I keep seeing on social media this meme of an exhausted woman and the caption says “The hardest thing about being an adult is having to figure out what’s for dinner every day for the rest of your life.” Ha! I promise you that with a little time on ONE day every so often this common dilemma is much easier to deal with! In this blog, I’ll share what I’ve learned from several sessions of freezer cooking.
Freezer cooking is basically setting aside a few hours to do all the prep possible to get ready a set of meals that are then much easier to prepare when you need them. Three major reasons I like it:
It concentrates the mess into one day. You clean the mess up in your kitchen ONCE. Hurray! It will be kind of a big mess though. It’s fine!
It saves a ton of time during busy evenings. My three kids are currently in track, baseball, tumbling, religious education, and flag football. Our evenings are busy!
It saves us money and oftentimes helps us eat healthier. If I have a meal ready to go, we eat less takeout, spend less, eat healthier. I control the quality of ingredients.
The steps to freezer cooking are: make sure you have freezer space and basic supplies, choose recipes, purchase ingredients you don’t already have, set aside a few hours to prep (or less if you only do a few meals), prep the meals. Then use them as you like over several weeks. Repeat.
Basic supplies you need: gallon freezer bags or pans to freeze meals in and the ingredients
Here are the eight recipes I recently freezer cooked. I also used a completely unscientific and very subjective rating scale to rate how hard the meal is to prep. Mostly if the recipe requires a lot of chopping or ingredients it’s a little less easy.
Taco Chicken (easy)
Sweet and Spicy Hawaiian Meatballs (easy)
Beef Stew (medium)
Chicken Spaghetti (easy)
Pork Roast (super easy!)
Pork Carnitas (medium)
Prepping tips and tricks I have learned:
Print recipes and be SURE you have all the ingredients. Inevitably I am missing something I think I have. CHECK!
To save time and money, you can choose recipes with similar ingredients or make multiples of the same recipes. In other words, you can take these eight and make two of each. Then you can buy ingredients in bulk, there will be less waste, and it involves less thought. The more types of meals (meat varieties, bag v pan, seasonings, etc) you need the higher the degree of difficulty and the more time and planning it will take.
Get all the meat that needs to be cooked before it’s frozen going first. Put your chicken in the oven. Or, as my buddy reminded me multiple times – buy a rotisserie chicken and skip cooking the daggon thing all together. Brown the ground beef. Sear the stew meat. This will make sure the meat is ready when you are ready to assemble the recipes.
Assemble one recipe at a time. If I do multiple, I can’t focus and miss ingredients.
Wash and cut veggies for all the meals at once. I wash and cut as I need the veggies. I don’t take my own advice. I see where this could be helpful. I don’t know why I don’t do this. Maybe because then I know I’m adding one onion for example. If I cut five onions are cut and in a pile, how do I know how much one onion is? Same with sweet peppers, carrots and celery.
Freeze baggies on a flat surface with room to pull them out. You guys, I once froze several meals on a wire shelf in my freezer so tightly packed in that the liquids seeped between the grates and were stuck. Very hard to remove. Not cool.
Label meals and write cooking directions right on the meal! You won’t remember what is what. You won’t remember the directions (such as if you need to add some water when you cook it). Write it right on there! In permanent marker. 😉
Adapt a favorite recipe. You can probably freezer cook nearly any recipe. Just think about the prep steps you can take before freezing so it’s as ready to go as possible. Soups, stews and casseroles are the easiest to adapt. Be careful with chopped potatoes though. They turn brown while freezing if they aren’t emerged in liquid. Not good.
Have fun! Invite a friend. Have some wine. Play music. Involve your kids.
Let me know in the comments recipes you try and recipes, tips or advice you have learned if you are a freezer cooker too!