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Freezer Cooking Daze – December 2011

December can be a FULL month. Make it easy on yourself by filling your freezer with meals to help you during the dinnertime rush.

Now is the perfect time to load up your freezer with some ready-to-go meals. Anytime is a perfect time, but December is especially chaotic with all the extra festivities that we cram into our schedules at the year’s end. And an hour or two in the kitchen — or even a full day, if you can swing it — can do wonders for your dinnertimes this month.

Last weekend I spent some going through what I had on hand, running through Costco for a few staples, and then did some quick cooking. I actually did it all in a few short sprints that I started on Sunday and have peppered my week. I’ve just had so much going on, that it worked best to spread it out throughout the week.

The Plan

Here’s the literal snapshot of my cooking plan and how I’ve bought myself some time this month.

Granola - Oats, Sugar, and Spices combined into a double batch of Cranberry Orange Granola. I didn’t have oranges, but I had some lemons fresh from my dad’s tree which worked just as well.

Taco Meat - I took spices from the cupboard and mixed up a big batch of Taco Seasoning. Then, I cooked up a big pot (3 pounds’ worth) of seasoned taco meat and divided it into meal sized portions for tacos, burritos, and chili throughout the month.

Marinated Chicken - Chicken was on sale at a local store, so I bought a ton. Or close to. I mixed up these different marinades and bagged meal-sized portions in the marinade for quick stirfries and grilled meals later.

Seasoned Pinto Beans - I read an article about the badness (is that a word?) of BPA in our canned foods, and was reminded how EASY it is to cook my own beans. So, I set pintos to soak and cooked them overnight for Seasoned Pinto Beans. We’ll enjoy these in burritos, taco bowls, and chili this month.

Butternut Squash Puree - I had a huge butternut squash from a produce box from earlier in November that needed to be used up. I peeled and cubed it, drizzled it with olive oil and seasoned it with salt and pepper. It roasted in the oven while I worked on other things. I pureed it to sneak into other things and froze them in 1-cup containers.

Thankfully, I tasted it before I’d pureed it all. It was so yummy just cubed! So, I added it to my salad with a bunch of other yummy things, like bleu cheese and pomegranate arils that night. It was amazing! That butternut squash’s big brother arrived this week, so I’ll be doing a repeat again soon.

Homemade Pizza - Pizza Kits are an easy way to pull homemade pizza together in a flash. I cooked up a big pot of sauce and divvied up five pounds of shredded mozzarella so that I just need to pull out a bag of sauce and a bag of cheese come pizza night. (There’s already a stockpile of pepperoni in the freezer from a recent sale, so we’re good.)

Tamales – Tamales are on the list for today. We’ve got friends in town to help make them. (Not sure if that was their plan, but it is mine!) Tamales are a regular thing at our house during December. I’ll freeze a bunch of them and we’ll enjoy them for snacks as well as on Christmas Eve.

I didn’t get to the Breakfast Cookies, but we’re planning a big baking brouhaha in the next week or two where I will attempt to allow my children more freedom in the kitchen, whether or not we get a dozen kinds of cookies prepared.

How did YOUR freezer cooking go?

Are you a regular in filling your freezer? Just starting out? Wondering why you would want to anyway? Tell us 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. I really love this idea – I tend to get hung up on the fact that my two year old twins won’t eat what their dad and I eat for dinner most nights.

    Do you have some tried and true advice for picky toddler eating? I feel clueless!

    xo
    cortnie

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      I’m getting to the point that everybody (picky or no) has to have a bite of everything. My 3yo now says, “I love kale!” Go figure. I do make sure there are some picky eater options, but they still have to try everything.

  2. I love that you are so organized.
    My freezer is so small, I can barely fit in my husband’s vodka, some frozen vegetables and a loaf of bread. I wish I could plan ahead like this. Kudos!

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      We once had the Smallest Freezer Known to Man, and I still had some meals stashed. You’d be surprised what you can do.

  3. I’ve been doing freezer cooking for a while now and absolutely love it. I cook for the entire month and it is so great to always have homemade and frugal meals ready in minutes. I am constantly looking for new recipes and ideas so thank you for sharing yours! I’ve never made tamales so I will have to try those!

  4. Alexandra says:

    Wow! The only time I got into freezer cooking was when I was about to have my 2nd child, so I wouldn’t have to cook after baby was here. I never thought about continuing to do it. I just figured it was part of nesting. In my attempts to live within our means and quite frugal this can definitely play a huge role. Thank you for the tips and reminder of how to live frugally.

  5. My husband loves butternut squash soup, so every fall I make lots of puree and freeze it. The easiest method I’ve found is in the crockpot. Just quarter your squash and remove seeds (no need to peel), season with s & p, and pop it in the crockpot with a little bit of water. Cook on low overnight and in the morning, you can scoop the cooked squash right out of the peel, mash & freeze.

  6. can you really freezer cook for 3 people? It’s just the hubby & 3 yr old with me trying to figure out meals for just us without too many leftovers. plus our freezer is kindof small. But I’m glad you can do it to ease the holidays (and every day). I dread the 5:00 hour when I’m trying to figure out what’s for dinner.

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      Absolutely! I started when there were only 2 of us. Simply package the meals in smaller packages… fewer enchiladas in smaller pans, make lasagna in a 8-inch square or make lasagna rolls. Everything can be divided into smaller portions!

  7. I love freezer cooking, but I have not been doing it frequently as I did last year. But this week I’m going to be cooking x 2 every day to start freezing and storing since my parents are staying with us for the holidays and I want to spend time with them without worrying about cooking. Keep giving me ideas.

  8. Cubed butternut squash is great in veggie stir fry and soup too. We have just roasted with salt and pepper as a side a lot. I also make a dish from Food Matters. It’s beans tossed with a little rosemary, salt/pepper and a little sausage (like 4-6 ounces), spread the cubed butternut squash over top and drizzle a little cream..baked..yum.

  9. Freezer Baking and Cooking are therapy for me. After 2 hours: Birthday cake, 2 loaves banana bread, pan of granola, Artisan bread dough, crock pot baked potatoes and triple recipe freezer southwest rub. Now the kitchen;

  10. So, I’ve been reading a lot about Freezer Cooking for about a year now. I’d love to try it, but I’m having a really hard time figuring out how to get started. One of my big hangups is what to freeze food IN. I don’t have many extra baking dishes, and some things seem like they wouldn’t work well in plastic bags. Also, I’m not very savvy about what foods will still taste good after being frozen. Specifically I’ve wondered about breads (can you freeze dough?), noodles, and foods with lots of different stuff mixed together (like stews or chili). Do you have any advice on how to get started without accidentally wasting a lot of food?

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      Well, your question entails a long answer — which I guess is why I wrote a whole book on the topic. My short answer on not wasting food is to freeze a small portion of something you love. Cool, chill, wrap and freeze. Then taste test after thawing and reheating. If you like it, then you know you could make it in big batches for freezing. Check my freezer cooking archives for more information. I’ve written about it extensively.

  11. Just finished a very tasty ground beef session! I’m hoping it will make December easier.

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