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Make Freezer Cooking Work for YOU – December Freezer Cooking Daze

Since I had sent my boys to the freezer with all our Christmas cookies last week, I had no idea how very full it was. Yikes! As it turned out, I really was just going to “top it off” with my December freezer cooking plan — and cram things into every nook and cranny.

I’m thinking that January will be a Freezer/Pantry Challenge month! My cup runneth over….

Make it work for you

Now, before I show you what I did this month, I want to remind you that freezer cooking can work for anyone  — provided that you tweak it to fit your family at your season of life.

When we were heavily in debt, I didn’t cook this way. Believe me, I was lucky to get us from week to week. But, whenever I could make a double batch of something, I froze an extra dinner. Eventually I was able to buy myself a week off cooking because I had stockpiled so many meals in the freezer.

There are very simple ways to fill your freezer.

As reader Beth so wisely pointed out on Friday, there are also many ways to approach freezer cooking. Beth said,

It doesn’t work for me to plan a whole month of menus but I still freezer cook. Every two months or so I cook up a bunch of dried beans, shredded chicken, ground meat, meatloaves, taco meat/refried beans, spaghetti sauce, and a few other things and freeze it all. Even if I don’t have a specific plan for each item it gives me so much freedom over the next eight weeks. I use the crock pot a ton and having that many components frozen makes my life so simple.

Using meal components to buy yourself some time is a great way to make freezer cooking work for you.

Please remember that my family is different than yours. We eat different foods. There are probably more of us than there are of you. I cook in a way that suits our family in our season of life today. But, that could change in a month’s time. Or six months’ time.

That said, onto this month’s freezer cooking….

But first can I just say that I love these disposable foil pans with the specially fit lids? They make packaging foods so much easier. Quick, too. They stack so nicely that I don’t have to worry about torn aluminum foil.

Alternatively, the Pyrex pan with the plastic lid rocks the freezer as well. I’m hoping to invest in more of those. But, for now the disposables are a nice, economical way for me to make it easy on myself.

OK, now the method to my madness.

This took a few hours each day over about three days.

  1. Process potatoes for freezing.
  2. Get red sauce going in the crockpot.
  3. Package 6 cups of sauce for the freezer for pizza kits.
  4. Use the remaining 9 cups for lasagna
  5. Set chuck roast to cook in the crockpot for the shredded beef.
  6. Brown 3 pounds of meat for lasagnas.
  7. Brown 3 pounds of meat for burritos.
  8. Assemble lasagnas.
  9. Assemble 30 burritos.
  10. Sort and soak beans.
  11. Shred beef.
  12. Soften tortillas for enchiladas.
  13. Assemble enchiladas.
  14. Prepare oatmeal packets.
  15. Make pizza dough.
  16. Set beans to cook in crockpot.
  17. Package pizza kits.
  18. Package beans for the freezer
  19. Put my feet up!

The future of freezer cooking days

I’m really excited to share with you some new features here on LifeasMOM as regards Freezer Cooking Days. Stay tuned in the coming month for some new twists, giveaways, questions, and new ways to think about your kitchen, your freezer, and your meal times.

Share your cooking results!

In the meantime, how did you do this month? Have you done in freezer cooking? If you’ve posted about it, share your link below. Otherwise, see ya in the comments!

Curious about freezer cooking? Consider purchasing my cookbook, Not Your Mother’s Make-Ahead and Freeze Cookbook from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or your local bookstore. It’s chock full with over 200 freezer-friendly recipes, planning pages, shopping lists, cooking plans, and basic and advanced how-to’s to making freezer cooking work for any home, family, and lifestyle.

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Comments

  1. This month, I’ve been making full recipes and either freezing half of the recipe or freezing the leftovers, in anticipation of the baby due on the 21st. We’ll have a couple weeks worth of dinners taken care of and I won’t have to think about it!

  2. Love how much you got done, Jessica! I conducted my first BIG freezer cooking day since we moved into our tiny apartment, and it went well! I linked up my results. :D

  3. Michelle K says:

    I really agree with you and Beth. I’m new to the freezer cooking and I tend to sort of do bits here and there as the month goes along. I’m finally finishing up a large batch of red sauce that I did about 2 months ago. That has been such a life and money saver!

  4. Michelle Z. says:

    How do you avoid freezer burn? Whenever I try to freeze things like lasagna or enchiladas, when I open it a few weeks later it is covered in ice crystals and the food looks freezer burned.

    • @Michelle Z., I sometimes encounter the same and found the following to be helpful to prevent or at least lessen it.

