Freezer cooking is all the rage right now. If you’re unfamiliar, you shop the circulars and coupons to find the best deals, stock up on sale items, and then make a month-long menu plan (with some repeat items.) Then, you spend one or two days doing all the cooking for one whole month and put it in the freezer. In theory, you then only need to buy produce and beverages for the rest of the month. That’s a lot of work, though, and you have to spend a whole weekend on it. I’ve come up with a simpler way to do freezer cooking. It reduces prep time and gives each freezer meal a fresher taste.
Stock Up and Make the Menu
For this method, you should still stock up on sale meats and filler items when the stores have sales. Put them in the freezer and then defrost before making each freezer meal. You may not want to plan each dinner for the whole month, but at least find the recipes for meals you can make multiples of or use the same components in.
Do All Your Veggie Prep in One Day
To save time, chop all your veggies for the whole week in one day. Make a big container of chopped onions that you can dip into as you go.
Make a Double or Triple Batch with Each Meal
If the veggies are cooked, then it’s not that hard to make a double or triple batch of each meal when you’re doing your regular cooking. For example, if you’re making beef stroganoff, double the recipe. Serve half for dinner and put half in a Ziploc bag destined for the freezer. It will take slightly longer to brown that much beef, but not a huge amount of time. The same goes for soups and chili – double the recipe. Eat what you can, then divide the rest into portioned bags. I put enough for one meal in each bag.
Don’t Freeze the Pasta or Rice
If the meal is served over pasta or rice, don’t cook it now. Obviously, you need to cook the pasta ahead for a layered dish like lasagna, but something like beef stroganoff doesn’t need to be frozen with its pasta or rice. It will taste a fresher if you cook the pasta or rice that day you serve it. Simply cook the pasta 2-3 minutes less than it requires. Put it back in the pot with the defrosted topping. Heat them in the pot for a few minutes. That will heat the topping and finish cooking the pasta.
Don’t Freeze Your Fresh Sides
I usually have a bag of taco meat in my freezer. Basically, I mix the marinade, slice the meat, and let them marinate overnight. Then I divide into bags. When it comes time to serve, I use fresh-cut lettuce, fresh-grated cheese, and fresh tomatoes rather than frozen versions.
Make Another Menu Plan
If you haven’t already planned each meal for the month, sit down each week with your freezer inventory. Plan your menu to use up part of your stash, along with fresh sides. Then make your grocery list for the fresh items and stock-up items for your next freezer cooking day. You may also want to plan a few completely fresh meals. For example, I keep frozen raw fish and shrimp in my freezer at all times and always make those meals fresh because I find that cooked frozen fish just doesn’t hold up well when reheated. Chicken and beef, on the other hand, reheat beautifully.
If you don’t want to pre-cook, but have a packed freezer, check out my post from last year detailing my freezer week where I used up everything in it. I didn’t have time to shop this weekend, so this week has been another freezer week.