Freezer Cooking : How, Why, What, and When!

frrrToday we have a very special guest blogger. I’ve known her for over ten years now and we have a LOT in common! She’s from Alabama, I’m from Alabama. My name is Christy Jordan, hers is Christina Jordan. She has a boy and a girl, I have a boy and a girl. Oh and she is also married to my husband’s twin, even if they were born seven years apart.

My sister in law has always been a good cook and today she has generously shared her expansive knowledge of freezer cooking with us! Tina teaches freezer cooking classes and a few weeks back when I was bemoaning not having time to work up a freezer cooking post, she volunteered. I’m going to bring this to you in two parts because it is SO long and full of WONDERFUL information (AND RECIPES!).

Thank you so much, Tina! I am soooooo bringing you baked goods next time we go to Georgia!

Gratefully, Christy :)

Hey Everybody! I’m Christy’s Sister In-Law, Tina. I started “bulk” cooking about 10 years ago.  I was a stay at home mom with two kids and was sick and tired of what was know in my house as “icky hour”.  Icky Hour was any time between 4 pm and 6 pm when I was trying to make dinner and waiting for my hubby to come home from work.  I took a continuing education class and not only did Icky Hour disappear, I also saved a ton of time and money.  Yes money!  In “these hard economic times” (I am so tired of hearing that phrase) every penny counts.  So, get you notebooks and pens ready, grab a cup of coffee and learn how you too can benefit from the wonderful world of MEGA COOKING! (Queue the 2001 music now)

What equipment will I need?

  • Food Processor
  • Crock Pot – DO NOT put frozen foods directly into crock.  It will crack it.  It’s O.K. to put frozen foods directly into a metal crock.
  • 1 or 2 BIG pots
  • Colander
  • Big bowls or plastic cake plate cover (it’s the biggest bowl I have!)
  • Big spoons
  • Extra measuring cups and spoons
  • Sharpie marker
  • Large and small zip lock freezer bags
  • Masking tape
  • Aluminum foil

How do I plan to cook all this food?

This will change with what ever recipes you will be using.  For this month’s, I cooked my two Mexican dishes on one night, my chili, chicken stew and spaghetti sauce on one Saturday, and then did the rest on the following Saturday.  You want to group as many similar recipes together as possible.  Or you could do all chicken one day, then all pork, all sides and all desserts, etc.  The more you do it, the easier it will be to see what can be done together and what doesn’t work well together.

Use an assembly line.  Go ahead and chop up all veggies you will need, brown all ground beef, have spices out, and all other ingredients you will need.  Have all this stuff ready to go and where you can easily find it so you won’t spend all day looking for something.

How do I know how many meals I will need?

A – B – C + D + E = Number of meals you need to prepare.

A – How soon you want to cook again (in days)

B – How often do you eat out (in days)

C – Scratch cooking (in days)

D – How many times you will have company over to eat

E – How many meals you will give to others i.e.: Death in the family, new baby, hospital, etc.

Example:

30 (days) – 4 (times I eat out) – 4 (times I like to cook a meal from scratch) + 2 (company will be coming for dinner) + 1 (time Suzie Homemaker will have her baby) = 25 meal you need to make ahead.

What Can I Freeze?

Red Flags:

  1. Grease – a lot is not good
  2. Celery – can get mushy, but if you don’t mind mushy celery, then it is ok.
  3. Mayo – No! No!  Salad dressing or plain yogurt
  4. Potatoes – They get mealy after a while, but if you don’t mind mealy potatoes, then go for it.
  5. Meats need to be covered in liquid

There is a really good book, Can I Freeze It?: How to Use the Most Versatile Appliance in Your Kitchen
.  I will also provide a complete bibliography at the end of books that I have found useful.  The best thing about freezer cooking is that you can USE THE RECIPES YOU ALREADY USE and it will come out just fine.

How do I do this?

  1. Rewrite recipes  (by this, I mean figure out how many meals you can get out of the recipe you already use without having to double or triple it.  For example, my lasagna recipe will make a HUGE pan of lasagna.  When I made it, we would eat some of it for supper, my husband and I would take it the next day for lunch, the next day I would take some to lunch and then I would throw out the rest.  My lasagna recipe is easily divided into 2 or 3 meal exactly as it is.)
  2. Look for red flags
  3. Don’t be a slave to precision
  4. Get family members involved (child labor is a must if they are old enough to handle it)
  5. Make a list of all ingredients you will need, add them up, I.E. number of pounds of ground beef, number of onions, cups of cheese, etc…
  6. Check pantry to see what you already have and mark it off your list
  7. Go shopping
  8. Start cooking
  9. Clean as you go

*****STOP WHEN YOU GET TIRED*****

How do I store all this food?

