Freezer Cooking: Where To Start?

Welcome to the August Freezer Cooking Daze Days!

Freezer Cooking (or making a bunch of meals and meal components and storing them in the freezer for later use) has been a boon to my “life as mom.” It helps me feed my family of 8 on a budget and without a ton of hassle.

I even wrote a cookbook, due out in 2012 from the Harvard Common Press, full of recipes that are delicious — and freezer friendly. Wait for it….

The first weekend of the month in these here parts is dedicated to swapping ideas about what you can freeze and how to make freezer cooking work for you. If you’re new to the concept of freezer cooking, this post is for you.

Won’t it taste weird?

A lot of people ask (or just think it), “Won’t the food taste weird?”

You know, I’ve been doing this for 15 years, tweaking recipes to suit our tastes and our budget, and my short answer is “No.”

The long answer? If you prepare it well and freeze it properly, it won’t taste weird. Here are some things to consider:

  • If it wasn’t good to start with, it won’t get better in the freezer. If you didn’t like it when you made it fresh, chances are it won’t get better.
  • Food must be cool before you freeze it. Cool the food to room temperature and then chill it in the refrigerator before freezing it. This will help prevent freezer burn and therefore preserve taste and texture.
  • Find recipes that you love and test them out. If you’re wondering if something is freezer-friendly, test freeze it next time you prepare that dish. Put aside a small portion in a plastic container with a lid. Leave 1/2-inch headspace at the top to allot for expansion in the freezer. Cool it to room temperature. Secure the lid and place the container in the refrigerator until it is cold. Then stash it in the freezer. Prior to serving, thaw it completely in the refrigerator. Reheat it as you would leftovers and see if you like it.

Where do I start?

Another common question is how to get started with freezer cooking, or “batch cooking” as it’s sometimes called. If you’re a beginner,then I suggest you start small.

Consider these easy ways to fill the freezer:

  • Make a double batch of one dinner each week and freeze one batch to enjoy at a later date.
  • Spend an hour making a lot of one thing that your family loves like meatballs or marinated chicken. Package them in meal-sized portions and freeze.
  • Follow a cooking plan. There are a number of sites, like Once a Month Mom, that provide monthly cooking plans.

Try this plan on for size.

Even though I’ve been doing a pantry challenge for the last month, I was able to create a cooking plan based on what I already had in the house.

Here’s my cooking plan:

  • Prepare many batches of Pancake Mix and stash them in the freezer.

Read how others do it.

One of the benefits of Freezer Cooking Days is that we share ideas and learn from one another. Browsing the links each month can be really helpful in learning what tricks other folks have got up their sleeves.

Share your cooking plan in the comments section or tell us your best ideas for getting started in freezer cooking. Tomorrow, come prepared to share your favorite recipe!

What’s your plan for freezer cooking?

For further reading:

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. I use my freezer mostly to freeze leftovers and leftover bread, etc. I like eating fresh foods and have the time to cook most days. I don’t like to waste food, so we do eat and/or freeze all of our leftovers. I think freezer cooking is great for a busy schedule or just so you don’t have to cook quite as often. Instead of doing a lot at one time, I will just double what I am making and freeze it for later. I guess I am the same way about shopping. I don’t like to only shop once a month and I don’t like to only cook once a month. But, there are some real benefits for people who do depending on what their preferences are. If I worked outside the home, I would definitely consider freezer cooking more seriously.

  2. Amy Findley says:

    I haven’t done much freezer cooking, but I live off of freezer prep. I buy freezeable veggies (peppers, onions) and proteins in bulk then spend time prepping everything at once and freeze in meal sized portions. This cuts cooking time so much because everything is washed and cut to desired size for the meal.

  3. Since mornings seem most difficult at our house, I mostly like to prepare and freeze breakfasts foods like homemade muffins, pancakes, waffles and sweet breads.

    I also usually double recipes for casseroles and soups I make during the week and freeze one and eat one.

