February Freezer Cooking (With Kids)

Freezer cooking, or bulk cooking, can be a great way to economize on time, money, and resources. And the kids can help cook!

As I mentioned last week, I’m on a mission to make my boys a little more independent in the kitchen. So, it only made sense to include them in the freezer cooking this month. Heaven help me!

Instead of asking each guy what he wanted to make, I let them choose from a variety of cooking plans that I created for The Cookbook (coming later this year). I figured this was an easier way to choose meals as well as have the grocery list and cooking plan already to go.

Providentially, the plan that they chose, the one with the most meat, of course, also featured cuts of meats that were on sale this week at my local stores. Yeah! Shopping, however, involved trips to three four different stores. In recent years it’s not been unusual for me to shop at six different stores in a week, but lately, I’ve not been that crazy in my shopping. This freezer cooking gig required me to stretch a bit.

Note: I could have shopped at probably just one or two, but I would have spent a lot more money. As it is, I believe my grocery total for these meals hovered around $200.

some freezer meal groceries + extras

(Peek in at Good Cheap Eats tomorrow to see how that shopping broke down and what a month’s worth of dinners looks like in groceries as well as dollars and cents.)

Here’s the cooking plan as it looked before we started cooking:

Sorry, no links for most of these. I guess you’ll have to wait to buy The Cookbook. ;)

  • Mediterranean Style Steak
  • Seasoned Steak with Gorgonzola-Herb Butter
  • Mexican Beef Tortas
  • Spicy Shrimp and Tomatoes
  • Tortilla Soup with Shrimp
  • Fish Chowder with Red Potatoes and Corn
  • Quick and Spicy Marinara Sauce
  • Jamie’s Spice Mix
  • Teriyaki Chicken Skewers
  • Herb Butter Chicken Tenders
  • Caribbean Pork Tenderloin
  • Herb-Crusted Pork Roast
  • Soy-Ginger Pork Tenderloin
  • Cozy Cheese and Potato Casserole

Preorders should start in a month or so. Wait for it….

I gathered all my plastic ware. The Glad plastic boxes and Pyrex or Ziploc glass dishes with plastic lids are my favorites.

I also decided to jot down notes from each day to see how it all worked out, freezer cooking with kids — or how it didn’t.

Thoughts the night before:

Quite honestly, I’m not sure how this will go. I’m hoping that I can assign big boys to different prep tasks and go back and forth from their stations, offering advice and helping. But, the three littles may either help or hinder this process. It’s anybody’s game.

In the past, I’ve told the boys they were “helping” me, but then that didn’t really happen. So, I’m a little skeptical that this will work. I still have some shopping to do in the morning and then a fairly ambitious list to work through.

And there’s always the risk that someone will make a mistake and we’ll have a bulk batch of Oops! But, then again, I’ve been known to do that on my own — without any help.

It should be interesting.

And here’s how it panned out.

Successes on cooking day:

Be my own prep chef – One of the keys to a productive batch cooking day is to do all the prep work in advance. I often neglect to do that, I’m so eager to get cooking. But, this time I made a point to prep everything before I started assembling the meals. This entailed chopping vegetables, cooking potatoes, and grating cheese and lime zest. The result really streamlined the experience. The meals came together super quickly that I surprised even myself, creating 25+ meals in about 5 hours.

Tasty recipes – Our house was filled with good scents all day long. And everything we tasted was delicious! I did veer a little from my original plan, subbing in a pulled pork recipe for the Soy-Ginger Tenderloin and making a chili instead of the Tortilla Soup. Many of these are fairly low maintenance to pull together: marinated meats, soups, slow cooker meals. It’s all a matter of coordinating the different tools in your kitchen.

Cooperative children – My boys were (mostly) great about their kitchen experience. One particular person dragged his feet a little bit, that one who likes to push buttons, so really his behavior was par for the course. He warmed up pretty quickly, though, since he wants to be a chef someday.

I asked each of the bigger boys (14, 11, and 9) to choose two recipes to prepare. Then when I got to one dude’s recipe in the cooking plan’s order, I called him over to walk him through the recipe. It was pretty much a private cooking lesson at that point as I explained what was supposed to happen and what he needed to watch for, add, etc. I tried to let them do the work, with me supervising.

