Saturday, March 2, 2013

Freezer Cooking - Month One

I say "month one", because I am completely sold! I haven't cooked in two weeks and I'm LOVING it! There are a whole bunch of blogs with step by step tutorials for freezer cooking, so I won't bother to go into that much detail, but I'll give you my basic run-down of what we did. Did you see that "we"? That's because my David was a HUGE part of the whole process. So, here's what we did...

  • I mentioned that I joined a freezer meal co-op. Basically a friend emailed me and a few other ladies linking this site and the idea that we would each prepare 2 recipes enough for the five families and then swap. The plan was to meet together and prep meals together. I, however, did our once-a-month grocery shop a week and a half earlier and didn't want the fresh ingredients to go bad, so we prepped and froze our recipes ahead of time. I went and pitched in with the vegetable cutting for the other ladies. This co-op was the catalyst for my menu plan. I had wanted to try freezer meals and this was just a good way to "guarantee" that I'd actually do it.
  • I spent a day creating a meal plan and grocery list. I have a Pinterest board just for freezer/slow cooker meals and I found a few new recipes that I wanted to try. We have our grocery budget in the middle of the month, so I made my plan from February 16 - March 15. I do not have a freezer meal for every single day, we like some simple meals like waffles or grilled cheese sandwiches and soup, so I left a few days for simple dinner nights.
  • David, Micah and I went grocery shopping. My list was very detailed and we stuck to the list. By having a meal plan there is no temptation to buy things you don't need or the need to guess. My grocery list wasn't strictly for the meal plan, but also included lunch supplies, breakfast and other incidentals. I don't plan 3 meals a day for everyday, breakfast and lunch are simply decided on the spot. My littles prefer certain staples and we tend to stick to those things.

  • When we came home with all the groceries, we threw everything in the fridge/cupboards to be dealt with the next day.
  • Naptime proved enough time to prep the 10 meals that were part of the co-op plus separate all the frozen meat, cut all the vegetables, make supper and cook some chicken for a couple of casseroles. Surprisingly enough, there wasn't even that much mess.
  • Naptime the next day gave us enough time to cook the hamburger and prep 7 casseroles, 2 tinfoil meals, cook supper, soak enough beans for 4 more recipes and freeze the rest of the cut vegetables to use later. 22 meals in two days. It felt pretty amazing, I can tell you. 
  • In the end we had enough ingredients to make 3 extra meals, great for the unexpected!
  • The cooking night for our little co-op was great fun (I may not like cooking, but hanging with my friends I really enjoy). It was a bit surprising how heavy all those freezer meals ended being.
  • Discovered that I also REALLY enjoyed cooking with my David. What a great couple of afternoons I got to spend working with him.
Girls, why didn't you tell me I had my hat brim flipped up all night... what a dorky looking thing that is!

Are you interested in what we cooked? Here's the list of the co-op meals:

And here's the list of meals we cooked at home:

Here are the meals I have planned to cook on the day of the meal:
  • Tacos (though I grated and froze the cheese)
  • Waffles/Pancakes
  • Grilled Cheese Sandwiches and Soup
  • Pulled Pork Sandwiches
  • Fish & Chips
  • Pan Scrambler (My David makes the best scrambler!)

Some of the best benefits of once a month cooking...
  • little to no clean-up daily
  • little to no prep at the "crazy" hour
  • so much less time needed in the kitchen
  • fewer daily dishes
  • no stressful "what's for dinner?" moments
  • take-out is a whole lot less tempting when we have a plan and meal ready to go!
  • I only have to grocery shop once a month!
Did I mention that I'm sold on the idea? S-O-L-D SOLD!

My friend, Jen, left a comment on my last post about her system... great ideas! Go check it out.


Donna Dawe said...

Love the red bins in there too. I like the idea of freezer meals and slowcooker meals. Do you ever just have fresh veggies then? Like salads & whatnot? I think my fear might be loosing some of the nutritional values by freezing the veggies. Please do post your family's favorites. We've done menu planning for a few years now and I agree it saves on so much time and money. While you know I LOVE to cook, I don't so much love the daily cleaning so maybe I could start with 2-3 freezer meals a week (Sunday being on there for sure!).

Jen said...

Thanks for the "shout out" Coralee... Here are a few other "tips" I've either read or discovered myself -
-Freeze your freezer bags laying down. Saves space & prevents bags from freesing together.
-I use some super large mixing bowls to mix soups or chilli in. I then put my bags in my blender (remove the blade first!) to stand up while I am loading them. I have almost no spills this way.
-I make my ground meat go further by cooking it with shredded carrots or black beans. I can do up to 2 parts carrots, 5 parts meat or one part beans; 5 parts meat without anyone really noticing.
-I put masking tape on the front of my casseroles with the name of the casserole on it so that I can see what it is without taking everything out.

I am sure there are more... perhaps I should do a post too?! :)

Great work!!!

Jen said...

*freezing together... not "freesing". Oy.

Coralee said...

Donna, everything I've read says that you don't lose nutrients through freezing. Confession: we are eating more vegetables now than we ever have. We do eat a fresh salad now and then, but that would be at the middle of the month when we have it fresh. I'll keep you updated with notes about the recipes probably in my "checking in" posts.
Jen, thanks for all your tips. Yes, you should do a post about it.

Patty-Jean from LittleQuiver said...

FAn-FaN-fAn-Tastic Coralee and Jenny! Love the idea of putting the bags into the blender (w/o bags) to pour in! I'm so messy when it comes to pretty much anything in the kitchen - this is a great tip.
And I concur with Coralee on the frozen veggies! Their nutritional value is better any day than canned, and some say that frozen veggies bought actually have higher nutritional value than the fresh ones you buy....but y'all probably know that....with the frozen ones being frozen when they are picked ripe, while the fresh stuff we buy was not picked ripe...many times forced ripe and so less than great...still great, but you know what I mean. My mom does green smoothies everyday, kale, spinach, swiss chard etc...I was complaining that I can't get that stuff up north...But realized I should just get in Wpg and freeze it!!!!
Thanks Ladies for the great inspiration and THANKS Coralee for all the links to these recipes! They sound like some of my hubby's favs already.

Evelyn in Canada said...

Years ago I bought a cookbook called "The Big Cook", designed specifically for cooking (or assembling) as a group and freezing. I always think more than I act though and I've never done one of these big cooks. Now I have to work on emptying my freezer a bit before I do anything like this, but I am planning on it. Thanks for the inspiration and recipe ideas!

Coralee said...

Evelyn, I just checked out "The Big Cook" online. It looks great! I'm going to see if my library has a copy to have an even better look. Their grocery list online is so great, too. Thanks for sharing.