  4. I actually wrote a post about my take on Freezer Cooking (or freezer prep, as the case may be) earlier this week. I think the main point is to find what works for you and not worry about how other’s do it. If I thought about freezer cooking once a week or once a month, I’d go nuts. But if the mood strikes to make a batch of lasanga or cut up fajita meat or make pans of enchiladas, then I don’t mind spending a few extra minutes making 3 or 4 instead of 1. I also love making large pots of soup and freezing portions for later – dinner tonight, dinner on later nights works for me. :-)

    Here’s what I wrote in more detail:
    http://carriesbusynothings.blogspot.com/2011/08/whats-for-dinner.html

  5. I like to use what I have and keep an “inventory” using this resource I posted on my blog today. http://momonamission.me/?p=2298

  6. I just spent yesterday morning preparing freezer meals. I specifically did slow cooker meals that didn’t require any meat cooking beforehand. All I have to do is take the bag from the freezer and put in my crock pot on a busy day and forget about it. I have 17 meals ready to go. I plan to do this once a month, as well as double or triple meals as I cook normally to put the extras in the freezer. I think it’s so worth the time to spend a few hours a month compared to 30-60 minutes daily in the kitchen. I don’t mind cooking, but I’ve got plenty of better things to be doing… not to mention avoiding clean up time!

  7. What works best for me is simply to double or triple whatever recipe we’re eating for dinner – as long as it’s freezer friendly. I do bake huge batches of bread – 5 loaves at a time, and I freeze the extra. I can’t seem to come up with a morning or an afternoon to devote just to freezer cooking though, so I just try to incorporate freezer friendly meals 2 or 3 nights a week and build my freezer inventory that way. Here’s a link to the blog post about my bread: http://www.simplifylivelove.com/2011/01/100-wholewheat-everyday-bread.html

  8. This month is an eat from the freezer month! We so need to clean it out to make room for our bulk meat order!

    I am still doing a little freezer cooking as I like to only do one big shopping trip a month and pick up fresh produce when needed.

  9. Since we have a break in the heat here in Kansas City I am going to take advantage of it and have a Freezer Cooking/Baking Day!

    http://cuttingcouponsinkc.blogspot.com/2011/08/freezer-cookingbaking-day-this-weekend.html

  10. I am so glad to have found your site, wonderful information and I can’t wait to get your cookbook. You have one customer already!

  11. Tricia (Once A Month Mom) says:

    Thanks for the shout out! And great tips on getting started. I agree.

  12. I’m definitely into freezer cooking since I found this blog :)! Yesterday, I cooked up several meals of spaghetti sauce, pulled pork in my crockpot, and 4 meals of turkey taco meat. This weekend I’ll bake a few meals worth of chicken breasts to use in several dishes. It’s totally awesome to not worry the rest of the month about what we’re going to eat or what my husband will take in his lunch. I highly recommend freezer cooking to save $ and your time :)!!

  13. Jennifer says:

    I haven’t done a Once a Month type cook, but I have made several meals ahead for the freezer….like when ground beef is on sale. Whatever I make…meatballs, lasagna, soup, etc…all I know…is that it is the best feeling in the world knowing it is in there! It’s crazy, how much joy it brings me.

  14. I have a question about making hamburger patties ahead of time. I thought you weren’t supposed to thaw and refreeze uncookd meat. My husband is a beef farmer and we have a freezer full of meat, but it would be really handy to have pre-made patties ready to throw on the grill in a moments notice. What are your thoughts on re-freezing thawed meat.

  15. I’ve frozen a lot of soup in my day, but now I’m going to begin whole meals. I’ve found that avoiding freezer burn is the secret to fresh-tasting meals, and vacuum sealing meals in special bags made for that purpose is a necessity for success. Being a senior on a short budget means I will only cook some large batch meals and have one to eat and one to freeze, so it will take a while to build an inventory. It is less expensive to dehydrate a lot of foods instead of freezing them, so I do that also. A number 10 can of corn becomes a quart of dried corn, so it also saves space. I will mostly freeze cooked meats, and prepare my veggies fresh. That will be handy to have when the kids come to visit.

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