Here are some ideas that may help in starting out.
1.) You don’t have to cook for an entire month on your first time. You can ease into it. Start with cooking a double batch of whatever you are making for a week and freeze the extra. In one week, you will have a weeks worth of food saved up. If you do it every week for a month, you’d be able to take a month off. Or pick a few days when you can double your meal and store what you can.
2.) You could mini batch cook for a week or two instead of a whole month. Pick a day once a week where you will dedicate a few hours to cooking large batches of meals to stock your freezer.
3.) Maybe you don’t mind cooking dinners each night but breakfasts are very difficult because of a busy morning schedule. Choose a few meals you could have for breakfast and spend a day making a week’s worth or more.
4.) Or jump right in and enjoy the benefits of less waste, more time, and home-cooked meals for a whole month or more.
I chose to suffer for one very long day and reap the benefits of taking a full month off. If I am completely honest, the full day of cooking is beyond exhausting, almost like being in labor, but it’s true that as soon as the freezer is stocked you forget the pain involved and are focused on the blessing. After a month or so goes by you are ready to do it all over again.
There are many ways to go about freezer cooking. If you are fairly happy with the current recipes you are using you can simply tweak them to accommodate freezing.
A few notes on what freezes well.
- Most baked goods freeze very well. I’ve done breakfast muffins, breads, rolls, etc. and large batches of homemade granola. You can also make blueberry waffles or pancakes made with whole grains and freeze them to be popped in the toaster just like store-bought waffles but without all the chemicals and preservatives.
- You can pre-freeze fruit and yogurt for breakfast with your granola or for easy smoothies. I slice bananas, berries, or peaches into chunks and put in muffin tins. Then spoon yogurt,( I prefer Greek for the extra creaminess) over each cup almost to the top. Tap the muffin tin on the counter to let the yogurt settle. Then pop it in the freezer until it’s completely frozen. Remove tray and pop each cup out with a fork and freeze in freezer bags. You can do individual or gallon sized bags. They won’t freeze into one large clump as long as you put them in right away and they don’t have time to defrost. You can pull them out the night before or grab and go, it will defrost rather quickly if they are in muffin sized amounts. If you’re going to use them in a smoothie, they can go directly into the blender.
- We like to BBQ in the summer months so I’ll get a cut of meat, make a marinade, cut up veggies and freeze the uncooked cut and marinade in a Ziploc freezer bag. It can be taken out a day or two in advance, placed in a bowl and defrosted in the fridge. In the time it takes to defrost, the marinade will soak in and it’s ready for the grill. Whip up a salad or steam some veggies and it’s a simple meal.
- Assembled casseroles freeze really well. Do all the precooking ahead of time for any meats involved. Then assemble the casserole up to the point you would normally bake, and freeze instead. When defrosted, it is ready to pop in the oven. You could do lasagna, rice chicken casseroles with spinach or brocoli, stuffed french toast, enchiladas and more. I have not had much success with frozen pasta, as it often gets mushy when defrosted and recooked. Lasagna noodles do well but I suggest making sauces and boiling the water for fresh pasta on the day you will eat it. Orzo is the other exception, but make sure to cook it al dente as it will have more time to cook when you are reheating it.
- We also like to have a few staple meals that can be made into anything. Spaghetti sauces with seasonal veggies or meatballs can be made in huge batches and eaten with many different noodles. Fish packets wrapped in foil to stick in the oven, crockpot, or grill can be eaten with fresh veggies or made into fish tacos. Layered pans with Mexican rice, cheese, taco meat, bell peppers, onions , and pinto or black beans made in bulk in the slow cooker can be defrosted and cooked into tacos, burritos, enchiladas, baked potato toppings, quesadillas, mixed with eggs for a mexican omelet, or eaten alone.
- Soups and stews are my favorite for winter. Although, I love potato soups, they don’t usually freeze well. Potatoes are very hard to freeze as they typically taste overly starchy or too watery when cooked. I make a few big batches in the crock pot starting at the beginning of the day and pour them out into a super large cake pan to help them cool faster so they can be stored in Ziplocs and frozen. Then I start the next batch of soup. I usually make at least three soups with three meals each so I end up with 9 days of soup in a month.
Ok, so next comes the planning part where you make your master lists. Tune in for the next post where I’ll share some of my super top-secret recipes, my favorite links and menu planning tools, and ideas for how to shop, plan, and cook your way to free evenings for a month.