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Real Food on a Budget: Freezer Cooking

I’ve always been intimidated by freezer cooking. But, as much as it intimidates me I also envy those who embark on the task.  I finally feel like I’ve gotten a good method down and plan to freezer cooker until we leave the US. You may however, be surprised to know the adept Moroccan woman will have a freezer stocked with pastries and baked goods that can be pulled out for company.  It’s a style I have tried to emulate! Many of you have asked, “what is freezer cooking?” so let me start by explaining the concept. The basic idea is that you spend a few hours, or an entire day (if you choose) batch cooking or preparing food that can then be frozen and taken out for meals. It’s like frozen dinners but way healthier, tastier, and cheaper. I don’t make individual portions (but you can!) instead opting for family size meals.  There are many, many websites, styles of freezer cooking, and recipes that exist so in this post, I’ll share my latest freezer cooking adventure and give you a few resources and ideas to get started.

Real Food on a Budget Freezer Cooking

Styles of Freezer Cooking

I mentioned there are different styles of freezer cooking.  These are a few that I have picked up on through my experience.

Dump and Go Meals 

These are the freezer meals I gravitate to.  These recipes require no cooking on your preparation day.

Some Cooking Required

Think of these meals as the kind that require browning meat or partially baking some or all components of the recipe.

Single Course at a Time

Freezer meals aren’t just for dinner.  You can prepare breakfast, lunch, and dinner foods.  You could do them all at one time, or you can just do a single meal.

Single Protein at a Time

Say you’ve found a great sale on chicken breasts.  Chances are you won’t be using 5 -10 pounds of chicken breast at a single time, and you could freeze the chicken as it is.  But, what if you took a few extra minutes to add some extra ingredients?  Then when it’s dinner time you just removed that container from the freezer, put it in the crockpot or oven and had dinner ready? Think how much time this would save!  This is the idea behind single protein cooking.  You simply use one meat and create freezer meals around that item.

Full Menu

This is a mixture of recipes and ideas all prepared at once.  This likely will take more time, be more of a mess, and may cost more to implement at a single time – however you’ll be set for several weeks once you’re done!

Beef Freezer Meals

This is an example of single protein and dump and go meals.  I had purchased a large arm roast of beef on sale and needed to freeze it right away.  I sliced the beef very thin and divided among three Ziploc freezer bags.  I then mixed up 3 different kinds of marinade; an Asian soy sesame, BBQ, and carne asada . Each bag got one bowl of marinade and was then mixed well to combine. I removed all the excess air and placed them in the freezer.  In about 10 minutes, and for about $3 I had 3 dinners.  On the night that I’m cooking these, I add them to the freezer and prepare any side dishes or extras to go with the meal.

How Do You Do It?

There are hundreds, if not thousands of recipes for freezer cooking.  You can follow my Freezer and Slow Cooking Board on Pinterest for tons of inspiration and recipes!

You need to first ask yourself these questions;

  • How many meals do I have space for?
  • How much time do I have to prepare the meals?
  • What style do I want to use?
  • Then (the fun part) which recipes do I want to make?

Once you have these questions answered it’s time to start looking for recipes.  I like this freezer cooking cookbook.  I also am a huge fan of Once a Month Mom.  My sister recently cooked one of her full menus, and I followed suit, piecing together recipes from a couple menus.  If you’re new to freezer cooking I recommend signing up for her monthly plan, and following it a few times until you’re comfortable.

If you want to do this on your own, here’s how I prepare.

  • First, find the recipes you want to use. I highly recommend printing out the recipes so that you have a hard copy.
  • Remember you can double or even triple recipes and portion it out accordingly.
  • Then, make a list of the ingredients you know you don’t have on hand. Be sure to include quantities!
  • Note: if you have one recipe in the stack that calls for one spice you don’t have and know you won’t use again, look for a substitution before buying it!
  • Take your ingredient list and go through your pantry to double check you don’t have those items.
  • Look at what kind of containers you will need.  If you have any casseroles, the throw away freezer containers are really great. Add them to the list.
  • I recommend shopping and cooking on separate days so you don’t get worn out.
  • Go shopping!

Cooking Day

  • Clean your kitchen and empty your dishwasher before you start.  Have plenty of towels on hand, and if possible have extra eyes on your kids!
  • Chop and cut all of the ingredients ahead of time.  This is standard in any professional kitchen and will speed up your time immensely.
  • What has worked well for me is prepping any breakfast recipes first, as they usually need to bake or cook in some way.  While they are baking I do the dump and go recipes. Then I finish with any other lunch or dinner items that need to be pre-cooked.

You will find a method that works for you.  My sister makes one recipe at a time, cleaning up after each because the mess drives her crazy.  I have a full blown tornado on my hands.  I am fine making a huge mess and cleaning up once.  One more note of advice, start small.  The recent freezer cooking batch I did was 14 different recipes, but the first time I did this I only made 5.  Don’t overwhelm yourself the first time!

That’s Great but How Does This Save Money?

I’m so glad you asked! I just shared that I made 14 different recipes, that comes out to about 34 meals for us (I made several batches of some things). I spent $175 on groceries, including containers and bags (that was about $12). That’s a little more than $5 a meal, probably a little bit more once I add a side dish.  So, where can you get a meal for 4 people for $5 total?  Think about the last dinner you ate, even if you’re baking your own food, shopping seasonally, and watching sales – I bet it was more than that!

Freezer cooking combines all of the tips that I’ve shared up to this point.  By shopping in bulk when it makes sense, eating seasonally, cooking and baking, and potentially butchering your own meat you can really save a lot of money and eat very well.

Some Easy Ideas to Get Started

  • Roast 2-3 chickens, allow to cook and then shred the meat.  Divide and store in freezer bags to grab for a quick meal.  You can then make stock with the carcasses.
  • Ground beef that is already cooked is quick to put together, divide, and store for meals.
  • My slow cooker chicken shwarma recipe can easily be made for the freezer.  Simply combine all the ingredients with raw chicken breast and place in a freezer bag. To cook place in a slow cooker with 1/2-1 cup (to partially cover the chicken) chicken stock, and cook until falling part.
  • Asian Style Beef Tacos – combine ingredients and freeze.  Add 1/2 cup water when adding to slow cooker.
  • Mediterranean Shredded Beef
  • Greek Slow Cooker Chicken 

Have you ever freezer cooked? Do you know? Any tricks you would add to this list?

Missed the others parts of this series? Find them on the intro of 10 Ways to Eat  Real Food on a Budget.

[tbpquotable]Want to start freezer cooking? Find out more and get started with @marocmama [/tbpquotable]

Comments

  1. Planning to have a freezer cooking day b4 baby comes! Thanks for the inspiration! Pinning for sure!

  2. I’d be curious to hear if anyone has done any vegetarian freezer cooking. Off the top of my head, I picture things like soups, enchiladas, and pasta bakes.

    • Amanda Mouttaki says:

      There definetely are freezer cooking recipes and you’re right it’s mostly soups/stews or pasta bakes. I’ve found the hard thing when using vegetables is that they tend to turn to mush and are much less forgiving. That being said any soup type recipe would most likely be just fine – or even casseroles that you’re going to bake and not use the slow cooker.

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