or week. There have been plenty of times I’ve just cooked every night for 7 nights and double or tripled up my recipe. Then I toss the extra portions into the freezer. Bam, there’s another 7-14 meals.

chicken noodle soup

Photo courtesy: brandijordan

I love to do a mix of everything. It really depends on the amount of time I have to cook and if I’ve gotten a killer deal on something. For instance, when whole chickens went on sale then I set up a chicken cooking day and saved a ton of money. However, this chicken cooking day has been repeated often. This is when favorite recipes really help the freezer.

Obviously, I’m partial to the weekly meal plan so I can cook more often. I love to cook, time just doesn’t always allow me to do it daily. This way I get my cook on and keep my sanity while running around with a busy family. Because while I love to cook, no one wants to cook at the last minute when nothing is available. Stopping at the store for groceries ends up in a minimum of $40 now with all the garbage we’ll add to the cart.

I’ve done some once a month cooking or OAMC but not extensively. It has really saved me during wrestling season when I don’t have energy to cook even once a week. I’m working on some plans to share from that. Right now, I just toss a list of meals together with what sales are going on for the time I’m cooking. Which means as long as the same meats are on sale every December and January you could save a ton from the same meal plans lol

Planning

Like everything else in life, planning is key. I’m a very sporadic person and I love that about my personality. It also fits our lifestyle well. Hubby is a firefighter and on his days off if he wants to run off somewhere for errands, shopping or to hang with friends then I’m right there. But, someone needs to cook dinner. Those darn kids want to eat. lol

This is why freezer cooking has worked so well for me in recent years. While I love to be able to run off and do anything at any time, I don’t have to rely on takeout or eating out for all my meals. I have a list of meals on the freezer at all times. This gives me an inventory of what’s available to thaw out.

I take meals out to thaw 24-48 hours before we’re going to have them. If we run off for the day it’s no big deal. I know what we’re having for dinner, how long it takes to reheat and what sides I need to make to go with it. 30 minutes tops is all I need to get it on everyone’s plates. Which is necessary if you’ve ever had a teen come home from a sports practice. Then we aren’t grabbing take-out and spending a ton of money eating out, let alone the unhealthy options that can lead to.

You can even plan on getting together with others and having a freezer cooking party. That is definitely in my ideas bank, just haven’t had time to put it together. I have access to local commercial kitchens so I’m sure with a donation to the organization we could get a class or two together.

What the Truck Do I Freeze?

Well that’s an easy one for someone that’s been freezing foods all her life. It’s funny how you realize what makes you an expert. I’ve been helping my Mom, Grandma and Great-Grandma can and freeze foods since I was born. Some things get ingrained in your head and you didn’t even know it. I read basic articles and I’m all, DUH, but how long before it clicked that few others grew up this way?

Truth, quite a while. lol When the knowledge is just there because it’s something you’ve always done, you don’t think of yourself as an expert. There was no certificate saying I had training. No boring classroom to check in to. What there was? Decades of doing. Boom baby, decades of doing. That’s what you earn with those birthdays sometimes. Hmm, what are you an expert at that you’ve never thought about?

Instead of writing them out here, I wrote a post about some of the best foods to freeze. I’d love to hear back about foods you’ve had good luck with or poor luck even. Sometimes it’s not the food, it’s the combination that did it. 3 ingredients rock for freezing but that fourth ingredient in the dish just mucked it the hell up.

There are a ton of recipes that are perfect for the freezer and they don’t have to be casseroles. While I don’t understand the aversion to casseroles I do understand that many people have the aversion. The majority of recipes on the site will work for freezer cooking. I give specific instructions on the recipe for doing so when I add a recipe. At least those that I have added since 2010.

Storage

I think how you store your food in the freezer is one of the most important aspects. Why put all that work into cooking if it’s just going to end up freezer burnt and dry?

How you store your food is going to depend on the amount of space you have and what food it is. I have a few resources for you to check out and get a lot more info.

Freezer Cooking Storage Tips
Must Have Freezer Supplies Checklist
Maximize Your Freezer Space
and
Proper Freezer Containers

While I’ve been freezer cooking for so many years without knowing it, I’m always a work in progress. With every new ingredient and every new dish I learn something. I guess that’s the thing about working in a field you love. Learning is FUN and you want to share!

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