The Fly-by-the-Seat-of-My-Pants Freezer Cooking Session

You don’t have to be methodical to prepare a freezer full of homecooked meals. Freezer cooking suits a variety of kitchen styles.

This past week, motivated by ravenous wolves children who are always often hungry, I decided to get ahead of the game by doing an extended freezer cooking session. I know from experience that if there are meals and snacks prepared and waiting in the freezer, I’ve got major assets to draw from on busy days.

I can breathe a little easier — and keep that nervous twitch at bay.

I’ve been talking about how I want to work a little harder at buying more nutritious foods at the same time as keeping our grocery spending in check. My conclusions from a recent grocery spending audit was that I needed to:

  • make more snacks
  • bake more bread
  • do a mega freezer cooking session
  • consider once a month shopping
  • shop the pantry
  • strike a balance between good eating and wise spending (they aren’t mutually exclusive)

(If you missed the comments on my recent keeping it real and grocery audit posts, hop on over to Good Cheap Eats. The conversation was really helpful and thought provoking!)

Three Birds, One Stone

I decided to combine the first three objectives (homemade snacks, homemade bread, freezer meals) into one major cooking session this week. One fun resource that I had handy was this:

Can you even believe it?!

This is an uncorrected bound galley copy of my cookbook! What fun it was to use this to do my freezer cooking this week instead of from print-outs and scribblings. You can preorder your copy here. And yes, I do get a portion of the sale. ;)

On a side note, I must say that it was soooo much fun to write. I gained ten pounds. And we discovered all sorts of fabulous, new favorite meals. You’re gonna love the Manicotti with Feta and Spinach. And the Roasted Vegetable Quiche. And the Caramel Key Lime Bars. And the…

Not only is the book full of delicious recipes (if I do say so myself) it’s got loads of cooking plans 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 order!

Fly-by Freezer Cooking

However, this month I decided to take a more spontaneous approach. While it entailed a few extra trips to the store for items I ran short on, it was still just as productive, if not a little more “free-form.” Which just goes to show you, you can make freezer cooking work for you, no matter your style.

Here are my notes and haphazard lists of what I hoped to accomplish:

I spread my cooking out over several days. FishPapa was out of town for a couple days last week for work and so that meant I was chief cook, bottle washer, and everything else. We all survived and in the meantime we have a chock-full freezer.

Here’s the freezer before:

How sad. Applesauce, butternut squash puree, a few packages of hot dogs, frozen berries, juice bars, bagels, some chicken broth, and a meal or two from February’s Freezer Cooking. The freezer was “practically empty.” Sure, there was food there, but one can eat only so much butternut squash puree in one sitting.

So, here’s how this thing went down.

Day One

  1. sort, rinse, and soak beans
  2. spend the day at the zoo
  3. come home and after piddling around the house for awhile, drain beans, chop onion, start Homemade Pinto Beans cooking in the slow cooker
  4. cook 4 pounds of Seasoned Taco Meat
  5. divide the meat into 4 portions, chill 3 to freeze and turn one into Lawnmower Taco for dinner
  6. shred 2 pounds of cheese in the food processor
  7. fry tortillas for enchiladas
  8. assemble Cheese Enchiladas (3 pans)
  9. chop more onion and start Red Sauce on the stovetop
  10. bake Lawnmower Taco and toss salad
  11. eat dinner and go to a hockey game
  12. portion the red sauce (6 dinners’ worth)
  13. season the cooked beans and assemble 30 Burritos to chill and freeze.
  14. go to bed — it’s late!

Day Two

The second day was not as methodical as the first — and that’s not saying much. This was the day I had to ditch my plans. So, I cooked in snatches throughout the day. I can’t really remember the order that I did things, but this is what we got out of it:

I am trying, trying, TRYING to include my kids more in the kitchen. I have to do this. To survive. It’s hard to loosen the control, but I’m just going to have to let them loose and hope that we don’t waste too much food in the learning process. Sounds uptight, doesn’t it?

My nine-year old loves to mix the Artisan Bread Dough in 5 minutes. We mixed up a double batch to eat as boules and for pizza dough. The other two were dying to stir, but he wasn’t into sharing. The next day, however, they got to bake cookies. Look at those faces!

Day Three

The third and final day was a little more low key. It was a leisurely day mixed in with some errands, hockey practice, produce run, etc. I had mixed up the cookie doughs the night before, so all we had to do was bake them. The kids really enjoyed participating. Again, I need to do this more!

The marinated chicken took just a few minutes to mix the marinades and drop the chicken tenders into the bags. The mac and cheese resulted from my using up leftover pasta that was taking up valuable real estate in the refrigerator.

Whew! That all seems totally crazy, doesn’t it?

Please note: I didn’t spend three whole days cooking. I spent portions of each day rather than trying to do it all in one day when my husband was out of town, my daughter needed to go to the pediatrician, we had two hockey events, a broken dishwasher, and a water heater with an unlit pilot light.