  • Double wrap in foil
  • Flat in freezer bags
  • Tupperware
  • Label it and date it
  • Keep a list of what you have
  • Mix it up in the freezer so you won’t be almost to the end and you only have on thing left to eat.

Put things together, i.e.: Cheese with lasagna, extra toppings, etc.

So what did you do?

For this round, I want to cook again in 28 days.  I asked my kids what they wanted to eat.  One told me Fettuccini Alfredo and the other said cube steaks.  Those two are both scratch meals for me.  I plan to have them both twice. I also have a roast in the freezer so that will be one more scratch meal and I will make beef stew form the leftovers the next day.  That makes 1 more.

Formula so far:

28 (A) – 6 (C) =

I also know this month, I will have my son’s Blue and Gold banquet and we are going to my mom’s for dinner for night.

Formula so far:

28 (A) – 6 (C) – 2 (B) =

I don’t know anyone who will be having a baby and hope no one is going to pass away, so I I’m not going to make any extra.  I also have no time for company this month, so I am not going to make any more for company.

Formula end up as:

28 (A) – 6 (C) – 2 (B) + 0 (D) + 0 (E) = 20 meals to cook.

Now the fun begins.  Think about recipes you already make.  Can you make more than one meal from it as it is or does your family eat all of it in one sitting?  This is where you decide how much of each recipe you need.  For my mega cook, I am going to make:

  • Chili
  • Taco Casserole
  • Spaghetti Sauce
  • Christy’s (Brunswick) Chicken Stew
  • Hashbrown Casserole Deluxe
  • Christy’s Taco Pizza
  • Ham and Broccoli Quiche
    Potato Soup
  • Beef Burgundy Stew

When I go shopping I am also going to buy all the ingredients for the scratching cooking as well.  That’s nine different recipes plus four scratch recipes, for a total of 13 different meals for this month.  You want to keep some variety to the menu so everyone doesn’t get burned out.  The full menu, including sides will be:

  • Chili served with steamed rice
  • Taco Casserole with a side of steamed whole kernel corn
  • Spaghetti with a tossed salad
  • Chicken stew with lima beans (already in the pantry)
  • Taco Pizza with a tossed salad
  • Quiche with mix fruit cup
  • Potato Soup with a tossed salad
  • Beef Burgundy Stew with French bread
  • Roast Beef with steamed rice, gravy and green beans
  • Beef Stew with cornbread
  • Fettuccini Alfredo with tossed salad.

Lettuce goes bad to quickly so I will but salad each week when I go and get milk and bread.  The rest of the sides, I have in the freezer, are canned from last summer, or I have to make from scratch.

Now to figure out how many of each recipe I need to make to get 20 meals.  This all depends on how your family eats.  My lasagna recipe use to make 3 meals, now that my kids are older, it will only make 2 meals.  This is how my recipes worked out:

  • Chili - as is – 2 meals
  • Taco Casserole – double it – 3 meals
  • Spaghetti Sauce – as is – 3 meals
  • Christy’s (Brunswick) Chicken Stew – as is – 2 meals (It’s really four, but I ate two of them last month)
  • Hashbrown Casserole Deluxe – as is – 3 meals
  • Potato Soup – as is – 2 meals
  • Christy’s Taco Pizza - as is – 2 meals
  • Ham and Broccoli Quiche – as is – 2 meals
  • Beef Burgundy Stew – as is – 2 meals

That makes a total of 21 meals to make.  But I only need 20!!  What do I do with the other one?  Save it.  You can use it next month or cook it instead of making a scratch meal.

Now how to plan for the trip to the grocery store.  The ladies at 30daygourmet.com have a great grocery list inside their book.  If you are not use to shopping for ingredients on a large scale, I would recommend you use it.  I used to use it all the time when I first started, but now I just use a sheet of notebooks paper.  My grocery list looked like this:

Click on the Table for Full View

Click on the Table for Full View

Check your pantry and see what you already have.  You may have a lot of it already.  My husband has a friend that had more deer meat than would fit in his freezer so he gave us about 75 pounds of it.  Needless to say, I don’t need to buy ground beef, tenderloins, cube steaks, or roast for quite a while.

