This post is specifically for my friend, Becca, and for all those other moms out there who are trying to get started with the Freezer Cooking thing. I LOVE LOVE LOVE freezer cooking/batch cooking/once a month cooking as I told everyone over on The Finer Things in Life in my guest post a few months ago. Did I mention I love it.
So, here are ten things I think you need to know about Freezer Cooking. Please note that I am in NO way an expert. I’m just a mom who likes to cook for both her family and others.
1. You don’t need an extra freezer to do freezer cooking. You really don’t. You just need to be economical with your space. FishMama did a great video on how to use your regular freezer in her guest post on Money Saving Mom. You must also love love love Ziploc freezer bags. You can even use freezer bags to hold chilis and stews using my “Purple Cup” method. Did I mention I love Ziploc freezer bags?
2. You can start simple. Just double tonight’s dinner recipe and freeze one batch for a later date. Seriously. It’s that easy. The idea is to use the time you do have to cook wisely so that later, when you don’t have time to cook, you have something already made.
3. An easy next step is to start purchasing larger quantities of meat when they are on sale. This is usually the most expensive part of your meal. Make your run to one of the big box stores count. Or, if chicken is on sale at Kroger or Publix, grab way more than you need. Then, when you get home, divide that meat into meal sized portions and freeze it in (you guessed it) Ziploc freezer bags. Can you tell I’m kind of a brand snob here. You can freeze it raw to cook in a dish or grill later. You can add a marinade (here are some great chicken ones) and then freeze. You can cook the meat (see 4 and 5) and then freeze it in meal sized portions.
4. When I buy a large portion of chicken either at the big box store or the local grocery store on sale, I immediately put at least half of it in my crock pot. I place about four or five boneless/skinless breasts in the crock pot and then drizzle about 1/3 a bottle of Kraft Zesty Italian dressing over them. I then put another four or five breasts and another 1/3 bottle of dressing. I use Kraft Zesty Italian because I can often use a good coupon in conjunction with a BOGO at Publix and get it for cheap, and I’ve found I like the taste. You can use whatever marinade you like. I let the chicken cook for 6 to 8 hours (depending on how much chicken I actually used) and then let it cool a bit. Once it’s not steaming anymore, I shred it or cube it – depending on my mood. I then measure out two cup increments and freeze it in freezer bags. When a casserole or dish calls for two cups of pre-cooked chicken, I just grab a bag out of the freezer and let it thaw.
5. I also purchase ground beef in bulk and cook the majority of it immediately. Some people go ahead and add onions while they’re cooking up a big batch, but I have a sweetie who’s not that fond of onions, so I don’t. I just brown the beef in this huge pot. Then, I drain it and let it cool. Finally, I measure 2 1/3 cups of cooked ground beef into freezer bags. That is the equivalent of 1 pound of ground beef. When I want to make tacos or spaghetti or taco soup or anything else that needs already cooked ground beef, it’s ready to go. This has saved me on MANY an occasion as I can literally have tacos on the table in ten minutes.
6. You can save A LOT of money by cooking dried beans and then putting them in the freezer rather than using canned. It’s much healthier too. I did this for the first time when I made these Chicken and Black Bean Quesadillas. You can find a great tutorial on cooking beans here. I now actually keep bags of the quesadilla filling in my freezer so we can have these any time. They are TASTY!
7. Freezer cooking without meal planning is like… well, like peanut butter without jelly. The two go together. Seriously. The worst is having a freezer full of good stuff, but not remembering to pull it out to defrost the day before. So, take some time on Sunday night to jot down what you’re going to eat that week. Then, remember to look at the plan each day to see what you need to pull out of the freezer for the next day. You can even blog your menu plan and link up to Menu Plan Monday each week. You can seem some of my past menu plans by clicking on the “Menu Plan Monday” category on the right. Truly, if you’re going to freezer cook, you need to menu plan.
8. You can use freezer cooking for things other than main meals. Really!!! What about muffins or pancakes or quiche? They all freeze VERY well and having them in the freezer makes breakfast a breeze.
9. Use the MANY resources out there in bloggy land to help you on your freezer cooking adventures. Life as Mom and Money Saving Mom have monthly freezer cooking round-ups that you can link to and see what everyone else is cooking. Once A Month Mom has an entire section of her blog devoted to freezer cooking and gives you recipes, grocery lists, and even a podcast to help you get ready to do some monthly freezer cooking. I’m sure there are many others out there. These are just a few that I happen to read daily.
