Cooking For the Freezer… With a Friend

For Lisa Donatelli of Cuyahoga Falls, nirvana is not a day at a spa, but dinner in the freezer. Donatelli spent one evening last week making dinner with four of her friends. They made 80 meals — enough to stock their refrigerators and freezers with 16 dinners each. The women did not make the dinners in one of those new meal-assembly shops. They made them in my kitchen, in a do-it-yourself session with recipes developed for the project. Not only did they save money, they had a ball.

Freezer Cooking With Thrifty Schooler

List member Christy recently wrote to me . . . “I am looking for a cookbook or ideas on making meals for a month (or at least a week) and freezing them. I know they have cookbooks that you can do this for a month. Has anyone used one and which would you suggest? Thanks for any help.”

. . . And then the very next day, I happened to get an email from my dear friend Ann Marie on this very topic:

What’s for Dinner, Mom?

It’s 5 pm and the kids are hungry. You rummage through the refrigerator looking for leftovers – no such luck. You hastily attempt to prepare a simple Spaghetti Bolognese and realize that you’re out of pasta. We’re all aware of the chaos that a lack of organization around mealtime can bring! Instead of dinner being a time when the family comes together, it can be a time of frustration. For Kathy Cottrell, a schooling mother of two teenage sons who lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, part of the solution has been planning and preparing meals in advance.

The Potato Plan

I’m a bulk cooker and one of the types of sessions I do is potatoes. Many people are surprised by this because they assume that potatoes don’t freeze successfully. I assumed the same thing at first but after years of experimenting I’ve found that they are one of the easiest and most versatile foods in my repertoire.

When they go on sale I buy at least 20#, frequently 60# or more. I never buy potatoes unless they are on sale and I never have to deal with watching them slowly go bad in the dark recesses of my pantry because I can’t use them fast enough.

The Ham Plan

Here is my “Ham Plan”. I am finding it easier and more economical to have bulk cooking plans for when meats and veggies are on sale or in season. I do a big cooking that lasts a few months (Hopefully! I am still new at this) so I don’t have to cook that particular meat again for a while. I am hoping my chicken will last a while so I can focus on other meats. Here are some of the recipes I made around Easter (next time I will make a big ham or a few medium ones, last time the 20 pound ham was a bit hard to turn every half hour!).

The Chicken Plan

Here is the first plan I wrote, out of necessity! I couldn’t figure out how to deal with so many different parts of the chickens I was doing unless I had everything written down and the recipes gathered together… My Strategy – When dealing with meats that have different parts, you need to think about how you will use each to get the maximum amount of food for your dollar.

Here is how I handled chicken (the same approach can be used for turkey and many of these recipes will work for turkey).

The Hamburger Plan

Here is my “Hamburger Plan”, probably one of my most used so far. I love having all of my favorite recipes in one place, and I find myself referring back to it often… Here are many ideas pertaining to hamburger, “master recipes” are on the left, “secondary recipes” are indented – you assemble these from the master recipes. You can also freeze the portion of the master recipe that is required in the secondary recipe and assemble the secondary recipe on the day you want to eat it. I do this a lot when trying and/or learning new recipes.

Foods That Don’t Freeze Well

One of the most common questions I hear from people who are interested in freezer-meal cooking is: “How do I know what will freeze well, and what won’t?”If you’re unsure of how well something will freeze, freeze a single serving when you prepare the dish for a regular family meal. This way you can check on how well the item holds up to freezing and reheating. The following lists should give you a good start at identifying potential freezing problems with various food items.

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