Next you want to plan out how you are going to cook the meals.  The great thing about this is you can do it all in one very long weekend or you can break it up into evenings and one Saturday.  That is what I did.

Phase one:

Last weekend, I made my spaghetti sauce, chili and chicken stew.  I gathered all of those ingredients:

2 lbs ground beef (deer), chicken breasts, crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, corn, chicken, black beans, onions, bell pepper, big jar of Prego Spaghetti sauce, tomato sauce, tomato paste, beer, salt, sugar, pepper, butter, and chili mix.

I got my large crock-pot and my medium crock-pot out and plugged.  I dumped in the 2 cans of diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, beer, 2 cans of black beans, and chili mix in the medium cock pot.  I put the spaghetti sauce and tomato paste into the large crock-pot.  I turned both on low and put the lids on.  I put my chicken breasts in a big pot to cook.  Next I chopped up all the onions I would need; 1 for the chili, 1 for the spaghetti sauce, and 2 for the chicken stew.  I put one in each crock-pot and set the other two aside.  Next, I chopped up the bell peppers and put those in the crock-pots.  I then browned my 2 pounds of ground beef (deer), drained and then rinsed off the fat.  I divided that up into the two crock-pots.   I then focused my attention on the chicken stew.  Just follow Christy’s

directions for making it.  My family ate some of the chicken stew for dinner and I gave away 1 meal’s worth to a friend who just left the hospital.  That left 2 meals.  I divided up that into two of those “Glad” bowls, labeled them with what was in there, date made and directions for reheating.  Next, I divided up my chili into 1-quart jars and put those in the refrigerator.  I divided up the spaghettis sauce into 1-quart jar (that’s all I had left) and 5 pint jars.  I put those in the refrigerator too.  I put them in the refrigerator first to cool down and then I put them in the freezer.  Be sure to label the jars so you know what is in them.  I cleaned up the kitchen and was done for the day.  So for about 2 – 3 hours of work, I made 7 meals.

Phase two:

After supper one night last week, I decided to make my two Mexican recipes.  I made Taco Casserole and Christy’s Taco Pizza.  I cleaned up the mess from supper and then gathered all the ingredients I needed.

pizza-ingredients

By the time I remembered to take a picture of the ingredients, I had already started browning my ground deer.  Sorry!  I put water on to boil in a big pot and then started browning my ground beef (deer).  I am sure you all know what browning beef boiling water looks like so I will save a few KB of space here.  Next I lined my glass baking dishes with foil.  I do this so that when they are frozen, I can take them out of the baking dish and either wrap them in foil or stick in a freezer bag.  I only do this on casseroles that are layered, like lasagna.

dishes

Add your noodles to the boiling water and cook according to package directions.  The ground Beef (deer) is still cooking.  When the noodles are done, drain them in a colander and put back in the pot.  Add cheese sauce and sour cream and mix well.

maccheesepot

When the ground beef (deer) is done, drain well, and return to pan, add water and taco seasoning.

grbeeftaco

Follow package directions for cooking time and amount of water to add.  Get the pizza shells out and save that little plastic bag that come with them.  You will store one of the pizzas in it.  Open up the cans of refried beans and spread one on each shell. Set aside.

pizzacrusts

crustspread

pizzaoncounter

Now, clear off the counters and set up your assembly line.  I have the two pizzas, and the three foil lined baking dishes.  (Ignore the mess in my kitchen.  I am a very messy cook!)  I also have my macaroni, cheese, salsa, scale, and taco meat all ready to go.  I use the scale so I don’t add too much or too little cheese to the dishes.

First, divided up half of the mac & cheese between the three foil lined baking dishes.

macandcheesedivided

Then divide up your ground beef (deer).  This is not an exact science but you will divide up about 1 pound between the two pizzas, and the other two pounds between the three casseroles.

beefdivided

I failed geometry, can’t you tell?

1

2

Then layer the three casseroles with 1 cup of cheese each and the rest of the mac & cheese.

3

4

Divide up the two jars of salsa between all 5 dishes.  Again, it is not an exact science.  Just eyeball it.