Trust me when I say that the freezer cooking portions of this program were some of the least stressful moments of the week!

The kitchen was in a constant state of mess, however, a far cry from the deep cleaning I had given it just a few days prior.

But I have a full, full, FULL freezer! I can’t tell you how happy this makes me. I feel like I’m ahead — in just one area of life. And it feels so good!

This is most of the new stuff that I added to my freezer stash this week. So, now it looks like this:

We are set with breakfast, lunch, and dinner for a few weeks, if not more. I’m pretty sure that we’ll be able to follow the month’s meal plan and maybe save some time at breakfast and lunch time as well.

At least you can’t say I didn’t try.

What’s your style in the kitchen?

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Comments

  1. Wow! A broken dishwasher in the midst of freezer cooking?!?! That’s a bona fide nightmare :) You did a great job.

  2. Jessica that looks awesome!!! I also love having a freezer stocked with healthy freezer meals. Makes life so much easier!!

    My big freezer cooking weekend is this weekend. I am starting to get some recipes put together now…of course scanning the pantry first.

    I am soooooo looking forward to your cookbook. I love the NYM series and I know yours is going to be such a great addition. Congrats!!!

    Tammy @ skinny mom’s kitchen

  3. Holy Cow. I used to be impressed by you and now I’m in awe. I cannot believe you accomplished all that in the midst of having your husband away. The only time I’m able to do any real freezer cooking is when I put the kids in daycare and take the day off work. No more excuses, though. You’ve inspired me!!

  4. Stephanie S. says:

    I’m impressed with all you did but what I am most amazed with is using those $1 store baskets to sort your items in the freezer. Genius!! How did I not think of something so simple. One of the things I HATE most is digging in the chest freezer. I can never find anything, my hands get cold, ect. I think it’s time my freezer gets a make over!

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      Ha! Well, after I posted my freezer redo in January, readers said that they used color coded cloth grocery bags. I’m thinking that might be even easier!

  5. Sounds like my cook last week. I just completed a fly by the seat of my pants cook resulting in 80 meals. I wasn’t going to cook but on my way home from visiting my parents I stopped at the local butcher and picked up 20 pounds of good beef. When I got home I realized the freezer needed to be thawed and cleaned as the baskets wouldn’t slide anymore from all the ice build up. That resulted in thawing the chicken in the fridge and so then the cook began. Nothing like the snowball effect go get things going. I plan to work on some easy lunches and breads this week after I can find the counters with all the dirty dishes!
    Congratulations on your full freezer. :)

  6. I am deciding whether to pre-order or wait for the Kindle edition! I am such a fan this may make it into my house in actual paper form! Looking forward to seeing you put your grocery audit plan into action!

  7. How exciting! Can’t wait to see the cookbook when it is out!

  8. Wow! I’m totally impressed with what you got accomplished. This would be impressive even if it weren’t spontaneous. But, even more so because it wasn’t quite planned ahead. Now I understand how you went through 30 pounds of flour! Oh. my. goodness!

  9. How cool is it to look at that cookbook with your name on it! Take a moment for a gleeful happy dance!

    Great job getting stuff stocked up without killing the days – takes dedication for sure. Good work!

  10. That’s amazing! I might finally try it!

  11. You rock thanks for the inspiration!!

  12. I have decided that the only way that freezer cooking works for me is to plan two to three things to make during the week as I have time. Doing it all in one weekend was too overwhelming for me. But I can get a few things made ahead every week so that it helps with life.

    Congrats on the book! I’m looking forward to it!!

  13. Stephanie says:

    I am so excited to see the cookbook! You accomplished so much in those 3 days. Very impressed!

  14. Hi do you have a recipe for the granola? I want to have some and don’t want to buy it made already. Thanks so much for sharing all your stuff ;-)

  15. Sorry for being late to the game, but I saved this to read without distractions….
    Question: did you make your tortillas & thats why you had to fry them or did you fry store bought before making them into enchiladas?
    I still have my tortillas fall apart when i put them in a freezer meal & my family can’t stand it (So I make lots of king ranch chicken LOL)

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      Traditionally, the corn tortillas in enchiladas are fried first in the sauce and then in oil. I do it the opposite and sometimes skip frying them in sauce. But, that is the “right” way to make them.

  16. Thanks for this!

  17. So excited about your book. Congratulations! I have just ordered mine on amazon & am counting the days till it will get to me in Australia!

  18. I have submitted a ‘recommendation to purchase’ to my local library. I love your work!

  19. Ok I almost hate to admit it but that is so my cooking style that and what I call mini starter batch. Which is I cook 1 thing and devide it into meal size portions. This might be boiling up 30 lbs of chicken leg quarters to shred or 20 lbs of rice. Today I’m taking the chicken I cooked and shredded yesterday and adding in tthe rice I’m cooking today and some frozen vegies with sauce and I will have quite a few meals ready for reheating in my oven or microwave. Do I have a plan? No not really just wanting to get some food in my freezer to keep my sanity come 5pm

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