Freezer cooking is the biggest time-saving technique for Busy Cooks, so it is the base of the pyramid. Experienced cooks know that dinner in the freezer is like money in the bank. Some cookbooks even refer to this technique as “investment cooking.”
Two ways to make freezer cooking easy and painless:
- Triple at least one recipe that freezes well each week. Once a week, find the time to make a triple amount of a recipe that freezes well. It doesn’t take that much longer to make a double or triple amount of a dish, than a single amount. Freeze two of the three for future use, and either eat the third for dinner, or if it’s a weekend and you have extra time, refrigerate it for a weeknight meal.If you add two main dish meals to your freezer each week, you can pull two different, previously made main dish meals from your freezer each week without depleting your stock. For this one bout of cooking, you get three different ready weekday meals—a great return on the investment! Each weekend, focus on a different major ingredient, rotating through poultry, beef, meatless, seafood, etc. This gives you a nice selection of ready made meals in my freezer at all times.After 4 – 6 weeks of this weekly cooking to stock your freezer —as long as you continue to make one tripled recipe a week for freezing—you will always have a supply of ready-made main dishes on hand. Imagine having 30 – 40 prepared meals in your freezer at any one time. All it takes is about an hour a week!
- Cook and freeze ingredients in bulk. Keeping cooked ground beef, cooked chicken, sautéed onions and peppers, prepared dry beans, and other ingredients in your freezer makes dinnertime prep fast and easy with fewer dishes to clean. Just as with tripling a recipe, it does not take 3x the time and effort to do 3x the prep.Each time you prepare a single pound of ground beef, you are taking not only the time to cook the meat but also the thawing and cleanup time. Doing 5-10 pounds at once and freezing the cooked meat on a regular basis ends up saving you hours of time. If you combine this with buying the ingredient at its best price, you are saving both time and money.
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* Adapted from Secrets of a Busy Cook by Lynn Nelson, used by permission
Freezer Cooking: Recipes Using Prepared Ground Beef
Mexican Spaghetti combines the flavors of taco-seasoned beef with corn, green chilis, tomatoes, and green onions in a quick and easy stovetop meal. Use fire-roasted tomatoes to add even more flavor to this dish.
Freezer Cooking: Recipes Using Prepared Chicken
Freezer Cooking: Recipes Using Prepared Beans
Black beans are one of my favorite beans – they go well with corn and tomatoes in cold salads as well as hot sides, but the king of all black bean recipes is black bean soup. For this recipe, I prefer using prepared dry beans because they are more tender than the canned beans and ...
Burritos are flour tortillas wrapped around meat and/or beans. Burrito means “little donkey” in Spanish, possibly because burritos resemble the appearance of the bedrolls and rolled packs that donkeys carry. Mojado means “wet” in Spanish. Burritos without sauce are simply called burritos, but burritos with sauce are called burritos mojados, or wet burritos. This recipe ...
Burritos are typically a low cost meal and are very filling. This vegetarian burrito recipe can be adapted to what is in season and what your family likes. I like to cook a batch of dried pinto beans and serve Pinto Beans and Cornbread for one meal, then use the leftover beans to make Vegetable ...
More Freezer Cooking
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. [Read More...]
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: [Read More...]
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. [Read More...]
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 ... [Read More...]
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). [Read More...]
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. [Read More...]
It’s been at least six years since I balanced working outside the home almost full-time and having two kids. Friends were always amazed that I managed homemade meals on the table each night. Becoming a stay home mom with three kids made meal planning a bit easier because I was home, BUT several of the lessons I learned as a work outside the home mom still apply. I’ll give you a sample menu for one week to show how I would pull all these easy lessons together. [Read More...]
Okay, I admit it. I’m a Once-A-Month-Cooking drop-out. I tried to make a month’s worth of meals for the freezer, but I couldn’t come up with enough time or enough meals. Next I tried to make 2 weeks of meals for the freezer and stopped because I ran out of dishes, freezer bags, and patience. I had good intentions, but I’m just not that organized. Even though I flunked OAMC, my freezer is not empty. I do have a few tricks up my sleeve that I’d like to share. [Read More...]
Making chicken broth doesn’t have to be an arduous process. It does take a little more time than opening up a can of store-bought broth. But, I look at it as a gift I’m giving my friends and family. A homemade chicken broth is the cornerstone of any great homemade soup. The time it takes to make the broth is only to bring out the wonderful essence and wholesome flavor that’s characteristic of a great broth. Below are my favorite 12 soup cooking tips for making that happen. [Read More...]
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. [Read More...]