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.
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.