5

6

Cover the three casseroles with foil and put in the freezer.  Now for the fun part.  The taco pizzas are really flimsy and I can’t put them in the bag with our making a mess.  First off, don’t try to put them both in the bag.  I tried and they don’t fit.  Plus, if you try to do it before they are frozen it makes a really big mess. My husband suggested I freeze them first.  But I don’t have a whole bunch of room in the freezer.  Well, I rearranged all the stuff in there, stacked the pizzas on a cookie sheet between cooling racks and let them freeze over night.

frrr

(Again, I forgot to take the picture before I wrapped them up.)  In the morning, I was able to stick one in the little plastic bag and the other I wrapped in foil.  Then you measure out 1 cup of cheese for each pizza and casserole, mark the plastic bags, fill with cheese and put them in the freezer.  That way you will have the cheese there when you need it.  If you don’t mark the bags, you will wind up with something at the end of the month that will not have cheese to top it off.

cheese

Mark everything and you are done…for today.  This part took me about 1 hour to do.

Now you are ready to begin Phase Three.  The big day.  Remember to pace yourself and rest when you get tired.  This is not something that has to be done in one day.  If you feel like it is too much, cut it in half and do the rest the next day.

Are you ready???  Let’s get cooking.

Stay tuned for the next post to read the continuation of  how to freezer cook AND get all of these great recipes!

Friend me on Facebook!
Christy Jordan’s ProfileCreate Your Badge
Christy Jordan's Facebook profile

I re-wrote my “about” page if anyone wants to have a gander :).

Tell me what you think! The top part is still the same but it has a new ending :)

Enjoy This Post? Never Miss Another!

Subscribe to Christy's email list and receive all her new posts directly in your inbox

Comments

  1. says

    Christy I am going to be SO selfish right now, have you ever thought of doing your own show on Blog Talk Radio? I think it would be awesome, maybe once a week give some tips and a good recipe , maybe have guest hosts and money saving tips? Yes Im asking alot I know but you are soo full of good tips hehe, Just a thought, Carm

  2. Carol says

    Great post! I want to start eating better meals at home and doing this ahead of time would be wonderful. There are just 2 of us but it would save time in the evenings and save us from saying “it doesn’t matter” when we decide what to eat. It would just be whatever I thawed that day. I’ve started trying to buy in bulk when things are on sale but if I could prepare the meals before freezing the ingredients that would be a big help. And maybe I could convince my mom to help if we made enough for her some meals too!

    • says

      You know, freezer cooking is the PERFECT thing for cooking for smaller amounts of people. When I used to do a lot of freezer cooking, it took nothing to get out enough for a singular meal. I used to have these single serving corelle dishes with rubber lids. You could freeze or bake in them. I bought several and sent them to my grandmother filled with individual servings of casseroles and such, she loved them.

      You can get Pyrex bowls with rubber lids that are about 16 ounces fairly inexpensively at Wal Mart, they freeze and bake well. :)

      You can also do it more cheaply by just freezing in freezer bags, which is what I prefer now. I put all of my dish in a bag, lay it flat to freeze, then stack it like a bookend once it is frozen to save space. You can do this with a gallon or a quart sized bag so its still a great option for smaller servings !
      Christy :)

    • says

      YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      This is the slow cooker I have. Hamilton Beach gave one away eons ago on Southern Plate (they have been very kind and given so much to Southern Plate readers!).
      The post link is to a giveaway that has passed but you can see the slow cooker.
      It has three separate bowls: 2, 4, and 6 quart and has warm, low, and high settings. I just LOVE mine!

      Right now they are at Wal Mart and I think the price has come down considerably, around forty dollars.

      Hope this helps! Let me know what you end up with. Any slow cooker would work just fine but I do love my different sized bowls and warm setting!
      Gratefully,
      Christy

      http://www.southernplate.com/2008/08/win-a-hamilton-beach-3-in-1-slow-cooker.html

      • says

        I have to agree with Christy’s suggestion. I have the same slow cooker she does in a different color. I actually managed to snag mine for less than 30 bucks on clearance at K-Mart last summer and have been nothing but thrilled with it. I’ve had several different slow cookers over the years and this one is my favorite, it’s the easiest to clean and I love how everything stacks together neatly taking up a lot less space than three individual slow cookers.

  3. Mary Sanders says

    The very best way to store items like meats that you buy in bulk, or soups or chili you make in large quantities, is to place them in Seal a Meal Bags and use the machine to remove the air. This vacuum out all the air, and your food stays frozen for months, and No freezer burn. You can use it for storing cheeses too. I simply divide out the meats or whatever, into portions needed for each meal and place them in the bags and vacuum seal. Since it is just the two of us at home now, I make a recipe, and use part of it for dinner, and place the remainder in the bags, toss in the freezer, and use another day.No leftovers to consume day after day, and No waste. So easy. Produce from your garden and herbs can be used this way too. Bread is not a good idea, as it just gets squashed!

