Thursday, August 7, 2008

Freezer Cooking 101


Freezer cooking has been an absolute sanity saver at my home. Not only does it save me lots of time and money, but it keeps away the awful 4 pm question "what's for dinner?" I used to really enjoy preparing our evening meals with much thought and creativity, but now with four young children in tow, this is just not the season of my life for that anymore. It's so great to take dinner out of the freezer to thaw every morning and know that dinner is taken care of. I simply add some potatoes or rice along with fresh fruits and steamed veggies and dinner is served.

What is freezer cooking?

It's just preparing meals in bulk for your freezer for dinners at a later date. It can be as simple as doubling your recipe at dinner time...eating one portion and freezing the other. If you did this every night for a week, then next week's dinners would be completely taken care of! Another method is to make one, two or even four weeks worth of meals at one time. My sister and I do this regularly...we like to make about 14-17 meals at one cook session that lasts about 4 hours. We put together a mix of beef, chicken, pork, and fish dishes so that there is variety. In the summer months these are usually meals for the grill. In the winter months we make a lot of Crockpot meals.

With gas and grocery prices being high right now, I have started using a new method that has become my favorite. I buy whatever meat is the "loss leader" at the grocery store that week or has been deeply discounted because they need to move it. Then I spend an hour or so that afternoon putting together 3-5 meals for the freezer with that meat. So I am not spending a lot of money and I am stockpiling meals for the future. Yesterday I found 5 lbs of ground beef at a huge discount and London Broil for 50% off. So I brought it all home and assembled:
  • Two London broils in marinades for the grill
  • 1 lb. browned ground beef for spaghetti sauce
  • Sloppy Joes
  • Cincinnati Chili
  • Crockpot Chili
Last week I got boneless skinless chicken breasts for $1.99/lb. So I assembled five meals for the grill in less than an hour. I also boiled some to have cooked chicken in the freezer for when I make soups or casseroles. When I see boneless pork chops or tenderloins on sale, I freeze a few in marinades for the grill or Crockpot.

Come up with some simple go-to recipes that your family enjoys and when that meat is on sale, buy it and make a few freezer meals! It doesn't have to be difficult or time-consuming. I store everything in freezer Ziplocs and use a Sharpie pen to label them. It doesn't take up much space in the freezer and I can't tell you enough the huge sigh of relief you will have when you know that you don't have to think about dinner. It's actually given me more opportunities to pursue creative interests in the afternoons because I know I don't have to go spend a long time prepping for dinner. And we aren't tempted anymore to eat out or grab a pizza...which saves us a ton of money and keeps us healthier!

Keep dinner simple...use your freezer.


photo by giori

12 comments:

Leslie said...

great idea...very impressive freezer.

Leigh Ishee said...

Wow is that your freezer?

Missus Wookie said...

We love freezer cooking here too - it is so nice not to have to make one more decision at the end of the day :) That is an impressive freezer!

{ Kiddos & K9s } said...

i love this idea of freezing meals... I just need a freezer! The one we have is just too small... I'd love to hear about some of your marinade recipes, too. And any thoughts on meals to take to others??? I get so stumped on that... tired of taking the same 'ole casserole...

AIMEE said...

no no no y'all! This is not my freezer!!! It's my DREAM freezer!! I have been dying to get a chest freezer for years but not yet!
I have a regular side by side frig/freezer...not a lot of space by any means. But 14 meals in freezer bags lying flat does not take up much space at all.
Yes, I'll share some great marinades later today! I have a few that we have really loved for years. My newest favorite dish for "taking to others" is Sesame Chicken...I get great responses to it and others always want the recipe. It's always easy to throw together to freeze so you just need to thaw and it cooks under the broiler for only 15 minutes and it's done!

AIMEE said...

Also, buying and cooking a spiral-sliced ham is great to take to others too...we keep half for us and give the other half and people love love it. The leftover ham is great to cube to make a Ham, Potato, and Cheese Soup that's delicious.

Pieces said...

Very encouraging and challenging. I tried a cooking once a month thing a few years back and it took two whole days to prepare everything they said to prepare. I like your approach much better. I should give it a try.

How do you handle thawing? Do you take a few things out each week? The day before?

AIMEE said...

Yes Pieces...I did the "Once a Month Cooking" book too and it was too labor intensive, exhausting, and wasn't food that we really liked. My sister and I have learned what things freeze well and what doesn't. We do easy meals for the freezer and cook harder meals in real time. Does that make sense?
I usually pull the meal out of the freezer the evening before (when I am cleaning up) and put it in the frig to thaw for 24 hours.

The Mangerchine's said...

Okay you have me interested, any cookbooks to recommend?

Shannon

AIMEE said...

Shannon,

The best recipes I have found for freezer cooking are simply found on the internet. I have "Don't Panic: Dinner's in the Freezer" but it seems like a lot of the recipes are too expensive for me right now. I also have Once A Month Cooking, but don't love the recipes. I love Leanne Ely's website Saving Dinner because she has simple delicious recipes and doesn't charge you a lot for them.

Lelia said...

Love this post, of course. I was just talking with my "freezer cooking girlfriend" a few hours ago and we are planning our next session, but I need to have your attitude about meat specials and just buy them when I see them.

Connie Naresh said...

Hi,
There are so many benefits to having a freezer. I think its a modern day Proverbs 31 'maiden' who helps us with our food.

I like to Team Up with my friends and freezer cook. And have written a manual that might be helpful for others who Team Up to Freezer Cook.

www.dinnercoach.com is my site.