Freezer Cooking : How, Why, What, and When!
Today 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!
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
- 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.
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?
- Grease – a lot is not good
- Celery – can get mushy, but if you don’t mind mushy celery, then it is ok.
- Mayo – No! No! Salad dressing or plain yogurt
- Potatoes – They get mealy after a while, but if you don’t mind mealy potatoes, then go for it.
- 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?
- 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.)
- Look for red flags
- Don’t be a slave to precision
- Get family members involved (child labor is a must if they are old enough to handle it)
- 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…
- Check pantry to see what you already have and mark it off your list
- Go shopping
- Start cooking
- Clean as you go
*****STOP WHEN YOU GET TIRED*****
How do I store all this food?
- Double wrap in foil
- Flat in freezer bags
- 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:
- Taco Casserole
- Spaghetti Sauce
- Christy’s (Brunswick) Chicken Stew
- Hashbrown Casserole Deluxe
- Christy’s Taco Pizza
- Ham and Broccoli Quiche
- 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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
When the ground beef (deer) is done, drain well, and return to pan, add water and taco seasoning.
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.
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.
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.
I failed geometry, can’t you tell?
Then layer the three casseroles with 1 cup of cheese each and the rest of the mac & cheese.
Divide up the two jars of salsa between all 5 dishes. Again, it is not an exact science. Just eyeball it.
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.
(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.
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.
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