Sunday, November 29, 2009

Setting the Table for Savings: Step #8

Freezer Cooking
This is the final step in the Setting the Table for Savings Series! Like I said in the last step, I am really into the freezer cooking! I love it, and I love to talk about it. Freezer Cooking, or once a month cooking, has been a huge time saver for me. It has also saved me quite a bit of money. I hear all kinds of excuses as to why people can't cook dinner.

1. There are just 2 of us, and we waste so much food
2. We don't eat leftovers
3. It is just cheaper for us to eat out
4. I am single, you can't cook for 1 person
5. I am so busy with the kids, we just grab stuff
6.I work full time, by time I get home I am too tired to cook

The thing is, it doesn't have to be that way. There is an alternative, and it will help people who use all those excuses. I do understand those excuses though, and I have used many of them myself. Before I started this, we ate out more than we should have because I was tired, and there is just 2 of us, and I do work full time, and I am not a fan of leftovers (most are yucky!!)...

Now, a little about me. I am a little bit of a food snob! OK, a lot bit!!! My husband gets very irritated at my food snobbish-ness, but hey, it is who I am. I have always been that way. As a small child after breakfast, I wanted to know what was for dinner. I know what you are thinking, and no, I wasn't a roly poly little kid. I am just a lover of good food, or a foodie! That said, the "freezing" thing freaked me out a bit. If my mom had frozen and thawed chili, I wouldn't eat it. I was convinced that the texture would be altered. I finally tried it (I think she tricked me and told me afterwards), and to my surprise, it tasted the same (gasp!). I admit my snobbish-ness to tell you, if I eat it, it must be good!

Methods: You can make a month worth of meals in one day OR you can do it in steps. By steps, I mean, if you make lasagna for dinner, go ahead and make up three. One for tonight, and two to freeze for later. I do a little bit of both ways. My mom and I like to get together and make up a bunch of meals together. We will get together and decide what we want to make, then we make a grocery list, buy our stuff, and get to work on a Saturday. I prefer doing the all day cooking day. It is not for the faint of heart; however, you get most of your cooking done for the month all in that ONE day! There is something to be said for that! If you do it in steps, it will just take you longer to accumulate meals. I tend to do this with my baking, though. If I get blueberries on sale, I just go ahead and whip up some muffins for the freezer. If we want cookies, I just make up double the dough and freeze it in balls.

Cooking Partner: I mentioned in the last paragraph that my mom is my cooking partner. A partner isn't necessary by any means, but it helps in several ways. You have company! I am kind of a loner type, so it doesn't bother me to cook alone, but it does makes it more fun. Plus, now I have someone to cook the WHOLE chicken and get the meat off the bones. (If you haven't read my profile I admitted my fear of "THE big meat") Seriously though, besides company, it lightens the load. You have four hands instead of two! You could even do it with three or four ladies, you would just need a big kitchen.

It is easier to have one person get all the food (unless it is already in your stockpile) and then split the cost. You will also want to try and map out your plan for the day in advance. What can you multi-task on, what can be prepped ahead, and so on. We cook most of our meat the night before and chop all of the vegetables and things. Basically, you want to be ready to roll that morning.

Packaging: There are all kinds of methods for freezing food.

Freezer Bag:If it is something that can go in a freezer bag, that is my first choice. It takes up the least amount of room, it is cheap, it is easy, and you just throw it away. I put soups, mac and cheese, hash brown casserole, cooked meat(BBQ, shredded beef), applesauce....really anything that doesn't have to hold a certain shape. To use, I just thaw and dump in a pan and bake (if necessary).

Foil Containers: I love these too! They can be expensive some places, but you can find them reasonably priced at the dollar store. I buy them in the 8x8 size, which is perfect for 2! I use these for my stuffed peppers, enchiladas, stuffed shells, and anything that does need to hold it's shape. After putting my food in them I wrap in plastic wrap and then with heavy duty foil.

