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.   It wasn’t planned and it definitely wasn’t something I learned while growing up.   It was born out of necessity.  Our family was big into canning and freezing fruits and vegetables from the gardens we grew, buying in bulk, but not make-ahead-meals.   If only my Mom had known how much time freezer cooking would have saved her with our busy family and work schedule.   Her life would have been so much easier.

How I Started Once a Week Cooking

Many years ago both my hubby and I worked full time jobs, our son was playing hockey (our home ice rink was 40 miles away) and I started traveling to the UK quite a bit in my job.   My SuperMom Syndrome kicked in and took over! OF COURSE I could do it all.

The biggest problem was that I had to plan and cook ahead or we would be eating take out every night during hockey season (and it’s a long season).  Cooking ahead when I traveled made me feel less guilty about leaving my family for a week or 10 days at a time.   Meals had never been a problem prior to this as cooking was a stress reliever for me.   Meal planning was fun and I would read cookbooks cover to cover just like novels (okay… I still do).

It didn’t take long for me to start setting weekends aside and making up larger portions of some of our favorite recipes. We’d have one during the week and the rest would go into the freezer for another week when I was away. After a bit this became habit and a routine.

On hockey nights dinner was easy and when I travelled my hubby could easily get dinner on the table with the quick directions I’d leave written on the aluminum foil or freezer bag. Perfect answer and a real sanity saver.

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.  HELLO!  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 our busy times at work 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.  :)

Planning

Like everything else in life, planning is key. I’m a pretty structured person.   Drives my hubby nuts, but it is who I am.  I’m busy but love to eat a home cooked meal.

This is why freezer cooking has worked so well for me in recent years. While I love my lifestyle buzy go go … I don’t have to rely on takeout or eating out for all my meals. I have a list of meals available in the freezer at all times. This gives me an inventory of what’s in there and 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 a boat load of fun and something I do with some of my Pampered Chef Clients.

What the Heck Do I Freeze?

Well that’s an easy question to answer 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 sisters cook, can and freeze foods since I was just a tike.   Some things get ingrained in your head and you didn’t even know it. I read basic articles and I think DUH, but how long before it clicked that few others grew up this way?

Truth, quite a while.  When the knowledge is just there because it’s something you’ve always done, you don’t even realize it.  Hmm, what are you an expert at that you’ve never thought about?

Instead of writing them out here, here is 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 totally mucked it 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 all those that I 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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