When I’m freezer cooking these are the things I consider…
Tip #1: Try to think of recipes that have similar elements which can be used in different ways:
Like taco filling and refried beans for burritos, tacos, taco salad, spaghetti sauce for spaghetti, stuffed shells, lasagna, chicken/veal/eggplant parmesan, pizza, calzones, beef roast for pot roast, stew, beef and noodles, BBQ sandwiches, open-face sandwiches, pocket sandwiches, etc.
Tip #2: Use simple recipes and save the gourmet ones for special occasions. If you can’t easily visualize the steps, it’s too complicated!
Tip #3: Re-package meat in meal-size portions for easier defrosting.
Chicken and Turkey:
*wrap individual pieces or specific number in plastic wrap then put everthing in large freezer bag.
*cut raw meat into chunks for stir-fry, shish-ke-bobs, casseroles, soup, etc.
*Bake chicken breasts in the oven covered with foil, add no seasoning except for a little white wine to “steam” them.
*Boil in a large kettle, saving the water for stock; cut up chicken and freeze in measured amounts for favorite recipes (1 or 2 cups per smaller bag)
*Make into meatballs or patties. Freeze meatballs on cookie sheet then put in freezer bag. Wrap patties in plastic wrap then put in freezer bag; be sure to estimate the weight of the patties on bag.
*Brown it and package in amounts needed for recipes later.
Roasts, Steaks and Other large portions of meat:
*Wrap individual steaks and chops separately, then bag them together.
*Consider splitting roasts, hams or whole chickens if you have a small family.
Tip #4: Use freezer strength wraps, bags and containers.
Freezer wraps are thicker and allow less air/moisture exchange during storage.
For short-term storage, you can re-use deli or dairy containers, but they are not recommended for longer-term storage.
Tip #5: Package carefully and label everything!!!
You will NOT remember whether you put 4 or 6 servings in a bag, how many cups, etc. Put the recipe’s page number on the freezer bag to help you for final preparations, or tuck simple instructions inside the double bag or keep an online log like i do.
I like to use freezer bags because I can freeze them flat and then stack them on end to save space.
You can also use aluminum pans for casseroles and re-use/recycle them.
TIP #6: Find timesaving ways to do simple things.
Cooking rice: Boil water, add rice, stir, turn off heat, cover and ignore for a few hours.
Chopping veggies: Use your food processor! If you have ever had to chop 5 lbs of onions all at once. You will know this is a MUCH easier this way!
Meat: brown all that you need at once. Transfer to containers until ready to assemble. Put in fridge. Put a paper towel in bottom of container to absorb grease.
Pasta: Don’t boil pasta or lasagna. Mix ingredients and be certain that all pasta is covered with sauce. If you DO use cooked pasta, cook it al dente so that it doesn’t become mush.
TIP #7: The more packaged or refined a food, the higher the price per serving.
There will also be more added ingredients which you probably don’t really want like salt, preservatives, MSG, chemicals, corn syrup, added sugar, artificial sweeteners, etc. Decide if the price is really worth it in time and money versus healthy eating.
Tip #8: For variety, co-plan a cooking day with a friend and split the meals. OR swap entrees!
This is especially good for families!
Tip #9: Post a list on your freezer or fridge with the available foods and update it every time you serve or freeze something.
Sounds obvious, but sometimes I forget what’s in the freezer! I have a magnetic write-on, wipe-off board on the side of my kitchen fridge.
Tip#10: Adapt, adapt, adapt!
Use this technique to the best of YOUR energy level, time and interest. You don’t have to do it “once a month”. Some cooks find that every few weeks is better. Others tend towards a more sporadic schedule. The point is to fit the method to the needs of your household. Even if you only use it to make spaghetti sauce and taco filling, you have saved yourself time and money!!!
Happy freezer cooking everyone!