10. Above all, HAVE FUN!! Cooking doesn’t have to be a pain. It can actually be fun. If you’re going to do a major cooking day, ask a friend to do it with you. Arrange for somebody else to be watching the toddler that can actually end up under your feet. Take a day, or a few hours, and just enjoy yourself in the kitchen. Make it some “you” time. My family knows that if I’ve got several recipes out and my apron on, I want to be left alone in the kitchen. They reap the rewards later so they don’t mind. If I’m going to do a MAJOR cooking day, say more than a couple hours, it goes on the family calendar so daddy knows I’m “off” during that time.
What’s your favorite Freezer Cooking recipe? I’d love for you to share. Just leave your link in the comments.
Also, did I forget any tips? Leave those in the comments too!
Linked to Top Ten Tuesday.
Excellent advice. I also love freezer cooking. I wonder if it is a genetic thing??? LOL
Hmmm … I’m going to have to read more about cooking the meat/ chicken as soon as you buy it – I’ve never thought about going that route. Great tips!!
Thanks for linking up:)
I really could have used this last week when I was sick with strep throat. The girls had cooked macaroni noodles and carrots one night for dinner. It was bad! You make it so much more attainable. I just may give it a go!
Baby steps! Just start with the meat and then move on to actual meals.
These are great tips. With a teenager and a tween, I really need to start doing this, because we are so busy that I find myself serving sandwiches or pancakes a lot, just because it’s quick.
Oh yes, this will really make the evenings much easier with just a little bit of planning!
Yeah, I’m glad to know you don’t need an extra freezer to do OAMC. I am for sure going to give the meat cooking thing a try. The little ziploc bags would take up a lot less space than the big cumbersome bags of frozen chicken breasts!
Thanks so much for sharing!
I’m stumbling so maybe someone else will get inspired!
Thanks so much for stumbling me. I’ve never been stumbled before. Whoop!
I’m really trying to get better at this but what recommendations do you have for UNfreezing? Do you set it out, put it in the fridge, use the microwave? What’s the best?
I usually pull stuff the day or so before and let it thaw in the fridge. If it’s still not thawed when I need it (meat), I put it in the sink with tepid water. It thaws very quickly that way.
Great tips. I love freezer cooking, but need to do more.
Do you know, can you freeze homemade crackers? Will they still be crispy?
I’ve never done homemade crackers. Anybody else know?
Yes, I’m a ziploc bag fan, too! The Wal-Mart brand is a definite NO GO. Nothing worse than putting hard work into making something, only to have the bag unseal or get a hole in it. Yuck. I’m trying Glad freezer bags right now though, and haven’t had a problem with them…
I’m also trying to remember to PULL MY MEALS OUT OF THE FREEZER ahead of time. Even with a meal plan, sometimes I still forget.
I try to pull meals out on Sunday afternoons and Wednesday afternoons. That helps a little.
Thank you for this! I so want to do more batch cooking like this but have always been a smidge intimidated by it. And cooking the meat in the crock pot is a great idea! duh! I never thought of that. I always grill it or put it in my George Foreman but I hate having to stand around and wait around for it to cook. I could just put it in the crock pot and let it cook for a few hours.I too love italian dressing as a marinade. It gives chicken such a great flavor.
Tricia at once a month mom does her ground beef in the crock pot too. I’m not a fan of how that ends up smelling up the house. The chicken I like though. Don’t be intimidated. BABY steps!!http://houseofhills.wordpress.com/wp-admin/edit-comments.php#comments-form
My wife has been begging me forever to learn how to cook! Thanks for the share. 🙂
I should have put my frozen chicken in the crock pot TODAY! Now I have another 45 minutes of cooking. Blech.
Anyway. I’m not a big batch/freezer/OAMC cook, although I’d like to be. Mainly what I do – and it makes a HUGE difference in my stress level and budget!! – is brown several pounds of ground beef at once and then freeze it.
Great tips and pointers – thank you!
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Great tips! Thank you! I have just started batch cooking. I was wondering what breads you have frozen and if they turn out well. I was thinking about freezing tortillas with the black bean/chicken filling. That way when we want that meal we can just pull it out of the freezer. Just let me know your thoughts-thanks 🙂
I usually freeze bread dough – as in pizza crust before it’s been cooked and rolls before they’ve been baked.
My experience with freezing actual bread has not been good.
I would also be afraid to freeze the quesadillas already cooked/stuffed. They would get soggy when they thaw I think. It’s such a quick meal to pull the filling out of the freezer in the morning and then just fry them up that night. Then, they are nice and crispy.
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