Flash Freeze: You line a pan with foil and put your food in it. You then put in the freezer and freeze til firm. Then you lift out and wrap in foil and freeze. To eat, you take out of freezer and put back in the pan to thaw and bake. I don't like this method because it takes a long time for the food to freeze enough to take out of the pan, so it ties your pans up. I actually read somewhere that this was the way to do freezer cooking. I ran out and bought a bunch of pans for it, and soon discovered I had wasted my money. You may like this method, but don't say I didn't warn you!!!

Saving Money: This saves money in that you are wasting less food. For a small family, one casserole will go for two dinners instead of one now. You also save because you are only buying the ingredients once and are buying them in bigger quantities. Every time I do this I try to figure out the cost breakdown per meal. Usually we spend around $3 per meal.

The way we save so much on them is by stockpiling items we regularly use when they are at their rock-bottom price! Also, if chicken is on sale, we make chicken. If beef is on sale, we make beef.

What Freezes: It is hard to think of what to make at first. What freezes well and what doesn't??? I did a lot of searching online for recipes. I also bought the books "Don't Panic Dinner's In The Freezer". They have a lot of recipes and helpful information (you can find them both in my Amazon widget at the bottom of the page)

I have found so many things that freeze wonderfully. We freeze anything from main dishes, meats in marinades, side dishes, desserts...It really is endless. I will begin sharing some of my freezer recipes, in case you all are interested. And as always, feel free to ask questions!

There is a great blog dedicated to freezer cooking. Tricia at puts out a monthly freezer cooking schedule complete with what to buy, recipes, and everything. You should definitely check it out, it is really awesome.


Misty said...

You ready for all my questions? haha. I am just now gettting to Susie Homemaker status... :)

1. When you and your mom cook, are you pretty much making meals with the meat on sale? For instance if that week ground beef is on sale, would you all make your cooking around ground beef? Or do you use your stockpile for the meat?

2. Is there some dishes you prepare ahead but freeze uncooked or do you precook every meal?

3. If you are making multiple dishes at once (like 2 lasagnas) how do you estimate a change in the cooking time?

I am SUPER excited about this post!!! Can you tell?!? :) I am SO tired of chicken nuggets etc. AND those excuses...

Can't wait to for recipes or tips...

Katie said...

So, it sounds like I didn't do a great job explaining this...I must have left stuff out.Ha Ha! Oh, and Daniel read this and said we have to all go to Chick Fil A so we can talk about it!

1.We do both, if meat has been frozen you can't re-freeze unless it has been cooked. That said, if chicken breast are on sale and we want to make marinades and freeze. If ground beef is on sale, we make up meatloaves and meatballs when it is fresh. Now, if I find a whole chicken on sale and I am going to cook it and use the meat for casseroles, I will just freeze it and then thaw and cook it later.

2.Most things are prepared un-cooked. We just assemble and freeze. I think things taste better that way, plus it saves a lot of time on cooking day. We do cook our soups though. We will cook in the crockpot while everything else is cooking.

3. Not exactly sure what you mean? As far as when I make lasagna...I prepere several without baking. I freeze and then bake the day I want it. If a dish is frozen it will take longer to bake though.

I am glad you are into this! Let me know if I didn't answer your questions right.

Heather said...

I have never been a freezer person. I hope this is the key to unlocking "lots of savings" I am still NOT seeing where I have a day to freeze food. So I am thinking it will have to be like stockpilling, just do it as I go. I am sure you will be able to give me lots of tips. I'm excited about starting it. I can definetly see where we would be able to eat better especially on nights when we are so rushed for time.

Katie said...

It sure is hard to find a day to do it. We took the summer off, since we grill most of the time and then through the winter we will do it every 2-3 months or so.(it isn't an every month thing here)

You will see savings either way you do it. It is time consuming, but you will save more time over the course of the month when you don't have to cook. Maybe just start small and see how you like it!

I will start posting some easy recipe that I like soon. Hopefully that will help, too!

Heather said...

Yes, I appreciate all the recipes. That really helps when you have ideas of things that you know that freeze well. Thanks.

Related Posts with Thumbnails

My Favorite Cookbooks