  4. Jean says

    Christy I have a problem when I try to cook and freeze ground beef. Within a few days it seems to develope a “freezer smell and taste.” Can you give me a solution to this problem? I like being able to cook up a large amount of ground beef to have it ready for chili/sloppy joes/casseroles, etc. I hope you can help me with this. Also, I was checking out your Daddy’s Coconut Cake recipe and I have a question. What do you do with the whipped topping? Do you mix it in with the icing ingredients – if so, it is not listed with them. This looks like a great cake to make as my husband is a coconut fan. Thank you for your time and trouble to answer my questions….I want you to know how very much I enjoy your recipes. They are just the type of cooking that I most enjoy, just everyday good tasting and simple to make. Jean from Indiana

    • says

      Hey Jean!

      Thank you for the great question! First of all, let me use my $40,000 degree to talk about freezer burn. That poor diploma is just hanging on the wall and dusting it off from time to time makes me feel better about those student loans… :)

      Freezer burn takes place when air reaches food which has been frozen, causing it to dehydrate. It is important to note that freezer burn is a cosmetic issue, not a food safety issue. While it may affect the texture of your food is still safe to eat provided it has not been in the freezer past the recommended time for freezing whatever it may be (I’ll get a chart up here soon that tells those times for y’all.)

      Having said that, there are of course all manner of vacuum sealers on the market to prevent this but I have found them unnecessary for me and mine as we consume the food before anything can happen to it (hungry family of four and mama who cooks a LOT). What I do for beef is drain it well and place it in quart sized freezer bags. Using freezer grade will help. Squeeze all of the air out of them and seal well. For further protection, you can even put several of the quart size bags in a gallon bag if you like.

      Another thing I would look at is what else is being stored in your freezer. I wonder if perhaps there might be some old ice or some type of meat or vegetable which is past its prime and giving off negative odors. If that isn’t the case (and I am NOT saying you have a dirty freezer! Lord knows I have things at the bottom of mine that have likely been there just holding space for two or three years!) then you might want to try setting aside a cardboard box to place your bags of beef in inside the freezer to further protect them from picking up any odors or tastes from other foods. This is also pretty handy as you will never have to dig for your beef again!

      I’ve never had this problem but like I said, we go through our meat fast! I usually buy no more than thirty pounds at a time and we use about five a week most weeks.

      I hope this helps!
      I went to the coconut cake post and saw what you meant. I had it in the tutorial and ingredients list but didnt mention it in my instructions! Its fixed now :) Let me know how you make out and have a great week!
      Gratefully,
      Christy

  5. Sonya says

    Thanks for the ideas! I have often wondered if it would be worth it to double a recipe and freeze half for another time. Since I work outside the home, I’ll probably only be able to do it in very small batches!

  6. Linda says

    What wonderful information…. I used to freezer cook years ago whem my 36 yr. old twins were little. I would do most of my cooking when they were in bed, or in pre school, that was when I wasn’t working at the pre-school. This is a keeper for sure, and all you young mothers will really be thankful to use this information, even if it’s not done on such a large scale. You can use the frozen dinners when something comes up and you just don’t have time to prepare a meal that day. Great Great information…
    Thank you Christy.
    Linda in Keithville La.

  7. Mellany says

    This all sound wonderful, but where do you get the time to do it?
    My kids are all grown my baby just turned 18 last weekend but I babysit my 2 nieces 5 to 6 days a week one is 7 the other will be 2 in May and I also work at least 6 nights a week in a nursing home (Dietary):) Thanks for the ideas, if nothing else I’ll start makin a double batch of whatever and puttin one in the freezer.
    Ya’ll have a great day!
    Mel

  8. HEATHER says

    I was just wondering, when you freeze in the mason jars, do you have to go through a canning process or can you just put on the lid and freeze after the initial refrigeration?

    Christy – I love your site!

  9. Betsy says

    What a very helpful post! I’ve frozen meals in the past (especially before my 2nd child was born) but never to this extreme. But I like the idea and may just try it!! Thanks so much for sharing!

  10. Katie says

    So, glad you’ve posted this. I watch a baby full-time, but her mother works for the school district,which means I don’t work all summer, usually I stress out about,but not this year. these frozen meals will definetly let me get a lil ahead of myself!!! Thanks a bunch!!!!!!

Trackbacks

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *