Simplifying Meals: Freezer Cooking

Posted on December 18, 2007 by
Categories: Simplification
Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 46 seconds

Photo by By sporkist
Photo by By sporkist
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could cook one afternoon and not have to cook again for a long time? Join me in imagining: cooking on one afternoon, and having a whole bunch of meals ready to go for the next month. Or even just cooking a few things and getting 5 or 6 meals done at once.

For those of us with busy lives, it is something we could all wish for. Cooking at home is going to be better quality than eating out, and far cheaper too. But how do you do this?

Make-ahead meals have been around for a long time. I remember researching this very topic a few years ago, and was astonished by the sites that came up.

The Evolution Of Make-Ahead Cooking

Once A Month Cooking

The first place I ran across the concept was in Once-A-Month-Cooking (OAMC). The concept is easy, but I could never swing the execution. You spend one day a month doing food prep and eat out of your freezer for the next month. You assemble recipes, make a shopping list, shop, food prep, assemble and freeze the results.

Make-a-Meal places

More recently, a slew of retail establishments popped up that take the hard work out of OAMC. They have set recipes and do the food prep. You go in, assemble the meals and take them home. The catch: a month’s worth of meals will run hundreds of dollars.

Saving Dinner Mega-Menu Mailer

About this time, my dinner guru Leann Ely at Saving Dinner came out with Mega-Menu Mailers. She put together the recipes and the shopping list, and gave some assembly instructions. I did a couple of these, but was exhausted by the six hours of cooking. Also, we really don’t care for fish, and the fish recipes languished in the freezer, only to be claimed by freezer burn.

With straight OAMC, I couldn’t get it together enough for me to do. Cost puts the assembly places out of my reach, and the Saving Dinner variety left me exhausted and with dishes we wouldn’t eat.

The Solution

I still wanted to do this, however. I wanted to have dinners in the freezer that we would use. There are two ways to do this: make double, and mini-freezer cooking.

Making Double

This one is easy. When you are making a dish that will freeze well, make two and pop one in the freezer. Not much extra effort, and easy to do. Over time, this will build up a stock of extras to be used.

Mini Cooking Sessions

In this method, you do a freezer cooking session, but only using one type of meat and limiting the dishes to 5 or 6. By limiting the meat choice, you won’t have as much prep work, and by limiting the amount of meals you will limit the effort.

Doing a mini session is fairly easy:

  1. Select your base ingredient (chicken, ground beef, etc)
  2. Find recipes with like ingredients (onions, peppers, veggies, etc.)
  3. List and buy ingredients
  4. Prep the ingredients (cook the meat, if necessary, chop veggies, etc)
  5. Assemble and freeze.

Five Meals in the Freezer

This last weekend I did a mini session. Five meals in the freezer, all ground beef, all smelling delicious; one in the fridge, leftover veggies and meat in a pot for chili. It was excellent!


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Comments (3)

 

  1. Leanne says:

    Guess what? Your solution is my solution! We have Five for the Freezer where you do the mini session cooking, just like you have in your blog! The Mega Menu-Mailer is for those who want that kind of thing. For the rest of us, give me a Five for the Freezer! They work great for buy one/get one free deals at the grocery store and take about 20 to 30 minutes to assemble after dinner one night. I use the Five for the Freezers all the time. And one more thing…because the huge cooking session is so overwhelming with the Mega Menu-Mailer, we’ve made an “add on kit”, that allows you to break down the “mega prep session” into smaller, mini sessions, prepping your food per meat. Remember, if you don’t care for fish, substitute chicken breast. It will work everytime, as long as you adjust the cooking time when it’s time to cook your frozen meal. Hope that helps–great blog, btw!

  2. LJ says:

    Thanks for the comment Leanne! I love your menu mailers and your cookbooks.

    I have to admit I’ve purchased the Five for the Freezer, but haven’t even looked at them yet. :) My family was begging for my standard hamburger recipes, and seven was the number I pulled out of the box, including the chili.

    I don’t think I’d be able to feed my family (and myself) anywhere near so well without your help!

    I hope that everyone out there will try out these fabulous options. If freezer cooking is not your thing, Leanne has great cookbooks that take all the guesswork out of food prep. She gives you the menus, side dishes, recipes and a shopping list all in one! See http://savingdinner.com for more information

    (Note: I’m not affiliated to Leanne in any way, just a very satisfied customer!)

  3. LJ says:

    One thing I recently found out: Glad now makes a plastic freezable container that can go right into the oven. This would free up casserole dishes, particularly in the make-double mode.