      First, make sure that the food has come to room temperature before loading it in the freezer. I leave mine on the counter for 30-40 minutes, in an open container, to cool down. Next, wrap it as airtight as possible, either in a zip-type bag or first plastic wrap, then double foil. If you are using a reusable container and there is space at the top, place a layer of plastic wrap or wax paper on it and press down to get rid of air before sealing.

      If I have room, I’ll put it in the fridge to cool for a few more hours, especially if it’s a casserole, as the internal parts are usually still warm, even thought the outside seems cool to the touch. Otherwise, it goes straight into the freezer.

      I just pulled out meatballs yesterday that had ice on them – I took as much as I could off and let it thaw in the refrigerator throughout the day. They tasted fine (2 months later), but I recall not letting them cool down much (sometimes you just don’t have enough time). Hope that helps!

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      @Michelle Z., I’m going to agree with KatieBee. Cooling and preventing moisture condensation is one of the keys to helping it freeze well.

  5. I freezer cook much like Beth does. And whenever I find some meat on sale, I throw it in the Crock Pot and freeze it. I just recently did this with chicken thighs and shredded the meat, and the other day I got a giant pork roast for only $3 and shredded that up as well. Now I have about 10 meals worth of meat ready to go in the freezer. I occasionally freeze an extra casserole, but we tend to eat up yummy casseroles pretty quickly and they don’t last long enough to freeze!

  6. Thanks so much for hosting. And thanks for the reminder that freezer cooking can look very different each month!

  7. Can you post the recipes that you use for these?

  8. Well I actually did freezer cooking this month over 3 days. I made corn 24 corn dog muffins and froze 12. I made 24 regular corn muffins and will freeze 12. I made chicken enchiladas and prepped chicken teriyaki and cola barbeque chicken. I made 2 batches of freezer mashed potatoes and 1 batch of freezer mac and cheese. I froze 1 lb of beans in 1 cup servings and made chili and taco meat as well as a fajita kit.

    I’m gonna have to come up with 2 more fill in meals or eat out but overall I’m pretty pleased for a first attempt.

    I also still have 2 meals of breakfast burritos and Oven french toast was a disaster(it stuck to tin foil). So I will definitely have to improve my game on breakfasts next month.

  9. Ahh, you are inspiring. I’m learning so much from you regarding freezer cooking. It’s making such a difference in my meal planning. Love it!

  10. A question about the beans you made. In the picture they are whole and in a plastic container is that the way you freeze them? Or do you mash them first and then freeze them? Could I use ziploc bags instead? And do you include any cooking liquid with the beans? We use a ton of beans and I want to get some frozen for chili and to add to burritos and mexican stuff.

    And I am ready and waiting for your book! I can not wait as I love your site so much.

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      That is how I freezer them so that I can use them in burritos, in chili, or as a side dish. Yes, you can use ziploc bags. I include some cooking liquid.

  11. My freezer is stocked too- Looking forward to the January Freezer/Pantry Challenge!

  12. I was just thinking about the Freezer/Pantry Challenge from last year and hoping some one would host. I will be joining.

  13. I am excited for a freezer/pantry challenge in January. I’ve been stocking my freezer for weeks (not sure I can fit anything else in there) for baby #3 that was due a few days ago. It would be great to have company to keep me disciplined to clean out the freezer in January (and stay out of the grocery store).

  14. I was so surprised when I saw the picture of your freezer because it looks EXACTLY like mine, down to the amount of frost inside. Did you, by any chance, buy yours from an elderly man at a yard sale? LOL

    I had my first try at cooking and freezing beans. Soooo easy! I put 2 cup portions in zip top bags. I don’t know why it took me so long to give it a try, but I’m hooked now.

  15. I too love cooking ahead and freezing meals. I noticed your comment about getting a few more casserole dishes w/ lids. I use the same glass dish lined with nonstick foil to freeze meals ahead. Once they are frozen I remove the meal from the dish and wrap in more foil and place in freezer w/ label. Using the same dish allows me to place the frozen meal back in the glass dish and bake. This leaves a lot more room in my freezer. Thanks, great site.

    • Tammy, you got me to thinking! I’m going to start freezing my hotdish leftovers in a small dish that I’d be reheating it in. I’ll freeze it, using my Zip Lock Vacuum Pump (to preserve it longer without the dreaded freezer burn!) Then when I want to use it, I can put it in that small dish to heat. Now I just have to decide which small dish would be the best so I can get the best economy from the Zip Lock Vacuum bag. Thanks so much for sharing your method.

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