Friday, February 27, 2009

Freezer Cooking: Tips for success...

Okay, so many people have asked me about my freezer cooking marathon that I did, that I thought I'd post a few tips, and some of my favorite recipes here so you could give it a try if you want to. The first thing I would say, is be realistic--don't try to do too much on your first try, or you will never do it again. Second, cooking with a friend is seriously more fun, and much faster. If you have a good friend, with families about the same size, it is so much easier to do half the shopping, and half the cooking, then take home half the meals. The first few times I did cooking sessions, I did them with my best friend. We cooked 40 meals, split the cost, and each took 20 home. It was so much fun, and each of us worked on making 2 of one recipe, so it went so much faster.
Next, you need to decide on how many meals to cook. A good first session (by yourself) would be 5 to 10 meals, making 2 of each--20 meals altogether. If you did this twice a month, you would always have a good supply of meals, and a good selection to rotate through. I usually go through my books and pick like a few chicken, a few beef, and a few pork recipes, so that I have a good mix of meals to choose from. You can suit these to your families tastes. You also want to be careful that you don't pick too many recipes that need to be cooked beforehand. My favorite recipes are ones where you throw the meat into the bag, pour a sauce over it, and freeze. They are quick and easy, and the meat tastes wonderful marinated all day when you defrost it.
I have several books that I like with great meals in them. The first one is called 30-Day Gourmet, by Nancy Slagle. You can order it from http://www.30daygourmet.com. It is full of great recipes, tips, and worksheets you can use to figure out how much of everything you need. Once you have the book, it will give you a password for access to the website with literally thousands of great recipes. Another book is called Once a Month Cooking, by Mimi Wilson. Another great one is called Girlfriends on the Go, by Suzie Roberts. This one is actually a book for groups who are doing a cooking co-op, where you pick 5 or 6 women to join your cooking group, and each of you makes 10 of the same meal, then you go home with 10 different meals. I think this is an interesting idea--and would like to try it sometime, but have never been organized enough to pull it together. Maybe you'll be better than me!
Next, pick the day that you want to cook. It should be a day that you aren't super busy and you can devote the day to cooking. You want to do your shopping/preparation the day before you cook so you are working with fresh ingredients. I usually look through ads to find the meat that I need on sale, and go to a few different stores to buy that. I usually just buy the rest of the ingredients at Walmart, just because it's easier. When you get home from the store, put your ingredients away, then start preparation work. If you will just cook your chicken that needs cooked and diced, cook your ground beef, chop your vegetables, etc. it will really help to speed your cooking day up! Also, make sure you turn up your freezer all the way the night before so that the food will freeze faster.
Cooking day, I usually work on one recipe at a time, making 2 of each recipe. You can use freezer bags, gallon and quart size for most recipes, but for casseroles or lasagna you may need disposable tins. Just be aware of how many you need when you shop. I usually do one meat at a time, like start with chicken, then work on beef, etc. It helps me if I clean as I go, so that the kitchen doesn't become too messy. I have found that food storage size cans work well to put the freezer bag in, fold it down over the sides, then you can add your ingredients to it so they don't spill all over. If you do have to cook some of the recipes before freezing, just make sure that you wait for them to cool before pouring them into bags--they WILL melt. Trust me on that one. When you are putting things into the freezer, label them with the recipe and date, and freeze them flat one on top of the other so you can fit more in.
Next, I will post some of my favorite recipes. You can copy/paste these into a printable format on your computer, and give them a try. I will only post ones that we have tried, and EVERYONE likes! Even though freezer cooking sounds like a chore--I have found that it's really a relief on some days to have something I can just take out and cook. It actually saves you a lot of time and money in the long run. Have fun!

1 comment:

Sarah and Scott said...

You are amazing. I get so sad even thinking you might be moving soon. I want to get to know you guys way better. Thanks for sharing these tips and recipes. I look forward to trying them soon. You are the BEST!

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