Freezer Cooking Q & A

Who knew so many years ago when I bought a copy of Once-a-Month Cooking that the techniques described in that book would have such an impact on my life? Then I was pregnant with my first child and had no clue how vital a well-stocked freezer and OAMC (Once-a-Month-Cooking) would someday be to my life as MOM.

While I haven’t cooked up 30 meals at a time every month for the last thirteen years, it has been a regular practice for quite some time. Increasingly so as our family life becomes fuller and more complex.

There can be a lot of confusion about freezer cooking, especially if you’ve never tried it. Many misconceptions are afloat…. Isn’t it expensive? Don’t you get sick of casseroles every day? Doesn’t it taste funky?

Recently, I asked the crowd on Facebook to throw me their questions. They are listed here with my answers. I hope this helps you to understand a little bit more about this wonderful, tasty phenomenon called freezer cooking.

What is a freezer meal?

Freezer cooking is the practice of preparing several batches of multiple meals at one time and then freezing them for use later in the month. Preparing three lasagnas doesn’t take much longer than making one. So, you can save a lot of time with assembly-line cooking.

A freezer meal is just a collective term for a meal that you’ve made — either partially or entirely — ahead of time. A homemade frozen lasagna would be considered a freezer meal. But, so could a bag of marinated chicken breasts. A freezer meal doesn’t have to be a casserole. Think about the most time consuming parts of your favorite meals and see if you can make them ahead of time and freeze them.

Do you basically just cook a meal then freeze it?

It depends on what it is. Many things that I prepare for the freezer are not precooked. This would include casseroles, meats and chicken in marinades, meatloaf, and hamburger patties. I prefer to cook those on the day of serving. However, I do precook taco meat as well as shredded chicken, beef, and pork. Chili and pinto beans are other things that I cook, cool, and then freeze.

Do you have a list of recipes for the freezer?

At the moment the closest thing I have to an online “list” are the OAMC or Freezer Friendly categories on my two blogs.


What have you found to be the most space saving option for freezing a casserole….freeze it in a disposable aluminum pan? or line 9×13 with parchment and freeze the casserole first and then take it out of the 9×13 and put it in a large ziplock?

I prefer to store casseroles in glass pyrex dishes with foil or plastic lids. I don’t have experience with lining the pan, but my friend Katie loves to save space in her freezer that way.

Do you have a list of how long you can keep certain things frozen?

We generally eat things up within a month of preparation, but sometimes items carry over into the next month. You can safely store frozen food indefinitely. Reference this chart from the USDA for more information.

You mentioned some baking mixes that you put together and I was wondering where I could get those recipes?

I love my mixes! Oh my! I find that I am lost without a stash of mixes each month. They are great for quick breakfasts and I can tailor them to fit our food preferences. Here are some of our favorites:

Got a question about freezer cooking? I may not be able to answer it today, but I will sometime soon.

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Comments

  1. How do you store your baking mixes?

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      I store them in ziploc bags in the freezer since I use part whole wheat flour which doesn’t have as long a shelf life as white flour.

  2. Could you post the recipe for your chicken and bacon sub and directions on how to cook it I am wondering how that works out when you cook it?
    Thanks!!!
    Dana

  3. When you freeze a casserole that isn’t precooked, do you bake it frozen or let it thaw first? Do you bake it at the temperature that the recipe calls for, or do you have to adjust it? Thanks for all the tips!

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      I prefer to thaw first, but you can cook from frozen. The time will vary, so you just have to play with each recipe. With my chicken pot pies which I always cook from frozen, I cook at 425 for the first 15 minutes and then reduce to 375 for the rest of the baking

  4. Do you make your chicken pot pie in a pie plate? I find that is not enough food to feed my family but 2 pies is too much. I have heard of making it in a 9×13 but have not tried it.
    Thanks

  5. Was freezer cooking a big investment of money additionally in your budget when you first started? It just feels like my grocery budget is stretched all ready for the day to day, so to plan for my meals in advance would break the budget. I get that it might catch up in the following months because you will have less meals to prepare for but initially did you find it was a big investment?

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      When we were aggressively fighting debt, it was hard for me to even think about doing this. I was lucky to get enough groceries for our $100 a week to last us all week. Previously, the grocery shopping for OAMC was so high.

      But, since I started stockpiling and shopping with coupons, I’ve been able to make it work without taking a big chunk out of our budget. The trick is to buy items on sale and then plan my meals around those items. Many people plan what they WANT to eat, instead of planning what’s on sale. That makes a huge difference. Does that help?

      For what it’s worth…. last year when I did freezer cooking once-in-awhile, we spent $700/a month for 8 people. This year, we’re averaging somewhere around $560/month. I attribute this to more scratch cooking and bulk cooking.

  6. Rochelle says:

    I found a really nice free resource for people who are wanting to begin to freezer cook at onceamonthmom.com She has recipes, grocery list and instructions for each month. Her recipes are designed for 2 people to cook, but I like to just take the recipes I like and work on those by myself.

  7. do you refreeze items? Say you found a super deal on meat and stocked up but weren’t planning to freezer cook for another week or so – do you freeze the meat then thaw to prepare the freezer meal then refreeze?

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      Yes. If I found meat on sale, I could freeze it. Then, I could thaw, cook, and refreeze. If it was b/s chicken breast or something to marinade, I would marinate it right away and not thaw and refreeze. Does that make sense?

  8. @Jessica Fisher, I guess this would also be necessary for a bread recipe that includes yeast?

  9. I’d like to give freezer cooking a try for my family of four. One of the things that always keeps from trying is the need for all of the plastic bags. I hate plastic bags. Isn’t there a better, more environment-friendly way to store food? I know that you can reuse some of them, but how many do you end of throwing in the landfill?

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      You don’t have to store anything in a plastic bag if you don’t want to. Reusable containers work just as well, they just take up more space, in the freezer and when storing them in the cupboard. If you have a brand you like, you can totally use reusable.

  10. I’ve dabbled with freezer cooking in the past, but haven’t really made a concerted effort. I think with a toddler and Number 2 on the way, I think it’s time to give it a proper go. Thanks for the tips!

  11. abby barnett says:

    How do you thaw your freezer meals?

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