I started freezer cooking back in college to save money. On the weekend I would make a chili or soup in the slow cooker and some sort of casserole in a 9×13 pan. I would divide everything into individual containers, stick them in the freezer and voila I had my cheap meals for the week. After I got married, it was easy to just keep the same schedule, only now making an extra meal or two at a time instead of individual portions to help our newlywed budget stretch.
So, here I am, 18 years later and I am still freezer cooking. How and what I put in the freezer has really changed over the years! Now I am a mom of three busy kids (one in elementary school, one in middle school and one in high school). I am also involved in Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, volunteer at the kids’ schools and teach Sunday school. While my kids are at school I work 3 part-time jobs: in a family day care a few hours a week, as a substitute lunch lady for the school district (complete with a super attractive hair net – LOL!), and I teach gluten and dairy free cooking and food preserving classes. Oh, and I have been writing a blog for the past 5 years and write for this nifty blog, too. Toss food allergies into the mix and things would really be crazy if I didn’t have meals stocked in the freezer. Trust me, if I have time for freezer cooking, anyone does.
I have really enjoyed hearing about how the other writers here at Once a Month Meals stock their freezers. We all seem to have a different spin on it, yet all end up with delicious meals we can feed our families to make our days run a little smoother. With our food allergies, everyone thinks that I must be trapped in my kitchen, cooking for my family every evening during the week. That couldn’t be further from the truth, as the slow cooker and freezer are my not-so-secret tools to save dinner time during busy week nights.
I don’t often have an entire day to freezer cook, so I usually take bits of time here and there to stock my freezer. Most dinner freezer cooking revolves around sale items. For example, if there is a big sale on chicken, I will make four of the same recipe – 3 for the freezer and one for dinner that night. I have found that making a double batch of a meal only takes an extra 10 minutes of my time. That works for me!
Another way I cook according to the sales is to make what I call “meal starters.” A meal starter is something you can build a meal around, such as precooked shredded chicken and chicken stock or cooked pork roast cubes. When there is a sale on ground beef or turkey I make a big batch of meat balls, some meatloaf mix (my family loves meatloaf) and precooked ground beef with onions and peppers. Precooked beef can be used in spaghetti sauce, seasoned and made into tacos, put in chili or whipped up into some quick sloppy joes. Having some precooked meat on hand also makes it easier for my teens to help pull together meals with very little help. I love getting the kids in the kitchen!
When it comes to breakfast and making gluten free breads, I do more of a “mini-session” of freezer cooking, taking a couple hours on a weekend to do my baking. With all of my kids in different schools with different start times, having breakfasts in the freezer is really helpful, especially as we don’t like to eat too much cereal. I make all of our gluten and dairy free baked goods to provide healthier, much tastier, and MUCH less expensive items than I could buy in the store. Usually my kids help plan what we are going to make (checking the current seasonal items and sale items), make the shopping list (including checking to see what items we may already have) and help me find the items at the store. This gives me a chance to teach cooking and meal planning skills to my kiddos while having fun with them too. My kids get a big kick out of eating breakfasts that they helped make.
Do you want to know the most fun I ever had freezer cooking? When I have done it with friends! You can use one of the menus on here, or just pick a few recipes and have at it. The easiest way I have had to divide expenses for a big old cooking spree is to just put together different marinades (such as this plan), label and seal the bags, then everyone brings their bags home to fill with the meat (or veggie protein) of their choice. Marinades are really easy to put together, leaving you lots of time for visiting (my favorite part of a cooking day).