I’m one of those people who tend to over-think, and over-complicate things.
I’m notorious for playing out an entire scenario – one that doesn’t even exist mind you – and come to some bad-news, awful conclusion in the end that requires “all this work and all this time that I can’t possibly squeeze out of my day” in order to make something good come out of it.
And then Mr. Crumbs quickly reminds me that:
a) I’m making it way more complicated that it needs to be, and
b) the made-up scenario doesn’t exist. So stop worrying about it.
There is a bonus though, to me over-complicating things: There’s a really good chance my “lesson learned” will to turn into a blog post for you!
That’s my hope for today, and we’re tackling the incredibly (not) difficult topic of freezer cooking.
It’s a publicly known fact that freezer cooking is an incredible way to save time in the kitchen. In fact, I talked about cooking for the freezer in this video as one of the key ways to be more efficient with your kitchen tasks.
However, if you’ve never cooked for the freezer before, or have no idea what cooking for the freezer even means, then you’re probably a bit clueless about how to approach the whole thing and you just might be over-complicating the process in your head.
I’m here to console you, that it’s okay to be intimidated with freezer cooking and to not know where to begin.
But I’m also here to show you how to plan for a freezer cooking session, so you can finally take this awesome time-saving tip and put it to good use in your own kitchen!
Freezer Cooking (v): also known as “cooking for the freezer,” it’s the idea of spending time cooking meals, or parts of meals, that can be frozen and pulled out later, thus requiring minimal prep time before eating the meal.
Now freezer cooking can be very time-consuming. I know some people dedicate entire days to cooking for the freezer. Me on the other hand, I’m more of a one-hour type of gal. Between homeschool, laundry, cooking food for TODAY (and NOT) for the freezer, this blog, these meal plans and everything else that the typical day holds, I can really only afford to dedicate about an hour to cooking for the freezer.
Plus I have an itty bitty freezer.
What – you say you’re busy too?
Awesome. This plan is meant for you!
Whether you have an hour, four hours or just 20 minutes, the concept of this freezer cooking guide can work for anyone, anywhere, in any size kitchen for any size freezer.
Now, I think we’ve covered the major excuses, yes? Ok, let’s get to work then!
Step-by-Step Freezer Cooking Guide for the Beginner
1. Decide what type of food will benefit you most.
I say food because you can technically cook full meals, or just portions of meals. It’s a matter of personal preference, and really depends on what will make your life easier in the long run. Here are a couple of options to help you brainstorm:
- breakfast (ex: pancakes, muffins or baked oatmeal)
- lunch (ex: lentil macaroni or homemade hot pockets)
- 100% ready-to-go meals (ex: chicken & spinach enchiladas or creamy squash pasta bake)
- just the meat (ex: northern beans & ham soup and make fresh rice, or chicken for family taco night)
- breads (ex: soaked whole wheat bread or tortillas)
- single ingredients (ex: beans from scratch or applesauce)
2. Choose meals and/or ingredients that are similar.
You want to make the most of the time you’re prepping or cooking, so you want to choose foods with similar ingredients and even a similar cooking method, if at all possible. This makes better use of your time, and creates a theme, so to speak, of your session.
And themes just make it all flow a bit better.
3. Consider the tools you’ll need and base your cooking around them.
Before you commit to any particular meal, think of what you’ll need. You can’t efficiently make 4 dozen muffins if you only have one pan. You also can’t cook a whole chicken in the slow cooker if it’s already in use for yogurt.
4. Use kitchen appliances and tools to help you.
One hour seems like a long time to be cooking, but when you’re looking at making 3+ meals in that time frame, you should enlist the help of any gadget you have.
Bake bread in a slow cooker, bake smaller items in toaster ovens, boil in microwaves, use the cooking space of a griddle and the whipping power of a blender… don’t let these third (or fourth) arms go to waste!!
5. Choose 3-4 recipes and print, hand-write them out or have them ready on your screen.
It’s really not feasible to complete more than 3-4 recipes in an hour, unless you’re supermom, so don’t bite off more than you can chew. You can’t add more time to the clock, and it’s always better to feel accomplished at the end than defeated because you didn’t make it to that one last recipe.
As for being prepared, the last thing you need is sticky fingers trying to search for a recipe on the keyboard. Either print them out, have them already pulled up on the screen, or in certain cases, hand-write them on a piece of paper.
6. Wear an apron and set out clean towels.
Um… so you don’t get dirty. That’s a good thing.
7. Pull out everything you need.
Food, tools, bags, sharpie, containers, utensils… pull it all out so you can survey what you have and make the most of your hour. You only have so many minutes – don’t waste them digging around in your spice cabinet!
8. Don’t clean as you go.
Instead, fill your sink with hot soapy water and only wash what you MUST as you go along. I say that loosely too, since you might not really have to wash anything (see my experience below). Leave all the dishes for when you’re done, because whether or not you had a freezer cooking session, you’ll still have to do the dishes at some point in time anyway.
9. Create a “finished” station.
This is so you can seal, label and freeze appropriate when you’re done. Set items in this section as you complete them, but label everything at the end when you’re done cooking. This station is just so cooked items are out of your way, and you don’t accidentally do something else with them… like eat them or try to cook them again.
10. Create a logical method for your work.
Think about what takes the longest to bake, and do that first. What needs the oven higher? What needs more burners? What needs to sit and cool?
All of these things are important as you’re on a timer. Come up with a logical approach BEFORE you start.
In The End
Here’s what I had when the timer went off:
- one loaf of baked banana bread
- one loaf of frozen banana bread, ready to be baked
- 32 frozen berry cubes
- 3 smoothie packets (I ran out of fruit!)
- 40 banana pancakes
All in all, it was nearly two weeks worth of breakfast…
And we started eating it right away!
As if the sliced piece above didn’t give it away.
Do you need some help coming up with ideas on what meal to freeze? The Freezer Family has what you need!
- 100+ easy recipes that you can freeze without any cooking ahead of time…
- Full nutritional information for every recipe…
- Organized grocery lists that you can print and take shopping…
- Freezer meal labels that are formatted to print on Avery stickers…
- An Instant Pot “Cheat Sheet” that will teach you how to adapt crockpot freezer meals for your Instant Pot…
- 20+ pages of expert advice that will teach you how to prepare, package, and cook freezer meals safely and efficiently…
- And much, much more.