Lots of (labeled) meals for February – We were able to make everything on the list in about 5 to 6 hours, resulting in over 25 meals for the coming month. I also made a point to label everything. The pantry challenge showed me some of my recent laziness. No more mysteries!

What I would do differently:

Communicate my goals to the kids - Things didn’t go exactly as I planned. I think I envisioned a little more enthusiasm on the part of my kids. But, since I didn’t explain that to them ahead of time, they had no idea that I really wanted them to embrace the experience. Everyone did what was asked of him. But, no one went overboard. hehe.

Multi-task more - Next time, I’ll multi-task a little more, getting more than one child going on his task at a time and then “hopefully” roam the kitchen, helping and advising. I definitely could have had more than one cook in the kitchen.

Well, we’ll see next time.

Related Reading:

Here are some of my favorite posts that will help you get started in Freezer Cooking:

How did freezer cooking go for you?



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Comments

  1. Jessica-
    I so applause your efforts!!! I am trying to embrace the idea of teaching my kids to cook and not just scurry in to be a “helper” for their designated chore time… I am encouraged by your attitude to teach despite the possible lack of enthusiasm. Thank you for sharing! I look forward to hearing how this year of “training” pans out and maybe just maybe my desire to do the same will grow. Keep up the good work…you are an encouragement to me :)

  2. Stephanie says:

    Thank you for sharing how it went! I have done really well at teaching my oldest child (a daughter) how to cook and bake and be independent in the kitchen. Now I need to transfer my efforts to the younger ones. I think we’ll start this week and double a few of our meals…

  3. How great that you included your kids in your freezer cooking efforts! Now, if they’ll just prepare them out of the freezer . . .

    I have two biggies that are great cooks, and two littlies that it’s harder to include — mostly because the two older ones are so reliable. I’ve been working harder on helping them learn to make things themselves, and not just desserts, which everyone is anxious to help with. Maybe your freezer cooking idea would be good for our family.

  4. I did freezer cooking for the first time this week. I am so excited to know I have two weeks worth of meals on hand. I tried a lot of the crock pot recipes and chicken marinade recipes. Thanks for the inspiration and ideas.

  5. I’m in the middle of my freezer cooking session. So far I have 3 dozen pieces of French Toast and two slow cookers of your red sauce cooking away. I made a couple of tweaks to the sauce since our house is divided on meat in spaghetti sauce.

  6. The last time I cooked was in May of last year. We are just eating up the last three meals this week. I cook enough for three to four months but I stretched it way out since our house was up for sale. I have been wanting to teach my children to cook and have been hesitant to freezer cook thinking it would hinder the teaching. After reading this post I can see how it would work out! Thanks for the advice!

  7. I did a few new freezer recipes today. I had planned a big day of cooking last Friday, but came down with a bug. So now I’m just doing a few meals a couple times this week to make up for it. I have a chicken/wild rice soup (2 meals worth) and a beef in sauce dish (4 meals worth). This week I’ll cook a turkey breast and make some pot pie filling and broth with the carcass. I have been doing freezer meals for probably 20 years. Its so good to see so many doing it and all the new cookbooks that are out there.

    The first time I had my daughter help me cook (over 10 years ago!) I had her opening cans and she cut her finger. I thought for sure that would turn her off from cooking, but she is now a chef’s assistant at an upscale restaurant…guess it didn’t discourage her at all. :-)

Trackbacks

  1. [...] dish on delicious ways to act your wage? Subscribe to GCE in a reader or via email.Shopping for a large freezer cooking day can seem cumbersome. But the payoff comes for the days and weeks following when the shopping is [...]

  2. [...] my freezer is getting nicely restocked. We’ve barely made a dent in the stash from my recent freezer cooking day. That plus the applesauce and squash that I’ve been processing and freezing, will carry us [...]

  3. [...] already prepared my meal plans for the entire month has been such a help to me. That paired with a freezer’s worth of meals has made meal time prep really easy. Provided I remember to [...]

  4. [...] month I did a big day of cooking with my kids and freezing the fruits of our labors. We’ve eaten well, yet we still have a lot left in the [...]

  5. [...] included to help you make the most of your time in the kitchen. I used one of those plans during my last big cooking session and even I was impressed at how easy it was to prep so many meals in short [...]

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