Saturday, December 31, 2011

Getting started with Freezer Cooking...

Looking to get started with Freezer cooking, but don't know where to start? It is pretty intimidating...the planning, shopping, weekend long binge-cooking...but the satisfaction you get when you start with an empty freezer and in only 2 days, have enough meals to feed your family for a MONTH, is awesome.

I posted some tips a while back, you can find that post HERE.

Starting small and working your way up is the key.

I begin by choosing the recipes I want to make for the month. It's nice to have a bunch of freezer meal recipes in your repertoire. I make 15 different dinners (two of each). So, I go through my recipes, choose 15 that sound good for that month (if chicken is on sale the day you go shopping, try to choose more chicken meals for that month). I make my grocery list of ingredients to make 2 of each meal. That gives me one dinner a night for 30 days.(Onceamonthmom.com has some good recipes and even a monthly meal planner with grocery lists and step by step instructions).

First, know that most of the time, you aren't cooking the meat before you freeze the meals. The meat is raw until the day you plan on eating the meal. Not a whole lot of actual "cooking" is involved in your weekend of Freezer cooking. It's more like "Freezer Assembling", really. The point of this method is to get all your ingredients organized and designated into dinners. Instead of spending time thinking about what make for dinner, and then preparing the ingredients, cooking the dinner, and then starting over the next day, you do all that planning beforehand, assemble the components, freeze, and then it's just a matter of pulling out the components and throwing them in the oven.

For example: My Italian Tenders are a big hit with my kids. I used to defrost my chicken tenders, marinade them in a bowl of Italian dressing for a few hours, and grill or bake. This was a super easy recipe to freeze. Put your raw chicken tenders in a labeled gallon freezer bag, pour Italian dressing over them, seal the bag, and freeze. Then the morning of the day you plan on eating them, take out the frozen tenders bag, put it in the fridge, go to work, and when you get home, put the defrosted tenders in a baking dish and cook. It just cut out a step.



Another easy freezer meal is meatloaf. Line your loaf pan with tinfoil then saran wrap. Combine your raw meat and other ingredients in a bowl, spoon the meatloaf into the lined loaf pan, and freeze. Pop the meatloaf (with the tinfoil and saran wrap) out of the loaf pan once frozen, put in a labeled Ziploc bag and put it back in the freezer. The day before you plan on cooking the meatloaf, take it out of the freezer, unwrap it, and put the raw meatloaf "ice cube" back into the loaf pan you froze it in. Let it defrost in the fridge until you're ready to cook it. Once defrosted, bake as normal.

I have full upright deep freezer but freezer cooking can be done with even a side by side fridge/freezer. Maybe you won't be able to fit 2 months worth of meals in a side by side but you can get a few weeks worth of dinners in there.

You don't need to buy any special containers for freezer cooking. You just need your baking dishes, saran wrap, and tinfoil, and gallon sized freezer bags (Ziploc works best in my opinion). I have two 9X13 dishes, two 8X8 dishes, two loaf pans, in my kitchen. I'm able to freeze two large casseroles, two small casseroles, and two meatloaves at one time. My favorite freezer meals are the Ziploc bag wonders.

A favorite is the BBQ chicken. Put raw chicken drumsticks in a labeled gallon freezer bag with a chopped onion. Pour a small container of BBQ sauce over the chicken and seal the bag and freeze (literally takes 3 minutes to make this meal). The night before you plan on eating the meal, take it out of the freezer and let it defrost in the fridge. The next morning, pour the chicken and sauce into your slow-cooker and cook on low for 4-6 hours until the chicken is done.



Another easy crockpot freezer meal is Pot Roast. In a bag, layer mushrooms, sliced raw carrots and celery, a chopped onion, a can of cream of mushroom soup, a pack of onion soup mix, and a 3-4 lb roast, cut in half, seal and freeze. Let it defrost the day before you plan on cooking it, pour into crockpot, and cook on low for 7-9 hours.

