Whether you’re preparing part or all of a holiday meal, baking bulk batches of cookies, or simply putting up some easy dinners, freezer cooking at the holidays can help you enjoy the season more and save time and money.
It’s a known fact that freezer meals can help you in your day-to-day. When you’ve been run ragged all day, get stuck in traffic, and/or have a horrible, no-good, very bad day, it can be such a relief to come home to a meal all prepared and ready to go.
But, were you aware that freezer cooking at the holidays can make a huge difference in how you feel about those holidays and the spread you serve to friends and family?
Yessiree, Bob! You can use freezer cooking to help you save time, money, and energy as the holidays roll around. Whether it’s baking cookies or prepping pies to serve in a month or even assembling a few freezer meals to give as gifts, freezer cooking is a strategy you should definitely consider as you plan your holiday kitchen work.
The more you practice freezer cooking, the more you will fall in love with your freezer. That is to say, when you put it to good use. When you use it to store a hodge-podge of leftovers and half-empty cartons of ice cream, it doesn’t do much for you.
Building a repertoire of freezer-friendly holiday recipes is in your best interest. And doing it now that fall has begun is a great idea!
Imagine how peaceful your holiday season could be if your freezer was already filled with pre-assembled meals, meal kits, meal components, and baked goods? Awesome sauce, right?
You can approach holiday freezer cooking in a couple different ways. You can take the sly approach and double dinner a few times a week for the next month or so. A double batch doesn’t really wear you out, but slowly, but surely, you’ll fill your freezer.
You can also do a full-blown freezer cooking plan that will set you up for weeks to come! It can free you up to do some “fun” cooking as well as save you time and money over the coming weeks.
Whatever approach you choose, now’s the time to get a plan in order. Consider these steps to planning your freezer cooking for the holidays.
Freezer Cooking at the Holidays
Here’s how you can use your freezer to make your holidays more enjoyable and allow you to eat well and spend less:
1. Take inventory.
What lurks in that freezer of yours? By taking an inventory of what you have, you can figure out what doesn’t move very fast and avoid buying more of that. You can also start clearing it out to make room for the things you do want to keep on hand this holiday season.
Freezer space is valuable real estate! Freezer meals that your kids love and ample holiday goodies all set to go are like money in the bank for busy families.
Knowing what you have on hand allows you to build your menus around what you already have so that you don’t make duplicate purchases or buy more food than you need. Using what you have instead of buying more is a great way to save money.
Make a freezer inventory list and be sure to check things off after you use them so that have a running list of what’s on hand.
Once you know what you have, what you can use in future freezer meals, and what to use up quickly, you’ll have a better sense of what you need to shop and cook for.
2. Determine your needs for the holiday season.
What kind of meals and celebrations will you hold this holiday season? Are there special meals that you typically make in December that you could make ahead and freeze, in part or in its entirety? Will you be so busy that regular meal prep will be difficult?
Mashed potatoes, gravy, turkey, soups, rolls, sauces, desserts, and a number of Thanksgiving side dishes will all freeze well. Cookies, pies, cakes, and a myriad of other holiday desserts are also freezer-friendly.
All of these answers will help you think through what kind of cooking you’ll need to do in the coming weeks and aid you to better plan out what you can cook and freeze.
If you know that you’ve already taken care of dinner or the cookies you’re supposed to bring to the holiday party at work, you’ll be less likely to buy pricier convenience options.
3. Set a budget or start saving.
If you plan to do a big freezer cooking session, you’ll need to a buy a load of groceries upfront. This involves shelling out a largish amount of money at one time, so plan accordingly. Either set a budget so you don’t spend more than you should, and start setting aside the funds so that you have the cash on hand when you need it.
4. Get cooking.
Once you decide what you need to cook this month, create a plan to cook and freeze. You can do this in a number of ways:
- double dinners for a week and build a stockpile in the freezer
- do a big batch of something (like tamales, pasta sauce or cookie dough)
- cook for the whole month, spending a day to do so, but reaping a lot of time off in the weeks to come
- spend a few hours baking up a storm and freeze what you bake
Cooking ahead will save you money and time because all your actions (planning, shopping, and cooking) are multi-purpose. You stay out of the stores, shop more efficiently, and spend less.
5. Keep track of what you have.
As you fill the freezer with new meals and desserts for the holidays, be sure to add these items to your inventory. These wonderful meals and goodies will do you no good if you forget that you have them. Not only will you miss out on the enjoyment of them, but you’ll also spend more buying replacement items you don’t really need.
Once you’ve built your holiday freezer stash, put your feet off. You’ll enjoy time off kitchen patrol in the coming weeks. You’ll enjoy the holidays so much more. And you’ll save some money while you’re at it.
What’s more relaxing than that?