For a couple of years, I have been trying my hand at freezer cooking and I love it. I recommend it to everyone, because of the money you save and the ease it offer in eating balanced meals every day. The goal of freezer cooking is to make meal time stress free and enjoyable for everyone. It is a way to provide healthy and delicious options consistently. We can do that when we cook large amounts of food and divide these meals.
I start out with preparation. I take a few days to think about the meals we want to have the following month. I use a scrap piece of paper to brainstorm. From past experience, I realize that 15 main courses will feed us the entire month. I usually try to make 4 of these casseroles for weekend meals. During the prep stage, I look through the freezer and pantry to do an inventory of everything we have. I check to make sure I have freezer bags and other freezer safe containers. During this phase, I begin cleaning out the refrigerator, dumping old food, and wiping things down. I want to make sure that I have nothing to do but cook and store on the days I am freezer cooking.
Day 1, I prepare a menu and shopping list. I take the family calendar out and strategize on what dishes support the schedule. I think about the weather and ways to prepare seasonal foods so that it can be both delicious and nutritious. We make sure the menu include meatless days, but most of our main dinner courses will be meat dishes. I go through my recipes and pull the ones I will be using. I think about the main and side dishes. Is it a simple dish that needs to be accompanied by a fresh salad? What food to schedule on the day I have meetings, piano lessons and homework? I think about the days I can make short trips to pick up fresh fruits snd vegetables. A day filled with activities, would not comfortably fit a trip to the grocery store for fresh produce for the week. I try to section the shopping list by categories and by stores. This will help me to figure out how much time each trip will require and how much of the budget.
Day 2 is shopping for the bulk of the items. We usually shop at a wholesale store because they offer larger portions for a fraction of the cost found in most conventional stores. We prefer wholesale stores because we want to focus our savings in the area of quality meats, grains, organic and non-gmo foods. When I arrive home, I refrigerate the foods I will not start cooking or prepping on this particular day. Most of the frozen items are organic vegetables and fruits that can remain frozen until mealtime. I try to get the hardest, dirtiest, or most perishable things done first. I label the zip lock bags with the name of the item to be stored and date them, making sure to add any notes I would need to remember on the day we eat it. It is good to set out the seasoning and spices needed for today’s dishes.
I begin by first cleaning the large batches chicken. I personally do not like to eat feathers and hair, so this is going to require a lot of energy to get it clean enough for us. I divide the cleaned chicken and place them into their labeled bags. After thoroughly cleaning the area, I wash my hands to finish these first freezer meals. I do not cook the chicken on Day 2 but I bag it with all of its ingedients to finish in the crockpot on the day we eat it. So the final thing before placing the chicken into the freezer is to add the seasons in the bag that goes with the label on the bag. Finally, I steam the 5 large bags of Kale, divide and place them in the freezer. I also put the first batch of beans in the crockpot. I leave the beef in the fridge to prepare the remaining dishes on the following days.
It usually takes me a few days to prepare and store 15 meals. I can go on, but I just want to layout the process for now. I use the crock pot for a lot of the dishes, so I am able to work on portions of the meals even on busy days. I also choose one day for baking large batches of breads to accompany soups and stews. This should be enough to get you started. Please let me know if you found this helpful and want to hear more.