I make two of every meal. I don't mind eating something twice in a month.

16 comments:

Marci said...

At the moment, I have a VERY small freezer, and it is already full of frozen pizzas, a bag of ice, and a few other things (popsicles!) -- but one of these days, I'll do freezer cooking! And I'll be coming back to your blog for all of your tips!

Anonymous said...

Great tips that I will be sure to try and pass on to other working mothers/grandmothers. Thanks a million!!!!

Jeannie Davis said...

Do you find that this type of cooking actually saves you money? I have a family of 4. Myself, my husband, our 15 year old daughter, and my 75 year old mother. None of us have diet restrictions but we don't have stores that double coupons and to use them I have to buy name brand a lot of times....and that doesn't save me as much money if I bought the store brand.

I have wanted to try freezer cooking but just haven'the time to organize it. I do make a monthly menu, and I shop off of that menu and buy ONLY what is on it.

Any suggestions.

Jeannie

Anonymous said...

Does the saran wrap not melt in the oven?

Michele Miller said...

You don't leave the saran wrap on the meal when you cook them. The instructions show that when you take out of the freezer you remove all the plastic and wrapping before placing in the pan to defrost and then cook. It is a great idea and will be this very soon. I am going to start on my list/menus right now. Thanks for the tips and your hard work!

Mary said...

in your roast bag you actually put in a can of soup?

Anonymous said...

Yes, a can of soup. It turns into the gravy and is seasoned with the package of onion soup. If you haven't tried it, you should. Tasty!

The Virtuous Wife said...

Mary- not the can itself, just the soup. =)

Miranda Hamm said...

new to freezer meals...so I have a question to the expert I am wanting to freeze a pot roast meal but my hubby is a potatoes kind of guy so if I wanted to follow your recipe but add potatoes in....Will potatoes be ok to freeze raw or should I add them in day of cooking?

Nicole said...

The texture on potatoes changes when you freeze and thaw. In a soup its not as noticeable I think but for a pot roast I think you'd need to add them day of.

kelly said...

Thanks for linking up to us! What a great post!

Anonymous said...

THE CROCK POT FROZEN MEALS, INSTEAD OF TAKING THEM OUT THE DAY BEFORE TO THAW WOULD IT WORK TO TAKE OUT OF THE FREEZER AND PUT IT DIRECTLY IN THE CROCK POT AND INCREASE COOKING TIME BY AN HOUR OR TWO?

Linda Weiss said...

No! The whole thing with slow cooking is it slowly raises the temperature. You run a risk of food poisoning if you put frozen foods in the crock pot. The food remains in the danger zone (41-140 degrees)too long can potentially make your family very sick. Thaw before cooking in a crock pot/slow cooker and know that your family will be safe.

Amy said...

Love this post! Thanks! I'm spending WAY too much money on food every month and this will save me lots! Thanks again!

Terra ManWarren said...

Very new to the whole freezing meals thing, however I am 20, work two jobs, go to school and have a baby on the way. I really would like to save a little bit more money and eat a whole lot healthier (rather than frozen pizzas and ramen noodles when I get the chance), My boyfriend is well a little bit older and likes the homemade meals I make already, frozen dinners and the crockpot meals will be so much better for our confliction of schedules and busy lives. I can make these on a day off and have dinners ready for a month! Thank you, I will be passing some of these tips and recipes on to some of my college friends and family members, we could use the help!

Jen said...

I would just like to say this post is AMAZING your list of freezer meals i have printed and will be trying every one (except the pancake one lol we dont like pancakes). work gets stupid busy !! for a few months a year. I talking 12 - 15 hour days for two months and usually end up working 7 days a week. - those two months sometimes i just dont eat or forget to eat and by the time i get home the last thing i want to do is cook. my bfs busy season is the SAME two months. so its really crazy these meals will make things 100 times easier i think !
Thank you !